These Are the 50 Nicest Places in America, According to Our Readers
This list of our 50 Nicest Places in 2020 came from over 1,000 stories sent to us by readers. Check out next year's Nicest Places at RD.com/Nicest.
Do you live in a place where people are kind? Where neighbors are friends and strangers are welcomed? Then you might live in one of the Nicest Places in America! Keep reading to see which place in your state we named the “nicest,” and click through to read each of their stories and vote on which one is your favorite. These stories will warm your heart and restore your faith in humanity, and the winning place will end up on the cover of Reader’s Digest!
Editor’s note: Buchanan, Michigan, is the 2020 Nicest Place in America! Read the heartwarming story of the town that would not be defeated by the challenges of this year.
The Nicest Place in Alabama: Owens Cross Roads
When the studio where MaKennah Morring teaches dance lessons closed because of the pandemic, the 24-year-old decided to deliver homemade cards to nursing homes in her small Appalachian town. Pretty soon came a knock on the door. Eleven-year-old burgeoning ballerina Aimee Ives had come to drop off some cards. Within a week, the duet had an idea to choreograph a little hope.
The Nicest Place in Alaska: Anchorage
When Alaska issued its “Hunker Down” order due to the novel coronavirus, the staff at Catholic Social Services knew they needed to act quickly to get the homeless population of Anchorage off the streets and out of crowded shelters to stem the disease’s spread. That meant finding private places for as many homeless as possible.
The Nicest Place in Arizona: East Gershon Lane in Tucson
It was Friday night, Zoom school looming Monday, and the nearby OfficeMax long sold out of desks. E.A. Smith, a friendly neighbor, came by to offer moral support, but when he had the scope of the problem, he did what folks in Tucson do when there’s a need.
“If you had to have something made, what would you want?” he asked.
The Nicest Place in Arkansas: Sardis
Jana Blackwood doesn’t know exactly who visits the box up the road. She doesn’t know exactly who puts the food donations in, or who comes to take them out.
All she knows is that anybody passing through Sardis who needs a fresh egg can probably find one at the Little Free Pantry on North Sardis Road, across from the car wash and next to the Dollar General.
The Nicest Place in California: Rio Vista
“Can’t go for a walk because I am Black. Can’t go for a drive because I am Black. Can’t go for a jog to exercise away my stress because I am Black. Can’t get angry because I am Black. I am home and I am crying,” wrote Rich Lynn on the Nextdoor app.
Someone Lynn didn’t even know responded she would be happy to walk with him. When Lynn showed up the next morning at the neighborhood clubhouse, about 75 people were waiting to walk with him.
The Nicest Place in Colorado: Struggle of Love in Denver
Joel and Lakeshia met 15 years ago when they were both homeless. They vowed to help each other get on their feet; once upright, they pledged to bring others up with them. So, with Lakeshia living in a shelter and Joel staying with friends, they decided to found Struggle of Love.
The Nicest Place in Connecticut: Bloomfield
Shouldn’t you be able to pull over in your community without having your life threatened? The people of Bloomfield, Connecticut think so. “We want people to know that we will always be behind them and this is what we’re going to do every time,” says local activist Alisha Lucy Meggett. “I treat it as if that’s my child and I can’t let it go.”
The Nicest Place in Delaware: Edgemoor Terrace Neighborhood in Wilmington
After their first smash-hit live-stream concert, Candice and Justin Jewell decided to do another one the following Saturday from a different room in their house. And then another the following Saturday from a different room. They performed on Facebook every Saturday until they ran out of rooms.
The Nicest Place in Florida: Pine Hills
“I didn’t know anybody here. I was starting over by myself,” says Pine Hills resident Marianne Fasolo, “What kind of response am I going to get?”
The Nicest Place in Georgia: The Dream Center in Augusta
“She looked so well-dressed. Didn’t look like nothing was going on. But when I gave her daughter that blanket, it all began to come out. That she was homeless, that she needed food,” says Linda Gifford, a volunteer with The Dream Center. “So many that come in, they’re not really looking for clothing. They’re not looking for food. They’re looking for conversation. They’re looking for love.”
