10 Best Places to Live in the Midwest, According to Local Real Estate Experts

These Midwestern communities offer affordable housing, top-notch recreation, and economic prosperity.

<p>Patricia Elaine Thomas/Getty Images</p>

Patricia Elaine Thomas/Getty Images

The Midwest, with its varied landscapes spanning rolling vineyards, mountains, and lakes dotted with charming small towns, has always been a popular vacation destination for generations of Americans.

However, the region has also become a trendy option for new residents seeking affordable living (and housing), open spaces, good education, and economic opportunities. While traditionally the region has been known for its agricultural heritage and blue-collar industries, it is also attracting many high-tech companies, transforming its economy and boosting employment opportunities for Midwesterners.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the region, which encompasses 12 states, is experiencing population growth, especially in big cities, as many Midwestern communities have topped lists for the best places to live in the country.

Below, we rounded up the best places to live in the Midwest, according to local real estate experts.

Related: 10 Best Small Towns in the Midwest

Green Bay, Wisconsin

<p>JamesBrey/Getty Images</p>

JamesBrey/Getty Images

Rated the best place to live in America in 2023 by U.S. News, Green Bay certainly has plenty to offer its current and future residents. Nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan's Green Bay in northeast Wisconsin, the city's main draws are its thriving economy — boasting a 3.1 percent unemployment rate in March — and cost of living, seven percent lower than the state's average and eight percent below the national average. And while housing prices have been on the rise, the median home value is over $130,000 lower than the national median.

"Green Bay and its surroundings offer a diverse range of neighborhoods, each with its unique appeal," Joy Pouwels, the local sales director at Shorewest at Realtors/Luxury Portfolio International, told Travel + Leisure. "Astor Park boasts historic homes and modern conveniences, while Howard and Ledgeview provide spacious living and suburban tranquility yet offer urban convenience. Allouez offers scenic views and charmer homes, while De Pere exudes small-town charm with top-rated schools."

Cincinnati, Ohio

<p>kdow/Getty Images</p>

kdow/Getty Images

"The city of Cincinnati has enough size to be a big 'smaller' city," Scott Nelson, CEO of Comey & Shepherd Realtors/Luxury Portfolio International, said of the third-largest city in Ohio, known for its bustling culinary scene and parks (about 10 percent of Cincinnati is covered in green spaces). The city was named one of the best places to live in Ohio for its excellent school system, family-friendly recreational activities and facilities, affordability, and rich culture.

"Many older neighborhoods and homes reflect the city's German heritage," Nelson explained. "There is a great deal of traditional housing stock — Tudor, colonial, and Queen Anne — with an increase of modern-style architecture that, 30-40 years ago, didn't seem to be as popular in this area."

The median home value in Cincinnati is $240,000.

St. Louis, Missouri

<p>Patricia Elaine Thomas/Getty Images</p>

Patricia Elaine Thomas/Getty Images

According to Janet Horlacher, owner and principal broker at Janet McAfee Real Estate, affordability and an excellent school system make St. Louis one of the best places to relocate to in the Midwest. The city recently topped Zillow's ranking of the best markets for first-time buyers, where the median home value is about $177,000.

Together with its scenic riverfront location, St. Louis also has many cultural institutions, recreational areas, and parks (Forest Park was named the best in the country in 2023).

Chicago, Illinois

<p>Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure</p>

Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure

"I grew up in Chicago and am thankful every day for the experiences I've had that most would have to travel to see or do," Jim Abbott, a broker associate at Baird & Warner/Luxury Portfolio International, shared. "Besides the many museums, sports teams, types of theater, and parks, our food scene is eclectic, and we have so many different neighborhoods — the city recognizes 178 — and so much diversity." Chicago is also a major economic hub in the Midwest, which, thanks to its diversified economy, attracts professionals from all industries.

The current median home value in the Windy City is $296,901, and Abbott explained that, because of remote work, there is a lot of value in the downtown market.

"By contrast, sales on the north side of Chicago have gone through the roof as more people have moved to those neighborhoods than ever before. The demand for outdoor and green space has been significant, which is more typical of north-side homes than downtown," he added.

