When it comes to cool, we already know that the major cities have it on lock. NYC, LA, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco—we recognize your cool cred. America’s small and mid-size cities are stepping up, giving the big metropolises a run for their trend-setting money. The cities on this list landed on our radar for interesting festivals, thriving art scenes, young and fresh demographics, and a hunger for the hipper things in life—from foodie districts to contemporary galleries. To determine the cream of the crop of cool cities to visit in the U.S., we then ranked them with the following criteria:

Scoring system:

-  1 point for Lyft
-  1 point farmers market; or 2 points for more than 1
-  1 point for 7+ all-service restaurants per 10,000 capita
-  2 points for making Zagat’s Best Food Cities 2016 list
-  2 points for an arts district or bar/restaurant district
-  2 points for more than 30% population between the ages 20-34*
-  2 points for being less than 2 hours from a big city
-  2 points for Sperling’s Best Places crime rating of less than 50 out of 100|
-  4 points for 5+ museums/major galleries
-  4 points for music/arts/food & drink festival (2 bonus points for 10 + festivals)
-  4 points for AreaVibes livability score over 70

Total possible: 28 points

Chattanooga, Tennessee
Flying SquirrelThere’s more to Tennessee’s coolness cred than the music venue-strewn streets of Nashville. Sure, Scenic City is pretty to look at, but it’s got plenty of substance, too.


  • There is a fine tradition of good spirits around these parts, and feel free to imbibe at one of the best bars in town, Flying Squirrel Bar, because you can always take a Lyft home.
  • The higher than average number of restaurants per capita means you certainly won’t go hungry. You can’t go wrong at Urban Stack or Public House.
  • Chattanooga is the perfect home base for festivals such as Chattanooga Film Fest, 4 Bridges Arts Festival, and nearby Bonnaroo.


Total score: 10 points

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Published by Expedia Viewfinder on February 21, 2017: Written by Lily Rogers