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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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  • craigmissuea profile image

    craigmissuea 7 years ago from USA

    I always had interest in getting to know the smartest cities. I am looking forward to visit at least five of them.

  • WestOcean profile image

    WestOcean 7 years ago from Great Britain

    A fascinating hub. Would be interesting to see this theme expanded to identify "smart hubs" in Europe and around the world...

  • profile image

    C. Olson 7 years ago

    FYI - Ames is home to Iowa State University; not the U of I which is located in Iowa City 90 miles away. Thanks.

  • profile image

    Kristin 8 years ago

    Ames, IA is home to Iowa State University, not the University of Iowa...

  • A2JinMI profile image

    A2JinMI 8 years ago from Ann Arbor, Michigan

    Nice to see Ann Arbor, Michigan recognized here. A lot of good things are happening in the city!

  • profile image

    Teddy 9 years ago

    Seattle?? Every other top 10 list on google has seattle at either #1 or #2...just saying

  • profile image

    Alison 9 years ago

    Hey Dutch! I currently live in Huntsville, AL. I was just wondering what city you live in & how many engineers your city has. Huntsville has so many that it almost gets annoying. What I mean by that is....I'm a Real Estate Agent, when you try to tell an engineers how to do something (i.e buy a house), it just backfires. Yes, there are tons of hillbilly rednecks in Alabama, but have you seen the movie The Stand? I suggest to anyone who makes fun of AL to watch it. Because when The Stand hillbilly rednecks will know how to live off the land and defend ourselves, because all we know how to do is blow stuff up with 2 ingredients....Gunpowder & Lead.

  • The Washingtonian profile image

    The Washingtonian 9 years ago from Washington, DC

    Being a Bostonian I was happy to see MA made it on the list!

  • Dumbledore profile image

    Dumbledore 9 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio

    I am glad they did not include Toledo, OH in the list.

  • desert blondie profile image

    desert blondie 9 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

    Nice info., I continue to be intrigued by #2 when I fantasize about living 'back East.' I've had the pleasure of living in #9...assuming it's all the reading people do while taking mass transit !

    And, to Dutch...having lived in Huntsville, AL...More engineers per capita than any town in the country...but they can't make a dent into helping this place get into a top ten of "smartest." But my neighbors there the best group of people I ever "lived with" in all the places I've been!

  • Karen Ellis profile image

    Karen Ellis 9 years ago from Central Oregon

    This is really interesting and gives me an idea - a series of hubs on the best or most of (whatever) cities in America. It could be really interesting to research and write.

  • dutch84 profile image

    dutch84 9 years ago

    Thanks for answering my request.

    I heard that Huntsville, Alabama has the most Aerospace Engineers. But it never shows up on any of these "Smartest Towns/Cities" lists. I guess everyone else in that town is like redneck farmers or something.