Top Towns 2024: The Best Places to Live in Metro Detroit

We asked and you answered. Here are your top towns in four counties.
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Illustration by Doodle Style, Adobe Stock

Choosing the town in which you want to raise a family, buy your first home, or retire is a huge decision. It’s also very personal. What might be important to one resident or family is not as important to another. That’s why when determining this year’s list of the top towns in metro Detroit, we put the steering wheel in your hands.

Last November, we asked Hour Detroit readers to tell us what matters most to you when choosing a place to live. We directed you to a survey that listed 13 factors to choose from (you could select as many as you wished) and asked you to rank them from “very important” to “not important.” Those categories were crime rate/safety, diversity and inclusivity, downtown quality, health care access, housing affordability, job market, parks/green space, public schools, reputation, single-family homes, single- and multifamily homes, transportation, and walkability.

Over two months, 449 people took the survey.

We then took the factors with the highest scores, where 70% of respondents or more selected “very important” or “important,” and considered those the most important categories to you, our readers. Those categories are crime rate/safety, parks/green space, health care access, and quality of public schools.

Next, we looked up the 20 or more** most populous municipalities in each of the four counties (Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne) and gathered the data for those factors. We also included cities that our readers mentioned specifically when we asked on the survey, “What three cities do you consider top towns?”

On these pages, you will see charts for the top towns in each category for all of metro Detroit and one chart for the top 40 with the highest overall scores. The town descriptions that follow cover a selection of the municipalities on the charts, due to space constraints. We hope that the charts will help get you started on doing your own research, based on what factors you find most important.

**Note: Since Oakland and Wayne are much more populous than the other two counties, we included more than 20 of their towns in our research.**

Oakland County

Berkley

Berkley is one of those cities that remind you of the quintessential Small Town, USA. Many kids walk to school; ice cream shops, a record store, and a bowling alley are near the schools; and the city has a carnival to kick off summer vacation (as well as several more fairs throughout the summer).

Berkley’s downtown is also great for adults, with both mom-and-pop and upscale shops, plus a variety of bars and restaurants, like The Rind wine bar and Casa Amado Taqueria, a 2023 James Beard Award semifinalist.

According to City Manager Matthew Baumgarten, “Berkley’s best asset is how it blends downtown with suburban living, with the access to the greater metropolitan area.”

Berkley High School is in the top 5% of the state’s high schools, and the district has been recognized 12 years in a row as one of the best music communities in the nation. “It’s not just the academics portion of it but arts, … giving students a whole-scale, well-rounded, robust start to wherever their lives take them,” Baumgarten says.

Berkley is a city with plenty to offer, including summer festivals, great schools, and various bars and restaurants. // Photograph by Jake Turskey, courtesy of Oakland County

Birmingham

This wealthy Oakland County city of 20,000 seems to have it all, except perhaps affordability. Its charming downtown is considered one of the best shopping districts in metro Detroit, with nearly 300 boutiques, spas, eateries, galleries, and more.

Retail spaces range from locally owned clothing stores like Tender to a 6,000-square-foot CB2, Crate & Barrel’s sister brand. There are also two movie complexes and a theater company downtown. Birmingham, where the median home price is more than $1 million, has beautiful residential streets that include new builds and houses dating back to the 19th and early 20th centuries. The city also has 230 acres of parkland, including nature trails along the Rouge River.

The Birmingham school district is top-rated (its two high schools are both in the top 25 of the state), but it’s not all about test scores.

“Part of what we believe is having true academic excellence is also a strong focus on emotional wellness,” says Birmingham Public Schools Superintendent Embekka Roberson. “Students spend a lot of their day here at school, and so we have to also attend to their emotional well-being so that they are better able to learn.”

Those who love shopping and self-care will appreciate the nearly 300 boutiques, spas, and eateries that Birmingham has to offer. // Photograph by Jake Turskey, courtesy of Oakland County

Bloomfield Hills and Bloomfield Township

Spacious wooded lots, scenic roadways, and stately buildings mark the landscape of Bloomfield Hills and Bloomfield Township, two of Oakland County’s more sought-after locales.

