- Boasting an ideal mix of diverse residential options, a growing business environment, plus lifestyle amenities, Edina, MN, Falls Church, VA, and Palo Alto, CA, are the country’s top three suburbs for a city-like lifestyle.
- Chicago–Naperville–Elgin stands out as the metro area that has the most suburbs with prime features for urban living: No less than 15 Chicagoland suburbs make it into the top 100. The New York and Boston metro areas follow next with 14 and 10 cities, respectively.
- All the top 20 suburbs have healthier lifestyles and higher life expectancy compared to the national average, with Lone Tree, CO, having the best health score.
The lines between urban and suburban living are getting blurry across the country. People have been seeking the comfort and privacy of suburbs while also craving city-like amenities – and it has driven a massive redesign of the suburban environment.
In fact, the American suburb has come a long way from the typical bedroom community with white picket fences where driving was a must and one could only dream of an oat milk latte. Much of the original appeal is still there, including the quiet, tree-lined streets, good schools and large backyards – or large rooftop gardens. But as many suburbs began to experiment with new urbanist principles, we’ve now come to enjoy vibrant, better connected communities, which are more diverse in terms of housing, business and lifestyle amenities.
The road ahead is not without its challenges, and there are of course geographic variations, but some places have succeeded in fostering sustainable, mixed-use development that can cater to the needs of both multi-generational households and young professionals who can now work from anywhere.
To see where people can find the right mix of amenities to support a modern lifestyle, we’ve set out to identify the best US suburbs with urban flair. We’ve analyzed 912 cities with populations between 10K and 100K in the 100 largest metropolitan areas and looked at several factors including:
- Residential landscape: housing affordability, new construction and housing diversity (single-family, multifamily homes)
- Business environment
- Shopping and dining amenities
- Transportation options
- Self storage prices and availability as a way to maximize home space
There are plenty of suburban communities across the US where residents can enjoy premier city-like lifestyles but only a handful hit the right balance between safety, affordability and social vibrancy. Four of 2023’s top 20 suburban hotspots are in California, but the Midwest and the East Coast hold a few surprises. Here are the country’s best suburbs for a city-like environment.
Here's a closer look at the 10 best suburban hotspots that support live-work-play lifestyles and what made them stand out from the crowd.
1. Edina, MN
Strongest points: Business sector, Amenities, Transportation
Edina, MN, ranks first nationwide as the suburb that best renders a city-like feel while providing a quality living environment. It scores consistently well across the board with a surprisingly vibrant entertainment scene, good transportation options and a lively job sector. A significant 40% of the housing stock consists of apartments, which translates into a more diverse housing scene to accommodate various lifestyles. Shopping and dining are also well accounted for, with Edina actually having a strong tradition in this regard: the suburb is home to the country’s first fully enclosed, climate-controlled shopping center in the US, Southdale Center, which was inaugurated in 1958 and is still going strong to this day.
Edina also offers a thriving local business environment, with almost 58 businesses per 1,000 residents and about 125 square feet of office space per capita.
2. Falls Church, VA
Strongest points: Residential construction, Business sector, Education
With around 15K residents, Falls Church, VA, is one of the smallest suburbs among the top 20 in our ranking, but it still managed to rank second nationally for a city-like environment. Falls Church is in fact packed with great amenities that allow a comfortable lifestyle. The housing inventory is equally divided between single family and multifamily options, adding a strong note of diversity to the local scene. Thanks to its growing appeal, new residential construction is booming in the area. As it turns out, Falls Church ranks fifth for new home supply among the suburbs analyzed, with 60 building permits per 1,000 people in 2022.
Housing, however, is certainly not cheap, though the high incomes in Falls Church tend to bridge the affordability gap. The median household income is over $155K – more than double the national average – and the local economic sector counts over 44 businesses per 1,000 residents.
