If you’ve never hiked Newport’s Cliff Walk, surfed Westerly’s Misquamicut State Beach, or had a fresh plate of clam cakes in Narragansett, then you’ve not witnessed what the good people of Rhode Island already know; they have some of the best places in America to call home.
Lucky for you, HomeSnacks is handing you the ultimate Rhode Island life hack: we’ve created a list of the top ten best places to live in The Ocean State for 2020. You should definitely take a look below, there might be some places on this list that surprise you.
But what is not surprising is the gold star quality of life in Rhode Island; and that folks, comes with a price. If you want to live in one of Rhode Island’s best places, you’re going to have to find a good job. This shouldn’t be too hard considering Rhode Island’s unemployment rate is 3.3%. Coincidentally, Rhode Island is super safe. It’s one of the least dangerous states in the country.
So, want to know where the best places in Rhode Island are to find a good job, the best neighborhood, affordable housing, and Blue Ribbon schools?
We suggest you grab an ice cold Del’s Lemonade, find a quiet spot along the Black River in Valley Falls, and read on.
The 10 Best Places To Live In Rhode Island For 2020
Median Home Value: $353,000
Median Household Income: $95,875
We begin our tour of the best places to live in Rhode Island with Kingston, a village of 6,789 in the southern part of the state. Home to the University of Rhode Island, Kingston is the youngest city on this list by a wide margin, with a median age of 19. Also owing to URI, Kingston is one of the best-educated places in Rhode Island; over 60% of residents have a college degree, and 25% have a master’s degree or higher. With such smart neighbors and stimulating conversation, it’s easy to stop and smell the roses in Kingston…or the azaleas, if you head over to Kinney Azalea Gardens.
Workers in Kingston enjoy the 1st shortest average commute time in the state, with the average trip to and from work taking 16 minutes. Even better, residents have the 2nd highest median household income in Rhode Island at $95,875/year. Which is good, seeing as the cost of living in Kingston is 10% higher than the statewide average and housing is 30% pricier. Rent in Kingston goes for around $1,371/month and a typical home sells for $353,000.
Median Home Value: $241,800
Median Household Income: $104,234
Located in southwestern Rhode Island on the Connecticut border, Ashaway comes in as the 2nd best place to live for the second year running. A small village of 1,186, Ashaway is a tight-knit community. To get out and enjoy nature, we recommend an afternoon at Briggs Memorial Park, but if you’re willing to drive 15 minutes, Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT is the most entertaining place to visit in the area.
Ashaway is quite affluent; at $104,234/year, the village has the highest median household income in Rhode Island. That being said, a median home price of $241,800 is actually on the low end for places we’ll be covering, so you should be able to pay the mortgage off in no time. When you consider that both property value and income in Ashaway rose by more than 10% in the last year, moving here seems like a safe investment. Don’t think that the 1% are laughing it up while the rest of the village’s residents struggle, though; Ashaway has an incredibly low unemployment rate of 1.7% and the poverty rate ranks as the lowest in Rhode Island at 2.8%.
Median Home Value: $248,200
Median Household Income: $91,250
Located 10 minutes northwest of Ashaway up I-95, Hope Valley ranks as the 3rd best place to call home in Rhode Island for 2020. The whole central portion of the village is the Historic District, so expect to see some grand old architecture during your time in Hope Valley. Whether you’re looking to get some exercise kayaking or just want to catch some walleye or bass, Wyoming Pond is the place to be.
The poverty and unemployment rates in Hope Valley both rank in the top ten statewide, so you know the local economy is working for everyone. For those moving here with children, GreatSchools gave public schools in the area an average rating of 8/10, meaning your kids will get an excellent educational start. Parents also do pretty well, considering Hope Valley’s median household income of $91,250/year ranks as the 3rd highest in Rhode Island.
Median Home Value: $251,300
Median Household Income: $88,199
Cumberland Hill, a census-designated place about 20 minutes north of downtown Providence, is the 4th best place to live in Little Rhody. Cyclists appreciate being able to take the Blackstone River Bikeway from Woonsocket to Cumberland, complete with views of the river, marshes, waterfalls, and wildlife. If you’re looking for the freshest food in town, look no further than Phantom Farms, where you can pick your own apples or pumpkins, depending on the season, and devour delicious baked goods year-round.
Cumberland Hill may top our list of Rhode Island’s richest places, but don’t let that scare you; the cost of living here is basically on par with the statewide average. You won’t find cheaper rent on this list than Cumberland Hill, where you can find a place to rent for just $917/month, less than half the average rent in Rhode Island. Unemployment in Cumberland Hill sits at a crazy low 0.4%, the poverty rate of 5.3% ranks as the 3rd lowest statewide, and 98.8% of residents have health insurance, the 3rd highest rate in Rhode Island.
Median Home Value: $320,100
Median Household Income: $71,131
We’re heading back to Washington County to reach our 5th best place in Rhode Island, Wakefield-Peacedale. A CDP in the town of South Kingstown, Wakefield-Peacedale has all the amenities you need for entertainment and culture. Grab a cocktail at the outdoor gazebo before watching a play at the Theatre by the Sea or go for a tour of Whaler’s Brewing Company and come home with a growler full of your favorite drink. Either way, you’re sure to have a great evening.
Unemployment in Wakefield-Peacedale is kind of high, but if you’re part of the majority of residents with a job, you get the nice perk of having the 4th shortest commute time statewide, at 22 minutes. Homes here are the 5th most expensive in Rhode Island at $320,100, but rent is quite low at just $939/month.
