The Top 10 Best Places to Live in North America

A MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader survey reveals the top 10 best places to live in North America, including maps for solar power potential and tornado, earthquake and hurricane danger.

| August/September 1996

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    The Onken family barn in Bluegrass, Iowa, built in 1870.
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    1. Map of North America States with high ratings.
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    3. Map of North America States with areas designated for tornado, eqrthquake and hurricane danger.
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    2. Map of North America States areas with average amount of sunlight and solar potential.

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This MOTHER EARTH NEW reader survey shows the top 10 best places to homestead in North America. (See the North America homesteading maps in the image gallery.)

The Top 10 Best Places to Live in North America

"Go West (or Midwest), folks" pretty well sums up the findings of MOTHER'S first-ever Community Survey — with apologies to 19th c. newspaper editor Horace Greeley and his admonition to adventurous and ambitious youth of his day. We stopped counting the responses just before press time, and, as always occurs when we ask you for your opinion, got significantly more than we asked for. Hundreds of you not only commented upon your individual communities, but also upon the state of the nation, the quality of our air, water and soil, and the content of our character. But first things first.  

The greatest percentage of respondents who are big fans of their communities are centered in:

1. Wisconsin, Oregon, or Washington State, or ... 2. In select communities or areas in a broad band running up the middle of the continent from Oklahoma through Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota and into the eastern prairie provinces, and/or ... 3. In settlements of like-minded souls far from good-job markets, and where public services (schools, police) are few or less-than-adequate by city standards, or ... 4. Outside a small city or on the fringes of a country town.

Best of the Best Places to Live in North America 

Nearly all of the top-rated areas are quiet enclaves where geographic and social amenities have naturally attracted a gathering of people for whom sharing seems more important than conspicuous consumption ... often in locations where life can be a struggle with nature. None are places you'll find in conventional magazine or TV lists of "The Best Places to Live."

11/19/2017 7:51:19 AM

I moved to the the Foothills of the Appalachian mountains in North East Alabama from Central FL. I grew in Orlando and moved to suburbs of Tampa. It got so crowded and expensive to ever consider retiring. The summer heat with high humidity makes it very uncomfortable half the year. It's great to stay down there a couple months in the winter but that's it. Makes heading back to lookout mountain a happy dream place. Its very quiet near Little River Canyon National Preserve, plenty of beautiful mountain land to raise anything you desire. It's still very inexpensive to live , plus property taxes for are the year is honestly a half of one month power bill. $ 138 dollars with homestead exemption. Lol That's a lot home for 10 acres and a 2000 sq ft house. The people are still really friendly and believe me half the area in Fort Payne is guarded by the natural formed canyon from the little river. So it keeps out a lot of people. It's like no one has ever heard of this place. I searched for places to move for months before I found this. Fort Payne, lookout mountain is perfect for raising a family if you have kids. The schools have very small classes and primary School goes from K to 9th grade all in the same school so no switching until high school. People who are looking for a very scenic, rural friendly, cheaper place to live? There's plenty for sale here in land and homes with land. The 08 crash hurt this little town but thankfully it has recovered. It used to be the sock Capitol of the world, until daddy Bush did the free trade agreement. Since then employment has recovered. Or grow an organic veggie farm. :)

11/19/2014 7:19:04 PM

Does anyone know of a survey of this kind done more recently?

K.C. Compton
9/17/2014 3:33:38 PM

When this article was written in 1996, drought wasn't such a huge factor in considering the best places to be. Now, unfortunately, climate is increasingly making some of these decisions for us, whether we like it or not.



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