(Stacker) – What makes the best county in each state? Often it involves a good mix of opportunities for fun outdoor activities and cultural attractions. Throw in some historical sites, good schools, job opportunities, and affordable housing, and the county will most likely have happy residents.
Stacker compiled a list of the best places to live using 2022 data from Niche, which ranks counties based on various factors, including public schools, jobs, and living costs. Read more about Niche and the way it determines the best counties in each state by looking at its methodology.
The counties on this list include an Alaskan borough whose bay remains open year-round, which keeps its economy humming. There’s Huntsville, Alabama, which was nicknamed “Rocket City” for the work people in town did to get spaceships to the moon. Others, such as Fairfield County, Connecticut, have drawn on financial services to fund their tax bases. One of the wealthiest of counties is in California, its fate tied up with Silicon Valley.
Some are on the coasts, but others are inland, away from crowds and tourist destinations. Many of the counties on this list have extensive parks, often honoring distinctive geographical features that offer exercise and exploration opportunities. Residents can also keep their minds sharp with museums, art galleries, theater, and other cultural pursuits.
Some of the counties include universities that provide lectures, concerts, and other intellectual outlets for residents. Others have great shopping opportunities, restaurants, wine bars, and pubs for evenings out without navigating the traffic of a larger city. Some suburban counties became more popular than ever after the coronavirus pandemic hit and families left crowded cities for more open spaces.
They also rely on a range of businesses, from high-tech firms and hedge funds that have set up shop outside of urban centers to wineries and generations-old farms now providing organic fruits, vegetables, and other crops. Read on to find which county is the best to live in in each state.
Alabama: Madison County
- Population: 382,149
- Median home value: $202,500 (67% own)
- Median rent: $936 (33% rent)
- Median household income: $71,153
Jobs in Huntsville, Alabama, the seat of Madison County, are concentrated in the space industry, the military, biotechnology, and telecommunications, according to its Chamber of Commerce. U.S. News & World Report gives some of its public high schools top marks. Huntsville is also known as “Rocket City” for its work on rockets used in the moon flights, a history that can be found on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. There are many outdoor recreation opportunities, including at the Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve and the Green Mountain Nature Trail.
Alaska: Valdez-Cordova Borough
- Population: 9,243
- Median home value: $222,200 (75% own)
- Median rent: $1,067 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $79,867
Valdez-Cordova Borough is home to the city of Valdez, Alaska, whose port is the northernmost in the United States that is free of ice throughout the year. That makes it an important access point to the Alaskan interior. The Alyeska Pipeline Service Company employs some 800 workers in Valdez and elsewhere to maintain the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. As you would expect in Alaska, many of the top attractions are magnificent outdoor sights like Worthington Glacier and Valdez Glacier Lake. There is also the Solomon Gulch Hatchery, the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive, an ice climbing festival, and the Gold Rush Days heritage celebration.
Arizona: Maricopa County
- Population: 4,367,186
- Median home value: $304,700 (64% own)
- Median rent: $1,275 (36% rent)
- Median household income: $72,944
More than half the population of Arizona lives in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county. Phoenix is the county seat. Top attractions include the Desert Botanical Garden, with its research and conservation programs; Camelback Mountain; the Heard Museum, which showcases Native American art; and the Museum of Musical Instruments, ranked among the top 12 museums in the country.
Arkansas: Benton County
- Population: 278,774
- Median home value: $211,100 (67% own)
- Median rent: $1,002 (33% rent)
- Median household income: $76,887
Benton County played a prominent role in Walmart’s story, which is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Sam Walton opened Walton’s 5 & 10, now The Walmart Museum. Other important corporations in the county are J.B. Hunt Transport Services and Tyson Foods. The Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport is close by as well. Things to do include the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Pea Ridge National Military Park, the site of an important Civil War battle.
California: San Mateo County
- Population: 762,488
- Median home value: $1,225,900 (60% own)
- Median rent: $2,599 (40% rent)
- Median household income: $136,837
San Mateo County in California prides itself on pushing the boundary of Silicon Valley north with such industries as bioscience, computer software, and green technology. Other prominent fields include hospitality, financial management, health care, and education. Known for its scenic views and mild climate, the county consists of 455 square miles bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the east by the San Francisco Bay. Open space makes up nearly three-quarters of the land, with agriculture key to the economy. The county was created in 1856 from a part of San Francisco County.
