The 2020 results of our annual survey of places in the West with an especially high quality of life

Anchorage, AK
Anchorage, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Chilkoot/iStock/Getty Images Plus

A note to our readers: Though most travel is on pause for now, one thing is certain: The need and capacity to explore and experience the world at large will return in due time. So for now, we’re going to provide you with books, movies, and podcasts for virtual and mental escape, ways to support the travel and hospitality industries right now, and inspiration for future journeys. If you see something you like, bookmark it now and hopefully you can book a trip soon.

What makes a town a dream town? A beautiful setting and affordability are a good start, but when it comes to putting down roots (or even just visiting) someplace special, it’s the sense of community that often seals the deal.

When tasked with finding the very best towns in the West, the Sunset editors looked for places leading the charge in four non-negotiable categories: ongoing sustainability efforts; accessibility to nature; support of local artists and businesses; and a focus on community, diversity, and philanthropy. The West is chock full of places that hit all four marks, so to narrow down our list, we focused on towns whose day-to-day community efforts are the most robust and ongoing. The places that rose to the top didn’t necessarily have the biggest budgets, the best resources, or the most epic natural beauty—but they’re actively committed to making life more clean, green, supportive, and civil.

Our 2020 Dream Towns each have something special and are working hard to preserve it. All of them should be high on your list, whether you’re planning a forever move or a weekend away. 

COMING SOON! The Sunset Hotel Collection, a curated group of editor-approved boutique and independent hotels throughout the West with special discounts for Sunset readers and members. For more information, email