Median Home Value: $213,300
Median Household Income: $70,490
Located just south of Providence and Cranston, Warwick clocks in as the 6th best place to live in Rhode Island. With cultural centers and historical sites, Warwick is a great spot for anyone interested in local artistry or history. Catch some superb waterfront views from Harbor Lights Marina, get out into nature at Goddard State Park, or enjoy the nearly 40 miles of continuous coastline at one of Warwick’s beaches. That’s not even getting into one of New England’s oldest villages, Pawtuxet Village, a coastal hotspot that’s becoming a destination for foodies from all over.
You won’t find a lower cost of living than Warwick on this list, which is why the city featured so highly on our coverage of the most affordable places in Rhode Island. Warwick’s poverty rate of 6.3% ranks as the 4th lowest in the state and the violent crime rate is 75% below the national average.
Median Home Value: $228,300
Median Household Income: $66,283
Rhode Island’s 2nd biggest city and neighbor of Providence, Cranston ranks as the 7th best place to live in Rhode Island. Cranston already topped our list of the best places for families in Rhode Island, and a lot of those same factors come into play here. Being less than ten minutes from Roger Williams Park Zoo means it’s never tough to decide how to spend the weekend with the kiddos, and Cranston’s public schools are top-notch. Shopaholics will also find plenty to love at Garden City Center, home to over 60 shops and restaurants.
Cranston’s crime rate ranks as the 2nd lowest in Rhode Island, so you don’t need to freak out if you forget to lock your door here. Unemployment and poverty are low, and the average commute time of 23 minutes ranks as the 6th shortest statewide. The median household income in Cranston is $66,283/year and a typical home sells for about $228,300.
Median Home Value: $515,500
Median Household Income: $66,107
Located in the southeastern part of the state, Narragansett pier is a CDP of 3,725 residents. Known for its fabulous beaches, famous lighthouse, and excellent clamming and surfing, life in Narragansett Pier feels like a full-time vacation. If you’re itching for a vacation from your vacation, there’s always the option of taking the ferry to lovely Block Island. Of course, all this doesn’t come cheap, and Narragansett Pier is the most expensive place in Rhode Island.
With a median age of 51, Narragansett Pier is the oldest place on our list. That doesn’t mean residents don’t take care of the upcoming generation, though; Narragansett Pier’s school district consistently outperforms the statewide average in test scores and graduation rates by a wide margin, so you know you’re getting your child off to the right start here. Homes in Narragansett Pier are the 1st priciest in the state at $515,500. If you want to join the roughly 45% of residents who rent, expect to pay around $1,197/month.
Median Home Value: $425,400
Median Household Income: $65,431
Home to awe-inspiring architecture, fantastic scenery, and a whole lot of charm, Newport is famous for a reason. Sure, it’s known for its opulent mansions, but there’s a whole lot more going on here than just relics of old money. Take the dramatic Ocean Drive around Newport’s perimeter for some awesome views, or hop out of your car at Brenton Point State Park to breathe the ocean air. Newport’s Cliff Walk gives enchanting views of the Atlantic and those looking to hit the town will find all the action on Thames Street. Its countless bars, shops, and restaurants contributed to HomeSnacks naming Newport Rhode Island’s best city for singles.
Newport has the 6th lowest unemployment rate and 3rd shortest average commute time in Rhode Island. On the bad side, while the median household income is one of the lowest on this list at $65,431/year, the cost of living here is about 15% higher than the statewide average. Housing costs outstrip Rhode Island’s average by nearly 50%, with rent going for about $1,200/month and homes going for the 2nd highest price statewide at $425,400.
Median Home Value: $283,300
Median Household Income: $62,830
We’re wrapping up our coverage of the best places to live in Rhode Island with Westerly, a town bordering Connecticut on the southern tip of Rhode Island. Seven miles of sandy beaches leave you with plenty of options, but we’d say that Misquamicut Beach is the most popular choice for locals and tourists alike. Summer concerts, movies on the beach, great bars and breweries, and some scenic golf courses; it’s pretty tough to be bored in Westerly. No wonder it featured near the top of our list of the best places to retire in Rhode Island.
Westerly has the 6th lowest crime rate, the 5th shortest commute time, and the 10th lowest poverty rate in Rhode Island. Homes here are the 6th most expensive in the state at $283,300, but we think Westerly’s residents would agree that it’s worth every penny.
The Pressing Question: Size
Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Providence with a population of 179,435 against places with a population of 18?
We firmly decided no, that just isn’t fair.
So to create our ranking, we broke places to live into three tiers:
- Cities — Populations over 1,000
- Towns — Populations between 1,000 and 1,000
- Small Towns — Populations below 1,000
This left us with 24 cities, 0 towns, and 8 small towns.
We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best cities to live in Rhode Island have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 1,000 people to truly be ‘the best’.
How We Calculated The Best Cities To Live In Rhode Island
Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.
We ranked each place in Rhode Island across a number of criteria from one to 24, with one being the best.
We then took the average rank across all criteria, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title “Best Place To Live In Rhode Island”.
The criteria we looked at were:
- Median Home Values
- Median Income
- Population Density (Higher better)
- Unemployment Rate
- Commute Time
- Education Levels
- Health Insurance Coverage
- Poverty rates
After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in Rhode Island? That would be Kingston.
If your city or town isn’t among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see a detailed chart of the best places in Rhode Island.
Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Kingston at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living In Rhode Island
If you’re looking at areas in Rhode Island with the best economic situations, where there’s lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
Kingston made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in Rhode Island for 2020.
For more Rhode Island reading, check out: