These are the best places to live in the US (even during a pandemic)

The Centennial State had a strong showing in the 2020-2021 U.S. News & World Report ranking.
Flowers and mountain in Colorado
One of the reasons Boulder, Colorado, ranks so high is its natural landscape, which is a draw for cyclists, rock climbers and trail runners.Lightvision / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of millions of Americans since March. Not only has it destroyed the U.S. job market, but after months of social distancing, working from home and living under quarantine, many Americans are reevaluating their needs and quality of life.

A July survey conducted by Pew Research Center showed that of 9,654 adults, 22% of respondents revealed they either “moved due to COVID-19 or knew someone who did.”

But where is the best place to live? To answer this question, U.S. News & World Report released its annual list ranking the best cities to settle down. The publication asked thousands of people across the county to gauge which factors are most important when choosing a place to live. From there, it created five categories to index the “150 most populated metro areas,” according to a press release, including job market, quality of life, desirability, net migration and overall value.

This year, U.S. News also addressed that “the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest may have had an impact on how people perceive some areas.” A spokesperson for U.S. News added in an email to TODAY that because people were polled from Aug. 26 - 28, the wildfires ravaging the West Coast could have influenced those surveyed.

Below are the results and highlights from the 2020 list.

Colorado dominates

The No. 1 city, Boulder, Colorado, surprisingly remained unranked last year. It scored an overall score of 7.8 out of 10 and an 8.7 in the job market category alone. One of its draws is its natural landscape that is a draw for cyclists, rock climbers and trail runners.

“More move here to live in this perpetual playground, where the answer to ‘What do you do?’ is often one’s activity of choice, not occupation," Boulder expert Katy Marquardt told U.S. News.

Meanwhile, Denver retains its No. 2 spot from last year with an overall score of 7.4. The Mile High City scored highest in the desirability category with an 8.7. In fact, Colorado cities took four of the top five spots on this year's list, with Colorado Springs and Fort Collins taking the fourth and fifth place, respectively.

The only outsider in the top five is Austin, Texas, which held the top spot for three consecutive years. It ranked third this year, scoring a 7.4. Austin is best known for hosting the South by Southwest Festival that was canceled this year by Mayor Steve Adler because of COVID-19 concerns.

The coronavirus pandemic also played a role in determining where New York City's rank. This year, the Big Apple fell 31 spots to No. 121, as desirability ultimately hurt the city’s score.

Once-dominant Austin, Texas, dropped to third place this year. RoschetzkyIstock Photo / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Washington, D.C., plunged 11 places to No. 30, likely in part due to the civil unrest that made it a less desirable place to live. To that end, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota — the backdrop for the George Floyd killing and subsequent protests — dropped to from No. 6 to 22nd on the list.

Beyond the top spots, there were some notable rises made by cities. One of the largest improvements in the list was Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which jumped 49 places, landing at No. 26 overall. Charlotte, North Carolina, moved up 14 slots to No. 6 due to its “desirability and housing affordability,” the press release read. And thanks to its burgeoning job market, Boston jumped to No. 18, a nine-point increase.

Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2021

  1. Boulder, Colorado
  2. Denver, Colorado
  3. Austin, Texas
  4. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  5. Fort Collins, Colorado