If you are looking for one of best places to live in Pennsylvania, we are here to give you a hand. Pennsylvania has it all: caves, mountains, waterfalls, culture and history. It is the 33rd-largest state by area and the fifth-largest by population. The Appalachian Mountains traverse the state, and it also has the Allegheny and Pocono Mountains. Pennsylvania has more navigable rivers than any other state.
The state is often defined by its two major cities, which are connected by the Pennsylvania Turnpike, one of the most expensive toll roads in the nation. In the east, Philadelphia has the Eagles, the Phillies, cheesesteaks and a lot of history. In the west, Pittsburgh has the Steelers, the Pirates and the Pittsburgh salad (which uses french fries as croutons).
Philly is considered the “cradle of liberty,” while Pittsburgh is the city with the most bridges in the world — more than even Venice. In between the two major cities, you’ll find Harrisburg, Amish communities, the headquarters for Hershey, and a meat dish called “scrapple”. There are a lot of great places to live in Pennsylvania.
Here’re the 11 best places to live in Pennsylvania in 2023.
Table of Contents:
1. West Chester
HOMEiA Score: 83/100
- Population: 18,671 | Rank Last Year: #30
- Cost of Living: 24.3% above the national average
- Home price to income ratio: $378,400/$61,837=6.12 (buying homes is very expensive)
- Income to rent ratio: $61,837/$15,516=3.99 (renting homes is expensive)
In August 1768, John Clark purchased an unnamed tavern and called it the Turk’s Head Inn. A village quickly sprang up around the inn, and the community became known as Turk’s Head. Although the town was renamed West Chester in the 1790s, and the old inn was torn down, the name lives on in the Turk’s Head Music Festival and in several local businesses. The town is the seat of Chester County and houses the county courthouse.
West Chester is the home of West Chester University, which was established in 1871 and is one of the 14 state colleges in Pennsylvania. The university contributes to the culture of the town.
West Chester’s downtown is vibrant, with more than 100 independently owned businesses and restaurants to cater to the needs of residents and visitors alike, selling items that are hard to find in the big chains. One such shop, Hopfidelity, describes itself as a record store and nanobrewery. Another, The 5 Senses, sells functional artwork made locally and across the country, with items intended to appeal to — you guessed it — the five senses.
The West Chester school district is academically strong, but families also have the option to send children to one of the numerous local private schools. The cost of living in West Chester is higher than in Philadelphia, but the average income is also higher in West Chester.
The town’s population has grown, with new residents attracted to its offerings and location. From West Chester, it is an easy day trip to nearby Delaware or the always-spectacular Longwood Gardens.
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HOMEiA Score: 81/100
- Population: 18,602 | Rank Last Year: #39
- Cost of Living: 14.4% above the national average
- Home price to income ratio: $237,200/$73,004=3.25 (buying homes is expensive)
- Income to rent ratio: $73,004/$14,400=5.07 (renting homes is expensive)
Like the mythological bird that rose from the ashes, Phoenixville is a town that has experienced a rebirth in recent years. It continues to attract newcomers, with the population growing by 13% from 2010 to 2020.
Residents of Phoenixville are proud of their history. From 1790 until the 1980s, Phoenix Steel was in operation, with the Griffen Gun and the Phoenix Column among its products. Another claim to fame for Phoenix Steel is that its puddled steel was used to construct the Eiffel Tower.
After the steel mill closed, the town went through economic hard times. The revitalization began with the restoration of the Colonial Theater, the final remaining classic theater in Chester County. As the revitalization progressed, the downtown blossomed. It is now home to numerous restaurants, brewpubs and an award-winning distillery, as well as many small businesses.
Throughout the year, Phoenixville hosts a number of festivals. Every summer Bridge Street closes down to celebrate Blob Fest. The Colonial Theater shows the film “The Blob,” and viewers run out into the street to recreate the scene in the film, which was filmed in Phoenixville. The town also hosts the Dogwood Festival and the Firebird Festival, as well as other celebrations.
While the cost of living in Phoenixville is above the national average, the average income is higher than in some of the surrounding communities. The average cost to buy a house is about $230,000, and real estate values continue to climb in the area. The school system is strong, with families having the option to send children to the public schools, the local charter school, or any of a number of local private schools. To further protect your family, life insurance is a very important plan. For more information about it, the Assurance insurance company can help.
