The lighter side of real estate

These Are The 10 Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania

Think you know which city is the most exciting in Pennsylvania? You might want to take a look at this list, because the results will probably surprise you.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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Pennsylvania is a state of many things: big cities, small towns, nature, urban life. Perhaps this is why the place has so many nicknames, including, but not limited to “Keystone State,” “Oil State,” and “Quaker State.”

We know, none of these are particularly thrilling, but don’t let that fool you. This state is simply filled with excitement, in some cities more than others. So which place in the Coal State (yep, that’s one too) was the most exciting? According to our latest analysis at the Movoto Real Estate blog, that honor goes to Pittsburgh.

Here are the 10 most exciting places in Pennsylvania/State of Independence/the state with too many nicknames:

1. City of Pittsburgh
2. Borough of West Chester
3. City of Lancaster
4. Borough of State College
5. Borough of Phoenixville
6. City of Easton
7. City of Philadelphia
8. City of Reading
9. City of Harrisburg
10. City of Bethlehem

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from visiting Pennsylvania, it’s that you don’t mess with Philadelphians. You just don’t. So what were we thinking, publishing a list where Philly wasn’t at the top?

Well, we really didn’t have much to do with it, to be honest; the math does it all. Keep on reading to find out the method behind this analysis, and just what makes each of these places so exciting.

How We Got These Exciting Results

As mentioned above, in order to come up with any of our Big Deal Lists, we rely on the magic of numbers to create a ranking that is completely unbiased. So, to start, we gathered a list of the top 50 most populous places in Pennsylvania. Then we used the 2010 U.S. Census and business listings to get information about the following eight criteria:

  • Nightlife per capita (bars, clubs, comedy, etc.)
  • Live music venues per capita
  • Active life options per capita (parks, outdoor activities, etc.)
  • Arts and Entertainment per capita (movie theaters, festivals, galleries, theaters, etc.)
  • Fast Food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better)
  • Percentage of restaurants that are not fast food (the higher the better)
  • Percentage of young residents ages 18 to 34 (the higher the better)
  • Population density (the higher the better)

Then, we ranked each of these places with a score of one to 50 in each of these criteria, with the lower score being the more exciting place. We averaged these scores into an overall Big Deal Score for each location, and the place with the lowest was our most exciting spot, which in this case was Pittsburgh.

So, you see, you can’t really argue with math. But if you’d like to try, feel free to take it to the comments section at the end. You’ll also find a complete table showing the rankings of all 50 places down there, but first, we’ll go ahead and take a closer look at our winners, starting with Pittsburgh.

1. Pittsburgh

Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania

Source: Flickr user Brian Donovan

With a population of over 305,000, Pittsburgh is one of the largest cities in the state and the 16th most densely populated. But it’s not the number of people that make this place exciting; it’s the type of people.

Pittsburgh is filled with artists, musicians, foodies, and a whole lot of young people. In fact, it ranked fourth in this category, for its 35.81 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 34. Perhaps that’s why there are so many bars, clubs, and music venues per capita.

If the nightlife scene isn’t your thing, Pittsburgh has plenty of excitement in the way of art and food, and in the case of one restaurant called Bar Marco, a little of both.

2. West Chester

Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania

Source: Flickr user Melissa

What could be more exciting than Philadelphia? Well, apparently the little borough of West Chester. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise residents; after all, West Chester is one of the youngest places in the state, with 57.53 percent of its population between the ages of 18 and 34.

It’s also the second most densely populated place in Pennsylvania, so whether you’re out walking from Jake’s to Square Bar (where it ranked fifth for nightlife) or jogging along High Street (where it ranked fifth for active life options per capita), you’re bound to bump into someone you know, or meet somebody new. Either way, it’s pretty exciting.

3. Lancaster

Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania

Source: Flickr user PJrhymeswithsausage

There is a good reason that among health care, public administration, and manufacturing, tourism is one of Lancaster’s primary industries; this place is awesome. Since that’s not very descriptive, allow us to elaborate.

Lancaster’s awesomeness comes mostly in the form of a bustling nightlife, ranking 7th in this category, and in its number of arts and entertainment options per capita, ranking 6th here.

Aside from places like the Lancaster Arts Hotel and Prima Theatre, this city also has a relatively young population, with 31.14 percent of people being between the ages of 18 and 34.

4. State College

Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania

Source: Borough of State College

If you thought Lancaster had a young population, just wait until you visit State College, where 80.04 percent of residents are between the ages of 18 and 34—a number that would just be insane, if this place weren’t home to Penn State.

