From Culture to Cost of Living to Safety to Sunshine – The Best Cities to Live in America as a Foreigner
The United States is the third-largest country in the world and is host to the largest number of immigrants in the world. There are 50 states spread across 6 time zones; every climate zone is represented. It can be difficult to determine the best places in the United States for foreigners due to the wide and varied options. On the plus side, that means there is something for everybody! While the cost of living in the USA should be taken into consideration, there are many other things to think about before relocating to the U.S. Read on to learn about the current best places to live in the USA and what each city offers its residents.
How We Identified the Best Cities in America for Global Citizens
Foreigners seek different things when looking to move abroad. Some expats in the USA want a variety of cultural activities while others want a quiet place to retire. Some prioritize family-friendly cities, while others place a higher value on employment opportunities.
To determine which American cities are the most attractive to expats and immigrants, we looked at data from Mercer’s Cost of Living Index, the Pew Research Center and the 2020 Census. From there, each city received a score based on its cost of living, job opportunities, healthcare systems, and safety levels. The metrics for these categories came from multiple sources, including Numbeo, Mercer’s Cost of Living Index and U.S. News and World Report’s Hospital and Economy Rankings.
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Amenities such as history, culture, and the availability of green spaces along with overall quality of life were considered as well, including UNESCO heritage listings. The quality of life scores include LGBTQ+ friendliness, schools, internet speeds, walkability and hours of sunlight.
The cities’ total points for each category were then added together and used to rank the 10 best places to live in the USA for immigrants and expatriates.
The 10 Best Cities to Live in the USA
The following cities are currently the best cities to live in the USA for immigrants and expats based on the above information. Each city has its own personality and you may be more attracted to some than others based on the different things they have to offer.
List of the Best Cities to Live in the USA
Our list of the top 10 American cities includes the following:
Las Vegas, Nevada
Los Angeles, California
San Francisco, California
New York City, New York
Read on to learn what makes each US city a great place to live.
10. Miami, Florida
Miami is often called the “Gateway to Latin America” and is known for welcoming its international community. With immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, this coastal city leads the United States in the percentage of foreign-born residents.
With so many different cultures living side by side, you can be sure there are diverse neighborhoods with thriving food and arts scenes. Little Haiti with its flavorful Creole dishes and Little Havana full of rich and filling plates are two of the most popular neighborhoods to grab a quick bite to eat. The colorful Wynwood District is filled with vibrant street murals, hip art galleries and craft breweries for residents to appreciate.
Miami is famous for its excellent year-round weather and beaches. The city has a miles-long beachside promenade for bikers and walkers to enjoy. The tropical climate ensures good weather and plenty of sunshine for doing so. In addition, Miami offers easy access to the World Heritage Site Everglades National Park.
Whether you are a young person interested in the nightlife scene, a retiree who wants to golf year-round, or a young family seeking nationally-ranked schools, Miami has something for you.
9. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas, famous for its gambling and nightlife, is located in the southwest of the country. When most people think of Las Vegas, they think of “The Strip”. This three-mile-long boulevard is full of glitzy hotels and casinos and is really at the heart of what makes Las Vegas a great place to live — and is not technically even in Las Vegas.
For those looking to work in the hospitality and service industries, there are a plethora of opportunities. Likewise, the city is chock full of entertainment options — from casinos to comedy shows to concerts, the choices are endless.
Where Las Vegas really shines is its low cost of living and warm, sunny weather. You’ll find that Vegas is the cheapest city on our list. In addition, Nevada has no state income tax, which means less money is taken out of your paycheck each month.
The school and healthcare system in Vegas are average for the country. This plus the infamous nightlife scene does not make Las Vegas a top choice for families. However, the job opportunities, mild weather, and entertainment options make it a great place for young people as well as retirees!
8. Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States. If you can stand the chilly and damp winters, and have a love for politics, history, or culture, the country’s capital is the place to be.
There are over 160 monuments and memorials lining the streets of D.C., along with more than 70 museums. The best part is that the majority of these sites are free! Wherever your interests lie, there is most likely a cultural activity catering to them. The city is number one in the country for access to green spaces, with 98% of its residents living near a park. It is the 5th most walkable city in the country and has infrastructure built for bikes as well as efficient public transportation.
