No. 5

Olive Branch, Mississippi

Situated right on the Tennessee state line, the city of Olive Branch offers an easy escape from neighboring Memphis, with a high quality of life, a historic small-town atmosphere, and a moderate commute.

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“Olive Branch is so different from Memphis, which is just across the state line. We don’t have the crime or the hustle and bustle of the city—it feels like you’re much further away from Memphis than you really are,” says Jay Nichols, who was born and raised in Olive Branch and now works for the city.

Nichols, 45, says Olive Branch has experienced incredible growth from when he was a kid. The population has exploded, rising from 3,567 in 1990 to 37,500 today, and residents no longer have to leave the town’s borders now for basic services and shopping. “There’s a level of comfort and safety here in Olive Branch that’s unique. It’s just a great place to raise your kids,” says Nichols.

Indeed, families love Olive Branch for its good schools, safe streets, and family-friendly activities, not to mention its affordability—the median home price is $185,092, and annual property taxes average $956 a year. Residents enjoy a weekly farmers’ market at the city hall, while the city hosts events like outdoor movies on the lawn of Wesson House, a Mississippi landmark that anchors Olive Branch’s Old Towne area. Brussel’s Bonsai, a 175,000-square-foot nursery dedicated to the miniature trees, attracts visitors from outside Olive Branch as well—especially during its annual bonsai celebration every Memorial Day weekend.

While there aren’t a ton of independent restaurants and businesses within its borders, Olive Branch has been attracting some new businesses—like Mississippi Ale House, a taproom dedicated to craft beer, and Board & Brush, a studio where patrons can learn woodworking and painting techniques while sipping wine with friends.

The city also prides itself on offering accessible services to people from all walks of life. It recently opened an all-inclusive universal playground that offers, among other amenities, a wheelchair-accessible swing set. —Ismat Sarah Mangla

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