3. Palo Alto, CA
Strongest points: Business sector, Amenities, Health
Palo Alto is much more than just its tech scene. The local economy is diverse, supporting an active job market even as tech layoffs continue across the Bay Area. There are around 60 businesses registered per 1,000 residents, and its downtown alone generated $3.2 million in sales-tax revenues in fiscal year 2021-22, more than in any other downtown in the area.
In terms of housing costs, Palo Alto is still home to some of the priciest real estate in the nation. But incomes tend to bridge the affordability gap as the city has the fourth-highest medium income among all locations analyzed – roughly $195K. Moreover, local authorities are prioritizing housing production through new regulations that allow higher housing density and more affordable housing projects.
Naturally, there’s no shortage of things to do besides work in Palo Alto – not only do residents have access to plenty of options in terms of retail outlets and restaurants, but they also enjoy an impressive 1,900 square feet of park space per capita.
Californians’ long-voiced health-consciousness is applicable to Palo Alto residents as well who have a lower obesity rate compared to the national average (22% vs. 33%) and a life expectancy that’s well above the national average. Alternative means of transportation are also highly regarded by locals, with less than 60% of people in Palo Alto using their cars to get to work. Bringing both health and environmental benefits, biking to work is also popular here.
4. Franklin, TN
Strongest points: Business sector, Education, Amenities
This charming, historic suburb of Nashville offers a lot in terms of urban-like lifestyle: it has a good business infrastructure and it’s relatively affordable in terms of housing, while amenities like shops and restaurants are found around every corner.
Franklin has another ace up its sleeve. It’s home to a great downtown area, one of the best-preserved in the US, having walkable streets lined with gorgeous Victorian architecture, plus plenty of shops and restaurants. In terms of things to do, Franklin is giving many large cities a run for their money, hosting events that check many boxes for entertainment, from street festivals to music events and family-friendly gatherings that really bring the community together. The Main Street Festival in the spring features arts and crafts, great food and live entertainment, while the Bluegrass Along the Harpeth music festival is another occasion that spells fun for Franklin residents.
5. Venice, FL
Strongest points: Residential, Amenities, Transportation
With a 15% increase in local population over the past five years, Venice, FL, is rapidly changing. It taps into urban territory thanks to lively streets, a diverse residential sector and plenty of entertainment opportunities. Less than 50% of homes here are single family residences, ensuring access to varied housing options, and new construction is booming, with over 42 building permits for new residential units per 1,000 people.
Moreover, this sunny Sarasota suburb has become the go-to place for “zoombirds,” in addition to its traditional snowbird clientele. In response to the growing demand for housing, developers are delivering. Among the biggest projects currently under development in the area, Coastal Ridge Real Estate is flourishing, with its master planned community that includes 274 build-for-rent homes within Stillwell at Wellen Park.
6. Suwanee, GA
Strongest points: Education, Residential, Business sector
An excellent place for raising a family, mainly thanks to its well-performing schooling system, this Atlanta suburb also offers diverse living options, including high-quality mixed-use developments, as well as an array of culture and entertainment amenities. Even more event space is coming to Suwanee's town center, with the local authorities having recently broken ground on a 25-acre urban-style greenspace.
Suwanee also has an active economic and employment market, with around 42 businesses per 1,000 residents and a median household income of $99K.
7. Los Gatos, CA
Strongest points: Health, Business sector, Amenities
Located in the Silicon Valley area, the San Jose suburb of Los Gatos has many features that make it attractive for urban enthusiasts: a lively business environment – with the likes of Netflix headquartered here – a nice, walkable downtown area, plus numerous shopping and dining options.
Local entertainment options are also varied and include art, music and food festivals, along with a rich restaurant scene and plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun.
8. Burlingame, CA
Strongest points: Residential, Business sector, Health
This San Francisco suburb is a Californian gem combining a relatively affordable housing market – coming in the top third of the least expensive suburbs analyzed – with a very active business environment.
The housing inventory is divided almost equally between single family homes and multifamily ones, ensuring living options tailored for every taste and budget, from multi-generational families to young professionals.
