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My Top 20 Favorite Large US Cities: 15 through 11

A view of Downtown Long Beach from Rainbow Harbor

A view of Downtown Long Beach from Rainbow Harbor

15. Long Beach, CA – I think Long Beach is still one of the well-kept secret gems of America. Sure, there are places around the city I would classify as ghetto sprawl, but, they are REALLY trying to make Long Beach into a hip and walkable city. The downtown has high rise condo and apartment towers, outdoor restaurants and cafes, a movie theater, hotels, a beautiful harbor, and even a bowling alley! It’s quite a nice place to visit… except for that horrible smog problem. On a personal side note, my photo of Long Beach was used in a CNBC article this week (also see page 7). Long Beach Photos

Fruitvalle Village at Fruitvale BART Station - Oakland, CA

Fruitvalle Village at Fruitvale BART Station - Oakland, CA

14. Oakland, CA – I get really tired of reading Oakland bashing on the Internets, especially when most people have never been there. The truth is, there are some fantastic neighborhoods in Oakland if you know where to look. The City is also doing a lot to encourage mixed-use development, especially near transit stations. Oakland has many diverse neighborhoods, some great food, and pretty good weather. Oakland would probably get a lot more *positive* attention if it did not have San Francisco to the west and Berkeley to the north. Oakland Photos

State Street in Winter - Madison, WI

State Street in Winter - Madison, WI

13. Madison, WI – I grew up just 2 hours from Madison, WI, and sadly did not see much of it until I was just about to move away from Illinois for the final time. What a beautiful downtown! I know that Madison has one of the best reputations for biking and walking of any city in the country. I can also say that the best beer I’ve ever had was from a microbrewery in downtown. The last time I was in Wisconsin, I briefly stopped in Madison and stumbled upon a fantastic Indian restaurant. If I get to spend more time in Madison in the future, I can see it easily creep up this list. At a minimum, I probably won’t go hungry or thirsty there! This photo (courtesy of Wade Johanson) is pretty much how I remember downtown: beautiful lights, a nice streetscape, and snow!

Sixth Street by Night - Austin, TX

Sixth Street by Night - Austin, TX

12. Austin, TX – I had really high expectations for my visit to Austin last year. And I learned one important thing… to add “for Texas” to the end of of the sentence “Austin is very walkable.” There are many great things about Austin: the nightlife, the high rise condos and apartments, bike paths, music, the funkiness of the city, etcetera. But, I still found it to be very car-centric and didn’t have the cozy feel that many East and West Coast cities have. I definitely think it’s worth visiting if you’re in Texas, because it’s the best city I’ve visited there. The flagship Whole Foods store alone is worth the visit–that place is amazing! Why does Austin top Madison on my list? Because of a) the weather; and b) I know it better. Austin Photos

A view of Waikiki from Diamondhead - Honolulu, HI

A view of Waikiki from Diamondhead - Honolulu, HI

11. Honolulu, HI – One of the most beautiful spots for a city I’ve ever been to… unfortunately the sprawl and auto-obsession sometimes distracts your attention away from the beauty a little too much. Nonetheless, there are walkable areas of the city. Especially the Waikiki area. Yes, it’s very touristy. But, they’ve done a great job making it more pedestrian-friendly. In addition, Honolulu does have a great bus system called… wait for it… The Bus! Don’t forget to stop by Leonard’s Bakery for some tasty malasadas. Honolulu Photos

My Top 20 Favorite Large US Cities: Intro and 20 through 16

My Top 20 Favorite Large US Cities: 10 through 6

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Peter April 15, 2009, 1:02 pm

    Hi Eric. I couldn’t find your pedestrian-friendly city rankings 1 to 10. I could only find ranks 11 to 20. Are 1-10 still in the process of being posted?

    By the way, I have a question since you are a guru on the subject. We are thinking of making a move to a pedestrian-friendly BIG city and are former residents of New York City, Toronto, Montreal and Baltimore (all of which are great, pedestrian-friendly cities, except for Baltimore, which {although historic} is only pedestrian-friendly in a few pockets and does not have DOZENS of cool neighborhoods like Toronto, New York or Montreal — it’s limited). We now need to find another city comparable to Toronto, New York, San Francisco, Boston or Montreal that is located in a better climate (even San Francisco is too cold for us). We now live in Florida, but find Miami to be unhospitable because the only interesting/vibrant/pedestrian-friendly neighborhood is South Beach. Unfortunately, South Beach has become too touristy and there are no other Miami neighborhoods worth hanging out in. It’s not a “real” city because it’s just too new.

    How is L.A.? Do you think it will meet our high standards? The climate would be great (much warmer than San Francisco), but is it a “real” city? We need a LOT of different neighborhoods in a city, so only a BIG BIG city will do it for us. We were thinking of checking out Chicago, but then we remembered how bad Chicago’s winter weather was. Is Greater LA the answer?

  • Peter April 15, 2009, 1:45 pm

    Hi Eric.

    Hey — I was just noticing that your site references the top 100 cities in America with a link to Wikipedia. The link is one that lists only the basic “City of ___” populations, which usually ends up being a misleading statistic. For example, if you list Buffalo or Jacksonville this way, you end up with them being listed as bigger than cities like Boston (which is ridiculous). Because the part of greater Boston called the “City of Boston” has a much smaller population than Buffalo or Jacksonville, Boston ends up being listed as the 21st biggest city in America, whereas Jacksonville ends up being 11th…which is crazy because Jacksonville has no suburbs and is about 3 million smaller than greater Boston (the same goes for Buffalo). I would therefore recommend that your link to Wikipedia be changed the following instead: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_United_States_Metropolitan_Statistical_Areas This link shows the actual sprawl population of each city, including suburban areas. It shows how many people REALLY live in a city or travel into US cities on a daily basis. If you don’t like that link, you could instead use this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_United_States_Metropolitan_Statistical_Areas I just find that the basic “city of ____” population statistics are totally misleading and don’t truly represent the number of people living in an urban area. ….just a thought, Peter.

  • Randy December 8, 2014, 8:23 pm

    ALBUQUERQUE, NM.

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