Additionally, the city boasts two high schools in the top 100 in the country as well as many quality hospitals with different specialties. Employment opportunities are on par with the rest of the country and there are ample opportunities outside of government work. NGOs, scientific research, finance, and tourism are just some of the other industries flourishing in the capital.
7. Seattle, Washington
Located in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle has long been known as an immigrant-friendly city. The city has a healthy job market, with big tech companies such as Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft headquartered in or near Seattle. The cost of living may be high, but so are the salaries that go along with the many employment opportunities.
For coffee lovers, Seattle is the city for you. Beyond being the birthplace of Starbucks, Seattle has a strong coffee culture and it’s hard to go a city block without seeing an independent shop. In addition to the cafes, Seattle is also well known for its restaurants. The city is proud of its fresh seafood and farm-to-table dining options.
Where Seattle truly shines is its access to the great outdoors — there’s a reason it’s called “The Emerald City!” Seattle is a great place for nature lovers. The city ranks highly for walkability and green spaces. It is on the southeastern shore of Puget Sound and is surrounded by the Olympic and Cascade mountains. However, Seattle ranked lowest on our list for hours of sunshine per year — so be sure to check the weather report before heading off on a hike!
6. Chicago, Illinois
Known as “The Windy City,” Chicago is located on the shores of Lake Michigan in the American midwest. The brutally cold winters scare some visitors off, though what the city offers its residents makes up for the need to wear layers during the wintertime.
Chicago offers endless forms of entertainment. The city boasts one of the largest theater scenes in the country outside of New York City. It is also one of the best places for improv comedy. Tina Fey, Steve Carell, and Stephen Colbert all launched their careers at the famous Second City comedy club. The music scene is also thriving, with a variety of venues and major festivals like Lollapalooza and Riot Fest coming to town annually.
Downtown Chicago is walkable as are many of its neighborhoods. Stroll through Millennium Park, check out the nine skyscrapers that are on UNESCO’s radar, and shop the Magnificent Mile. The city also offers easy access to nature. 98% of residents live within a ten-minute walk to a park. You can even set sail on Lake Michigan from Navy Pier.
As the third-largest city in the United States, Chicago has the highest crime rate of any city on our list. However, the violence tends to be concentrated in certain neighborhoods, more typically on the south and west sides of the city. The freezing winters tend to worry residents more than the crime rates. And they make up for the wintry weather with neighborhood parties and fairs nearly every weekend once the warmer weather appears.
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5. Los Angeles, California
Most people think of Hollywood when they think about Los Angeles. This sunny city is home to famous film studios, such as 20th Century Studios, Universal Pictures and Paramount. As the center of the U.S. entertainment industry, Los Angeles draws people from all over the world.
With so many drawn to the allure of Hollywood, the city is full of rich and diverse cultures. One of the best ways to experience the different cultures of Los Angeles is through its food scene. Check out Little Armenia, Koreatown, or Little Ethiopia to taste some of LA’s authentic cuisines. After filling up, you can wander the city, soaking in the wide array of architectural styles and hopping into its various museums and art galleries.
Los Angeles ranks number two for both LGBTQ+ friendliness and the amount of sunshine the city has. Los Angeles County boasts 75 miles of beautiful Pacific coastline and the city itself has Griffith Park, one of the largest urban parks in North America. If you are into winter activities, fear not. The city is bordered by the San Gabriel mountains and the Santa Monica mountains. In L.A., it is possible to ski and swim on the same day if you’re motivated enough!
It should be noted that Los Angeles is the second most expensive city in the United States and 17th in the world overall. The high cost of living and competitive job market can make it difficult for new arrivals to the city. But if you appreciate year-round good weather or a laid-back city with a side of glamour, the prices are worth it.
4. San Francisco, California
Over a quarter of California’s population is foreign-born, making it the top state for immigrants in the United States. As such, it shouldn’t be surprising that two cities from The Golden State made our list.
San Francisco sees mild weather year-round, with temperatures rarely going above 70°F or below 40°F. The city has a rich history and plenty of cultural attractions. The famous Golden Gate Bridge leads into this hilly city on the Bay. Its vibrant neighborhoods cater to different interests and needs.
