These Are America’s Cultural Capitals

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The United States is a big country, full of constantly evolving cultural microcosms. Most big cities and even many smaller towns have an identity of their own, based on historic sites, characteristic architecture, great restaurants (and first-rate street food), local musical styles, and communities of artists and writers. (For casual eating, consider the best diner in every state.) 

Drawing on their physical environment, the origins of their citizens, and the civic commitment to the arts, among other factors, these municipalities have developed personalities of their own that draw visitors who are looking for something different, something unique. These are America’s trendiest cities in 2021.

There are many different definitions of what constitutes “culture” — but to identify cities around the country that offer particularly extensive and dynamic cultural scenes, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data accumulated by Vacation Renter, a site offering advice on top locations for temporary stays. Based on ratings and reviews from Yelp, the site compiled data for the country’s 50 most populous cities, using a wide range of criteria to determine the extent of each one’s cultural riches. 

These included the number of museums, music venues, bookstores, parks, art galleries, and non-chain restaurants per 100,000 residents. Data was collected between April 2020 and January 2021. (Population numbers come from the American Community Survey’s 2019 five-year estimates.)