35 Baltimore

PopulationMetro: 2,808,175
Baltimore is way more than what you know about it from television. And that’s a very good thing.

Baltimore residents are the first to acknowledge that their city has problems rooted in inequality, especially since the protests sparked by the 2015 death in police custody of Freddy Grey.

But while it may rank a dismal #49 for Crime, Baltimore is also home to world class institutions like Johns Hopkins University and the National Aquarium, as well as a quirky culture that makes Charm City a place like no other.

Earning a #4 rank for University, Johns Hopkins is Baltimore’s largest employer, and while this may be the biggest city without a single Fortune 500, Maryland boasts a $35-billion aerospace industry, and the defense contractor Northrup Grumman is a top-five employer of Baltimore residents. Meanwhile, unemployment has been dropping steadily since 2010.

Place 37
Product 27
Programming 11
People 42
Prosperity 30
Promotion 10

Baltimore earns a #14 ranking for Museums, and many—from historic ships to highly-acclaimed Port Discovery Children’s Museum—are clustered around the Inner Harbor, which for 50 years has served as a nationwide model for the reuse of post-industrial waterfront.

A short water taxi ride away, the American Visionary Art Museum is the country’s only institution dedicated to self-taught artists, and headquarters of the Annual Kinetic Sculpture Race, which fills city streets with “wacky, imaginative, totally human-powered works of art.”

Less than an hour’s commute from Washington, D.C., Baltimore offers a slower pace of life and significantly cheaper housing than its hyper-charged neighbor to the south. But the time to buy in one of Baltimore’s diverse, historic communities (the city ranks #18 for Neighborhoods) may just be right now—home prices have jumped nearly 10 percent since 2018.