Additionally, Burlingame has almost 54 businesses registered per 1,000 residents, around 250 square feet of office space per capita and a median household income of over $150K, all markers of a vibrant economy. Burlingame's downtown area is in a process of revamping as well, which once complete will add a state-of-the-art outdoor area for a variety of events and gatherings.
9. Lone Tree, CO
Strongest points: Health, Business sector, Residential
Lone Tree may well be one of Colorado’s best kept secrets. It features a great combination of housing, jobs and entertainment that make it suitable for any type of lifestyle. One of the things that give it a significant nudge upwards is the general well-being it inspires. In fact, Lone Tree scored highest for health-related indicators — boasting easy access to health care and social assistance — low obesity rates, and the highest life expectancy among the 900+ suburbs analyzed.
The housing inventory is diverse in Lone Tree, with 56% of the options being single family homes, while new residential construction is picking up pace: last year, there were over 34 building permits per 1,000 residents. The business sector is well developed, with 51 businesses per 1,000 residents and over 1,000 square feet of office space per capita.
There are plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun in the area, including hiking, running and biking in the Bluffs Regional Park. For those valuing live-work-play environments, there’s the RidgeGate community, which combines housing with shopping and dining options and a business district, as well as parks and trails for after-work fun.
Moreover, its location between Denver and Colorado Springs opens up a world of short work commutes and extra recreational possibilities for Lone Tree residents.
10. Burlington, MA
Strongest points: Business sector, Health, Residential
Burlington, MA, ranks 10th among the best suburbs for a city-like lifestyle. This Boston suburb is relatively affordable and offers an excellent business infrastructure (around 49 businesses per 1,000 residents, 350 square feet of office space per capita, plus coworking spaces).
There are many walkable areas in Burlington, such as Third Avenue, where residents can enjoy the green space and go shopping and eating. Burlington Mall, one of the oldest and largest in the Boston metro area, offers numerous shopping and eating out opportunities as well, while the town center is a great place where residents can congregate and participate in various community events.
Suburbs in the Midwest and on the East Coast also score high on the urbanism scale
Most of the suburbs ranking between the 11th and 20th positions in our list are located either in the Midwest or on the East Coast.
Chicagoland stands out as the metro area that hosts the biggest cluster of premier suburbs in the nation. No less than 15 cities in the Chicago metropolitan area made it into the best 100 suburbs ranking, with three in the top 20.
Downers Grove, IL, landing on 11th place, is a sizeable suburb of over 50K people that scores well across the board for amenity-rich living. Downers Grove registers over 42 businesses per 1,000 residents, with a median household income in the area of over $105K. On top of that, Downers Grove has a fantastic downtown area, with landmarks such as the classic Tivoli Theatre, a movie theater inaugurated in 1928 that shows movies to this day, plus top-notch shopping and dining venues.
Burr Ridge, IL, ranking 15th for city-like amenities, allows a comfortable lifestyle without it costing an arm and a leg for housing. It also displays a healthy business environment, with over 55 businesses per 1,000 residents and a median household income of around $148K. Education is top-notch in Burr Ridge as well, with the suburb counted among the best in this respect, making it a very good option for young families.
Vernon Hills, IL, lands on 17th place, propelled by urban amenities such as restaurants, shops and parks. The suburb also scores very well for education, with students displaying good results in tests and a student/teacher ratio of 12.3.
Only three of the suburbs ranked between the 11th and 20th positions in our list are neither East Coast nor Midwestern: Boca Raton, FL, on 12th, Menlo Park, CA, on 16th, and Lake Oswego, OR, round out the top 20.
Boca Raton, FL, is the largest suburb to make it into top 20, with over 95K residents, and it scores some major points in terms of access to health care, business environment and lifestyle amenities. The downtown area is highly walkable and a hub for business, shopping and entertainment. Access to culture also comes easy in Boca Raton due to its large array of museums and art galleries, including the Boca Raton Museum of Art and the Mizner Park Cultural Center.
