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11 Amazing Cities You've Never Thought To Live In, But Should

Pack your bags.

05/12/2016 09:45 am ET | Updated May 12, 2016
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You've thought about moving to Austin, and you've looked at rentals in L.A.

But have you considered making a move to Fort Collins, Colorado?

This charming nature town is just one of many destinations we haven't seriously considered moving to yet, but definitely should. And now we have a whole host of other spots think about, thanks to the 2016 Employment Destinations Index from the American Institute for Economic Research. The annual survey analyzed 260 cities of all sizes, ranking them on nine factors including diversity of residents, ease of commuting, average earnings and median rents. 

These factors were intended to produce a list of places where new college grads will thrive after graduation. But we say they make cities prime for pretty much anyone who's looking for something new.

  • Santa Cruz, CA
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    You thought that was a photo of Santa Monica, didn't you? Nope, it's Santa Cruz, the relatively small California city with a BIG personality. Santa Cruz ranked #1 for Arts and Entertainment on the AIER index, with one of the country's best-kept boardwalks as well as quaint museums and movie theaters for when you're not surfing.
  • Fort Collins, CO
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    This historic metro comes with a charming Old Town, endless bars and restaurants (thanks to its local university) and proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Raleigh, NC
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    Raleigh ranked especially well for its number of highly-educated twentysomethings on the AIER index. Rent is incredibly cheap there, too.
  • Bridgeport, CT
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    With its close proximity to New York City but pleasant small-town vibes, Bridgeport is an excellent place to live and play. Residents report very high incomes, giving this city the #2 spot on AIER's small metros ranking.
  • Honolulu, HI
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    If the stellar scenery isn't enough motivation, consider that Honolulu was AIER's #1 small metro for Diversity. This means its young, ambitious residents hail from all sorts of interesting places. Housing costs don't come cheap, but how could they with such views?
  • Portland, ME
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    If adorable beach towns are your game, then Portland (no, not that hipster one in Oregon) is for you. Museums, art galleries and green spaces made this city to rank especially high on the AIER Index, though we'd move there just for the pie, too.
  • Colorado Springs, CO
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    Most of us think Denver when we dream of moving to Colorado, but Colorado Springs is an option that should not be overlooked. With outdoor adventures galore, you'll be hiking and biking after work, on your way to one of many hip eateries and bars.
  • Santa Barbara, CA
    Geri Lavrov via Getty Images
    It may not be as booming as other small metros -- it ranked #16 in AIER's top 20 -- but Santa Barbara certainly offers stellar opportunities in arts, retail, hospitality and, of course, water sports.
  • Virginia Beach, VA
    Rudi Von Briel via Getty Images
    Who said you can't make a vacation spot your home? Virginia Beach ranked within AIER's top 20 midsize metros thanks to its easy (beachside!) work commutes and residents who are hungry for employment.
  • Kansas City, MO
    Edwin Remsberg via Getty Images
    We've said it once, and we'll say it again: This place is secretly epic. KC got high marks across the board on the AIER survey for having a stellar "quality of life," aka higher-than-average incomes with lower-than-average rents.
  • Bloomington, IL
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    A charming college town with Midwest character, Bloomington ranked high for its affordable rent and hipster-cool music venues. It's a cozy, manageable, friendly place to call home.

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