25 Popular Small Towns to Live in the U.S.

Embrace the small-town life.

For many, the big city just doesn’t cut it. The fast pace, noise and density of a major metro area sends some of us in search of more land, quiet evenings and uncrowded streets. But how do you find a small town that offers all that plus job opportunities and a welcoming community? Here’s a look at the fastest-growing small cities in the U.S. that have between 1,000 and 50,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 estimate, the most recent full data set available. Every destination on this list has more than doubled its population between 2010 and 2021, and many offer enticements such as affordability, job opportunities and perks for families, such as inviting communities, unique local attractions and access to larger metropolitan areas.

Westlake, Florida

2010 Population: 6
2021 Population: 2,182

If you like the idea of being part of a town’s beginnings, you may want to look at Westlake, Florida. A part of Palm Beach County, Westlake was only incorporated as a city in 2016. It’s a master-planned community with residential, commercial and public property being developed throughout. Prior to its incorporation, the area had all of six residents calling it home, but the population has shot up to more than 2,100 residents as of 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2019, Wellington Regional Medical Center purchased 35 acres in Westlake, and opened an emergency care facility there as an extension of the main Wellington hospital campus, roughly a 20-minute drive from town.

Vineyard, Utah

2010 Population: 139
2021 Population: 14,025

The town of Vineyard is located close to Orem and Provo on the eastern shore of Utah Lake, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City. The Geneva Steel Mill that defined the area starting in World War II closed in 2001, and since then the town has made significant efforts to clean up the mill area and make it safe for people to work and live. New development has focused on both commercial properties and residential neighborhoods, helping grow the population beyond 14,000 in just 11 years. Vineyard today is not just a quiet place on the outskirts of larger cities, but a self-sufficient town in its own right.

Fulshear, Texas

2010 Population: 1,134
2021 Population: 25,169

Located on the outskirts of the Houston metro area, Fulshear was incorporated as a town in 1977 but didn’t see its population surpass 1,000 until the 21st century. With an estimated population of more than 25,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Fulshear has benefited from the growth and expansion of the Houston area. Fulshear’s local government website points to local attractions such as hiking and biking trails, vineyards and even spots to see alligators in their natural habitat. While housing and commercial developments continue to bring people to the area, Fulshear appears to maintain its small-town feel, with local grocery stores and family-owned restaurants.

Timnath, Colorado

2010 Population: 625
2021 Population: 7,839

About an hour’s drive north of Denver, the town of Timnath has long been home to residents who primarily work in farming and agriculture. Its short Main Street is reminiscent of many classic small towns, complete with local shops and restaurants, a post office and the elementary school a few blocks away. However, the growth of Fort Collins, located less than 10 miles from the center of Timnath, has led to expansion in nearby towns as well. Walmart and Costco now have locations with Timnath addresses, which not only brings people who aren’t Timnath residents to the area regularly, but also benefits people looking to live farther out but still enjoy the retail options of a larger metro area.

Iowa Colony, Texas

2010 Population: 1,170
2021 Population: 10,883

This formerly tiny town in southeastern Texas gets its name from its founders that hailed from the Des Moines, Iowa, area. As a part of the outer Houston metro area, Iowa Colony remained very small, with just a few dozen residents, for much of the time since its founding in 1908. Expansion of the Houston metro area contributed to growing interest in the sparsely populated spot, which reached 1,170 residents in 2010, and in the last 10 years, census estimates note the city has increased its population nearly tenfold. Most homes for sale in Iowa Colony are new construction, as builders like D.R. Horton and Lennar develop new neighborhoods in the city.

Liberty Hill, Texas

2010 Population: 967
2021 Population: 6,801

Another small town on the outskirts of the Austin metro area, Liberty Hill has grown to 6,801 residents from the 967 reported in the 2010 census. With the official tagline “Freedom to Grow” on the city’s website, Liberty Hill is home to annual activities aimed at attracting visitors and giving locals a small-town feel with an artsy edge. It hosts a Christmas Festival that includes a parade and gathering of food trucks as well as a sculpture festival in October that brings in artists from around the world. The local Liberty Hill International Sculpture Park in town is also open to the public to enjoy year-round.

Triana, Alabama

2010 Population: 496
2021 Population: 3,396

Located southeast of Huntsville, Triana is a small north Alabama town that is described on the town’s website as a bedroom community, with many residents commuting into Huntsville for work. With the Huntsville metro area’s thriving job market, which ranks seventh out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2022-2023 rankings (Huntsville ranks No. 1 overall), it certainly makes sense that more people are taking advantage of the opportunities and affordability in a place like Triana. Over the course of 10 years, Triana’s population went from less than 500 residents to more than 3,000.

