For those trying to forge their own path through life, finding the right place to live can often be a challenge. You want a place with plenty of activities and chances to build connections, but you need a place that’s affordable on a single salary.
Each year at Money, we put in hundreds of hours digging through thousands of data points to produce our annual list of Best Places to Live in the U.S. We consider stats on affordability, job opportunities and amenities that make a city attractive — with a family focus.
But the reality is that 31% of American adults self-identify as single, according to a 2020 profile from the Pew Research Center. And while many of our data points are also important to singles, what qualifies as a desirable (or even, affordable) place to live can really depend on your relationship status.
That’s why we’ve updated our formula to instead look for the places where single people of all ages can find fun, build community connections, and afford a comfortable lifestyle. To determine the winners of this list, we most heavily weighted amenities that would promote community interaction such as restaurants, bars, social clubs, and organizations along with, of course, the typical cost of living. Additionally, because “single” is such an all-encompassing umbrella term, we chose places that could serve a variety of different personal interests and lifestyles.
These are the best cities where single people can thrive in 2021.
1. Missoula, MT
- Population: 72,968
- Median home listing price: $375,395
- Median household income: $53,850
- No. of nearby green spaces: 577
- Best for: Outdoor Adventurers, Craft Beer Enthusiasts, Lifelong Learners
The residents of Missoula, Mont. know how to take advantage of everything their city has to offer — no matter the time of year, temperature or their relationship status.
Within 15 miles there are over 577 spots available for every outdoor activity one could think of. There’s skiing and snowboarding at the Snowbowl resort just 12 miles northwest of downtown, snowshoeing through a trail within Lookout Pass, and ice skating at the popular Glacier Ice Rink. During the warmer months, the same enchanting landscape provides ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, camping and exploration.
Missoula is probably best known for its abundant outdoor activities, but those who prefer to spend more time indoors can still have a blast enjoying what the city has to offer. There are over 160 religious and social organizations, 22 museums, and 577 restaurants within the city limits — but there’s one specific hobby Missoula residents might be best known for.
Montana has the second-most craft beer breweries per capita in the U.S., and Missoula is one of the state’s hot spots. There are eight local breweries to drink and dine at, along with six annual “BrewFests” each year — including one in the dead of winter — where residents can enjoy over 35 different types of beer brewed in Montana, dance to live music, and snack on treats from local vendors.
Residents on a never-ending quest for knowledge have the opportunity to enroll at the University of Montana’s School of Extended and Lifelong Learning (SELL) at the flagship campus near downtown. Beyond your typical professional development courses, SELL offers some unique certifications designed to help local industries, including beekeeping and homebrewing.
While Missoula has grown over the past few years, home prices have remained relatively low. The median listing price is just above $375,000, with many starter homes and condos available for a much lower price. But with $53,000 median income and a cost-of-living score in the top 15% of all 1,890 cities in our database, single residents looking to settle their roots can reasonably save to make that down payment.
2. Greenville, SC
- Population: 69,587
- Median home listing price: $484,629
- Median household income: $60,535
- No. of restaurants: 744
- Best for: Social Butterflies, Americana Romantics, Career Builders
If you move to Greenville, S.C. and feel like you’ve been dropped into the middle of a charming American romance novel, you’re not alone. With lush greenery surrounding a red brick downtown, Greenville might just be the definition of “picturesque.” So much so, that residents often note that one of the biggest perks of living in South Carolina’s sixth-largest city is just how stunning of a place it is to call home.
Revamped trolleys drive around the downtown area, taking tourists and residents alike through the city’s main streets. You can also find dozens of lively parks like Falls Park, the main city green that sits along the Reedy River, or the intimate Shaw rose garden, one of a few colorful “pocket parks” tucked away downtown. Public art installations are so abundant that the city offers a Public Art Walking Tour to showcase the many murals and sculptures that have been commissioned around town.
But looks alone don’t make it a great place for singles. It’s also easy to find a community where you can fit in here. With roughly 190 religious organizations, 30 social and civic organizations, 70 gyms, 50 bars and a whopping 740-plus options for dining out, the odds are high that you’ll find plenty of friendly faces who share your interests. Plus, if live sports are your thing, you can join the tailgaters packing into cars during football season to go cheer on the Clemson Tigers, less than 45 minutes away.
Once the “textile capital of the world,” Greenville has grown into a business hub for a variety of major employers including Michelin North America, GE Power (General Electric’s energy technologies company) and TD Bank. With so many job opportunities, it’s a popular choice for recent graduates, which has led to a significant boom in housing development. Money’s data show that job growth over the coming five years in the city is projected to slow somewhat compared to the previous five years, but Greenville still scores in the top third of our economy and job market measures.
