The lighter side of real estate

The 10 Most Exciting Cities in America

David Cross

Content Editor

232 articles, 24 comments

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If you’re feeling curious, take a poll of your friends and ask them what U.S. city is the most exciting. We’re willing to bet that the majority of them will come back to you with the same answer: New York City. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. There are more than enough reasons to support this notion. New York City is large and crammed with people and things to do. In fact, most of the Movoto bloggers thought that New York City was, if not the most exciting, definitely one of the most exciting places to be in America.

But—and we’re sure you saw this coming—it turned out we were wrong. New York City, while in the top 10 most exciting places to live, is not No. 1. In fact, The Big Apple doesn’t even crack the top five most exciting places to live, according to a survey Movoto recently undertook. That honor goes to another well-known city, one we are more than happy to share with you: Oakland.

How did we decide this? Recently, we got to thinking about cities and what makes them exciting and interesting places to live. We compiled a list of criteria and set out to determine which U.S. cities have the most zest for life (a full explanation of which can be found below). Here’s our list:

  1. Oakland, CA
  2. Boston, MA
  3. San Francisco, CA
  4. Seattle, WA
  5. Washington, D.C.
  6. New York, NY
  7. Milwaukee, WI
  8. Atlanta, GA
  9. Philadelphia, PA
  10. Portland, OR

That’s quite a list. These are all large cities, some of which are already known for their culture. Still, after looking at our top 10 list and scratching our head, we were still surprised that NYC didn’t rank higher.

If you’re interested in learning how we developed our top 10 list, we break down the methodology and reasoning below. Or, if you’re into quick-and-dirty lunchtime reading, jump on over to some of our other top 10 posts such as “Where Fashion Dies: The 10 Worst Dressed Cities” or “The 10 Nerdiest Cities in America.”

How’d We Come Up With Our List?

To formulate our list, we first had to decide on 10 criteria we feel make a city exciting. This isn’t a perfect definition, but you can think of our list as ways to fight that ever-present boredom everyone faces at some point or another. We then surveyed each city based on these criteria using various websites such as Yelp and Yellow Pages. Depending on the category (below) we looked at a criterion on a per person or per square mile basis. To be very clear, we looked at each individual city’s size; this excludes suburbs or nearby cities. In other words, it’s not covering an entire metro area.

These are the 10 criteria we surveyed:

  • Park acreage per person
  • Percent of population between 20 and 34 years old
  • Fast food restaurants per square mile (the fewer the better)
  • Bars per square mile
  • Big box stores per square mile (the fewer the better)
  • Population diversity
  • Movie theaters per square mile
  • Museums per square mile
  • Theater companies per square mile
  • Music venues per square mile

Once we compiled our criteria, we surveyed the 50 most populous cities across the country, ranking them from 1 to 50 based on each individual criterion. Cities with the lowest average rank across all categories placed highest. We’ll go through each criterion individually.

Park Acres Per Person

Parks are exciting. You can walk; you can hike; you can jog. We looked at the amount of park acres per person because we felt that everyone needs a place to reconnect with nature, go for a picnic, or play a quick pickup game. Virginia Beach took the top spot in this category.

Population Age

We know we’ll hear some complaints about this one. We’re prepared. We looked at the percent of the city’s population between the ages of 20 and 34 years old. We aren’t saying that older residents are boring, but a younger population does tend to be more excitable. Columbus, one of our favorite cities in the country, ranked highest in this category. Our assumption is that this has to do The Ohio State University’s massive number of coeds.

Fast Food Restaurants Per Square Mile

This is a broad category. Our general thought was that fast food joints, while convenient, stifle an area’s visual appeal (and palate). In other words, a McDonald’s on every corner is about as exciting as a shot of warm milk before bed. What makes a place unique and exciting is diversity; this includes different types of restaurants. Let us also remember that in most cases fast food is its own special type of bland. That, my friends, is booooring.

For this category we researched the five largest fast food chains in the country, added up their stores, and then calculated how many chains there were per square mile in each of the cities. For those interested, the most plentiful stores are, in order: Subway, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, and Burger King. El Paso, which has graced our lists before, won this category with the fewest fast food location per square mile.

Bars Per Square Mile

Think of this category as a significant part of a city’s nightlife. Yes, you can get a cocktail or brewski at one of these fine establishments, but just as importantly you can meet up with friends. Bars provide a place to hang out after work, and, in our experience, increase a city’s appeal. San Francisco easily took the No. 1 spot. This wasn’t surprising, since similar surveys have hinted that San Fran loves its booze.

Big Box Stores Per Square Mile

Big box stores aren’t necessarily bad—but they are boring. Dozens of giant, plain square structures and parking lots definitely takes away from an area’s visual appeal. In this instance, we looked at the number of big box stores per square mile. Specifically, we counted the number of Targets and Walmarts in an area. This was easy; neither Detroit nor Boston have a Target or Walmart in the city proper. (Remember, this doesn’t mean they aren’t in the suburbs.)

Population Diversity

Diversity matters because it helps perpetuate different thoughts. If you want a city to be exciting, it needs diversity. For this category, we used Census data to examine each city’s demographics. We looked at each city’s race/ethnicity data. We ranked each city by researching a city’s dominant ethnicity. The smaller a city’s majority race, the higher the score. Oakland just beat out San Jose in this category.

Movie Theaters Per Square Mile

Why do movies matter? They’re social lubricant. If you put two people in a room who have nothing in common except for one movie, they’ll be able to find something to talk about. In our opinion, cities need movie theatres. In the summer, a trip to the theater will garner some Michael Bay explosions. In the winter, you’ll get your highbrow Oscar contenders. The whole year round they’re great spots to take a date. According to our survey, Oakland took the top spot in this category.

Museums Per Square Mile

The general idea for this piece is “the more to do, the better.” This includes taking trips to museums to get your learning on. It doesn’t matter what type of museum—and there are many, many crazy museums—it just matters that these places attempt to instill some sort of knowledge in visitors. When it’s raining on a Saturday, your choices are either a movie or a museum. If you want to keep people around, you need these establishments. Again, Oakland is at the head of the class in this respect.

Theater Companies Per Square Mile

Theater, with a capital T, sometimes gets a bad rap. There are theater snobs out there, but that’s true for everything. Most theater companies are small groups of people who put on performances because they love putting on performances. A lot of us in the Movoto office have found memories of watching productions by small theater companies. If a city wants to keep people around, it needs to support the arts. Theater companies are a good place to start. In this category Oakland snuck by Minneapolis to take the No. 1 position.

Music Venues Per Square Mile

If you want to have a good time, try dancing. Recorded music is great, but there’s something electrifying about live music. That’s why we added this criterion to our ranking. We found that San Francisco has the most music venues on a per square mile basis. Why? There are probably two reasons. The first is that San Francisco is a relatively small city. The second is that San Fran is well known as an artist conclave.

The Takeaway

When we think of an exciting place to live, we think about places where there is always something to do—whether it’s eating at new restaurants or jogging through a park. This sounds a lot like Oakland, so we really weren’t that surprised. But Milwaukee? It looks like we’ll need to take a trip to the Badger State.

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posted on: May 2, 2013
163,436 views, 253 comments


  1. mkeloves

    Milwaukee has a lot more to offer than most people think. We are developing, growing, and have an awesome list of music venues, restaurants, parks, and activities etc. If you visit you will see just how great this city is! Plus nothing beats the hometown pride you will find here!

    • Right Way in response to mkeloves

      Whoever wrote this article sure didn’t do much research. Austin, Tx is the LIVE Music Capital of the World. Yet, someone thinks San Francisco beats Austin, what a joke. We have the University of Texas, 65,000 students from all over the world in a city of a little over a million population. Talk about diversity and education. Bars, we have more bars in downtown Austin, than most cities have in their whole towns. Move Theaters, check out our Alamo Draft House Movie Theaters all over Austin, you can eat, drink and watch a movie all at the same time. We have State Government, we have The University of Texas, We have the LBJ Presidential Museum, the Bob Bullock Texas Museum. We have more citizen athletes than practically the rest of the world combined (well that might be an exaggeration, but close) We have a downtown river with a HUGE park attached that is used for Concerts, Running, sailing, rowing, biking, physical exercising boot camps. We have South by Southwest every year. There is more going on in this town than ANY town, including New York or Chicago. We have a better quality of life than any of the towns mentioned. You guys blew it.

      • Born in Texas in response to Right Way

        Yes, but it is still Texas.

      • Kurd in response to Right Way

        Can you spell D-I-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y?

      • Pete in response to Right Way

        Austin is nice but not better in a long shot then SF. What I do not understand is how Oakland is in the list let alone at the top. Most people who live in Oakland head over the bridge to SF for a fun night out. Could Oakland be considered exciting because you cam make believe you’re in the wild wild west with a bunch of gunslingers?

        • Walt in response to Pete

          Yo, Pete, Wrong. The deal is to live in Oakland, work in SF, and spend nights in Oakland, whether you stay in or go out.

        • aaron in response to Pete

          This is old news. Oakland is a new place full of top of the line night life destinations and excellent restaurants. People outside of Oakland only hear about the negatives, and don’t realize how big the city is. Most of the bad stuff happens far and away from the new, and lively Oakland attractions. I’ve been here in Oakland for over eight years and I can;t believe how much it’s changed for the better even in this short time.

          • N Cali Mom in response to aaron

            Are you kidding me? I’m from northern California and Oakland is the main place that we are all ashamed of. It’s awful how much crime and how many killings there are there every year. The people are disrespectful, rude and have no regard for life. Give me a break!

          • Jason in response to aaron

            @Nor Cali Mom: It’s actually people like you that we’re ashamed of: Bubble dwelling tunnel visioned small minded judgemental people that would be better off in Texas. I’m from San Francisco. And I love Oakland.

        • Chris in response to Pete

          I would rather spend a night out on the town in SF 6 out of 7 nights. It’s got an incredible nightlife, some of the best restaurants in the country, diversity, etc. No offense to Oakland, which is definitely improving, but it’s not “SF better.”

        • fireman in response to Pete

          Oakland satisfies the quantitative criteria, nuff said. Does it not?

          With that said, try renting or buying in SF. Not gonna happen unless you are yuppie scum or live in the outer-something.

        • SoCali420 in response to Pete

          I was thinking the same thing! Whom ever wrote this list hasn’t been to these places! California has just gone to crap really. 15 years ago San Diego was untouchable, now it’s crap! Don’t go to Oakland, unless you want to get shot at!

      • JJ in response to Right Way

        I would stay away from Texas no matter what. You guys are in the middle of nowhere and undoubtedly have nothing much to do.

        • AA in response to JJ

          In the middle of nowhere? You’ve obviously never been to Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and on and on.

          • Max in response to AA

            It doesn’t matter what’s nearby. It’s still Texas. A huge dump.

      • thabe331 in response to Right Way

        Nobody cares about texas. Nothing but inbred hicks and homophobes down there

        • Allison in response to thabe331

          Um. Houston elected the first openly lesbian mayor and Harris County where Houston is based went blue in the last election. I lived in Oakland and SF and I have to say Houston has just as much to offer except I can afford to live here. And Houston has actual diversity. Not the let’s pretend we’re diverse of the Bay Area. But I’m sure you’ll make some sort of Texas hating generalization. That’s fine keeps my cost of living low.

      • Writer in response to Right Way

        Don’t fret, Austin will top the list of the most smug and delusional cities in the world.

    • Scooter4ever in response to mkeloves

      While Milwaukee does have “racial diversity”, its obvious this author did not visit Milwaukee. If they had, they would have seen that Milwaukee is hugely segregated. There is very little integration between the races in Milwaukee.

      And as for the bars n Milwaukee, a particle board box in an old house is not a “bar”.

  2. Zack

    Milwaukee is so much better than people give it credit for! The restaurants, the shows, theater, the lakefront, the riverwalk, the breweries, and a strong local economy all make Milwaukee a great place to live.

  3. Barry

    You lose all credibility when you saw Oakland and Portland are more exciting than New York City. And Chicago and LA and Miami are no where to be found.

