Pennsylvania is downright beautiful. The State of Independence is home to some of the country’s richest history, incredible culture and, yes, a picturesque scenery.
The Appalachian Mountains sit here, and the state has more than 120 state parks, with over 100 miles of coastline, and a varied selection of great towns and cities, each with its own character.
Mountain climbers will love this state, so will surfers, skydivers and skiers even, depending on where you are in the state. But Pennsylvania would not be the place it is without its people, an incredibly darn friendly bunch.
Little wonder the Keystone State is widely considered one of the best states to retire.
The natural allure aside, this is a notion mostly driven by other key factors for anyone interested in the hard data: economic vibrancy (this is the sixth largest state economy), good health care, school districts that are a cut above the other states, affordability, low rate of homelessness and a high quality of life.
For a sprawling state like PA, though, it can be overwhelming to any potential resident looking for a place to live. But you can always count on us to bail you out.
Here then, are the best places to live in Pennsylvania to help inform your decision better.
1. Penn Wynne
Penn Wynne is a suburb in Montgomery County with roughly 6,000 residents and often shows up on many livability polls.
That is because everything seems to be going swimmingly in Penn Wynne.
It has an excellent school system ranked A+ by Niche.com, a website that crunches public data to provide ratings and rankings for schools and neighbourhoods.
Indeed, this system is responsible for a 13% higher high school graduation rate that the rest of the state.
Crime rate in this suburb, which mostly comprises residential streets, is virtually non-existent. The residents, with a large Orthodox Jewish population amongst them, is keen on promoting a green lifestyle, working together as a community to conserve the natural assets in the area.
The going rate for a three- to four-bedroomed property is $351,100, and rent averages $1,639. That can be termed reasonable considering Penn Wynne often shows up on the best places to live in America.
Hershey is a 15,000-person community in Dauphin County often dubbed the sweetest place on earth. And that’s because it is here that one of America’s most loved chocolate brands, Hershey’s, is based.
Chocolate Town is a tourist haven where visitors flock to the attraction that is Hershey’s Chocolate World. For anyone looking to settle down here, though, the community is more than just a tourist attraction.
It has a stellar school system that was once recognised by the U.S. Department of Education for its excellence, and it is a culture still pervasive in its public schools to date, what with a 10% higher high school graduation rate compared to the state average.
Crime rate is virtually non-existent in this peaceful community, although the employment rate could do with a little boost.
Surprisingly, cost of living is low, with houses renting at an average $886 and homes valued at $238,100.
3. Mount Lebanon
If a higher than average high school graduation rate, higher than average income, low crime rate and multiple local amenities sound like a nice combination for you when choosing a place to live in the Coal State, consider Mount Lebanon.
The cost of living in this town of 33,000 residents is slightly higher than what you would contend with in other places in Pennsylvania. Median home value is $225,100 and rent is a little over $100 more than national average ($835).
But with all the aforementioned positives promised by this Pittsburgh suburb, you can absolutely justify making a move here.
4. Jefferson Hills
Just 15 miles south of Pittsburgh sits Jefferson Hills, a suburb with a population of 11,000 residents. These are mostly middle-class folk who earn $77,854 on average.
A dollar in Jefferson Hills goes a long way as the cost of living is fairly low, with houses fetching at an average $189,700. The crime rate is not as low as you would expect, but other than that, the suburb fares pretty well.
Families have access to five municipal parks, not to mention a 150-mile system of biking and hiking trails known as the Great Allegheny Passage. As well, there are many youth sports opportunities available, including roller hockey, swimming, diving and more.
The high schools may not be the best in the state, but they perform fairly well, boasting a 96% graduation rate.
5. South Park
You will often find a neighbourhood named South Park in many places you go in America –Seattle, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and others. Pittsburgh has one too, and so happens it is one of the best places to live in Pennsylvania.
The suburb of 13,500 residents has some of the best schools in the state, and what is incredible about it is that the cost of living is even lower than the national average.
Houses are selling for $148,800 on average (against a national average of $178,600), which is lower than most other places on this list.
With an extremely low crime rate and a county park that comprises a concert pavilion, dog park, wave pool, ice rink, trail system, golf course and tennis courts, you will hardly find a better community to settle than South Park, PA.
6. Bethel Park
This Pittsburgh suburb of 32,300 residents gives you plenty of reasons to call it home.
The education system is one of the best in Pennsylvania, and there is little crime happening here. The cost of living is some way below the national average, and the area is steeped in so much natural beauty it is hard to believe an average three-bedroom home goes for $162,300.
You won’t venture a mile in Bethel Park without coming across green space that is not meticulously maintained.
This means there is plenty of space for your children to play and run around, and all these together make for compelling reasons to raise a family here.
7. Radnor Township
Radnor Township is located in Delaware County and is home to 31,500 people.
We admit this is not the most pocket-friendly of towns in the state, but if education is one of the influencing factors when choosing an ideal place to live, you can’t do better than Radnor Township.
The population here is well-educated, with good public schools ranked A+ on Niche.com, and great universities that include the likes of Eastern College and Villanova University.
