28 Atlantic City

PopulationMetro: 269,918
Tourism has long ruled here. Today, plentiful (albeit service-industry) job opportunities have made this one of America’s most ethnically diverse small cities.

Few cities do mass tourism like Atlantic City. Washed by the ocean swell on New Jersey’s shore, the famous Atlantic City Boardwalk has been a magnet for shoppers, diners, card players and roulette spinners, and people-watchers for centuries.

Atlantic City practically invented the tourism business in the 1850s, when speculators began building resorts along this marshy, picturesque stretch of coastline two hours south of New York. Atlantic City has had its ups and downs since then, but it’s always been a place for dreamers, and thanks to a still-hardy hospitality industry a bright future seems just around the corner.

Place 34
Product 62
Programming 29
People 73
Prosperity 18
Promotion 39

True to its roots, Atlantic City’s main industry is tourism, and service jobs continue to draw immigrants from around the world, netting the city a #4 ranking for Foreign Born.

And it’s not just beachgoers and gamblers who take advantage of the city’s hospitality: Atlantic City earns a #2 Convention Center ranking for the $126 million, 100,000-square-foot Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center, only the largest meeting space in a city that draws convention business from up and down the East Coast and beyond.

Atlantic City’s famous Boardwalk—namesake of the top property in Monopoly—stretches five miles along the beach and is lined on the land side with casinos, hotels, retail and eateries, all of it contributing to a #15 for Nightlife. Watch out for selfie sticks—Atlantic City tourism is now bolstered by social media, with the city earning a #10 ranking for Instagram check-ins and #9 for TripAdvisor reviews.

Residents say the stream of visitors makes this small city feel like a major metropolis—complete with the less desirable aspects of urban grittiness (the #131 ranking for Crime suggests an area for improvement). But homeownership remains affordable here, and those who live in Atlantic City’s walkable neighborhoods can enjoy being steps away from one of the most beautiful—and storied—stretches of sand in the Northeast.