Aside from the schools, though, State College has a lot going on, even for that handful of people who aren’t students (probably faculty). It is easily one of the most densely populated places in the state, so you’re always bound to run into somebody, and for the number of residents, this place is simply littered with nightlife and music venues.

5. Phoenixville

Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania

Source: Flickr user Forge Theatre

This borough of just over 16,000 is like Burning Man meets suburbia in a classic movie with a kick-butt soundtrack.

In other words, not only did Phoenixville rank well in our analysis for its nightlife, music venues, and arts options per capita, but it’s also home to the bonfire Firebird Festival each year, and the Colonial Theatre, where scenes from the classic movie “The Blob” were filmed!

If that’s not exciting enough for you, Phoenixville also came in high for its active life options. So you see, Burning Man meets suburbia in a classic movie, with a kick-butt soundtrack. Boom.

6. Easton

Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania

Source: P. Boccadoro

Home to Lafayette College, Easton has a pretty high percentage of people between the ages of 18 and 34: 31.7 percent, to be exact. Of course, with young people, come bars. Lots of bars.

Easton ranked third overall for its number of nightlife options per capita, places like Drinky’s and the Lafayette Bar. It also ranked third, though, for its number of arts and entertainment places per capita—but let’s be honest, the Crayola Experience alone is excitement enough for any artist or artist in the making.

7. Philadelphia

Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania

Source: Flickr user Chriszak

Alright, Philly, you knew you’d make the list at some point, and here you are at No. 7. Still a very respectable spot!

So why is everybody so crazy about this city? What makes it so exciting? Well, according to our analysis, it has a lot more to do with food, music venues, and a whole lot of people than anything else. With a population of over 1.5 million, this city is not only the largest in the state, but also the most densely populated.

As far as food goes, well, it’s almost hard to know where to begin. There’s Amada, Morimoto, Zahav, and, of course, Pat’s King of Steaks for the most exciting Philly cheese steak your mouth has ever met. There’s Buddakan, Tinto, and Vedge for your veggie heads. And, well, there are simply too many options to list. Just go out there and eat something.

8. Reading

Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania

Source: Flickr user Jessy Rone

Rather than really nailing it one or two categories like some of our top 10, Reading ranked moderately well across the board, bumping it up to No. 8. This fifth most densely-populated city in the state is home to the sixth highest number of music venues per capita, and the 17th most young people.

It also ranked No. 17 for its number of arts and entertainment options per capita, with places like Goggleworks Center for the Arts and the Reading Public Museum; and No. 18 for its nightlife venues per capita, like the oh so adorable Winedown Cafe and Wine Bar.

9. Harrisburg

Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania

Source: Flickr user Landon Hollis

If you’re looking for nightlife, look no further than the capital city. Yes, that’s right, more than Philadelphia, more than Pittsburgh, and even more than the college town of all college towns, State College, Harrisburg has more nightlife per capita than anywhere else on our list.

It also ranked among the best for its arts (fourth in this category), active life options seventh here), and music venues per capita (11th), like the Forum Auditorium, the Champ, and the charming Carley’s Ristorante & Piano Bar, just to name a few.

10. Bethlehem

Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania

Source: Flickr user Jack

Home to Lehigh University, Moravian College, and the IIRP, Bethlehem is simply filled with young people. As a matter of fact, 29.28 percent of its population is between the ages of 18 and 34.

It may not come as a surprise, then, that Bethlehem ranked 12th for its nightlife, but where it really excelled was in its number of music venues per capita, ranking No. 1 in this category.

If venues like ArtsQuest Center, Sands Event Center, SteelStacks, and Musikfest Cafe aren’t your jam, there are also plenty of other ways to entertain yourself, like the oh so awesome Frank Banko Alehouse Cinema, or any number of galleries, as Bethlehem also ranked an impressive 12th for its arts per capita.

Another Nickname For Youse Guys

Okay, so you’ve got the “Keystone State,” “Oil State,” “Coal State,” “State of Independence,” and even the “Quaker State,” but after looking at this data, it seems like you’re missing the most appropriate nickname: “Exciting State.” Well, at least in these 10 places, and especially in Pittsburgh.

If you’re wondering how the rest of the 50 places we looked at ranked, just youse check out the table below.

Most Exciting Places in Pennsylvania

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posted on: July 7, 2014
195,351 views, 19 comments


  1. Kant Khatri

    Just a basic rule of statistics. If you’re comparing 50 different variable (cities) and one is an outlier (Philadelphia with a population 500% larger than the next closest city) then your rankings should not be on a per capita basis. Because you’re basically saying for every 1.5 Million people in this city there are X amount of bars. Of course a city with that many people will not have a high per capita ranking in the categories that are deemed indicators of “most exciting places.” I know the article says “you can’t really argue with math.” But you can.

