The Great American Road Trip

We started Sperling’s BestPlaces exactly 30 years ago, never dreaming it would ever become so widely recognized.

So, this seems like the perfect time to take a break from desk duties and head out on the road again to revisit our wonderful United States.

Starting from our home base in Oregon, my wife Gretchen and I will be driving across the U.S. in another episode of that great American institution – The Road Trip.

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Sperling’s Chill Cities

What are the best places in the U.S. to spend a cool, comfortable summer?

Summer heat and humidity can seem relentless, with no relief in sight.  Even moderately-high temperatures can be unbearable when combined with high humidity and nighttime temperatures that refuse to dip.

But there are places around the United States which are reliably cool and comfortable, even during the warmest months – July and August.  I used our new Sperling Heat Index to identify the places with the desirable combination of moderate daytime temps, low humidity, and cool temperatures at night.

Of the 50 largest metro areas in the United States, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco have the most comfortable summers, with mild temperatures, cool nights and humidity so low it’s barely noticeable.  (A full ranking of the 50 largest metros is at the end of this post, plus a ranking of  all 361 U.S. metros.)

Top Ten Chill Cities (of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas)

Rank Metro Daytime  high temp Nighttime low temp  Dew point Relative humidity at high temp
1 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 74.9 52.9 50.8 43%
2 Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA 79.2 53.2 51.6 38%
3 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 78.5 55.6 52.6 41%
4 Denver-Aurora, CO 83.3 53.4 46.3 28%
5 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 83.4 55.6 53.5 36%
6 Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY 80.3 60.0 59.3 49%
7 Salt Lake City, UT 88.5 57.1 39.8 18%
8 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 81.6 60.6 60.2 48%
9 Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI 82.3 60.8 59.3 46%
10 Pittsburgh, PA 82.7 60.3 60.2 47%

(full list of 50 at the end of this post)
Click here to get the all the supporting data in a spreadsheet, including high temperatures, nighttime temperatures, dew point and relative humidity

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Sizzling Cities ranked – our new Heat Index

Which metros suffer through the summer, and where do residents just chill out?

We just released our new Sperling Heat Index, and I’m pretty excited about it.  It not only uses the average summer high temperature, but also includes the nighttime low temperature and dew point (a measure of humidity).

Of the 50 largest metro areas in the United States, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Houston have the hottest summers, and Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland have the coolest. (A full list of the 50 metros is at the end of this post, and a ranking of all 361 U.S. metros is available for download here.)

Top Ten Sizzling Cities (of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas)

Rank Metro Heat Index Average high temp Nighttime low temp  Dew point Relative humdity at high temp
1 Phoenix-Mesa, AZ 97.7 104.5 77.0 55.7 20%
2 Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 94.4 103.1 75.2 42.2 13%
3 Dallas-Fort Worth, TX 92.4 94.9 73.1 67.5 41%
4 Houston-Sugar Land, TX 92.3 92.0 74.3 72.9 54%
5 Austin-Round Rock, TX 92.2 94.8 72.3 69.1 44%
6 San Antonio, TX 92.1 94.4 72.6 69.3 44%
7 Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL 92.0 90.3 75.3 73.1 57%
8 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 91.7 90.7 74.5 73.2 57%
9 Orlando-Kissimmee, FL 91.6 91.9 73.3 72.4 53%
10 Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL 91.5 90.8 73.9 73.0 56%

(full list of 50 at the end of this post)
Click here to get the all the supporting data in a spreadsheet, including high temperatures, nighttime temperatures, dew point and relative humidity.

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CBS News Features Sperling’s Natural Hazards Ranking

On Tuesday, June 18th, CBS Morning News will be doing a feature based on our rankings of all 379 U.S. metros areas for their risk from natural disasters.  According to the producers, it should air about 7:45am local time.

We compiled this list at the request of the New York Times, which wondered – in the face of all these calamities (tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods, extreme cold and heat, hail and stifling humidty), where could one go to have a reasonable expectation of safety from natural disasters?

Here are the top ten metros with the lowest risk of natural disasters.  (there is a full list of all 379 metros at the end of this post.)