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HOMEiA Score: 60/100
- Population: 5,043 | Rank Last Year: #241
- Cost of Living: 17.2% above the national average
- Home price to income ratio: $335,400/$112,500=2.98 (buying homes is affordable)
- Income to rent ratio: $112,500/$14,244=7.90 (renting homes is very expensive)
The Philadelphia metro area is home to a number of great suburbs, including Collegeville, which is located on the Perkiomen Creek in Montgomery County. Collegeville, a more bucolic town than some of the other suburbs, is on the smaller side, with approximately 5,000 residents spread out over two square miles.
Collegeville is home to Ursinus College (although the town is not named for Ursinus, but rather an older school — the Pennsylvania Female College, which closed in 1880, before Collegeville was incorporated). Ursinus helps to bring culture to Collegeville with contributions such as the Phillip and Muriel Berman Art Museum.
Two major pharmaceutical companies — Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline — are located in Collegeville, as is Dow Chemical.
Although the cost of living in Collegeville is above the national average, the average income is also significantly higher. Both the poverty and crime rates are significantly below both the state and national levels, and the school district is very highly rated. More than 70% of residents own their own homes.
The town itself has a number of independent restaurants and shops, as well as the Providence Town Center, an open-air mall designed to look like an old-fashioned Main Street.
For a dose of Revolutionary War history, Valley Forge National Park is about 20 minutes away. Valley Forge also offers recreational activities, like hiking and biking. Closer to home, Evansburg State Park provides a variety of outdoorsy activities, and you can meander the Perkiomen Trail, which traverses 19 miles along the Perkiomen Creek. If you are more of a thrill seeker, you can take a ride in a hot air balloon with the Sky Riders balloon team.
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HOMEiA Score: 77/100
- Population: 13,566 | Rank Last Year: #60
- Cost of Living: 17.5% above the national average
- Home price to income ratio: $355,400/$96,780=3.67 (buying homes is expensive)
- Income to rent ratio: $96,780/16,980=5.70 (renting homes is expensive)
There are a number of communities which comprise “The Main Line,” the area delineated by the old Pennsylvania Railroad. The Main Line stretches from Philadelphia in the east to Paoli in the west. Ardmore — which was originally named Athensville, but was renamed by the railroad — is a short train ride away from Philadelphia. But you don’t have to go into the city for fantastic eating, shopping and culture.
Ardmore has been named one of the most “walkable” towns in the Philadelphia area. As it is a desirable locale, it has experienced population growth over the past 10 years.
Suburban Square, which opened in 1928 as one of the first shopping centers in the area, it is still open today. Lancaster Avenue, the main thoroughfare through Ardmore, also offers a variety of shops housed in historic buildings.
If you crave fresh produce, the Ardmore Farmer’s Market is open year-round to fulfill your needs. If you want to hear live music, the Ardmore Music Hall hosts a wide range of performers.
There are also a number of celebrations throughout the year. Cricket Cringle, the annual holiday marketplace, includes music and food trucks in addition to holiday shopping. In the fall, Oktoberfest supplies entertainment, with traditional foods like bratwurst and, of course, a good Oktoberfest Weiss to wash it down. There are also child-friendly activities like face painting and cookie decorating.
The median household income in Ardmore is over $96,000, and housing costs are proportionally high, but the violent crime rate is below both the state and national averages, as is the poverty rate. Within a few miles of Ardmore, there are several excellent colleges, including Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Villanova.
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HOMEiA Score: 90/100
- Population: 75,781 | Rank Last Year: #6
- Cost of Living: 4.2% above the national average
- Home price to income ratio: $173,500/$55,809=3.11 (buying homes is expensive)
- Income to rent ratio: $55,809/$12,456=4.48 (renting homes is expensive)
Bethlehem, the sixth-largest city in Pennsylvania, is located in the Lehigh Valley. Bethlehem has a rich history and connections to the Revolutionary War, when patriots fled to the area as the British advanced.