Menlo Park, CA, the second San Francisco suburb in the top 20 suburbs list, is propelled by its strong economy and varied housing sector that blends multifamily and single family options. The residential construction market is also active, with 24 building permits per 1,000 residents issued in 2022.
The local economy is thriving, with 38 businesses per 1,000 residents and the ninth-highest median household income — almost $180K.
Lake Oswego, OR, a suburb located a mere eight miles from Portland, snags the 20th position on our list due to its thriving business sector, with 45 businesses per 1,000 residents and a median household income of over $120K. Moreover, about 30% of the local housing inventory comprises multifamily units, diversifying living options for residents and prospective residents. The city-like vibe is enhanced by Lake Oswego’s charming and walkable lakefront downtown, bursting with shopping, dining and entertainment options.
On the opposite coast, Secaucus, NJ, and Garden City, NY, are two New York metro area suburbs that succeed in providing an urban feel in a suburban setting, ranking 13th and 14th respectively in our list. Secaucus, NJ, which saw a 14% population growth over the past five years, is recommended by its dynamic local economy, with 46 businesses per 1,000 residents and a median household income of over $125K. Secaucus displays excellent housing diversity, with only 36% of the housing stock comprising single family homes. It’s very well connected to NYC through public transportation, and car usage is relatively low. Only 55% of Secaucus residents rely on cars for daily commutes.
Garden City, NY, the third-most affordable suburb in our ranking, comes fourth for education as well, having the best student-to-teacher ratio among all the suburbs analyzed: about eight students per teacher. All this makes it a great choice for young families in search of a nice suburb that comes packed with urban amenities. Garden City offers plenty in terms of economic opportunities as well: the suburb ranks second for its business sector, with almost 80 businesses per 1,000 residents and a median household income north of $185K.
A Boston metro area suburb that does well in terms of urban amenities is Portsmouth, NH, ranking 18th. This suburb has a diverse housing inventory, with 47% of the local homes falling into the single family category. On top of that, Portsmouth is a very entrepreneurial place, with a whopping 88 businesses registered per 1,000 residents. Amenities such as shops and restaurants abound – Portsmouth actually has the most retail stores per 1,000 residents among the suburbs analyzed, almost 15. There are also seven restaurants per 1,000 residents, significantly more than in other suburbs. The Portsmouth Downtown Historic District, dating back to the 17th century, is walkable and not only a great place to admire architecture but also to enjoy gourmet meals and check out quirky shops, adding another layer of urban appeal to the mix.
Minnetonka, MN, ranking 19th among the best suburbs for an urban lifestyle, features plenty of shopping, dining and recreational amenities (including almost 900 square feet of park space per capita). The local economy is doing well, with major companies such as Cargill and UnitedHealth Group calling Minnetonka home, which contributes to an above-the-national-average household income of $106K.
Self storage can serve the needs of suburban residents
Moving and lack of space have been the main reasons driving people to self storage. With the suburbs now seeing an influx of new people moving in, plus more apartment construction, the need for finding storage space away from home is growing in suburban communities as well. In addition to residential customers, self storage can also benefit small businesses that are active in denser suburbs by providing an economically efficient way of dealing with space-related challenges.
To see which suburbs best cater to the needs of suburban residents, we’ve listed data below about the costs and availability of self storage in the country’s 100 best suburbs for a city-like lifestyle:
Self Storage Costs and Availability in the Country's Top 100 Suburbs for City-Like Living*Non-climate-controlled 10'x10' storage units
Source: StorageCafe analysis of Yardi Matrix data
City-like suburbs can offer a unique blend of urban and suburban amenities that can perfectly complement modern lifestyles. By combining the convenience, diversity and excitement of city living with the safety, space and community spirit specific to suburban living, these suburbs offer the best of both worlds, plus a more efficient allocation of resources from an economic standpoint.
