Photograph by Henryk Kaiser

America's 50 Best Cities

  1. The Best Places to Live
    1

    The Best Places to Live

    It's impossible to say what's "best" for everyone, of course. But where's the fun in not trying? Welcome to Businessweek.com’s second America’s Best Cities ranking. With assistance from Bloomberg Rankings, Businessweek.com evaluated 100 of the country’s largest cities based on leisure attributes (the number of restaurants, bars, libraries, museums, professional sports teams, and park acres by population); educational attributes (public school performance, the number of colleges, and graduate degree holders), economic factors (2011 income and June and July 2012 unemployment), crime, and air quality. Major professional league and minor league teams, as well as U.S.-based teams belonging to international leagues in that city were included. The greatest weighting was placed on leisure amenities, followed by educational metrics and economic metrics, and then crime and air quality. The data come from Onboard Informatics, except for park acreage, which comes from the Trust for Public Land. As the methodology has changed since the 2011 ranking, a city’s rise or fall compared with last year does not suggest that it has gotten “better” or “worse.”

    Photograph by Henryk Kaiser
  2. Los Angeles
    2

    Los Angeles

    Rank: 50
    Population: 3,811,518

    The country's second-largest city squeaked into this year’s rankings at 50th place, dragged down by poor air quality and high unemployment. But with its iconic beaches, celebrity culture, and more than 8,000 restaurants to keep 3.8 million inhabitants occupied, Los Angeles never lacks something to do. Other highlights: comedy staples such as the Laugh Factory and spotting Jack Nicholson at a Lakers game.

    Bars: 393
    Restaurants: 8,305
    Museums: 106
    Libraries: 108
    Pro sports teams: 5
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 6
    Colleges: 30
    Percent with graduate degree: 6.7
    Median household income: $56,558
    Percent unemployed: 11.1
    Photograph by Markus Henttonen/Gallery Stock
  3. Anchorage, Alaska
    3

    Anchorage, Alaska

    Rank: 49
    Population: 297,018

    Alaska may seem an extreme place to live, with its long summer days and winter nights. Anchorage's winters are milder than further inland in the state, and its residents’ boots are well heeled, as Anchorage has our list’s third-best economic conditions. You won’t find a professional sports team in town any time soon, but residents can enjoy a dozen local breweries and shop for Alaska’s indigenous art at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

    Bars: 63
    Restaurants: 682
    Museums: 12
    Libraries: 14
    Pro sports teams: 0
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 1,753
    Colleges: 2
    Percent with graduate degree: 7.5
    Median household income: $85,554
    Percent unemployed: 6.4
    Photograph by J. Luke/Getty Images
  4. Omaha
    4

    Omaha

    Rank: 48
    Population: 416,855

    The home town of the Oracle, Warren Buffett, suffers from last-place air quality among the cities on this list. But Omahans have world-class activities to enjoy inside: The city boasts the Joslyn Art Museum, and locals can take in the world’s largest indoor desert and nocturnal exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo. Omaha has been the home of the College World Series for more than 60 years.

    Bars: 206
    Restaurants: 908
    Museums: 12
    Libraries: 15
    Pro sports teams: 1
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 21
    Colleges: 7
    Percent with graduate degree: 7.1
    Median household income: $64,026
    Percent unemployed: 4.6

    Photograph by Joseph Sohm/Getty Images
  5. St. Louis
    5

    St. Louis

    Rank: 47
    Population: 304,219

    St. Louis is a fun place to be, at No. 10 in our leisure rankings, on the strength of such attractions as the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, outdoor sculpture center Citygarden, and the Gateway Arch. It’s a standout for its barbecue, the bustling Laclede’s Landing historic district, and popular sports teams, including the 2011 World Series champion Cardinals. St. Louis rated the worst on this list, however, in crime.

    Bars: 143
    Restaurants: 795
    Museums: 32
    Libraries: 23
    Pro sports teams: 3
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 10
    Colleges: 6
    Percent with graduate degree: 7.8
    Median household income: $44,360
    Percent unemployed: 9.8

    Photograph by Walter Bibikow/Getty Images
  6. Cleveland
    6

    Cleveland

    Rank: 46
    Population: 396,441

    Cleveland's sports teams take their lumps, and onetime local hero LeBron James didn't help matters by taking his talents to Florida. Still, plenty of chefs have kept the food in Cleveland at a high level, led by celebrity restaurateur Michael Symon. The town has also worked to spruce up its beaches on Lake Erie (not that there isn’t still an algae scare or two), and music fans can always pay homage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

    Bars: 204
    Restaurants: 866
    Museums: 23
    Libraries: 51
    Pro sports teams: 3
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 7
    Colleges: 8
    Percent with graduate degree: 4.5
    Median household income: $35,685
    Percent unemployed: 7.9

    Photograph by Alan Copson/Getty Images
  7. Chesapeake, Virginia
    7

    Chesapeake, Virginia

    Rank: 45
    Population: 223,454

    Chesapeake is one of the nation’s safest cities. It's nestled between Virginia Beach and the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in the southeastern corner of Virginia, but some residents may have to leave town to have fun: Chesapeake houses the fewest bars, museums, and restaurants on this list. The town is trying to perk things up in 2013 to celebrate its 50th birthday, holding such events as an oyster roast and a Mayor’s Cup T-ball tournament.