It thus comes as no surprise to know the median income of $106,538 is double that the national average and one of the highest in the state. That is more than enough to cushion the residents from the high cost of living in a place where homes average $622,500.
The quaint suburb of Emmaus is nestled in the picturesque Lehigh County near Allentown.
It is a historic community with a population of 11,300 residents who love the area for more than just the peace and quiet. The education system is excellent and the cost of living is low, with homes going for $171,800 on average.
Emmaus is a close community noted for its friendly atmosphere, and its livability didn’t escape the attention of Money Magazine which has featured the suburb more than once in its 100 best places to live in the U.S. list.
Anyone who has watched the comedy drama Marley & Me (Owen Wilson/Jennifer Aniston) might be surprised to know Emmaus is the real-life home of the family that inspired the film.
The Oil State has seen its fair share of towns and suburbs featured in dozens of best places to live lists, and this suburb of about 29,000 residents is just another of these highly regarded locations in the state.
McCandless has some of the best school districts in Pennsylvania, and its desirability for families is heightened by the myriad recreation opportunities available in the area.
The Strip District, Wood Street Galleries and The Benedum Theater will keep culture lovers immersed, while Schenley Park, The Riverwalk and Point State Park provide ambient space for every outdoor lover.
The North Park Lake promises good fishing, paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking, while the multiple sports teams in the area (Steelers, Pirates and Penguins) provide a much welcome distraction from the weekly schedule.
A two- to three-bedroom house in McCandless costs $214,600.
10. Lower Salford
Lower Salford is a township in Montgomery County which 15,300 residents call home.
The schools in Pennsylvania make the state a magnet for families from all across the country, and Lower Salford serves as more testament to this.
The area has some of the most highly rated schools, and the residents appreciate its friendly community feeling.
Crime would not be a concern of yours living here, and in the slim chance you find yourself on the wrong receiving end, the local police are famed for being highly responsive.
The only downside to living in Lower Salford is that as much as Pennsylvania is acknowledged as a destination for foodies, that is an area the town is not particularly known for.
But with parents earning a combined $92,574 a year, there is always plenty much left to spare for weekend getaways.
11. Willow Grove
Willow Grove is another town in Montgomery with just about the same population as its neighbour, Lower Salford.
15,600 people live here, attracted by the excellent schools and plenty of amenities. If you fancy a serene, uncrowded neighbourhood, chances are Willow Grove will work for you.
Despite its small size, the area has some great restaurants and most of the stores you would need, you will find here. Bloomingdale’s. Macy’s. Michael Kors. Apple. JC Penny. Pandora, just to cite but a few.
Willow Grove also has an intriguing history as the “Music Capitol of America”.
With an average three-bedroom home going for $244,500, it only serves to show why the Keystone State is often praised for its low cost of living. Because this happens to be an affluent neighbourhood with some of the state’s highest home values.
For that money, yes.
12. East Whiteland
East Whiteland is a suburb in the historic city that is Philadelphia. It is located in Chester County and is home to close to 11,000 residents.
East Whiteland makes it to our list of best places to live in Pennsylvania because, for starters, it has an excellent school system where some of the sharpest tools in the shed are honed.
This community was founded as far back as 1704 by Welsh settlers and has a relatively low crime rate. Your chances of being a victim of property crime is lower than your current neighbourhood (it sits at .06 per cent).
There is great diversity for a community its size, but that is probably due to its proximity to the big city.
All these perks have to be accounted for, and this is why you find the cost of living in East Whiteland is quite high.
Rental single-family properties are priced at $1,390 on average, with median home value standing at $372,200.
13. West Chester
Speaking of Chester County, if you prefer living in the vicinity of Philly, one of the best places to stay is West Chester.
The suburb of 19,000 people is a feast for the history lover looking to immerse themselves in the deep past of Pennsylvania.
It is littered with historic homes and buildings so precious they are protected, and setting foot here is akin to stepping into a time capsule.
Understandably, the cost of living is high, with median home value sitting at $313,700.
The education system, however, can hold its own with the very best in the state, boasting the highest graduation rate in the state.
14. State College
State College is a town in Centre County that is regarded as one of the best towns in Pennsylvania. In fact, it topped the list of “best towns” in 2015, according to Niche, emerging 14th overall in the nation.
State College is the main campus of Penn State University and has a population of 42,000 whose median income per household is $29,450.
That is on the lower side compared to the other places on this list, but life is generally affordable, bar one index: housing. Rent averages $967 and homes are valued at an average $277,100.
Other than that, living in State College guarantees a host of benefits.
Low crime rate. Low commute time with most residents spending 16.29 minutes on average to get to their stations. Vibrant nightlife. Plenty of outdoor activities. And, of course, being in the Quaker State, the education is first-rate.
Lastly, we have Cecil, a township of 11,700 people located in Washington County.
This is a great place to raise a family thanks to its perfect balance of excellent schools, low crime rate and availability of high paying jobs.
The business park in Cecil homes several large companies that include the likes of Consul Energy and Ansys.
These companies are most likely responsible for the high income rates enjoyed by the residents of this area, with a single household bringing home $75,957 on average.
Houses in Cecil are priced at $206,300, although rent prices are a tad lower compared to the national average ($919 vs. $928).