Popular Culture

15 Greatest Places for Real People to Live in America


Every year, Money Magazine publishes a list of the best places to live in America.  These impossibly pastoral towns are usually ranked by how well manicured the town’s lawns are, and how many white, upper middle class families they can catch smiling on camera while doing white people things. But what if the towns and zip codes of America were judged by things that real people actually cared about?  What if the greatest zip codes in America were ranked by something other than their American flags per capita or golden retriever population? Here are the greatest places to live in the USA, ranked by categories that real people find important.

The Cheapest Weed

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Winner: 97086-97299; Portland, OR

Let’s be realistic for a second: life is generally pretty terrible no matter where you live.  So no matter your color, creed, country or crime rate, you will most likely need some form of drug to take the edge off at one time or another.  So in picking the greatest places in which to take up residence, rent should play second fiddle to cheap drugs.

In this case, zip codes 97086-97299, also known as Portland, Oregon, comes out far ahead of even California. What’s more, Portland weed is often high-quality and grown locally.  Of course, this information shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows a single person in Portland.

The Most Artists

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Winner: 78701; Downtown Austin, TX

As awesome as cheap, mind-numbing drugs may be, the best part about them is often the people you do them with.  That’s what bars, head shops, and the parking lots behind 7-11s are for.  So no matter how amazing a city is, if it doesn’t have interesting people to associate with, you’ll be stuck drinking and smoking with relatives — which is the reason most people start using drugs in the first place.

Artists are widely considered to be some of the most interesting people that create the most vibrant communities in the country and — according to Monster.com — the best place for artists is zip code 78701 in Austin, Texas.  However, the reality is artists are often arrogant, disinterested, and generally incomprehensible, but a good rule of thumb is that people are generally terrible no matter where you live.  At least in Austin, you will be haughty and amused instead of bored to rigor mortis.

The Smartest People

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Winner: 02101; Boston, MA

While artists may be more interesting than the average suburbanite, they aren’t exactly renown for holding a conversation about things other than themselves or paying their half of the fucking rent.  Smart people, on the other hand, tend to have jobs and pay the utilities and will often talk at length about things they think they know.

The best zip code for smart people, unsurprisingly, is 02101–better known as downtown Boston.  Or as the nearby Harvard graduates would put it “Not in Boston per se, but outside of Boston.  I just say Boston because it’s simpler than saying Cambridge — Okay, I went to Harvard will you sleep with me?”.  While moving to Boston would mean you would have to live in Boston, there’s also the comforting fact that all the “wicked smaht” people there will, on average, do “wicked lots” of drugs.

The Biggest Drinkers

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Winner: 53202; Milwaukee, WI

There is no greater social lubricant than alcohol, and there is no greater ‘hood for excessive, irresponsible degrees of it than Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  God forbid you end up in some teetotalling city like Salt Lake City where everyone is sober, healthy and happy.  We all know how irritating that can be.  One fundamental rule of human existence is that no matter where you are, as long as there is a good bar…okay any bar and some smart/artist friends, any city becomes tolerable.  Some scientists even theorize that alcohol was the only reason ancient humans could stand living close to one another in the first place.

The Best Food

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Winner: 70113; New Orleans, LA

Which American city has the best food is a topic of some contention.  Do you define it by number of highly-rated restaurants? Variety of food?  Quality of food?  Well the inescapable truth is that good money buys good food.  You don’t get a three star Firestone rating on a shoestring budget, no matter how you swing it.  So shut up already New York and San Francisco with all your incredibly smart rich people.

The real title here goes to 70113, AKA the heart of the heart of the south: New Orleans, LA.  Not only does New Orleans fall way down at 204th on per capita income, but they also have the highest murder rate, and were recently ravaged by one of the worst natural disasters in American history.  And they still manage to rank in the top ten greatest food cities, not just in America, but the whole freaking world.

The Lowest Taxes

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Winner: Anchorage, AK

Alaska is a bleak empty wilderness full of government-subsidized towns and scary politicians (looking at you, Representative Don Young).  Alaska ranks pretty far down the list on just about every other measure of awesomeness, but there is this little thing known as money, and scientists confirm that it can buy a whole heck of a lot of awesome.

That’s why zip code 99501 of Anchorage, actually shows up on any registry of the “best” zip codes, because it has the lowest effective tax of any zip code in America.  Though there certainly are still plenty of reasons Alaska and Anchorage are incredibly terrible.  It’s difficult to put a point on it, though experts are sure it has something to do with that crazy fame-whoring Don Young.

The Most Singles

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Featured in: 07030; Hoboken, NJ

While we’re talking about about places that no one would visit of their own volition, let’s talk about New Jersey.  While Jersey may not be good for much, Hoboken has something we all need, namely the highest population of singles in the United States.  While good jobs, low taxes, smart people, alcohol and Mary Jane may be great ways of making an otherwise lackluster city livable, any man will tell you these things are either sub-par substitutes for, or ways of obtaining, sex… But please remember that we are talking about quantity and not quality here.

The Best Architecture

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Winner: 60607; Chicago, IL

To wax philosophical for a moment, author Henry Miller once said “The City of New York is like an enormous citadel, a modern Carcassonne. Walking between the magnificent skyscrapers one feels the presence on the fringe of a howling, raging mob, a mob with empty bellies, a mob unshaven and in rags.”  Though it may seem like a snooty, artistic detail, architecture fundamentally defines how a person views and interacts with their city.  If, God help you, you ended up in some godforsaken architectural void like Houston, you might love the taxes and…uhm…proximity to Austin?  But there is always a fundamental trait of the city as an environment that, without good architecture, makes living there feel empty and, at times, hostile.

