Travel + Leisure magazine’s America’s Favorite Cities online feature lets you choose your most-desired urban traits from an extensive list of 45 (ranging from “attractive people” to “plenty of vintage markets,” all ranked by 125,000 voters) and generate a list of matching cities. My usual beef with “Ten Best” lists, having grown up in and fled a place which too-regularly leads such lists, is that they rarely account for the vast differences in what people want out of a place.
Even most of the online “find your city ranking” calculators I’ve found — expressly intended to allow people to weight their own factors — still obsess over ways to objectively measure a host of subjective factors. If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, then what use is counting up performances and venue capacities to rank cities’ music scenes? Such things are better determined subjectively, and without concern for the strictures and vagaries of Census geography.
My five must-have factors — Cafés/coffee bars, Noteworthy neighborhoods, Public parks and access to the outdoors, Public transportation and pedestrian friendliness, Environmental awareness — yielded Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Not far off the mark.