During the industrial revolution, Bethlehem was a center of heavy industry, and it was here that Bethlehem Steel, the second-largest U.S. steel producer, was founded. The company began the manufacture of the now-ubiquitous I-beam, and during World War II it manufactured more than 1,100 warships.
By 1995, steel operations in Bethlehem ended, and the old buildings were repurposed into what is now Bethlehem Works, which includes the National Museum of Industrial History and the Wind Creek Bethlehem Casino.
Although the poverty rate is above the state and national averages, the violent crime rate is below that of both the state and the nation, and Bethlehem is an affordable city that has a lot to offer.
Over 10 days in August, Bethlehem hosts Musikfest, which draws over a million people to the city. It also hosts the annual Bethlehem Bach Festival at Lehigh University and on the grounds of the Moravian Community, and it has hosted NEARFest, a three-day progressive rock music festival. In addition to the music-centered festivals, Bethlehem has the Celtic Classic — focused on Celtic food, music and culture — and the SouthSide Film Festival.
There are other cultural activities throughout the year. On First Fridays, the Banana Factory, which houses artists’ studios, is open to the public. Touchstone Theater is the home of the only professional resident theater company in the Lehigh Valley. There are also many shops, galleries and restaurants on the main streets in Historic Bethlehem. Steel Stacks showcases music and art throughout the year.
Also noteworthy is the Bethlehem Star, a star made of steel installed on South Mountain, which is lit from 4:30pm to midnight every day.
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HOMEiA Score: 86/100
- Population: 28,127 | Rank Last Year: #21
- Cost of Living: 3.1% above the national average
- Home price to income ratio: $124,800/$51,698=2.41 (buying homes is affordable)
- Income to rent ratio: $51,698/$11,832=4.37 (renting homes is expensive)
Easton, which was founded by Thomas Penn, the son of William Penn, is in the Lehigh Valley, 17 miles east of Allentown and right on the border of New Jersey. One of its claims to fame is that it was one of three places were the Declaration of Independence was publicly read.
Easton has historic connections to the steel industry as well; it was a transportation hub, and the Delaware, Lehigh and Morris Canals were built there to help with the delivery of anthracite coal from the coal regions. Easton was also a hub for railroad transportation.
While the poverty rate in Easton today is slightly high, unemployment is lower than the state rate. Easton is an affordable community, and safe, as the crime rate is below both the state and national rates. People are moving to the town; the population is growing slightly above the rate for Pennsylvania as a whole.
Easton is relatively forward-thinking; in 2021, the city adopted a climate action plan proposed by the Nurture Nature Center, which was founded in 2007 as a center for flood education.
Located in the College Hill district, Easton is home to Lafayette College, a liberal arts and engineering school, one of the highest-ranked schools in the nation. Easton is also kid friendly, with 27 interactive children’s attractions, including the Crayola Experience. Easton is also home to the National Canal Museum and to Bushkill Park, a small amusement park which opened in 1902 that is mainly geared toward younger kids.
If you are craving a good brew, Weyerbacher Brewing Company is located in the town. Or if it’s bacon you are looking for, Easton hosts the PA Bacon Fest, a two-day festival where festivalgoers can hear live music, see cooking demos and consume all sorts of bacon treats. The festival happens during the first full weekend in November. The event includes a costume contest and, of course, a hog calling contest.
The Karl Stirner Art Trail will help you to get your fix of art and nature; it is a walking trail along the Bushkill Creek near downtown Easton. Art installations are strategically placed all along the 1.6-mile trail.
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HOMEiA Score: 95/100
- Population: 1,603,797 | Rank Last Year: #1
- Cost of Living: 5.0% above the national average
- Home price to income ratio: $163,000/$45,927=3.55 (buying homes is expensive)
- Income to rent ratio: $45,927/$12,504=3.67 (renting homes is expensive)
Philadelphia — or, as the locals call it, “Philly” — is not only the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and a wonderful place to visit, but it is also a great city to live in. And it is the best place to solve a perennial debate: Which Philly cheesesteak is the best, Pat’s or Geno’s?
The city itself has world-class museums, including the Franklin Institute, which is a science museum; the Mütter Museum, which is the place to go to explore medical oddities; and the Rodin Museum. It also has a Chinatown, a subway system and the Reading Terminal Market, which is one of the nation’s oldest public markets and is definitely a place to visit, especially if you are hungry.