    • kris in response to Barry

      Obviously Barry you’ve never actually been to Oakland…or Portland for that matter! And you are missing a lot, to say the least. If you had you never would have said what you said. Oakland is a dynamic, diverse and art filled city that I am proud to say I hail from. The beautiful open Oakland alone put Oakland way above most every American city. The people here in Oakland are true a delight and blessing to experience life with. As well Portland is a city that I would very much like to revisit. The unique and quirky way about Portland a great destination, and I’m not even mentioning tons of dynamic great things about both locals. Wake up and smell the coffee. By the way both Oakland and Portland brew and roast some of the best in the country! Bottom line: Open up your mind and your eyes before you miss it all…
      Look into things before you make false statements…

      • ida in response to kris

        I totally agree. I have visited many a wonderful city; New York and Chicago, Paris, London, Hong Kong…. but I am proud to be from Oakland. You can’t beat the weather ( hot and muggy, cold and freezing don’t make my list) the people or the fabulous views. I much prefer looking at the SF skyline than being in it.

      • quay in response to kris

        Kris, I live less than 20 miles from Oakland. It is one scary place. Of course, it has diversity, but it has one of the highest murder and crime rates in the country. Sure, you can go out at night there, but you may not have a car when you get ready to leave. The City beats it hands down. There are nice places to live in the Oakland Hills, but you better have a butt-load of money to buy or rent there.

        • LAC in response to quay

          I live in Oakland, not in the hills but in a widely diverse and generally safe area. Oakland is an amazing town with a lot of great things to do and see. Before you all go thinking that I have no “life experience” or anything, I have lived in Germany, worked in Stuttgart, lived in Chicago, Denver, San Diego and San Francisco. I have also spent time in Jerusalem, Cairo, Paris, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Rome, Florence, and many others. Oakland has its issues to be sure, but so does every city. IT is a wonderful place to live and be.

    • Chris in response to Barry

      Would have to agree. Oakland has some nice parts but it ranks up there with Sacramento and San Jose. Frankly, Portland is kinda boring. Sure, it has great food and beer, cool locals, but there are a lot of cities albeit not that different, Seattle, SF, Austin, Portland, ME, Boston, sleepy smaller towns that get old quick if you are on vaca.. The fact that LA and Miami are not on this list is a little ridiculous.

      • Dan F in response to Chris

        Boston sleepy small town? I don’t think people actually read the criteria for the list. Boston and that excludes Cambridge is bigger than Miami. It’s roughly SF size, yes only 600k people, but small very city like area with many diverse activities. The urban area is 4.5 million people spreading across many areas, Halloween in Salem MA. for example one of the best. I live in LA now (moved up from SD) and I really miss my East Coast experience in Boston, plus NYC was so accessible from there that we would always be down there.

    • Linda in response to Barry

      Oakland has its qualities, but it’s certainly not exciting. And unless things have changed drastically, much of it is a ghetto.

      • LAC in response to Linda

        most of it is “ghetto”…. yes, as my colleague said when i joked that i lived in the ghetto (in Oakland) he asked where, I told him – his reply “wow, that’s a nice ghetto… a fancy mostly organic independent grocery store, lots of good restaurants, Peet’s, a fancy French bakery, an independent butcher, and a great independently owned pet food store.” I don’t live in the hills. I don’t live in the Lake Merritt area or Temescal. Oakland is awesome with a ton to offer. most of it is not ghetto.

    • Rick in response to Barry

      Oakland is an amazing city. You’ve never been. It has incredible civic amenities, architecture, nightlife, parks, the arts are strong, and we have some of the best cuisine in the country. You really need to disregard all you’ve heard and come visit.

      • Hannah in response to Rick

        Seriously, I live 15 minutes away from Oakland, and I think Oakland is the most ghetto city ever. How can anyone live there? I think San Francisco, New York, and LA should be the top three and all of the other cities are also really awesome, but NOT OAKLAND!

        • LAC in response to Hannah

          Oakland is an excellent town. There are LOTS of great and exciting places that aren’t San Francisco, New York or Los Angeles. Oakland, Portland, Seattle, Austin (yes, Austin), Chicago (even with its 500+ homicides)….

          You may live 15 miles from Oakland, but I wonder if you actually ever spend any time here.

      • Joseph in response to Rick

        I had no idea how amazing Oakland is. The hills, the bay views, the trees that grow to stellar heights. The oaks of course, but even Redwoods and Eucalyptus thrive there. Oakland is home to the first wildlife preserve on earth! It’s the way coolest city with a bad rep.

  4. OaklandMofo

    As someone from Oakland I can agree.

    • ROFL in response to OaklandMofo

      As someone from Oakland, I disagree. You’ve got to be way too proud about Oakland to even consider it a nice place.

      • FuzzyD in response to ROFL

        As someone who lives in Oakland, I can say you either are unexcited by the exciting, or you don’t know your way around town, ROFL.

        That said, feel free to never come to Oakland again.

        • Kris in response to FuzzyD

          Love your attitude FuzzyD!
          Please don’t grace us with your presence ROFL, we don’t need your negative kind in Oaklandish!

          • Thomas in response to Kris

            Someone brought this list up last night during happy hour and everyone agreed the criteria is off. My friends and I also asked ‘Where is CHICAGO?’. The fact that they include Milwaukee, Seattle and Philadelphia as top 10 EXCITING US cities glaringly points out a credibility gap in this ‘study’. I’m an Oakland resident (and have lived in Berkeley, LA and NYC and visited a lot of these places) and I gotta say no way in HELL does it beat out Manhattan in anything.

          • Oaklandish in response to Kris

            Give me a break. I have lived in Oakland MANY, many years and I know it’s not that great. A couple small areas are decent, but there’s NO WAY it’s the most exciting city.

            Even when you go to the nicer areas you wonder if you’ll get hassled on the bus, hassled on bart, or if your car will be broken into.

            Oakland has potential, but for the time being it has far too many criminals, and others who accept too much crime in their community.

          • Oaklandish in response to Kris

            it’s the truth. if you don’t accept it, you’re kidding yourself, or one of those “we’re the best” no matter what geniuses. like the one’s who wear the oakland clothing and cause a lot of the problems in town. overall oakland isn’t a nice town. there are nice parts to oakland, but not enough.

      • Rick in response to ROFL

        You are a sad little person! OMG, you live here and you think it sucks? You are so sad and lonely. You should get out of your little hovel and look around a bit! Come on, don’t be so scared!

    • Hope in response to OaklandMofo

      I’m in Oakland also, but really? Oakland!!!!!???????

  5. Beth

    Do come visit! We get a bad rep, but there is so much to do and see here.

  6. Beth

    Do come visit! We get a bad rep, but there is so much to do and see in Milwaukee.

  7. amala

    Who ranked highest in each category?

  8. e

    Seattle is in Washington NOT Oregon

    • Chris Kolmar in response to e

      That was a typo from a draft. If you refresh the page, that should be corrected. You might have to refresh the frame itself.

  9. Dfisher

    Don’t tell anyone, but Oakland has always been hot. The town baby. Food, people, weather and the worst police dept in the country.

    Love this place.

    • thabe331 in response to Dfisher

      and your criminals put detroit to shame

  10. Ben

    I’ve lived in Oakland most of my life, and I can’t imagine how Oakland made it in the top 10,000, let alone #1. Come visit, walk around and see the closed shops, dangerous, dirty neighborhoods, and HORRIBLY overpriced houses in the hills. Might be “exciting”, but not based on your criteria. :-)

    • Dissentist in response to Ben

      That’s because you, like most people, seem to forget your block isn’t the entirety of Oakland. Maybe visit the uptown district and hit up one of the MANY art galleries, restaurants, bars, or live music venues. Or perhaps go visit the Grand lake area and check out the literally DOZENS of world class restaurants. Or you know, the Dimond district when they’re having one of their summer block parties with dozens of local micro brew vendors, or Jack London square during a festival(pick one, there’s about 40 a year), or to first fridays downtown, or the weekly food fest by the Art museum “off the grid”, or the art & soul festival, or… You know what? You’re obviously either blind to what’s around you, or you just feel you’ve got to trash Oakland for no good reason. Either way I pity you.

      • Alia in response to Dissentist

        Ben hasn’t been “hiding” – he’s actually from Oakland and knows how it is outside of the gentrified bougie hipster areas that this article speaks about. Outside of “Uptown”, “Temescal” (aka North Oakland) or the Lake, to most of the East (the only place in Oakland I can afford to live since the gentrification has taken over) & the West and you’ll find no bars, museums and fast food joints/liquor stores on every block.

        Movoto is speaking to a very limited view of Oakland that doesn’t take into consideration how many of its residents live.

        • FuzzyD in response to Alia


          These metrics were all measured per square mile; that’s the entirety of Oakland, including both the neighborhoods you called out (as bougie) and the ones you noted that aren’t gentrified, not to mention the hills (which, like the ungentrified hoods, pretty much lack culture, but are on the other side of the socioeconomic spectrum). The desirable and undesirable characteristics Movato evaluated cities on, across the board, put Oakland on top; yes this ignores that they’re concentrated in certain areas, for better and/or worse. Try being proud instead of resentful.

          What does all of Movato’s (probably not all that scientific analysis) mean?

          1) Oakland’s population is young and diverse.

          2) Those “bougie” areas have seriously awesome concentrations of parks and cultural goodness – museums, bars, music venues (including a few world class gems), theaters and Theatre (thanks for distinguishing, Movoto). Enough to make up for the cultural desert areas.

          3) Across all of Oakland, there’s a relative (merciful) lack of big box stores and fast food (on average).

          4) Oakland is pretty seriously awesome.

          The above ignores that Oakland wasn’t first in all categories, but that across the categories placed first.

          Yes, there’s a pretty huge dichotomy (trichotomy) between the hills, the bougie parts, and the hood, but it is what it is. Not everyone wants to live in the “hot” areas, and I’m sure there are plenty of folks who’d like to but can’t afford to.

          Oakland is vibrant, beautiful, and flawed.

          I live in Oakland and I love it!

        • ida in response to Alia

          I do agree with you, but do you think the other cities being mentioned by everyone is free of what you are referring to? Have you driven through Queens on the way to the airport? How about Hunters Point, or the Tenderloin? They is nasty in all cities. Yes, they are talking about the bougie area… but at least we have them and they are wonderful areas that we should be proud of. Temescal wasn’t so bougie not so long ago. I remember it. I remember wanting my Genoa sandwiches and being a worrisome about the area.

      • Kris in response to Dissentist

        Here here Dissentist! You said exactly what I was thinking! I also add to your list in Uptown, a world class fine arts middle/high school (Oakland School for the Arts) that offers amazing opportunities for young artists and great entertainment for the community. One of the best things Gov. Jerry Brown did for Oakland!! I challenge other cities to offer this kind of advantage to their youth!

    • Tyrell Track Master in response to Ben

      Ben – Oakland is an excellent, up and coming city. Not sure where you’ve been hiding.

    • chia in response to Ben

      Then why do you stay?

    • N Cali Mom in response to Ben

      Bravo! I wish everyone that actually KNOWS the inside of Oakland would comment….the Worst place in Northern California to live! My God, are these writers ignorant or what?

      • Joseph in response to N Cali Mom

        Oakland is one beautiful and vibrant city. The Italians looked at the United States and decided that Oakland was the most ideal spot to place their Gondolas! Lake Merritt is awesome. The hills are beyond stunning. Jack London Square has great entertainment, restaurants, and views. I’m not from there, but I’m mesmerized by this gem of a city.

  11. Tyrell Track Master

    Glad to see Milwaukee on the list… but honestly, this is a total spam site just trying to get attention from media. Let’s see a real website do a proper review and I’ll be more impressed!

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Tyrell Track Master

      Hey Tyrell,
      We’ve actually done a bunch of these with wide acclaim. We use standard data from the US Census, BLS, etc. Let us know how you’d like us to improve the methodology and we’d be happy to try!

      • Driftless Appetite in response to Chris Kolmar

        Since you asked for advice:

        Looking at amenity (or the opposite) density per square mile is deeply flawed.

        NYC has nearly 4 times the population density of Oakland, for example. So I would expect something like 4 times as many restaurants (including fast food) per square mile in NYC even if the two cities were identical.

        Beyond that, you don’t correct for the fact that the businesses you look at may have regional distributions. There may be more Target stores in one city, and more K-Marts (which you didn’t count) in another.

        • Chris Kolmar in response to Driftless Appetite

          Thanks for the thought! We are going to stick with everything per capita for all future articles (We changed it up for this article, but I think you’re critique is correct.).

          The biggest reason we don’t/can’t substitute regional chain stores is a time problem. These articles are already very research intensive and we can’t go into that layer of detail. For the most part, we choose national chains that would be in every city if not for local regulation (Walmart in NYC for example).

      • N Cali Mom in response to Chris Kolmar

        Try actually visiting the place. Go into the bad part of town, not just the 10% of good. What is wrong with you?
        Why on earth would you recommend Oakland as a place to live?

  12. downtown dave

    I would think chicago, with all the shootings would be listed as exciting.

    • CMC in response to downtown dave

      Apparently you have never ventured north of S. 35th street. The crime that everyone seems to reference is in a small concentrated pocket of the city. That being said, if this list was actually based on the criteria referenced then Chicago should be on it. We have small music venues on just about every block, plus we have several large music venues throughout the city. We have world class restaurants and the second largest theater district in the US next to NYC. I can literally walk to over a dozen restaurants from my house. When the uber trendy spots open in the US, they open in NYC, Chicago, Miami and LA. The last three are not on the list.

      • Matt in response to CMC

        I’m sorry but how is the entire South and West side of Chicago a small pocket of the city?? The downtown and Lincoln Park has many perks but outside of it, Chicago is an incredibly dangerous city. I lived there for 3 years and now reside in Chicago. The most dangerous neighborhood we have is on par with some of the safest in Chicago.

        • Matt in response to Matt

          Sorry meant to say I now reside in Seattle. I love it so much here.

        • Chicago #1 in response to Matt

          Chicago is not a “incredibly dangerous city”. You only lived here 3 years? There are bad neighborhoods, yes, but it’s not “incredibly dangerous” as a whole. Would I go south of 35th street and head east? No. But why should I? I love the neighborhood I live in. And I love going downtown. And the north side. And Lakeview. Etc. etc. I’m sure Seattle has “incredibly dangerous” areas too. But to just single out a bad neighborhood or two and call the entire city “incredibly dangerous”? I don’t think so. But I will give you kudos for one thing—Eddie Vedder packed up and moved from here to Seattle!

          Have a good one…

        • Michael in response to Matt

          I also live in Chicago and have lived here for over 13 years and not once felt unsafe. Chicago is no worse than any other city it size, and is one of the most beautiful and exciting cities I have been in.

        • Michael in response to Matt

          The ENTIRE south side and west side aren’t bad. The vast majority of the crimes are in 5 neighborhoods on the south side and half of the west side is ok. What you have left are pretty big areas of the city.

  13. Lo

    Shhh. Stop telling people about Milwaukee. It’s such an awesome secret, we’d love to keep it all to ourselves.

    • Annie in response to Lo

      I was just going to say that. Take us off the list. We are the Midwest’s best kept secret!

      • thabe331 in response to Annie

        way too cold up there, you can keep it

    • Steven in response to Lo

      Well, maybe we can leak it that “…it’s a great place to visit, but…” Hey, we can always use those tourist dollars; and everyone that REALLY gets to know the Cream City is one less Happy days reference, one less cheap laugh by an east or west coast comedian, or one less referral to us as “flyover country” or “the Rust Belt.”

      • Mike in response to Steven

        I was born and raised in Milwaukee and let me tell you, ain’t nothing exciting or sexy about it. Nothing.

  14. carlos

    Oakland stinks! Please don’t move here.

  15. Matt Martin

    Any chance we could see the actual math? I’m a proud Oaklander, but I’m wondering to what extent our EXCITEMENT FACTOR results from the flight of fast-food and big-box retail from within the city to our parasitic (and development-friendly) neighbor Emeryville. I may not treasure Home Depot or McDonalds, but their absence isn’t necessarily a good sign.

  16. Jay

    First of all this is non-sense because comparing most other cities in the US to NYC is *apples* to oranges. Never mind the fact that the fast food problem is likely do to differing lifestyles of NYC residents (they eat out more often which probably means more food services of all sorts) but even the positive measures bias against NYC because they don’t take into account the capacity of things like movie theaters, the quality of the museums, or the relative proximity of these amenities. Basically what I am saying is CONTROL FOR POPULATION DENSITY!

  17. name

    There’s a simple way to tell that this test is seriously flawed: NYC didn’t win.

  18. brandon

    so what your saying is you guys haven’t actually been to these cities?

  19. Chuck Bradley

    I am so glad that Boston where I have live for many years is so high is on the list. However, under the section regarding big box stores, I noticed it said there is no Walmart or Target is the City of Boston proper. I know for a fact there is a Target in the South Bay center. This is near South Boston. South Boston is a neighborhood OF Boston proper and NOT a suburb outside of the city limits.

    However I hope my ‘tattling’ will not drop Boston down a peg or two; I love Boston!

    We are Boston Strong!

  20. RUDY


  21. Tara

    As someone else said, this study is flawed because NYC did not win.

    Did you consider public transit? Do the cities listed above NYC have 24/7 public transportation running through their entire networks?

    From Wikipedia: “NYC’s public transportation network is the most extensive in North America.” (The whole continent!) “About one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation’s rail riders are residents of New York City, or its suburbs.”

    To me, that indicates a lot of people needing to get to a lot of places in a somewhat limited area, at any given time, and the desire and capability of the city to provide that for its residents and visitors.

    24 hours a day.

  22. Mike

    Glad to see Milwaukee on the list. I spent all of my life in the Milwaukee area, until recently relocating to Los Angeles.

    Milwaukee really is a great city, especially in the summer.

    My major concern with this article is when commenting on who loves their booze, you go to San Fran before Milwaukee. That makes me believe you’ve never actually been there.

    • Ry in response to Mike

      San Francisco constantly gets ranked amongst the most bars per capita in a major city. Additionally,

      I’m not taking anything away from Milwaukee (because I agree that Milwaukee does have a great bar scene) but it’s clear you’re not as familiar with SF’s bar scene.

      A few more for you to read up on:

    • Mimi in response to Mike

      I grew up in Milwaukee, lived in Chicago and NYC. People like their beer in Milwaukee, but as far as getting wasted NYC is the most alcoholic town I’ve ever lived. People have the money there and stay up until 5am drinking. They also do this beyond the age of 29 easily into their 40’s.

      I have to say after living in these places, Milwaukee really is the best city. You have all the great venues, food trends, and activities of the big cities, but there is no traffic, and one can still afford to purchase a home and live cheaply being an artist musician etc.(for now). I dragged my husband here from San Fransisco, and he totally fell in love with it, because we can afford an old Victorian in a pedestrian neighborhood where we can walk to the co-op grocery store, cafes, good restaurants, and oh yeah, Montessori schools are part of the public school system(shhhh).
      We would have never been able to purchase an old Victorian in SF, our friend just bought one for 14 million there. Here they are $160k and you live 4 blocks from the lake(which looks like the ocean)

  23. Steve Bradeen

    Age should not make a diference? Crime, polution, and Infrastructure should be considered critical!!? I do not agree with your findings, ie garbage in garbage out?
    Steve Bradeen So.Dak. now in Southern California.

  24. Kdot

    This is a sad, sad set of criteria for defining excitement. 10 things are all it takes to measure this eh? As an urban planner I would beg to differ. How about we look at street design, access to public transportation, cultural institutions (not museums alone as most ethnic cultural centers are omitted from this category) street vendors, parklets (not just parks), the list goes on…and on…and on.

    you say, “When we think of an exciting place to live, we think about places where there is always something to do.” what about the impromptu interactions, like stoop front conversations with neighborhoods or a random dominos tournament taking place on the corner, or going to the library only to find a pop-up cafe giving away free coffee and donuts.

    not to say that these things don’t happen in the cities you listed but c’mon…this topic has so much mor potential, dig deeper!

  25. Zach

    You really can’t get better than Milwaukee. Beautiful summers. Trendy restaurants. Great people. Life is good.

  26. Andrew

    nice to see Oakland get some props, but does the town really have the most movie theatres, museums, and theatre companies per square mile in the US? that calculation doesnt sound right to me…or maybe Im unaware of even more than I think.

    • Michael in response to Andrew

      I love Oakland with all of its faults cause there are more cool elements that outweigh those faults. I am confused about the Theater research, though; do you have a list of those theaters? I sure would love to read it.

  27. Art

    I agree with Andrew. Number 1 for movie theaters? Museums? I rep Oakland all day and night but I think they messed up their calculations and we snuck into the #1 in by error! Not complaining though LoL

  28. Katy

    Sorry, Boston totally has a Target.

  29. Reekkollie

    finally, Milwaukee’s on a list, and a positive list at that! 414 love

  30. Bill

    Thanks for including Milwaukee. I’m reminded of a friend who moved here from NYC. His friends were horrified. Then a couple came to visit. They moved here six months later.

    A vibrant art scene, tons of music and cultural festivals, a diverse ethnic culture, outstanding restaurants and a great parks systems are all assets here. So is the higher education system. Did you know that UW-Milwaukee is listed as one of the top 200 universities in the world?

    That’s not even mentioning a can’t miss sports scene with the Brewers, Packers, Bucks, Golden Warriors, Panthers and the close by Wisconsin Badgers.

    Glad to see the Brew city is getting some notice.

    • Steven in response to Bill

      UWM has produced two leaders of nations: Golda Meir of Israel, whom we are proud of, and alberto Fujimori of Peru, whom we are not so proud of…

  31. Logan Five

    Oakland is a mess. The lake is stinky. There’s lots of shootings. Stay away, move along … nothing to see here.

  32. John

    If you include armed robbery in the “excitement” category, Oakland definitely rates #1 on your list.

    No question, good things are happening in Oakland. The bar and restaurant scene is humming, and it’s now the Bay Area’s top location for technology startups.

    But there’s no disguising the fact that Oakland remains a risky place to walk around. According to CNN, Oakland is the third most dangerous city in America, and is at the top of the list for robberies.


    As a result, visitors to Oakland should be careful about where they go and how they act.

    Examples: Don’t get cash from an outdoor ATM after dark. And even during the daytime, it’s not a good idea to flash your iPhone in a BART station or other crowded place.

    Stay in groups of four or so when walking around at night and be aware of your surroundings.

    This advice from an Oakland resident who loves his city but is not blinded by love.

    • Michael in response to John

      Yep, don’t flash your technology in Oakland. They get the attention of flash eaters.

  33. Bay Area Resident

    LOL Oakland?? I guess they forgot to include crime per capita in their results…

  34. izzy

    Go A’s!

  35. Ed

    Yeah, the number of murders in Oakland last year made it very exciting!!

  36. Dave

    I’ve lived in Oakland for twenty years. I’m kind of sorry the secret is getting out! This, on top of being one of the NY Times “Five Best Places (in the WORLD) to Visit”, and all the national attention on First Friday. There’s nowhere in the US I’d rather live than the Bay Area (probably not a lot of argument with that), but nowhere in the Bay Area I’d rather live than Oakland (huh?). Oakland is a lot like its baseball team: always seems to be under the radar, always seems to be kicking ass, always seems to be surprising people that it’s doing so.

  37. James

    I hate to pit SF against Oakland, but it is silly to rank Oakland as most exciting in the country when SF is right next door.

    Where this list is majorly flawed is that it ignores the QUALITY of museums, theater companies, etc. Oakland may have a ton, but name one museum or theater/performing arts company that is world class, or even has name recognition outside of the city. NYC and SF trump Oakland by MILES for world class restaurants, parks, performing arts, etc. Oakland’s music venues essentially act as overflow for SF. The Fox Theater is the only venue that can steal a band away from San Francisco’s venues and music festivals (Outside Lands alone has had Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Radiohead, Metallica, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Muse, Phish, Jack White, deadmau5, Nine Inch Nails), and over half the attendees at the Fox are from SF anyway. Museums? SF has MoMa, DeYoung, Asian Art Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Exploratorium. Oakland has??? I have lived in the Bay Area all my life and cannot name a single museum in Oakland, despite being in your 20-34 category. SF’s ballet, symphony, and opera are world renowned. Oakland has???

    Not to mention all of these “exciting” venues in Oakland are limited to specific areas. Once again, NYC and SF have exciting world class restaurants and bars for days in dozens of neighborhoods, throughout the city. Neighborhoods with world class, innovative bars/restaurants/nightlife in SF include Soma, Mission, Marina/Cow Hollow, North Beach, Hayes Valley, Pac Heights, Nob and Russial Hill, Western Addition, Lower Haight, we could keep going for days. These places have commercial corridors full of places to go. SF, at my count, has twenty restaurants with Michelin stars. Oakland has one. SF is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, cities for beer lovers. SF clearly has more, and better, bars for Oakland. Oakland seems to be topping for museums and theater companies, but tier D museums and improv troupes do not an exciting city make.

