Which City is ‘Best’ in U.S.?

Authors: Cristi Kempf       
Curt Wagner       

best cities

Recent additions like Hudson Yards (front center) helped New York City stay on top in Resonance Consultancy’s list of Best U.S. Cities. (Julienne Schaer/NYC & Company)

New York City reigns supreme — again — on Resonance Consultancy’s latest ranking of “America’s Best Cities.” In a new report, researchers explain how the city has stayed on top — the “experiential powerhouse,” they write, does not rest on its laurels, pointing to such recent additions as Hudson Yards. The report also looks at the infrastructure for meetings and events in American cities, and offers insights including why Las Vegas needs that convention center expansion.

Resonance’s 2019 ranking of the 100 best-performing U.S. cities — 50 large and 50 small — was announced June 4. Like last year, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco round out the top four, behind New York. That lineup, Resonance President and CEO Chris Fair told Bloomberg, is unlikely to change based on current criteria, in which culture and entertainment infrastructure, which are key to tourism, count heavily. But Resonance’s rankings reflect more than the usual tourism data points. So, once you get below the top four powerhouses, you find a diverse field of cities that earn their positions based on data collected in 23 areas ranging from crime rate to air quality to convention centers.

Resonance’s annual ranking analyzes six key categories — promotion, place, product, prosperity, people, and programming — using a combination of core statistics and online ratings and reviews, from TripAdvisor, Facebook check-ins, and Google searches.

The “product” category is where cities are judged on criteria that often matters most to event planners: key institutions, attractions, and infrastructure, and subcategories including university rankings, air connectivity, convention center, museums, and sports teams. Of the top four cities, Chicago posted strong “product” subcategory scores, thanks to its airports and convention behemoth McCormick Place. New York gets a nod in that category for the ongoing massive investment in its air transportation infrastructure, for, as Resonance notes: “In order to bite into the Big Apple, visitors first need to get to it,” and, that means having airports that don’t feel like “you’re enduring a hazing ritual.”

best cities

The Las Vegas Convention Center District’s Phase Two Expansion, partly shown in this conceptual drawing, should help the city battle competition. (Courtesy tvsdesign/Design Las Vegas via Las Vegas News Bureau)

Digging deeper into the “product” category, Resonance notes that while Las Vegas is “arguably the top trade show destination in North America,” it ranks only third in the convention center subcategory. In 2018, the report says, Las Vegas drew more than one million visitors who attended an annual convention. “But recently,” it says, “the city has been faced with competing destinations investing millions into their respective facilities to attract large shows that would otherwise be in Vegas.”

“In response, the report says “the [Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority] recently took the final step needed to begin construction on the Las Vegas Convention Center District’s Phase Two expansion.” The project is to be completed in time for CES in 2021 and when done, the Las Vegas Convention Center will span 200 acres.

Elsewhere on the convention-center front, the report notes that San Francisco “is gearing up for a stellar year of conventions and meetings at the newly expanded Moscone Center.”

And Miami Beach is pursuing events and conferences “aggressively” with the recent approval to lease public land for a privately funded convention headquarters hotel that will be connected to the revamped Miami Beach Convention Center. The future 800-room hotel, the report says, “is considered the missing ingredient in the destination’s meetings and convention package.”

Looking at the convention-center subcategory among small cities, Reno is separating itself from the pack, Resonance notes, adding that the city’s convention center ranks No. 2, just behind Atlantic City.

Meanwhile Resonance, which specializes in tourism, real estate, and economic development consulting for countries, cities, and communities, says that while it’s easy to become “blasé” about New York’s lock on the top spot, “the city is #1 so emphatically.” It, the study says, is first in categories ranging from universities to nightlife to shopping.

“Apart from a few deviations within the Top 10,” Resonance says, “New York is #1.”

The full 2019 America’s Best Cities Report is available to download at Resonance. All 100 cities are profiled at BestCities.org.

Top 10 Large Cities Overall

(more than 1 million people)

  1. New York
  2. Chicago
  3. Los Angeles
  4. San Francisco
  5. Washington, D.C.
  6. San Diego
  7. Las Vegas
  8. Miami
  9. Seattle
  10. Boston

Top 10 Large Cities for Product

(more than 1 million people)

  1. New York
  2. Chicago
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Las Vegas
  5. Orlando
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. Houston
  8. Philadelphia
  9. Atlanta
  10. Dallas

Top 10 Small Cities Overall

(fewer than 1 million people)

  1. Honolulu
  2. Omaha, Nebraska
  3. Charleston, South Carolina
  4. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  5. Tulsa, Oklahoma
  6. Reno, Nevada
  7. Asheville, North Carolina
  8. Colorado Springs
  9. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  10. Madison, Wisconsin

Top 10 Small Cities for Product

(fewer than 1 million people)

  1. Honolulu
  2. Albuquerque
  3. Reno
  4. Myrtle Beach
  5. Omaha
  6. Tulsa
  7. Charleston
  8. Durham, North Carolina
  9. Asheville
  10. Greenville, South Carolina

Cristi Kempf is executive editor of Convene. Curt Wagner is an associate editor.

best cities

Kayakers paddle past Hawaii Convention Center on Ala Wai Canal. The center helped Honolulu reach the No. 1 spot in Resonance Consultancy’s list of Best Small U.S. Cities. (Hawaii Tourism Authority/Dana Edmunds)