As with any major city, Philadelphia has neighborhoods it is best to avoid, but it also has a lot of wonderful places to live.
Old City is roughly defined as lying between Front and Sixth Streets, stretching from Walnut Street to Vine Street. In Old City you can find Elfreth Alley, the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the U.S. — and yes, people still live in the really narrow houses that line the alley. Old City is also the location of many historic landmarks, and it is close to the Delaware River.
Society Hill is roughly the area bounded by Walnut, Lombard, Front, and 7th Streets. Its cobblestone streets are lined with brick rowhouses, and it has the largest concentration of 18th- and early 19th-century architecture in the U.S.
The Fairmount neighborhood is aptly nicknamed the Art Museum, as it is where the Philadelphia Art Museum is located, and it is the epicenter of artistic culture in the city.
Rittenhouse Square has some of the best shopping and restaurants in the city, as well as luxury high rises with great views.
Other great neighborhoods include Callowhill, the former industrial neighborhood that is now the home of music venues and a lot of apartment buildings; Fishtown, a young and hip neighborhood; and the Northern Liberties, which is home to a lot of international restaurants, galleries and nightclubs.
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HOMEiA Score: 76/100
- Population: 11,652 | Rank Last Year: #71
- Cost of Living: 0.0% below the national average
- Home price to income ratio: $184,900/$59,026=3.13 (buying homes is expensive)
- Income to rent ratio: $59,026/$13,092=4.51 (renting homes is expensive)
Emmaus, a town at the base of South Mountain in the Lehigh Valley, is about 20 miles west of the Delaware River. It became a Pennsylvania borough in 1859 when the railroad arrived, bringing industries such as iron mining, iron furnaces and a foundry. Other businesses followed, including silk manufacturing and cigar factories.
With the movement of industry out of the area, Emmaus went through a difficult period, but with its revitalization, it has a lot to offer. Today the cost of living in Emmaus is below the national average, and more than 60% own their homes.
Shangy’s, one of the largest beer distributors in the country, is located in Emmaus, and its 4,000 beer brands attract people from all over the country. If you are a beer enthusiast, Emmaus also has Yergey’s brewery. For those who prefer other alcohol, Red Balloon Cider is a small-batch cidery that uses local apples. Emmaus is also home to Yocco’s Hot Dogs, which sells regionally famous hot dogs.
There are a number of art and film events hosted by the Emmaus Arts Commission, including the Emmaus Art Walk and Art in the Garden. Emmaus also has one of the largest Halloween parades in the region, preceded by a 5k race. If you are interested in nature and outdoor recreation, the Wildlands Conservancy is composed of preserved land and wildlife sanctuaries; it provides both education and recreation.
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HOMEiA Score: 92/100
- Population: 125,845 | Rank Last Year: #3
- Cost of Living: 7.0% above the national average
- Home price to income ratio: $131,300/$41,167=3.19 (buying homes is expensive)
- Income to rent ratio: $41,167/$12,048=3.42 (renting homes is expensive)
Allentown, the third-largest city in Pennsylvania, lies 59 miles northwest of Philadelphia on the Lehigh River. It is home to one of the nation’s largest amusement and water parks, Dorney Park. The town boasts a relatively low cost of living and an unemployment rate that is lower than the state average.
Allentown has a storied history. One fun fact: During the American Revolution, fears of a British attack on Philadelphia led to the Liberty Bell’s storage in the basement of the Zion Reformed Church.
With the discovery of iron ore in the area, iron industries developed. The town also became a center for brewing and for silk manufacturing.
In the 1960s, people started leaving the city and moving to large developments on former farmland. Allentown entered a period of decline from the 1960s into the 1990s as the manufacturing economy began to erode. However, this began to turn around when the state legislature created the Neighborhood Improvement Zone in 2009, encouraging revitalization.
Now, the PPL Center arena hosts the Lehigh Valley Phantoms as well as other sports and entertainment events. In 2016, the Urban Land Institute named Allentown as one of six communities in the country to be a “national success story.”
