Lauren Nowacki10-Minute Read
UPDATED: November 08, 2022
The desire and ability to live just about anywhere in the country can be liberating. It can also be intimidating and overwhelming, especially when you need to decide where to live.
If you’re looking to live in a state that’s steeped in American history, with offerings of big city life, small-town living or an abundance of natural places to explore, consider Pennsylvania. The state’s many cities, townships or boroughs fit the bill for any home buyer’s top-priority requirements.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Keystone State, we’re here to help. Check out some of our top picks for the best places to live in Pennsylvania and decide if any are right for you.
With a mix of historical landmarks, modern skyscrapers, traditional rowhomes and muraled buildings, Philadelphia is as eclectic as its residents. And while this diversity can be seen all around the city, each Philly neighborhood has its own distinct character and unique experiences within – from cobblestone streets and high-end boutiques to expansive food markets, famous museums and vibrant parks.
Though the city is incredibly walkable with an easy-to-navigate grid design, the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) has various trains, buses and trolleys to ensure residents can make it to all the places the city has to offer.
Becoming a local may include learning the Mummer’s strut, debating about where to get the best cheesesteak and referring to basically anything as “jawn.” Of course, keep in mind that living in Pennsylvania’s largest city may come with a higher crime rate and cost of living, depending on what neighborhood you choose.
Consistently ranked one of the best places to live in Pennsylvania, Camp Hill is often noted for its friendly residents and strong sense of community. Life in Camp Hill is what you may expect from small-town living, with holiday parades and festivals, high school football games and even the fire department’s annual chicken barbecue. The city lies just a few miles outside of Harrisburg, just across the Susquehanna River, and boasts a low crime rate and a good school system.
Emmaus’ trail system may entice hikers, cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts to plant their roots in the area. A joint partnership with The Wildlands Conservancy and Rodale Press, Inc. created this system, which connects multiple trails of varying difficulty and several communities together.
Residents can find connections within their Emmaus community by heading over to Triangle Park in the city’s downtown area. There, they can enjoy year-round events, like the Old Fashioned Christmas tree lighting, winter and summer festivals and the Emmaus Farmers’ Market.
With its distinctive neighborhoods filled with homes of various architectural styles, including more than 4,000 houses that make up a National Registry Historic District, Mount Lebanon lives up to its reputation as “the community with character.” A quaint downtown business district with local shops and restaurants, live music and a Saturday Farmer’s Market only adds to its charm.
Known as “Conshy” to the locals, Conshohocken is a suburb of Philadelphia that may be just the spot for someone who loves the art of cuisine. One of the most popular dining spots in Montgomery County, Conshohocken is home to numerous unique restaurants, historic taverns and one of the country’s oldest candy stores.
The city also lies along the Schuylkill River and the Schuylkill River Trail, which runs about 75 miles. Along Conshohocken’s portion, trail users will find the Conshohocken Brewery and a SEPTA station that can take you right into Philly.
Known as the home of the Pennsylvania Dutch, Lancaster offers Amish immersion experiences, including horse and buggy rides, farm and schoolhouse tours and the country’s first Amish attraction, the Amish Farm and House. For residents looking for a faster pace, Lancaster offers that as well, with a charming downtown fit with retro shops, theaters, art exhibits and fine dining. There’s also space for adventurous locals, who can go spelunking through underground caverns, take a ghost tour or ride on the country’s oldest operating railroad. It’s no wonder Lancaster has a highly ranked quality of life for residents.
Young families seeking safety and quiet on the outskirts of a big city will find it in the quaint town of Swarthmore. Just 11 miles from Philadelphia (about 30 minutes by train), Swarthmore features tree-lined streets, a unique downtown area and the beautiful campus of Swarthmore College, home to the Scott Arboretum.
The 425-acre arboretum provides several activities, including hands-on learning, hiking trails and more than 4,000 plant varieties. Along with encountering vibrant plant species at the arboretum, the family can encounter friendly monsters at Sesame Place, which is less than an hour away.
Known as the “Coolest Small Town in America,” Lititz has a bustling downtown area filled with unique restaurants, breweries and old-time ice cream and soda shops. Kids will love touring the chocolate and pretzel factories or perusing the local farmer’s market, which features chef demonstrations and activities specifically for kids.
Every second Friday of the month, local merchants keep their shops open late and musicians, dancers and artists entertain passersby on the street. And with a crime rate of about 3 per 1,000 – according to Neighborhood Scout – Lititz is one of the safest communities in the country.
Upper St. Clair has an award-winning and nationally recognized school district along with 19 parks, totaling over 730 acres for outdoor recreation and learning. The city is located about 10 miles outside of Pittsburgh, which provides even more activities for the family to enjoy, including museums, the zoo or science center and the famous inclines.
