Study: Best Cities to Live in West Virginia

If you're planning a move to West Virginia or you're a current resident who's relocating nearby, check out the CreditDonkey guide to the best places to live.

West Virginia bears the distinction of being both the northernmost southern state and the southernmost northern state, but any way you look at it, it's a great place to call home. Rich in Civil War history and Appalachian traditions, the Mountain State offers up plenty of outdoor adventure, unspoiled beauty and of course, the excitement of Mountaineer football.

Coal continues to be the cornerstone of the state's economy, although recent years have seen the expansion of the manufacturing, chemical and biotech industries. The overall cost of living is consistently below the national average and low median home prices make it equally attractive to families, professionals and retirees.

10 Best Cities to Live in West Virginia

Study Methodology

The cities in our study are ranked based on the following:

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

Finding a safe neighborhood to settle down is likely to be at the top of your list when planning a move. We've ranked each city according to the odds of being the victim of a violent act to find those areas where crime is lowest.

Moving to a smaller town has its perks, especially if you're able to shave a few minutes off your daily commute. If you're looking for a city where the drive to work won't eat up a lot of your time, you'll find that each location in our study has an average commute of less than 24 minutes.

Finding a job in today's competitive market is hard enough but finding one that pays well can be an even bigger challenge. Our rankings are based in part on the median household income for each city in order to pinpoint those areas where workers earn the most.

With well-known schools like West Virginia University and Marshall, it's clear that education is a top priority among West Virginians. We looked at the level of educational attainment for each city, as measured by the percentage of residents who hold a bachelor's degree or higher.

West Virginia's varied history influences many of its traditional dishes, like buckwheat pancakes topped with maple syrup or beans and cornbread served with fried ramps. Each of the cities in our study offers a variety of dining choices and we've ranked them based on the number of restaurants per capita.

10. Clarksburg

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 148.7
  • Commute Time: 18.4 minutes
  • Income: $34,226
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 18.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 238 inhabitants

Originally part of Virginia, Clarksburg was one of the first cities established after West Virginia elected to remain part of the Union during the Civil War. Over the last century, the city's economic focus has shifted from agriculture and manufacturing to aerospace and criminal justice. One of Clarksburg's signature foods is the pepperoni roll and those served at Tomaro's Bakery are especially tasty.

Did You Know: Confederate general Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was born in Clarksburg in 1824.

9. Beckley

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 93.5
  • Commute Time: 18.8 minutes
  • Income: $33,429
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 22.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 235 inhabitants

Beckley, situated in southern West Virginia, is close to the intersection of I-64 and I-77. Its central location brings in plenty of visitors who come to try their hand at rafting on the nearby New River Gorge National River as well as travelers headed north to Charleston. At just over 17,000 residents, Beckley is one of the state's larger cities and each fall, the population swells even more as students return for classes at the local campuses of the University of Charleston and Concord University.

Did You Know: One of Beckley's most visited attractions is Tamarack, an arts and crafts studio that features specialty foods, handcrafted jewelry and live music events.

8. St. Albans

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 458.4
  • Commute Time: 23.2 minutes
  • Income: $47,131
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 22.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 392 inhabitants

St. Albans sits on the south bank of the Kanawha River, less than 15 miles northwest of Charleston. Nearly 11,000 people call this quiet community home, and it's equally popular among young families and retirees. The average commute is slightly longer, at just over 23 minutes, but residents get a trade-off in the form of higher median pay and safe neighborhoods. For over 50 years, Dwight's has been the go-to spot for home-style favorites like meatloaf and biscuits with gravy.

Did You Know: The land that St. Albans is located on was once owned by George Washington.

7. Nitro

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 716.3
  • Commute Time: 23 minutes
  • Income: $47,619
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 22.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 510 inhabitants

Just up the river from St. Albans is Nitro, the smallest city in our rankings. The city got its start during World War I when the federal government established it as a gunpowder manufacturing center, hence its name. Today, this community of just over 7,100 has earned a reputation for being one of Charleston's safer suburbs. If you're looking for a little excitement, the Mardi Gras Casino and Resort is a short drive away.

Did You Know: At its peak, the Nitro explosive plant produced approximately 700,000 pounds of smokeless gunpowder each day.

6. Elkins

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 111.1
  • Commute Time: 14.3 minutes
  • Income: $32,632
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 26.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 224 inhabitants

Another small town, Elkins is located in the northeastern part of the state, close to the Tygart Valley River. The Allegheny Mountain range lies to the east of the city, as does the Monongahela National Forest. Education leads the way economically speaking, with the Randolph County school system and Davis & Elkins College supplying a number of local jobs. Elkins residents enjoy the shortest average commute of any city in our study, at just 14.3 minutes.

