PopulationMetro: 2,335,000
Baltimore has long transcended its television-screen cliche. And that’s always a good thing.

Baltimore is a city of fascinating contradictions: it’s the place that the world knows through The Wire and the Freddy Grey tragedy as dangerously unequal and underprivileged (indeed, it ranks #177—towards the bottom of our Crime subcategory, which measure a city’s annual homicides). But the city is also #48 in our rankings for Prosperity, and home to the #8 globally ranked Johns Hopkins University, which is also the city’s largest employer.

There are stately but boarded-up historic row houses, but also The Sagamore Pendry, a spectacularly renovated former storage pier, and the Port Covington, a $5.5-billion, 20-year mixed-use development project helmed by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, whose company is headquartered in town.

CITY PERFORMACE
Place
Place 31
Product
Product 17
Programming
Programming 6
People
People 59
Prosperity
Prosperity 45
Promotion
Promotion 7

But if this is a city in profound transition, one thing that hasn’t wavered is its love of seafood. Just check out the Seafood Festival every September. Another Baltimore intangible? Its idiosyncratic nightlife, an always-on kind of thing in a place that spawned both Billie Holiday and John Waters. Baltimore’s #64 ranking for nightlife is recognition for beloved standbys like divey Club Charles (Club Chuck for habitués), The Crown, or Red Emma’s bookstore in Station North, and newcomer W.C. Harlan in the Remington neighborhood. Drink Duckpin Pale Ale or local hero National Bohemian (Natty Boh) or Mescal, because that’s now a thing, too.

And if you want to know where to go next, follow the exploits of next-gen entrepreneur Lane Harlan, who’s shaping Baltimore evenings to her liking. The latest hangout? An outdoor beer garden that opened in early 2018.