Best Places to Live

In a country so full of great places, choosing the best is no easy task. This year, MONEY set out to find the nation's top small cities with populations between 50,000 and 300,000. (We alternate annually; in 2015, we'll focus on small towns.) Starting with a pool of 781 cities, we used data from Onboard Informatics and other sources to comb through everything from the local economy and housing market to schools and healthcare-more than 50 factors in all. Then, we sent reporters to visit the 35 top scoring places, looking for a sense of community and other intangibles. By Adam Bluestein, Daniel Bortz, Veronica Crews, Kelly Kearsley, Antonia Massa, Sarah Max, Susie Poppick, Vanessa Richardson, Donna Rosato, and Katie Toth

Irvine ranked #14