Missouri is a midwestern U.S. state covered by grassy plains and the forested Ozark Mountains. Kansas City, on the Kansas border, has jazz clubs, the National World War I Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, with giant shuttlecock sculptures on its lawn.
There are certain things Missouri is famous for. Like being the home of Mark Twain. A barbecue nirvana, it has been called. With some of the best frozen custard in the world. And a red-hot real estate market.
The loudest stadium in the world sits here. So does one of the highest turkey populations you will find anywhere, a ratio that dwarfs the number of people.
However, Missouri is also known for some unsavoury things.
Like high pollution levels, especially regarding air quality. And high crime rates. And poor health. And lack of inclusiveness. These negatives have seen Missouri land on many “Worst States to Live in” lists.
But it is not a hell hole as some would have you believe.
For example, did you know Missouri boasts a larger shoreline than California? True story. This most American of states has a natural beauty that would put most states to shame.
The coastline aside, this Midwest state is also known for its waterways; the Missouri and Mississippi rivers weave their way across the state. There is also a hilly forested terrain, which you may know as the Ozarks. And endless miles of striking plains. And caves.
Beyond the natural appeal, a thriving economy and low cost of living are more reason to pack up and make a move to America’s Heartland.
Folks in Missouri are a skeptical bunch, hence the reason the state is nicknamed The Show-Me State.
It is thus imperative that we gathered hard data based on five key factors – education, income, quality of life, crime rate and outdoor activities – as we compiled our list of best places to live in Missouri.
And this is what we came up with.
1. Creve Coeur
Creve Coeur is a suburb in St. Louis County famous for its numerous number of parks and recreation options that keep its 18,000 residents happy.
And the good thing is, these folks have enough cash to spare and channel towards their recreation because they enjoy a high median household income of $96,061.
This is one of the most affluent places in Missouri, and the housing prices a reflection of that, averaging $354,500.
Creve Coeur has some of the best performing high schools in the state, with an enviable graduation rate of 97%.
What’s more, the cost of living may be six per cent higher than the national average, but the unemployment rate is impressively low at 3.9 per cent.
When Niche drew up its 2017 Best Places to Live in Missouri list, occupying top spot was Clayton, a suburb of St. Louis that is home to 15,900 people.
The area has the third-highest home value in the state, averaging $597,700. Fortunately, the residents can be able to afford it what with their fat purses whose annual average stands at $93,009.
Clayton has a cultural panache that is hard not to miss. The St. Louis Art Fair is held here, and the area homes a multitude of galleries among other art attractions.
Grabbing the top spot on Niche’s list means the school system is one of the best you’re likely to find anywhere in the state, and the 96% graduation rate is sufficient testament to that.
Wildwood is flat out one of the best places to live in Missouri. Six-figure household incomes are all the norm here, not the exception, with the area average sitting at a tidy $121,026.
It would be crazy not to mention the laundry list of outdoor amenities available in Wildwood, given the town’s numerous state parks, reserves and trails; a ski resort even.
Crime rate in this area is virtually non-existent, with outstanding schools that boast a high school graduation rate of 97%, tying with Creve Coeur for the state’s highest.
For all the perks, though, you have to cough for it as Wildwood has one of the highest cost of living in Missouri. Monthly rent averages $1,130, and property value stands at $354,300.
But the 35,800 residents couldn’t wish for a better place to live in The Show-Me State.
Glendale is one of the smallest towns to live on our list, with a population of 6,000 residents. Expectedly, the town fosters a deep sense of community and as a matter of fact, its motto is to place the welfare of its residents above all else.
So how does Glendale stack up against the other affluent areas in this list?
Cost of living is high alright – rent is $1,750, almost double the national average, while median home value is $334,500.
But what’s also high is the quality of life in Glendale. Families take home $120, 653 on average, one of the highest incomes in the state.
Recreational opportunities abound in the area, and while small, nightlife in little Glendale is bustling.
If you are looking to move with family, you will be delighted to know this area, as its three aforementioned counterparts, has some of the best schools in the state.
Kirkwood perfectly lives up to its billing as the “Queen of the St. Louis Suburbs” what with its excellent schools, high salaries and safe neighbourhoods.
Its downtown area, steeped in history, has one of the best dining and shopping scenes in St. Louis, with a farmers market to boot. Downtown is particularly buzzing in summer when people from all over congregate here for the annual Peach Festival.
But it’s not like life ceases to be after that. The winter is the perfect time to enjoy a dazzling fireworks display which actually tend to be a pretty common feature during the holiday season.
House prices are lower compared to its predecessors, averaging $249,100, much to the delight of the more than 27,600 residents. But you will also find properties that fetch at well over a million dollars, if you are in a position to splash on what would be a near-perfect home.
The 47,700 residents of Chesterfield are always keen to let the world know that the longest strip mall in the world is located in their neck of the woods. It goes by the name Chesterfield Commons.
The city came about as a merger involving several different communities that sprang up in the 19th century. It has done well for itself as today, it is recognised as one of the premier suburban communities around the St. Louis area.
Homes are bit pricey compared to a good deal of cities in Missouri ($338,900) but the residents also take home some of the highest incomes ($93,270).
Crime is relatively low, ditto the unemployment rate which stands at a paltry 3.2 per cent. And the public school system is A+.
Next up our list of 15 best places to live in Missouri is Ballwin, a town in St. Louis County that is home to 30,500 residents.
The cost of living here is lower compared to some of the areas on this list, with the low housing prices of $240,400 one of the reasons people are continually drawn to this town.
Households in Ballwin enjoy high incomes that average $87,373, with a failry low unemployment rate of 4.8 per cent.