    Bars: 10
    Restaurants: 451
    Museums: 1
    Libraries: 8
    Pro sports teams: 0
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 252
    Colleges: 11
    Percent with graduate degree: 6.8
    Median household income: $80,695
    Percent unemployed: 6.3

    Photograph by Cameron Davidson/Getty Images
  8. Phoenix
    8

    Phoenix

    Rank: 44
    Population: 1,418,687

    While the dry heat can get to you in Arizona’s state capital and largest city—it logged temperatures as high as 116 degrees this August—Greater Phoenix is a sunshine lover’s dream. The city has more than 300 sunny days a year in which to enjoy its golf courses and South Mountain Park/Preserve, the country's largest municipal park.

    Bars: 179
    Restaurants: 2,384
    Museums: 22
    Libraries: 44
    Pro sports teams: 5
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 28
    Colleges: 11
    Percent with graduate degree: 6.2
    Median household income: $60,366
    Percent unemployed: 7.3

    Photograph by Brian Stablyk/Getty Images
  9. Scottsdale, Arizona
    9

    Scottsdale, Arizona

    Rank: 43
    Population: 214,770

    Scottsdale bills itself as “The West’s Most Western Town.” It's also a richer, safer sister to Arizona’s capital, Phoenix. Scottsdale residents earn almost $40,000 more in median household income. They can spend that money in the seven small districts of Scottsdale’s downtown area, which house more than 80 art galleries. No city features fewer libraries on our list; many residents busy themselves instead with Scottsdale's famous private golf clubs.

    Bars: 64
    Restaurants: 680
    Museums: 5
    Libraries: 7
    Pro sports teams: 1
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 72
    Colleges: 2
    Percent with graduate degree: 10.8
    Median household income: $99,130
    Percent unemployed: 7.3

    Photograph by Brian Stablyk/Getty Images
  10. Reno, Nevada
    10

    Reno, Nevada

    Rank: 42
    Population: 225,561

    Known for its mining and casinos, Reno lately has struggled to park patrons in the seats of slot machines; its 11.7 percent unemployment rate is the highest on this list. The city has worked to reinvent itself through an unlikely pastime: bowling. Reno lays claim to featuring the only bowling stadium of its kind in the world, with 78 championship lanes for its tournaments.

    Bars: 83
    Restaurants: 596
    Museums: 10
    Libraries: 14
    Pro sports teams: 1
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 11
    Colleges: 3
    Percent with graduate degree: 7.1
    Median household income: $64,507
    Percent unemployed: 11.7

    Photograph by Elfi Kluck/Getty Images
  11. Dallas
    11

    Dallas

    Rank: 41
    Population: 1,199,739

    Dallas is arguably the focal point for oversize American culture: fried food, mechanic bull riding, and glitzy displays of largesse that inspire stereotypes and television shows alike. If you just know Dallas as a fan of the soap opera (or, more improbably, the canceled GCB show), you’re missing out on a city with several major art districts and a vibrant music scene. And Dallas’s take on Beverly Hills, the Highland Park neighborhood, is very much real.

    Bars: 249
    Restaurants: 2,808
    Museums: 26
    Libraries: 43
    Pro sports teams: 2
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 23
    Colleges: 10
    Percent with graduate degree: 5.9
    Median household income: $44,838
    Percent unemployed: 7.9

    Photograph by Alessandro Cosmelli/Contrasto/Redux
  12. Virginia Beach
    12

    Virginia Beach

    Rank: 40
    Population: 438,243

    Nestled next to Chesapeake (No. 45), Virginia Beach has all the activities you would expect from its name, with a fishing pier, jet skiing, and long, yellow sandy beachfront. Virginia Beach ranks the safest city on our list, and it’s eco-friendly, too: Its 165-acre park, Mount Trashmore, covers a reclaimed landfill with hiking trails and a skateboard park.

    Bars: 24
    Restaurants: 1,144
    Museums: 10
    Libraries: 18
    Pro sports teams: 0
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 68
    Colleges: 3
    Percent with graduate degree: 7.3
    Median household income: $76,637
    Percent unemployed: 5.7

    Photograph by Don Klumpp/Getty Images
  13. Charlotte
    13

    Charlotte

    Rank: 39
    Population: 745,596

    Charlotte claims professional sports teams, though one of them—Michael Jordan’s NBA Bobcats—just set a record for worst season-winning percentage in league history. Nascar fans love Charlotte: the city holds the sport's hall of fame, there are races at nearby Charlotte Motor Speedway, and many drivers make the Charlotte area their home. The city was also home to this year's Democratic National Convention.