  2. Katie

    Someone has clearly never been to PA…

  3. Kathee

    Philadelphia should b #1 due to it tremendous history. Someone evidently forgot it’s a city like Boston that our founding fathers built. There r so many things to do and see in Philly and it’s a clean city.
    Did u look at the crime rates of these cities. Reading has one of the highest crime rates per capita. I think it ranks in the top 3 cities in the Nation. And Easton is a slum and also a high crime rate. I live in Eastern PA and wouldn’t ever think of going to Reading or Easton for anything.
    Whoever wrote this is so completely far off in rating these cities. Better do your research because obviously you are not familiar with Philly. I live about an hour away from Philly and it’s one if the most beautiful cities in the USA. Ranks up there with Boston as far as history is concerned

  4. Chris

    You’ve clearly never been to Pennsylvania. Philly is by far the most interesting place in PA. Most people most food most bars most nightlife. Pittsburgh second west Chester and state college third. The rest are boring

  5. Rivergull

    The title of the article is: “These Are The 10 Most Exciting Places In Pennsylvania. ” HOWEVER… the 18-34 yr olds are obviously front and center in your sampling criteria. I’m assuming you feel people 35 and above are incapable of excitement? Bottom line: How can you say your analysis is unbiased? It has a Youth Bias.

  6. Shay

    My friend just visited me in Philly from London. She first went to visit her friend in Pittsburgh. She said what a relief to be in Philly and that Pittsburgh was one of the most depressing places she had ever been. She actually ended up liking Philly more so than New York where she lived for 5 years and loved dearly. Surely this means something…like your math is flawed?

  7. Jason

    Actually, you CAN argue with math – because a quantitative analysis doesn’t satisfy a qualitative topic.

    Also from West Chester here, and I assure you, the WC belongs at #2 about as much as Pittsburgh belongs at #1.

    I love the Burgh, but no PA excitement list without Philly at the top is with its weight in electrons.

  8. philly comment

    per capita makes sense as to why philly is lower than others. the city is much bigger than all of the others and there of course are areas where people just don’t (or shouldn’t) go… this is why i call shenanigans. I don’t see “Exciting” as fully being a measurement of per capita.

  9. White Rav

    Harrisburg made the list? I guess if you’re armed. Bethlehem trumps music with Musikfest and the various venues through the year. They neglected Bethlehem’s Annual Celtic Classic.

  10. Amie

    Lancaster is really exciting, if junkies excite you. Or finding used needles on the ground. I guess that’s fun.

  11. Terrible List

    Chester is on this “list.” …Chester.

  12. Slieone

    Newburg PA shoulda made the top 5 com on man

  13. Matthew

    This is pretty bad – as a person born in Harrisburg, schooled in WCU, and currently owns residence in philly those are the top 3 spots – Philly, WC, HBG – Pittsburgh’s best advantage is that you’re only 4 hours to niagara falls

  14. Eric

    For the person that said they would never go to Reading for anything,obviously never was there. Lots to do in the suburbs of Reading…Reading Phillies AA affiliate of Phila Phillies,Mid Atlantic Air Museum,home of the annual WWII show at Reading airport,Santander Center(formerly the Sovereign Center)many big name concerts,Vanity Fair Outlet Center,three weekly farmers marketd,lots or good eating establishments,IMAX theater,Blue Marsh Lake for boating and fishing,close to dozen public and private golf courses within a 5 mi.radius.Penn St Berks/Lehigh Campus,Alvernia university,Albright University,Reading Hospital,one of the best

  15. Greg Jacobs

    This is like saying “The Ten Best Army Mess Halls.” Nobody wants to eat that crap.

  16. Dave

    I live in Phoenixville and it is a nice area with plenty to do but I am shocked it would come in at #5. I’d go Philly, Pittsburgh, State College, West Chester as the top 4. Pittsburgh is nice having been there before for those who crap on that city. Not sure what I would put at #5 after my top 4 but as much as I like living in Phoenixville I doubt it would be that. Statistics can be skewed.

  17. Ellen

    Three cheers for #6!!!! I bet it will creep higher next year(s) – if you haven’t been in EAston for a while, time to come for another look.

  18. Monica

    Erie is a college town, and we have beaches! Just as well we didn’t make it on this list……

  19. Dave

    They must be on DRUGS making Easton the 6th city in PA. too live in ?


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