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Best Places to Live in Pennsylvania

Thinking about packing your bags and moving to Pennsylvania, but wondering which city is the best choice for you and your family? You certainly have a lot of great options to choose from. The Keystone State is full of areas that offer great food, affordable housing, iconic sports teams and incredible culture.

When choosing a moving destination—in Pennsylvania or anywhere else—you need to make sure you pick a city that fits your budget, personality, and any other needs you and your family have. So, let’s take a look at 10 of the best places to live in Pennsylvania. That way, you can preview your options and choose the city that makes the most sense for you.

Where Are the Best Places to Live in Pennsylvania?

Keep this in mind: The best place for you to live in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else, for that matter) will depend on your individual situation and preferences. You may prefer a slower pace of life and a tight-knit local community, or you may be itching to live somewhere with skyscrapers and sports stadiums. You also may be looking for something more specific, like a great retirement destination.

As you go through this list, think about which cities are the best fit for you.

Harrisburg

Up first is Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital city. With a cost of living below the national average and a wide variety of things to do, Harrisburg is an affordable destination for young professionals, families and retirees.1

Are you a big music fan? Harrisburg is 15 miles from the Giant Center in Hershey, PA, which hosts a ton of great concerts featuring artists from a range of genres—everyone from Blake Shelton to Rush to the Jonas Brothers. Love spending time outdoors? You’ll fall head over heels for the Susquehanna River Valley and its countless opportunities for hiking, canoeing and camping. Looking for something to do with the kiddos? Harrisburg has a trampoline park, mini-golf, and plenty of other fun activities the whole family will enjoy.

Plus, if you ever get bored in Harrisburg, you’re only just a few hours away from New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, or D.C.

Population*

50,0552

Median Household Income

$46,6543

Median Home Listing Price

$229,9004

Median Rent

$1,2955

Unemployment Rate

2.5%6

*Data in all tables collected in January 2024.

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Allentown

Next up is Allentown, Pennsylvania’s third-largest city. Allentown is in a great location, smack in between New York City and Philadelphia. And, of course, Allentown became forever enshrined in pop culture when Billy Joel released his hit single about the city in 1982. 

But unlike the bleak Allentown of the 80s that Joel described in his song, Allentown is thriving these days. Specifically, the economy is in great shape—they may have closed all the factories down 40 years ago, but they’ve opened new ones!

There are tons of manufacturing jobs in Allentown, in addition to career opportunities in the health care industry and with big companies like Amazon, FedEx and Crayola. And your paycheck will go further in Allentown than a lot of other places across the U.S., since you won’t have to pay sales tax on groceries, clothes, textbooks, or your home’s heating and cooling costs. In fact, those sales tax exemptions apply to all of Pennsylvania!7

See how much house you can afford with our free mortgage calculator!

Allentown does have the volume of traffic you’d expect from a bigger city, and its winters are cold and long. But on the bright side, you can always drive 100 miles to spend a weekend on the Jersey shore and its beaches. (That’s something Joel got right.)

By the way, Billy Joel isn’t actually from Allentown and has never even lived in Pennsylvania. So don’t expect to run into the Piano Man if you make a move to the Lehigh Valley.

Population

125,1058

Median Household Income

$55,9499

Median Home Listing Price

$279,90010

Median Rent

$1,47511

Unemployment Rate

3.4%12

Pittsburgh

Looking for a big city that doesn’t feel like (or cost as much as) a big city? Pittsburgh is the destination for you. The Steel City has everything you’d expect from a major metro area with a population of over 300,000: multiple pro sports teams, A-list touring musicians, and tons of job opportunities. However, Pittsburgh also has several features that keep it from feeling too much like a metropolis.

For example, a lot of Pittsburgh’s residential areas are actually made up of smaller neighborhoods. Many of those neighborhoods have become their own tight-knit communities, which means their residents get a taste of suburbia and big-city life. Pittsburgh is also half as dense as Philadelphia, and its residents (aka yinzers) are known for being friendly and easy to talk to.

And to top it all off, Pittsburgh’s cost of living is lower than what you’d find in Atlanta, Chicago and Denver, and it’s significantly lower than the cost of living in Boston, Seattle, D.C. and New York City.13 Yep, the Steel City really is the best of both worlds.