Josephine, Texas

2010 Population: 812
2021 Population: 4,565

Josephine is a classic rural Texas town, with few residents, plenty of agricultural land and a population largely made up of homeowners, as home prices are low compared to major cities. However, Josephine is undergoing a change as the city and developers work to establish retail centers, create a dynamic downtown and designate land for parks, trails and open spaces that many people moving to a new town are eager to see. The city of Josephine’s website even lists available swaths of property available to build on to encourage developers to consider investing in the area.

Pendergrass, Georgia

2010 Population: 422
2021 Population: 1,740

Pendergrass is located in northern Georgia, about an hour’s drive from Atlanta and 40 minutes from Athens. Pendergrass has long been a spread-out, rural town but is starting to see more development and resident density. A new apartment community, The Blakeley luxury apartments, recently opened to renters, complete with community amenities that are commonly found at luxury apartments in much larger cities. In the town’s summer 2022 newsletter, the mayor discussed downtown development plans for a park, amphitheater, new sewer system and shops, businesses and housing in the future.

Leakesville, Mississippi

2010 Population: 898
2021 Population: 3,603

Located along the Chickasawhay River in southeastern Mississippi, Leakesville has seen its population more than triple since 2010, with a population estimate of 3,603 in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Leakesville town website attributes its strong positioning for attracting new residents to a new four-lane highway making it easy to travel in and out of the area, along with expanding health care and education industries.

Northlake, Texas

2010 Population: 1,724
2021 Population: 6,829

The town of Northlake was incorporated in 1960, largely to avoid being absorbed by larger cities in the area, Denton and Fort Worth, according to the town’s official website. Northlake maintained its rural appeal since then, though the population didn’t see significant growth until the last 10 years or so. With a population of nearly 7,000 now, some of the farmland characteristic of the town is being developed into residential neighborhoods. Some would consider Northlake on the outskirts of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, but it’s closer to either major downtown than some other small towns in the vicinity that make this list.

Celina, Texas

2010 Population: 6,028
2021 Population: 23,811

On the northern side of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, Celina has seen more than 17,000 new residents move to town since 2010. While it remains a small town compared to much of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it may not stay that way for long. Celina’s city officials are planning for a lot more growth — the city’s stated strategic plan focuses on connectivity for residents and development of infrastructure, among other things, to attract and keep new residents. Still, buying in Celina now may allow you to see a hefty increase in your home’s value as demand continues to rise in the area.

Whitestown, Indiana

2010 Population: 2,867
2021 Population: 11,093

Whitestown benefits from its proximity to Indianapolis, which makes it easy for residents to commute into the city for work. Whitestown describes itself as an “ag-urban” community, noting its location near farmland, retail and businesses. While small towns often offer a lower cost of living compared to major urban centers, Whitestown residents benefit from the affordability of Indianapolis as well: Indianapolis area residents spend just 22.18% of the median household income on housing costs, including mortgage payments, rent, property taxes and utilities.

Davenport, Florida

2010 Population: 2,888
2021 Population: 10,953

Located between Lakeland and Orlando, Davenport is a small town dotted with lakes in central Florida that’s a prime example of how even noncoastal Florida is seeing significant growth. With a population of less than 3,000 residents in 2010, Davenport has since grown to more than 10,000 people. Residential streets in Davenport are largely made up of single-story houses with plenty of room for a large front and backyard, but with the town’s sizable growth over the last 11 years it’s reasonable to expect the town to become denser over time.

Montgomery, Texas

2010 Population: 621
2021 Population: 2,321

To the north of Houston, Montgomery is a small town that’s gained nearly 2,000 residents in the last 11 years. The constant growth going on in Houston certainly plays a role, but Montgomery is also located just west of Lake Conroe in Texas, a 21,000-acre lake and a popular destination for people looking to get away without having to go too far outside the city or suburbs. The town of Montgomery doesn’t directly touch Lake Conroe, but its local dining, parks and variety of homes available for purchase — from new construction to older homes with plenty of acreage — give those looking to live near Lake Conroe full time the atmosphere they’re looking for.

Berry Hill, Tennessee

2010 Population: 537
2021 Population: 1,973

With less than one square mile in area, Berry Hill is quickly becoming more and more dense, as its proximity to Nashville means people are frequently looking for new housing options. Berry Hill is home to many houses built in the 1940s, but the need for more housing to meet the high demand means townhouses and apartments are also in development in the area. As a part of the center of the Nashville metro area, it’s no surprise that Berry Hill is also home to many recording studios and businesses related to the music industry.

Manor, Texas

2010 Population: 5,037
2021 Population: 18,285

Outside Austin, Manor is seeing new housing developments like many of the small towns on this list. But it also has older neighborhoods closer to the center of town, with closely built houses and locally owned businesses a few blocks away. National retail and fast-food brands like Walmart and Starbucks also reflect the growth of the area. Manor is a certified community in the Film Friendly Texas program, which means job opportunities and film industry training for locals, and the media industry can take advantage of incentives that make it easier to film in the town.