Colorado: Boulder County
- Population: 328,713
- Median home value: $575,700 (63% own)
- Median rent: $1,694 (37% rent)
- Median household income: $92,466
Downtown Boulder, Colorado, the county seat, features the outdoor Pearl Street Mall, with shopping and restaurants. University Hill is appropriately named, as it’s home to the University of Colorado. Chautauqua Park offers concerts, and there is hiking in the foothills and mountains above. Longmont, the county’s second-largest city, has a creative district and affordable housing.
Connecticut: Fairfield County
- Population: 956,446
- Median home value: $443,100 (67% own)
- Median rent: $1,593 (33% rent)
- Median household income: $101,194
Fairfield County is part of the New York City metro area and has attracted top businesses in health care and financial services, specifically some of the largest hedge funds in the area. Residents here can live in a city or the country and find top-notch public and private schools—at less cost than in Boston or New York.
Delaware: New Castle County
- Population: 567,769
- Median home value: $275,600 (68% own)
- Median rent: $1,228 (32% rent)
- Median household income: $78,428
Wilmington, Delaware, the county seat, has such cultural offerings as the Delaware Art Museum, the Delaware Contemporary, and the Delaware Children’s Museum. The Nemours Mansion and Gardens is a French neoclassical mansion on a 300-acre estate, built by Alfred I. DuPont. South of Wilmington is historic New Castle, Delaware, with its colonial and Federal buildings overlooking the Delaware River.
Florida: St. Johns County
- Population: 265,724
- Median home value: $348,100 (82% own)
- Median rent: $1,462 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $88,794
St. Johns County is home to St. Augustine, Florida, the country’s oldest city, with cobblestone streets, a vibrant arts scene, and a charming historic district. It was founded in 1565 and is the longest continuously occupied settlement of European and African American origin. With beaches, a riverfront, and lots of historical spots, the county is a draw for businesses and tourists. It’s one of the fastest-growing places in the country, with its population rising 7% from 2020 to 2021. The county was established in 1821 and initially encompassed much of the state, though over time, the population growth meant other counties were subdivided out of it, leaving 608 square miles today. Its economy is mostly tourist-based.
Georgia: Oconee County
- Population: 41,006
- Median home value: $329,700 (84% own)
- Median rent: $1,203 (16% rent)
- Median household income: $106,165
Oconee County is in the northeastern part of Georgia, and includes the city of Watkinsville, a suburb of Athens and the county seat. There are more than 50 classes and workshops on outdoor skills, as well as vendors, music, and food at the Bushcraft Gathering. Watkinsville has the largest pottery show in Georgia. A large number of schools in the Oconee County School District are rated above average.
Hawaii: Honolulu County
- Population: 1,015,167
- Median home value: $726,800 (58% own)
- Median rent: $1,870 (42% rent)
- Median household income: $92,600
Honolulu County includes the city of Honolulu and the rest of the island of Oahu. It’s the home of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial; Diamond Head State Monument, a dormant volcano; and the famous Waikiki Beach. Residents and visitors can watch for humpback whales and visit the Hawaiian Mission Houses, which consists of three restored houses, two of them the oldest in Hawaii.
Idaho: Ada County
- Population: 485,246
- Median home value: $342,500 (71% own)
- Median rent: $1,163 (29% rent)
- Median household income: $75,115
Ada County includes Boise, Idaho, and the 25-mile Boise River Greenbelt, also called the Ribbon of Jewels, which follows the river through the city and opens into many of its parks. You can float down the Boise River on tubes and rafts or hike the Boise foothills. There are six outdoor public pools; a family ice skating center; and the house of James Castle, an artist who was discovered when his nephew showed his drawings to instructors at the Museum Art School in Portland, Oregon.
