OK. This list of the nation’s “Most Exciting Cities” was the product of a survey devised by Movoto, an irreverent real estate blog. So maybe one shouldn’t plot a major relocation based on its findings.
But the author’s placement of Oakland at the top of the list definitely gives a new perspective to the oft-maligned metropolis, which almost never fails to suffer when matched up against its sister city across the bay.
Given Oakland’s reputation for violence and hard living, and considering that Boston (with its recent tragic events) ranks second on the list, it wouldn’t be surprising to find that Movoto’s accolades were meant to be ironic, akin to toasting someone with, “May you live in interesting times”—a purported Chinese curse that probably didn’t originate with them.
But, no. Movoto is serious in its praise. It used 10 criteria and applied them to the 50 largest cities in the country. The blog counted parks, bars, movie theaters, museums, theater companies and music venues, and gave brownie points for their presence. Credit was given for population diversity and the percent of young people between 20 and 34. They subtracted points for big-box stores and fast-food restaurants, although Black Friday sales and food-poisoning can be pretty exciting.
The blog stuck to the city cores and excluded consideration of suburbs, exurbs and nearby metropolitan areas. No sneaking across the Bay Bridge for some San Francisco nightlife, although it placed third on the list.
Oakland is popular, in general, among list makers. Not surprisingly, Oakland also made Movoto’s list of “10 Best Cities to be Single in California.” But more than a few eyebrows were probably raised when it popped up in the #5 spot on the 2012 New York Times list of “45 Places to Go,” nestled between London and Tokyo. The Times, however, did not deem it a place to go this year, although the newspaper expanded its list to include 46 locations.
Sometimes the recognition is not as flattering. NBC pegged Oakland as the fourth “Most Dangerous City” in America in 2012. NerdWallet had it pegged as the 7th-worst city for car drivers and Orkin ranked it 14th for bed bugs in 2012, down (or up) from 12th the year before. Oakland (#4) and three other California cities filled out the top five spots on AreaVibe’s “10 Worst Cities” list in 2011 behind #1 Detroit. (Stockton, Santa Ana and Riverside 2, 3 & 5, respectively.)