America's 10 best small cities, towns to live in

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Looking for a small place to call home? Columbia, Maryland, could be a great choice, according to an annual survey for Money magazine.

For Money, the nation's best locales to live in offer a very particular combination of characteristics that includes top schools, affordable homes, good jobs and "that special something that makes a community a great place to live" — among other factors.

While that may seem an impossible combination, Money recently released its latest annual list of the best small cities and towns. This year, 50 out of 823 eligible destinations made the cut.

See photos of Columbia, Md.:

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Columbia, Maryland
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Columbia, Maryland
Beautiful townhouse facing the Lake Elkhorn, Columbia, Maryland
Beautiful sky reflecting in Wilde Lake, in Columbia, Maryland.
Storm clouds over Centennial Lake, at Centennial Park, in Columbia, Maryland.
Promenade along the shore of Wilde Lake in Columbia, Maryland.
Gardens along Wilde Lake, in Columbia, Maryland.
Walkway along Wilde Lake, in Columbia, Maryland.
Storm clouds over Centennial Lake, at Centennial Park, in Columbia, Maryland.
Long exposure of buildings along the shore of Lake Kittamaqundi, in Columbia, Maryland.
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The magazine considered all U.S. cities and towns with populations of 50,000 to 300,000, for an initial pool of 823.

From there, the pool was narrowed by eliminating the places with the lowest predicted job growth, highest crime rate and poor sense of ethnic diversity (defined as having more than 90 percent of one race).

Then, Money examined financial factors like home values and tax rates as well as factors like the quality of health care and public school systems. Reporters also visited each locale.

After all that, Columbia came out on top. Money gave the 49-year-old planned community high marks for economic and social diversity.

Columbia promotes socioeconomic diversity, for example, through its layout — 10 villages that include a mix of apartments, townhomes and single-family.

White residents barely comprise a majority, 55 percent. The rest of the population includes blacks (25 percent), Asians (12 percent) and Latinos (8 percent).

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Resident Shani Ball told Money:

"...diversity is not only tolerated here. It's celebrated"

The top 10 cities and towns are:

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America’s 10 best small cities, towns to live in (Money)
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America’s 10 best small cities, towns to live in (Money)

10. Naperville, Illinois

(Bruce Leighty)

9. Beaverton, Oregon

(Png-Studio via Getty Images)

8. Weston, Florida

7. Clarkstown, New York

(Wikipedia Commons)

6. Highlands Ranch, Colorado

(mtcurado via Getty Images)

5. Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey

(MIHAI ANDRITOIU via Getty Images)

4. West Des Moines, Iowa

(Wikipedia Commons)

3. Plano, Texas

(Wikipedia Commons)

2. Eden Prairie, Minnesota

(LBOcreative via Getty Images)

1. Columbia, Maryland

(AppalachianViews via Getty Images)

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Highlands Ranch also stands for topping Money's list of the healthiest places to live.

The magazine also looked at big cities, citing a few standouts.

New York City topped the list of the best places to be rich and single.

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Additionally, six cities were named the best big cities in the country, with one selected for each of six regions:

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Best big cities in the US (Money)
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Best big cities in the US (Money)

Portland, Oregon — Best in the West

(Jordan Siemens via Getty Images)

Colorado Springs, Colorado — Mountains

(Richard Cummins / robertharding via Getty Images)

Arlington, Texas — South

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Columbus, Ohio — Midwest

(aceshot via Getty Images)

Raleigh, North Carolina — Southeast

(Alamy)

Boston — Northeast

(Tomasz Szulczewski)

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What makes a city or town best in your opinion? Let us know below or on Facebook.

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