“The best” is subjective to some degree based on preferences. If you are a city person, you would hate to be out in the middle of nowhere, while others cringe at the idea of living in a big city. So, with that in mind, we tried to pick the best in certain categories, based on a variety of factors. Here are our picks for the best places to live in the wonderful state of Missouri.
1. Most Liveable Large City: Kansas City
As much as this writer personally loves living in St. Louis, Kansas City actually beats it in almost every liveability category. Lots of local amenities, a low cost of living, high graduation rates and sunny weather are all great reasons to live there. Kansas City is on the western edge of Missouri, straddling the border with Kansas. Known for its barbecue, jazz heritage and fountains. Kansas City is the largest city in the state of Missouri and the 37th largest city by population in the United States and the 23rd largest by area.
Downtown/midtown has become an attractive residential option, with popular neighborhoods like historic Westport, Ivanhoe, Hyde Park, Squire Park, the Crossroads Arts District, 18th and Vine Historic District, Pendleton Heights, Quality Hill, the West Bottoms and the River Market. In addition, two other near downtown neighborhoods that are very popular are the Country Club Plaza (or the "Plaza"), south Plaza and nearby Brookside.
Downtown, the American Jazz Museum shares a building with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District. The giant shuttlecocks out front of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art are just part of a world-class art collection. The city was officially incorporated on March 28, 1853.
2. Best College Town: Columbia
With three institutions of higher education including the University of Missouri, Stephens College, and Columbia College, all surrounding downtown Columbia, it has often been considered one of the Top 10 Best College Towns in the country. It also attracts new residents with its excellent health-care, great schools and lots of high quality amenities.
The University of Missouri in particular plays a big part in Columbia’s economy and culture, and downtown Columbia is full of fabulous restaurants, shops, and music venues. The MKT Trail is one of the best urban trails in the country as well. It’s no surprise that Columbia has had repeated appearances on many top 100 best places to live lists.
3. Best Small Town: Rolla
Rolla is located approximately midway between St. Louis and Springfield along I-44. Well known for being the home of Missouri University of Science and Technology, as well as the headquarters of the Mark Twain National Forest, the city provides access to both great education opportunities as well as outdoor adventures. In fact, the city is part of the Ozark Highlands American Viticultural Area and is located near the Mark Twain National Forest.
Great amenities include 10 miles of outdoor walking trails, a water park, and several neighborhood parks as well as a new indoor fitness complex. Great education is provided within the Rolla Public Schools district, and health-care needs are fulfilled largely by the Phelps County Regional Medical Center.
4. Best Place to Raise a Family: Farmington
Farmington is the county seat of St. Francois County and is located 60 miles south of St. Louis in the Lead Belt region in Missouri. They have affordable housing, excellent education through the Farmington R-VII School District, and quality healthcare provided by the Mineral Area Medical Center and Parkland Health Center.
The historic downtown and the surrounding Ozark Mountains give residents a range of entertainment options. Amenities include a great park system with a skate park, nature trails, indoor water park, tennis courts and streams. St. Joe State Park is just outside the city limits and is a popular spot for ATV riding, camping, horse-back riding, cycling and swimming.
5. Best Tiny Town (With Under 1,000 Residents): Kimmswick
Midwest Living named Kimmswick as one of the Top 100 Small Towns in their Best of the Midwest Top 100 Small-town Getaways feature. Located just 25 miles south of St. Louis, Kimmswick is not only a great getaway but also a great place to live. Kimmswick has only 118 residents, but with low crime rates, a 98% high school graduation rate, low cost of living and lots available amenities, in addition to its close proximity to St. Louis, it allows you to have the best of both worlds with a small town feel and lots to do.
They have over 20 unique shops, restaurants, quaint Bed & Breakfasts, and have been recently revitalized through purposeful restoration efforts to preserve the history of the town. Many of Kimmswick’s shops and residents still occupy the original buildings from the period of the town’s founding in 1859, and the town has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
6. Best Cost of Living: Dexter
With a population of 7,846, Dexter is located in Stoddard County, and was founded in 1873. The cost of living in Dexter is 13.7% less than the Missouri average and 21.4% less than the national average. The town also has low crime rates, sunny weather and lots of local amenities. There are two museums in Dexter and six or seven more in surrounding areas, and it is near to several Wildlife Conservation areas for outdoor activities. In addition, there are other recreational activities with swimming pools, parks, tennis courts, racquetball courts, and golf courses, and great local restaurants and shops.
7. Most Beautiful Small City: Jefferson City
Rand McNally named Jefferson City the most beautiful small town in the United States, and it’s not hard to see why. The city has a lovely main street, terrific views of the Missouri River, and impressive historic architecture. In addition, the city is located in the center of the state surrounded by beautiful Missouri wine country.
It is the capital of the state and although relatively small with just 43,000 residents, it is actually the 15th largest city in the state. The Missouri state government is the largest employer in town and the unemployment rate is a respectable 6%. A relatively low cost of living, high graduation rates, lots of local amenities and decent weather, Jefferson City is a great place to live overall.
