Best and Worst Cities to Live in the USA in 2024

Explore which cities make the cut as the best places to live in the USA and which ones to avoid — even if you’re simply passing by.
Two travelers consulting a map with the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline in the background, in one of the most expensive cities to live in the USA.
Two travelers consulting a map with the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline in the background, in one of the most expensive cities to live in the USA.

Discovering the best and worst cities to live in the USA in 2024 is similar to navigating a map of vast contrasts. Luckily, whether you’re looking to lay down roots or simply pass through, we’ve explored ahead of you to come up with this guide that will direct you to the cities that stand out — for better or for worse. From the bustling streets of burgeoning metropolises to the quiet lanes of towns best left on your road trip’s ‘maybe next time’ list, we’ve got the scoop on where to focus your American dream and which zip codes to avoid.

In this article, we’ll unveil which cities have earned their stars as the best cities to live in the USA, offering everything from safety to sumptuous cuisine, and those notorious for being the worst, be it due to cost, crime, or culture that’s just not cutting it. 

So whether you’re house-hunting, city-shopping for your next vacation, or simply indulging in a little digital escapism, buckle up — we’re about to take you on a coast-to-coast tour of America’s most and least desirable cities.

BEST: Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

The combined forces of Raleigh and Durham offer a dynamic living experience, brimming with educational excellence, research innovations, and a vibrant job market. As a result, they stand out as some of the best cities to live in the USA, offering residents a balanced blend of intellectual stimulation, cultural diversity, and recreational activities, all wrapped up in the charm of Southern hospitality.

Speaking of Southern hospitality, if you do intend to visit North Carolina short-term, we recommend this top-rated pet-friendly log cabin. Located in Apex and with three bedrooms, you’ll want to call this your home-away-from-home while in NC!

WORST: Highland Park, Michigan

Highland Park has unfortunately earned a spot as one of the worst cities in the USA to call home. A suburb of Detroit, it has faced severe economic decline and infrastructure challenges after major industries left the area. 

Despite a rich history in the automotive sector, residents now grapple with high crime rates and a lack of essential services. Efforts for revival are in place, but the city still has a long journey ahead towards restoration and safety, which currently leaves it trailing behind as a less desirable location for both living and visiting.

A desolate street in Highland Park, Michigan, illustrating the decline that ranks it among the worst cities to live in the USA.
A desolate street in Highland Park, Michigan, illustrating the decline that ranks it among the worst cities to live in the USA.

BEST: Green Bay, Wisconsin

As one of the best cities to live in the USA, Green Bay offers its residents more than just a passionate football culture. This Wisconsin city prides itself on a strong sense of community, excellent school systems, and a relatively low cost of living. With a diverse economy that spans healthcare, manufacturing, and entertainment, Green Bay provides ample employment opportunities as well. 

Its four distinct seasons, with mild summers and snowy winters, offer year-round recreational activities, making it an ideal spot for those who love the outdoors and a community-centric lifestyle. And since we’re on the topic of ideal spots, check out The Manor on Terraview, which is 7,200 square feet of rest and recreation waiting to happen.

WORST: Mendota, California

Mendota, facing some of the most significant economic challenges in California, is often cited as one of the worst cities in the USA. Known as the Cantaloupe Center of the World, this city’s agriculture-driven economy suffers from water scarcity and high unemployment rates. The drought conditions have exacerbated the struggles, leading to a decline in living conditions. 

With limited job opportunities and resources, Mendota’s residents are often caught in a cycle of poverty, making it a challenging environment for growth and prosperity.

BEST: Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville is often hailed as a hidden gem, marking its place as not just a great place to visit but also one of the best cities to live in the USA. It’s a hub for space exploration and defense industries, with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the Redstone Arsenal military base fueling the city’s economy. 

The city also boasts a growing tech sector and a robust educational scene, featuring several colleges and universities. With affordable housing and a low cost of living, Huntsville is an attractive setting for families and professionals alike, offering a high quality of life.

If you’re in town, do consider the Elk Estates Home. With its cozy spot and postcard-worthy view of Elk River, it’s perfect for a quiet retreat in the lap of nature.

An aerial night view of Huntsville, Alabama, glowing with lights, showcasing its status as one of the best cities to live in the USA.

WORST: Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, faces discordant times with crime rates that overshadow its rich musical legacy. High crime and poverty have contributed to its reputation as one of the cities in the USA you should skip, despite its cultural significance and the soulful rhythms that still echo down Beale Street.

BEST: Boulder, Colorado

Boulder’s idyllic setting at the foothills of the Rockies, combined with its status as a hub for outdoor enthusiasts and innovative thinkers, solidifies its rank among the best cities to live in the USA. With a community that values environmental sustainability and education, Boulder is a draw for those seeking a healthy and balanced lifestyle, underscored by a thriving economy and a vibrant cultural scene.

WORST: St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, known for its iconic Gateway Arch, faces a tough reality with crime and urban challenges that mark it as one of the worst cities in the USA. While the city boasts historical significance and cultural institutions, these positives are often overshadowed by the issues that afflict its urban core, leaving residents and officials striving for solutions.

BEST: Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota’s allure lies in its sun-soaked shores, thriving arts district, and relaxed coastal living, making it one of the best cities to visit in the US. The city balances leisure and culture perfectly, offering residents and visitors an enviable lifestyle marked by beautiful beaches, a robust arts scene, and a friendly, welcoming community.

The serene beach sunset in Sarasota, Florida, inviting relaxation and illustrating why it's listed as one of the best cities to live in the USA.

WORST: Bessemer, Alabama

Once the heart of Alabama’s iron ore industry, Bessemer now grapples with the legacies of its industrial past. It’s counted among the worst cities in the USA due to high crime rates and persistent unemployment. Efforts to revitalize the city are ongoing, but challenges remain in redefining Bessemer’s identity and economic foundations in the 21st century.

Learn About Each of the Best and Worst Cities to Live in the USA with This City Knows

As you weigh the scales between the best and worst cities to live in the USA, let This City Knows be your compass. Our in-depth guides provide more than just rankings — they offer a window into the soul of each city, helping you understand the nuances that make a place truly inviting or best avoided. If you’re considering relocating or are simply curious about where each city stands, our insights delve deep into what makes these locales worth the trip or best to skip.

Ready to explore further or perhaps challenge our findings? 

Visit This City Knows, where we equip you with the knowledge to make informed decisions about where you may someday call home or travel to next. With us, discovering the intricate tapestry of America’s urban landscapes is just a click away!

Felicity Knowles
Author: Felicity Knowles

Visit the world’s best cities with This City Knows—where urban tales and city travel guides are curated from every metropolitan hidden gem, cityscape, and skyline! With our mantra "Know Before You Go," we’ve dedicated our platform to the uber curious and adventurous. Drawing from well-traveled lives and a collective, insatiable appetite to uncover the best-kept secrets of global cities, our team of seasoned travelers and local experts generously share their treasured experiences and insights with those who want to know everything about each city (and that’s even before they board a plane). That’s because our urban trekkers are not just experts in charting maps. We are also enthusiasts in weaving narratives that bring each city's culture, cuisine, and character to life. It only follows that we work tirelessly to make every This City Knows guide and resource essential “pre-visit reads” for travelers worldwide. Join us on journeys that discover the soul of the world's most sought-after cities. We assure your travels become so much more than just places to visit, eventually morphing into experiences and memories you’ll collect and cherish for a lifetime. Let’s discover the world together— because This City Knows, and so should you!

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