NerdWallet’s Year-End Best City Awards 2015

Most affordable city

Plano, Texas

This suburb north of Dallas ranked as the most affordable city in the U.S. Usually, a higher income and a higher cost of living go hand in hand. But Plano bucked that trend, seeing a median family income of over $80,000 paired with a cost of living that was slightly below the national average. San Jose, California, had a similar median income but a cost of living that was over 50% higher.

Plano also ranked for:

Best place to start a business

Boulder, Colorado

With stunning Rocky Mountain views, a booming technology scene, a large natural food industry and a culture that appreciates locally made goods, it’s no surprise that Boulder tops our list of best places to start a business. Nationally recognized brands hail from the city, including Justin’s, a maker of organic nut butters, and Crocs, the casual footwear company famous for brightly colored clogs. Boulder has abundant resources for entrepreneurs, including several co-working spaces, capital investors and incubators. Business owners can also join the Boulder Chamber to attend networking events, get listed in its directory and find out about programs such as Boulder Young Professionals, which hosts social, volunteering and professional development events.

Boulder also ranked for:

Most innovative tech hub

San Jose, California

Money talks when it comes to innovation in the San Jose area. With $3,585.68 of venture capital funding per capita pouring into companies in the area in 2014, there is no question that the technology capital continues to grow and attract inventors and innovation. Silicon Valley boasts 27.39 tech-class patents per 1,000 residents, the highest ratio in our study. The valley’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, designed to give West Coast entrepreneurs closer access to government regulators and education, will permanently occupy part of San Jose’s City Hall after renovations are completed this year.

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Best city for job seekers

Lincoln, Nebraska

This Midwest city tops our list of best cities for job seekers largely because it has the lowest unemployment rate in the country. With a median rent cost of $722 a month, Lincoln residents pay the least for housing compared with people living in our other top 10 cities. The city’s largest employers include the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, BNSF Railway and several medical centers.

Lincoln also ranked for:

Most educated large city

Arlington, Virginia

Located just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., Arlington topped our list of most educated large cities (with over 201,000 residents) in the U.S. Arlington benefits from having both the largest proportion of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree — over 72% — and the highest percentage of residents with a master’s degree. The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest employer in Arlington, in large part because the city is home to the Pentagon.

Arlington also ranked for:

Greenest city

Honolulu, Hawaii

Hawaii’s capital tops our list of green cities, thanks to its air quality, the best of all the cities we analyzed, and its residents’ widespread use of solar energy. In 2014, the city received the EPA’s highest classification of “good” for 351 of the 360 days measured, giving it a median Air Quality Index of 27 for the year.