downtown area with mountains in the background

Best U.S. Cities for Young Professionals

Are you in your 20s or 30s and thinking about getting a fresh start in a new city? Below, we share our picks for the best U.S. cities for young professionals, all of which offer affordable housing, promising career opportunities, and fun things to do. Check out the list to find your new home!

  • Austin, TX
  • Denver, CO
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Madison, WI
  • Nashville, TN
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Portland, OR
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • San Jose, CA
  • Sioux Falls, SD

Austin, TX

austin skyline with the colorado river in the foreground photo by Instagram user @ammietheexplorer
Photo via @ammietheexplorer
  • Population: 907,779
  • Home Price: $257,800 median purchase price; $1,106 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 22% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.6%

It’s easy to see why Austin is one of the best cities for young professionals, as well as one of the best places to live in the U.S. in general! Its vibrant culture, fantastic weather, strong job market, and affordable cost of living make it an attractive landing spot for young professionals. The presence of major tech companies like Adobe, Amazon, Google, Intel, and IBM in Austin has helped the city earn the nickname “Silicon Hills.” Of course, it’s not all about work in Austin! ATX has lively nightlife, a growing food scene, and plenty of outdoor recreation—plus, it’s the Live Music Capital of the World!

Things to Do in Austin

Throw up the Hook ’em Horns sign as you celebrate football victories at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, home of the University of Texas. Take in gorgeous sunsets and views of the city atop Mount Bonnell. Catch local acts and up-and-coming artists with live music at Hotel Vegas. Take a dip in Barton Springs Municipal Pool, a popular spring-fed basin that’s ideal for year-round swimming. Devour some of the world’s best smoked meats and Banana Bourbon pie at Franklin Barbecue. Get a taste of Mexico with authentic Al Pastor Tacos from Vaquero Taquero. Savor Cinnamon Knots and Ginger Cookies while sipping on local craft beers on the patio at Easy Tiger. Experience some of Austin’s best nightlife along Sixth Street, where you can check out a number of bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues—including the always-fun rooftop at Maggie Mae’s. Or travel back to the Prohibition era with handcrafted cocktails made table-side at secluded speakeasy Whisper Room.

Denver, CO

denver skyline from drone photo by Instagram user @rockymtphotovideo
Photo via @rockymtphotovideo
  • Population: 663,303
  • Home Price: $292,700 median purchase price; $1,035 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 9% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.8%

Young professionals are drawn to Denver for its idyllic scenery and abundant outdoor adventures, but the expanding job market might be the most important factor in the city’s rapid population growth. Denver is rife with opportunities in the tech and health care industries, and it’s one of America’s hot spots for entrepreneurs. When not at work, young professionals can hit the slopes, go for a scenic hike through the mountains, tour local craft breweries, and much more. All in all, Denver’s job market and amenities make it one of the best places to live in America for young professionals!

Things to Do in Denver

Catch a concert or join a community yoga event at Red Rocks Park & Ampitheatre, one of the most stunning concert venues in the country. See Denver from different angles while hiking around the Mile High Loop. Reminisce about simpler times amid vintage action figures, comic books, and video games at Fifty-Two 80s. Marvel at all manners of sea life—from piranhas to sharks—or dine alongside them at the Downtown Aquarium. View everything from classic paintings to contemporary interactive art pieces at Denver Art Museum. Fuel up in the morning with Bravocado Toast or Breakfast Pot Pie at Snooze AM Eatery. Craft your ultimate pizza from 42 possible ingredients at Hops & Pie. See why Denver is the one of America’s best beer cities with an Insane Rush IPA from Bootstrap Brewing or a Hellraiser from Bruz Beers. Or grab a partner and swing dance the night away at country bar Grizzly Rose.

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Des Moines, IA

skyline of des moines, IA from drone with blue sky and clouds photo by Instagram user @jim_hamann
Photo via @jim_hamann
  • Population: 212,859
  • Home Price: $119,800 median purchase price; $775 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 7% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.0%

Often misjudged as a flyover town for its heartland location, Des Moines is actually one of the best cities to live in America and one of the fastest-growing cities in the Midwest! Its low housing costs and budget-friendly cost of living are major draws for young professionals, as is the city’s growing job market. Those looking for a career in finance, insurance, and manufacturing will find plenty of employment opportunities in Iowa’s capital city—and there are several tech startups popping up in the area, too! As for things to do on the weekends and at night, Des Moines has a thriving arts culture, an expanding craft beer scene, and trendy restaurants and coffee shops that are worth exploring!

Things to Do in Des Moines

Experience the best Iowa has to offer with epic concerts, thrilling rides, and delicious deep-fried eats at the Iowa State Fair. Take a tour of the Des Moines Art Center to see more than 5,000 pieces of modern and classic art. Catch everything from breakdancers and musicians to food vendors and local artisans at 80/35 Music Festival. Pick up fresh produce, local cheeses and wines, and much more at the Downtown Farmers Market. Feast on the infamous Crab Rangoon Pizza—featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives—at Fong’s Pizza. Try zombie-inspired burgers like the Undead Elvis and Planet Terror at Zombie Burger. Expand your beer palate with creative takes on cold brews like the Cherry Limeade and Wagon Wheel Wit at Farm Town Brewing. Or listen to jazz music with a Russian Lullaby cocktail at Noce.

Madison, WI

madison, wi capitol building sticking out in the skyline with lake michigan in view photo by Instagram user @evan_ferguson
Photo via @evan_ferguson
  • Population: 246,034
  • Home Price: $217,000 median purchase price; $959 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 28% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.5%

Madison checks off all of the boxes for young professionals looking for an affordable place to live. With a sturdy job market in the finance, tech, and health care industries and a low unemployment rate, it’s no surprise that this Wisconsin city is one of America’s best places to start a career. When the work day ends, there are tons of things to do—like spending time at one of Madison’s beautiful green spaces or checking out the emerging restaurant landscape. And if you’re looking to eventually settle down, it’s hard to find better places than Madison for starting a family!

Things to Do in Madison

Sport the University of Wisconsin Badgers during football games at Camp Randall Stadium or basketball games at Kohl Center. Tailgate on game days in the beer garden at Jordan’s Big 10 Pub. Camp out and go for a lazy inner tube float down the river at Crazy Horse Campground. Peruse the selection of locally-produced meats, cheeses, jams, breads, and more at America’s largest producer-only farmers market, the Dane County Farmers Market. Immerse yourself in some of the finest contemporary works of art in the country at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Embrace all aspects of Madison’s diverse culinary scene each summer at Yum Yum Fest. Feast on Wisconsin delicacies such as Beer-Battered Cheese Curds and Wurst Platters at The Old Fashioned. Take advantage of Madison’s craft beer scene with a Velveteen Rabbit at Ale Asylum or a Penguin Pale Ale at One Barrel Brewing.

Nashville, TN

Nashville skyline with blue sky above photo by Instagram user @captainjoh
Photo via @captainjoh
  • Population: 643,771
  • Home Price: $174,600 median purchase price; $902 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 4% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.3%

Searching for a city with affordable homes and plenty of career opportunities? Consider planting roots in Nashville! Music City is one of the best places to live for young adults, thanks to its major job growth, particularly in the healthcare industry. In addition, those looking to start their own venture are backed by a supportive startup community. While the work side of things is great, Nashville is better known (and loved) for its exciting amenities. There are music venues everywhere you turn, several local sports teams to support, a wide array of incredible restaurants, and some of the best nightlife in the South!

Things to Do in Nashville

Rock out with some of the best musical acts in the world at the Grand Ole Opry, or squeeze into the cozy Bluebird Cafe to catch up-and-coming artists before they make it big. Escape the liveliness of Downtown Nashville with a peaceful stroll around Radnor Lake. Learn more about the life of one of America’s most famous performers at the Johnny Cash Museum. Choose between hundreds of the finest whiskeys in the country at 404 Kitchen. Grab a drink and bounce between bars for live country music, delicious BBQ, and dancing on Honky Tonk Highway—and, of course, no trip to the area is complete with a stop at local legend Tootsies Orchid Lounge! Sip on Prohibition-style cocktails while enjoying live jazz music at Rudy’s Jazz Room. Test your tastebuds’ heat tolerance with the Hot Chicken Sandwich at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. Or chow down on Ribs and Kool-Aid Pickles at Peg Leg Porker.

Phoenix, AZ

photo of downtown phoenix, az with bright blue sky and trees photo by Instagram user @justinpazera
Photo via @justinpazera
  • Population: 1,555,324
  • Home Price: $178,200 median purchase price; $914 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 7% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.1%

Who wouldn’t want to start a career in Phoenix? The Valley of the Sun draws in young professionals with its sunny climate, abundance of outdoor activities, and immersive arts scene. These factors also make Phoenix one of the best U.S. cities for winter escapes, but it’s the strong job market that gets young professionals to settle here. Employment opportunities are on the rise, especially in the fields of bioscience, health care, aerospace, and defense, making Phoenix one of the best U.S. cities for jobs. And with a cost of living below the national average, Phoenix is among the most affordable places to live in America!

Things to Do in Phoenix

Savor the breathtaking views and secluded valleys during a hike through Piestewa Park. Snag a bite from a food truck, check out art galleries, and dance to the live music during a First Fridays street festival. Catch classic indie films, documentaries, and fan favorites at FilmBar. Impress your Instagram followers with shots of the incredible street art adorning Roosevelt Row. Spend an afternoon tasting wines at Javelina Leap Winery, Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery, and Page Springs Cellars, all located within minutes of each other. Rent inner tubes for a lazy ride down the river at Salt River Tubing. Get wild with the Burger Brulee—the ultimate dessert-dinner mashup—at Paradise Valley Burger Co. Celebrate Taco Tuesday in style with Lobster Tacos and Coffee Beef Tacos at Taco Guild. Or play classic video games and try signature drinks like the Kirby and the Krazy Kong at Cobra Arcade Bar.

Portland, OR

portland, or downtown area with conifers in view photo by Instagram user @yumenogrden
Photo via @yumenogrde
  • Population: 620,589
  • Home Price: $319,400 median purchase price; $1,025 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 10% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.2%

Want to live in one of the hippest cities in the world? You won’t find many better options than Portland! Young professionals are flocking to this Pacific Northwest paradise for its “Keep Portland Weird” vibe, unique food scene, and natural beauty. But it’s more than the culture that draws new residents. “Silicon Forest” is a hub for startups and tech companies, making it a great city for job-hunting young professionals as well. All of these positives have caused the cost of living to swell a bit as the city has grown, but that hasn’t stopped it from being among the best places for young adults to live!

Things to Do in Portland

Catch a live performance, grab a bite from a food cart, or check out one of over 300 annual events in “Portland’s Living Room,” the Pioneer Courthouse Square. Transport yourself to the Far East with a peaceful stroll through Lan Su Chinese Garden, one of the most authentic Chinese gardens outside of China. Experience the exhilarating thrill of a drag race at Portland International Speedway. Become a devout member of the Timbers Army and support the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. Sip on a Latte or a Shakereto at Spella Cafe. Play classic arcade games while eating a Bacon Bianco Pizza at Apizza Scholls. Sample more than 50 unique wines while grazing on small plates at Navarre. See why Portland is known as America’s best city for beer drinkers with a visit to Breakside Brewery or upright brewing.

Raleigh, NC

downtown Raleigh, NC at dusk with skyline photo by Instagram user @dyyymondaerials
Photo via @dyyymondaerials
  • Population: 441,326
  • Home Price: $218,200 median purchase price; $966 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 35% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.3%

Are you looking to start a new career in the tech industry, but don’t want to move to Silicon Valley? Put Raleigh on your radar—especially if you want to live in the South! The home of Research Triangle Park has seen more growth in tech job openings over the past year than any other U.S. city. Raleigh is also experiencing major job growth in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and finance career opportunities. Raleigh isn’t just ideal for jobs, however. It’s a big city that offers a quiet lifestyle, affordable living, and great amenities, making it an exceptional place to buy a home and settle down!

Things to Do in Raleigh

Take a ride on America’s largest traveling ferris wheel at the North Carolina State Fair. Marvel at works from across the globe during a guided mobile tour at North Carolina Museum of Art. Find a new way to achieve your fitness goals with rock-climbing challenges and yoga classes at Triangle Rock Club. Download your beer passport and start your trip down the Raleigh Beer Trail, which includes stops at Lynwood Brewing Concern, Big Boss Brewing Company, and more. Sing along with world-famous artists with the Raleigh skyline as your backdrop at Red Hat Amphitheater. Feast on Beef Brisket Sliders and the Smoked Wing Platter at Big Al’s BBQ. Or savor the creations from one the best chefs in America at Poole’s Diner and Beasley’s Chicken + Honey.

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Salt Lake City, UT

downtown Salt Lake City in view with mountains in the back photo by Instagram user @sherpa_solution
Photo via @sherpa_solution
  • Population: 191,446
  • Home Price: $248,700 median purchase price; $844 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 2% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.9%

Salt Lake City is an excellent place to live for young professionals who want a fresh start! Salaries are rising and the unemployment rate is falling in SLC, making it one of the hottest job markets in the country. Not only can you find career opportunities in Salt Lake City, but you can also put your earnings to good use. Thanks to its reasonably-priced housing, it’s one of America’s most affordable cities. Plus, it’s surrounded by mountain ranges, providing picturesque views and plenty of outdoor recreation. For these reasons (and more), Salt Lake City is a growing paradise for young professionals!

