by Max Brantley
What the locals love: The annual Riverfest performing-arts celebration, the paved trail system along the Arkansas River, the mild winters and lack of traffic.
Why does Little Rock top on our list? It offers far more than a lovely setting in rolling hills between the Ouachita Mountains and the Arkansas River. It is the capital of Arkansas and its largest city, as well as the state center of business, health care and culture. It has the amenities of a larger city but is small enough that you can feel part of the diverse community. Residents of the eclectic Hillcrest neighborhood mingle, shop and listen to street music on the first Thursday of each month. Young professionals meet with company leaders as part of Create Little Rock, a networking program. Volunteerism by retirees is quite high here.