8. Best Place to Retire: Florissant
We rated Florissant as the best place to retire, and Movoto agrees, actually naming it the best retirement community in the United States. Lots of activities for older folks including golf, dancing and community center projects, along with ample entertainment and leisure options make Florissant a draw for retirees. One of the top 100 towns in the country with the most retiree amenities per capita, it was also named by Money Magazine as the 73rd best small town to live in. Safety is also a good quality, as it has been named the second safest city in Missouri.
With 53,000 residents Florissant is the 12th largest city in the state. A prevalent French culture and heritage exists with most of the residents speaking French as their native language all the way up to the early 1890’s. A small village well into the 1940’s, the end of World War 2 marked a time of development for the city, once word spread to developers of the city’s natural beauty and great atmosphere. At one time, the city was as large as 76,000 residents.
9. Best Town For Young Families: Nixa
Nixa recently scored 100% on Missouri’s Annual Performance Report as the best town for young families to live in the state. It is known for having one of the best public school districts in Missouri, earning the “Accredited with Distinction in Performance” award by the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education for 10 years in a row. It is one of the fastest growing cities, and has great opportunities for employment due to a variety of area industries, with the school district, healthcare industries, manufacturing plants and retail outlets being some of the main employers.
It is also considered to have a Home Rule city government, giving residents more governance and control over city affairs. A low crime rate, high graduation rates, low cost of living and availability of amenities all make it a great place for families just starting out.
10. Best Amenities: Clayton
Clayton is the county seat of St. Louis County and borders the city of St. Louis. Known for its multiple skyscrapers in its business district, Clayton has numerous art galleries, boutiques, fine restaurants, and European-style outdoor cafes. They host major cultural and culinary events such as the St. Louis Art Fair and the Taste of Clayton food festival. Clayton is served by and has a station for the Metrolink light rail system along the Blue Line.
Clayton combines its bustling downtown with quiet, secure residential neighborhoods, creating a suburban community with urban flair. Clayton's neighborhoods offer a choice of living styles and price ranges, and most are within walking distance of business districts, offices, restaurants, galleries and specialty boutiques and shops. Add to this an award-winning public school system, community services, parks and lighted athletic fields, and Clayton seems to have it all.
11. Best Education: Ladue
With a 99% graduation rate which is 19% higher than the state average, and exceptional schools with a 4 to 1 student to teacher ratio, Ladue makes our list for Best in Education…but you are going to pay for it. The housing market is stable, but not cheap and the home ownership rate is 91%, which means not much in the way of renting. It’s an affluent St. Louis suburb with the highest median income of any city in Missouri, and I suppose if you are going to pay more to live in such a community you would expect nothing but the best. They are also low on crime, with tree-canopied neighborhoods, and unique shopping and dining experiences. This is the place for gourmet foods, fashion boutiques and upscale menswear, jewelry, antiques and interior design resources.
The residents of Ladue are served by the public Ladue School District with four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. In addition, there is a private K-12 school, a private high school, and a private school for 3rd through 6th graders. There is also a culinary school called L’Ecole Culinaire.
12. Best Place to Find a Job: Wentzville
Wentzville is great for job seekers with a low unemployment rate of just 3.9% and 33% population growth. Large employers in town include the General Motors assembly plant, Serco, Crider Health Center, and RK Stratman. Wentzville is located at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 64 and less than an hour’s drive from St. Louis. In 1990, the population of Wentzville was only about 5,000, but it has grown dramatically to 29,070 residents in 2010. Growth creates opportunities which create more growth, so if you are job seeking, you might want to check out Wentzville.
13. Best Weather: Kennett
Besides being the hometown of the amazing Sheryl Crow, Kennett also has the best weather in the state. The highest average temperature is in August at 84.6 degrees, and the coldest average temperature occurs in December at 42.3 degrees. Overall, pretty mild. In addition, the pollution index is 60.5% less than the Missouri average and 81.6% less than the national average.
Kennett is the county seat of Dunklin County and it is located in the southeast corner ("Bootheel") of Missouri, 4 miles east of Arkansas and 20 miles from the Mississippi River. It is an agricultural hub producing goods like cotton, soybeans, rice, and watermelon that are distributed nationwide, and while only home to just under 11,000 residents, it is the main source of business and commerce for up to 100,000 people within a 30-mile radius. Lots of local amenities and a low cost of living, together with the best weather in the state make Kennett pretty special.
14. Safest City: Ballwin
The safest city in the state would have to go to Ballwin. A well-trained police department not only keeps them that way, they also host programs for the community like helping senior citizens and youth ride-a-longs to keep kids on the right path. In 2013, Money Magazine named Ballwin one of the best places to live. It has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, despite being a city of more than 30,000 people. Add to that quality education, access to state parks, and community activities, and Ballwin is a great place to live in Missouri.
Do you agree with our findings? Do you currently live in any of these places? What are some other great towns to live in Missouri? Share in the comments below.