While the list of "best cities for millennials" seems like as fast-moving a target as nailing down the latest Pinterest trend, the generation marked by a constant and elusive pursuit of the American Dream is no doubt still on the move, still searching for that perfect place to set down roots and make it all work.
New research from the Urban Land Institute, reported this week in TIME, shows that for the first time in recent years, Austin isn't in the top five hottest cities for millennials — and neither is Portland. Many other top American cities have already hit "peak millennial", according to a number of demographers, economists, and real estate consultants, but some smaller, more suburban cities are still attracting an increased percentage of millennials each year since 2010.
Here are the top 5 of the 25 new best cities for millennials, right now — cities that have actually seen the most relative growth in their population of 25- to 34-year-olds from 2010 to 2015:
1. Virginia Beach
Who wouldn't want to live on the beach, with a 3-mile stretch of boardwalk? The metro area including Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Newport News, undertook a proactive survey of local millennials several years ago to find out what would make the region an even more attractive place to live, work and raise a family. In response to the survey's results, the city focused on extending a light rail, which launched in 2011, as well as developing new restaurants and revamping city centers, according to TIME.
A college town chock-full of American history, with white-water rapids flowing through its bustling downtown, Richmond constantly ranks on the US News & World Report list of the Best Places to Live. But for Millennials, it may be the relatively high average annual salary and strong job market (only 4% unemployment) for their age group — combined with the ability to actually afford renting or buying an apartment alone — that have the under-35 crowd flocking to this Virginia city, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
3. San Bernardino
Trading the California Coast for proximity to its "Inland Empire" of mountain ranches and state parks, SoCal millennials are flocking to the 24 smaller cities that make up San Bernardino County, just outside of Los Angeles, according to a recent report by commercial real estate firm CBRE. Local economic development officials say that higher-end yet affordable single family housing and multifamily communities in denser urban environments, plus increased interest from millennial-friendly commercial developers and retailers (hello, WholeFoods 365) is providing the improved lifestyle diversity and walkability millennials crave, without the price tag.
Rich with American music royalty, cultural diversity, charming hospitality and small businesses, Bluff City is luring more and more millennials in with its dual promises of opportunity and affordability: the median home price in Memphis is currently at $164,000, about half the average in most other millennial-friendly urban areas. And for the last two years, Memphis — not Nashville — has been the best place for millennial job seekers in the state of Tennessee, according to personal finance site NerdWallet.
5. New Orleans
Laissez les bon temp roulez, right? More than just a party city with fantastic beignets and Creole architecture in the French Quarter, New Orleans city leaders have credited young entrepreneurs and the metro area's post-Katrina "rebirth" as reasons why millennials love it in NOLA. Other studies have also shown that New Orleans is a top 10 market for millennial-aged homebuyers, according to the local ABC news station.