Here are the country's best suburbs for urban-like amenities, with all the metrics used for ranking them:
Alex Krieger, Professor Emeritus of Urban Design, Harvard University Graduate School of Design
How have suburbs in the U.S. changed over the past decade? Have Boston suburbs followed a similar pattern?
The word “suburb” no longer represents a singular image of place, as was the case in the post-WWII period, of a relatively modest-sized house and yard in a subdivision with many just like it, tethered to an arterial or highway at some distance from an older city. There are generations of suburbs, and they are changing in different ways, but an overall emerging sensibility among suburban developers is to incorporate some diversity of dwelling types, some variations in density, along with some commercial, civic or recreational amenities. In other words, suburban development today, both new and in the process of being retrofitted, seeks to become just a bit more townlike, rather than simply a realm of homes.Read more....
Around Boston this has a lengthy tradition, the region having evolved with many older, small towns each with a layer or two of more recent home-dominated peripheries. The result is an overall matrix of diverse residential areas with reasonable proximity to the attractions of town centers, rather than vast single-family subdivisions. There are relatively few opportunities for large greenfield development sites around Boston anyway, except further out in exurban contexts, and even out there my sense is that today’s market preference would be for some mixed-use development, not only single-family homes. Closer in, large parking areas no longer considered necessary, failing shopping centers, and even older corporate campuses are becoming opportunistic housing infill sites.
What do you see as the major trends shaping the development of suburbs in the future?
In a sense, current national suburban development sees the Boston metro area as an intelligent precedent, which keeps evolving from the single-family home environments stretching across hundreds of acres of mid-20th century suburban prototypes.
Advocacy for re-imagining the conventional suburb has led to a variety of projects which strive to produce a more town-like ambiance in suburban development. The cost of land and construction, plus greater environmental awareness, also support greater densities and mixtures of uses in new suburban development. And the growing un-affordability of housing and living costs in many cities – a result of growing interest in more urban living – means that households need to seek more affordable places further out of city centers and look for places that still offer some diversity and conviviality rather than single-home dominated environments. Finally, in urban areas that offer transit, or are building some transit capacity, the ideas of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and even zoning innovation gain popularity. Housing within walking distance of transit offers the ability to wean households away from sole dependency on the automobile, not to mention helping them to produce less carbon flowing to the atmosphere.
Have Americans changed their perception about suburban living in recent years?
Yes, but to what extent is harder to gauge among the diversity of current households, and especially following the pandemic which made some question life’s wellbeing amidst urban densities.
Generations raised in suburbia, however, are curious to experience different kinds of environments, as encountered during studies, travel, through friends and especially as they embark — albeit far more slowly than prior generations — on adulthood, careers and family rearing. Meanwhile, a percentage of so-called ‘empty nester’ households are willing to abandon their lawnmowers and expansive homes for settings requiring less commuting, convenient social and cultural amenities, better healthcare, the opportunity to embark on second careers or commit to delayed hobbies, and proximity to their adult children who have not yet headed off to make their own suburban family nests. The percentage of American households among the still young and the more durable old greatly exceed the percentage of households of family-rearing age for whom a suburban environment may still have a strong appeal.
After a century or more, when a suburban setting seemed to be key to enjoying the American Dream, a traditional suburban existence seems rather commonplace today, even dull. Thus, alternative kinds of settings in which to enjoy a fuller life during distinct periods across a longer lifespan are and will continue to be in demand.
Doug Ressler, Business Intelligence Manager, Yardi Matrix
What do you see as the major trends shaping real estate development, particularly in the suburbs?
Live-work-play environments are highly sought-after post-pandemic, with many, particularly millennials and younger generations, seeking new ways of living that prioritize health, well-being and convenience. Real estate developers have been quick to recognize the demand and are responding with new developments that integrate residential, commercial and recreational spaces.Read more....