While the median home price is $484,000, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment was just over $1,000 per month in January, according to Zumper. That’s already well below the national average of $1,598, but splitting a multi-bedroom apartment among roommates can help single residents save even more money.
3. Winter Park, FL
- Population: 31,088
- Median home price: $777,858
- Median household income: $87,017
- No. of nearby green spaces and parks: 140
- Best for: Thriving Seniors, Laid-Back Park-Hoppers, Warm Weather Lovers
When you think of “singles,” does it conjure up an image of bar-hopping, roommate-living adults in their twenties? If so, you might be surprised to learn that 36% of Americans who identify as single are over the age of 65.
Winter Park, Fla., where 43% of the population is over the age of 50, is an excellent spot for single retirees to not just relax, but thrive. Before writing it off as unoriginal — retirees in Florida is not exactly a groundbreaking idea — hear us out. A quick search for singles groups within 25 miles of Winter Park generates numerous results for residents over the age of 50 with all sorts of special interests. You can find groups dedicated to outdoor activities, culture-based organizations, and even the central Florida chapter of the American Singles Golf Association.
Although it’s just seven miles outside of Orlando, Winter Park is much more than a quiet commuter town. The area boasts clear skies 236 days a year, and you’ll find over 132 green spaces within 15 miles. On any given weekend, you can see people milling about the city’s Central Park or picnicking at Mead Botanical Garden, a 47.6-acre park that includes bike trails and a butterfly garden.
In the Downtown Winter Park Historic District you can find colorful storefronts, beautiful Mediterranean-style architecture, and seven museums, including the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, known for its large art nouveau collection. You may even see a few peacocks strutting about the town, having escaped from the Genius Drive Nature Preserve.
The cost of living for such amenities is quite steep — Winter Park’s median home price is the highest of this entire list at $777,858. While this might be doable for a wealthier retiree, most single people will probably need to rent. But renting in retirement can be a smart decision anyhow. Luckily, apartments in Winter Park rent for an average of $1,291 per month, according to RENTCafe, which is about $100 less than Orlando.
4. Portland, OR
- Population: 647,907
- Median home listing price: $532,568
- Median household income: $75,711
- Percent of commuters that travel by bike or walking: 12%
- Best for: Big City Lovers, Environmentalists, LGBTQ Community
As the most populated city on our list, Portland, Ore. isn’t exactly a “hidden gem.” But if you’re looking to make it on your own in a big city, you might be surprised to learn just how single-friendly Portland can be — and how it’s only getting better.
In 2020, the city passed sweeping zoning laws, allowing fourplexes and six-unit affordable apartment buildings to be built on lots originally zoned for single-family homes. That’s important, because with the current median home price at a steep $532,568, affordable rent is a must for single residents of one of the most iconic cities on the west coast.
Portland’s reputation as a cultural hub is well deserved; the Portland Metropolitan Area is home to over 4,000 restaurants, 661 bars, 115 museums, and 470 social and civic organizations. The city is also a leader in environmentalism and sustainability; it’s been named a “platinum” level bicycle-friendly city by the League of American Bicyclists. And you won’t be hard-pressed to find vegan and sustainably sourced fare, community gardens, and composting bins that are actually in use.
Just as Portland has been a force for change when it comes to environmental concerns, the community is also serious about supporting and advocating for progressive social causes. So it makes sense that the city is one of the most queer-friendly cities in America.
A 2015 Gallup poll found the Portland metropolitan area to have the second-highest percentage of residents who identified as LGBT behind the San Francisco Bay Area. There are dozens of LGBTQ+ bars, establishments, clubs and advocacy organizations. The city is also home to the Portland Queer Film Festival, which has been a staple for over 20 years, and hosts the Portland Pride Festival during Pride month every June.
5. Asheville, NC
- Population: 93,904
- Median home listing price: $540,561
- Median household income: $56,576
- No. of restaurants per 1,000 residents: 12
- Best for: Self-Proclaimed “Foodies,” Creative Types, Trendsetters
Will the accolades for Asheville, N.C. ever cease? Probably not. But there’s a reason this booming Smoky Mountain city has wound up on so many of Money’s Best Places to Live collections. It’s still small enough for those looking for a tight-knit community, while being large enough to boast big-city levels of arts, music, food and fun.
It’s easy to go solo on trips to one of Asheville’s more than 25 museums, art galleries and studios, spend the day seeing gorgeous waterfalls on one of the 3,000-plus miles of nearby hiking trails, or grab a drink at one of the city’s 94 bars and breweries.