Carmel, Indiana

<p>Douglas Sacha/Getty Images</p>

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

This town in Hamilton County, Indiana might not be a household name like Chicago or Indianapolis (which is just a 30-minute drive away), but it was recently named the best place to live in America by Livability.com based on its top-notch schools and overall quality of life.

Its vibrant cultural scene is not too far behind, offering many performance venues and arts festivals. And while the town does have a reputation for being upscale, Angel Dean, a broker with F.C. Tucker Company, said that it also offers "a range of housing options to suit different budgets."

"Neighborhoods fantastic for families include Autumn Lake, Claybourne, Foster Estates, Springmill Crossing, and Smokey Ridge. The Carmel Arts & Design District has condos of all price levels. There is truly something for every buyer," she added.

Carmel's median home value currently stands at $533,447, according to Zillow.

Related: 9 Amazing Trips to Take in the Midwest

Naperville, Illinois

<p>Little Tiger/Getty Images</p>

Little Tiger/Getty Images

Naperville, a mid-sized city on the banks of the DuPage River west of Chicago, has been making the news thanks to its excellent public school system, healthcare facilities, and family-friendly amenities, drawing many new residents.

"Downtown Naperville has become a go-to destination for fine dining, shopping, and nightlife. Another key attribute that attracts a lot of homebuyers is the neighborhood diversity. With over 200 neighborhoods to choose from, there is literally a home for every type," Scott Parker, a sales manager at John Greene Realtor/Luxury Portfolio International, said.

The median home value is $565,587, and Greene explained that inventory levels in town are currently pretty low.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

<p>LawrenceSawyer/Getty Images</p>

LawrenceSawyer/Getty Images

"Minneapolis is ripe for opportunity, acting as a home to several universities and colleges and 15 Fortune 500 companies," Sharry Schmid, the president of Edina Realty/Luxury Portfolio International, said, noting the city's low unemployment rate and reputation as an innovation and technological hub.

Culture enthusiasts will feel right at home here, thanks to the abundance of museums, concert venues, and theaters. The city is also home to many farmers markets, events, and festivals that are free of charge. Together with neighboring St. Paul, the Twin Cities also offer world-class sports and entertainment facilities.

Schmid explained that the biggest challenge to newcomers is finding a home to purchase — the city has suffered from a lack of inventory, but she also added that there's hope as, in the past few months, the market has slowly but steadily improved "as current homeowners decide to move up or downsize and new construction grows."

Ann Arbor, Michigan

<p>tiny-al/Getty Images</p>

tiny-al/Getty Images

"Ann Arbor has it all! Home to the University of Michigan and The Big House, Ann Arbor provides the perfect college-town experience for everyone – not just for college students," Megan Mazurek, an agent at Reinhart Realtors/Luxury Portfolio International, said. Regardless of your age, the city promises a great experience and value as it ranks in the top 15 cities both to live and retire in America by U.S. News. College life aside, many things make Ann Arbor a great place to relocate — including over 160 parks, a top-notch culinary scene, and friendly neighborhoods that boast an eclectic mix of architectural styles.

"We have everything from ranches (single-story), colonials (traditional two-stories), mid-century moderns, bungalows, Victorians, and contemporary houses. In addition, condos, lofts, and townhouses are scattered across the city, and many new construction housing projects are currently under development," Mazurek explained. Currently, median home values hover around the $500,000 mark.

Columbus, Ohio

<p>Artem Vorobiev/Getty Images</p>

Artem Vorobiev/Getty Images

Columbus's affordable cost of living and ample employment opportunities have made it one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. But that doesn't mean the city lacks entertainment or recreational opportunities. Food & Wine highlighted it as a great baking destination, while its museums and art galleries attract millions of visitors each year.

Columbus's real estate market also stands out with its affordability — the current median home value is $247,805, ranked 36th for first-time homeowners.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

<p>larrybraunphotography.com/Getty Images</p>

larrybraunphotography.com/Getty Images

In just 16 years, Cedar Rapids has made an incredible recovery from the city's most devastating flood, which submerged 14 percent of it under water. Since then, its population has grown, and so have the opportunities for employment and investment. Most recently, Google unveiled a $576 million project in the city.

Livability.com also named it one of the best cities based on its "affordability, inclusivity, [and] innovation." Cedar Rapids scored high in the housing, transportation, and health categories. Currently, home prices are a little over $190,000, according to Zillow.

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