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5 Best Places to Live in Ohio

By: Susan Finch
August 24, 2021

Moving to Ohio is an excellent choice for those seeking out affordable cities, cultural offerings, and rolling green space. Renowned universities and thriving industries like healthcare also make the Buckeye State a promising place to grow your career.

If you're ready to move but aren't sure where the best places to live in Ohio are, you've got your work cut out for you. Choose between laid-back cities, thriving city centers, or waterfront living. Each city offers its own unique amenities and access to affordable neighborhoods.

Not sure where to start? We did the work for you and rounded up some of the best places to live in Ohio.

1. Columbus

  • Population: 898,553
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,397
  • Median Household Income: $53,745
  • Walk Score: 40
  • Transit Score: 33
  • Bike Score: 50

Columbus was once the home of several Native American settlements along the Scioto River. The city was settled in 1812 when Europeans came to the region for the fur trade. The quest for trade sparked territorial disputes over a fight to control the territory during the Seven Years' War. In 1850, the railroad came into the area and increased commerce and the local economy.

According to our Apartment List Renter Migration Report, people move to Columbus from Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Louisville. When locals are ready to leave Columbus, they head to Cincinnati, Chicago, and Cleveland.

Millennials and families come to Columbus for the diverse and growing economy in education, retail, automotive, bio-medical, and advanced computing, among others. As the capital of Ohio, Columbus also offers local government and civilian work.

Football fanatics know Columbus as the home of Ohio State University and the Buckeyes. It's the highest-ranked public university in Ohio, drawing thousands of locals and visitors to its thriving college football scene. The campus is also near downtown, opening up opportunities to enjoy the shopping, restaurants, and pubs in a vibrant city with reasonable average rents.

Columbus' walkable downtown and convenience to surrounding attractions make the city a desirable place to live, work, and play. The award-winning food scene brings visitors to the downtown strip and surrounding areas, such as German Village, for casual to upscale dining and craft brew. The Columbus Museum of Art features a contemporary gallery with interactive spots and special exhibits like LEGO works of art for a culture stop.

Columbus boasts more fashion per capita than any other city besides New York City and Los Angeles. Express, Abercrombie & Fitch, Victor's Secret, and other retail juggernauts call Columbus home. Beyond downtown, Easton Town Center is another trendy neighborhood with big-box retailers, pedestrian-friendly open-air shopping and squares, and dining.

For an outdoor stop, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium features 10,000 animals and 575 species from around the globe. Famed zookeeper Jack Hannah was the former director and helped elevate its presence and animal conservation.

2. Cleveland

  • Population: 381,009
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $808
  • Median Household Income: $30,907
  • Walk Score: 60
  • Transit Score: 45
  • Bike Score: 55

Cleveland, Ohio, was founded in 1796 near the Cuyahoga River with a New England-style downtown design and Public Square. After the Civil War, Cleveland experienced explosive growth as a central transportation hub between the East Coast and Midwest and manufacturing town.

According to our Apartment List Renter Migration Report, people move to Cleveland from Akron, Columbus, and New York. When locals are ready to leave Cleveland, they head to Akron, Columbus, and Tampa.

Cleveland is desirable for its growing industries and affordable rents, whether you're a college student or raising a family. Manufacturing was the prominent industry in Cleveland for over a century, but today institutes like the renowned Cleveland Clinic ushered in a healthcare boom. University hospitals, the US government, and insurance are also significant employers around Cleveland. The city is also home to higher education opportunities, including Cleveland State and Case Western.

Cleveland's roots in rock and roll make it a fun place to see a live concert, check out open mic nights, and hit up the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland is also a loyal sports town with the Cleveland Cavaliers making a dramatic turnaround over the last decade. Plus, you have the Cleveland Guardians baseball team and the Cleveland Browns entertaining fans. The Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and Cleveland Orchestra offers cultural outlets for the city.

Despite the harsh Cleveland winters, its proximity to Lake Eerie and dozens of parks offer a natural reprieve from the city. Beyond the urban beaches and bark, the Cleveland Botanical Garden provides a peaceful urban sanctuary with 10 acres, a greenhouse, a children's garden, and replicas of wonders like the Costa Rican Rainforest.

3. Cincinnati

  • Population: 303,940
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $915
  • Median Household Income: $40,640
  • Walk Score: 50
  • Transit Score: 44
  • Bike Score: 43

Cincinnati, Ohio, was first explored by settlers in 1811 with the introduction of steamboats on the Ohio River. As the city's trade grew thanks to quick shipping, Cincinnati began exporting pork products. The city became the central park processing center in the region, and its population tripled in just 20-years.