About 5 square miles, Bloomfield Hills is one of the wealthiest communities in the country, with million-dollar homes and lots of privacy. At 26 square miles, Bloomfield Township is “not just a beautiful township with a lot of lakes and golf courses, but we’re about 95% residential,” says Township Supervisor Dani Walsh. “We do have a little bit of commercial interspersed throughout, but it’s truly based on community and what’s best for our neighborhoods.”

Both communities boast excellent schools, attracting families who value top-notch education. There is plenty to do here, from exploring the arts and sciences at the world-famous Cranbrook Educational Community to spending the day at the 1830s-era Franklin Cider Mill. You can also check out wildlife at the Johnson Nature Center or visit Bowers Farm, where sheep, goats, and cattle graze in the pastures.

Commerce Township

Living in Commerce Township is like enjoying a crisp breath of fresh air. Stretching about 30 square miles on the western part of Oakland County, the township offers activities for all ages, from hiking and fishing at the Robert H. Long Nature Park to mountain biking at Hickory Glen Park. Altogether, the township boasts over 1,200 acres of parkland, walking trails, and athletic fields.

In 2023, NeighborhoodScout ranked Commerce Township as the 38th safest community in America.

You can buy fresh asparagus, peas, and sweet corn at the Long Family Orchard & Farm or explore history at Byers Homestead Park, which has original buildings dating back to 1825. Want to stretch and relax? Take part in the annual Barefoot and Free Yoga Festival held at Proud Lake Recreation Area in August.

Orion Township and Village of Lake Orion

Life is a beach! Just ask the residents of Orion Township. “Our motto is we’re living as a vacation,” says Township Supervisor Chris Barnett. “In our 36 square miles, we have 42 lakes that are larger than 5 acres. We have two regional trails that connect to the Iron Belle Trail system.”

Nestled toward the northern border of Oakland County, the township offers miles of open space and private lakefront property, and the Village of Lake Orion has a historic downtown filled with unique stores and services. Nearly 20% of the township, over 4,200 acres, is parkland. You can hike the Polly Ann Trail, explore Camp Agawam, or snowmobile at Bald Mountain Recreation Area. History buffs can travel back in time here, as many of the landmarks date back to the early 1800s.

The Blue Ribbon-awarded Lake Orion Community Schools is a major draw for families, and there’s always something fun happening here. Fill your calendar with events like the Dragon on the Lake Festival, the Art & Flower Fair, the Michigan Fall Festival, or a springtime flashlight egg hunt for the kids.

The Village of Lake Orion has a historic downtown with a central park. // Photograph courtesy of Oakland County

Rochester and Rochester Hills

Rochester and Rochester Hills offer a charming small-town vibe with a big-city feel. Downtown Rochester bustles with more than 350 mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, and service providers, while Rochester Hills boasts 14 community parks and over 140 acres of protected open space. Both communities enjoy an extremely low crime rate.

“We’re the safest city in Michigan for the last seven years among cities our size, according to the FBI,” says Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan K. Barnett.

Residents enjoy easy access to nature trails along the Clinton River and Paint Creek or through Bloomer Park. And downtown Rochester’s Main Street plays host to The Big, Bright Light Show every holiday season.

Immerse yourself in the region’s rich agricultural history at the Rochester Hills Museum or explore the elegance of Meadow Brook Hall, a national treasure built in the 1920s. With the school district boasting three of the top-rated high schools in Michigan, Rochester and Rochester Hills are also a great place for young families.

The Village of Rochester Hills is a bustling shopping district home to over 40 stores. // Photograph courtesy of Oakland County

Royal Oak

Royal Oak has a reputation as a dining, nightlife, and independent retail store hub, with plenty of options in its ever-expanding walkable downtown. Mayor Mike Fournier agrees but adds, “What truly sets us apart, known perhaps only to our residents, is our dedication to green spaces and community living. … Royal Oak offers a unique blend of urban convenience and suburban tranquility.”

The city has one of the best farmers markets in metro Detroit (it’s open year-round and has composting bins), and Royal Oak was one of the first cities in Michigan to be given Tree City USA status by the Arbor Day Foundation for efforts to promote and care for public trees.

Of the city’s 51 parks, one of the newest is Centennial Commons, which has an outdoor ice rink in the winter and a “sprayground” in the summer. It’s host to events such as Winter Blast and a Juneteenth celebration. Music is also big: The four-day Arts, Beats, and Eats festival occurs every Labor Day weekend, and the Royal Oak Music Theatre has hosted acts like Adele, Lady Gaga, and Ed Sheeran.

