Where’s the best place to live? Not where you think

by Ryan Streeter on August 21, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Here is CNN Money’s description of Carmel, Indiana, which tops its list of the best places to live in America:

Five years ago Carmel was a quiet, upscale bedroom community that offered an easy 20-minute commute to downtown Indianapolis. Despite the recession, this formerly sleepy burb has since transformed itself into the ideal place to work and play.

Carmel’s business district now has the second-largest concentration of office workers in Indiana and an unemployment rate that’s just over half the national average.

The city also has excellent schools, a big sports and recreation center, a performing arts center, and wide bike lanes. All that, plus a variety of housing options ranging from older homes to new subdivisions, and you have an irresistible draw for families.

I know Carmel. I grew up in the town just to the west. Back then, we made fun of Carmel for being the quintessential American suburb with no center and nothing to boast of other than housing developments and some tired strip malls. Now, it’s been reinvented, mostly through the ingenuity and leadership of its mayor Jim Brainard, into a town with a center and possibly even a purpose. It has more roundabouts than any city in America, a Main Street invented out of nothing, and  I might add,  its own symphony orchestra. The orchestra plays in the Palladium, which itself is impressive: