Study: Best Cities to Live in Vermont

Despite its smaller size, Vermont's reputation for peace, quiet and natural beauty continues to attract thousands of new residents each year. Whether you're moving here for the first time or you're a Vermonter who's contemplating a change of address, deciding where to put down roots requires some careful thought and planning. Fortunately, the CreditDonkey experts have done some of the hard work for and come up with a list of the top five places to live in Vermont.

Maple syrup and covered bridges are just a few of the things Vermont is known for but it's not all you'll find in the Green Mountain State. The landscape alternates between rolling mountain peaks and lush green farmland, with quaint country towns and larger urban cities scattered throughout the state. In the winter, you can enjoy some of the best skiing in the northeast while summers are ideal for swimming and boating on Lake Champlain. September and October bring stunning fall foliage; spring is prime time for experiencing the maple sugaring season. Its central location offers both residents and visitors convenient access to the greater New England area as well as neighboring Canada.

Best Cities to Live in Vermont

Study Methodology

Each of the cities in our round-up is ranked based on the following:

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

Generally, Vermont is regarded as a relatively safe state, although actual crime rates vary from one location to the next. To help ease your peace of mind, we measured each city's safety in terms of the odds of being the victim of a violent crime.

One of the advantages of moving to a smaller town or city is being able escape bumper-to-bumper traffic. The downside is that you may find yourself driving a little further to get to work if you live in a rural area. One of the things we considered when ranking each city is the average length of the daily commute.

Moving to a new city can certainly improve your earning potential, especially if you're college-educated. We looked at the median income levels for each city as well as the percentage of residents who hold a bachelor's degree or higher to find those locations where jobs pay the best.

Vermont is a cuilinary aficionado's dream and each region is known for its own unique specialty dishes. Hand-crafted beers, seasonal vegetables and hand-made cheeses feature heavily on the menus of local eateries. To find the most gastronomically diverse spots, we considered the number of restaurants per capita for each city.

5. Barre

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 411.8
  • Commute Time: 19.4 minutes
  • Income: $40,508
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 20.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 289 inhabitants

Nestled in the heart of central Vermont, Barre sits less than 10 miles to the southeast of Montpelier. Officially established in 1895, the city of Barre was formerly part of a smaller neighboring town with the same name, but both are now considered independent entities. While the granite industry was once the central force behind the city's economy, small business and tourism drive the local market today.

Barre is a family-friendly community, but the city also boasts a fair number of retirees. Housing prices are similar to what you'd pay in Montpelier but the overall cost of living is much lower. The daily commute averages less than 20 minutes, although you'll probably face a longer drive if you work in the capital city. In terms of safety, Barre has one of the better violent crime rates of any of the locations we've profiled. If you're headed out to dinner, be sure to try the poutine at The Cornerstone Pub and Kitchen.

Did You Know: The historic Barre Opera House serves as the central venue for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

4. St. Albans

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 224.7
  • Commute Time: 20.9 minutes
  • Income: $45,399
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 28.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 186 inhabitants

Like Barre, St. Albans shares its name with a surrounding town but has been recognized as an independent city since 1902. The city is located in Vermont's western farmland region, close to St. Albans Bay and roughly 20 miles south of the Canadian border. While less than 7,000 residents live here full-time, the St. Albans area sees a steady flow of traffic from tourists who come to fish for pike, walleyes and muskies along the bay.

Known as the "Maple Syrup Capital of the World," St. Albans plays host to the annual Vermont Maple Festival. The nearby Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is also a popular attraction for both residents and visitors. Mylan Technologies is one of the area's largest employers and locals earn a median income of just over $45,000. St. Albans features a varied selection of restaurants but if you can't find what you're craving, Burlington is just 30 miles down the road.

Did You Know: The St. Albans Raid of 1864 was the northernmost land action of the Civil War.

3. Rutland

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 268.7
  • Commute Time: 15.4 minutes
  • Income: $39,811
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 22.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 228 inhabitants

One of Vermont's larger cities, Rutland is surrounded by the Green Mountains to the east and the northern tip of the Taconic range to the west. In winter, residents and visitors alike hit the slopes at one of the area's many ski resorts, while warmer weather brings plenty of hikers and campers to the Mt. Carmel State Forest. In addition to tourism, health care and manufacturing round out the city's economy.

Rutland features the shortest commute of any place in our round-up, averaging 15.4 minutes. Residents earn a median income of nearly $40,000 and homes here are extremely affordable compared to some of Vermont's other cities and towns. The downtown area is a hotspot for locals of all ages, featuring everything from funky boutiques to high-end retailers. It's also where you can find some of Rutland's best restaurants, such as Table 24 and Roots.

Did You Know: More than 100 buildings in Rutland's downtown area are listed on the National Historic Register.

2. Winooski

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 332.1
  • Commute Time: 18.1 minutes
  • Income: $48,367
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 36.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 452 inhabitants

Part of the Burlington metro area, Winooski sits on the north bank of the river whose name it shares. The city got its start as a mill town but its economic focus has since shifted primarily to the development of small businesses. Today, this community of more than 7,000 residents is preferred by families, professionals and retirees who want to enjoy Burlington's numerous amenities without feeling overcrowded.

The University of Vermont and St. Michael's College are located within a 10-mile radius, making Winooski attractive to students who are looking to save money on rent. Both schools also supply a number of jobs for Winooski's residents, who earn a median income of over $48,000. Sneakers serves up some of the best breakfast dishes in town but if you're feeling more adventurous, you'll want to try the octopus at Misery Loves Co.

Did You Know: Winooski takes its name from the Abenaki Indian word "winoskitegw," which means "land of the wild onion."

1. South Burlington

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 818.4
  • Commute Time: 15.7 minutes
  • Income: $64,282
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 52.1%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 267 inhabitants

With just over 18,000 residents, South Burlington is Vermont's second largest city (after Burlington itself). While home prices tender to be higher than neighboring Winooski, South Burlington's residents benefit from higher wages, earning a median income of over $64,000 annually. Some of the area's largest employers include the Air National Guard Base and General Electric. Several major companies are headquartered here, including Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc. and the Magic Hat Brewing Company.

South Burlington scores top marks for safety, with a violent crime rate of 1 in 818. Professionals appreciate the short average commute, which takes less than 16 minutes. You should, however, expect the drive to take a little longer if you work in the Burlington metro area. If you're looking for something to do, the city offers several parks and recreation areas as well as the University Mall, the largest shopping center in the state.

Did You Know: The 100-acre Red Rocks Park offers year-round recreation for hikers, joggers, swimmers, and skiers.

Although Burlington is undisputed as Vermont's primary commercial and transportation hub, there's much to be said for many of the state's smaller towns and cities. What they lack in size they more than make up for in terms of charm, affordability and overall quality of living. When you consider additional factors like safety, employee wages and commute times, it's easy to see why the five cities we've chosen come out on top.

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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