Boston outranks all other US cities in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant awards ($1.2bn for fiscal year 2001). It is the leading centre for healthcare, nationally and globally. Massachusetts General, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Medical Centre and Boston Children’s Hospital are regarded among the world’s best.

Boston is also home to innovative school programmes, like Boston Latin and the O’Bryant School of Math & Science. Massachusetts students had an 85% participation rate on the college board examinations known as the SATs in 2004, compared with 48% nationwide.

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Bean Town, as it is nicknamed, is also widely viewed as the intellectual and historical capital of the US. It is cosmopolitan with a complete set of services, a broad range of amenities and a rich tradition and culture almost unmatched in the rest of the country.

The new city of champions, two of Boston’s four regional sports teams won their league titles in 2004. World-renowned museums are located there, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science and the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops are among the best in the world.

Denver came in second in this category. Third place was tied between Miami, Tampa, Cambridge and Omaha.

State: Maine

The coastal areas of southern Maine are often regarded as the most attractive housing areas with a beautiful, healthy environment, low crime and excellent schools. In 2004, statewide homes sales increased by 9.05% with an average sales price of $175,000.

The state offers exceptional healthcare, boasting 39 acute care and specialty hospitals. Maine Medical Center (MMC) in Portland serves as the premier tertiary care centre in northern New England. The centre has 606 licensed beds and provides comprehensive inpatient services in all medical specialties. It is also recognised for the Diabetes Center, the AIDS Consultation Service, and the Center for Lipids and Cardiovascular Health.

Maine leads the country in high school graduation rates, at 95.4%, and ranks in the top 10% of states for quality of education. All seventh and eighth graders are issued with a laptop computer, the only programme of its kind in the world. Maine was the first state to provide 100% of schools and libraries with internet access.

The state is also one of the greatest natural playgrounds in the world with more than 5000 miles of spectacular coastline, majestic mountain ranges and crystal-clear lakes and rivers. It is home to 18 ski resorts, 32 state parks and Acadia National Park.

There are more historical forts than in any other US state. Many historic homes are preserved as museums, among them those of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and philanthropist Lucy Farnsworth.

With two symphony orchestras, opera companies and a plethora of theatre companies, Maine offers an exquisite menu of performing arts and cultural entertainment. The state’s speciality of lobster and fresh seafood is abundant in its many fine dining establishments and casual restaurants.

Shopping outlets in Kittery and Freeport combined with the boutiques and speciality stores of Bangor and Portland’s Old Port, also home to lively nightlife and traditional pubs, have created a growing interest in Maine as an international shopping destination.

Colorado came in second in the category, followed by Virginia and Vermont in third place.