SALT LAKE CITY — At night, Dave Millheim often asks himself one question.
"Did I do a good job today?"
Since his city just ranked No. 14 in Money magazine's 2013 list of Best Places to Live, apparently the answer for the Farmington city manager is: "Yes."
Two other Utah cities made the magazine's list, which was released Monday — Draper at No. 25 and Lindon at No. 29.
Cities and towns in Utah have a lot to offer, and people are catching on.
In addition to best places to live, Lindon was ranked No. 1 and Farmington No. 2 on the list of places with the highest ease of living, measured by commute time, population density and emotional well-being.
Park City was ranked No. 1 as the Best Town in America by Outside magazine Monday, edging out 2013 finalists Bozeman, Mont., and San Diego. The magazine crowdsourced to discover Park City as America's "best place to be healthy," focusing on trailheads, opportunities for adventure, gear shops and farmer's markets.
"Park City feels like a Colorado ski town dropped into Utah’s 12,000-foot Wasatch Range, with one significant difference. Unlike Telluride or Aspen, it has a major city, Salt Lake, and an international airport 30 minutes away," the magazine said. "Local love for Park City can feel a little over the top — it got two-thirds as many votes in our contest (5,179) as it has residents."
Park City offers skiing, hiking, climbing, shopping and draws in tourists and media attention with its annual Sundance Film Festival. It has a population of 7,873 and median household income of $61,383. Home prices average $765,600 and unemployment hovers around 5.3 percent.
To determine its top 50 small towns in America, Money magazine started with towns in the U.S. with populations between 10,000 and 50,000. Next, the magazine eliminated areas with a median income of more than 200 percent or less than 85 percent of the median state income, then areas with poor scores in education or crime rates and towns where one race is more than 95 percent of the population.
Retirement communities and areas that had high job loss were taken out next. Money then ranked the rest by factors including the job market, upward movement of house values, cost and ease of living, economy, real estate and health care. Each state could only have three towns on the list, so extras were eliminated.
Representatives from Money magazine then interviewed residents about community aspects such as traffic, parks and community spirit.
Farmington, at No. 14, enjoys median home prices of $281,047, according to Money, and its 19,135 citizens have a median annual income of around $88,375. That compares to an annual median household income of $57,783 in Utah and $52,762 nationwide between 2007 and 2011, according to data from the Census Bureau.
About one-third of Farmington's residents commute to Salt Lake City for work, but projects such as Station Park development, which has offices, restaurants, shopping and housing, may soon keep people closer to home, Money reported.
Farmington is also known for its outdoor recreation, with 19 biking, hiking and horse riding trails and a bird refuge.
"It's kind of a quaint rural feel," said Farmington resident Caitlin Wall.
She moved to Farmington in 2009 and liked how much it reminded her of Nephi, her hometown. It is as close to a small town that the Wasatch Front has to offer, she said.
For Millheim, there’s no question that this ranking brings rewards. The town gets a surge in community pride, he said. It also boosts the visibility of the county seat of Davis County when talking with those from outside the area who are looking to expand their businesses, he said.
Millheim said it is a privilege for the city to receive this ranking, and he believes it will help surrounding cities as well.
“I’m disappointed we’re not in the top 10 because I think we deserve it,” Millheim said.
Residents seem to be drawn to the city by its ability to provide a small-town feeling while also providing close access to downtown Salt Lake City. This, along with low crime rates, proximity to mass transit and the view of the mountains and the Great Salt Lake, are what appeal most to Michael Lefler, who has lived in Farmington with his family for almost 30 years.
Nestled just north of Point of the Mountain, Draper has a median family income of $98,347, average home prices of $292,552. The city of 43,974 offers more than 90 bicycle and hiking trails including the Jordan River Parkway, retail shopping and has a small community feeling. It is between Salt Lake City and Provo, with a 30-minute drive to each.
"We have strived to plan our growth to bring in the right kind of businesses to complement the residents that make Draper their home," Draper Mayor Darrell H. Smith said.
Lindon, at the top of the ease of living list, came in as the 29th best place to live in America. The town of 10,846 has a median family income of $79,726 and has seen job growth at 12.19 percent. It houses Teleperformance USA and Symantech and has a 4.5 percent unemployment rate. In the past 20 years, Lindon's population has doubled.
"It's splendid to see Lindon continue to be recognized as one of the greatest places to live in America. Lindon's strong family values, ambiance for easy living and welcoming business atmosphere have certainly helped create a beautiful, vibrant and safe community," said Adam Cowie, Lindon city administrator.
Money's No. 1
Sharon, Mass., topped Money's list of Best Places to Live. A little more than 20 miles out of Boston, the town of 17,944 averages home prices at around $390,000, average annual property tax of $8,103 and an unemployment rate around 5.8 percent. In addition to Lake Massapoag — what the magazine calls the "town jewel" — families are drawn to the area by the schools and diversity.
The town boasts nine churches, seven synagogues and an Islamic mosque, Money reported. Almost 30 percent of those in public school are not white and 18 percent speak a language other than English at home.