38 Charlottesville

PopulationMetro: 233,793
The city is working its way back to the prosperous, educated hometown it’s been for decades before the tiki torches invaded.

The mere mention of this Virginia city named in honor of England’s Queen Charlotte has become a touchstone of the racial tensions that underlie American society.

Charlottesville’s reputation is recovering after a widely-condemned white supremacy rally turned deadly in 2017, and residents of this well-educated city have proven both determined and resilient.

Meanwhile, Thomas Jefferson’s hometown has plenty to recommend it, from a solid local economy grounded in one of the country’s top universities, to abundant natural beauty and deep historical significance.

He might have written the Declaration of Independence and served as the nation’s third president, but Thomas Jefferson was just as proud of founding the University of Virginia, which earns Charlottesville a #3 ranking for University and its citizens a #9 ranking for Educational Attainment. And while the local economy might be centered around UVA, there are also abundant jobs in healthcare, tourism and the professions.

Place 46
Product 30
Programming 22
People 69
Prosperity 38
Promotion 26

History is the main attraction in this city that earns a #28 ranking for Place, and Jefferson’s home at Monticello is a must-see for its recreation and interpretation of the founding father’s life—and his darker legacy as a slave owner. But just outside town the Blue Ridge Mountains beckon, offering plenty of opportunity for stunning hikes, including along the famous Appalachian Trail.

Locals sometimes complain that Charlottesville is far from it all, but while the nearest big city (in this case, Washington, D.C.) might be a good distance away, this bustling college town has everything a person might need day-to-day, from a dynamic restaurant scene to thriving local cultural institutions. It’s even possible to live without a car here, and many residents get around on two wheels.