    Bars: 121
    Restaurants: 1,685
    Museums: 16
    Libraries: 26
    Pro sports teams: 3
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 20 (countywide)
    Colleges: 8
    Percent with graduate degree: 8.6
    Median household income: $65,622
    Percent unemployed: 9.9

    Photograph by Jumper/Getty Images
  14. Tulsa
    14

    Tulsa

    Rank: 38
    Population: 395,176

    While Oklahoma’s second-largest city might not set the country on fire as a tourist destination, it’s home to the nation’s 18th-oldest opera company, two symphony orchestras, and the thriving Brady Arts District. Tulsans with more traditional tastes can scarf down corn dogs at the Tulsa State Fair, held through the first week of October.

    Bars: 109
    Restaurants: 956
    Museums: 15
    Libraries: 21
    Pro sports teams: 1
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 19
    Colleges: 6
    Percent with graduate degree: 6.2
    Median household income: $53,059
    Percent unemployed: 5.5

    Photograph by Don Klumpp/Getty Images
  15. Indianapolis
    15

    Indianapolis

    Rank: 37
    Population: 831,943

    Indianapolis is strong in sports and other leisure activities, including the NCAA Hall of Champions, the Indianapolis 500 auto race, and the funky graffiti art (such as it can get) of Broad Ripple Village. The city has been working to go green, opening the Indianapolis Cultural Trail this year. Its cuisine is still best known for meat of the red variety.

    Bars: 195
    Restaurants: 1,679
    Museums: 21
    Libraries: 35
    Pro sports teams: 4
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 14
    Colleges: 11
    Percent with graduate degree: 6.5
    Median household income: $56,862
    Percent unemployed: 8.9

    Photograph by Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images
  16. Colorado Springs
    16

    Colorado Springs

    Rank: 36
    Population: 421,350

    Colorado Springs, located 15 minutes from Pikes Peak, is well situated for subscribers to Colorado’s active, outdoor lifestyle. The city hosts the U.S. Olympic Training Center and liberal arts college Colorado College. For a nice meal out on the town, locals can head to Summit at the Broadmoor resort.

    Bars: 69
    Restaurants: 901
    Museums: 16
    Libraries: 10
    Pro sports teams: 1
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 30
    Colleges: 9
    Percent with graduate degree: 9.0
    Median household income: $70,437
    Percent unemployed: 9.9

    Photograph by Blaine Harrington III/Corbis
  17. Tampa
    17

    Tampa

    Rank: 34 (tie)
    Population: 340,509

    The site of this year’s Republican National convention, Tampa is our only stop in Florida this year. Credit the city's strong nightlife and parks. Tampa has its own Busch Gardens, aquarium, and zoo. And with such nice weather, the city’s sports teams usually have plenty of tickets available for the sports fan, even if that doesn’t always look good on TV.

    Bars: 91
    Restaurants: 1,114
    Museums: 18
    Libraries: 19
    Pro sports teams: 4
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 10
    Colleges: 6
    Percent with graduate degree: 7.5
    Median household income: $55,039
    Percent unemployed: 8.8

    Photograph by Ken Biggs/Getty Images
  18. Lincoln, Nebraska
    18

    Lincoln, Nebraska

    Rank: 34 (tie)
    Population: 259,068

    Lincoln, home of the Cornhuskers of the University of Nebraska’s main campus, boasts low unemployment—just 3.7 percent. A major college town, Lincoln has a busy nightlife scene on O Street and has the cleanest air of any city on our list. Despite that, it’s also the most infected, in a sense: The city hosts an annual ZombieFest over two days in August.

    Bars: 74
    Restaurants: 523
    Museums: 22
    Libraries: 18
    Pro sports teams: 0
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 25
    Colleges: 3
    Percent with graduate degree: 7.3
    Median household income: $67,093
    Percent unemployed: 3.7

    Photograph by John Coletti/Getty Images
  19. San Jose
    19

    San Jose

    Rank: 33
    Population: 956,368

    San Jose already has pro sports teams, but Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison has tried to add an NBA team to the city for years. Ellison’s attempt to buy and move the Memphis Grizzlies this spring was stymied, so for now this Silicon Valley center will have to make do with having the third-best combination of unemployment and median household income on our list, thanks largely to its more than 6,600 technology companies.

    Bars: 68
    Restaurants: 1,578
    Museums: 12
    Libraries: 31
    Pro sports teams: 4
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 17
    Colleges: 4
    Percent with graduate degree: 9.8
    Median household income: $92,539
    Percent unemployed: 8.7

    Photograph by Walter Bibikow/Getty Images
  20. Rochester, New York
    20

    Rochester, New York

    Rank: 32
    Population: 213,178

    Rochester may be closely identified with the rust belt towns of the Erie Canal, but it still boasts a full slate of events to keep residents busy, from Oktoberfest celebrations to its annual Fringe festival over five days in September. History buffs can walk the War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail and relive dreams of Canadian conquest.