The Nicest Place in Hawaii: Kamiloiki Valley on Oahu
Twenty-seven-year-old Kamaka Dias launched “The Race to $50K,” an innovative initiative to pay off all his student debt in one year by helping those in his area of Kamiloiki Valley however they need and asking them to pay whatever they think is fair.
Call it doing well while doing good.
The Nicest Place in Idaho: Meridian
Longtime resident Ga Neille Hostvedt has been so grateful for the offers to shop for her, the food dropped at her doorstep, the check-ins to make sure she’s doing all right through the pandemic, that she was moved to nominate her home as the Nicest Place in America. She describes not only the young caring for the old, as you’d expect, but the old caring for the older.
The Nicest Place in Illinois: Collinsville
COVID-19 hit this middle-class city hard, says resident and owner of Red Top Barbecue & Chili Melissa Gilmore. Many residents were put out of work and schools were closed, which thousands of Collinsville’s children rely on for meals. So, Red Top Barbecue & Chili decided to start their own free lunch program, dishing up hundreds of kid-friendly meals: cheeseburgers, hot dogs, spaghetti and meatballs.
The Nicest Place in Indiana: The Doorsteps of Central Indiana
Like hundreds of others around the Indianapolis suburb of Zionsville, Manuel had signed her household up for a project called At Our Doorstep, launched by a local photographer, Tiffany Stoner. The idea was to capture unvarnished images of quarantined families posing at their front doors. “I take pictures of families all the time, and it usually takes forever. The kids are a pain. Dad doesn’t want to be there,” Stoner says. “But this was weird. They were really into it! Even the dads.”
“I don’t remember a time in my life when everyone was going through the exact same thing at the same time,” Stoner says.
The Nicest Place in Iowa: Iowa City
When COVID-19 hit Iowa City, the bustling college town suddenly ground to a halt and all that remained was an eerie silence. But if you listened carefully, and had a little luck, you might be able to catch the sound of roller skates on pavement, spreading joy to quarantine-weary folks who needed it.
The skates belonged to Laura Claps and Sara Montgomery, competitors in the local Old Capitol City Roller Derby league, who traded their pads for inflatable costumes: a Tyrannosaurus rex, a rainbow unicorn, and more.
“We are trying to create a little bit of happiness in our neighborhood,” Montgomery told local newspaper The Gazette. In normal times, she goes by the roller derby moniker of A Few Screws Lucy.
The Nicest Place in Kansas: Olathe
“Our community believes in the future,” says Hall. “When COVID came, they said, ‘How can we help?’ It was amazing.” Volunteers at KidsTLC have helped organize socially distant activities, including birthday parties featuring personalized cakes and gifts. “We have to work together, and we have to stay apart,” Singhal says. “It’s hard! We’re all learning.”
The Nicest Place in Kentucky: Signature Health Care Nursing Facility in Elizabethtown
Joe Hall is a born artist who started drawing “before I was two,” he says. A car crash left him mostly paralyzed below the shoulders at 19. Now a resident at Signature Health Care Nursing Facility, his passion and release is shooting photos of birds. New coronavirus restrictions mean no visits or excursions—but birds still come to his window. So does Tammy Ray, a nurse practitioner and longtime friend of Joe’s.
Two or three times a week, Ray packs up her cleaning rags and seeds and sets off on a journey that literally means the world to Hall.
The Nicest Place in Louisiana: Red Handed Tattoo in Shreveport
By the time COVID-19 reached Louisiana, Micah Harold, owner of Red Handed Tattoo, had anticipated the demand for items like hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes and ordered them in bulk ahead of time. He wasn’t doing it to sell them at a big profit when demand spiked—he did it to supply those in need, for free.
When people started hearing about what Harold had on offer, they began dropping off any pandemic necessities they could spare—an extra pack of toilet paper here, a few jugs of hand sanitizer there. Call it a marketplace of caring, by and for the people.
The Nicest Place in Maine: The Cedars in Portland
When COVID-19 hit, visits to the Cedars had to stop. But student art volunteers did not let that break the connection.