So move over New York because when it comes to great architecture, the only American city that can compare to greats like Barcelona and Rome, is 60607, Chicago, IL.  With such towering testaments to human will like the Sears Willis Tower, combined with shows of restraint like Millennium Park makes downtown Chicago one of the best built zip codes in America.

The Best Prostitutes

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Winner: 89109; Las Vegas, NV

Transcendent testaments to the human will aside, let’s get to weightier, more intellectually substantial issues like consequence-free sex for money.  You may think this means buying a couple of drinks at some meat market “bar that put in a five by five dance floor so they can call themselves a club”, but the truth is there is always that All-American institution of whores.  Falling second only to a swinging-door saloon, the brothel was a fixture of early American life.  The reason for this, of course, being that sex is something of a trump card when it comes to improving your living situation.

Las Vegas, of course, trumps all other American cities in the number of legal prostitutes, but this is something of a caveated victory for the sin city.  Though illegal, prostitution is like drug use — incredibly common but completely under the radar.  It’s impossible to estimate how many prostitutes a large, uninhibited city like San Francisco might contain.  Studies estimate that as many as 25% of San Fran call girls are actually transgendered, and if there’s that much demand for even a relatively slim portion of the market, you can bet that a little bit of money and a lot of tolerance for gross sores on your junk will yield many more prostitutes in just about any city.

The Lowest Air Pollution

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Featured in: 58102; Fargo, ND

To any Americans who haven’t had the joy of experiencing an undeveloped city like Beijing, Mexico City or LA, in these areas pollution isn’t some hoighty toighty liberal concern, it’s an ever-present choking force.  There is no “morning, noon and night” in such cities, there is simply “hazy” and “slightly-less-hazy-oh god what’s happening to my esophagus I think it’s melting!”.

Fargo, North Dakota is known as a pristine northern expanse where they talked like Sarah Palin before it was cool, but it also has the lowest air pollution of any area in America.  While this may seem like simply a nice externality to living in the middle of nowhere, it’s worth noting that air pollution will kind of kill you dead.  Like, really dead.

The Most Gun Violence

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Winner: 70113; New Orleans, LA (again)

While official statistics for handgun violence on the city level are difficult to find, Louisiana has the highest gun homicide rate in the country (by a wide margin) and New Orleans has the highest murder rate (recently) so it seems safe to say that when it comes to getting maimed or killed by bullets, Nawleans is the place.

But why does gun crime make a place more livable?  Simple: unless you were raised on the south side of Chicago, you instantly have the ability to look hardcore in front of all your friends.  Even if you never left your apartment, lived in the nice part of town and slept in your bathtub every night, suddenly you can tell people at parties what it’s like to exist in this mystical high-crime where you live by the skin of your trust fund and your triple-bolted door.  Bonus points if you play it all cool like it wasn’t any thing to live in fear of the criminals that lived several miles from your apartment and never went near the Panera Bread where you did most of your work.

The Best Amusement Park

Winner: 44870; Sandusky, OH

Okay so maybe sex, drugs, rock and roll and showers of non-government-owned money aren’t particularly your cup of tea.  There’s always the simple juvenile delight of the amusement park.  We all remember the juvenile delight of dragging our parents to a magical place where the employees all looked like they hated their lives and we rode rickety bullet trains in a repetitive loop.  There’s no reason you can’t still use the combination of cheap greasy food and extreme G-forces to trick your now semi-adult brain into puerile euphoria.

And as far as amusement parks go, there’s no better place than Sandusky, Ohio — the home of Cedar Point.  Better known as the greatest amusement park in America.  Lesser known as the inspiration of one the greatest Metalocalypse clips in American history.

The Healthiest

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Winner: 95101; San Jose, CA

While crazy people somehow view good health as a gateway to immortality, most sane people view it for what it really is: a constantly depreciating bank account from which you can make withdrawals of drinking, smoking and whoring as well as deposits of diet and exercise.  And while we all would like to think that we can stay healthy on our own, the truth is you’re only as healthy as your friends.

So if you want to keep up your hedonistic lifestyle, your best bet is to move to San Jose, California, the healthiest hood in America.

The Most Satisfying Sex

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Winner: 30301; Atlanta, GA

It’s often said that sex is like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.  This is most often parroted by people who have terrible sex.  So while, according to Trojan, Houston, Texas has the most frequent instances of sex, we all know that this is a meaningless number.  So what is this crazy awesome sex paradise city of maximum sexual satisfaction?  Where is this orgasmic Shangri-La?  Where can one find this mythical land of mutual satisfaction?  Well it’s in…uhm…Atlanta, Georgia.  It would be easy to say that Hank Hill types are skewing the numbers here but apparently both Dallas and Houston still fall in the top ten of sexual satisfaction.

The Most Like a Video Game

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Winner: 17921; Centralia, PA

While the many hedonistic pleasures of life will sustain someone for quite a while, at a certain point any human needs something more from their environment.  Perhaps an epic quest that challenges both the perception of reality and of the self?  Well in that case, there is always Centralia, Pennsylvania, also known as the inspiration for Silent Hill.

Many years ago, the coal mine under Centralia caught fire, blanketing the town in a perpetual ash cloud, and destabilizing the very ground beneath it.  The town was abandoned, but is still open to the occasional adventurous tourist.  So if you’re looking for the best zip code in America for dangerous exploration, spine chilling ambiance, and a complete lack of hookers and booze, feel free to relocate to Centralia.


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