    Bars: 78
    Restaurants: 502
    Museums: 14
    Libraries: 17
    Pro sports teams: 3
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 7
    Colleges: 4
    Percent with graduate degree: 7.8
    Median household income: $37,111
    Percent unemployed: 8.4

    Photograph by Richard Cummins/Getty Images
  21. Oakland, California
    21

    Oakland, California

    Rank: 31
    Population: 401,036

    Oakland may be San Francisco’s rougher, smaller next-door neighbor. But it’s a great place to live in its own right, even if you can’t afford a unit in the stunning Cathedral Building. Oakland’s expanding restaurant scene has brought it some buzz. Residents embrace a grittier background than their Bay Area neighbors, as reflected by fans of the Raiders football team, known simply as “Raider Nation.”

    Bars: 67
    Restaurants: 894
    Museums: 14
    Libraries: 27
    Pro sports teams: 3
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 13
    Colleges: 7
    Percent with graduate degree: 11.2
    Median household income: $59,097
    Percent unemployed: 9.5

    Photograph by Lonnie Duka/Getty Images
  22. San Antonio
    22

    San Antonio

    Rank: 30
    Population: 1,365,256

    The home of the Alamo, San Antonio beats in-state rival Dallas this year, thanks to a better local economy and significantly lower crime. Mayor Julian Castro is a rising political star, the first Hispanic person to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Although its strength may be its Tex Mex cuisine at joints such as Rosario’s, San Antonio meets diverse tastes with its Culinaria wine and culinary arts festival in May and street fair Fiesta each April.

    Bars: 345
    Restaurants: 2,914
    Museums: 31
    Libraries: 36
    Pro sports teams: 3
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 17
    Colleges: 7
    Percent with graduate degree: 5.5
    Median household income: $54,444
    Percent unemployed: 7.4

    Photograph by Getty Images
  23. Baltimore
    23

    Baltimore

    Rank: 29
    Population: 612,701

    A city with a beautiful waterfront and unique Mid-Atlantic flair, Baltimore misses the top 25 due to its high unemployment, 11.1 percent, and its crime rate, fourth worst on our list. Still, fans of The Wire might get an unfair impression of this city. Its location on the Eastern seaboard makes it easily accessible, and Baltimore boasts major research hubs, such as Johns Hopkins University.

    Bars: 243
    Restaurants: 1,590
    Museums: 45
    Libraries: 36
    Pro sports teams: 2
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 8
    Colleges: 11
    Percent with graduate degree: 8.5
    Median household income: $50,492
    Percent unemployed: 11.1

    Photograph by Greg Pease/Getty Images
  24. Chicago
    24

    Chicago

    Rank: 28
    Population: 2,679,998

    The Windy City, America’s third-largest metropolis, would rank much higher if it were evaluated purely on its strong universities and thriving entertainment. Chicago is as hot as any city, thanks to its fine dining in such neighborhoods as Lincoln Park, nightlife in its more than 800 bars, and strong acting chops honed at such places as Second City and the Steppenwolf Theatre Co. To climb higher in the list, however, Chicago must address its increasing gang violence and high crime, as well as poor air quality and major economic issues.

    Bars: 807
    Restaurants: 6,438
    Museums: 76
    Libraries: 99
    Pro sports teams: 8
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 4
    Colleges: 42
    Percent with graduate degree: 9.3
    Median household income: $56,121
    Percent unemployed: 9.8

    Photograph by Heeb Photos
  25. Arlington, Virginia
    25

    Arlington, Virginia

    Rank: 27
    Population: 208,143

    Of all the cities on the list, Arlington has the highest median household income and the lowest rate of unemployment, making it an economic bright spot across the river from Washington, D.C. Arlington National Cemetery is a moving destination for tourists. But the city could stand to be a bit more fun—it’s held back by weak nightlife.

    Bars: 12
    Restaurants: 575
    Museums: 8
    Libraries: 12
    Pro sports teams: 0
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 8
    Colleges: 5
    Percent with graduate degree: 27.2
    Median household income: $132,580
    Percent unemployed: 3.7

    Photograph by Rob Boudreau/Getty Images
  26. Milwaukee
    26

    Milwaukee

    Rank: 26
    Population: 593,545

    Milwaukee’s got good air quality and better brews. In the 1970s, America met the fictitious "Shotz Brewery" of Laverne & Shirley. In real life, the Miller Brewing Co. maintains its regional headquarters in the hometown of the “Brew Crew,” the nickname for local major league baseball team the Milwaukee Brewers. With fewer than 600,000 residents, the city still boasts 390 bars, which is a lot per capita. And did we mention the sausages?