The Royal Oak Farmers Market is a great place to pick up fresh fruits and veggies on the weekend. // Photograph courtesy of Oakland County

West Bloomfield Township

One of Michigan’s most vibrant bedroom communities, West Bloomfield Township is a haven for water lovers. It is a boater’s paradise, featuring 24 lakes covering over 2,800 acres. And “we work hard to be environmentally sound,” says Township Supervisor Steve Kaplan. “We have very rigorous woodlands and wetlands ordinances and were the first in the state to adopt wetland protections.”

West Bloomfield’s nearly 600 acres of public parkland, featuring a 6.8-mile walking and biking trail, offer ample space for outdoors enthusiasts. Looking for some family fun? You can find beekeeping programs, archery classes, pickleball, a splash pad, and a host of other activities in the township.

The 31-square-mile township is also home to several unique businesses, such as the state’s only Ferrari dealership and Planterra Conservatory, a wedding venue named one of America’s best by Brides magazine. NeighborhoodScout ranks West Bloomfield as the 22nd safest community in the country.

The numbers in the columns are the scores the towns received according to our grading system, with 100 being the best (for example, lowest crime or best public schools). For more information about our grading system and how the towns performed in each of the categories, see the other charts in this feature. // Illustration from Adobe Stock

White Lake Township

White Lake Township is a paradise for people who like to stay active and enjoy the great outdoors. More than 28% of the township’s land — or approximately 6,000 acres — is dedicated to open space. “The natural features here are a big part of the community,” says Township Supervisor Rik Kowall.

Hike miles of rustic trails year-round at Highland State Recreation Area. Embrace the winter with a day of snowboarding or skiing at Alpine Valley. Explore nature at Indian Springs Metropark, known for its towering trees and wetlands. Or splash around at one of the many lakes located across the 37-square-mile township.

Young families and retirees will appreciate White Lake’s tight-knit neighborhoods and low crime rate — NeighborhoodScout ranked it as the 15th safest community in America in 2023.

Data: The number is the distance in miles between the municipality’s government building, such as the city clerk’s office, and the closest hospital on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top 13 hospitals in metro Detroit. Those hospitals are University of Michigan Health in AnnArbor, Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Beaumont in Troy, Trinity Health Ann Arbor in Ypsilanti, Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Beaumont in Grosse Pointe, Ascension Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc, Ascension in Southfield, Beaumont in Dearborn, Beaumont in Trenton, Henry Ford West Bloomfield, Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit, and Henry Ford Macomb in Clinton Township. Grading: 1-5 miles = 100 points, 6-9 = 90, 10-15 = 80, 16-20 = 70, over 20 = 60

Macomb County

Clinton Township

With a population of over 100,000 and an area of almost 30 square miles, Clinton Charter Township is one of the largest and most populous towns in Michigan. It’s home to two Michigan icons, the Sanders chocolate factory and acclaimed rapper Eminem.

Clinton Township is also known for The Mall at Partridge Creek, which in addition to boasting 90 restaurants and stores is also dog-friendly. And it’s one of metro Detroit’s safest communities.

Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon boasts about the township’s many parks — especially the fact that it has “the only inclusive ball field in the state of Michigan, and we have a second one going in. They’re both diamonds for children that have handicaps, and they’re located at the Neil Reid Park.”

The Clinton River, a great place to kayak, canoe, and paddleboard, also flows through the township before emptying into Lake St. Clair.

Data: The number represents the percentage of the municipality’s acreage that consists of public parks or parks available to its residents. Grading: 28.06% = 100 points, 20-10 = 90, 9-5 = 80, 4-1 = 70, 0 = 60

Utica

Within an area of under 2 square miles, Utica offers many of the pleasures of small-town life, from a petite but charming historic district to verdant paths through the Clinton River Heritage and River Bends parks. These and other attractive green spaces put Utica in our top four for percetage of park acerage among metro Detroit’s top towns.

Local attractions include Jimmy John’s Field, where United Shore Professional Baseball League games are played and lots of family fun is had, and The Reptarium reptile zoo and soon-to-open LegaSea Aquarium.

