7 Tulsa

PopulationMetro: 970,603
The one-trick energy pony that was Tulsa has ambled into the sunset. In its place—American art, music and innovation.

For years, Tulsa was the Oil Capital of the World. Today, the buzzing center on banks of the Arkansas River is becoming, somewhat improbably, what The Washington Post calls “a musical Mecca”—one that’s contributed to the city’s #4 ranking in our Product category, which tracks institutions (in this case, Museums) and Attractions.

By 2019, the $20-million, 6,000-object Bob Dylan Archive—which includes memorabilia ranging from guitars to costumes to studio sessions to notebooks (so many notebooks)—will have a home near the Guthrie Center. That space is devoted to Dylan hero and folk singer Woody Guthrie, along with protest singer Phil Ochs. The latest buzz has the Johnny Cash archive locating here, too. For Dylan pal, author and Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley, this is all “going to make Tulsa the headquarters of Americana Music.” Appropriately, Route 66 runs right by Tulsa.

Place 54
Product 84
Programming 37
People 45
Prosperity 79
Promotion 58

The city’s relative housing affordability, small business density and #2 ranking for Prosperity among small American cities has also drawn Millennials looking to make their mark and have a backyard. The city is consistently mentioned as one of the largest draws of young talent in the nation. The old money is helping invest in engaging the new. The Kaiser Institution—long a regional benefactor—just helped christen The Gathering Place, a 100-acre, $200-million riverside park designed, like the best Dylan tune, to undo urban divisions of geography, race and class.