These days I'm skeptical of nearly everything, but I do track US News and World Report's Best States rankings from year to year. It's a curiosity, one I don't attach too much weight to. But I'm always relieved when "my state" makes the cut. Like it did in 2023. Spoiler Alert: Minnesota came in #5 and Wisconsin was #8. Not bad at all.
Cue the voice in my head: "Paul, is your self esteem really so low and capacity to enjoy life so utterly bankrupt that you need to be on a list to feel good about yourself?"
Uh, good point. But in some small way, getting on these lists confirms my decision to move to Minnesota 40 years ago. It's a small comfort, OK? I'm emotionally fragile.
How does US News and World Report compile this magical list? By analyzing more than 70 metrics across eight categories, including economy, fiscal stability, health care, and crime and corrections. Here are the states that made the Top 10 cut:
Utah's economy is roaring, the result of many people on the left coast evacuating Washington, Oregon and California and moving to Utah, which is a hiker's paradise. My only concern: The Great Salt Lake continues to shrink and in a warming world, water will be in increasingly short supply in the decades to come. All in all a good choice.
Washington also has a booming economy and considerably more water (and dormant volcanoes which look lovely at sunset). There is also the matter of the Cascadia earthquake fault lurking just offshore, something you won't hear much about from the Chamber of Commerce. I've spent a lot of time in Seattle - stunningly beautiful...and staggeringly expensive with soul-sucking daily commutes.
I have a sudden urge for french fries, but Idaho offers so much more than potatoes, including rugged landscapes and expansive spaces. If you ever get a chance, spend some time in Coeur d’Alene, situated on a breathtaking lake.
Um, I have questions about this pick. Nebraska is a lovely state, if you daydream about corn, and both Lincoln and Omaha both have vibrant economies and welcoming populations. A great place to raise kids? Absolutely. Scenic - like living in a resort? Probably not.
I am admittedly biased having lived here most of my life, but in spite of horrific winters, Minnesota is a great place to live, work and play. It has balance and a reputation for neighbor helping neighbor. "Minnesota Nice" is real - well, most of the time. And as the photo above so perfectly captures: living here does feel like living in a resort.
#6: New Hampshire
Rolling hills, clean air and picturesque small towns looking like something out of a postcard? Check. An easy drive to Boston, New Hampshire is a charming state, offering up an easy-going lifestyle.
Iowa is a relatively small state that has played a disproportionately large role in American politics, with its caucuses marking a key point in U.S. presidential election contests every four years. Like Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin, it's a great place raise a family and put down deep roots.
I didn't realize this, but Wisconsin earned its Badger State nickname from itinerant miners who burrowed into hills for shelter rather than building homes. A national leader in dairy and manufacturing, Wisconsin is a mirror image of Minnesota, rich in lakes and water resources.
(see New Hampshire). Vermont boasts towering hills, lush valleys and storybook towns. Known for maple syrup, its most famous brand is Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, which was founded in the northern city of Burlington, situated on Lake Champlain, in 1978.
When searching for sun and sand it doesn't get any better than Florida. Unfortunately a lot of people are migrating to Florida, driving up housing prices and making traffic intolerable some days. But I do love Florida - in small doses.
Has this list changed your mind about where you want to live? Probably not. Again, I find this to be a curiosity, a chance to quietly pat myself on the back and give thanks for where I'm living today.
Grow where you're planted, right? You can find good people doing good things everywhere, and that is the magic and good fortune of living in the United States.
But hey, #5 isn't too shabby....