Danbury, Conn., where a typical three-bedroom house costs $175,000, won the top spot in Money magazine's ranking of the best 300 places to live in the United States, the magazine reports.

Danbury, described by Money as "a booming New York City exurb with country charm," was No. 5 last year, the first year of the magazine's ranking of the best places to live in America.This year, like last, the Northeast and California dominate the list. Both regions, Money said, "have only 2 percent to 4 percent unemployment rates, boast world-renowned medical specialists and offer plenty of leisure activities."

Salt Lake City appeared at No. 82, and Provo-Orem at 106 on the Money list.

Central New Jersey placed second; Norwalk, Conn., was third; Long Island, N.Y., fourth; San Francisco, fifth; Nashua, N.H., sixth; Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif., seventh; Orange County, Calif., eighth; Boston, ninth; Bergen-Passaic, N.J., 10th.

For the ranking, the magazine asked 251 Money subscribers to rate each of 50 regional characteristics on a scale of one to 10. The respondents - who had a median age of 42 and median household income of $61,000 - were chosen as statistically representative of Money's subscribers.

The subscribers chose low crime rate, the likelihood that housing prices will appreciate and the availability of doctors as the three most desired attributes.

Based on the subscribers' ratings, the magazine statistically weighted each attribute. Then it awarded points - based on various government and private data - to each of the nation's 300 largest metropolitan statistical areas as defined by the Census Bureau.

The bottom 10 were: No. 290, Muskegon, Mich.; No. 291, Des Moines, Iowa; No. 292, Rockford, Ill.; No. 293, Flint, Mich.; No. 294, New Bedford, Mass; No. 295, Janesville-Beloit, Wis.; No. 296, Battle Creek, Mich.; No.297, Yuba City, Calif.; No. 298, Benton Harbor, Mich.; No. 299, Jackson, Mich.; and No. 300, Atlantic City, N.J.

In addition to Danbury's steep housing prices, the representatives found that bottom-rated Atlantic City has a "marvelous 5-mile stretch of boardwalk beachfront, stately houses in surrounding towns, and an outstanding public library."

Areas that ranked lower this year than last "tended to be relatively crime-free and inexpensive towns plagued by weak economies," such as the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area in Pennsylvania, which fell from No. 9 to No. 114.