Asheville has become well-known among food critics for its exceptional culinary scene — in fact, it has more restaurants per capita than any other city on this list. Residents can satisfy cravings for nearly every cuisine, from vegetarian to New American to a multitude of international flavors, including chef Katie Button’s Cúrate, which serves tapas-style small plates and cured meats, or Meherwan Irani’s Chai Pani, serving creative Indian street food. Breweries are also exceptionally popular, including Asheville’s oldest, Highland Brewing Company, where locals and visitors can enjoy flights of brews in a taproom and patio and finish off the day with a game of volleyball at one of the brewery’s courts.
6. Branford, CT
- Population: 27,525
- Median home listing price: $379,325
- Median household income: $84,487
- Local high school graduation rate: 93%
- Best for: Single Parents, Small Town Lovers, Day-Trippers
Sharing a border with New Haven, Conn., Branford is the smallest city on our list, while still offering some of the biggest perks — especially for single parents.
In some idyllic, family-friendly communities, being a single parent can be an ostracizing experience. But with 37% of children living in a single-parent household within New Haven county, single residents of Branford don’t have to look far to find support — the surrounding area has nearly 300 social organizations, including some single parent support groups. The city also boasts high quality public schools and more than 190 green spaces and parks within 15 miles.
If you’re looking for the family-friendly perks of a small town, but still want to introduce your kids to the culture of a big city, look no further. Branford is a roughly two-and-a-half hour drive from both New York City and Boston. Residents can easily hop in their car or take the train for a day trip or weekend getaway. Some residents in the area even commute into Manhattan for work every day.
With a beautiful waterfront, quaint downtown, and a town green that hosts live music and provides free wifi access year-round, Branford lets you enjoy the serenity of a traditional New England town without the sky-high price tag. The median price of a home is just over $379,000, slightly above the national average, but plenty of single family homes, condos and townhouses can be found for much less. In fact, the city ranks in the top third of our 1,890-city database's housing market category, which weighs 15 data points, including sales prices and inventory.
7. Santa Fe, NM
- Population: 83,609
- Median home listing price: $641,873
- Median household income: $65,410
- Number of local museums: 105
- Best for: Artistic Spirits, Historical Architecture Geeks, Peace and Quiet Seekers
Why not some stunning desert landscape to round out our list? Santa Fe, N.M. is known for its eccentricity. Traditional adobe architecture meets a world-class art scene with the vast Santa Fe National Forest and Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range as a backdrop.
Artists (and art appreciators) thrive in Santa Fe, which is home to over 100 museums, including the Museum of International Folk Art and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. There’s also the world-famous Santa Fe Opera and the Institute of American Indian Arts, where prominent Native American artists instruct students in all areas of Native American artwork.
Despite the number of cultural sites to behold, there is relatively little traffic in any of the downtown areas (although most people need a car to get in and out of the city). Residents can easily grab food from their favorite traditional southwestern style restaurants after work and be home within the hour, with an average commute time of 20 minutes.
Unlike some of the other havens for artists and outdoorsy-types on this list, Santa Fe tends to be a bit quieter and slower paced, which can be a delightful option for any burnt-out creatives looking for some rest and relaxation. This desert city is also a popular destination for retirees — around 42% of the population is over the age of 50.
While homes in the area are quite expensive — the median listing price is over $641,000 — singles looking to rent can find studio or one-bedroom apartments renting for a median of $700 and $1,200 a month, respectively.
Methodology: How We Determined the Best Places to Live for Singles
To find Money’s Best Places for Singles, we looked at places with populations above 25,000 to ensure a mix of small, medium and large cities. We eliminated any location that had more than double the national crime risk, less than 85% of its state’s median household income or a lack of racial diversity. This generated 1,890 possible places.
We then crunched over 181,000 data points, provided by our research partner Witlytic.
For each place we then considered: cost of living, amenities, quality of life, housing market, mental and physical health factors, diversity, economic health, and weather. To get a full picture of the data we used, you can check out our 2020 Best Places to Live methodology.
When considering singles, we placed the heaviest weight on amenities including restaurants, bars, religious and social organizations, outdoor spaces, gyms, and city-wide events. Relative cost of living (comparing the median household income to the median home price) was also an important component in ensuring that each place could offer single residents an affordable lifestyle.
Among the statistics called out here:
Median home sale price reflects the first quarter of 2020 median, using data from Attom Data. Median household income reflects Synergos Technologies Inc.’s interpretation of Census data. Population and percent of population age 50 or above data reflect Synergos Technologies Inc.’s interpretation of Census and IRS data.
Witlytic aggregated all city-level data so that Money was able to use it in the analysis.
This article has been updated to correct the description of the home price data. The data are median home listing prices, not the median home sales price.