    Bars: 390
    Restaurants: 947
    Museums: 20
    Libraries: 30
    Pro sports teams: 2
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 16 (countywide)
    Colleges: 12
    Percent with graduate degree: 5.4
    Median household income: $44,113
    Percent unemployed: 9.4

    Photograph by Walter Bibikow
  27. Lexington, Kentucky
    27

    Lexington, Kentucky

    Rank: 25
    Population: 299,520

    Kentucky’s second-largest city, Lexington is known as the “Horse Capital of the World” for its large horse-breeding operations less than 80 miles from the Kentucky Derby in Louisville. Lexington’s residents enjoy strong employment rates and median income, but much of the city’s night life depends on its temporary residents—the thousands of student Wildcats at the local University of Kentucky.

    Bars: 49
    Restaurants: 658
    Museums: 17
    Libraries: 14
    Pro sports teams: 1
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 21
    Colleges: 3
    Percent with graduate degree: 11
    Median household income: $69,697
    Percent unemployed: 6.5

    Photographer by Richard Cummins
  28. Philadelphia
    28

    Philadelphia

    Rank: 24
    Population: 1,522,648

    The City of Brotherly Love is one of our highest-ranked spots for entertainment and nightlife, with 3,800 restaurants. Beyond cheesesteaks, Benjamin Franklin’s old haunt features a bustling college and arts scene. But Philadelphia isn’t great for your health, with significant crime and low air quality pulling down its ratings.

    Bars: 400
    Restaurants: 3,821
    Museums: 91
    Libraries: 100
    Pro sports teams: 5
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 7
    Colleges: 18
    Percent with graduate degree: 6.4
    Median household income: $48,330
    Percent unemployed: 10.9

    Photograph by Michael Turek /Gallery Stock
  29. Oklahoma City
    29

    Oklahoma City

    Rank: 23
    Population: 588,053

    Oklahoma City owes much to basketball star Kevin Durant for bringing it to national attention. The city received (or stole away, if you're from Seattle) its first major pro sports team (the team Durant plays for), the NBA's Thunder, in 2008. With more than 100 bars and almost 30 museums, this city has plenty of fresh attractions. But some of its most distinctive features remain regional homage, such as the American Banjo Museum and the Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival in June.

    Bars: 102
    Restaurants: 1,251
    Museums: 29
    Libraries: 13
    Pro sports teams: 2
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 39
    Colleges: 6
    Percent with graduate degree: 6.0
    Median household income: $58,370
    Percent unemployed: 5.2

    Photograph by Don Klumpp/Getty Images
  30. Houston
    30

    Houston

    Rank: 22
    Population: 2,131,940

    Houston checks in as Texas’ second-best city to live in. The nation’s fourth-largest city holds its own with its food and drink (steakhouses are a staple), but its large areas of public parks help put it over the top. Houston’s residents can enjoy its six professional sports teams and Museum District, but the feather in the city’s cap is, well, rocket science: NASA Mission Control, where the nation hopes Houston doesn’t ever have any problems.

    Bars: 549
    Restaurants: 5,549
    Museums: 58
    Libraries: 63
    Pro sports teams: 6
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 22
    Colleges: 17
    Percent with graduate degree: 6.6
    Median household income: $48,889
    Percent unemployed: 7.6

    Photograph by George Doyle
  31. Cincinnati
    31

    Cincinnati

    Rank: 21
    Population: 292,050

    Nestled on the Ohio River, Ohio’s third-largest city has a picturesque downtown that includes one of the country’s most beautiful pro sports stadiums, the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ball Park on the riverside. Other city stalwarts: the acclaimed Cincinnati Pops orchestra and major employer Procter & Gamble (PG).

    Bars: 105
    Restaurants: 600
    Museums: 18
    Libraries: 35
    Pro sports teams: 2
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 21
    Colleges: 8
    Percent with graduate degree: 8.9
    Median household income: $49,048
    Percent unemployed: 7.2

    Photograph by Walter Bibikow
  32. Columbus, Ohio
    32

    Columbus, Ohio

    Rank: 20
    Population: 796,520

    Columbus excels in education as the home of Ohio State University, which keeps life flowing through Ohio’s largest city and state capital. That helps support historic neighborhoods such as German Village, whose Schiller Park recently celebrated its bicentennial and hosted a speech by President Barack Obama. Columbus, Ohio's best city on our list, can also take pride in its zoo, well known for its longtime director emeritus, Jack Hanna.

