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These Are America’s 10 Most Exciting Mid-Sized Cities

Published: 04/14/2014
By Randy Nelson, Movoto -- Not too big, not too small, these places are just the right size. When it comes to excitement, they’re absolutely huge.

We’ve been doing some exciting things here on the Movoto Real Estate Blog. More specifically, we’ve been doing some things involving excitement, or, even more specifically, places across this great country of ours that are especially exciting. Big cities, small cities, suburban cities… they’ve all been run through our patented excitement-judging algorithms and seen where they rank. There’s just one more (important) piece of this big America-shaped puzzle that needs popping into place: Mid-sized cities.

If you live in a place that’s somewhere in-between a major metro and a rustic retreat, you’ve probably been wondering how your city stacks up in terms of excitement level. Today, we’re here to hopefully provide that answer. To residents of Providence, RI, we can excitedly say that your city stands atop the mid-sized places pack like some sort of God of Fun summoning lightning down from on high. Like some ancient deities, it’s part of a pantheon that includes the rest of the 10 most exciting mid-sized cities in America:

Providence, RI
Charleston, SC
Fort Collins, CO
Eugene, OR
Syracuse, NY
New Haven, CT
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Pasadena, CA
Grand Rapids, MI
Salt Lake City, UT

We know what you’re thinking: The capital of Rhode Island is the most exciting mid-sized city in the U.S.? We were surprised to learn this, too, but if you’ll keep reading we’ll explain how we reached this shocking conclusion, as well as why the other nine cities made it into the upper echelon of excitement. First, however, let’s break down how we put our finger of the pulse of America and found which mid-sized cities will have your heart racing.

How We Found Big Excitement In Mid-Sized Cities
Whenever we do one of our Big Deal Lists, we like to explain how exactly we figure out something as seemingly unmeasurable as a city’s nerdiness, friendliness, or, in this case, how exciting it is. The simple answer: numbers.

It all starts with figuring out which criteria we can use to determine what we’re looking to measure. In the case of excitement, we’ve already come up with a trusty list of six factors:

- 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)
- Percentage of young residents ages 20 to 34 (the higher the better)
With those in mind, we build a list of cities to look at. In this instance, we used 117 cities ranging in population size from 120,000 to 210,000 residents according to the U.S. Census. These cities were given scores from one to 117 across all six criteria based on data including business listings and Census demographics, with one being the best possible score. We then averaged these individual rankings into one Big Deal Score for each city, the lower the better again, and the place with the lowest overall score—in this case, Providence—was our winner.
And, of course, Salt Lake City. Most will remember that Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics, and as such we weren’t really shocked when we found that the city ranked first overall for active life options. In addition to its myriad parks, a zoo, and more traditional outdoor activities, the city has those that are especially befitting of a former Winter Olympics venue, such as the Gallivan Center ice rink.

SLC also did especially well when it came to music venues (which the Gallivan Center also factors into) and nightlife. It placed third overall for places to enjoy live music, with one for every 9,466 residents, and fourth for nightlife, with places including Brewvies Cinema Pub and Bar-X to its credit.