    New York City is THE world’s city. San Francisco is world class. Chicago not being on here is silly. Those are the three best, most exciting, world class cities in our country, “criteria” be damned.

    • James in response to James

      I’m from Milwaukee and like to see it get some well-deserved recognition, but I totally agree with you accept I would add Boston to make it a top 4 and rank them Boston-SF (tied) NY, Chicago, having lived in, worked in or spent extended amounts of time in all of them.

  38. James

    Oh and a bunch of McDonalds in Staten Island and the Bronx do not, and cannot, diminish the fact that Manhattan pretty much leads the world in culture, from the food to the music to the art to the style. Let’s get real here.

  39. Janet John

    What is really exciting in a city is job!! That means that people have the will and the means to enjoy those other things.

  40. Angela


  41. Navigator

    I have to respond to the poster who claims that SF is far superior to Oakland.

    First of all Oakland has a better climate than SF and Oakland’s climate is ranked the best in the United States.

    Oakland also has the better theaters with the Fox Oakland, Paramount, Grand Lake and the wonderful and bucolic Woodminister Amphitheater high in the Oakland hill surrounded by giant redwoods.

    Oakland’s zoo is the best in Northern California ando e of the best in the United States and is easily better than the SF Zoo. the Oakland Museum of California is a history, natural science and art museum on three landscaped levels of an award wino g building next to beautiful Lake Merritt.

    Oakland is also filled with vibrant neighborhoods with great restaurants, pubs boutiques and art galleries. neighborhoods like Uptown, Old Oakland, Jack London Square, Chinatown, Rockridge, Temescal, Piedmont Avenue, Lakeshore/Grand, Montclair, Dimond, Fruitvale, are dynamic walkable places with interesting architecture.

    Oakland also has a 20,000 seat arena which hosts the Warriors, concerts, circus, ice shows. Etc. SF doesn’t even have a first rate arena.

    Oakland is also greener than SF with more parkland with Sobley, Shabot, Redwood, Joaquim Miller, Roberts, Lake Merritt, Lake Temescal, Lake Chabot, MLK Shoreline, Middle Harbor Park, etc. Oakland has far more trees and far less concrete than SF.

    Oakland’s ranking is well deserved. it’s a great town getting better every day.

    • skiman in response to Navigator

      Every time I have gotten off the 880 in Oakland, either to eat, rent/return a car, see a client, I have been hassled/threatened/offered drugs/offered sex (paid for up front of course). Not a fan.

  42. Tim

    Boston actually has the highest concentration of 20-34 year olds in the country. 1 in 3 Bostonians are in this age category (about 35%). For proof, here’s the official website from our Mayor:

    Also, what will you say when the City Target opens in the Fenway? The mixed-use project will be completed in a couple years. Target will be on the first 3 floors and a residential tower above with no surface parking. Should it hurt our excitement rating, despite bringing even more economic prosperity to the Fenway and serving a major demographic need given that we have the highest concentration of colleges in the country too?

  43. James

    @Navigator –

    You are right. Oakland has a 20,000 seat arena that hosts the Warriors. You know who is building a 20,000+ seat arena that WILL host the Warriors? San Francisco. Because sports teams are dying to get out of Oakland. Check out the attitude the A’s management has about being in Oakland. They are essentially begging the MLB to put them anywhere else. The Raiders are constantly rumored to be going elsewhere. By 2017, the Warriors will ostensibly be a San Francisco team, and you must be kidding yourself to assume that any major concert will book the Oracle Arena over the brand new stadium in San Francisco proper.

    Oakland is a pleasant place to live, as long as you aren’t in the 50% of the neighborhoods which continue to cause Oakland to be ranked #1 in the country for violence. But let’s take half of the city out of the question. The other half is pleasant, sure. To call it more exciting than San Francisco, however, is pure foolishness that anybody living outside of Oakland can see.

    Ask anybody in the country whether they would rather spend 3 days visiting Oakland’s parks, museums, and quaint neighborhoods, or San Francisco’s. I bet I know how that poll will end up. Ask anybody in the Bay Area where their dream address would be, Oakland or San Francisco. Guess who wants to live in Oakland over SF? People living in Oakland already. There is a reason why rent is so much cheaper there than San Francisco. I would rather live in San Jose than Oakland.

    Check this out:

    San Francisco is ranked as an Alpha World City. Oakland is not ranked at all. Palo Alto IS. Palo Alto is considered more self-sufficient and important to the global economy than Oakland. You know what other cities are listed as more important than Oakland? Tulsa. Sacramento. Omaha. Providence. Memphis.

    Look, I don’t hate Oakland, I know it’s a pleasant place to live, I know there are lots of things to do, but what everybody does hate about Oakland is the fact that people who live in Oakland think a couple artisanal coffee shops and some OK parks makes them the most exciting city in the country. You might prefer to live in Oakland than San Francisco, that’s fine. But to assert that that preference is somehow indicative of the fact that Oakland is comparable to San Francisco is silly.

    • Walt in response to James

      The Warriors left SF to come to come to Oakland. Sharks played at the Cow Palace and are now in San Jose. The Niners are leaving the City for Santa Clara. Should I continue?

  44. Daphne Muse

    Oakland also is home to Mills College,a more than 150-year-old college for women with an outstanding reputation and record of educating leaders, artists, writers and scientists across the decades. We also have museums, interesting literary enclaves, innovative hubs and people over 60 doing phenomenal work in Oakland and around the world.

  45. Tamara

    One of the most exciting things to come out of Oakland is the urban farming/homesteading movement, which basically started here and has now spread nationwide. We have more beekeepers, canners, soap/cheese/wine/beer-makers, backyard chickens, fruit trees and front-yard gardens than anywhere else you can name. (Plus our dogs don’t have to be leashed on the trails of our extensive regional park system!) Despite its crime problems, Oaktown has true heart. (and yes, I live in the same zip code as the Oakland coliseum) Like they sing over at The Alley piano bar on Grand: “Where did all the people go when Frisco burned? They all went to Oakland and they never returned! She’s got pride, hope, and oh what a view…Oakland we’re for you!”

  46. Wanderer

    Oakland’s got a lot of good stuff going on. But I hope people keep dissing it, that helps keep the rents and house prices more affordable. It doesn’t have as much as New York, obviously.

    New York may not have as many goodies per capita, but the great thing about New York is the unbelievable range of activities. Because there are so many people there, one may need to buy tickets for things in advance, or stand in long lines, and sometimes just not get into the show you want. If you do this again, I’d use both the amenities per capita and the absolute number, and come up with some kind of weighted average.

  47. Steve

    Did you have a minimum population requirement? Because I think New Haven should totally be on this list…

  48. Ben Ari

    The measurement isn’t for “best” city, it is for most “exciting”. Urban planning criteria like street layout, or quality of life indicators like crime stats, don’t enter into it. The question is- It’s Saturday night (or Thursday night) and what is there to do? And, how wide are the range of options?

    New York City and LA are dragged down because their cities include much of their suburbs. Four of the five boroughs in NYC are mostly suburban tracts. If Manhattan were broken out it would likely win easily. LA is, of course, a vast suburb with a few city centers. Again, this isn’t about quality of life, it is about entertainment options per mile or person.

    The main flaw is the deductions for fast food and box stores. How does a Walmart store reduce my options on Saturday night? Given the pictures on the internet it would seem that Walmarts are quite entertaining at night. And at 3am, fast food is often the BEST option. I don’t think that fast food sucks the life out of a local restaurant scene any more than Starbucks sucks the life out of a local coffeehouse scene. So, I would suggest taking those criteria out, or at least weighting them less.

  49. Arron

    Who wants to live in Milwaukee!!! Might be a nice town to retire when your 80. I’m a city boy. Driving down the highway feeling the nice southern Cali ocean breeze. We have everything out here. Lakes don’t compare to the ocean.

    • Steven in response to Arron

      Who wants to live in Milwaukee? PLenty of people, I can assure you; and as far as “…Driving down the highway feeling the nice southern Cali ocean breeze…” we get to drive down our highways and feel the nice breeze off of Lake Michigan-and we can actually go faster than the “four or five on the 405;” Milwaukee has one of the shortest large-city commute times in the USA. “…We have everything out here…” Wwe’ve got everything here except Hollywood -but we make up for it by having an NFL team- and we have it for a lot less cost of living! “…Lakes don’t compare to the ocean…” dude, the only thing your ocean has that the Great lakes does not is salt and tides…and thanks to that aforementioned lake, our drinking water isn’t piped in from hundreds of miles away.

      • Mike in response to Steven

        Milwaukee doesn’t have an NFL team, Green Bay does.

  50. two cents

    I have lived in New York, SF, Boston and Oakland. SF and NY are easily the two best cities but I love Boston. Oakland is mostly a stinkhole. if you don’t think so, please go take a stroll in West O or Deep East on any given Friday night. I guarantee you want be heading back.

  51. Sloppy Joe

    most of the people sticking up for Oakland live near Rockridge or Temescal. hardly the real Oakland. anything past 20th until you hit San Leandro is pretty gnarly and west Oakland is extremely dangerous. this wouldn’t matter much but when it constitutes 80% of the city, then it’s a problem. I happen to like some of Oakland’s grittiness but I prefer not to have to look ahead 3 blocks every time I turn the corner for suspicious activity. first Friday art walk downtown was supposed to be about arts/music/food/culture. Now Oakland is shutting it down because it attracts drunks and violence. par for the course in Oaktown.

  52. Steve

    Bars, fast food restaurants and big box stores? Those are some of the primary criteria for an exciting city? Are you serious? If that’s why some of these cities made the Top 10, then this country is in big trouble. Try visiting some cities in Europe. You’ll see what makes a city exciting. Culture, history, art, architecture. That’s what makes cities like Paris, Rome, Venice, Munich, London and Athens light years ahead of most US cities. With criteria like bars, fast food joints and big box stores, I’m surprised Las Vegas, Miami, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Phoenix didn’t make the list. Where was Los Angeles? Certainly that vibrant city should have been ranked higher than Milwaukee. . .

  53. LD


    • Steven in response to LD

      While Milwaukee will never get the Super Bowl, the NCAA Mens Final Four -although we’ve had the NCAA Frozen Four multiple times- or a college bowl game, we get the Harley-Davidson “Family Reunion” every five years; based on the number of visitors to Milwaukee during these events, it is the equivalent of hosting TWO Super Bowls simultaneously! As for the excitement, you should hear the roar of all those Hogs rolling through Downtown, as they make their way to the lakefront…

  54. wintermade

    I am thrilled every time I read someone dissing Oakland. As far as I’m concerned, it keeps the rif-raff from moving here using our >30,000 acres of parks, horse stables, fabulous restaurants, art Murmur, off-the grid Fridays at the Oakland Museum, our music venues (Paramount, Fox, New Parish, etc), artists, musicians, and small start up businesses like Pandora and Numi Tea. Truly – please DONT move here. We’re happy with the rough ‘n tumble rep.

  55. Navigator

    Oakland is unique because it has the perfect balance between urban and suburban living to go along with a greenbelt of amazing parks for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking etc.

    Oakland also has three beautiful lakes with gorgeous Lake Merritt in the middle of downtown, bucolic Lake Temescal in the beautiful upper Rockridge neighborhood and a part of Lake Chabot at the south end of the city.

    Oakland also has amazing historic architecture because for so long it was passed up by developers. While San Francisco razed many of its historic building such as its Fox Theater, Oakland preserved it’s magnificent theaters like the Fox Oakland, Paramount, Grand Lake, etc. Oakland unlike SF, has entire preserved neighborhoods which date back to the 1870’s. The Old Oakland neighborhood in downtown is a perfect example of 1870’s commercial architecture. This area is now filled with restaurants, pubs and boutiques. Another enchanting historic neighborhood in downtown Oakland is Preservation Park. This neighborhood has well preserved Victorians dating back to the 1850’s situated is a lush village setting with a Parisian fountain in the middle of the tree lined well landscaped street. The feeling of leaving modern downtown Oakland and walking through the twin towered Federal Building into this charming historic village is quite amazing. The contrast between old and new is like something you’d find in Boston.