Illinois: DuPage County
- Population: 934,094
- Median home value: $324,900 (73% own)
- Median rent: $1,433 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $100,292
DuPage County, one of a ring of counties directly surrounding Chicago, features parks, small downtowns in its many cities, restaurants, and shopping. A historic mansion in Naperville, Illinois, now serves tapas, while a restaurant in Oak Brook, Illinois, has brunch and bocce on the menu. DuPage is one of Illinois’ healthiest spots, according to an annual survey, and its residents can take advantage of forest preserves, miles of bike trails, and golf courses. The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, is a public garden and outdoor museum with a program in tree research. Schools in Dupage County have an average ranking in the top 5% of Illinois public schools, according to Public School Review, a website that provides profiles of public schools across the country.
Indiana: Hamilton County
- Population: 341,616
- Median home value: $302,400 (77% own)
- Median rent: $1,265 (23% rent)
- Median household income: $104,858
Hamilton County is north of Indianapolis, a county with harvest festivals, a German holiday market at the Carmel Christkindlmarkt, and art galleries in the Carmel Arts & Design District and the Noblesville Cultural Arts District. Conner Prairie in Fishers, Indiana, is an outdoor museum that includes a Smithsonian Institute affiliate created by pharmaceutical executive Eli Lilly in 1934. On average, the county’s schools rank in the top 1% of the state’s public schools.
Iowa: Dallas County
- Population: 96,604
- Median home value: $273,800 (71% own)
- Median rent: $1,078 (29% rent)
- Median household income: $93,492
One of the fastest-growing counties in Iowa, Dallas County has an environment that is both agricultural and urban, with historic buildings, parks, and shopping. The Raccoon River Valley Trail and the Raccoon River Watershed provide plenty of opportunities for hiking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, and hunting. Founded in 1847, the county was named for George Mifflin Dallas, who served as vice president at the time, under President James K. Polk. Its current courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was designed after a chateau in France’s Loire Valley, Château d’Azay-le-Rideau. It is distinguished by white Bedford stone and a clock tower.
Kansas: Johnson County
- Population: 605,154
- Median home value: $294,300 (69% own)
- Median rent: $1,201 (31% rent)
- Median household income: $96,059
This mostly suburban Johnson County is outside of Kansas City, Kansas. It includes Overland Park, the second-largest city in the Kansas City metro area, and Olathe, the county seat. Some unique spots in Overland Park: the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead and the Museum at Prairiefire, which collaborates with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Schools in Johnson County, on average, rank in the top 5% of Kansas public schools.
Kentucky: Oldham County
- Population: 67,586
- Median home value: $314,300 (87% own)
- Median rent: $1,032 (13% rent)
- Median household income: $109,815
Oldham County, 20 minutes northwest of Louisville, Kentucky, is noted for horse farms and bourbon, and has a top school system. There are tours of the horse farms, including Hermitage Farm, which has raised Triple Crown winners. The Bibb Escapes/Gatewood Plantation is part of the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Louisiana: Ascension Parish
- Population: 125,289
- Median home value: $228,000 (82% own)
- Median rent: $1,087 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $86,256
Ascension Parish is between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with attractions like the Jambalaya Festival and the Swamp Pop Music Festival. The Donaldsonville Historic District is made up of some 640 buildings dating from 1865 to 1933. The National Park Service calls the architecture the finest of any in the parishes along the Mississippi above New Orleans. The River Road African American Museum celebrates African American history, music, storytelling, and more. More than three-quarters of the schools in the county are rated above average.
Maine: Cumberland County
- Population: 300,776
- Median home value: $314,700 (71% own)
- Median rent: $1,273 (29% rent)
- Median household income: $80,679
Portland, Maine, is the county seat of Cumberland County, which is on the state’s southern coast. Its name comes from William, Duke of Cumberland, son of King George II. Portland, on Casco Bay, is a center of arts and food, with Bon Appétit dubbing it “America’s Foodiest Small Town” in 2009. The L.L. Bean Flagship Store is nearby in Freeport, Maine. Other attractions include the Portland Museum of Art, the city’s First Friday Art Walk, the Portland Symphony Orchestra, and the Portland Ballet. Sailing companies offer schooner rides on Casco Bay. Public schools in the county rank on average in the top 10% of the state’s schools.