These new projects are designed to provide self-sufficient communities that minimize residents’ need to commute for work or for leisure activities. Access to shared amenities, such as co-working spaces, gyms or community gardens, help keep residents’ living expenses under control and ensure a healthier work-life balance. Real estate developers are also responding to the challenge of environmentally sustainable projects by incorporating green spaces, energy-efficient buildings and sustainable transportation options into their developments.
Such trends are expected to continue in the coming years, as denser living is becoming more acceptable in the suburbs and the residential projects being developed there already include the live-work-play concept.
Caroline S. Clauss-Ehlers, PhD, ABPP
How does suburban living impact an individual’s wellbeing?
How can our living situations support our well-being? Perhaps this question was most apparent when families across the United States moved from urban to suburban neighborhoods during COVID-19. Being around fewer people for social distancing, access to the outdoors, and having more space made suburban living critical for many during that time.Read more....
This reality is echoed in 2021 Pew Research Center data that indicates 1 in 5 U.S. adults expressed a preference for city living, a number that, in 2018, was a quarter of adults.
Fast forward to 2023 and thoughts about making the move to suburbia — a life changing decision that can be difficult to even think about. How can moving support the well-being of those we care about: For young families, does moving to the suburbs provide access to better schools with needed resources and supports? For families with aging parents, does the move offer closer proximity to grandparents? For new couples, does moving provide the affordability that’s essential to save for that first home and start a family? And for single people, does a suburban lifestyle feel less stressful? Like you can finally breathe? Or does the move relate to feeling pushed out of the city due to high cost and low space?
Where we start depends on where we’re at in our lives, what we can afford, and those factors we feel will provide the best quality of life for our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
Is suburban living better suited for a particular generational group?
As our preschool community learned about kindergarten school acceptances in New York City, my close mom friend group was suddenly torn apart. My mom friends were moving to the suburbs, some even internationally. The reasons were understandable — good public schools, more affordable private schools, more space, a better way to save money. We stayed in the city — and to this day, when I pass my friend’s old apartment building, I’m reminded of the fun get togethers we had with our kids on her building’s spacious patio play space. I miss those days.
My experience reflects research on generational trends related to those who move to the suburbs vs. those who stay in cities. Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996, so roughly between the ages of 27 and 42) have been moving from cities to suburbs and buying homes, even before the pandemic. In contrast, young adults are increasingly drawn to live in cities. What’s known as the youthification hypothesis says that “young adult geographies are highly centralized, particularly in metropolitan regions.” And while my mom friend group is dispersed at the moment, the youthification hypothesis reflects the joy of having my niece and nephew move to New York City to pursue their graduate studies.
Have Americans changed their perceptions about suburban living in recent years?
Recent years have led to new ways of thinking about work such as working from home and interacting over devices. When the quarantine was lifted, many people went into the office two or three days a week instead of five. Changing the way we work changes the way we live. It may make sense for some families to move to the suburbs if there’s an option of commuting to a city office only two or three days a week.
Caroline S. Clauss-Ehlers is the co-author of "Eating Together, Being Together: Recipes, Activities, and Advice from a Chef Dad and Psychologist Mom"
This analysis was done by StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the nation.
To determine the top suburbs that offer the best urban and suburban living combined, we ranked 912 suburbs located in the country’s 100 largest metro areas. We considered as a suburb any place located within a large metro area and with a population of between 10,000 and 100,000 inhabitants.
The ranking is based on the suburbs’ overall scores. Overall scores represent an average of all the suburbs' weighted scores based on the metrics presented below.
To calculate the number of retail stores, restaurants and health care and social assistance establishments related to population, we used U.S. Census data and made estimates based on ZIP code data.
To assess education, we created a ranking based on standardized test results, numbers of public schools per 1,000 locals and student-to-teacher ratios.
Obesity rates and life expectancy were calculated based on county-level data from the CDC.
The data on self storage costs was taken from Yardi Matrix, StorageCafe‘s sister division and a business development and asset management tool for brokers, sponsors, banks and equity sources underwriting investments in the multifamily, office, industrial and self storage sectors.
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This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.
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