Study: Best Cities to Live in New York

The Empire State, home to one of the busiest cities in the world, has some of the most beautiful natural attractions in the U.S., including Niagara Falls, the Adirondack Mountains and the Finger Lakes. You just have to go beyond the borders of that big city, and the wonder awaits.

You'll find everything from large urban centers to sleepy small towns with tourist hotspots and rolling farmlands thrown in for good measure. New York fuses the past and the present, with its deep historical roots and its prominence as a leader in the modern world.

The economy is largely centered around the finance industry, while manufacturing, mining and agriculture are also big business. Home values and the cost of living tend to be higher but residents also enjoy some of the highest household incomes. New York is a four-season state, featuring some of the most beautiful fall foliage outside of the New England area. Whether you're moving here for the first time or you're relocating to a different part of the state, deciding where to settle down is no easy task.

The CreditDonkey experts know that planning a move can be stressful. To help make your job easier, we've put together a list of the best cities to live in New York, beyond the Big Apple.

10 Best Cities to Live in New York

Study Methodology

We determined each city's ranking based on the following measures:

  1. Crime Rate
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Education
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

You want to feel and safe and confident when you walk down the street, so we looked at the odds of being the victim of a violent crime. Our final rankings include some of the safest cities in the state.

The other thing people tend to associate with living in the same state as the Big Apple is the bumper-to-bumper traffic to get there, but residents of the communities included in our study can breathe easy. The average commute for each city on our list ranges from a mere 14.5 minutes to just over 36 minutes.

At the end of the workweek, it's nice to know that your paycheck reflects all the long hours you've put in. Another factor we considered for our study is the median income for each city. We also looked at the percentage of residents who attended some college.

New York City is known for its eclectic dining scene, but you an out-of-the-way spot may also have your new favorite restaurant. We limited our top 10 to cities that have the widest variety of eateries. After all, wherever you call home has to have a few decent places to eat nearby, right?

10. Peekskill

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 646
  • Commute Time: 32.8 minutes
  • Income: $60,833
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 19.4%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 450 inhabitants

Peekskill overlooks the Hudson River, offering residents scenic views as well as an diverse mix of shops and restaurants along the historic waterfront district. Just over an hour's drive north of New York City, Peekskill, one of the smaller suburbs in Westchester County, is an excellent place to raise a family or start a business. Local attractions include both Bear Mountain State Park, which has a beautiful vista, a merry-go-round, and zoo; and the Blue Mountain Reservation, which features miles of hiking and biking trails.

Did You Know: Peekskill served as a military headquarters for George Washington during the Revolutionary War. It was here that Washington signed over the command of West Point to Benedict Arnold.

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9. Ithaca

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 465
  • Commute Time: 14.5 minutes
  • Income: $29,230
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 11.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 205 inhabitants

Ithaca sits nestled in the heart of the Finger Lakes region, approximately halfway between Cortland and Watkins Glen. Education is the driving force in Ithaca's economy, and the city is home to both Cornell University and Ithaca College. In addition to a significant student population, there's also a healthy community of artists and musicians. Jobs can be found nearby; the average commute time is the shortest of any city in our study at 14.5 minutes, and Ithaca is home to more restaurants per capita than New York City.

Did You Know: Ithaca is considered the birthplace of the ice cream sundae, which was first served up in 1892.

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8. North Tonawanda

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 587
  • Commute Time: 20.1 minutes
  • Income: $46,538
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 19.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 558 inhabitants

There's more to North Tonawanda than just its unusual name. Located on the eastern bank of the Niagara River, this city of just over 31,000 is rich in history. It is home to the Herschell Carrousel Museum as well as the Barrel Organ Factory, which produced Wurlitzer organs until World War II. The violent crime rate is low, and there are close to 60 restaurants to try. If you're looking for something to do, Niagara Falls is just a short 20-minute drive up the road.

Did You Know: Tonawanda's name comes from a Seneca Indian word meaning "swift running water."

7. Garden City

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 4,514
  • Commute Time: 32.5 minutes
  • Income: $141,239
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 10.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 352 inhabitants

If you're interested in living a little closer to the central New York City area but you're worried about safety, Garden City is the place you're looking for. Located on Long Island, this city of almost 23,000 residents boasts the lowest violent crime rate on our list as well as the highest median income, at more than $141,000. Although the average commute time is slightly longer, you're still less than 25 miles from Manhattan and less than 15 miles from Queens.