The Nicest Place in Maryland: Gaithersburg
Denise Cherry lost three relatives to coronavirus. And her own situation got bad fast: her meds made her sick; she couldn’t leave the house; her trash was filling up. Desperate, Cherry finally responded to a Nextdoor post from a complete stranger offering to help anybody who needed it.
That stranger was Christy Cheung. She had told her son, Ethan, four, “‘There’s a grandma that needs help.’ And he was excited: ‘I’m going to help. I’m going to be a helper!’”
The Nicest Place in Massachusetts: Springfield
“I was given a bunch of hams,” Rev. Swarr says, explaining the purpose of his call. “But I only knew two people who needed them. Sandy was like, ‘Is that a Christian thing? You eat hams for Easter?’”
“I don’t know from hams. I am Jewish and know from briskets,” explains Miliefsky.
She did know from Nextdoor posts that there were many hungry people in Springfield. So before she went to bed that night, she posted that she had some hams to share. Did anybody want one?
The Nicest Place in Michigan: Buchanan
In a challenging year for America, when the COVID-19 pandemic and the evil of racial injustice pushed so many places to the brink, what set Buchanan, Michigan, apart? The 2020 Nicest Place in America is a town that would not be defeated by the coronavirus while uniting to say that Black lives do matter. It’s a place that has something to teach us all about caring for each other—even the least among us—not when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.
The Nicest Place in Minnesota: Victoria’s Ristorante and Wine Bar in Rochester
On March 17, Minnesota closed all restaurants to in-house dining, dealing the first of many blows to an industry that’s been hit hard in the COVID-19 crisis. But all Natalie Victoria could think of was the children.
She posted an offer on Facebook, describing the events leading to lockdown as “surreal” and that she wanted Victoria’s to be “a helper”: “Any child who needs a meal can come to the restaurant. Marinara Sauce with Pasta. Meat Sauce with Pasta. Buttered Noodles. And FRESH BREAD!! No questions asked. No purchase necessary.”
The Nicest Place in Mississippi: Florence Gardens in Gulfport
Despite the coronavirus lockdown, despite many businesses having to close their doors, neighbors in Florence Gardens found ways to come together as best they could. Waffle House, a southern diner chain, hosted a pop-up to sell its food as grocery store shelves went bare. And food trucks of all different cuisines have been making trips to the neighborhood. Once, during karaoke night organized by the neighborhood, a neighbor who owns a Hooters restaurant had wings served to everyone to keep spirits up.
The Nicest Place in Missouri: Thousand Oaks Subdivision in Parkville
After nearly a decade of giving their neighbors a beautiful way to celebrate their love for America and each other, the Burnettes needed their community to come through for them—and it did, big time.
The Nicest Place in Montana: Ronan
“They were missing their friends, so I gave them three options to try that would help others and give back,” says Shawn Kenelty, a parent in the Ronan School District. “They chose to lead an online story time.” For over seven weeks the freshman and senior students read to younger children every day, and the fruits of the labor were sweet for all. “It really turned into their sweet time together encouraging others. So many of the kids tuned in a couple of times a week, and then we got feedback from parents saying how much they appreciated what they were doing. It meant a lot to my kids.”
The Nicest Place in Nebraska: At the end of a Cul-de-Sac in Lincoln
At first, Randy Bretz’s neighbors gathered at the end of their driveways to honor and thank those on the front lines. Less than a week later, their celebrations morphed into nightly get-togethers in the middle of the cul-de-sac, at a safe social distance, of course. And that’s when real bonds started forming.
The Nicest Place in Nevada: Sparks
Without her husband around and with a pandemic in full swing, things around the new home went undone; piles of equipment and furniture sat unassembled in boxes. Then came an ominous phone call from one of Kathy’s new neighbors, an elderly man named John Mendes: She had just been burgled.
No kidding: The “burglary,” John continued, had been committed by him. “He said he had taken a couple boxes of unassembled things from our garage and that we would have them back in an hour or two,” she explains.
The Nicest Place in New Hampshire: Temple
Following the teacher parade playbook, Clark took to Facebook to invite anyone in the school system with an upcoming birthday to participate. Pretty soon the celebration expanded to residents of all ages, especially those who had a milestone birthday. In all, about 25 families signed on.