Maryland: Howard County
- Population: 329,248
- Median home value: $483,200 (73% own)
- Median rent: $1,790 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $129,549
Howard County is the central part of Maryland, close to both cities and rural areas, with Ellicott City as its county seat. You can visit the African Art Museum of Maryland in Fulton; tour the B&O Railroad Museum: Ellicott City Station; take part in an archaeology dig at the Patapsco Female Institute, which was once a Victorian girls school; and explore Howard County’s sites on the Underground Railroad. There is the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum and the restored Ellicott City Colored School. A large number of its schools are rated above average.
Massachusetts: Middlesex County
- Population: 1,623,411
- Median home value: $575,500 (62% own)
- Median rent: $1,815 (38% rent)
- Median household income: $111,790
Middlesex County is north and west of Boston and includes Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard University and the Harvard Art Museums, including the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler collections. Harvard Square is famous for its coffee shops and bookstores. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is also in Cambridge, along the Charles River. Farther north is Lowell, Massachusetts, with its historic textile mills. On average, the county’s public schools rank in the top 20% of the state’s schools.
Michigan: Washtenaw County
- Population: 372,428
- Median home value: $293,800 (61% own)
- Median rent: $1,218 (39% rent)
- Median household income: $79,198
The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is in Washtenaw County, west of Detroit. Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a lively university town, with restaurants, music, cafes, and breweries. Among the places to visit at the university are the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. In the city itself, there is the Classic Ann Arbor by the Sidewalk Food Tour and the Ann Arbor Art Fair.
Minnesota: Hennepin County
- Population: 1,270,283
- Median home value: $309,200 (63% own)
- Median rent: $1,244 (37% rent)
- Median household income: $85,438
Hennepin County includes Minneapolis; one-half of the Twin Cities; and the enormous Mall of America, America’s largest indoor shopping center with stores and entertainment. In Minneapolis, visit the Walker Art Center, as well as the mural of Prince, and the Frank Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum. In Eden Prairie, Minnesota, one of the county’s suburbs, 95% of residents say the city’s quality of life is above average.
Mississippi: Madison County
- Population: 108,248
- Median home value: $236,000 (72% own)
- Median rent: $948 (28% rent)
- Median household income: $74,688
One of the fastest-growing counties in Mississippi, Madison County is a suburb of Jackson, Mississippi. It has some distinctly Southern attractions such as the Cypress Swamp, where you can walk among tupelo and bald cypress trees and the Mississippi Petrified Forest. The annual Scarecrow Festival has a barbecue, a cakewalk, and train and pony rides. The View Gallery features local artists.
Missouri: St. Louis County
- Population: 1,001,982
- Median home value: $220,100 (69% own)
- Median rent: $1,032 (31% rent)
- Median household income: $72,562
St. Louis County is a suburb that lies between St. Louis and the Mississippi River. It boasts the Butterfly House, a butterfly zoo operated by the Missouri Botanical Garden in Faust Park in Chesterfield, Missouri, and the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, in Grantwood Village, where Grant lived in the 1850s. The property consists of 850 acres of fields, orchards, and woods. There’s also the Laumeier Sculpture Park, which has more than 60 outdoor sculptures and educational programs in Sunset Hills.
Montana: Gallatin County
- Population: 116,725
- Median home value: $435,400 (62% own)
- Median rent: $1,212 (38% rent)
- Median household income: $76,208
Gallatin County includes Bozeman, Montana, and has some unusual and exciting attractions. The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, right outside Yellowstone National Park, offers an experience of the world of grizzly bears and gray wolves. The Museum of the Rockies has a collection of dinosaur bones, and the American Computer and Robotics Museum has exhibits spanning 4,000 years.
Nebraska: Lancaster County
- Population: 320,301
- Median home value: $204,400 (60% own)
- Median rent: $921 (40% rent)
- Median household income: $65,086
Home to the state capital of Lincoln, Nebraska, Lancaster County offers business opportunities and educational, cultural, and recreational activities through the University of Nebraska. At the Historic Haymarket District, turn-of-the-century warehouses have become restaurants, shops, and night spots. The Nebraska State Capitol’s design was the product of a nationwide competition won by a team led by New York architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. It is encased in Indiana limestone and features murals showing Nebraska’s Native American and pioneer cultures. In Denton, Nebraska, walk the trails of the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center.
