The lighter side of real estate

These Are The 10 Most Exciting Places In New York

If you think you know what the most exciting place in New York state is, well, you might want to check out our analysis. You might just be surprised.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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When most people hear “New York,” they think of New York City—the lights, the tall buildings, the shows, the action, the excitement! It’s often described as the most exciting city in the world (mostly by New Yorkers, admittedly). But are they right? Is it really the most exciting city in the world?

Well, not according to the latest analysis here at the Movoto Real Estate Blog. In fact, it wasn’t even the most exciting place in the state. Yes, you read correctly. According to the math (and you can’t argue with math), Ithaca was the most exciting place in New York—followed by NYC.

Here’s the complete list of our top 10 most exciting places in New York:

1. City of Ithaca
2. City of New York
3. Village of Port Chester
4. City of Albany
5. City of Troy
6. City of Poughkeepsie
7. City of Rochester
8. City of Syracuse (tie)
8. City of Buffalo (tie)
10. City of Elmira

How in the world did Ithaca manage to beat out one of the most talked about, written about, sung about, and just generally praised cities in the nation? Well, we’ll tell you in the following paragraphs. But first, we’ll go over the methodology of our study.

How We Created This Ranking

In order to come up with this most exciting of rankings, we started out with a list of all of the places in New York with populations over 25,000, according to the U.S. Census (2010), which was 62. Then, we used the Census and business listings to gather up information about the following eight criteria:

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

From there, we went about ranking each of our 62 places with a score from one to 62 in each criterion. The lower the score, the more exciting the place. We averaged these rankings for an overall Big Deal Score for each location, and the place with the lowest was our most exciting spot, in this case (sorry, New York), Ithaca.

Now, if you can handle the excitement, we’ll take a closer look at each of these 10 cities. Otherwise, feel free to head down to the bottom of the post to see a list of the 50 most exciting places in NY.

1. Ithaca

Ithaca, NY

Source: City of Ithaca

This city’s excitement is only rivaled by its utter beauty… and perhaps its incredibly high number of young folks—nearly 68 percent, making it by far the youngest place in our analysis. Of course, along with a young population comes a lot of excitement. In this case, the highest number of nightlife, music venues, and the second highest in arts and active life options per capita.

It didn’t rank as well for its number of restaurants per capita, or for a lack of fast food. But with places like Lot 10, the Chapter House, Fall Creek House, who needs to eat?

2. New York

New York, NY

Source: Flickr user Giacomo Carena

Of course we couldn’t create a Most Exciting list without mentioning New York City—and don’t worry, it was a very close second. Apart from earning points for its population density (where it came in at No. 1, obviously), the Big Apple ranked well for its art, nightlife, music venues, and lack of fast food per capita.

The only reason NYC didn’t rank higher in our number crunching was because we looked at amenities per capita, rather than total. Remember, there are a lot of people in New York, one of the things that makes this city so exciting.

3. Port Chester

Port Chester, NY

Source: Flickr user Alex Bellink

Any place that’s exciting enough for Ed Sullivan to live there is undoubtedly exciting enough to make the No. 3 spot on our list. Famous residents aside, Port Chester was filled with music venues (the Capitol Theatre, need we say more?), delicious restaurants like Terry Lodge, and people—particularly young people, with over 28 percent of its residents being between the ages of 18 and 34.

4. Albany

Albany, NY

Source: Joe Elario Photography

After Ithaca, the state’s capital was the youngest city we looked at, with over 38 percent of its population being between the ages of 18 and 34. And what comes along with young people? Well, in Albany, it’s tons of nightlife, music venues like Valentine’s, arts like the amazing Egg, and some of the most active life options out of anywhere we looked at.

But we guess all of those otherwise healthy and active college students in Albany need some kind of vice, and according to our numbers, it comes by way of fast food. Albany lost a few points in this arena for having one of the higher numbers of fast food restaurants per capita.

5. Troy

Troy, NY

Source: City of Troy

With a motto like “Ilium fruit, Troja est” (“Ilium was, Troy is”), you’d better hope that your city is exciting. In this case, Troy does not disappoint. Home to Hudson Valley Community College, Rensselear Polytechnic Institute, and Russell Sage College, Troy earned points for its high percent of people between 18 and 34.

It also ranked well for its high number of arts and entertainment options per capita, plus a pretty decent live music scene nearby. Gratulantur!

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6. Poughkeepsie

Poughkeepsie, NY

Source: City of Poughkeepsie

Certainly one of the most exciting New York places to spell, Poughkeepsie keeps residents entertained and excited, particularly with its nightlife, music venues per capita, arts and entertainment options, and most of all, a population that is 31 percent between the ages of 18 and 34.

Worried you won’t run into any fellow young folks while you’re out and about? Fear not; Poughkeepsie was also the 19th most densely populated place in our analysis, so chances are, you’ll run into someone. Whether you like it or not.

7. Rochester

Rochester, NY

Source: Flickr user John Weiss

This city, known as the World’s Image Center, the Flower City, and once upon a time, the Flour City, might want to add “Exciting” to its list of nicknames, particularly when it comes to going out. That’s because Rochester came in as one of the top cities on our list for music venues, nightlife, and arts and entertainment per capita.

Rochester also ranked well for its number of active life options, with tons of beautiful parks for running and biking, plus a number of gyms and fitness centers per capita. Perfect for the 31 percent of the population between 18 and 34, and all others as well.

8. Syracuse (tie)

Syracuse, NY

Source: Flickr user fixlr

Famously home to the Great New York State Fair, Syracuse is also the place to be for plenty of year-round excitement; live music at the Westcott Theater, a visit to the Everson Museum of Art, or a trip to Armory Square for the 12th best nightlife in the state.

