Ranking America's Small and Large Cities

Amazon's decision to base a new headquarters right outside D.C. helped to boost its ranking.

Amazon's decision to base a new headquarters right outside D.C. helped to boost its ranking. Shutterstock


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Washington D.C. jumped six spots in this year's America's Best Cities rankings, which judge cities on 23 metrics sorted into six categories.

Washington D.C. jumped six spots in an annual ranking of the country’s best large cities, thanks largely to Amazon’s decision to base a new headquarters just outside the district limits.

The U.S. capital’s leap to fifth among large cities in the America’s Best Cities rankings was the lone shake-up in the top five, as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco repeated as first through fourth, according to Resonance Consultancy, a consulting firm that advises on real estate, tourism, economic development and international destination branding.

“The recent ubiquity of the nation’s capital in dramas on screens small and large (to say nothing of the real-life stuff) has escalated its resonance in the zeitgeist,” according to the city’s ranking. “Winning Amazon’s coveted HQ2 in nearby Arlington, Va., has dominated local and national chatter since the September 2018 announcement.”

D.C.’s leap was perhaps overdue, according to Chris Fair, president of Resonance Consultancy.

“I think the growing vibrancy of the city in terms of the culinary, entertainment, and nightlife activities is under reported,” he told Bloomberg.

Large cities are defined as places with a population of at least 1 million people, while small cities are those with populations from 200,000 to 1 million. Honolulu repeated as the best small city in the country, followed by Omaha, Charleston, Albuquerque and Tulsa.

Resonancy ranks cities on 23 areas sorted into six categories, including place (weather, parks, crime rate), product (airline connectivity, major league sports teams), promotion (online presence and popularity), prosperity (median household income, number of head offices), programming (nightlife, shopping, dining) and people (diversity, education levels).

New York, for example, scored first in neighborhoods, universities, crime rate, night life, museums, shopping, restaurants, culture, Fortune 500 companies, Google trends, Facebook check-ins, Instagram hashtags and TripAdvisor reviews.

“Okay, the city is #27 for weather,” the rankings admit, “but extreme heat and cold just adds a little frisson to the hustle, right?”

On the small side, Honolulu took first in the place category, “with its verdant, knife-edge topography exploding into the blue sky from rolling hills every few miles, creating microclimates and hypnotic scenery.” The city also took first in parks and recreation and promotions, thanks largely to social media posts from residents and tourists.

The rankings aim to take a “holistic approach” to evaluating cities by “comparing a wide range of factors that showed positive correlations with attracting investment and visitors—key performance indicators both in terms of measuring existing desirability and forecasting the future prosperity of a city,” Fair wrote.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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