The housing in the city center comprises mainly Victorian and Craftsman-style homes. On the east and south sides of town, the houses are a variety of styles, built mainly from the 1940s to the 1960s. There are also lofts in historic buildings and modern high-rise apartments.
In addition to the shopping and dining options, Allentown is home to the Great Allentown Fair, which, as one of the oldest fairs in the nation, got its start in 1852 and is currently one of the largest in the state. Although it remains true to its agricultural roots, it has evolved with the times, adding concerts, a talent show and a carnival.
The public market, which was built in late 1896 and converted to be the Lyric Theater in 1899, is now the Miller Symphony Hall. As the premier performing arts venue in Allentown, it is home to the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.
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10. Mt. Lebanon
HOMEiA Score: 74/100
- Population: 34,075 | Rank Last Year: #80
- Cost of Living: 1.8% above the national average
- Home price to income ratio: $283,400/$105,984 =2.67 (buying homes is affordable)
- Income to rent ratio: $105,984/11,916=8.89 (renting homes is very expensive)
Mt. Lebanon is about seven miles south of Pittsburgh. It got its start as a small farming community when the first European settlers arrived in 1773–1774. It was initially called Mount Lebanon, but in 1974, with the adoption of a home rule charter, Mt. Lebanon became the official name.
In 1901, the first streetcar to Pittsburgh started to run, and the second one followed in 1924. The streetcars made the daily commute into Pittsburgh more feasible, and the first real estate subdivision shortly followed.
The opening of the Liberty Tubes enabled easy car access to Pittsburgh, and the population of Mt. Lebanon skyrocketed. There are additional transit options now, including a light rail system, so commuting to Pittsburgh for work or to enjoy any of the city’s amenities and attractions is pretty easy.
Mt. Lebanon’s central business district is Uptown Mt. Lebanon, and it features galleries, pizzerias, boutiques and coffee shops. Many of the buildings in the Mt. Lebanon Historic District, which includes the areas developed between 1874 and 1975, are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Mt. Lebanon Public Library is an impressive building, winning an architectural design award and having the space for 140,000 books. The municipality also has 15 parks, an Olympic swimming pool and one of the oldest public golf courses in western Pennsylvania.
While housing costs in Mt. Lebanon are relatively high, the majority of residents own their houses. The average income is high and the poverty rate is low, as is the crime rate. The school district is very highly rated and has won multiple National Blue Ribbon School awards.
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HOMEiA Score: 73/100
- Population: 9,533 | Rank Last Year: #82
- Cost of Living: 21.4% above the national average
- Home price to income ratio: $119,700/$51,759=2.31 (buying homes is affordable)
- Income to rent ratio: $51,759/$11,292=4.58 (renting homes is expensive)
Middletown was founded in 1755 and incorporated in 1828 after the construction of the Union Canal, which connected it to Lancaster. The borough lies on the Susquehanna River, 10 miles southeast of the state capital, Harrisburg.
The age of the town has led to diverse architecture. You can find everything from log cabins to Victorian mansions to more modern styles, and several buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The cost of living in Middletown is above the national average, but the area has experienced limited population growth over the past 10 years. Its proximity to the state capital and to the Harrisburg campus of Penn State University afford it some cultural advantages.
Middletown has several good restaurants, including Alfred’s Victorian, which is located in a Victorian mansion with period décor, and Tattered Flag Brewery and Still Works, which has been voted “Simply the Best” by readers of Lancaster Magazine.
Five miles north of Middletown, the Indian Echo Caverns are a popular attraction in the area. To get there can be part of the adventure, as the Middletown and Hummelstown Railroad operates train rides that stop in front of the entrance to the caverns.
Hershey is also close by, with its amusement park originally opened by Milton S. Hershey in 1906 for the employees of the Hershey company.
Additionally, Middletown is close to Harrisburg and Lancaster County, which means there are a lot of opportunities to get out and explore.
Covering 46,000 square miles and home to almost 13 million people, Pennsylvania is not only a large state but a diverse one. Its communities range from tiny hamlets to bustling cities, and its attractions include everything from rugged mountains and national parks to urban oases of arts and culture. Pennsylvania is a land of contrasts. Which of its communities is right for you?
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