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New York City’s vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene, featuring beloved spots like La Esquina, helped the city earn the top spot on Resonance’s America’s Best Cities list. (Photos: Clay Williams.)

When was the last time you had a conversation with your significant other or friends about how you’re bored/priced out/wanting to get the hell out of whatever place you’re currently living? Oh, like 10 minutes ago? Me too! So how do you decide where to pick up and shove off to? The urban planning and real estate consultancy Resonance just released a list meant to help facilitate such important life decisions (as well as other considerations, like travel and real estate development).

“America’s Best Cities: A Ranking of U.S. Place Equity,” released this week, rated the top 10 large American cities (one million plus in the metropolitan area), as well as the best “small cities,” with metropolitan-area populations of more than 200,000 but less than a million. This was no randomly generated list, however, but a data– and info-driven methodology that rated cities in the following categories: product (key institutions, airports, sports teams, etc.); programming (arts, culture, shopping, entertainment); people; prosperity; and promotion. Culinary and nightlife, included in programming, played a big part in the lists’s outcome, according to Resonance.

The results (scroll down for the lists), while not entirely surprising, had a few unexpected entries, and if you look closely, you’ll probably note that you could sub out the list’s title for “America’s best food cities” and not be far off. “Restaurants contribute to the urban fabric, to the character of our streets and to the quality of life,” says Resonance Consultancy president and CEO Chris Fair, who presented the results at a recent event at New York University. “As a result, culinary experiences play a key role in drawing highly skilled knowledge economy workers to a city, bringing economic growth with them.”

It should be noted that Resonance didn’t just consider how many restaurants a city had, or utilize some random guidepost like amount of Michelin stars. A representative sent me the following note: “Culinary is defined as the number of quality restaurants, based on the quality of the food, service, value and atmosphere, including food experiences such as food tours, breweries, wineries, cooking classes and food tastings.”

Nightlife played a big part, too. “The pulse of a city is driven by its nightlife,” says Fair. “It draws visitors and encourages pride and economic activity among residents.”

The Resonance rep even broke down the list based solely on culinary and nightlife for me. Compare and contrast with the overall best cities, and good luck with those challenging life decisions!

Culinary and Nightlife Rankings

Rank Nightlife Culinary Culinary+Nighlife
1 New York New York New York
2 Chicago Los Angeles Chicago
3 Las Vegas Chicago Los Angeles
4 San Francisco Houston San Francisco
5 New Orleans San Francisco Las Vegas
6 Los Angeles San Diego Houston
7 San Diego Las Vegas San Diego
8 Austin Seattle Seattle
9 Houston Portland Portland
10 Seattle San Antonio Austin
11 Philadelphia Orlando Philadelphia
12 Portland Philadelphia Orlando
13 Washington Austin Washington
14 Nashville Miami New Orleans
15 Orlando Atlanta San Antonio
16 Boston Washington Dallas
17 Denver Dallas Boston
18 Dallas Denver Denver
19 Minneapolis Boston Miami
20 St. Louis Phoenix Atlanta
21 Baltimore St. Louis St. Louis
22 San Antonio Kansas City Nashville
23 Milwaukee Charlotte Minneapolis
24 Atlanta Indianapolis Columbus
25 Miami New Orleans Charlotte


Overall Rankings

America’s 10 Best Large Cities

1. New York, New York

2. Chicago, Illinois

3. Los Angeles, California

4. San Francisco, California

5. Las Vegas, Nevada

6. San Diego, California

7. Houston, Texas

8. Miami, Florida

9. Seattle, Washington

10. Washington, D.C.

America’s 10 Best Small Cities

1. Honolulu, Hawaii

2. Tucson, Arizona

3. Charleston, South Carolina

4. Omaha, Nebraska

5. Albuquerque, New Mexico

6. Tulsa, Oklahoma

7. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

8. Madison, Wisconsin

9. Asheville, North Carolina

10. El Paso, Texas

For the 50 best cities in America list as well as a world cities ranking, plus more information about the surveys, check out Resonance Consultancy’s website.