    Bars: 249
    Restaurants: 1,656
    Museums: 13
    Libraries: 27
    Pro sports teams: 2
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 14.7
    Colleges: 8
    Percent with graduate degree: 7.8
    Median household income: $54,763
    Percent unemployed: 6.5

    Photograph by Walter Bibikow
  33. Honolulu
    33

    Honolulu

    Rank: 19
    Population: 399,124

    Honolulu, the gateway to Hawaii, may rank behind Lincoln, Neb., for best air quality, but it has a pretty healthy lead in shoreline property. The Pacific melting pot’s residents make one of the highest median household incomes on this list. When tourists swarming Waikiki Beach get to be too much, locals can easily drive across their island to Oahu’s North Shore, a surfer’s paradise. In town, Honolulu houses one of the nation’s great cultural collections, the Bishop Museum.

    Bars: 105
    Restaurants: 1,296
    Museums: 31
    Libraries: 38
    Pro sports teams: 0
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 7 (countywide)
    Colleges: 10
    Percent with graduate degree: 8.9
    Median household income: $78,233
    Percent unemployed: 6.4

    Photograph by Heeb Photos
  34. Raleigh, North Carolina
    34

    Raleigh, North Carolina

    Rank: 18
    Population: 405,462

    Raleigh wins the Carolinas, with strong median household income, low crime, and five universities. As one-third of the Research Triangle region, Raleigh is just minutes from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Duke University. The city features a major historical tradition with such properties as the Mordecai House and Tucker House. Residents who aren’t so interested in uninhabited old houses—especially younger residents—might prefer the sights at BugFest, the event at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

    Bars: 93
    Restaurants: 1,007
    Museums: 15
    Libraries: 17
    Pro sports teams: 1
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 31
    Colleges: 5
    Percent with graduate degree: 11.4
    Median household income: $76,255
    Percent unemployed: 7.8

    Photograph by Donovan Reese
  35. Madison
    35

    Madison

    Rank: 17
    Population: 231,999

    Home to the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin system, Madison had the second-strongest combination of low unemployment and high median household income of any city on this list. Madison has 13 beaches on its local lakes. About 90 minutes’ drive from Milwaukee, the city also boasts one of the lowest crime rates among major cities.

    Bars: 86
    Restaurants: 595
    Museums: 12
    Libraries: 33
    Pro sports teams: 0
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 22
    Colleges: 2
    Percent with graduate degree: 15.6
    Median household income: $78,187
    Percent unemployed: 5.4

    Photograph by David Nevala
  36. Atlanta
    36

    Atlanta

    Rank: 16
    Population: 410,606

    Atlanta’s combination of entertainment, cuisine, and parks rates second-best on our list. So why does "Hotlanta" rank only 16th overall? Air quality and unemployment are areas of concern, but Atlanta’s crime problem—second-worst on this list—keeps it from soaring. The city has greatly increased its park space in recent years. Residents can also pay homage to arguably their city’s greatest invention: The World of Coca-Cola (KO) park has educated soda pop enthusiasts for five years at its Pemberton Place location.

    Bars: 146
    Restaurants: 1,566
    Museums: 37
    Libraries: 37
    Pro sports teams: 5
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 7
    Colleges: 12
    Percent with graduate degree: 12.7
    Median household income: $59,345
    Percent unemployed: 10.2

    (Corrects an earlier version of this slide, which contained an incorrect image.)

    Photograph by Krista Rossow/National Geographic
  37. Kansas City, Missouri
    37

    Kansas City, Missouri

    Rank: 15
    Population: 458,064

    Were it not for its high crime rate, Missouri’s largest city might rank even higher. Residents working in the city’s downtown area are watched over by the iconic Kansas City Power & Light Building, while shoppers can get lost in local shopping centers such as Country Club Plaza and the Legends at Village West. For a unique blend of technology, arts, and history, residents can always stop by the city’s old transportation hub, Union Station.

    Bars: 113
    Restaurants: 921
    Museums: 28
    Libraries: 19
    Pro sports teams: 3
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 36
    Colleges: 15
    Percent with graduate degree: 7.3
    Median household income: $59,980
    Percent unemployed: 6.9

    Photograph by Walter Bibikow
  38. New Orleans
    38

    New Orleans

    Rank: 14
    Population: 349,773

    New Orleans is legendary for its good times and is now also known for its resilient response to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. Less obvious strengths, however, abound in the quality of its air and its universities, anchored by Tulane University. Low median household incomes and a high rate of crime keep the Big Easy out of the top 10, but they can’t take away the French Quarter’s iconic charms—from its genteel beignets to the sloppy, bead-induced revels of Bourbon Street.

    Bars: 284
    Restaurants: 986
    Museums: 34
    Libraries: 20
    Pro sports teams: 2
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 84
    Colleges: 10
    Percent with graduate degree: 8.5
    Median household income: $48,789
    Percent unemployed rate: 10.6

    Photograph by Degree
  39. Nashville
    39

    Nashville

    Rank: 13
    Population: 603,394

    Nashville makes it to 13th place in part due to its nearly 1,500 restaurants and to Vanderbilt University, but that’s not what defines the pulse of the Music City. Home to the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Nashville has attracted or raised a numbingly long list of America’s top musicians, from country greats such as Johnny Cash to modern acts like Kesha. For Nashville residents, finding some of America’s next best music can be as simple as strolling over to Music Row, where new venues blend with nearby classics, such as the Station Inn.

