After ranking cities in states from Oregon to Massachusetts, the Movoto Real Estate blog has turned our attention back west to find out which Nevada residents have been dealt the best hand when it comes to places to live. We did our best sports bookie impression and pored over the numbers until we had our winner: Incline Village. According to the data, this small town on the shore of Lake Tahoe is great for more than just its gorgeous view. It’s in excellent company, too, atop this list of the 10 best places in Nevada:
Just how did the slots align to produce this ranking? We’ll give you a look inside our methodology next, before digging into what makes each of these Silver State locations absolutely sterling.
How We Created This Ranking
We call the ranking you’re reading a Big Deal List-it’s the culmination of over a year of figuring out how to best determine which cities are best for different things (like nerdy pursuits or retirees’ needs) or, in this case, simply the best overall in their state. To do this, we rely on numbers-lots and lots of numbers.
The first one we look at is the number of cities to be ranked; in this case, it was the 35 cities and Census-Designated Places in Nevada with populations greater than 5,000. Then, we applied our seven Best Places criteria-the measures by which we determine a place’s true greatness. These are broken down into 13 data points altogether:
- Total Amenities
- Quality of Life (cost of living, median home price, median rent, median household income, and student-to-teacher ratio)
- Total Crimes
- Tax Rates (sales tax and income tax)
- Unemployment Rate
- Commute Time
- Weather (temperature and air quality)
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and business listings, we scored each place from one to 35 across the individual criteria, with one being best, then found the average of those rankings to produce our overall Big Deal Score. The place with the lowest Big Deal Score was crowned the best in Nevada. You can find a full ranking of all 35 places at the end of this post. For now, though, let’s go over why our top 10 shone so brightly amid the rest, like pieces of silver amid a bunch of sandstone.
1. Incline Village
Like we mentioned above, our top spot in Nevada is located on the shore of Lake Tahoe, which is easily one of the most picturesque places in North America. This village of 8,777 outdoors-loving people is a fishing and watersports paradise that offers its residents plenty to do on land if they prefer to stay dry, from gobbling ahi sliders at Bite to outdoor performances of the Bard’s greatest works at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.
Incline Village managed an overall quality of life rank of 35th, but its best rankings were in crime (third with only nine incidents in 2012), weather (third), and commute time, where is placed second at a mere 18 minutes. It also placed first for median home price at $921,060 and median household income at $90,281.
Before today, this small Nevada town-the tiniest in our top 10 at 5,656 residents-could say its biggest claim to fame was being a shooting location for the 1989 Nintendo infomercial/movie “The Wizard.” If you can shake off being starstruck at Fred Savage, you’d see that Gardnerville has the highest quality of life in our top 10, placing fourth overall for that criterion.
Gardnerville also claimed a 14th place win for total amenities, a tie for third in weather, and a spot at sixth for crime. So, whether you’re strolling through Lampe Park or heading to a special dinner at the historic J.T. Basque Bar & Dining Room, you’ll be doing so in safety.
3. Boulder City
You could says that Boulder City is a dam fine town, seeing as how this home to 15,166 people is not only our third-best city overall but is right next door to Hoover Dam, one of the world’s true engineering marvels. Thousands of people worked hard to erect the hydroelectric marvel in the 1930s, and today all but 4.4 percent of Boulder City’s residents are hard at work, giving it the lowest unemployment rate in our top 10 cities.
When they’re not working, those residents are enjoying amenities that helped the city rank 12th for that category, including zip lining at Flightlinez and an authentic diner experience at The Coffee Cup. They’re not committing crimes, thankfully; Boulder City placed fourth overall for safety.
4. Las Vegas
You knew it had to be on this list, right? Sin City probably won’t want to put “tied for Nevada’s fourth-best city” up in neon lights, but its ranking is nothing to scoff at. Neither are its individual scores in everything from amenities (where it was first, no surprise), to employment (where it was seventh), to its 11th place finish for overall quality of life.
