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Is Your City Smart? Ten Smartest Cities in America

Updated on October 30, 2012

Each year, Forbes magazine reports on the smartest cities in America so that those people who prefer to be around intelligent folks can plan their travel (or relocations) accordingly. To rank these cities, they look at the percentage of people age 25 and over who have at least a Bachelor's Degree.

It can certainly be argued that this isn't the best indication of a city's smarts. The number of "smart activities" (like museums), "smart jobs" (like tech jobs) and "smart planning" (like with eco-cities) should also be taken into consideration. However, these things tend to be directly correlated with higher education so it's safe to say that the Forbes list is at least somewhat accurate in depicting the smartest cities in the nation.

Usually Forbes just chooses the top ten smart cities to report on. For 2008, they went ahead and did a full twenty five. You can get the full list at the link above but here's a closer look at the top ten cities and what they have to offer to smart folks who might be thinking about going to check them out.

  • 1. Boulder, Colorado. Boulder is a mid-sized city that is home to two universities - the University of Colorado at Boulder and Nairopa University which is the only accredited Buddhist university in the United States. This combination of book smarts and spiritual smarts must be right somehow because this city has held the number one spot as the smartest city in the nation for more than one year in a row.
  • 2. Frederick, Maryland. This is another city that has led the way on the list of smartest cities for more than just one year; it's ranked number two out of more than 350 American cities for at least the past two years on the Forbes list. This is an area of the country that is rich with history which makes it appealing to people who are seeking to go on an educational vacation.
  • 3. Ithaca, New York. Ithaca is the home to Cornell University, an Ivy League school that certainly lends some smarts to the area. However, that's not all that makes this place smart. It's also one of the cities in America that is leading the way in becoming an eco-city. In a time when it's imperative that we reduce gas usage and try to support local economies, this action is one of the smartest things that a city can do.
  • 4. Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ann Arbor is a mid-sized city that is home to the University of Michigan. It's not just college students that make this place a smart city, though. It's also smart because of the development of some great smart jobs in the area. Biotechnology, high tech and education are leading sources of employment in this area. You have to be smart to be involved in any of those industries!
  • 5. Corvallis, Oregon. This is a small city near the Pacific Coast which is best known as the home of Oregon State University. This is a socially progressive city which is also known for its vegan and vegetarian population and its strong support of the creative arts. It's also politically an interesting place because of a strong anarchist movement there. It's certainly different from a lot of places in the country but that doesn't make it dumb; it's right there in top five on Forbes' list of smartest cities.
  • 6. Ames, Iowa. The main reason that people move to Ames is because they want to go to the University of Iowa. Although this is a state school and not an Ivy League school, it's a school with major programs in leading areas of industry. Science, Engineering and Design are a few of the popular professional fields that students from this area of the country enter into after graduation.
  • 7. Lawrence, Kansas. There are two different universities that are of interest in this city. The first is the University of Kansas which has great programs in business, law and medicine. The second is the Haskell Indian Nations University which is innovative in that it offers an entirely free college education to members of Native American tribes. Sometimes being socially smart is the most important kind of smart that you can be!
  • 8. Cambridge, Massachusetts. There are eight different universities in this small city including major universities like Harvard and MIT. It has been said that over one hundred of the nearly 800 people that have won the Nobel Prize have some sort of affiliation with one of the schools in this city. It's hard to find more proof of a city's smarts than that!
  • 9. San Francisco Bay Area. The San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley are known for being smart. This region serves as the hub for the computer and technology industry which is one of the most important industries in our nation today. This area is also widely known for being socially progressive which many people would also say contributes to the smart quotient for this city.
  • 10. Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa and is recommended as a great place to live not only because it's a smart city but also because it's been recognized by Forbes as one of the leading small cities for doing business in America today. One of the most interesting things for a smart traveler to check out is the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk which is a walking tour that takes you past a series of bronze plaques with quotes from almost fifty different recognized authors. What's most outstanding about this walk is that each of these authors comes from Iowa.

As you can see, there are smart cities all around the nation. They vary in size. You can live in an urban place or a small college town. You can live in an eco-city, a vegan haven or a major metropolitan area. And any of these places may be smart in one way or another. If you want to be surrounded by smart people (even if it's just for a quick vacation) then these are the ten cities that you're going to want to consider checking out.


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