1  Corvallis, OR
2  Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA
3  Bellingham, WA
4  Wenatchee, WA
5  Grand Junction, CO
6  Spokane, WA
7  Salem, OR
8  Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA
9  Yakima, WA
10 Olympia, WA

And continuing our list, here are the ten places with the greatest risk from natural disasters…

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Review – Triumph of the City

Triumph of the City
How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier
Edward Glaeser, PhD

In his widely acclaimed book, Dr. Glaeser extolls the virtues of large cities, in fact the bigger the better.  He explores how residents of the largest cities are healthier, wealthier, smarter, more productive, and greener than folks living in smaller places.

In his 270-page book, the author takes us on a tour of several of the world’s largest and most important cities to tell their story and help us understand what makes some cities thrive, while others (like Detroit) fail.

However, Dr. Glaeser is an economist, not an urbanist, and his examples and arguments seem simplistic and naïve when one is familiar with the forces influencing urban development.  He falls back on the popular practice of cherry-picking certain examples which illustrate his point.

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America’s Fittest Cities – ACSM

The annual American Fitness Index is well-intentioned but conflicting metrics dilute its focus.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has released their sixth annual American Fitness Index (AFI) which “evaluates the infrastructure, community assets and policies that encourage healthy and fit lifestyles in the 50 most populous metro areas in the United States.”

I’m going review their study and tell you what they did right, and where the ACSM could improve their analysis.  In fact, I’ll show you how in their effort to make a great study, they actually ended up making their index much weaker.

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Portland Just Got a Lot Weirder

Institution Incentivizes Indecency

(Okay, maybe the subtitle is a little hysterical but I’m a sucker for alliteration.)

Portland has this slogan “Keep Portland Weird” (which they stole from Austin, how lame is that?)  And as part of their celebration of weirdness, they have the annual Naked Bike Ride.  There is a World Naked Bike Ride, but Portland claims to have the largest, maybe 5,000 riders.

(At the end of this post, I’ve have links to photos and videos of the Portland ride.)

But this year it gets a little weirder, with the help of a venerable Portland institution.

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U.S. News names “Worst Places to Retire”

Another half-baked and misleading list from another site desperate to attract readers.

U.S. News recently released a list of The 10 Worst Places to Retire.  Wow, I thought, these places must be awful to be chosen as “the worst”.  They must have deadly air and water pollution, rampant crime, unchecked disease, unsafe nursing homes, no public transit, and are probably bankrupt to boot.

Actually, the U.S. News analysis consisted of only one criteria, the metro’s cost of living.  As the article explains their methodology, “Retiring  in a city with an inordinately high cost of living means you will have  to save more money and invest more successfully just to make ends meet.”

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Best Football Cities

Which city produces the most pro football players?  Either all-time or the modern era, it’s the same place.

It may not be our national pastime, but football is probably the most-followed sport in America.  It’s certainly got the biggest single game – pigskin fanatic or not, chances are you’ll be watching the Super Bowl this Sunday.

Cities that can lay claim to the title of Super Bowl Champion change every year, but are there places where football excellence has been consistent for decades?

We wondered too, and thought about what it means to be a great football town. We decided it’s more than wins and losses, attendance, and championships. Heck, maybe there isn’t even an NFL team in town.  More importantly, it’s where there’s touch games in the street, an old tire to throw to in every yard, and families spend their weekends at the Pop Warner field.

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Houston – The Place to Go?

Houston, TX

The New York Times announces “The 46 Places to Go in 2013

Now this is not just a list of interesting spots.  Oh, no.  This is a list of “THE” places you must visit, and because the places have been precisely and lovingly vetted and curated, there are exactly 46 of them.

Not 50 places, because any hack can throw together a list with a nice round number like that.  By choosing 46 locations, it lends an air of precision and perfection to the crafting of the list.

So check this out… At #7, out of all the places in the world, is Houston (yes, that Houston… Texas.)  Right after Rio, Marseille, Nicaragua, Accra (Ghana), Bhutan, and Amsterdam.  (“What’s in Houston?  Culture and food.”)

And the reason that their choice of Houston is interesting is that it was #1 in our list of the top 20 Coolest Cities in the U.S., which we did with Forbes in July 2012.

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