Great Places

These friendly towns and cities get high marks for livability and a shared sense of civic pride.

Each year, MOTHER EARTH NEWS enlists the help of readers, friends and our Facebook community to create our annual Great Places list. The decidedly unscientific results shine a spotlight on under-the-radar communities that we think may be among the best in America. These livable cities are selected based on a variety of factors. The fitness-driven residents of Golden, Colo., one of our 2012 picks, enjoy 29 miles of bicycle/pedestrian trails and 28 regional parks in their county. College towns (such as 2006 honoree Ithaca, N.Y.) have become Great Places mainstays over the years for their progressive populations as well as access to arts and culture. Perhaps most importantly, many of our selections boast reputations as some of the most eco-friendly cities in the U.S.— 2009 pick Rock Port, Mo., claims to be the first town fully powered by wind energy.

If you’d like to nominate one of your favorite places for our list, email

8 Great Places You've (Maybe) Never Heard of, 2014 Edition

Beaufort, South Carolina

Ashland, Oregon

Bozeman, Montana

Burlington, Vermont

Evanston, Illinois

Lincoln, Nebraska

Penns Valley, Pennsylvania

Sparta, Tennessee

Ashland Oregon

9 Great Places You've (Maybe) Never Heard of, 2013 Edition

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Arcata, California

Ava, Missouri

Decorah, Iowa

Cumberland, Maryland

Lander, Wyoming

Logan, Utah

Marfa, Texas

Punta Gorda, Florida

Ava Missouri Farmers Market

8 Great Places You've (Maybe) Never Heard of, 2012 Edition

Golden, Colorado

Dover, New Hampshire

Lawrence, Kansas

Charleston, South Carolina

Port Townsend, Washington

Red Lodge, Montana

Hilo, Hawaii

6 Great Places You've (Maybe) Never Heard of, 2011 Edition

Elgin, Illinois 

Floyd, Virginia

Louisville, Kentucky

Carrboro, North Carolina

Huntsville, Alabama

Fredericksburg, Texas

11 Great Places You've (Maybe) Never Heard of, 2009 Edition

Lanesboro, Minnesota

Bonners Ferry, Idaho

Rock Port, Missouri 

Silver City, New Mexico

Cornwall, Connecticut

Sylva, North Carolina

Oakland, California

Walla Walla, Washington

Carbondale, Illinois

Mountain View, Arkansas

Norman, Oklahoma

9 Great Places You've Never Heard of, 2008 Edition

Ames, Iowa

Bethel, Maine

Bisbee, Arizona

Berea, Kentucky

Viroqua, Wisconsin

Moscow, Idaho

Greenbelt, Maryland

San Luis Obispo, California

Traverse City, Michigan

8 Great Places You've Never Heard of, 2007 Edition

Bloomington, Indiana

Bellingham, Washington

Ukiah, California

Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Paonia, Colorado

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Dixon, New Mexico

Brattleboro, Vermont

12 Great Places You've Never Heard of, 2006 Edition

Ithaca, New York

Blue Hill, Maine

Athens, Ohio

Wimberley, Texas

Decatur, Georgia

Fairfield, Iowa

Northfield, Minnesota

Grand Junction, Colorado

St. George, Utah

La Grande, Oregon

Grants Pass, Oregon

Sitka, Alaska

Content Tools