    As far as some people here attempting to demean Oakland and this great honor, pay no attention to their jealous rants. This more than likely comes from San Francisco. The fear of crime in Oakland is a staple perpetuated by the slanted and biased pro SF media. The fact of the matter is that downtown SF and it’s neighborhoods of the Tenderloin, Mid Market, 6th Street, Soma, Civic Center, and a bit farther out the Western Addition have much more crime than the downtown Oakland neighborhoods of Uptown, City Center, Frank Ogawa Plaza, Old Oakland, Jack London Square, Chinatown and Lake Merritt. Oakland’s other commercial, dinning and entertainment areas like Rockridge, Temescal, Piedmont Avenue, Lakeshore, Grand, Montclair, Glenview, are much safer than most of San Francisco.

    Please don’t let these SF naysayers talk you out of discovering one of America’s best cities.

    • Dina in response to Navigator

      Amen Navigator!!
      It’s actually nice for it to be “our little secret”.

    • N Cali Mom in response to Navigator

      I am NOT from San Francisco…I am a true Northern Californian. Most of us would not be caught dead in Oakland because of just that…you could wind up Dead. That is what Oakland is known for. You know it and so do we. Sure, things to do, but how dangerous is it to actually do them? Check with the Police Department before venturing anywhere in Oakland, please.

      • Navigator in response to N Cali Mom

        My wife and I walk all over Oakland all the time. we see parents pushing strollers around Lake Merritt, kids on bikes, senior citizens. We see young women riding their bikes all over Oakland day and night. We usually do a seen to nine mile walk starting on College avenue and through Temescal, Piedmont Avenue, Gran Lake, around the Lake, back through the beautiful Oakland Rose Garden, down montecito and back up Piedmont Abenue and on to College.

        we see friendly people, beautiful and charming architecture, dense well kept apartment neighborhoods, single family Tudors, craftsman and Victorians, interesting and vibrant commercial strips with great restaurants, boutiques, bike shops,cafes etc.

        ever had a problem. Never have felt threatened by anyone. You don’t know what you are talking about. Too much SF centric television no doubt.

  56. Knuckle

    How can you consider “diversity” an asset, but also consider a population of one age group also an asset? Is the survey saying it’s OK to be age-ist, but not OK to be racist?

  57. puhsitch

    I’m not sure what this is measuring, but it sure isn’t excitement. Heck, a big empty lot can get a perfect score on 30% of the criteria. And the rest of it makes a big assumption that quantity equals quality.

  58. RobertA

    What a joke! Oakland is exciting like the old Chinese curse, “May you live in exciting times”. Bullet dodging is truly exciting.

    • Dina in response to RobertA

      Totally ignorant RobertA. But alas- if everyone wanted to live here,then the real estate would be even more expensive than it is.

  59. hh

    Oakland eh? Might as well include Sacramento. They’re equally boring. Historic, but boring. I think some variables are not very good indicators but I have no idea how to correct them better either. For instance, in Arizona Phoenix, there are TONS of bars in downtown but often they are pretty empty. Loud music but quite empty, on the weekend, compared to just a few bars in SF/LA that were almost packed in each of them. Perhaps it’s quality vs quantity, as there’s probably nothing like Sunset Boulevard or Beverly Hills Ave or little communities like San Gabriel Valley, Little Tokyo, Little Armenian, Little Italy, etc. in Oakland. That, makes a big difference. Honestly, some of these chosen places are the last places I wanna reside in. Visit OK, but definitely not long term.

    • Navigator in response to hh

      Another thing that puts Oakland at the top of this list is the best climate in the United Staes to go along with the beautiful natural setting and the spectacular views.

      I’ve been to Austin, LA, Boston, NY and many other large American cities and Oakland is the best place for outdoor recreation along with proximity to interesting neighborhood shopping districts like Rockridge, Piedmont Avenue, Montclair Village, Temescal, Lakeshore, Grand Avenue, etc..

      In Oakland you can hike the giant redwoods in Redwood Regional Park and ten minutes later be walking in boutique filled College Avenue.

      Lake Merritt is superior to any water way in Austin and comes with a 70* temperature in July and August.

      uptown is filled with restaurants, pubs, art galleries and world class theaters like the Fox and Paramount. On First Friday’s 20,000 people fill the theaters, restaurants, clubs and streets.

      Oakland is also much more walkable and compact than LA. In LA the attractions are set up like islands in the middle of vast urban sometimes blighte sprawl. You have Beverly Hills and then you have to drive to Santa Monica. Then there’s Hollywood to the north and another drive down Faifax gets you to the Grove. LA has pockets of nice things in the middle of uninteresting urban sprawl. LA also has Silver Lake which pails in comparison to Lake Merritt, and Lake Temescal and their lush natural beauty. LA is dry and the hills look like desert while Oaklamd’s lush green canyons are filled with redwoods and pines.

      • Skiman in response to Navigator

        I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time in Oakland as a result of work, and it’s absurdly dangerous.

        • Navigator in response to Skiman

          Where did you go for business in Oakland? City Center? Frank Ogawa Plaza? The Lake Merritt Financial Center? Jack London Square? Rockridge, Montclair, Piedmont Avenue, Lakeshore, uptown?

          It looks like you made it out OK. What a load of….

          • thabe331 in response to Navigator

            Now I know he’s lying, there’s way too many hoodlums for anyone to work in Oakland

  60. Alex

    Any chance you could run the numbers for the City of St. Louis? At just 318K residents, we’re the 58th largest city in the US and so didn’t make the top 50 cutoff. This is simply an unfortunate circumstance from a 1876 city/county split that hasn’t been rectified.

    Better yet, I’d love to see the data and could run our own measure of St. Louis.

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Alex

      We are expanding to the top 100 cities for future articles, so St. Louis will be part of all future lists.

  61. Malcolm Kettering

    Plus we smoke A LOT of pot ALL OVER Oakland, 24/7. It feels like a big pot party, you even smell it inside bars (George & Walt’s for instance).

  62. N.Yost

    I’d like to see the math on this..why not post the list of 50 with all the numbers? Because you can’t – it’s a joke.

  63. Kaitlyn

    I honestly can’t believe Minneapolis didn’t make this list..

    • Steven in response to Kaitlyn

      It looks like the methodology used cities -as opposed to Metro Areas- and they limited their ranking to the top 50 cities; Minneapolis (by itself) might be below that cutoff line…perhaps Minneapolis and St. Paul could have been combined, at least for purposes of this list?

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Kaitlyn

      It was close to the top 10, but didn’t quite make it.

      We consider Minneapolis separate from St. Paul.

  64. Dave

    Go visit Oakland and see how you feel. It’s exciting if you like to be robbed and shot at. That city is an absolute cesspool.

  65. Tess

    Have to wonder why Minneapolis-St Paul is not on this list. The Twin Cities has unbelievable amounts of park space for a metro area, bike trails, lakes and the outdoor space is used all year long. Plus the arts scene is absolutely fantastic. Sports, bars, clubs (hello, First Ave?) are easy to find. And if you claim it’s not diverse enough, it’s obvious you’ve never been to the Twin Cities.

    • thabe331 in response to Tess

      Because Minnesota is a flyover state

  66. J.W.

    I’m confused. Are you descibing the 10 most exciting cities or the 10 most exciting cities to live in. If it’s the latter than how about figuring in crime, employment stats, housing costs, etc. From what you can see online, Oakland’s only a step or two from a war zone because of crime, yet a place like Austin, where wages are higher, with alot to do, in a safe environment didn’t make the list. N.Y. is great to visit, but I moved away to Pa. on purpose. It’s next to impossible to live there & enjoy everything it offers. Unless your name is Trump. It’s a nice list that seems to have people talking. Good job.

  67. Sam

    Gotta validate the Milwaukee vote. Moved here last year after living in a bunch of places (LA, SF, DC, Chicago) and I’ve been sort of amazed to discover how cool it is.

  68. Cheri

    Oakland is super exciting if you like dodging bullets. I’ve never heard of and you have already lost all credibility with me. My first and last visit to this website.

  69. Jon

    I was born and raised in Oakland, yes there is violence but that does not change the fact that it is a great city. San Francisco is a great place as well but just as Ida wrote, “its better to see the skyline of San Francisco than to live in it”. Oakland is full of diversity with unique people and it has started to change a lot over the past decade. There’s an abundance of restaurants, bars, parks, arts, and culture to keep you entertained. Let’s not forget according to NOAA, we ranked no.1 for the best weather in the US.

    Good areas to visit:
    -Lake Meritt
    -Grizzly Peak Blvd.
    -North Oakland
    -West Oakland
    -Jack London Square
    -Laurel District
    -Redwood Heights
    -Joaquin Miller
    -The Coliseum

  70. San Diego Rulz

    Oakland smells like garbage in the summer

  71. T. Herr

    What the categories actually mean and why Oakland was the best.

    1. Lots of young people – most people die there before they can make it to a ripe old age and hospitals are bad.

    2. Lots of bars – you’d drink too if you lived there.

    3. Little big box/fast food – even the corporations wouldn’t want to locate there.

    4. Lots of parks – where are all the addicts going to be able to score some drugs?

    • Tom in response to T. Herr

      Oakland????? Yup, Oakland is a really exciting place. Since it’s the 13th most dangerous city in the country you can justifiably be excited every time you venture outside, particularly after dark. We all get to decide what we like and dislike but I’m not an adrenalin junkie so live in rural Texas. Exciting? Not so much. But when I want excitement I can go to Austin or wherever. Bottom line? Oakland stinks.

      • Mike in response to Tom

        When NYC was having 2,200 murders a year it was still considered the most exciting place on earth.

  72. Deane J

    I wonder if you have surveyed Greenville, SC ? A lot to recommend it!

    • thabe331 in response to Deane J

      Nothing in the South is worth anyone’s time

  73. tv

    This survey is a total waste of time & resources. OAKLAND??!! You people are in the wrong industry. You SHOULD be writing cartoons.

  74. Oaklandish


    I live in Oakland and it’s NOT the most exciting. Movoto’s criteria doesn’t take into account CRIME.

    Oakland has a few tiny islands of relative peace and culture, otherwise watch out.

    Clearly this piece was created to stir up click. Lame

  75. Thor34

    I lived in Oakland from 1996-2007 when I was lucky enough to get out just before the housing bubble would have cost me about 70% of the “value” of my home. I guess the article need to better define “exciting.” It was exciting when the Hells Angels would all get together at their world HQ on Foothill at 42nd on weekends, all with Harley’s screaming through the nights. It was exciting when the family that lived behind us would play Rancho music non stop at full volume every weekend just before drinking too much and then fighting with each other to the wee hours of the morning. It was exciting to get door to door salesmen always selling Alarm systems or metal bars for the windows bang on the door. It was exciting when our next door neighbors had their house broken into during broad daylight while we were at home. It was exciting to go to the “parks” as there was usually used needles or used condoms left for the kids to play with. It was exciting to hear the Bart Trains nonstop. It was exciting seeing if I could make it from the car into the grocery store WITHOUT being ask for spare change (rare). It was exciting having an empty beer bottle thrown at me, wife, and baby because we were white at a cinco de mayo festival on international blvd. It was exciting to think that the bart station that I used was the same one (fruitvale) where the Oakland PD shot an unarmed kid. It was exciting to see that the city rarely cleaned up the bird poop, which was everywhere, around Lake Merrit. And after moving away, it remained exciting to see the occupy wall street movement take over “oaksterdam” where all of the “hip” bars were trying to evolve. Great call, How did Lompoc not make the list?

    • Wally King in response to Thor34

      Chicago not on the list. lololol Biggest joke is that the most exciting city in the USA hasn’t been metioned by anyone yet. That is of course New Orleans La, and it ain’t close people.

  76. Shane

    This is hilarious. Most exciting and NYC isn’t #1? I’ve been to most of the cities on this list and can tell you the people that made it have not. The two most exciting cities are #1) NYC and #2) everyone else.

  77. Skiman

    Apparently gang activity, violence and murder are high on your list as well – Philly? Atlanta? Oakland? Washington DC? Where’s Detroit?

