The words “exciting” and “suburb” are generally never uttered in the same breath. In fact, if you look at pop culture, particularly coming out of the 1980s–suburbs, are set up to play the proverbial second fiddle to their bigger brethren. They’re shining beacons of the boring life, where the biggest thrills include mowing lawns on the weekend and picking the kids up from school on time.
Only that’s totally untrue.
After ranking the country’s most exciting cities–big and small–last year, we at the Movoto Real Estate Blog decided to start 2014 off by turning the preconceived notion that suburbs are boring on its ear. So, we applied the same Big Deal List formula responsible for rocketing places like Oakland, CA and Hoboken, NJ into the spotlight to the nation’s largest suburban cities.
How did we figure all this out, and what exactly constitutes “exciting” in our book? If you’ll keep reading, we’ll explain all that and more. We promise it’ll be exciting.
How We Found America’s Most Exciting Suburbs
For most people, math’s not very exciting. Yet math is the means by which we ranked the most exciting suburbs. Lots and lots of numbers went into the process, but it all started with 139: the number suburbs we looked at. These are the largest suburbs of the 50 largest cities in the nation.
The next number of importance was six: the number of criteria we used to determine how exciting a suburb is. We applied the same criteria to this ranking as we did for our two previous Most Exciting Cities rankings:
Nightlife per capita (bars, clubs, comedy, etc.)
Live music venues per capita
Active life options per capita (parks, outdoor activities, etc.)
Fast Food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better)
Percentage of restaurants that are fast food (the lower the better)
Each suburb was ranked from 1 to 139 across all these criterion, with one being the best possible score (like in golf). This was accomplished by looking at business listings for each city and U.S Census data—not, unfortunately, dining and dancing the night away in person. Once we’d done that, we averaged the individual criterion scores to produce an overall Big Deal Score, which was used to determine the final ranking (the lower the score the better in this case, too).
The cities which you’re about to read about below had the 10 lowest scores, but we went ahead and included stats on how the top 50 ranked across the board at the bottom of this post. That way, if your idea of “exciting” is spending a Friday night arguing over minutiae, you can do that. For everyone else, here’s the big picture on what made our top 10 shoot past the rest of the pack:
1. Cambridge, MA
Source: Flickr user EandJsFilmCrew
When most people think of Cambridge, they either a) picture classrooms full of students at Harvard and M.I.T. with their noses buried in books or b) say “Hey, isn’t that in England?” From now on, when we think of this Boston suburb, we’re going to think “excitement.”
True, a big part of Cambridge’s success in this ranking has to do with the fact that it’s home to not one, but two top-tier universities. Its population of 18- to 34-year-olds is, as a direct result, a whopping 49 percent, easily clinching a 1st place win for the city in this criterion by nearly 6 percentage points. Cambridge was also in the top 10 overall for active life options (third), live music (sixth), and nightlife (sixth).
Cambridge has one nightlife option for every 1,002 residents, and when they’re spots like The Druid and The Comedy Studio, that figure gets even more exciting. The city also ranked in the top 10 (10th, in fact) for its low percentage of fast food restaurants compared to all dining options (a mere 4 percent). This means your tastebuds will be subjected to fewer McDonalds and exposed to more A-grade eateries like Hungry Mother and Craigie On Main.