Located at a Y-junction of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, Pittsburgh is known as the “City of Bridges” due to its 446 bridges, more than any city in the world. Wrapped in rivers, the city offers several opportunities for fishing, boating, canoeing and kayaking. Off the water, there are numerous pedestrian and biking trails that offer scenic views. There are even more breathtaking views that include Pittsburgh’s skyline on the city’s famous inclines. Locals can also view a number of interesting things at the city’s art galleries, museums and walking tours – many of them free.
And speaking of costs, Pittsburgh has a lower cost of living than Philadelphia, so you can enjoy city life in one of Pennsylvania’s largest cities for a little less. With a better cost of living, Pittsburgh makes for a perfect place to live for many young professionals.
From its districts to its architecture, Allentown can be described in one word: diverse. Inside Pennsylvania’s third-largest city there’s a district for almost any lifestyle, including a business district, theater district, arts district and historic district, among many others.
Sprinkled throughout these areas are collections of various architectural styles, from historical homes, churches and commercial buildings to Federal and Victorian-style row homes and old factories and mills turned into trendy lofts. There’s plenty to do and a variety of housing options for young adults to explore and reside in.
One of the best things about living in the state’s capital is the low cost of living and affordable housing the city has to offer. The low cost of living was one reason it was named one of the top 50 best places to live in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Another was its location along the Susquehanna River, just south of the famous Appalachian Trail, making it the perfect place for city dwellers who love to escape to nature.
Harrisburg is also a short drive to attractions like Hershey or Gettysburg. However, there’s plenty to do within Harrisburg and on the city’s own island, which features a ballpark, arcade, riverboat and train rides and a beach. At night, the downtown comes alive with plenty to eat and drink at one of the many upscale bars and restaurants. No wonder young adults are flocking to this city recently!
As we did in curating this list, home buyers should take into consideration a few key factors when determining where to live. Don’t just think about what it’ll be like to live in the home, but really look at how life will be for you or your family living in the area as well. These factors can help provide a glimpse.
When choosing where to live and where to buy, taking a look at the real estate market is an important first step. Make sure you’re checking out if more people are buying a home or selling their home and locating to a different area. You’ll want to have a good sense of where the real estate trends are going in certain areas to help you make the best decision for you, whether you’re a single young professional or have a family.
While you might not be moving to one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., you’ll still want to know what the cost of living is like in the area where you’re buying a home. Cost of living can influence your home search because it will help you determine where you can and can’t afford to live. Data like median home value can help you set a budget for your new home and the median income will build a reasonable expectation for your own income, should you look for work in the area.
Unemployment rate can provide a glimpse into the local job market and the likelihood of getting a job in the area once you move. This could prove essential if you’re moving there as a recent grad. Even if you already have a job, it’s still important to consider the unemployment rate because it impacts the economy within the area.
Local crime rates can also help you determine if the neighborhood where you’re buying a house is safe and could influence your home’s value over time. You can get local crime report information from a crime mapping service. If you choose to review crime rates, remember to dig into the types of crimes reported since lesser offenses or those that occurred years ago may not be a deal-breaker for you.
If you have school-aged children, school districts will be an important factor to consider. Not only do you want your child to get a good education, but you’ll also want them to fit in and feel safe. Even without children, moving into an area with a good school district can help your home retain its value.
Most online listings will provide school ratings, but you can also research the school district on your own. Check out the school’s website, third-party reviews sites and social media sites to learn more about the school, what it offers and what school life is like for students who go there.
Local amenities – like recreational spots, shopping options, small businesses, public facilities, restaurants and more – will help you picture living in the area. Being aware of these amenities will also help you pick a place that fits your lifestyle and provide insight into the types of people who live in the area.
For example, if there are a lot of family-friendly events, parks and other kid-centric amenities, the area may be a good fit for families, whereas an area with several bars, restaurants and a busy nightlife may attract younger adult residents.
Choosing where to live can be complicated. At 46,055 square miles, Pennsylvania provides a ton of options, each built to fit a variety of lifestyles. Once you figure out what’s most important to you, you’ll be able to find your perfect match.
*A number of the statistics in each listing were sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau, including 2019 population estimates, 2018 median household incomes and 2014 – 2018 mean travel time to work for those 16 and older. Data from the July 2020 Rocket Homes Trend Report was used for the median home values for each city.
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We’ve identified the best states and cities to live in America for 2022 – 2023. Learn more about how we determined the best places to live in the U.S. here.
The best cities for young people are affordable, fun and full of job opportunities. Read on to learn where millennials and young professionals are flocking.