Did You Know: One of the area's largest events is the annual Mountain State Forest Festival, which features live music, lumberjack contests and a parade.

5. Wheeling

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 115.7
  • Commute Time: 17.9 minutes
  • Income: $35,245
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 26.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 279 inhabitants

One of the state's larger cities, Wheeling is located on the banks of the Ohio River, close to the West Virginia-Ohio border. Early on, the city served as an important transportation hub for the Ohio River Valley, but the local market became centered around healthcare over the years. Nicknamed "The Friendly City," Wheeling offers numerous opportunities to rub elbows with your neighbors, including signature events like the annual Wheeling Feeling Chili Cook-off and the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival.

Did You Know: Wheeling served as the capital of West Virginia from 1863 to 1870, after which the capital was moved to Charleston.

4. Dunbar

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 207.3
  • Commute Time: 17.2 minutes
  • Income: $43,039
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 18.1%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 327 inhabitants

Located less than 10 miles from the downtown area, Dunbar is another of Charleston's suburbs. Compared to neighboring Nitro and St. Albans, home prices here tend to be lower although the violent crime rate is slightly higher. Manufacturing provides a number of jobs and many of Dunbar's residents brave the daily commute to the capital city. Ridge View BBQ is the preferred spot for pulled pork barbecue, chicken wings and the house specialty, the hot bologna sandwich.

Did You Know: The Gravely rotary plow was invented by Dunbar resident Benjamin Gravely in 1916.

3. South Charleston

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 181
  • Commute Time: 16.6 minutes
  • Income: $41,590
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 28.9%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 230 inhabitants

Just minutes from the metro area, South Charleston lives up to its nickname as "Someplace Special." Two of the city's biggest claims to fame are the Criel Mound, the second largest Indian burial mound in the state, and the West Virginia State Police, which have their headquarters here. From fly-fishing along the Elk River to shopping at one of the city's five retail centers, there's always something to keep you busy.

Did You Know: Despite being called South Charleston, the city is actually located on Charleston's northwest border.

2. Vienna

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 828.5
  • Commute Time: 17.7 minutes
  • Income: $45,719
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 26.9%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 274 inhabitants

Vienna, which began as a small farming settlement, has grown into one of the busiest cities along the Ohio River. An exceptionally low violent crime rate and a relatively short commute are just two of the things that attract new residents each year. Area schools also score high marks, which makes Vienna a great choice if you've got kids. The city is less than five miles from Parkersburg, offering residents convenient access to jobs, shopping and other amenities.

Did You Know: The state's first shopping mall was opened in Vienna in 1972.

1. Bridgeport

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,171.4
  • Commute Time: 21.4 minutes
  • Income: $76,351
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 39.1%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 190 inhabitants

Bridgeport scores an A+ when it comes to safety, employee wages and all-around quality of life. Not only does this close-knit community of roughly 8,300 residents have one of the best violent crime rates in the state, it's also one of the most affluent. Area neighborhoods feature a blend of historic homes and new construction, with property values hovering around the $160,000 mark. If you want to grab a bite while you watch the game, The Mountaineer Grill serves up some of the best grub in town.

Did You Know: Bridgeport features several attractions that are reputed to be haunted, including the Waldomore Hotel and the dam at Deegan Lake.

As West Virginia's largest city and its capital, Charleston has much to offer to job seekers or anyone who's looking for a faster-paced lifestyle. While most of the cities on our list don't approach its size, they still manage to come out on top when it comes to things like safety and employee wages. Our rankings illustrate what makes each of them so uniquely livable, for new and current residents alike.

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

The Top 10 Cities to Live in West Virginia

RankCityViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute TimeMedian Household Income% Bachelor's Degree or HigherPeople per Restaurants and Bars
1Bridgeport1 in 1,171.421.4$76,35139.1%189.9
2Vienna1 in 828.517.7$45,71926.9%274.0
3South Charleston1 in 181.016.6$41,59028.9%230.0
4Dunbar1 in 207.317.2$43,03918.1%327.1
5Wheeling1 in 115.717.9$35,24526.6%279.3
6Elkins1 in 111.114.3$32,63226.3%224.4
7Nitro1 in 716.323$47,61922.8%510.4
8St. Albans1 in 458.423.2$47,13122.2%391.9
9Beckley1 in 93.518.8$33,42922.7%234.7
10Clarksburg1 in 148.718.4$34,26618.3%238.2

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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