America’s Best Small Cities List Takes on New Meaning During Pandemic

Author: Convene Editors       

best small cities

Reno, Nevada, tops Resonance Consultancy’s 2020 list of the best small cities in the U.S. (Victor Hughes on Unsplash)

Resonance Consultancy released the latest edition of its annual small city rankings, placing Reno, Nevada, in the top spot. And while the rankings reflect performance by cities prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they offer a guide for leisure travelers this summer, and newly remote workers looking to escape big-city life.

Moreover, the list highlights potential spots for small group meetings. In recent Convene Recovery Dashboard surveys, both planners and suppliers say the most likely scenario that they envision for the events industry recovery is smaller, regional events. And when asked how far planners themselves would be willing to travel for an event in the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine, nearly one-quarter said within a four-hour drive vs. 13 percent who said within a two-hour flight.

“The nation’s small cities face particularly pivotal months ahead,” Resonance President and CEO Chris Fair said in a press release. “Small-center urban growth was already rising before the pandemic. Now with millions of workers increasingly able to work remotely, many may choose to move to these smaller cities.

“At the same time, we expect travel to drive-to destinations to recover first. As American travelers hit the road, they’ll likely look to small cities to satisfy their travel desires.”

America’s Best Small Cities rates the 100 top-performing U.S. cities with populations ranging between 100,000 and 500,000. Resonance Consultancy, a consultancy group in real estate, tourism, and economic development, bases the rankings on a combination of core statistics and online ratings and reviews — from TripAdvisor, Facebook check-ins, and Google searches — collected during the past five years.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Resonance evaluated small cities across the country based on six core categories: place, people, programming, product, prosperity, and promotion.

Reno ranked first in programming, which includes culture, nightlife, restaurants, and shopping. It also came in first for product — which includes convention centers, hotels, universities, and other possible options for groups meeting in a city.

In a message at the beginning of the 2020 report, Fair wrote that there is little doubt “some restaurants, shops, and other unique local experiences will not survive the loss in clientele and revenue that the COVID19 lockdown has wrought and the results a year from now may vary significantly from one city to the next.”

Comparing the 2020 data to 2021, he said, “will provide a unique perspective to quantify the impact the crisis has had on cities from an experiential point of view.”

The top 10 small cities are listed below. To see the full list of 100 cities, visit

  1. Reno, Nevada
  2. Naples, Florida
  3. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  4. Savannah, Georgia
  5. Asheville, North Carolina
  6. Anchorage, Alaska
  7. Boulder, Colorado
  8. Trenton, New Jersey
  9. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  10. Ann Arbor, Michigan

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