Did You Know: The festivities surrounding the running of the Belmont Stakes at nearby Belmont Park are held in Garden City each year.

6. Rockville Centre

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 758
  • Commute Time: 36.1 minutes
  • Income: $112,268
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 12%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 254 inhabitants

Just south of Hempstead, Rockville Centre, another smaller village located on Long Island, is also one of the most affluent cities on our list. The median income is slightly over $112,000, and violent crime is scarce. Rockville Centre is home to a substantial number of families, but you'll also find plenty of working professionals as well as retirees. The average commute time is longer, at just over 36 minutes, but it's a small price to pay when you consider all the city has to offer.

Did You Know: The Phillips House Museum is designed to depict everyday life in Rockville Centre during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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5. White Plains

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 626
  • Commute Time: 26.7 minutes
  • Income: $75,254
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 13.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 307 inhabitants

Just 25 miles north of Manhattan, White Plains is considered a leading commercial and retail center in its own right. You'll find upscale suburban neighborhoods while still maintaining close proximity to all the urban amenities the city has to offer. The median income is a healthy $75,254, and the average commute takes less than 27 minutes. With more than 180 restaurants, the dining scene has something for everyone, from old-world Italian favorites to classic pub fare.

Did You Know: In July 1776, members of the New York Provincial Congress met in White Plains for the purpose of approving the newly drafted Declaration of Independence. The State of New York was officially formed here as a result.

4. Auburn

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 308
  • Commute Time: 16.1 minutes
  • Income: $38,321
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 20.4%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 311 inhabitants

Centrally located in the Finger Lakes region, Auburn lies a short distance from Seneca Falls and less than 30 miles from Syracuse. Nicknamed "History's Hometown," Auburn is perhaps best known as the home of Harriet Tubman, who played a pivotal role in helping slaves seek freedom via the Underground Railroad. Today, this quiet community is a popular spot for families as well as job seekers, thanks to a burgeoning manufacturing industry. The city's historic downtown area attracts plenty of visitors, and residents enjoy frequenting local restaurants like Moro's Table, which was recognized as one of America's Best Wine Country Restaurants by Travel + Leisure magazine.

Did You Know: Another famous Auburn resident, William H. Seward, negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.

3. Rome

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 736
  • Commute Time: 17.5 minutes
  • Income: $44,220
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 21%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 421 inhabitants

Rome is hidden away in the upstate region, just north of Utica and east of Syracuse. The nearby presence of the Adirondack Mountains and the many lakes, rivers and hills make Rome an outdoor lover's dream - but that's not the only reason people choose to live here. The city features academically competitive schools, affordable homes, a short average commute and one of the lowest violent crime rates in the state.

Did You Know: Francis Bellamy, author of the Pledge of Allegiance, is buried in Rome.

2. Saratoga Springs

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,034
  • Commute Time: 21.9 minutes
  • Income: $62,766
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 16.5%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 200 inhabitants

Saratoga Springs is a bustling tourist destination, located just north of Albany and Schenectady. Some of the most frequented attractions include the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, which features gaming and harness racing; the Saratoga Race Course; and the Spa State Park, where you can visit the mineral springs that earned Saratoga its name. Crime here is astoundingly low and residents earn a higher median income, at nearly $63,000. There are more than 130 places to eat, including the Olde Bryan Inn, which is housed in one of Saratoga's oldest building.

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1. Kingston

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 343
  • Commute Time: 21 minutes
  • Income: $44,646
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 22.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 232 inhabitants

Hop on over to the west bank of the Hudson River and you'll find Kingston, the original capital for what would become the State of New York. The city is divided into three distinct areas: the Uptown Stockade District, which blends historic homes with shops, museums, restaurants and art galleries; Midtown, where the city government is based; and the Downtown Rondout, where you can stroll along the waterfront and check out local boutiques. The city pairs historic charm with the convenience of modern living, making it our number one pick for the best place to live in New York.

Did You Know: Kingston was dubbed the "breadbasket of the Revolution" thanks to local farmers who provided Washington and his troops with wheat and other food staples throughout the war.

Frank Sinatra famously sang the praises of all New York City has to offer, but he forgot to mention how great life is in other parts of the state. Each of these 10 communities made it on our list because they were the most desirable in terms of their crime rates, commute times, median incomes, restaurant choices and educational attainment. While making a final decision may be difficult, our rankings can help guide you in the right direction in your search for a new home.

Data Sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
  • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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