Nevada: Washoe County
- Population: 479,758
- Median home value: $388,600 (58% own)
- Median rent: $1,251 (42% rent)
- Median household income: $74,292
Washoe County includes Reno, and because this is Nevada, there are casinos. But residents have plenty of other things to do, including picnicking and horseback riding at Washoe Lake State Park and skiing at the Mount Rose Ski Resort. The county is also home to several dozen locations on the National Register of Historic Places, many of which hark back to the western expansion of the United States.
New Hampshire: Rockingham County
- Population: 312,771
- Median home value: $367,300 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,371 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $101,683
All 18 miles of the state’s Atlantic coastline are part of Rockingham County in the southeastern part of New Hampshire, which includes resort towns and undeveloped parks. The county is made up of 699 square miles and is bordered by Maine to the northeast and Massachusetts to the south. Its first European settlement dates to 1623. It’s the commercial center of southern New Hampshire, with businesses in construction, electric, gas, and sanitation collection, shops, and manufacturing. In Portsmouth, a collection of historic buildings from the 17th through 19th centuries is now the Strawbery Banke Museum. Derry, New Hampshire, was one of several homes to the poet Robert Frost.
New Jersey: Somerset County
- Population: 343,950
- Median home value: $444,700 (76% own)
- Median rent: $1,722 (24% rent)
- Median household income: $121,695
Somerset County in central New Jersey is full of historic sites, including George Washington’s last wartime headquarters. He stayed at the Rockingham Historic Site for three months in 1783 while attending the Continental Congress in Princeton, New Jersey. The more modern United States Golf Association Museum is in the Frothingham-Sloane House, a Georgian Revival mansion in Liberty Corner, New Jersey. Close to both New York City and Philadelphia, the county has estates, working farms, and bustling main streets.
New Mexico: Los Alamos County
- Population: 19,169
- Median home value: $343,100 (74% own)
- Median rent: $1,143 (26% rent)
- Median household income: $123,677
Los Alamos County famously housed the Manhattan Project during World War II, the federal government’s effort to produce the first nuclear weapons. That work now can be studied at the Los Alamos History Museum, home to the Los Alamos Historical Society Archives and Collection. The county is also home to the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos. Nearby, the Bandelier National Monument consists of more than 33,000 acres and evidence of human presence going back more than 11,000 years.
New York: Nassau County
- Population: 1,391,678
- Median home value: $560,100 (82% own)
- Median rent: $1,940 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $126,576
Nassau County is immediately to the east of New York City. Together with Suffolk County, it makes up what is known as Long Island. It is the wealthiest county in New York state, with a landscape of office buildings and beaches along both its north and south shores. William Levitt built his first planned suburb here, Levittown, and Robert Moses created the park around Jones Beach. The county includes two nationally protected areas, the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. Sagamore Hill was Teddy Roosevelt’s home from 1885 until his death in 1919.
North Carolina: Wake County
- Population: 1,112,883
- Median home value: $324,500 (64% own)
- Median rent: $1,276 (36% rent)
- Median household income: $88,471
Raleigh, North Carolina, is both the county seat of Wake County and the state’s capital. The county is home to the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Marbles Kids Museum, the North Carolina Railway Museum, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. It’s also home to North Carolina State University, making it one of the key cities in the state’s Research Triangle region.
North Dakota: Cass County
- Population: 182,992
- Median home value: $244,000 (53% own)
- Median rent: $851 (47% rent)
- Median household income: $68,718
Fargo, North Dakota, is the county seat of Cass County. College football games are played at the Fargodome, also the home to concerts and theatrical productions. The Plains Art Museum shows regional and Native American art in a renovated warehouse and brings together artists and their audiences to support the arts. The Fargo Air Museum has two hangars of modern and vintage airplanes. Schools in Cass County, on average, rank in the top 30% of the state’s public schools
Ohio: Delaware County
- Population: 211,121
- Median home value: $336,600 (79% own)
- Median rent: $1,202 (21% rent)
- Median household income: $116,284
Delaware County, in central Ohio just north of Columbus, was named after a Native American tribe that was forced to move west of the Mississippi River. The discovery of natural gas in the area sparked industrial growth after the Civil War. Today it has golf courses, craft wines and brews, and shops. The Delaware State Fair continues to play host to the Little Brown Jug, part of the Grand Circuit series of harness racing.