The downtown district (home to restaurants like Host and the Shamrock Pub) may soon undergo a big upheaval: There is a proposal to bring a multifamily development, a boutique hotel, a brewery, and more downtown.

Mayor Gus Calandrino takes pride in Utica’s public safety organizations. “For a small city, we’ve been able to maintain our own independent police and fire departments, which is kind of a cool thing.”

Data: The total of all violent crime, property crime, and other larceny was collected from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime Data Explorer’s most recent data (2022) and from local government entities with data from towns not found in the Explorer, including those in Macomb and Washtenaw counties. We then calculated the crime rate per 1,000 residents. Grading: 1-10 crimes per 1,000 residents = 100 points; 11-20 = 90, 21-30 = 80, 31-40 = 70, 41-50 = 60, 51-60 = 50, 60+ = 40

Washtenaw County

Ann Arbor and Scio Township

Well known for its association with the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor has so much going for it besides, considered one of the most livable cities in the state and even the nation. Perhaps no surprise given the city’s proximity to the university and its hospital system, Ann Arbor’s Skyline High School and health care access land among the top 10 in Hour Detroit’s rankings.

“Our quality of life rests on our values: pluralism, education, and sustainability,” says Mayor Christopher Taylor. The area also boasts beautiful parks like the beloved Nichols Arboretum and Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

Ann Arbor’s vibrant, walkable downtown is a destination for music, dining, and the arts. Artists travel from across the country for events like the Ann Arbor Art Fair and the Ann Arbor Folk Festival.

Standout restaurants Miss Kim and Spencer recently received national attention when they were nominated for 2024 James Beard Awards.

Situated between Ann Arbor and Dexter, Scio Township “is lucky to have superlative public school districts … as well as excellent charter and private school options,” says Township Supervisor Will Hathaway. “The Washtenaw Intermediate School District is located within the township and hosts a school for students with special needs at its High Point campus.

The community support for education is fueled by the proximity to the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, and Washtenaw Community College. These three institutions each serve as economic engines that directly or indirectly employ many Scio Township residents.”

Residents can watch foreign, documentary, American independent, and many more types of films at the Michigan Theater, located in downtown Ann Arbor. // Photograph by Traveling with Nina

Dexter, Dexter Township, and Webster Township

About a 20-minute drive northwest of Ann Arbor, downtown Dexter looks a bit like a small-town film set, reminiscent of Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow or Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show. The town celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, and charming 19th-century buildings still line the main street, housing thriving restaurants and businesses.

The ever-growing Border to Border Trail lines the picturesque Huron River within the town limits, as does the Dexter Cider Mill, Michigan’s oldest continuously operating cider mill. In Hour Detroit’s rankings, Dexter placed high for its low crime rate and the top-rated Dexter High School.

Dexter Township, to the northwest of Dexter, is home to Hudson Mills Metropark, “and we provide free passes to our residents to enjoy the park,” says Township Supervisor Karen Sikkenga. “We’re also only a 20-minute drive from Ann Arbor, so there are tons of shops and cultural events that we can access pretty easily.”

To the north and northwest is Webster Township. Supervisor John Kingsley says it’s a great place to live because “we’re a rural-looking community despite being a bedroom community for the city of Ann Arbor. Residents have great access to Hudson Mills Park in neighboring Dexter Township, as well.”

At Hudson Mills Metropark, you can hike, bike, kayak, and much more. // Photograph courtesy of Huron-Clinton Metroparks

Saline and York Township

About 10 miles southwest of Ann Arbor, the little town of Saline (population around 9,000) punches above its weight with its beautiful surrounding countryside and charming Main Street vibe. It’s home to 12 parks, the top-rated Saline High School, thriving shops and restaurants, and celebrations including the Celtic Festival, which honors the town’s sister city of Brecon, Wales.

“I’ve lived in the Saline community my entire life — it is an exceptional and special place,” says Mayor Brian Marl, mentioning “wonderful schools, a charming downtown, ample parks and green space, and an active and engaged citizenry.” Marl also notes Saline’s “great geographic location” — the town was named for the 600-million-year-old salt springs that were a valuable resource for Native Americans and ultimately Europeans who settled the area in the 19th century.

