Skip to main content

Moorhead is the 'Best Small City' in the US; 2 other MN towns in the top 5


Three of the best small cities in the country can be found right here in Minnesota, and one in particular – Moorhead – is the best of them all, says Nerdwallet in a new ranking.

The financial site declared the northwestern border town No. 1 on its 2015 "Best Small Cities in America" list, which was released Monday.

The survey looked at more than 1,300 cities that have a population of 75,000 or less, and rated them based on three main factors: economic health, affordability and quality of life.

Nerdwallet notes two trends in its rankings:

*Midwest cities rate highly based on their relatively low cost of living, short commutes, and generally healthy economic conditions.

*College towns score better. Most of the top 10 cities have at least one college or university, and higher education institutions are a draw for employers and residents.

Why Minnesota cities rate highly

Nerdwallet says Moorhead is this year's winner because its residents have all the perks of small-town living but also enjoy big-city economic benefits from Fargo, just across the river.

Accordingly, workers enjoy a much lower unemployment rate than that of other small towns, but don't have to worry about outrageous work hours or grueling commutes.

But what do the locals say? There may be none better to ask than Mayor Del Rae Williams.

Williams told the Fargo Forum that Moorhead's win should come as no surprise to residents, saying their strong sense of community is the town's "secret" to dominating the ranking.

Coming in just behind Moorhead in the no. 2 spot is Winona, Minn.

In terms of geography, the two couldn't be farther apart – Winona is tucked away in the state's southeastern tip. But what is it about Winona that put it so high on the list?

Nerdwallet likes it not just for its scenic beauty (for which it may have to thank the nearby Mississippi) but also its highly affordable rent. The site says the city's median rent is less than half the average median rent of all the cities in the study.

And what about Mankato?

The southern Minnesota town came in at a respectable 5th place, which Nerdwallet attributes not only to its thriving arts and culture scene, but also a low jobless rate thanks partly to the local Minnesota State University campus.

In all, there are 100 cities on the last, with St. Cloud, Minn., ranking 47th and Austin at 70th.

Next Up

u.s. attorney

Guilty plea from man who stockpiled guns, equipment to make bombs, drugs

Prosecutors say he had multiple guns, items to make weapons and pipe bombs, and lab equipment to make drugs.

polaris Ranger XP Kinetic

Here is Polaris' new electric Ranger off-road vehicle

The Minnesota-based company unveiled the electric UTV on Wednesday.


MN women's soccer team narrows name, logo options to final 3

The winning nickname and logo will be announced in January.

Kirill Kaprizov

2nd period surge leads Wild to fourth straight win

With three goals in the second, the Wild blasted the last-place Coyotes.

Gopher Basketball / R.J. Stephens

Late-tip in helps Gophers pass first big test, improve to 6-0

Luke Loewe's bucket with 2.4 seconds remaining helped the Gophers stay undefeated.


Man, 40, found dead stuck in air duct at his Otter Tail Co. home

The discovery was made by family members Monday morning.

Biden Minnesota visit stream screengrab - 11.30.31

What Biden said during his visit to Minnesota Tuesday

The president spoke at Dakota County Technical College.

Grand Marais

Cook County registers its first COVID-19 death of the pandemic

The sparsely populated, highly-vaccinated county has continuously had one of the lowest rates of COVID in the state.

Waits family screengrab CNN

Support for MN family after anti-maskers target child of school board chair

An online group opposing Kelsey Waits outed the child as transgender.

Pixabay - school - classroom

St. Paul schools add 2 days to winter break due to pandemic stress

The added days off are meant to acknowledge the stress the pandemic has caused.