    Bars: 138
    Restaurants: 1,493
    Museums: 30
    Libraries: 35
    Pro sports teams: 3
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 18
    Colleges: 13
    Percent with graduate degree: 8.3
    Median household income: $59,270
    Percent unemployed: 7.3

    Photograph by Heeb Photos
  40. Minneapolis
    40

    Minneapolis

    Rank: 12
    Population: 388,229

    Known as the City of Lakes, Minneapolis has some the nation’s best parks and bodies of water. Add in the cold, and you get the local University of Minnesota’s combined eleven ice hockey national championships. Downtown Minneapolis beats the cold with a unique network of connected buildings, with the City Center mall at its core.

    Bars: 97
    Restaurants: 969
    Museums: 21
    Libraries: 25
    Pro sports teams: 4
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 13
    Colleges: 8
    Percent with graduate degree: 12.5
    Median household income: $64,095
    Percent unemployed: 5.7

    Photograph by Walter Bibikow
  41. Pittsburgh
    41

    Pittsburgh

    Rank: 11
    Population: 308,090

    Pittsburgh just misses the top 10. It has strong leisure offerings and major universities in the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon. The city is limited by its industrial legacy, with crime and air quality as areas needing improvement. Pittsburgh natives are fiercely proud of their town and their pro sports teams, such as the Penguins and Steelers. Also of note: the Andy Warhol Museum, displaying thousands of works by the legendary pop artist and Pittsburgh native.

    Bars: 143
    Restaurants: 992
    Museums: 23
    Libraries: 36
    Pro sports teams: 3
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 10
    Colleges: 10
    Percent with graduate degree: 12.7
    Median household income: $51,907
    Percent unemployed: 7

    Photograph by Walter Bibikow
  42. St. Paul, Minnesota
    42

    St. Paul, Minnesota

    Rank: 10
    Population: 288,263

    St. Paul may be the smaller of the Twin Cities, but the state capital is also cleaner and safer, if slightly behind Minneapolis in median household income. St. Paul, which houses parts of the University of Minnesota campus, is known for its examples of Victorian architecture, such as the Alexander Ramsey House, and for its distinctive Cathedral of Saint Paul.

    Bars: 51
    Restaurants: 515
    Museums: 19
    Libraries: 26
    Pro sports teams: 3
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 14
    Colleges: 9
    Percent with graduate degree: 10.9
    Median household income: $60,987
    Percent unemployed: 6.3

    Photograph by Walter Bibikow
  43. San Diego, California
    43

    San Diego, California

    Rank: 9
    Population: 1,319,558

    If weather were the leading data point in these rankings, San Diego might be No. 1. As it is, the city comes in with a strong 9th-place finish thanks to its relative safety, gorgeous beaches, and 16 colleges. For San Diego residents, picking which beach can be the hard part. Coronado lies just to the south, La Jolla to the north, with Mission Beach in between.

    Bars: 189
    Restaurants: 3,126
    Museums: 53
    Libraries: 52
    Pro sports teams: 2
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 36
    Colleges: 16
    Percent with graduate degree: 10.9
    Median household income: $79,269
    Percent unemployed: 9.2

    Photograph by SIME/eStock Photo
  44. Austin
    44

    Austin

    Rank: 8
    Population: 797,215

    The capital of the Lone Star state, Austin is our largest city without a major professional sports team, but don’t feel sorry—its main college attraction, the UT-Longhorns football team, can draw more than 100,000 spectators to games. With computer company Dell (DELL) located just north of town, Austin has become a major destination for top tech talent, as well. It hosts the annual tech and music festival South by Southwest, which added a Startup Village for investing and schmoozing last year. There’s also the annual outdoor Austin City Limits music festival, which lures acts from around the globe each fall.

    Bars: 212
    Restaurants: 2,135
    Museums: 25
    Libraries: 35
    Pro sports teams: 0
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 37
    Colleges: 9
    Percent with graduate degree: 11
    Median household income: $65,886
    Percent unemployed: 6.3

    Photograph by David Sucsy
  45. New York
    45

    New York

    Rank: 7
    Population: 8,110,206

    The nation’s biggest and most international city, New York blows all other cities out of the water with its more than 1,200 bars, 22,000 restaurants, 350 museums, and almost as many libraries. World famous universities such as Columbia University and New York University dominate their respective neighborhoods. With Wall Street, Broadway, and the home of America’s advertising and fashion centers, be careful telling New Yorkers their city shouldn’t sit atop the list.

