16. Johnston, Iowa

150803_BPL_Johnston
Courtesy of Johnston—Courtesy of Johnston, IA
AT A GLANCE
Population 20,126
Median Income $89,956
Job Growth 5.7%
Median Home Price $218,563
Property Tax $4,865

This Des Moines suburb got its name from John F. Johnston, a station agent for an early 1900s railroad that crossed Des Moines from southeast to northwest, stopping in Johnston along the way. But today Johnston is more than just a stopping point: it’s a place to settle.

Johnston made MONEY’s Best Places list for the second time notably because of its award-winning schools, which consistently tout some of the highest levels of student proficiency and high school graduation in the state; in 2010, President Obama’s National Teacher of the Year was a Johnston Senior High School English teacher. Along with a low cost of living in the town’s tree-lined neighborhoods, a high median household income, a seventeen-minute commute to Des Moines, and Camp Dodge—the home of Iowa’s national guard—Johnston’s schools have helped the town to double its population since 2000.

Adjacent to Saylorville Lake and bisected by Beaver Creek, Johnston also boasts major green space and over 35 miles of trails. Residents can camp, picnic, and ride bikes along the Saylorville Dam. The city has also recently begun the $5.4 million development of a new local park—to include an 8-acre fishing lake and pier, playgrounds, and a concert lawn.

And while Iowa winters are known to be chilly, Johnston’s warmer months are big for town togetherness. May marks an annual kite festival and farmers’ market; June brings Green Days, a three day summer festival outside the local library; July bring Jazz in July to town; and come fall, it’s Friday night football season for the Dragons.—Katy Osborn

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