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The Most Exciting Suburbs in America shares their list of the most exciting suburbs in America with MetroJacksonville. We made the list.

Published February 1, 2014 in Neighborhoods      10 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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.

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February 02, 2014, 01:07:33 AM
Movoto doesn't get around enough.

Nice to have Jax Beach on there, but Santa Clara CA?

Evanston with a picture of a library?

Lamo. Tell them they need to do more research.

Bill Hoff

February 02, 2014, 08:38:10 AM
A week earlier, the same website listed Jax as the 3rd best city in FL to live, after Pembroke Pines & Port St. Lucie.


Bike Jax

February 02, 2014, 11:26:33 AM
Lat I heard, Jacksonville Beach was a city and I would think they would be slightly offended at as being referred to as a Suburb.


February 02, 2014, 08:19:07 PM
Lat I heard, Jacksonville Beach was a city and I would think they would be slightly offended at as being referred to as a Suburb.

Aren't suburbs usually separate "cities" from the central city? Perhaps Jax Beach would be offended by the notion of being a suburb but I don't understand what being a city has to do with it as most suburbs (streetcar, bedroom, edge cities, what have you) are separate entities.


February 02, 2014, 08:22:28 PM
Evanston with a picture of a library?

Lamo. Tell them they need to do more research.

To be fair when I saw the original article at movoto's site they had a slideshow gallery and Evanston's photo was of an outdoor rock festival, which I can only assume was from Dillo Day. If there's any day of the year that's exciting in Evanston, that's the one.  ;D


February 02, 2014, 09:27:52 PM
A place can be a suburb even if it happens to be incorporated as a city. In fact many suburbs are. In Jax Beach's case it's definitely a suburb now, I expect most residents who live there work elsewhere.


February 02, 2014, 11:42:14 PM
I'm a little confused about the terms used to describe areas.

Would it be proper to call Five Points, and the Park and King area ...  suburbs?  And San Marco?  Is it proper to call all areas outside of the city core ... a suburb?   

Within the suburbs, we have office parks, shopping malls, residential and condo projects, and housing communities, both gated and non-gated.  Is vacant land outside of the core considered to be part of the suburbs?     

All classic shopping malls seem to be in the suburbs.  I presume that the closest thing we have to a mall in the Jax city core is the Landing.  And soon, renovation will allow it to become less like a mall.

Malls and strip malls in the suburbs have had the ascendancy over the city core development for several decades.  The new construction near Five Points, Park Street, and Forest could be called part of a suburb I suppose, but it probably should not be termed a mall environment ... which is good, because people seem to tire of classic malls.

The upcoming panel discussion on the 6th, promoted by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) should be interesting, because historically the discussion seems to be centered around the "mall" idea, which has little to do with the Jax City core -- which is okay I suppose, as there are areas needing development other than the core.

Perhaps the ICSC discussion concept, even though developed during the time of classic mall growth, still has some relevance to areas like Five Points, Riverside/King, and even the Landing.  Perhaps the ideas exchanged in the upcoming discussion will be applied to "retail" and certain aspects of real estate, but certainly will not be focused on the classic suburban malls -- which we urbanites perhaps shouldn't support -- and which are, thank goodness, hopefully in decline overall.

In any case, it appears that the ICSC discussion will have little focus on the development of vibrancy and infill in the old city core, as its purpose is elsewhere, but will perhaps have focus on..... well... we will see what the focus will be.   



February 03, 2014, 12:30:54 AM
I'm a little confused about the terms used to describe areas.

Would it be proper to call Five Points, and the Park and King area ...  suburbs?  And San Marco?  Is it proper to call all areas outside of the city core ... a suburb?

Yes. I'd argue that the majority of Jacksonville outside of the preconsolidated city would be considered post WWII suburbs any place else across the country. There's really no difference in what Mandarin or Argyle are today verses what Northern St. Johns and Clay have become. 


February 04, 2014, 01:59:21 AM
hmm, someone posted this story in my Facebook feed so I revisited the link, and I now notice that you guys have mixed up the last three photos for the last three cities. Your photo for Evanston should be Santa Clara, SC should be Tucson, and Tucson should be Evanston. FYI


February 04, 2014, 03:44:08 AM
^^^You meant Tempe AZ, and Santa Clara, CA.
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