Forbes surprised more than a few people last week when it ranked Washington, D.C., the “coolest city in America.”
After taking a closer look at the criteria Forbes used when naming D.C. the epitome of cool, it makes sense. “I guess it really doesn’t surprise me. There’s tons of stuff to do in the area,” said Scott Davidson, 23, a resident of Columbia Heights. Forbes, in partnership with Sterling’s BestPlaces, used six data points of equal weight to quantify the “coolness” factor of the 60 largest cities and their surrounding suburbs in America.
The six data points were: arts and culture, recreation, diversity, local eats, population age and the net migration rate between 2010 and 2013.
D.C .won the title because it offers the complete package.
Cities like New York and New Orleans may have offered more exciting nightlife options, but lost out when it came to things like accessibility or diversity.
“I think [the Metro system] creates a lot of access to various things in the city,” said Hannah Orenstein, a 25-year-old D.C. transplant who lives in Adams Morgan. “It makes it a lot more amenable to finding cool places because it’s never a struggle to get there.”
Despite its ranking, D.C. isn’t perfect, say locals.
The high cost of housing in the area is something locals say cuts into the cool factor.“I tend to agree with a lot of the criticism that it’s New York prices for not New York quality,” said Davidson. However, he added that if you are willing to hunt, you can find a good deal. So when did D.C. become so cool?
Orenstein, who has been living in the area since 2007 and works at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, said she has seen the District improve since her undergrad days at George Washington University.
“Back in the day when we used to get off the metro to walk to the Black Cat, we would face a treacherous walk down 14th street. Now it’s a completely different look,” she said. Orenstein said watching the “hip evolution of D.C. is really neat” as the influx of young professionals has spurred the opening of many trendy new restaurants and bars.
According to the Forbes’ article, 30 percent of the city’s population is comprised of 20-34 year-olds. D.C. is up from its previous Forbes ranking as the second coolest city in America, dethroning Houston, Texas, for the top spot. “I wonder when you label something as cool, does it become uncool? I hope not,” wondered Orenstein. Only time will tell. Until then, it’s our time to shine.
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