Check out Haight-Ashbury, known as the heart of the 1960s hippie movement, for colorful architecture, counterculture smoke shops and vintage stores. Stop by the Mission District to toss a frisbee and picnic at the park, look for the best street art or head to one of the numerous dive or live music bars. Visit the Castro, the historic LGBTQ+ neighborhood, home to the landmark Castro Theatre and famed gay-rights activist Harvey Milk. Other notable neighborhoods include Nob Hill, Russian Hill, North Beach, and Hayes Valley.
The greater Bay Area has had strong economic growth with technology companies such as Google, Zoom and Facebook all based there. While there are plenty of job opportunities, this has caused the cost of living to soar in the area.
San Francisco is not a cheap city, but the plentiful amenities and cultural options make up for it. It is number one on our list for green spaces and walkability. Taking a stroll through Golden Gate Park is a great activity for those who need a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. The park is actually 20% larger than New York’s Central Park! The city also offers easy access to both Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park and Muir Woods National Monument.
3. Boston, Massachusetts
A relatively small city compared to others in our top five, the size of Boston is one of its advantages. With multiple renowned universities like Boston University, Harvard and MIT nearby, there are plenty of opportunities to network and meet people. Boston is rated the second highest on our list for a healthy economy and employment opportunities.
The city has the lowest rate of crime on this list. It’s highly rated for walkability, making it great for families. Next to Boston Harbor with the Charles River flowing through, each neighborhood has easy access to water and/or green spaces. There are also plenty of family-friendly activities such as visiting the New England Aquarium, catching a game at Fenway Park, or visiting any of the numerous museums.
As a young, single professional or someone with a family, Boston is one of the best cities to live in the United States. The outdoor recreation areas, abundance of entertainment options, and available public transit offer something for people of all ages.
2. New York City, New York
No list of the best cities in America would be complete without the Big Apple. New York has both the most immigrants and the most visitors of any city in the United States. The sprawling metropolis is divided into five distinct boroughs.
Manhattan is what many envision when they think of New York City. It’s home to the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Times Square, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Broadway and the Empire State Building.
The huge borough of Brooklyn is also filled with culture, entertainment, art and food options. The iconic Brooklyn Bridge is a popular tourist site with a lane dedicated to pedestrians and bikers.
The Bronx has a reputation for being grittier than the other boroughs, and is known as the birthplace of hip-hop. It’s also home to the Bronx Zoo, the New York City Botanical Gardens and Yankee Stadium.
Queens is the most culturally and ethnically diverse place in the U.S., and is the area art and jazz lovers seek out. Staten Island is the least-known borough, though a ferry visit to the island is a lovely way to view Manhattan’s skyline.
No matter which neighborhood you end up in, it’s easy to access the others via the city’s excellent public transit. Those who move here will find a high quality of life beyond entertainment options. New York is highly rated for both schools and hospitals and is considered relatively safe for such a large city.
If you want to experience life in a diverse, world-class city, New York has it all. Unfortunately, that includes the highest cost of living in the country. While New York has plenty of job opportunities, you’ll want to secure a good one to enjoy the city to the fullest.
1. Denver, Colorado
Denver tops our list of the best places to live in the United States. The city has a history of attracting skilled workers from across the country that dates back to the Gold Rush. With a large and diverse population, the city is known for its immigrant-friendly policies.
Colorado has the second-best economy in the United States. Denver has a plethora of job opportunities in aerospace, healthcare, high tech and energy to name a few. These opportunities, plus the 245 days of sunshine the city receives each year, have young professionals flocking to the city.
The city is well known for its microbreweries and restaurant scene. For those who enjoy exercise and the great outdoors, Denver is regularly ranked as one of the healthiest cities in the United States. Nearly 90% of the people have a park within a 10 minute walk of their home. Just outside the city is easy access to skiing or hiking in the Rocky Mountains.
Even if you don’t prefer the outdoors, the city has plenty of museums, art galleries, and regular pop-up exhibits. It also has public transportation, including buses and light rail, to get you to all these destinations. There are also express bus and train lines to the Denver International Airport, offering easy access to the rest of the world.
Denver’s low crime levels, job opportunities and affordable cost of living make it the top-rated destination for those looking to relocate to the United States.
Small Cities in the USA: If you prefer living in a smaller city checkout the top 10 small cities in the US to live.