Oklahoma: Cleveland County
- Population: 292,110
- Median home value: $175,700 (64% own)
- Median rent: $979 (36% rent)
- Median household income: $67,068
Named after President Grover Cleveland, the county is home to the University of Oklahoma in Norman and its intellectual and cultural opportunities. The county is in the central part of the state and offers an attractive mix of an urban hub and rural communities. There is the rich heritage of the Absentee Shawnee tribal members, beautiful acres of farmland and ranches, and small-town friendliness. It is the third most populous county in Oklahoma, founded in 1890. Norman, Oklahoma, has a host of attractions, including a Mardi Gras parade, a wine festival, a medieval fair, and the university’s annual Sooner spring football game.
Oregon: Benton County
- Population: 94,667
- Median home value: $384,900 (56% own)
- Median rent: $1,201 (44% rent)
- Median household income: $68,732
Corvallis, in western Oregon, is the county seat of Benton County, and it offers wineries and craft breweries as well as places to hike and bike in the Willamette Valley. South of Portland and north of Eugene, the county is not only close to urban areas, but also to outdoor activities in the Cascade Range and along the Pacific coast. An analysis by the University of Wisconsin found Benton to be the healthiest county in Oregon in 2022. Its economy is based in the tech and health industries and on regional agriculture—including Christmas trees, wine grapes, and organic produce—though recently, farmers have added hazelnuts and marijuana. There are festivals and fairs to choose from—the county fair, the rodeo, and Da Vinci Days of arts and science.
Pennsylvania: Montgomery County
- Population: 850,890
- Median home value: $338,800 (72% own)
- Median rent: $1,393 (28% rent)
- Median household income: $99,361
Montgomery County, part of suburban Philadelphia, is home to Valley Forge, the site of the 1777-1778 winter encampment of the Continental Army under General George Washington. The county’s largest municipality is Lower Merion Township. Other historical sites include the Peter Wentz Farmstead, an 18th century Pennsylvania German farmstead; and Mill Grove, built in 1762 and the first American home of artist, author, and naturalist John James Audubon.
Rhode Island: Bristol County
- Population: 50,672
- Median home value: $379,000 (72% own)
- Median rent: $1,141 (28% rent)
- Median household income: $95,102
Bristol County is in the East Bay section of Rhode Island. Bristol is known for a Fourth of July celebration that was established in 1785. Top attractions are the county’s beaches—Rhode Island is known as the Ocean State—as well as Colt State Park and the East Bay Bike Path.
South Carolina: Greenville County
- Population: 519,178
- Median home value: $212,300 (69% own)
- Median rent: $1,011 (31% rent)
- Median household income: $65,513
Greenville County is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina’s Upcountry, halfway between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta. Once a textile center, today it is home to French tire manufacturer Michelin, which chose Greenville as its North American headquarters in 1986, and more than 250 international firms. In the city of Greenville’s downtown, there is Falls Park on the Reedy, with a suspension bridge and gardens on what is thought to be the spot where a gristmill once stood.
South Dakota: Clay County
- Population: 14,816
- Median home value: $179,000 (54% own)
- Median rent: $725 (46% rent)
- Median household income: $56,077
Clay County was settled in 1859, the same year the city of Vermillion, South Dakota, was founded. It was named for Fort Vermillion or the nearby Vermillion River. Built along the banks of the Missouri River, it offers the chance to explore local arts, culture, and history. There are a variety of shopping venues and opportunities for sports and recreation. The University of South Dakota was established in Vermillion by the Dakota Territory legislature in 1862, 27 years before the state of South Dakota was admitted to the United States.
Tennessee: Williamson County
- Population: 242,386
- Median home value: $497,500 (80% own)
- Median rent: $1,670 (20% rent)
- Median household income: $116,492
Williamson County, in west-central Tennessee, has its state’s highest average income, lowest poverty rate, and is the only county where more than 50% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to a study by the nonprofit Sycamore Institute. Once the site of a Saturn auto-making plant, Spring Hill, Tennessee, is slated to be a battery manufacturing site for electric vehicles. Local attractions include the Arrington Vineyards, the Carnton historic house and museum, and The Carter House Civil War command post.