Nearby York Township is a rural and residential community that is also “pretty close to the urban centers,” says Township Supervisor Chuck Tellas. It also has “a nice mix of old and new families.” Its parks include Sandra J. Richardson Park, Mary McCann Park, and the Leslee Niethammer Saline River Preserve.

Saline’s 54-acre Mill Pond Park includes this playground, a favorite of local kids. // Photograph courtesy of the City of Saline

Wayne County

Grosse Ile Township

Grosse Ile Township is one of the most remarkable municipalities in metro Detroit. The township’s main island, Grosse Ile, is the largest island in the Detroit River and is only accessible by boat or via two bridges built in the first half of the 20th century.

The population of the township — about 10,700 — is spread out across the main island’s 9 square miles of land, plus more than a dozen similar islands. What Grosse Ile lacks in a dense downtown, it makes up for with recreational waterfront access and tons of protected parks and green spaces.

“My favorite thing about living on Grosse Ile is the peace and ease of living here,” says Township Supervisor James Budny. “I come across the bridge onto Grosse Ile and the community is quiet and peaceful.”

Grosse Ile is considered one of metro Detroit’s safest towns, with equally excellent access to health care and great schools, including Grosse Ile High School, which is ranked No. 40 out of Michigan’s 1,166 public high schools.

Photograph courtesy of Grosse Ile Township

The Grosse Pointes

Five adjacent towns — Grosse Pointe Park, Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Shores, and Grosse Pointe Woods — make up this picturesque northern suburb of Detroit, known for its tight-knit communities and well-kept parks.

Charming architecture ranges from quaint, historic single-family cottages to opulent waterfront estates like the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, now a popular museum, to famed recreational retreats like the Lochmoor Club, home to an 18-hole championship golf course, and Grosse Pointe Yacht Club.

Over their combined 10.4 square miles, the Grosse Pointes have multiple thriving central business districts with bars, restaurants, and shops that have been beloved by generations of residents. Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Arthur W. Bryant is excited about a new fenced-in small-children’s park within Chene-Trombley Park, which has ADA-compliant features.

“For instance, we have a merry-go-round [where] you can roll right up to it and roll onto it. We have a special set of swings that an adult or another child could ride with somebody else, specifically for kids with special needs.” Grosse Pointe Farms Mayor Louis Theros applauds the town’s “tremendous public safety team that does a wonderful job. At any given time, the most you have to wait for a police officer is 30 seconds to a minute, because we’re a small community.”

Students in the Grosse Pointe Public School System conducting a science experiment. // Photograph courtesy of GPPSS

Northville and Northville Township

A petite, upscale town of about 2 square miles and home to just over 6,000, Northville is located right on the northwestern border of Wayne County. With its well-kept downtown, top-10-ranked Northville High School, and proximity to Maybury State Park (it’s in Northville Township), it’s no wonder Northville is considered one of the best places to live in metro Detroit.

Another draw to Northville is the Mill Race Village, where various historic buildings have been relocated and preserved to show visitors what the area might have been like in the 1800s.

Regarding Northville Township’s desirability, Supervisor Mark J. Abbo says, “We’re 30 minutes from downtown Detroit, 20 minutes from Ann Arbor, and 20 minutes from the airport. If a business is looking to locate somewhere, they want to be close to their customers, [and] they want to be close to their suppliers. They want to have culture available for their children and for them. And that’s all Northville. We provide all of that, even if not within Northville.”

The township’s students also attend Northville High School.

Data: We referred to U.S. News & World Report’s most recent list of 1,166 traditional public high schools in Michigan. We did not include schools that have a lottery system like the International Academies or schools for which you need to test to apply such as University High School Academy in Southfield. Grading: 1-20 ranking = 100 points, 21-40 = 95, 41-60 = 90, 61-80 = 85, 81-100 = 80, 101-120 = 75, 121-140 = 70, 141-160 = 65, 161-180 = 60, 181-200 = 55, 201-651 = 50. // Illustration from Adobe Stock.

This story was compiled with additional reporting by Christina Clark, Juliana Lumaj, Will Reaume, Olivia Sedlacek, Jack Thomas, and Taylor Truszkowski. 


This story originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. To read more, pick up a copy of Hour Detroit at a local retail outlet. Our digital edition will be available on May 6.