The town is home to 17 Missouri Gold Star Schools and 14 National Blue Ribbon Schools, with four state parks under its name.
All these factors combined explain why Ballwin has appeared three times on Money Magazine’s best places to live in the United States in a span of just one decade.
8. Webster Groves
Webster Groves stands in an area that was originally part of the Louisiana Territory. It came up in the late 19th century as an alternative community for residents of St. Louis who were searching for a more peaceful, safer place to live.
At present, Webster Groves remains one of the most affluent and desirable suburbs of the metro area. This is thanks to affordable housing and high-income opportunities that see households take home $88,388 on average.
It is a magnet for both families and retirees, but the town also draws in plenty of students due to the presence of Webster University in the area. In total, it is home to about 23,120 people.
Old Webster is an area the residents like to hang out, but who wouldn’t when there is a town centre bursting with historic charm and quaint shops just minutes from their home, right?
The Old Orchard area, for its part, is characterised by a budding dining and entertainment scene, providing a perfect balance of old and new.
Ozark is a town in Christian County, some 19 miles south of Springfield, the third-largest city in the Midwest state.
The town gets its name from the famous Ozark Mountains, and the 18,600 residents who are lucky enough to call this place home enjoy a smorgasbord of recreational activities.
These include some of Missouri’s most gorgeous golf courses, fishing, canoeing, boating, kayaking, bird watching, biking, caving – pretty much every mountain activity there is. And then some.
Cost of living is reasonable – rent averages $1,050 and homes have a median price of $167,000.
The period between 2000 and 2010 saw Ozark record a tremendous amount of growth, but the management of its budget lately has been so tight so much so that the credit-rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, gave it top marks.
There is a Columbia in almost every state, and the Missourian version happens to be one of the best places to live in The Show-Me State.
With a population of 115,400, this Boone County city is one of the largest in the Midwest state, but housing prices remain low at $176,900.
It is the best college town in the state, hands down, homing the prestigious University of Missouri, an entity with a big influence on both the local economy and culture.
Columbia is brimming with fabulous shops, restaurants and music venues. If you would rather go for some natural fun instead, the MKT Trail, considered one of the best urban trails in the USA, is found here.
These reasons explain why Columbia has enjoyed repeated appearances on many Top 100 best places to live lists.
11. Lee’s Summit
If you consider yourself the quintessential city slicker and a home just outside of the big city strikes your fancy, life in Lee’s Summit, a suburb of Kansas City, is sure to appeal to you.
Lee’s Summit is located in Jackson County and is home to 93,618 people. This essentially makes it the fifth largest city in the state in terms of population. And despite its proximity to the biggest city in the land, Lee’s Summit is an attraction in its own right.
What residents love most about their hometown is the low cost of living, with rent swinging just about the $1,000 mark, and properties priced affordably at $191,300 on average.
Lee’s Summit has a downtown where you will find the city’s specialty shops, eclectic restaurants and local businesses.
It is a wonderful place to call home.
You remember Jesse James, right?
Standing at Liberty’s historic square is the Jesse James Bank Museum, the site of the first peaceful bank robbery in the United States that was credited to none other than the famous local boy’s gang.
Liberty traces its roots as a frontier trading post, but it has since grown into a booming town of more than 60,550 residents.
It is located in Clay County and is considered a Kansas City suburb, with just 20 miles separating it from the greater metro.
It is apt to say the peaceful bank robbery set a certain crime pattern in Liberty because today, the town is one of the safest places in the state, with virtually no crime reported in the area.
Its residents enjoy some top-level amenities and activities you would mostly associate with a larger city. The restaurant scene is well represented, with a number of recognisable chains pitching tent in the area to complement the snug local spots already in the area.
When you look at the cost of living versus quality of life, the town of Liberty offers a darn big bang for buck.
13. Town and Country
Town and Country is an affluent suburb of St. Louis with a population of 11,000. If you are a keen follower of the PGA Tour or US Open, the name of the town might ring bells because it has played host to both.
Median home value is one of the highest in Missouri, averaging $649,700. Conversely, the residents also enjoy one of the highest incomes in the state, banking an average of $161,477 each year per household.
Its public schools are right up there with the very best, and Town and Country also enjoys a low unemployment rate of 3.3 per cent.
14. St. Charles
The town of St. Charles is located near St. Louis in a county that also goes by the same name.
It is here that the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition set off in 1804, so this is a city steeped in history, although it does a great job of marrying that old appeal with modern-day charm.
St. Charles has you covered when it comes to outdoor attractions, while also guaranteeing lots of places to shop.
There are multiple spots where you can chomp on the famous St. Louis-style ribs, and the nightlife is truly alive, with the likes of Ameristar Casino one of the biggest draws in town.
St. Charles has one of the lowest crime rates in the state, and the population of 67,500 enjoys an attractively low cost of living as well.
15. Maryland Heights
If you fancy a small-town feel while living just minutes away from the Gateway City, Maryland Heights is an excellent choice.
Maryland Heights has it pretty much made, if you ask us. Located less than 20 miles northwest of St. Louis, it is one of the largest suburbs in the metro.
Education and manufacturing make up the foundations of the local economy. The public school system is one of the reasons the state ranks favourably in the education category, and the nightlife scene is more alive than most of the areas on this list.
Then again, with the likes of Hollywood Casino around, this comes as no surprise.
Indeed, it is attractions like these that have led to the burgeoning hospitality industry in Maryland Heights, and that can only be good news to the almost 28,000 who call this place home.
Surprisingly, housing in this town remains low, with three-bedroom mansions going for as low as $151,800.