Flooded with politicos and political junkies, Washington, D.C., often comes off as a city steeped in raw ambition. But the nation’s capital deserves to be known for something else: coolness.
While “cool” might not be the first word that comes to mind when contemplating the latest standoff in Congress, D.C. nonetheless has a lot to offer those who call it home. Among its best features: abundant entertainment and recreational options, an ethnically and culturally diverse population, and a big chunk of people age 20 to 34–nearly 30% of the metro area’s population. There’s certainly plenty to do, from visiting the many museums along the National Mall to taking in a Washington Nationals game to simply enjoying the cherry blossoms in springtime.
“D.C. is a high-amenity city. It has its share of cultural arts. It has its share of natural beauty,” says Stuart Gabriel, Director of the Ziman Center for Real Estate at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Add the city’s constantly refreshing population–the metro area has grown by 4.9% since 2010 thanks to net migration alone–and Washington, D.C., holds the perfect formula to land the No. 1 spot on Forbes’ list of America’s Coolest Cities. And by “cool,” we mean cool to live in.
Behind the Numbers
How do you define “cool”? Clearly, one person’s definition–all-night World of Warcraft sessions, say–could be another person’s total dorkdom. We sought to quantify it in terms of cities, partnering with Sperling’s BestPlaces to rank the 60 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Metropolitan Divisions (cities and their surrounding suburbs, as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget) based on six data points we weighted evenly. (Orlando, unfortunately, had to be excluded due to a problem with its data.)
To compile our list of America’s Coolest Cities, Sperling’s helped us calculate entertainment options per capita in each metro area. This metric essentially measures ways you might spend a Saturday, quantifying the availability of professional and college sports events, zoos and aquariums, golf courses, ski areas, and National parks, among others. It also factors in art and cultural options, measuring the presence of theater and musical performances as well as local museums.