By Paula Rogo
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Towns in Colorado, Massachusetts and Ohio, which have low crime rates, good schools and plenty of cultural activities, have been ranked the best in the United States, according to a new survey.
For the second time Louisville in Colorado, topped the list of Money Magazine's 100 best small towns, followed by Milton, Massachusetts and Solon in Ohio.
They all have populations of 50,000 or less and offer the optimal combination of jobs, schools, safety, health care, cultural activities and even weather.
"We wanted to uncover the hidden gems -- the small places that most people don't know about, but might want to consider," said Elizabeth Fenner, assistant managing editor of Money Magazine.
Louisville, which also earned the top spot in 2009 when the magazine last assessed the best small towns, has a population of 18,000, low crime rates, good employment opportunities, and world-class outdoor activities, thanks to the Rocky Mountains nearby. It is also near Denver.
Milton's stellar school system and diversity propelled it to the No. 2 spot, making it the ideal town for Boston suburbanites, and employers like Nestle and L'Oreal, as well as the world renowned Cleveland Clinic secured the third spot in the rankings for Solon.
The magazine sifted through the 3,570 U.S. towns with populations of 8,500 to 50,000 to pick the top town. They excluded retirement communities, towns with major job losses, and urban areas with family incomes of more than 200 percent or less than 85 percent of the state median.
"Many of the small towns on our list are within driving distance of a bigger city -- which gives residents lots of employment opportunities -- yet feel like country getaways," Fenner explained in an interview.
Towns with poor education, high crime rates and which were not racially balanced were also not included.
Despite long commutes and terrible traffic, Leesburg in Virginia, came in fourth, helped by its proximity to Washington D.C. and Maryland, and its 4.1 percent unemployment rate.
Papillion in Nebraska, which has a similar low unemployment rate at 4.2 percent, rounded out the top five towns.
(Writing by Paula Rogo; editing by Patricia Reaney)