Things to Do in Salt Lake City

Break out the skis and test out your skills on 65 unique runs at Solitude Mountain. Admire the breathtaking views of the Great Salt Lake during a hike or mountain bike ride at Antelope Island State Park. Catch live shows featuring both up-and-coming standups and world-famous comedians at Wiseguys Comedy Club. Check out a Utah Jazz (NBA) game at Vivint Smart Home Arena, or cheer on Real Salt Lake (MLS) at Rio Tinto Stadium. Take a break from shopping to admire the Fire Fountain Show at City Creek Center. Enjoy an upscale meal of Maine Scallops and Duck Fat Fingerlings at Bambara. Order a Spicy Yellowtail Roll or a Maui Wowie at Sapa Sushi Bar & Asian Grill. Or stop in for a nightcap with an Asian Pear Cosmo or a Blackberry Mojito at Elixir Lounge.

San Jose, CA

downtown San Jose at dusk with highway in foreground photo by Instagram user @janitorty
Photo via @janitorty
  • Population: 1,009,363
  • Home Price: $658,000 median purchase price; $1,689 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 28% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.0%

Want to live in the heart of Silicon Valley without having to deal with San Francisco’s high costs? San Jose offers many of the same Bay Area amenities but at a lower price! The sunny weather and relatively affordable living make it a popular spot for young homebuyers who want to settle down, but naturally the biggest draw is the local job market. San Jose is full of employment opportunities in the tech field, as Google, eBay, Apple, and Cisco all have offices in the area. The Capital of Silicon Valley has also been recognized as one of the happiest cities in America, so you’ll be sure to love living here!

Things to Do in San Jose

Brave some of the state’s most thrilling roller coasters like Flight Deck and the Patriot at California’s Great America. Explore the labyrinth of 160 rooms, unfinished staircases, and mysterious dead ends at the haunted Winchester Mystery House. Take your four-legged friend for a walk or traverse the 30+ miles of hiking trails on horseback at Almaden Quicksilver County Park. Stay up to date with the latest art trends by perusing the rotating galleries of modern artwork at San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. Find a new outfit at Free People or get the latest tech gadget at b8ta while shopping at Santana Row. Make the most out of happy hour with a Hoppy Tears or an Off Continent IPA at Uproar Brewing Company. Dig into some of the finest Jerk Chicken outside of Jamaica at Back A Yard Caribbean Grill. Or wash down hearty dishes like Sausage Rolls and The Ploughman’s Plate with a Guinness at Trials Pub.

Sioux Falls, SD

bridge in sioux falls, sd with arc of dreams sculpture over big sioux river photo by Instagram user @thefabricator_magazine
Photo via @thefabricator_magazine
  • Population: 167,844
  • Home Price: $161,500 median purchase price; $749 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 22% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 2.8%

Looking for a place where you can make good money, enjoy reasonable living costs, and have fun? You need to check out Sioux Falls! There are several reasons why The Gateway to the Plains has been named the best city for young professionals for three years in a row. The city has one of the hottest job markets in the country with an extremely low unemployment rate and a wide range of health care and financial job opportunities! But jobs aren’t the only reason why Sioux Falls is one of the Midwest’s best cities. It also offers affordable living and has tons of fun things to do! It’s time to put Sioux Falls on your list if you’re looking for a place to start a new career.

Things to Do in Sioux Falls

Witness the cascading water that earned Sioux Falls its name at Falls Park. Paint your first masterpiece with inspiration and help from experienced artists at Creative Spirits. Catch the best local, regional, and national artists when they perform at ICON Lounge. Admire work by local artists alongside pieces from famous artists like Andy Warhol at the Washington Pavilion Visual Arts Center. Indulge your sweet tooth with world-renowned baked goods like Salted Caramel Macarons and Vanilla Butter Cookies from CH Patisserie. Grab an Atomica Pizza from Fiero Pizza and take it into one of the local breweries. Work your way through the extensive beer menu—including the Liquid Alpha and Chocolate Raspberry Truffle–at WoodGrain Brewing Co. Or enjoy craft cocktails like the Handsome Devil or the Cucumber Gimlet in a classy setting at Carpenter Bar.

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