Thompson’s Station, Tennessee

2010 Population: 2,194
2021 Population: 7,960

Named for the railroad station built in the town during the mid-19th century, Thompson’s Station has had residents since at least the 1700s. The small town is located 25 miles south of Nashville, making it a more rural and less expensive option for those who work in the city. The storied history of Thompson’s Station also attracts visitors who come to see evidence of the first European-American settlers in the late 1700s and the Civil War battle fought in the town. Thompson’s Station maintains the former pasture where the battle took place, which is named Preservation Park.

Prosper, Texas

2010 Population: 9,423
2021 Population: 34,136

Located on the northern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, Prosper appears to be living up to its name. With a population of less than 10,000 in 2010, Prosper has grown to nearly 35,000 residents, making it the largest small city on this list to see its population more than double in a 10-year period. While the older downtown area looks like a typical Texas small town, complete with small storefronts and silos visible in the distance, much of Prosper’s geography is characterized by developed residential neighborhoods nestled alongside farmland.

Melissa, Texas

2010 Population: 4,695
2021 Population: 16,983

With a population over 16,000 as of 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate, Melissa is located on the northern outskirts of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. Residential development has helped bring more people to Melissa, which offers a small-town atmosphere and proximity to a major city. The city’s parks and recreation department and neighborhood development office work together to help residential development go hand in hand with increased access to public outdoor spaces.

Freeport, Florida

2010 Population: 1,787
2021 Population: 6,283

Located on the Choctawhatchee Bay in the Florida Panhandle, Freeport isn’t particularly close to any metro areas, but its access to the water means plenty of people are interested in moving there. Contributing to Freeport’s rapid population growth is the development of the Hammock Bay community, a master-planned community with 16 distinct neighborhoods, according to the community’s website. With portions of Hammock Bay still left to be developed, there’s plenty of room for Freeport’s population to grow even more.

Millville, Delaware

2010 Population: 544
2021 Population: 1,907

Located in what Delaware locals lovingly call “Slower lower Delaware,” Millville is a small municipality located inland from coastal town Bethany Beach, a popular summer spot in the mid-Atlantic. Like other towns on this list, Millville’s population boom is due in large part to relatively recent construction of master-planned communities and new subdivisions. This allows for greater population density in the small town, while also meeting growing housing demand for the area.

Holly Ridge, North Carolina

2010 Population: 1,268
2021 Population: 4,420

Located just up the coast from Wilmington, Holly Ridge is a tiny town along North Carolina’s coast that’s officially known as the “Gateway to Topsail Island,” which is a barrier island popular for beach vacations. Proximity to a popular spot for tourists will naturally attract new residents, but the Camp Davis Industrial Park, a large campus for manufacturing and other light industrial work, serves as an additional major source of employment. In 2021, Holly Ridge had nearly quadrupled its population from 2010.

Cave Springs, Arkansas

2010 Population: 1,729
2021 Population: 5,916

Cave Springs is another small town seeing its population grow along with a nearby metro area. Just a 15-mile drive from Fayetteville, Cave Springs also benefits from its proximity to Interstate 49, which can take you north into Missouri or south into central Arkansas. Cave Springs residents have easy access to outdoor pursuits and can enjoy local fishing and hiking trails at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area. A quick trip to the Ozarks is possible as well, requiring roughly a two-hour drive each way.

Watford City, North Dakota

2010 Population: 1,744
2021 Population: 5,866

If you’re looking to live far from the hustle and bustle of a major city, North Dakota is a good place to start. Watford City has seen its population grow due to the North Dakota oil boom, and the town has focused on creating the infrastructure to accommodate the increasing number of people moving to the area for work, while also touting local attractions to appeal to people unrelated to the energy industry, like nearby Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Its population has declined slightly after a reported peak in 2019 of 7,817 residents, but Watford City’s growth since 2010 is still significant.

Here are the 25 most popular small towns to live in the U.S.:

— Westlake, Florida.

— Vineyard, Utah.

— Fulshear, Texas.

— Timnath, Colorado.

— Iowa Colony, Texas.

— Liberty Hill, Texas.

— Triana, Alabama.

— Josephine,Texas.

— Pendergrass, Georgia.

— Leakesville, Mississippi.

— Northlake, Texas.

— Celina, Texas.

— Whitestown, Indiana.

— Davenport, Florida.

— Montgomery, Texas.

— Berry Hill, Tennessee.

— Manor, Texas.

— Thompson’s Station, Tennessee.

— Prosper, Texas.

— Melissa, Texas.

— Freeport, Florida.

— Millville, Delaware.

— Holly Ridge, North Carolina.

— Cave Springs, Arkansas.

— Watford City, North Dakota.

More from U.S. News

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The Best Places to Live in Texas in 2021

The 25 Most Desirable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2022-2023

25 Popular Small Towns to Live in the U.S. originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 11/03/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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