Not surprisingly, Las Vegas placed near the bottom of our ranking in terms of crime. The largest city we looked at, it has a population of 589,317 and a crime rate of 3,582 for every 100,000 residents. Still, it’s a great city to move to-especially if you’re looking for a good deal on a home.
If you live in Las Vegas, you’re probably thinking “Isn’t Arden a neighborhood?” Well, as it turns out, it’s actually a legitimate Census-Designated Place and home to 57,342 of its own residents. Being basically surrounded by Vegas, however, means that it’s bound to share a bit of data. That said, it also shares the same rank on our list.
The one area where Arden deviates from Vegas proper is in total amenities. Where Sin City ranked first, Arden ranked third overall. It also has its own local flavor, from eats like Oyshi Sushi to bars like Born and Raised.
Speaking of ties, the next set starts with Nevada’s second-largest city. Henderson has about half the population of Las Vegas at 260,068 people yet still managed to eek out a second-place finish for amenities like the dining hotspot Studio B and its own set of luxury resorts including Ravella at Lake Las Vegas.
When its residents aren’t playing, plenty of them are working, earning Henderson the second-highest score in our top 10 for employment at fourth overall (unemployment there is at a low 5 percent). Also, although Henderson is right next door to Vegas, it did about twice as well in terms of crime at 14th overall.
Just as Mesquite is right on the border of Nevada and Arizona, it’s also right up against Henderson for sixth place overall. This town of just over 15,000 managed to rank in the top 10 for amenities with more than 1,000 total, including the likes of golf, skydiving, and the tacos at Los Lupes.
Mesquite’s best ranking was in commute time, where it placed first overall at just 13 minutes. It also managed a 12th place finish for crime, 14th for quality of life, and eighth for weather.
The best weather in our top 10 can be enjoyed in Elko, a city of 18,546 located in northeast Nevada. Perhaps that’s what’s been bringing cowfolk from all around the country to this small town for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for more than 25 years running. Well, that and a cost of living 8 percent below the national average of 100 and ranked fourth overall.
Of course, it could also be for the low sales tax of only 5 percent, or the fact that Elko, while small, still ranks seventh overall for amenities like the American fare at Star Hotel and Italian dishes at Luciano’s.
9. North Las Vegas
Most people from outside Nevada probably don’t realize that North Las Vegas is its own city, let alone that it’s been so since the 1940s. It is, though, and different enough that it placed ninth overall while Vegas proper came in at No. 4. This also means that North Las Vegas has its own unique flavor and things offer as one of our 10 best cities in the state.
While the quality of life here wasn’t as high as in Las Vegas (23rd overall versus 11th), North Las Vegas managed to do better for crime (24th versus 31st) and still managed a fourth place ranking for amenities when looked at independently of Sin City. Its more than 4,000 amenities include Viva Zapatas and EllaEm’s Soul Food.
10. Johnson Lane
The final stop on our tour of the top 10 cities in Nevada is located just outside of the state capitol of Carson City. Home to 6,490 people, Johnson Lane isn’t the smallest town we looked at, but it is the second-safest overall. That perhaps coincides with the fact that it has the second-highest median home value at $446,400 and a median household income of $76,442.
That, along with the other factors considered in our quality of life index earned the locale a 20th place rank overall for that criterion. Also, while Johnson Lane may only have managed a 32nd place finish for total amenities, it’s not devoid of things to do, being adjacent to Carson City.
The Silver State Gets A Gold Medal
While it might have one of the smallest numbers of places over 5,000 people in population, Nevada clearly isn’t short on great towns and cities to call home. Incline Village is the shining example of the quality of life, safety, weather, and things to do the Silver State has to offer. So, the next time you’re at Lake Tahoe, swing around and see what we’re talking about. We know we’ll be inclined to.
Who is Movoto Real Estate, you might ask? Movoto is an online real estate brokerage based in San Mateo, CA. Our blog has been recognized for its unique approach to city-based research by major news organizations around the world such as Forbes and CBS News.