  78. Skiman

    “Excited” must also mean –


  79. Glen

    Oakland the most exciting city? I want to see the statistics on your criteria. E.g., museums; one never hears of Oakland as a museum city. Not like you do NYC, Washington, LA, Chicago and San Antonio! In you criteria you leave out a major indicator of exciting life in a city: the number of festivals annually. San Antonio has at least one every weekend and ten straight days of Fiesta (April). S.A. also has scads of museums, so why it didn’t make the top ten is beyond me. Of all cities I’ve resided in or visited, S.A. is easily the most exciting, even above NYC! And where are such other lively, touristy, happening cities as Los Angeles and Las Vegas?

  80. Taylor J

    Oakland is becoming the new SF. The vibe is awesome and the culture is even better. If you’re a foodie Oakland is heaven!

    • Joy in response to Taylor J

      Oakland is way cool, but that has much to do with it being a part of SF. Its the San Francisco Bay Area, not the Oakland Bay Area.

  81. Crystal

    I think who ever wrote this needs to go back to school for math. Virgina Beach has (according to their website) 4000 acres of parks with a population of 447,489 people. Jacksonville, FL has 80,000 acres of parks with a population of 1,345,596 people. Now I’m not a Mensa member but wouldn’t that mean Virgina Beach has .008 acres per person vs. Jacksonville’s .059 acres per person?

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Crystal

      We did the criteria on a per square mile basis, not per person. Never-mind it’s per person.

      • Crystal in response to Chris Kolmar

        Riiiggghhhhttt. Jacksonville operates the largest urban park system in the United States so still now sure how Virgina Beach has more but hey it’s your blog right?

  82. me

    Here are ten cities way more exciting than your list. Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, St. Louis, Denver, San Francisco, Honolulu, San Diego and here is the kicker Omaha, which beats most of your cities.

  83. Matt Schultz

    what about Savannah,Ga you are able to drink in the streets. we have one of the best St. Pat’s Day Parades. We have the most outside space to hang and a lot of parks.

  84. andre10056

    I think it’s interesting that your “diversity” criteria gives preference to cities where one race isn’t that much larger than another. In other words, by your definition, a city that is 80% white and 20% black is FAR less appealing than a city that is 50/50. What kind of racist crap is that? What does the race of the residents have to do with how exciting the city is? Hence, Oakland with its huge black population, scores big. Other cities with less diversity as you define it, although it may be extraordinarily multi-ethnic, is EXTREMELY undesirable by your criteria.

    Sorry. Race should not at all be a factor. Perhaps multi-ethnicity, but not race per se.

    • navigator in response to andre10056

      Yes, Oakland with its ” huge Black population” of 26%. This is what this is all about to the Oakland haters. Oakland has plenty of law abiding middle class citizens who love and contribute to the entire city. Oakland is a beautiful melting pot here people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, religions get along and love their town.

  85. andre10056

    I live in Alameda which borders Oakland. Oakland “exciting”? Maybe if you want fried chicken (fried chicken restaurants everywhere which I guess is a good thing by your criteria because they’re not among your named, “very bad” fast food restaurants) and want to experience the “excitement” of getting robbed. But, otherwise, Alameda residents go through Oakland as rapidly as possible on their way to SF. Maybe watch an Oakland As ballgame with police everywhere. But that’s about it.

    • navigator in response to andre10056

      You feel smug and superior because you have to drive through Oakland’s low income high crime areas to get to your over ratted San Francisco.

      If people in Alameda compared themselves to the best neighborhoods in Oakland like Rockridge, Momtclair, Piedmont Avenue, Oakmore, Skyline, Ridgemont, Chabot Park Estates, Claremont, Hiller Highlands, Jack London Square, Lake Merritt you’t come out a distant second.

      Alameda has always been a racist town with a draw bridge mentality where does who can’t afford the nice neighborhoods of Oakland go to feel superior.

  86. onstar

    1) The “per square mile” calculation is really misleading. Instead of per sq mi, I want to know how many places I can get to within 30 minutes. In NYC, that might be a 5 mile radius. In LA, that might be a 30 mile radius. Also, part of the excitement is the sheer numbers as it gives you more options to do more things. I think most people will agree that having 1,000 bars in 100 square miles is more exciting than 100 bars in 8 square miles.
    2) 20-34 years old? I’d rather see 25-39 year olds. A 20 year old can’t even (legally) drink yet. 39 year olds have more money. Since we’re talking bars, theaters, museums, and music venues, money is important.
    3) A city doesn’t become less exciting just because of McDonald’s. Mickey D is usually more exciting than a rundown bar that no one goes to. Same with big box stores. This is a poor generalization.
    4) The quantity of bars, movie theaters, etc. does not equate to quality.
    5) I’d like to know how many 5* restaurants are in each city. Fine, do it by square mile if you’d like. You’re punishing a city for having a McDonald’s but not crediting a city for having fine dining?

  87. Tiffany

    I’m from San Francisco lived all around the Bay Area my whole life as well as Las Vegas and Atlanta. I’ve traveled many places and have grown to become so appreciative of the Bay Area it truly is a beautiful place to live. Oakland is a beautiful city but I wouldn’t recommend nobody go their. I don’t recommend you not go their either because it is beautiful. I worked at the state building in downtown Oakland and I loved every minute of it. Sure nothing can beat the view I had from my office at the SF Ferry building but Oakland has so much character and urban culture. And although I love my city I must admit I love the restaurants in Oakland more. Oakland murder rate is just to high its really a bad city. I’ve had the time of my life growing up in the Bay Area partying downtown Oakland to downtown SF but I know lots so people who have died in that process. But hey that’s life ill take the ghetto fabolous Bwy anyday over Vegas this place just stinks

  88. Bob Kosgak

    i would say the list should be determined by most fireworks per capita

  89. Bella Garcia

    OKAY WHAT THE BLOODY HELL?!?! I live in Oakland, born and raised unfortunately and what in the sam hell made Oakland #1?! Who paid these people to write this bs?!!?! Oakland is a pile of horse caca! I’m going to tell you why Oakland is “#1” because they’re kicking all the minorities out, white folks are moving back in and they’re fixing it up, same thing they did to Harlem. They can have this god-forsaken city of misery. Hell yeah we party in SF its a mini New York! Hello!!! Everyone who loves Oakland (white people) are transplants from other states. ALL the good restaurants are in Berkeley and SF….

  90. Frank

    Oakland is a stinking gang cesspool. You need to lay off the crack!

  91. Trey

    So….the fact that Movoto’s (a REAL ESTATE COMPANY) home offices are located in San Mateo (just across the Bay from Oakland) has absolutely nothing to do with these ridiculous rankings?? Right……

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Trey

      Hey Trey,
      Don’t appreciate the undertones. We based everything solely on the data described in the article. Feel free to disagree with our criteria, but we didn’t manipulate anything.

      Additionally, while our headquarters is in San Mateo, we are national brokerage in 30+ states.
      – Chris

      • jasmin in response to Chris Kolmar

        I am curious about the boundaries used for these city limits. Too often suburban areas are counted skewing the data.

      • Navigator in response to Chris Kolmar

        Chris, you guys did a great job and obviously did your homework. Pleas don’t mind all the haters who really don’t know Oakland and are bitter or jealous that their town didn’t fare as well. Oakland pushes buttons because of the SF centric snobbery in the area.

        Your list is fair based on the criteria and you have nothing to apologize for.

        Good work.

      • Damaris in response to Chris Kolmar

        You have to admit, it leads to an inherent bias when you describe your home base as the most exciting city in the US, especially when you’re trying to sell properties there. You don’t appreciate the undertones of people actually bothering to look behind your mirror? Tells us a lot there.

        • Chris Kolmar in response to Damaris

          Hey Damaris,
          We are a brokerage in 30+ states, by your logic if we did most any city in the country as number 1 we would be biased.

          You could have pointed out the fact that Oakland may be over-represented on Yelp relative to the rest of the country because it is more tech savvy (Being near Silicon Valley).

          Anyways, these things are just for fun and a way to stir up conversation. We are Saturday Night Scientists; we aren’t running for political office.

  92. jfalskjf

    Boston only has two movie theaters and the second is in Fenway. Plus the city closes at 12am because the subways shut down. Lastly, everyone is off the streets by 10pm even on a Saturday night in the summer. Next time visit the city before you make a determination.

  93. Andy

    Serbs no 1 was slipped in as a 2 is actually no 1.
    Anyway, you can’t classify a NY with an Oakland. Size has to matter here. Seattle and Boston are best. NY and Miami, than Vegas and Chicago. Then DC, and San Fran, than Charleston the friendliest city in USA. That simple.

  94. Kevin

    So this is a sad excuse to get views for this website and to subscribe email addresses because clearly they knew a lot of people would disagree with that idiotic list and just had to leve a comment disagreeing. I lived in Portland Oregon for five years and that was the calmest city ever. How can that city be exciting if it’s raining most of the time? And why the fuck is Los Angeles not up there? The people who wrote this must be some dull to the brain 80 year olds. Museums aren’t exciting! There entertaining but there not exciting. Movies aren’t exciting either.
    You guys need to look up the word exciting and recognize the definition. I don’t know if Los Angeles would be number one on the list but I know it’s one hell of a fucking city were you can do anything at any given time with a diverse amount of people and that’s excluding the night life.
    Our night life is something no other city can match.

  95. Michael

    Oakland? Number one? Ugh. The person who wrote this 1) has never lived there 2) Has overlooked or is oblivious to the horrendous crime rate (I’m talking about violent crime) and the quality of life there is in the toilet. I lived in Oakland for 6 years (now live in San Mateo, Ca., across the Bay. Not much better but at least it isn’t Oakland. Oakland is number 1? OMG. Sorry, I’m sure you meant well and all but boy did you get this one wrong.

  96. leif

    The underlying ‘reseach’ must be very off – Milwaukee in parity w/ NYC, and Miami not on the list.

  97. tom

    Vegas Baby?

  98. dixfree


  99. Navigator

    It seems that many of the SF snobs and racists are foaming at the mouth because they can’t wrap their warped little minds around Oakland being the great town that it has become.

    Oakland has the best climate in the United States, gorgeous and abundant parkland with redwood groves and magnificent views, world class theaters in the Fox Oakland, Paramount, Grand Lake, incredible restaurants with every type of cuisine imaginable, charming neighborhoods like Rockridge, Montclair, Piedmont Avenue, Adams Point, Haddon Hill, Lakeshore, Gold Coast, Crocker Highlands, Temescal, Glenview, Oakmore, Dimond, Fruitvale, Uptown, Old Oakland, Jack London Warehouse District, Chinatown, etc.

    Oakland has natural beauty next to urban sophistication. Oakland has beautiful and renovated Lake Merritt next to the award winning Oakland Museum of California. Oakland has the incredible Oakland Zoo in a picturesque natural setting in the Oakland Hills. There’s a chairlift which takes you over the Zoo and has incredible Bay views. There,s also a small steam train which also offers views of Oakland and the Bay.

    When you put natural beauty, climate, restaurants, parkland, arts, housing stock, historical architecture, waterfronts, plazas and, theaters, together, Oakland IS the most exciting city.

    sorry haters, it’s true.

  100. MensaDropout

    Here’s the description left for us to fill in: Oakland – Lots of ghettos, gangs, and other crazed convicts, makes for lots of flying bullets all over the city….EXCITING!

  101. Navigator

    Here are some better photographs of this beautiful city which was rightfully ranked No.1

    For those of you who don’t know Oakland these photographs offer a glimpse of the beauty of this town.

  102. Jenette

    I’ve visited every city on this list. Many more than once. I lived in San Francisco proper for 9 years and now I own my home in… OAKLAND! I love it. And no, I’ve never been robbed or shot at. Enough said.

  103. jules

    i live in oakland, and it has its ups and downs…definitely NOT overrated like SF!!!

    but what REALLY frosts my cookie the most is that this “blog,” “article,” “column” or whatever is merely a front for real estate listings…truly lame sauce!!!

  104. Martin

    i really enjoyed this article and all of the comments. I always like seeing people rep their city and be proud of where they live. i have spent some time in a lot of these cities and have had a blast. this list is great for me because it shows me which cities i need to visit. i would even definitely say that having spent some time in chicago i really think it should be up there.

    I have been living in oakland for six years and in alameda before that. I love the fact that oakland is up there on this list; but even living here i have to say that san francisco is more “exciting” than oakland. there is just a bit more happening; and that has a lot to do with the robust tourism industry that keeps the city up and running. san francisco has everything you could want in a major city; as has been referenced in the comments up above. san francisco is a fantastic place and i really only have one gripe; which i will address a bit later.