The Nicest Place in New Jersey: Jefferson Washington Township Hospital in Turnersville
“We have had tons of people buy our staff food, but usually businesses, not individuals,” says Nicole Pensiero, corporate director of communications at parent company Jefferson Health. “And certainly not people giving up their government stimulus check.”
The Nicest Place in New Mexico: Bueno Para Todos Farm in Villanueva
“Many of us had been host families for the students already when we were asked by UWC if we would consider taking in kids we didn’t know. Some stayed on the farm, some with me in my home, and some stayed with my farming partner. We made sure the students were comfortable,” says Iskat.
The Nicest Place in New York: Riverdale Neighborhood in The Bronx
You will not go hungry in the Bronx, New York City’s northernmost borough and home to 1.4 million people.
The Friendly Fridge would operate under a simple system: Take what you need and leave what you can.
The Nicest Place in North Carolina: Dirtbag Ales Brewery in Hope Mills
In mid-March, Shannon Loper, operations manager for Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Tap Room, got a phone call. At first, she thought it was a joke. The caller said he was Brian Knight, a retired Command Sergeant Major of the 82nd airborne division, and he had a big request: Would the brewery provide free beer to soldiers returning to nearby Fort Bragg?
The Nicest Place in North Dakota: Minot
There’s a mystery in Minot. At the beginning of the pandemic, hearts started sprouting out of the ground.
The Nicest Place in Ohio: Clintonville Neighborhood in Columbus
The realization began with an online group for groceries. When one neighbor would head to the store, he or she would message others to see if anyone needed anything, limiting the number of trips. Friendships blossomed and neighbors began to coordinate porch picnic dinners, with each family dining on their respective front steps at the same time as their neighbors.
The Nicest Place in Oklahoma: Colefax Hill Neighborhood in Tulsa
Bong felt like his strong, healthy family could do more to help their neighbors in the Colefax Hill section of Tulsa where they lived, so he asked his boys what they thought they should do.
We can mow lawns, they suggested. They thought that might be a big help to neighbors who were older or had health issues that made them more prone to complications from COVID-19. The boys reached out to the neighborhood’s housing association, who gave their plan the green light.
The Nicest Place in Oregon: Hillsboro
“Do you always shop this early?” the officer asked. When Foster told him he was a sanitation worker who’d come for sanitizer but struck out, the deputy told him to stay put and disappeared into the store. A few minutes later, he returned with the sought-after spray. Foster thanked him and asked how much he owed him. The officer wouldn’t take any money.
The Nicest Place in Pennsylvania: Yardley
Caring for Friends, the organization that distributes meals, came up with the idea for the parishioners to make meals in their homes. They enlisted neighbors to help, and pretty soon the volunteers were cranking out 1,000 meals and 400 containers of soup each week—almost ten times more food than before.
The Nicest Place in Rhode Island: Belmont Market in Wakefield
First, the café, which could no longer serve customers in person, was converted into a phone bank for taking orders. Volunteers, supplied with masks and hand sanitizer, took orders in the morning and shopped and prepped items for delivery in the afternoon—and then made the actual deliveries.
“They are what a small business in the community should be all about,” says Deb Tanner, executive director of the Southern Rhode Island Volunteers.
The Nicest Place in South Carolina: Pawleys Island
Word spread beyond the congregation, and by the time the campaign was over ten days later, 1,800 cards had been collected.
“It was overwhelming,” says Amy Stevens, vice president of Tidelands Health. “It has probably been one of my favorite moments of my career and I’ve been doing this for over 20 years now.
The Nicest Place in South Dakota: Iroquois School District
First, school officials compiled a list of Internet companies—from the big boys, like Verizon and T-Mobile, to MIDCO, a regional service provider—that would provide or extend service for their students’ families, regardless of ability to pay.
Many Iroquois students rely on school meals. It was critical, the district decided, for those not to stop. The staff would prepare daily lunches, then deliver them straight to the doorsteps of each student who needed one—even students who live as far as 26 miles away.
