Fort Collins
 Fort Collins, CO
Top 100 rank: 6
Population: 141,000
Unemployment: 7.4%
Bikers and beers. In most parts of the country, those two elements may be reasons to move elsewhere. But in the foothills of Colorado’s Front Range, bikers mean cyclists: Fort Collins has 29 miles of well-used trails.
As for beers, this town has become a high-end microbrew mecca. New Belgium Brewery (maker of Fat Tire) is based in this entrepreneurial town, and competitors are moving in.
People here aren’t slackers either. Bolstered by Colorado State University, which employs 7,000, “the Fort” is a center of economic activity. Hewlett-Packard, the city’s second-largest employer, announced worldwide layoffs in June, but they won’t affect Fort Collins. In fact, the company is adding jobs here.
This idyllic town — No. 1 in 2006 — would rank even higher but for one thing. (No, it’s not last summer’s Balloon Boy hoax, perpetrated by the local Heene family.) Colorado schools are hurting. After the state sliced public schools budget this year, Fort Collins’s Poudre School District laid off 139 full-time employees. —Pieter van Noordennen via
Highlands Ranch
Highlands Ranch, CO
Top 100 rank: 12
Population: 98,000
With over 8,100 acres of open space, 22 lush parks, and activity possibilities that span from hiking to golf, this unincorporated area outside Denver offers the best of the Colorado outdoors.
Visit Highlands Ranch Mansion, a historic structure, or one of the town’s four state-of-the-art recreational facilities.
A strong school district and steady home prices appeal to families. Highlands Ranch’s business parks are also a draw. —Brittani DiMare via 
Broomfield, CO
Top 100 rank: 19
Population: 55,000
With a prime location only 20 minutes from both Denver and Boulder, Broomfield is a safe, active community with a very strong school district and much for residents to enjoy.
Spend the day walking along Broomfield’s 66 miles of trails or start up a game on one of the sports fields in Broomfield’s numerous green parks.
If it’s raining, head to the Paul Derda Recreation Center, a facility with an indoor aquatic park, climbing wall, game room, and fitness classes. —B.D. via