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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Best Places to Live: Top-Earning Towns

Bethesda, Md., residents pull in more than $170,000 a year. Which other places in our Best Places database have high incomes?

1. Bethesda, MD

Courtesy of Bethesda Urban Partnership

Population: 56,763

Median Family Income (Per Year): $172,541

Median Home Price: $725,000

There's a party for every season in this commuter town: Enjoy concerts and ice sculpting in the winter and Taste of Bethesda in October; schmooze with Pulitzer Prize winning authors at April's literary festival; and enjoy the strains of delta blues, soul and swing in the summer.

Year-round a dozen art galleries and hundreds of diverse restaurants woo suburbanites away from cul-de-sac comforts for days and nights downtown. An abundance of home fashion stores and graduate degrees (one in two residents has one) sets a swanky tone for this small community with big city style.

2. Greenwich, CT

Kindra Clineff

Population: 59,484

Median Family Income (Per Year): $164,807

Median Home Price: $997,498

This tony town is the epitome of coastal chic, with beaches and yacht clubs lining roughly 30 miles of shore. Wealthy residents enjoy lavish penthouse condos and multi-acre estates overlooking the Long Island Sound. Home prices soar into the millions of dollars.

But luxurious nests are only part of Greenwich's appeal. A well endowed arts scene includes the Greenwich Library, Bruce Museum, and two symphonies.

3. Palo Alto, CA

Courtesy of City of Palo Alto

Population: 60,089

Median Family Income (Per Year): $153,615

Median Home Price: $1,180,000

Palo Alto is awash in high tech prosperity. Stanford professors, Facebook engineers and venture capitalists are neighbors in this Silicon Valley town. It's home to the historically preserved garage where David Packard and Bill Hewlett launched the HP empire in 1938, as well as eight-figure Tuscan-inspired manors with pinot noir and chardonnay grapes out back.

Natural beauty is another of its keystones. Named for its tall trees, Palo Alto boasts spectacular nature trails, preserves and gardens, many of which offer it well-heeled residents Peninsula views and bird watching.

4. Newport Beach, CA

Kevin Steele

Population: 79,661

Median Family Income (Per Year): $144,917

Median Home Price: $1,008,000

Many Hollywood elites, professional athletes and business moguls who prefer life south of Beverly Hills and Malibu call sunny Newport Beach home.

Some locals flock to Fashion Island to clean the racks of luxury shops located within the open-air shopping plaza with Pacific Ocean views. Others dock and dine, catch an independent flick or stroll through the art galleries along the brick sidewalks of Cannery Village. Virtually wherever they go, residents have a picturesque setting at their backs.

5. Lower Merion, PA

Courtesy of Township of Lower Merion

Population: 56,789

Median Family Income (Per Year): $144,686

Median Home Price: $240,000

Located along the Main Line of the historic Pennsylvania Railroad, Lower Merion has long been a refuge from city life for the well-heeled. In the mid-19th century, railroad scions, merchant magnates and metal and oil industry tycoons began erecting grand homes throughout the area.

Some of the sprawling estates, from Georgian-inspired mansions to Scottish-infused castles, still stand. But McMansions, condos and townhomes now dot the landscape to house today's professionals.

6. Newton, MA

Courtesy of City of Newton

Population: 82,139

Median Family Income (Per Year): $138,070

Median Home Price: $625,000

The roots of this moneyed town of academics and executives date back to New England's earliest settlers.

Called the Garden City for its trees and parks, its lush landscape contributes to the town's refined bearing. So does its distinguished history -- Jackson Homestead, a stop on the Underground Railroad, is a point of community pride.

Famous residents have included literary giants Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson, athletes Ted Williams and Larry Bird, and actors Jack Lemmon and Matt LeBlanc.

7. Fairfield, CT

Courtesy of Fairfield

Population: 56,537

Median Family Income (Per Year): $127,920

Median Home Price: $483,500

This town launched its "clean and green" program in the '90s; today city officials cruise in hybrids, and citizens get incentives for energy efficiency and conservation. Strict emission standards are par for the course. The middle school, and even the wastewater treatment plants, run on clean energy.

But living green isn't cheap. A spacious harbor-side estate with 19th century roots might have an eight-figure price tag, while a contemporary Arts & Crafts-style showstopper with water views runs in the seven figures.

Locals with more modest accommodations can still feel rich amid nature's plenty. They have their pick of forests, lakes, meadows, rivers and wetlands --1,100 acres of town-owned open space to be exact.

8. Greenburgh, NY

Courtesy of Westchester County Tourism

Population: 89,604

Median Family Income (Per Year): $127,376

Median Home Price: $518,750

This well-to-do town prides itself on providing concierge-level service to all residents. Dial Democracy lets residents call into Town Board meetings live and Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and staff make house calls to address community concerns.

One of a handful of communities with a AAA bond rating from Moody's and Standard & Poor's, local government keeps taxes low and spends money where it counts.

Mixing business with pleasure, Greenburgh is home to numerous biotech firms, 30 art exhibits and training facilities for the Knicks, Rangers and Liberty. As one-time Greenburgh resident Cab Calloway sang, ain't that something?

9. Burke, VA

Courtesy of Burke Center Conservancy

Population: 54,974

Median Family Income (Per Year): $127,036

Median Home Price: $335,000

This upscale community is a haven for government officials and federal contractors seeking a break from the capitol. But it also attracts residents who work for local businesses in nearby Arlington.

The living is easy in this town, which puts shopping, pools, sports fields and footpaths within convenient reach. The prototypical suburb, it boasts great schools, high-end shops and well-tended footpaths.

Burke Centre Conservancy, a 1,700-acre planned residential community with 5 neighborhoods, pools and community centers is at the heart of it all.

10. Naperville, IL

Courtesy of City of Naperville

Population: 143,117

Median Family Income (Per Year): $125,702

Median Home Price: $330,000

A river walk runs through this idyllic suburb of Chicago. Complete with winding brick paths, covered bridges and shepherd's-crook light poles, this downtown attraction marries Naperville's historic past with its rich present.

In the surrounding tree-lined neighborhoods, you'll find a mix of quaint historic homes and mammoth McMansions. Locals enjoy recreational options from paddleboat tours to bocce courts. Great schools, a nationally acclaimed library system and charitable neighbors provide the cherry on top.

11. The Woodlands, TX

Population: 65,491

Median family income (per year): $124,939

Median home price: $214,593

Situated within 28,000 acres of forest, this master-planned community marries natural ambiance with rich luxury. An air-conditioned water taxi and complimentary trolley service help the masses navigate through it all. You'll also find ritzy sedans and SUVs parked at 12,000-square-foot estates with million-dollar furnishings tucked inside.

Major employers include Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Fox Sports Network, Hewitt Associates and Chevron Phillips Chemical.

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