Aug 02, 2012 8:47 PM GMT
Houston is known for many things: Oil, NASA, urban sprawl and business-friendly policies. But the Texas city deserves to be known for something else: coolness.
The Bayou City may not be the first place you associate with being hip or trendy. But Houston has something many other major cities don’t: jobs. With the local economy humming through the recession, Houston enjoyed 2.6% job growth last year and nearly 50,000 Americans flocked there in response — particularly young professionals. In fact, the median age of a Houston resident is a youthful 33.
The result? Over the past decade, the dreary corporate cityscape has been quietly transforming. Stylish housing developments have popped up downtown, restaurants have taken up residence in former factories and art galleries like the Station Museum have been inhabiting warehouses.
Combine that with a strong theater scene, world-class museums and a multicultural, zoning-free mashup of a streetscape and you have the recipe for the No. 1 spot on Forbes’ list of America’s Coolest Cities To Live.
Behind the Numbers
“Cool” is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “very good; fashionable.” Of course what, exactly, is good and fashionable is very much in the eye of the beholder. We sought to quantify it in terms of cities, ranking the 65 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Metropolitan Divisions (areas that include cities and their surrounding suburbs that are defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget) based on seven data points weighted evenly.
Sperling’s Best Places helped us calculate the number of entertainment options per capita in each metro area. We also ranked the cities based on other recreational opportunities, including the amount of green space, the cost and number of outdoor activities like golfing and skiing available, and the number of pro and college sports teams.
List: America’s Coolest Cities To Live
With the help of Sperling’s we tallied restaurants and bars per capita, weeding out chain establishments – Applebee’s has less sizzle than a local chef’s bistro.
We also looked at each city’s cultural composition using Sperling’s Diversity Index. It measures the likelihood of meeting another person of a different race or ethnicity. Increased diversity tends to lead to a larger assortment of interesting shops, restaurants and events.
Using the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, we factored in median age, favoring places with a large young adult population.
We ranked the cities based on net migration (the number of people who relocated there in 2011) and also on unemployment rates, since a city’s offerings are only as good as the amount of people who want and can to afford to enjoy them. (No one likes to hang out in an empty bar, right?) We culled this data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Moody’s Analytics.