The Nicest Place in Tennessee: Nashville
“She thoroughly cleans the credit card machine and the entire counter around it. As I insert my card, tears start to roll down my cheeks. She took the receipt, wiped it down, and lay it on the counter. Beside it, she placed a clean tissue as she could see my tears were still streaming down my cheeks.”
Such a normally simple task had turned into a beautiful experience with an unknown, unnamed clerk in Jeanne Hall’s local post office.
The Nicest Place in Texas: Highland Village
“Not all angels have halos. Some wear cowboy hats,” says Elaine Hankins of her Highland Village neighbors.
No money? No problem. Delhi6 Indian Kitchen handed out free food to customers who couldn’t afford to pay. They even came up with a code name for the free food: Happy Meals. “If it comes to a point where you have to go to sleep hungry, come here, no questions asked,” VJ says. “Ask for a Happy Meal and you don’t have to pay.”
The Nicest Place in Utah: Backyards in Saratoga Springs
“We have a unique setup with our yards and friendships with our neighbors,” says Doney, 42. “Most of us don’t have fences. At first, it was because they’re expensive, but then we realized how much we all loved having open backyards to hang out in. That made it perfect for teaching a workout class because everyone could see me from my neighbor’s back porch.”
The Nicest Place in Vermont: Cyberspace
Telehealth Access for Seniors was born: to get communications technology, such as a smartphone or tablet computer, to elderly patients who lack and very much need it. “It’s more than just a device. It’s a vital connectivity tool and it could save someone’s life,” says Rubel, 18, who joined the initiative in March as the lead for Vermont.
The Nicest Place in Virginia: Virtual Tip Jar
Melissa Corrigan is a veteran and a mom of six, who created a way for these unemployed service industry workers to still get paid via donations: the Virtual Tip Jar. In addition to money, users can send a note of encouragement. And just like that, you’re able to help a person in need, whether a friend, neighbor, or a total stranger.
The thing about Corrigan’s tip jar is that it’s more than a way for people in her community to give back—it’s an idea that has spread, sparking kindness across America.
The Nicest Place in Washington: Bellden Cafe in Bellevue
The café didn’t close once during the early days of the pandemic—it was deemed an essential service and pivoted to takeout and contactless delivery. Sumadiwirya offered unemployment benefits to workers who didn’t feel safe on the job. For the rest, she offered the opportunity to serve the community above and beyond the café’s original commitments.
They have raised money to deliver coffee and pastries to frontline workers at local hospitals and police departments. And Bellden has served as a hub for donations that go toward purchasing supplies like diapers, groceries, and other necessary items for those who need.
The Nicest Place in West Virginia: Huntington
“It took our whole team to make it happen,” says Cosco. “With two 12-hour shifts to cover, that means we’re offering two lunches per day, per hospital. We had to contact the hospital to get exact numbers of those we would be feeding, and then we had to contact restaurants to see what they would be willing to do, and what their capacity was. It was a lot of asking, ‘Can you take a shift or entire day?’”
The Nicest Place in Wisconsin: Sassy Cow Creamery in Columbus
News reports showed farmers dumping milk into the fields because their usual orders from schools and businesses had dried up. As wasteful as it seemed, that milk was raw, not pasteurized, and couldn’t just be donated to people who needed it. But Sassy Cow, located on 1,700 acres in the middle of farm country between Madison and Milwaukee, pasteurizes and bottles its own milk.
The teenagers had an idea: set up a refrigerator outside the Sassy Cow Creamery store and keep it stocked with milk (even chocolate milk!) that people could come and take, no questions asked, no charge.
The Nicest Place in Wyoming: Casper
It seems that whenever people need kindness in Casper, it’s given in abundance. Mitch Fickel is a local painter who knew that he and many of his contractor friends had the desperately sought-after N95 masks that healthcare workers needed. He saw on Facebook that there was a shortage and made his own post in response, directing his friends to drop off any N95 masks they could spare.
Fickel, whose wife is a nurse, told the Casper Star-Tribune that he’s given about 400 masks to the Wyoming Medical Center. “The only way you beat something like this, you get together as a team and kick its butt,” he said.