    Bars: 1,220
    Restaurants: 22,320
    Museums: 356
    Libraries: 341
    Pro sports teams: 8
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 5
    Colleges: 103
    Percent with graduate degree: 9.6
    Median household income: $58,608
    Percent unemployed: 11

    Photograph by Degree
  46. Denver
    46

    Denver

    Rank: 6
    Population: 597,466

    The Mile High City has evolved into a major night life and dining hub, with more than 200 bars and 1,700 restaurants to offer up its craft beers and mixture of southwestern and Rocky Mountain cuisine. The bars near Coors Field are packed while the weather’s warm, and when it gets cold, residents are only short drives from some of the nation’s best skiing. There is also exotic food, with such game haunts as the Buckhorn Exchange offering local takes on yak, rattlesnake, and, of course, Rocky Mountain oysters (look it up).

    Bars: 207
    Restaurants: 1,741
    Museums: 33
    Libraries: 39
    Pro sports teams: 6
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 10
    Colleges: 13
    Percent with graduate degree: 10.9
    Median household income: $59,155
    Percent unemployed: 8.9

    Photograph by Matthew Staver/Bloomberg
  47. Portland, Oregon
    47

    Portland, Oregon

    Rank: 5
    Population: 598,205

    Portland is known for its Pacific Northwestern brand of laid-back living, with education and restaurant offerings to go with air quality you won’t find on the East Coast. The city’s become beloved of America’s hipsters, do-it-yourselfers, and localist foodies. The constant turnover of such creative types adds up to a busy, if offbeat, arts and music scene. Another popular recent arrival is the city’s major league soccer team, the Portland Timbers, which regularly sells out its games.

    Bars: 313
    Restaurants: 2,084
    Museums: 20
    Libraries: 23
    Pro sports teams: 2
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 25
    Colleges: 16
    Percent with graduate degree: 11.8
    Median household income: $65,554
    Percent unemployed: 7.9

    Photograph by SIME/eStock Photo
  48. Boston
    48

    Boston

    Rank: 4
    Population: 615,462

    Boston isn’t always one of the nation’s safest towns. But few cities can match Beantown’s blend of history, night life, and education. With 22 universities, Boston can seem very much a college town, owning a grimy charm. As New England’s cultural center, Boston combines Gilded Age class with some Atlantic brine, from L’Espalier to B&G Oysters.

    Bars: 136
    Restaurants: 2,064
    Museums: 51
    Libraries: 54
    Pro sports teams: 3
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 8
    Colleges: 22
    Percent with graduate degree: 13.8
    Median household income: $62,180
    Percent unemployed: 6.6

    Photograph by SIME/eStock Photo
  49. Washington, D.C.
    49

    Washington, D.C.

    Rank: 3
    Population: 607,731

    The District of Columbia’s been known for political dysfunction, but when it comes to leisure it has become the nation’s leader. The nation’s capital has an expansive series of parks to go with its lively districts, such as Logan Circle and Foggy Bottom. D.C. rivals Boston for its depth and quality of schools. Staying busy: Residents can shop in Georgetown or check out such cultural centers as the Smithsonian's museums and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

    Bars: 134
    Restaurants: 2,066
    Museums: 108
    Libraries: 88
    Pro sports teams: 5
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 12
    Colleges: 17
    Percent with graduate degree: 19.6
    Median household income: $72,110
    Percent unemployed: 9.1

    Photograph by Degree
  50. Seattle
    50

    Seattle

    Rank: 2
    Population: 624,070

    For our runner-up best city, we turn back to the Northwest to the nation’s spiritual home for coffee and personal computing: Seattle. Residents of Rain City will take the city’s famously prodigious rainfall in exchange for their high average median income, beautiful water-bound locale, and standout clean air. Microsoft (MSFT) and Boeing (BA) provide tens of thousands of jobs to the area, for those who can’t toss fish at the Pike Place Market.

    Bars: 219
    Restaurants: 2,307
    Museums: 29
    Libraries: 42
    Pro sports teams: 4
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 9
    Colleges: 8
    Percent with graduate degree: 16.8
    Median household income: $90,303
    Percent unemployed: 7.2

    Photograph by SIME/eStock Photo
  51. San Francisco
    51

    San Francisco

    Rank: 1
    Population: 808,854

    The City by the Bay, this year's winner, provides residents with the best blend of entertainment, education, safety, clear air, and a prosperous economic base. As the heart of the Bay Area, San Francisco draws on the prosperity of Silicon Valley and possesses its own diverse history well represented at cultural centers such as the de Young Museum. Residents care fiercely about their cafés and causes; night life flourishes in the Mission and the Castro, while tech companies code away in SoMa.

    Bars: 394
    Restaurants: 3,430
    Museums: 70
    Libraries: 52
    Pro sports teams: 2
    Park acres per 1,000 residents: 7
    Colleges: 17
    Percent with graduate degree: 16
    Median household income: $90,640
    Percent unemployed: 7.8

    Photograph by Degree