According to our Apartment List Renter Migration Report, people move to Cincinnati from Columbus, Louisville, and Lexington. When locals are ready to leave Cincinnati, they're also headed to Columbus, Louisville, and Lexington.

Cincinnati boasts a diverse economy. It consists of manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, insurance, finance, education, health services, and government. The city's proximity to Cincinnati, as well as its proximity to Kentucky across the Ohio River, opens up more job opportunities for locals. College students make themselves at home to attend the University of Cincinnati and private institutions. Cincinnati is an ideal place to move for college students and millennials looking for affordable rents and waterfront views.

Cincinnati has its share of culture, dining, and attractions stretching from its urban core. As one of the most prestigious art museums in the US, the Cincinnati Art Museum houses over 67,000 works of art in an iconic building in Eden Park. Historical attractions are also prominent in Cincinnati. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center displays the struggles for freedom from around the world, including the fight against US slavery.

Locals get outdoors and root for the Reds at the Great American Ball Park framed by the city skyline. The Small Riverfront Park, which sits along the Ohio River, features playgrounds, a giant chessboard, gardens, bike paths, a carousel, and more. For a nature stop, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is the second oldest zoo in the country and among the best. It welcomes endangered species, including white gorillas and white tigers.

4. Toledo

  • Population: 272,779
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $900
  • Median Household Income: $37,752
  • Walk Score: 45
  • Bike Score: 50

Toledo, Ohio was founded in 1833 along the banks of the Maumee River. The region quickly grew into a bustling Midwestern port with the completion of the Miami and Erie Canal in 1845. Toledo also held a prominent location along the rail line between New York City and Chicago.

Today, Toledo's major industries include manufacturing, farming, industrial protection, and agriculture. Toledo's job growth lags behind the rest of the US, though it is an affordable place to live for families, millennials, and college students. The University of Toledo and nearby Bowling Green State University are major employers and home to students and collegiate staff growing their careers.

Toledo earned the nickname “Glass City” for its glass manufacturing history and today’s growing art community. You can see evidence of glass art around the city, including the Toledo Museum of Art, which features paintings, cultural artifacts, and an extensive glass collection. Its free admission provides accessibility for everyone, making it an affordable afternoon in an already inexpensive city. The city's maritime history is reflected at the National Museum of the Great Lakes with exhibit galleries, outdoor park, Museum Tug, and Col James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship.

For a one-of-a-kind outdoor experience, the Toledo Zoo offers the only exhibit in the world with an underwater Hippoquarium. There are also over 500 species of mammals, reptiles, and birds. The Toledo Botanical Garden also features a unique recreated pioneer garden, meadows, rose gardens, herbs and an adventure playground.

5. Akron

  • Population: 197,597
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: ??
  • Median Household Income: $38,739
  • Walk Score: 46
  • Transit Score: 32
  • Bike Score: 46

Akron, Ohio was settled in 1811 and was home to a canal connecting Beaver, Pennsylvania that ushered in industries serving stoneware, sewer pipes, tackle, and farming equipment. The city also became the cornerstone of the rubber industry and was known as the "Rubber Capital of the World.”

Akron is a true manufacturing town, acting as a significant producer of plastics, chemicals, aluminum, glass, and rubber products. Job growth isn't as robust as the rest of the United States, though the city remains an affordable place to live, work, and play. The University of Akron and nearby Kent State University welcome college students and academic professionals. Akron is also an inexpensive place to raise a family with kid-friendly amenities.

Enjoy seeing more of Akron’s history and its idyllic backdrop at the same time. The Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens was built for a co-founder of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and is among one of the most prominent homes in Akron. Tours are offered at the 65-room Tudor Revival home and gardens. Culture lovers see live performances at the Akron Civic Theatre featuring a ceiling with a rotating scene of clouds and stars.

The rolling hills in Akron along the Ohio & Erie Canal are the perfect way to spend the day outdoors with a mix of greenery and urban amenities. The land for the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm was donated by the namesake Goodyear co-founder and features paths, wildlife viewing opportunities, and gardens.

Final Thoughts - Where Should I Move to in Ohio?

Ohio’s affordable cost of living, urban epicenters, and central location between the Midwest and Northeast make it an ideal place to live, work, and play. Ready to start looking for your new home? Browse Apartment List to find your next Ohio apartment.

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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