    I also have to say that living in oakland is way more ideal. first, you pay about half what you would in the city for a similar place. second, you can get to all of the exciting places in the city faster than living in the outer richmond or the sunset… and you have so so so much better weather. third, you don’t develop the arrogance of your westerly neighbors in the city and Marin.

    the people that talk about crime in oakland could find the exact same complaints in any big city in the U.S. i have never been robbed at gun point, had my car jacked, or been murdered in Oakland. I carry myself the same way as i do in any populated place… i pay attention to my surroundings and have been able to avoid any of the crime problems other people seem to have on this site. Oakland is a another big city with the same big city problems as all the other cities on this list.

    the only real gripe i have with san francisco is the arrogance of its residents. your city is fantastic, you dont have to shit on oakland to prove your point. i try to understand san francisco residents plight; i mean they actually pay at least twice as much for rent. they need to have some way in their own mind for justifying they type of financial stupidity. that’s where the scapegoat city to the east comes in: “no mom! $5000/month is the going price for a two bedroom in san francisco. at least i am in a safer city than oakland!”

    there’s no reason to bring another city down to prove your’s is great…but its nice to see Oakland get a bit of props above its loftier neighbor to the west.

  105. andre10056

    I still can’t get over this Oakland nonsense but I understand why it came out that way based on your criteria.

    It’s “diverse” because no one racial group predominates. OK. Blacks make up 27%, hispanics 25%, whites 25%, asians 20%, and other 3%. But the blacks and hispanics are poor blacks and hispanics and there’s very little diversity within any of those groups.

    Blacks: American non-immigrant blacks. Whites: American, non-immigrant whites. Hispanics: Mexicans. Asians: Chinese.

    Before moving to the Bay Area, I used to live on the east coast in Brooklyn, NY. I’d like to contrast Oakland’s alleged “diversity” with Brooklyn’s diversity.

    Blacks: American blacks, Caribbean blacks (from Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad, Barbados, Bahamas, etc., etc., etc), African blacks, Brazilian blacks.

    Hispanics: Spain, Honduras, Columbia, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, Guatemala, etc., etc., etc.

    Whites: Many different Jewish sects and backrounds such that you have kids on the street speaking English, Arabic (Jewish kids whose parents come from Syria or Lebanon), Hebrew (from Israel), Persian (from Iran), etc.

    Italians, real Brooklyn Italian

    Albanians from Albania, Kosovo (formerly part of Yugoslavia), Montenegro

    Many hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, including those from the republics of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Byellorussia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Georgia, Uzbekistan, etc. They speak Russianm and, if their countries also has their own national language (like Uzbekistan), they speak that as well. In fact, I knew an Uzbek who spoke Uzbek, Russian, Tajik, and Persian.


    Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Philipino, Thai, japanese, etc., etc., etc.

    And a melting pot of others such as Pakistanis (often seen at every large urban park playing cricket)

    Can you imagine the restaurants? The true diversity?

    Being very familiar with Oakland, I can tell you that Oakland is one of the LEAST diverse cities in the country. Across ethnicities as well as income levels.

    Your focus on “race” doesn’t capture true diversity.

    Your focus on fast food restaurants doesn’t capture true diversity of restaurants. To assume that a city’s restaurants are diverse because there are relatively few of five different fast food chains doesn’t make sense. Just because there may be little of those five national fast food chains, doesn’t mean the rest of the city offers the richness and variety of other kinds of restaurants.

    And Oakland’s crime rate? We’re on the Internet so it just takes seconds to conclude after the appropriate search that, as per national crime statistics, Oakland is one of the worst in the country.

    It’s actually ludicrous to think that someone’s going to fly into the Bay area to spend an “exciting” week’s vacation in Oakland.

  106. andre10056

    Here’s a slideshow you may want to take a look at. The ten most dangerous cities in all of America. 1. Detroit. 2. St. Louis. 3. OAKLAND

    • Navigator in response to andre10056

      Get over it already. You’re scare tactics are no longer working. Everyone knows the FBI states that these stats shouldn’t be used to compare cities because different cities have different methods of reporting crime.

      Also it’s ludicrous to compare cities by crime because cities aren’t dangerous neighborhoods can be dangerous. Oakland’s downtown and other commercial areas are much safer than SF downtown neighborhoods of the Tenderloin, 6th Street, Civic Center Mid Market, and Soma.

      In 2012 six people were victims of homicide within one block of the Powel Street cable car turnaround. This year a software salesman was beaten to death in the Soma neighborhood of SF. Also this year a 76 year old newspaper vendor was mugged and killed in downtown SF. On January first a 12 year old boy was one of three people shot on the San Francisco waterfront after a New Years fireworks celebration.

      You San Francisco fear mongers are jealous of Oakland placing ahead of your city so know you come over here trying to denigrate Oakland and scare people about Oakland. What a bunch of small, petty and insecure people. Clean up your filthy city before coming over here and dumping on Oakland.

  107. Martin

    Andre10056 cracks me up when talking about diversity and his nice broad generalizations.

    Saying all of the Asians are Chinese is hilarious- maybe he should have just said oriental and gone full racist. Looking at 2010 census data you will find that Chinese represent about 52% of the Asian population in Oakland. This is fairly representative considering the how much more populous China is compared to the rest of the countries in East Asia. The rest is across the board. Apparently he thinks that all of the great Pho restaurants on International are Chinese too; or the little Korea town on Telegraph must be Chinese.

    Looking at Hispanics; Mexicans are 74% of the total Hispanic population in Oakland. This is also fairly representative, considering Mexico is the most populous country in Central America. If Andre had bothered to ever stop in the Fruitvale and speak with folks he might realize that there are plenty of folks from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and many other countries (I come from Colombia myself).

    Does Oakland have a lot of Eastern Europeans? Not particularly, a large number of Russians, Ukrainians, and other Eastern Europeans have congregated mainly in the outer Richmond in San Francisco. That being said I would be very surprised if Brooklyn comes close to the amount of Pacific Islanders that call Oakland home.

    All of the Black population of Oakland is native born? Try catching a cab and meeting some of our Somali friends who have been in the US for only a few years. Or maybe Andre wants to catch an impromptu soccer game on the grass just east of Lake Merritt.

    I recently had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer for a day at Foothill Elementary in East Oakland. The amount of different languages, colors and ethnicities of the children all learning together was awe inspiring.

    Again, going back to my original post its great to see folks have civic pride across the country about their city. I love Oakland and love living there besides its flaws (of which there are a few). But you can look at those flaws in two ways. I prefer to find ways to improve my own city instead of bad mouthing other places.

    The negativitiy of Andre10056 has no place in California. If he loves Brooklyn so much he might as well move back there. The Best coast and California prefers to focus on the positive side of things.

    • andre10056 in response to Martin

      You gotta be kidding me. Did you click on the link a few posts back about Oakland being 3rd worst in the entire country in violent crime? And, if you did, did you read what the slide in the slideshow said: extreme poverty resulting in the #1 (#1!!!) in the country violent robbery???!!! That’s not myth. That’s an actual crime statistic. What’s so hard to understand about that?

      And what about the black community of Oakland? It used to be about half of the city’s population. Why has their percentage declined? Because any black person who can gets out to the suburbs as quickly as possible. That’s where their kids will be safe, get a good education, etc. Maybe they come back during daytimes to particpate in whatever on occasion, but at night they’re safely home elsewhere.

      You’ve got your head in the sand about Oakland. The Oakland you’re trying to “sell” simply doesn’t exist.

  108. Pj Little

    Tongue-in-cheek or not, it never ceases to amaze me that magazines and blogs all trumpet, or shame, the same locations in their lists. When you look closely you find highly populated areas with party schools and tons of bars; museums are always tossed in the mixed too. The problem with this mindset is vast areas of America is overlooked as unworthy with nothing to offer. Two X stores is not necessarily excessive when they are twenty miles apart. My city sprawls but my county sprawl fifty miles. Between them there is more than sixty parks and a twenty-five mile biking/hiking trail. It would really be nice to see realtors talk about small town America because we sell houses, too, and have large universities, too.

  109. adam

    Well this list is obviously the 2 through 11 spots, with New Orleans being the assumed number one…

  110. dave

    I live in Oakland. Like living here OK. Don’t care if others like it or not. Other cities are probably nice, too. Why do people get so upset about these arbitrary ratings?

  111. E

    Oakland ? Are you FROM the east bay ?? you must be. The entire east bay area is full of CLIQUES and SF is full of snobs. I have lived it for 13 years, and being from the east coast, I will say, you have GOT to be kidding. And, yes, there is a lot of crime in Oakland and the most UNsophisticated people live there.

  112. gart

    Us Oaklanders love our bad reputation as it helps to keeps away all the uninitiated.

  113. Plopplop

    How do you even compare ‘New York’ with ‘Oakland’. Are you talking about Manhattan? Brooklyn? WTF… Did you consider bar closing hours? A night out in Boston is far less satisfying when it ends 3 hours earlier than NYC. DC? Maybe if you’re into the gay scene, or a trendy college kid hitting up Adam’s Morgan. And did you guys even factor 7-11s into your calculation (they dominate the DC Metro landscape).
    This read is a waste of time, trying to break down what makes a city exciting into cut and dry factors clearly bespeaks a mind incapable of truly identifying ‘exciting’.


    All of the cities on this list are amazing! I totally understand why people are bummed about cities like Austin, but its just the math. Just too many people for such a small area and many times that is due to a popular school. There are tons of awesome things to do in all these cities, its just that these numbers are based on PER PERSON or PER SQ MILE.

    On the Oakland thing, I also understand why many visitors or former residents bailed and disliked it. But honestly, the past 7 years have been CRAZY. Rent prices in Oakland are reaching SF prices. The housing prices are getting so insane that it is almost impossible to find houses in the decent hoods of Oakland (just Investors and Flippers can get them in cash at this time).

    I’ve lived in Oakland since 2006 and bought my house (a fixer-upper) at the bottom of the market in 2009 in Temescal (ya, you probably think I am a yuppy but I’m not… I just wanted to be near BART and at the time Temescal was just okay). I have to say that I LOVE it here. I worked in SF for years while living in Oakland and have never regretted it. It really has evolved into an awesome place. Tons of venues and a music scene that is robust (having dabbled in the music scenes of both SF and Oakland… [both of which pale in comparison to places like NY]). The food in Oakland is stellar with TONS of restaurants opening here because it is easier/cheaper to get storefronts than it is in SF (SF has amazing places too, but man… the stuff in Oakland is just FUN lately).

    On the crime side, I can talk from experience: I have been mugged at gun point in Oakland. It sucked. I was also being naive about what it means to live in a city and walk at night with your cell phone out. The being said. I am WAY more scared to walk around Brooklyn at night or SF at night. This might just be familiarity (whats a good/bad hood). But honestly… every one of these cities has crime and I hear far more stories about walking in “nice” hoods in SF than “nice” hoods in Oakland.

    Oakland has a bad image (thanks Raiders) but it is being muted (thanks Warriors) by an exciting night life and pleasant quality of life for many (not all) residents. Can’t wait to see how far this goes as places like Jack London really take steps forward over the next few years.

  115. BiffyChimpy

    Looks like a list of the top 10 cities you are most likely to mugged or murdered in.

  116. M

    This sounds like a snob list. Normal people, ones that are not extremely rich, needs box stores and fast food restaurants to stay within their budget. Why would they want to pay 30-40% more for an item just to say that they don’t have a Wal-Mart or any big box store in their neighborhood? Look at New York. You have fancy stores and restaurants next to low budget stores. Does that make NYC less appealing? Does trash on the sidewalk make the city less appealing? Get real with the criteria for selecting the cities.

  117. Timothy

    I been everywhere in must say it’s something about summertime Chicago, hate the winters their so I can understand why it wouldn’t be the top of the list but if you are young and it’s summertime omg, Chicago is so much fun, the whole feel of the city is like no other, every night is like an adventure……never know how it’s going to turnout, lol.