Texas: Collin County
- Population: 1,039,812
- Median home value: $355,100 (65% own)
- Median rent: $1,521 (35% rent)
- Median household income: $104,327
Collin County is in northeastern Texas, 30 miles south of the Red River in the Blackland Prairie region. Its county seat is McKinney,Texas, and the largest city is Plano, Texas. It is becoming one of Texas’ most densely populated counties. In recent years, the county’s average age dropped, and education levels have risen as young families moved to the area.
Utah: Cache County
- Population: 131,703
- Median home value: $283,800 (64% own)
- Median rent: $914 (36% rent)
- Median household income: $65,670
Cache County is about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City and offers the historic downtown and theater scene of Logan, Utah, as well as trails in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Alpine lakes and scenic views define Logan Canyon, a perfect spot for hiking and camping. The American West Heritage Center, a 160-acre living history venue, shows what life was like in Cache Valley between 1820 and 1920. Logan was founded by Mormon settlers sent by Brigham Young and is named for an early trapper Ephraim Logan. It’s also home to Utah State University, founded to teach agricultural, engineering, and scientific courses.
Vermont: Chittenden County
- Population: 167,523
- Median home value: $331,300 (63% own)
- Median rent: $1,386 (37% rent)
- Median household income: $81,957
Chittenden’s county seat is Burlington, Vermont, the state’s most populous city, and there are lots of outdoor activities, including hiking, skiing, and boating. The county includes Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont, one of only three Vermont mountains where alpine tundra survived the Ice Age. Shelburne Farms is a 1,400-acre working farm and sustainability education nonprofit.
Virginia: Loudoun County
- Population: 413,574
- Median home value: $569,100 (78% own)
- Median rent: $2,033 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $156,821
Loudoun County is in northern Virginia, just 25 miles outside Washington D.C. It is farm country—for vegetables, dairy cows, and horses—and there are opportunities to pick apples, go riding, or watch horse racing. There are farm tours in the spring or the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum to visit and more than 40 wineries. The county seat is Leesburg, Virginia, named for the Lee family, very influential in Virginia since the early Colonial days.
Washington: King County
- Population: 2,240,876
- Median home value: $651,900 (57% own)
- Median rent: $1,801 (43% rent)
- Median household income: $106,326
King County is home to Seattle, the farmers’ market at Pike Place Market, and the Museum of Pop Culture, established by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. You can visit the Space Needle or the Chihuly Garden and Glass to see Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures. Other attractions include the Seattle Aquarium and The Gum Wall, literally a brick wall covered with gum at the Pike Place Market.
West Virginia: Monongalia County
- Population: 105,695
- Median home value: $221,600 (57% own)
- Median rent: $868 (43% rent)
- Median household income: $56,466
Morgantown, West Virginia, is the county seat of Monongalia County, where attractions include the Morgantown History Museum and the Art Museum of West Virginia University, the Forks of Cheat Winery, and the Cheat Lake Trail. There’s also a museum to the coal industry in the coal mining state—the Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum.
Wisconsin: Ozaukee County
- Population: 91,029
- Median home value: $305,700 (75% own)
- Median rent: $960 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $86,915
Ozaukee County is on Lake Michigan, north of Milwaukee. You can visit the Cedar Creek Winery or the Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve. Other areas of interest include the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts and the Ozaukee County Historical Society’s Pioneer Village. The county’s schools, on average, rank in the top 1% of the state’s public schools.
Wyoming: Albany County
- Population: 37,311
- Median home value: $247,100 (51% own)
- Median rent: $851 (49% rent)
- Median household income: $50,733
Laramie, Wyoming, is the county seat of Albany County, which is located in the southeastern part of the state. Its 4,309 square miles share a southern border with a portion of the northern Colorado state line. It became a county in Wyoming territory in 1869 and is home to the University of Wyoming, which draws students from every state and nearly 90 countries each year. The Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area and the Vedauwoo Climbing Area offer various outdoor activities, from skiing, snowmobiling and snowboarding, to rock climbing and horseback riding. Art galleries, restaurants, historic architecture, and an annual county fair round out what this county has to offer.