19 Philadelphia

PopulationMetro: 6,096,120
The City of Brotherly Love gives locals and visitors plenty of Americana: in splendid museums, live shows and, of course, life-affirming cheesesteaks.

Given its deep foundation in the creation of the Union almost 250 years ago, Philadelphia is a dense, catalogued embodiment of American values and traditions, easily accessible and eagerly shared. It’s home to places like the Liberty Bell Center, of course. And various must-see cultural centers with the term “Independence” in their names.

It might be America’s birthplace, but the City of Brotherly Love only keeps one foot firmly rooted in its rich history. The other is stepping into the future, with a booming economy, growing population and glittering skyline heading ever upward. Philadelphia is also a city rich in hometown pride, where locals reliably turn out to celebrate everything from Super Bowl victories to National Cheesesteak Day.

Strong employment driven by a diverse economy (Philly ranks #10 for Fortune 500s) means population growth, a surging real estate market and a boom in new construction. Philadelphia welcomes visitors as well as new residents; the centrally-located Pennsylvania Convention Center boasts the largest ballroom on the East Coast and 12,000 hotel rooms within walking distance.

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This summer sees the reopening of Independence Visitor Center after a $15 million upgrade, which will make the gateway to Independence National Historical Park more welcoming for the 2.5 million people who pass through every year. Other destinations include the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philly ranks an impressive #7 for Museums), but Nightlife (ranked #14) remains the city’s lifeblood. Case in point, beloved dive bars like Dirty Frank’s and Chris’s Jazz Cafe, some of the best places in the world to hear live jazz.

Downtown Philadelphia

Philly earns a #6 ranking for Neighborhoods, driven by small-scale communities like the historically working-class, increasingly hip Fishtown. But now Philadelphia is growing up. Comcast Technology Center, at 1,121 feet the city’s tallest skyscraper, opened this year to great acclaim from architecture critics. Meanwhile, sleek new apartment buildings are filling in Old City (its population is up 14% since 2010), as young professionals pour back into town.