Oakland, Calif., is the “most exciting city in America.” That’s right, not San Francisco, not New York, not Chicago and not L.A. It's Oakland.
The accolade comes from real estate website Movato, which released its eyebrow-raising survey earlier this week.
“Recently, we got to thinking about cities and what makes them exciting and interesting places to live,” Movato blogger David Cross explained. “We compiled a list of criteria and set out to determine which U.S. cities have the most zest for life.”
More to the point, Movato’s unscientific (and hotly debated) approach entailed trolled Yelp and the Yellow Pages to assess the 50 most populous U.S. cities across the following criteria:
- Park acreage per person
- Percentage of population between 20 and 34 years old
- Population diversity
- Fast food restaurants per square mile (with fewer earning cities a better ranking)
- Big box stores per square mile (again, the fewer the better)
- Bars and music venues per square mile
- Movie theaters, museums and theater companies per square mile
Shake all of that up in a hat, and Oakland floats to the top of the pack -- well above New York City, “the city that never sleeps,” which didn’t even crack the top five.
“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,” Cross concluded.
Neither was the City of Oakland, naturally, which took the opportunity to issue a press release praising its exciting streets.
“Anyone who has explored Oakland’s vibrant arts scene or hip dining spots would agree that there’s a growing energy and vitality that makes our city an exciting place to live and work,” Mayor Jean Quan said.
Of course, she didn’t mention another honor the city earned this week: “Robbery capital of America.” That certainly takes the excitement out of a night on the town.
San Francisco-based newspapers had a bit of laugh poking fun at the survey.
The Examiner ran with the headline “Oakland Proclaimed More Exciting Than S.F. -- Not Including Crime.”
The story began with the line: “It's not every day that Oakland gets to be something (good) that San Francisco is not.”
Sarah Medina of the Bold Italic noted that it’s best to take Movato’s research (which has looked at how much the house from “The Simpsons” is worth and what price Monopoly properties would fetch in real life) “with a huge grain of salt.”
“I mean, this is the same company that named Sacramento the best city for singles in California,” she quipped.
Even travel bible Lonely Planet didn’t find Oakland all that exciting.
“Oakland’s downtown is best explored on a weekday; it’s mostly dead at night,” the trusted guidebook notes in its California section.
The New York Times, however, did include Oakland at No. 5 on its list of 25 places to visit in 2012, citing “new restaurants and bars beckoning amid the grit.”
That listing angered some Oakland natives, who weren’t happy about the media making their city a new “it” destination.
“I take issue with the idea that Oakland is worth visiting only because new has supplanted old … That notion supposes that everything I’ve loved about my city for the last 27 years is void,” Oakland-born playwright Chinaka Hodge told Bay Area hip-hop blog 38th Notes. “The [New York Times] blurb invites those who would not otherwise be interested in the cultural backbone of my city to descend and take, as opposed to respectfully visit and interact.”
With that preamble, here’s a look at the complete list of Movato’s “Most Exciting Cities In America.”
No. 1 Oakland, Calif.
No. 2 Boston
No. 3 San Francisco
No. 4 Seattle
No. 5 Washington, D.C.
No. 6 New York City
No. 7 Milwaukee
No. 8 Atlanta
No. 9 Philadelphia
No. 10 Portland, Ore.
Mark Johanson is the travel editor at the International Business Times. He has traveled to and written about more than 30 nations and territories on every continent except...