Population

302,90514

Median Household Income

$63,38015

Median Home Listing Price

$250,00016

Median Rent

$1,40017

Unemployment Rate

2.9%18

Lancaster

Pennsylvania is full of big cities, small towns, and places with super unique cultures. However, if you’re looking for something more mid-sized and “normal,” then Lancaster is for you. The Red Rose City is big enough to have multiple Walmart locations, a Costco, and excellent health care, but small enough to offer its residents a slower pace of life, plenty of local charm, and a community feel. This gem of central Pennsylvania has great food, great people, and a great downtown area.

The Lancaster area is also known for its Amish heritage. Visitors can explore Amish markets and farms, which run without public electricity, and enjoy driving on the local roads, where you’ll see Amish folks traveling by horse and buggy (and roller skates and scooters).

And while buying a house in Lancaster isn’t cheap, it’s also not crazy expensive—especially compared to a couple of the other cities on our list.

Population

57,97019

Median Household Income

$61,01420

Median Home Listing Price

$317,30021

Median Rent

$1,38322

Unemployment Rate

2.3%23

Philadelphia

So here’s the deal with Philadelphia: If you’re looking for a peaceful and serene small town where you can sit on your porch with a glass of lemonade while staring out at the stars and miles of rolling hills, you should stay far, far away from the City of Brotherly Love. But if you want to live in a fast-paced city with access to world-class entertainment, tons of career opportunities, and some of the best food in America, then Philadelphia is a great fit.

And if you’re a sports fan, you don’t need us to tell you that Philly is a legendary sports town. In fact, all five major American sports are represented with a pro team in Philadelphia: football (the Eagles), baseball (the Phillies), basketball (the 76ers), hockey (the Flyers) and soccer (Philadelphia Union).

Plus, Philadelphia’s cost of living is only 2% higher than the national average, making it significantly cheaper than most other cities of a similar size like New York and Chicago.24

Yes, some areas of Philly do have higher crime rates—as is the case in virtually all big cities. And no, the city has no mountains, beaches or cornfields. But even though Philadelphia may not be the best option for raising a family or retiring, it’s a great place for young singles or couples to launch their careers while having a whole lot of fun without breaking the bank.

Population

1.6 million25

Median Household Income

$56,51726

Median Home Listing Price

$254,00027

Median Rent

$1,60028

Unemployment Rate

3.9%29

Scranton

Scranton’s original claim to fame was being the home of America’s first electric trolley system, which is why people started calling it Electric City. These days, though, Scranton is much more famous for being the setting of The Office, the iconic 2000s sitcom.

While The Office wasn’t actually filmed in Scranton, the city is home to plenty of landmarks mentioned on the show including the Steamtown Mall, Poor Richard’s Pub, and—of course—Alfredo’s Pizza Café (not to be confused with Pizza by Alfredo). Unfortunately, you won’t find a Chili’s or Benihana in Scranton.

Lots of folks move to Scranton to raise a family because of its affordable housing costs and low cost of living overall. And while you won’t find a Target, Walmart, Chick-fil-A or Home Depot in the Electric City, you will find all four of those brands and plenty of other major chains 15 minutes away in Dickson City.

Overall, Scranton is a mid-sized blue-collar city perfect for anyone looking for an affordable lifestyle. Plus, if you ever get bored in Scranton, you’re just two hours away from New York City—in case you ever get a craving for Sbarro or Red Lobster. (Fans of The Office will understand that one.)

Population

75,83830

Median Household Income

$48,27931

Median Home Listing Price

$175,00032

Median Rent

$1,26133

Unemployment Rate

3.5%34

State College

As you may have gathered from its name, State College is Pennsylvania’s biggest college town. Over 40,000 students begin attending classes at Penn State each August, which means State College is full of youthful energy whenever school is in session. And when class isn’t in session during the summertime and around the holidays, State College residents get to enjoy a little more peace and serenity than they’re used to.

Most college towns are known for having super cool bookstores, coffee shops and restaurants, and State College is no exception. However, in State College, you’ll only have to go to one place for all three of those things: Webster’s Bookstore Café, a local used bookstore with lots of shelf space and a tasty café with great coffee and a seasonal food menu.

There are also several great parks close to State College, including Bald Eagle State Park, a 6,000-acre park with opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming, hunting, camping and hiking. And education isn’t just for college students in State College—the city also has a great public school system, making it an attractive destination for families with kids.

Population

40,90235

Median Household Income

$43,45936

Median Home Listing Price

$499,00037

Median Rent

$1,58438

Unemployment Rate

2.1%39

York

Next up is York, the birthplace of the York Peppermint Pattie and one-time capital of the U.S. during the Revolutionary War. The White Rose City has a small-town feel, and it’s home to a small liberal arts college (York College), a hospital (York Hospital), and a minor league baseball team (York Revolution). The area also has great public schools, churches, opportunities for hunting and fishing, and tons of fun carnivals and festivals throughout the year (including America’s First Fair, the York State Fair).

If you’re a workout buff, you’ll be pleased to know that York is also the home of York Barbell. And if you’re not a workout buff and have never heard of that company, just know that you can find their weights in practically every gym in America.

Best of all, housing in York is super affordable, and the city has a low cost of living overall.

Population

44,78240

Median Household Income

$42,35141

Median Home Listing Price

$249,90042

Median Rent

$1,19543

Unemployment Rate

2.6%44

West Chester

West Chester has become a super popular moving destination in Pennsylvania, and the people who live there absolutely love it. That’s because West Chester offers residents a downtown suburbia feeling along with a dose of youthfulness from West Chester University (the sixth-largest university in PA) without being a big city.

And if folks living there ever get the itch to experience big-city life, they’re only a 30-minute drive from Philadelphia, or a two-hour drive from sunbathing at the beach or skiing in the mountains (depending on the time of year, of course).

Unfortunately, because West Chester is such a great place to live, housing prices are high and the market is pretty competitive. Specifically, the median home listing price is $649,900, and the median rent is $1,975. That means you may not be able to afford living in West Chester if you’re a young professional earning an entry-level salary.

But if you’re further along in your career or part of a dual-income household, then West Chester may be the perfect destination for you and your family.

Population

19,01645

Median Household Income

$71,87546

Median Home Listing Price

$649,90047

Median Rent

$1,97548

Unemployment Rate

2.2%49

Erie

Rounding out our breakdown of the best places to live in Pennsylvania is Erie, the city on our list with the lowest housing costs. The median rent in Erie is $980, and the median home listing price is just $180,000—which means you don’t need a huge income to comfortably afford homeownership in Erie.

Erie is a small town—the type where you can get just about anywhere in 20 minutes. But if you’re looking to get away to a bigger city, Erie is only about 100 miles from Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. It’s also about a three-hour drive from Cedar Point in Ohio, home to some of the best rollercoasters in America.

Housing isn’t the only thing in Erie that’s super affordable—pretty much everything in the city is relatively cheap, including food, drinks and other entertainment. Part of the reason for that, though, is that Erie’s economy isn’t exactly the strongest in the world. The city has limited job options, which means you should make sure you have employment locked up before moving. Unless, of course, you’re moving for retirement. Then you’re off the hook!

You’ll have to endure very cold winters in Erie with lots of snow. But on the bright side, the summers rarely get above 90 degrees. And when summer does roll around, you’ll be able to enjoy lovely beaches on the coast of Lake Erie. Plus, the city is packed with culture. It’s got great restaurants and breweries. The Warner Theatre hosts a ton of concerts, comedy acts and touring Broadway shows. And Erie is home to professional baseball, hockey and soccer teams.

Population

93,51750

Median Household Income

$43,83951

Median Home Listing Price

$180,00052

Median Rent

$98053

Unemployment Rate

3.2%54

Ready to Move to Pennsylvania?

If one of these cities seems like a good fit and you’re ready to set up shop in Pennsylvania, make sure you can afford the housing costs before you hit the road. A lot of the areas we looked at do have affordable housing costs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can afford to live there—especially if you’re planning to buy a home. So, how do you figure out whether you can afford the housing in any of these Pennsylvania cities? It’s simple!

Just make sure your rent or mortgage payment is no more than 25% of your take-home pay. If you’re a homeowner, that number includes PMI, HOA fees and homeowners insurance. You can use our free Mortgage Calculator to get a look at how much you can expect.

Keep that all in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to thriving as a new Pennsylvanian. You’ve got this!

 

Next Steps

1. Learn more about how much it costs to move, then crunch the numbers and see if it makes sense for you.

2. If you are ready for a move to Pennsylvania, connect with a RamseyTrusted real estate pro. The agents we recommend will serve you with excellence and make sure you wind up in a home that’s a good fit for you and your family. We trust them, and you can too.

Connect With a Pro

Frequently Asked Questions

The five towns in Pennsylvania with the lowest crime rates are Canonsburg, Old Forge, Grove City, Ridley Park and Monongahela.55

Based on the areas included in the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index, the most affordable place to live in Pennsylvania is Wayne County. Its cost of living is 11% lower than the national average.56

The median household income in Pennsylvania is $73,170. Pennsylvania’s median income for an individual is $41,234.57

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About the author

Ramsey

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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