  118. NYer

    Who created this survey – the mayor of Oakland? It’s seriously flawed, Dude. If one had a choice where they will go to the theater, would you pick OAKLAND or New York? Or if one wanted to go to a world-class museum would you pick Oakland or New York? Restaurants, hospitals, shops, diversity, colleges, fashion – Oakland or New York? That sort of sums it up for me. As far as weather is concerned, I love snow and the fact we have changing seasons – diversity again. Quality of life is different for everyone and NY is the center of change in the US – you either love it or hate it. This survey sounds good on paper, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

  119. B Hurd

    I’m from Chicago, but any list that doesn’t have this order for “most exciting” is using a flawed rubric:
    1. New York City, NY
    2. Los Angeles, CA
    … Chicago is in the top 10 for sure. Miami and Las Vegas are definitely in the top 10. The fact that the author used the following criterion, clearly he forgot to look-up the definition of “exciting”– less fast food, more museums, less Big box stores (this is ridiculous), more movie theaters (EXCITEMENT!).

    • B Hurd in response to B Hurd

      Oh– here’s my most exciting criterion. Please recalculate and adjust. Thank-you. Weighted equally:
      1) [number of restauraunts + number of bars] multiplied by [average closing time]. Yes, you must actually calculate the mean closing time.
      2) Ratio of total metro population to transient visitors (tourists, business people, travelers, drifters, etc).
      3) Number of concerts per week
      4) Number of other events and theater per week
      5) [Number of international events per year * number of professional sports teams] / [number of churches + libraries per sq. mi]
      6) DENSITY of people between 21-34. Percent, as this article used, means nothing.
      7) Clearly, Las Vegas gets one weighted category by itself for having gambling in grocery and drug stores. Las Vegas could arguably be put at the top of the list.
      8) I’m sure there are some more good categories, but I’m tired of making this list. Lookup the word exciting at m-w dot com

  120. WPalmer

    Some of the most interesting cities in this country are a lot like Milwaukee. Pittsburgh, Rochester, NY, Providence, Burlington, Detroit, Albuquerque………they are all really surprising.

  121. J.R.

    Excuse me, but . . . Oakland? Milwaukee? Portland?

    And where’s Las Vegas? Let’s see:

    • Parks? 1600 acres official, but hundreds more in community green spaces
    • Live theaters? More than NYC
    • Bars/Nightclubs/Strip Clubs? More than, well, anywhere
    • Music venues? You’re kidding, right?
    • Diversity? More Hawaiians than most parts of Hawaii (they call it the “ninth island”), twice the national average in percentage of population identified as Hispanic, multi-racial or foreign born, 50 percent higher Asian and multi-lingual, 2.5 times national average for “some other race” (not counting national average for blacks)
    • Museums? Dozens, including the world’s largest classic car showroom, the new Mob Museum and the Atomic Testing Museum
    • Performing arts? 30-plus centers
    • Lights? Paris-smaris – from space, Vegas is the brightest city in the world
    • Hotels? 15 of the world’s 25 largest – including the largest and 6 of the top 10
    • Casinos? A few – well, more than 100 full casinos and hundreds of “slot havens”
    • Restaurants? Hundreds, including many owned/operated by the world’s top chefs and more master sommeliers than LA and NYC – combined
    • Shopping? What brings a quarter of all visitors to LV, with just about every major name in the world here
    • Sports? Top rodeo and car racing events, high-ranking college and semi-pro teams
    • Golf? Dozens of private and public courses, many designed by the world’s top golf course architects
    • McCarran International Airport: One of the world’s busiest – and, with more than 1200 slots and Las Vegas Blvd as its western border, essentially a “Strip” casino
    • Boating/Water Skiing/Snow Skiing/Snowboarding? Sure it’s a desert, but with one of the largest man-made lakes in the hemisphere and 12,000-ft high Mount Charleston, not a problem
    • Worship? Some 600 churches, temples and synagogues – more than five times the number of casinos

    All of which begs the question: Oakland?

  122. Eli Odell J.

    … a list of dumps and ghetto’s?
    well, we gotta let em win at somethin’ I guess
    they can have that win

  123. Mr. Person

    Oakland? HAHA
    I think what’s funnier is all the people who are trying to defend Oakland. Even if it’s a little exciting, this post definitely doesn’t know much. If Oakland was so exciting as to beat out NYC or LA and even SF, then it would be known more. Definitely an unpopular opinion.

  124. Luke

    Wow, a lot of aggression out there. This list was based on certain criteria, not just someones opinion. Get your panties out of a bunch and calm yourselves. You all sound like bratty children.

  125. Dan

    Is there one of these without diversity?

  126. Jo

    I think Seattle should be higher. I have spent two holidays there now and still haven’t seen everything there is to see and do there, there is so much to do there! Boston doesn’t have half as much to do and Seattle is much livelier.

  127. Brian

    You do know that Milwaukee is the most racially segregated metropolis in the country, right?

    Just because a city has a “diverse” range of skin colors and ethnicities doesn’t mean people are holding hands under rainbows and singing songs. Sometimes, it means extreme economic disparities and racial hostilities.

    I agree that big box stores are boring, but just wait until you need something simple like a waste basket, or a mop, or a shower curtain. Then you’ll understand why CVS and Walgreens are such thriving businesses in Milwaukee, despite higher prices for (often) lesser products.

    This is what happens when you make judgements based on statistics without context or experience.

  128. HavocFactory

    Too bad you limited your research to those large cities… spend a little bit of time in Richmond, Virginia and it would be hard not to put it into your top 10. Art, music, theater, dining, and other entertainment in high concentrations; a well-established and burgeoning higher education community; one of the best public art museums in the country, and dozens of other cultural institutions; capital city of the Commonwealth of Virginia and a venue for many of the most significant events in American history; host city for the upcoming 2014 USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals and 2015 UCI Road World Championships; first on Outside Magazine’s 2012 lists for “Best Town Ever” and “Best River Town”; the list could go on–these are only a few of the feathers in the cap of one of the best small cities in America.

    • Cando Lalrission in response to HavocFactory

      Seriously? Okay you are full of it. I lived in Virginia for 10 years, in Virginia Beach, and visited Richmond many, many times, as well as lived there during my college years. I have NEVER felt more unsafe than I ever have in Richmond, VA. Oakland is NOTHING like Richmond as far as crime and pure scariness. I have lived in Oakland for 3 years and have never felt scared for my life or put in danger. But that is why the Oakland motto is to just let you fools believe what you want. Because then the people who aren’t blind can actually enjoy the city without people like you raising the cost of living.

      • Ed in response to Cando Lalrission

        Yes it used to suck back then Just in the last few years the crime has dropped and there just is much more to do. Read Fromers story 1 one city in us for change. “Richmond got cool.” Look it up. They do there research. I just can’t see it not getting better from hear.

      • Ed in response to Cando Lalrission

        I just look on the fbi most wanted list Oakland ranks 3rd most dangerous in the us wow!

  129. akjsa

    Worst article I’ve ever seen. NYC is undoubtedly the most exciting city listed. Chicago should be on there too. Everyone on the internet is trying to be a hipster by not putting nyc #1, but it literally leaves all other cities in the dust.

    • Ed in response to akjsa

      I agree NYC is the most exciting

    • Snickerdooles in response to akjsa

      NYC is nice but it’s overratted. I’m glad to see that they achknowleged Oakland. As mentioned before, many people have negative views of Oakland, but have never lived here to even know what it’s actually like. I lived both in Oakland and San Francisco, both the good and bad parts and its not as bad as people percive it to be. Oakland definitely is getting better and has been popping up with new nightlife and resturants. It’s also very diverse, has music festivals, both concert and ball park stadiums, a wide variety of resurants, colleges and the alike. Also who ever said the people were rude and mean should not stereotype the people there, there are a lot of nice friendly people. However, I guess its all about perception. I’m surprised too that Chicago is not on there as well, with all the attractions and musseoms they have.

  130. Ed

    Richmond va lots of bars and geat food. Lots of history and not to pricey very very underrated. Is much better than just a few years ago. I city on the come.

  131. TJG

    I’m way late to the party, but I can assure you that Boston most certainly has a Target inside the city limits. At the South Bay shopping center, in the Dorchester neighborhood.

    What probably threw you off is that their store locator lists the store as being in “Dorchester, MA” but that’s rather like listing a location in Brooklyn, NY. Dorchester is a part of Boston; it’s not a city in its own right.

  132. NFP

    This exercise proves that if you input worthless information or information that tells only part of a story, you will end up with
    c-r-a-p. Numbers cannot measure excitement. There is something magnetic about Manhattan that transcends numbers. The theater district on the north side of Times Square, Lincoln Center, Central Park, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Tribeca, Little Italy and Chinatown, Rockefeller Center, Madison Avenue, Park Avenue, The Met (Opera House with its Chagalls), The Met (museum), MoMA, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, skyscrapers that sing, auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the High Line, Department Stores that take up entire city blocks from Macy’s to Saks Fifth Avenue, cuisine from around the world at all different price points, the bar at Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern, and I could go on and on, as what I just listed is merely the most obvious of what makes a relatively small island the most exciting real estate in the country.

    But not only did they use numbers that don’t really say much, they did not rate Manhattan; they rated NYC – at least that is what they said they rated – and that means five boroughs that include Manhattan but also include Staten Island, Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. Had they just surveyed Manhattan and really used criteria that indicate many choices, diversity, quality, and uniqueness, it’s likely that it could not be beat by any other city in the country.

    Fast food in Oakland and eight of the nine others may be boring but it is far from boring in Manhattan where it is hard to find a McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, or Subway except maybe in Times Square(thank heaven)but easy to bump into food from around the world. As for bars, perhaps in smaller cities they exist outside of restaurants, but in larger cities, bars of all sizes can be found in restaurants, probably quadrupling the number of bars in Manhattan. There is no city in this country that has the diversity of night life that Manhattan has – and it has all the big name acts too. Hey, how about watching Saturday Night Live or Jon Stewart on the Daily Show live in person? Was that factored in? Talk about great entertainment; this is unique entertainment! Did they give any credit to seeing Lauren Bacall walk along Central Park West or Woody Allen filming on 63rd Street? Don’t these unique experiences make for excitement? How about ice skating at Rockefeller Center? Shouldn’t one also factor in that which draws people to live, work, and play in one place; if that doesn’t count, why is the residential real estate in Manhattan, San Francisco, Boston, and a few other cities more expensive per square foot than in Oakland or Milwaukee?

    If they want to use statistics/numbers, they need to find a way to also consider what is unique about a city because that is precisely why people go their on holiday — and to work and live!

  133. John Edwards

    I’m an NYC person. For restaurant deals and bar specials in NYC I use the book 365 Guide New York City. It saves me a ton.

  134. edson

    I believe this article is correct. If the readers really take a step back and think about what makes a town exciting, it has to stand out. Btw…yes, there is crime in Oakland but its also very beautiful. The way I would describe it is my experience with Hollywood in the early 80’s/90’s. Hollywood was very exciting because it was underground. You had new music, new restaurants, hole in the wall eateries, crime, artists, punks. We did not know at the time that it would lead to what we pressume as a HOT PLACE. No one wanted to live in Hollywood. It stunk, high crime, expensive real estate but it was very exciting. Much like Oakland is now. Forward 20 years later and its full of hipsters and normal people. Basically EXCITING means UNDERGROUND. Because if you do not know whats going on in oakland is exciting, you just dont know the right people or you dont get out much.

  135. Jitu

    I also believe this article is correct. I want to visit….. I m coming soon….

  136. Bread

    Glad to see Milwaukee getting some love. Grew up there, moved to MPLS and now live in Chicago, Milwaukee is certainly not the place it was 20 years ago. It’s deeply gratifying to see the downtown and other neighborhoods change for the better like Walker’s Point and Bayview. Can we please put the Lavergne & Shirley, and Happy Days stereotypes to rest now?

  137. Brad

    I moved from San Francisco to Oakland 17 years ago and never looked back. In my experience, Oakland is the friendliest place outside of the South and our food and art scene is incredibly cutting edge and totally enjoyable. We’ve got problems that largely derive from inequality (which is a nationwide crisis, not just here) but a lot of people are working hard to improve local lives and conditions, from small non-profits to elected officials. I think that many of the people in these comments bad-talking us and using terms like “ghetto” are speaking from racial prejudice. I can’t say I value their opinions much. In gun crazed America, there’s no guaranty of safety anywhere so don’t pick on us. Even in the so-called “bad neighborhoods” if you’re willing to spend some time talking you’ll find many good people creatively working to keep kids in schools and out of gangs despite the odds against them. I find a lot of love, joy, creativity and hope in Oakland and don’t really care how we are ranked in national comparisons. All the people moving here of late must see something they like.


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