Why so many exciting options? Not only was Syracuse home to 34 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34, but it was also the economic and educational hub of Central New York. So, yeah, people kind of need something to do.

8. Buffalo (tie)

Buffalo, NY

Source: Flickr user Alex Bellink

With over 261,000 residents, Buffalo is the second largest place in the state, and also the 18th most densely populated. Of course, being a big packed-in city doesn’t always mean you’re exciting, but in this case, it really did.

That’s because Buffalo’s large population was also pretty young, with over 28 percent of its residents between 18 and 34. This city also bowled the others over with its high number of nightlife and active life options, and especially, with its number of music venues per capita (Waiting Room, Mohawk Place, Babeville, and Town Ballroom are just a handful of them).

10. Elmira

Elmira, NY

Source: Flickr user Elmira College

Elmira ranked well for a number of reasons, and most of them had to do with food. It came in as the 11th best for its variety of delicious restaurants like Bistro 223, Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, and the Hilltop Inn, just to name a few.

But if you love bad food—I mean fast food—Elmira may not be the place for you, as it ranked 14th in this category for a lack of fast food options per capita. Remember, less fast food means more exciting. A good life lesson.

A New York State State Of Mind

Even though most people, or at least non-residents, may first think of the bright lights, tall buildings, shows, and excitement of the Big Apple when they hear “New York,” clearly there’s much more to the state than one famous city.

Of course, Ithaca, NYC, Port Chester, and the rest of our list were only the top 10 most exciting places in the state; for a list of the top 50, just check out the table below.

Most Exciting Places in New York

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posted on: July 2, 2014
38,286 views, 11 comments


  1. Tina Bongar

    Hey, what about Peekskill, NY, my ‘artist’s community’ hometown city? I’d like to point out we are a city, have 20,000+ in 4 square miles, and we have a real hipster scene happening here with Birdsall House, Peekskill Brewery (own beer), Gleason’s, Quiet Man, Twelve Grapes and the Beanrunner (really best Jazz venue in Westchester hands down!), and the Peekskill Coffeehouse, all of which have music going every Saturday night? I applied the methodology and gee whiz, maybe there was a reasonable clerical error where the copy editor thought Peekskill is spelled W-H-I-T-E-P-L-A-I-N-S ? Seriously, I don’t want to sin on omission either so allow me to add Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art and Paramount Center for the Arts, AND we have two NEW music venues up and coming…. We have galleries and artists housing, a barbershop that also becomes an alt music venue sometimes, and a rental housing development on its way (we need some tweaking to the design there though…) Also, we are one hour from Grand Central on a designated “scenic rail journey.”
    Now do you see where I think there had to be a glaring mistake made somewhere that Peekskill isn’t right up there with Ithaca?
    Anyway, please forgive the Copy desk editor and just include Peekskill in your next article on young and upcoming places to live, thanks.

  2. Jacob Morgan

    Their list included only cities above $25k. Peekskill was omitted on an arbitrary technicality. I actually think the list would be more exciting if it included all places in the state rather than just those over that cutoff number.

  3. DF

    “Tarry” Lodge in Port Chester, NY… not “Terry”.

  4. Jim Munro

    The most exciting place in NY is the border.

  5. Vito Ciccarelli

    Thanks for the great ranking! The buzz has been building over the past decade, and it’s great to get recognized for our achievements.

    Vito Ciccarelli
    City of Troy NY
    Event Coordinator

  6. Brett

    I think the math is seriously off because I reside in Elmira and the only thing here are inmates that live in the “prisons”<—-(Notice that its plural) and the families that follow them. The restaurants listed are actually some of the worst places you would ever want to go to unless your into food poisoning. The only thing Elmira has is its past which is decaying with the meth addicts that thrive through out the city. I would never recommend coming to this place and if you ever do get out as fast as you can. If you want to see what a former thriving city from the 1930's and 1940's then this is the place for you but honestly you would have a better time vacationing in Iraq

  7. Robert Davis

    Troy & Poughkeepsie??? Both of these cities are places I would not recommend to live in New York. Movoto needs to change the criteria!!!

  8. CC

    Saratoga Springs! Albany and Troy ahead of the Spa City? What? Everyone clears out of those towns all summer to head to “TOGA”. Great nightlife, high culture, fantastic food, beautiful sites, world class horse racing and live entertainment. What more could one want? Oh yeah, sorry we have a McDonald’s and year round population density is low, but I came here because it is actually exciting, not statistically!

  9. Mike

    What a Hoot! Port Chester, Troy, Elmira and Mt. Vernon?!? Their “methodology” makes me think about what Woody Hayes – the former Ohio State Football Coach – said about statistics; it reminded him of the 6 foot tall man who drown in a river with an average depth of three feet. Or what about Mark Twain – “there’s lies, damn lies and statistics”?

  10. vito ciccarelli

    For those of you bashing Troy. Come visit us this weekend, and join the 20,000 plus that will be here for the biggest bbq event in the Northeast,troy pig out. Last night we hosted over 3500 people for our Rockin on the River weekly event. Check us out sometime to see all the positive things happening in the Home of Uncle Sam. Try it, you”ll like it!

  11. Mike

    No offense Vito. I used to go to Brewpub on the River quite a bit around 10 or so years ago and could see that Troy had a lot of potential. Glad you are reaching it. And I know potential. My own hometown was once described by the New York Times as “Seedy and Dangerous” and now it has Coffee shops on Main Street!


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