3 Best Cities for Young Adults

By Mick Travis , last updated January 5, 2012

If you're an adult under 35 with no mortgage or career keeping you rooted in one place you'll no doubt want to live in a vibrant city with people your age. While some of the criteria for choosing an urban home is definitely personal and subjective, young and single adults generally tend to gravitate toward urban centers with: affordable rents and costs of living, good job prospects, an active nightlife, and a vibrant and varied culture. Other factors which draw young adults, as a group, to particular cities include traffic and parking issues, public transportation efficiency, and the presence of other young and single adults.

Austin, Texas

The cultural scene and heavy Generation Y presence in Austin is due in large part to the eight universities which make their home here, and the city boasts an active and varied music scene, highlighted by the two large outdoor festivals that are held here annually. Unsurprisingly, Austin is also home to a bustling nightlife, with hundreds of youth-oriented music venues and bars. With the influx of new residents over the last few years, diverse new neighborhoods have begun popping up, bringing an attractive eclecticism to this southern city.

The cost of living in Austin is surprisingly reasonable for a major city, and rent there is no exception to this (according to Kiplinger, average Austin rents were $864 as of 2010). Employment opportunities also abound in Austin, including opportunities at one of the eight universities or the Austin School District, the Seton Healthcare Network, or positions with Dell or IBM. With the only real drawback to Austin being a less-than-stellar public transportation system, this is one of the top cities for young adults on the go.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Young adults looking for a prosperous and active city on the East Coast would be hard pressed to do better than Charlotte, a city of just over 1.7 million residents (over 20% of whom are 30 and under). The city has been growing steadily over the last two decades, as evidenced by the enormous skyscrapers dotting the bustling financial district, and the exciting and expanding uptown district. In regards to the financial activity of Charlotte, the city has become second only to New York as a major U.S. banking center, making business employment opportunities abundant. Aside from district schools and the Charlotte healthcare system, jobs abound with firms such as Wells Fargo/Wachovia and Bank Of America.

The cost of living in Charlotte is considerably less than costs of living in other cities of comparable size. For example, the average rent in Charlotte was $803 as of 2010. Those without a car should take into consideration that the lack of decent public transportation system makes having a car a necessity.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago has undergone a major transformation over the last twenty years, slowly changing its image from a gritty, industrial city to a more modern and eco-friendly urban center. Nearly a quarter of the population of Chicago consists of young adults under 30 years of age, and the nightlife and cultural events are plentiful and more affordable than in cities like New York. Along with the major sporting events and music festivals, there are plentiful museums, parks and lakefront beaches.

Employment opportunities exist mainly in the financial and medical areas, with additional opportunities available in local, state and federal government positions. Average rent in Chicago was $861 as of 2010, and the overall cost of living in Chicago is lower than average for other cities of comparable size. The transportation system in Chicago is first-rate, making a car unnecessary for daily life, though young adults should bear in mind that winters in the Windy City can be brutal.

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