30 Portland, ME

PopulationMetro: 532,083
An enviable streetscape and plentiful arts and culture have made Portland an “it” city basking in its long-term commitment to the good life.

In 2014, Portland Maine decided to officially declare what pretty much everyone knew: “Yes. Life’s good here” is a patented city brand that some might interpret as a little smug, if it weren’t for the fact that Portland keeps working to make life even better.

The city is ranks #22 for Place, our measure of the natural and built environment, but that’s hardly a contest: there are six unfairly picturesque lighthouses in the area, and the city’s weathered wharfs, cobblestone passageways and historic buildings thrive in the fresh salt air, so much so that the city’s waterfront Commercial Street was declared one of the 10 best streets in the country by the American Planning Association. The Old Port holds equal charms, particularly at night, when live music, waterfront pubs and Maine’s justly famous microbreweries unleash merriment. A #8 ranking for Neighborhoods is hardly surprising.

Place 47
Product 31
Programming 44
People 67
Prosperity 36
Promotion 28

Today, life’s good not only downtown but also at Thompson’s Point, a $100 million development on a former industrial railyard on the Fore River just west of the center. There’s everything from an outdoor concert venue—think Wilco and Alabama Shakes—to an ice skating rink, and something called a Cryptozoology Museum, which is devoted to the study of hidden or unknown animals. And, because this is Maine, a brewery (the beloved Bissell Brothers), a distillery (Stroudwater) and a winery (Cellardoor), all share warehousing space large enough to accommodate working equipment and visitors. Restaurants, hotels, office space and a sports medicine lab round out the point. Right now, Portland ranks #16 for Programming, our measure of arts, culture, entertainment and the restaurant scene. It won’t be long before that ranking moves up even higher.

Anticipate a jump in visitor numbers as well. Portland tourism grew 6% in 2017 after years of flat growth, a combination of old and new charms, along with the $44 million pumped into an extension of Amtrak’s Downeaster rail service to Boston; the $75 million that have gone into an expansion at the Portland Jetport; and cruise ships, which went from 76 arrivals in 2016 to an estimated 119 in 2018, bringing 172,000 passengers and 50,000 crew. “The cruise industry is an important piece of Portland’s economic development and one that we continue to market,” says City Manager Jon Jennings.

When the visitors get here, they’ll find local pride intact and ready to greet them. A Portland Buy Local campaign was launched in July 2006; today, there are more than 450 members, 85% of whom are Portland business owners, that ensure that life’s good here—both for visitors and the locals who make it so.