I’m sure there are plenty of studies that show the best cities for Millennials. As aspiring young professionals, adventurists or potential first-time home buyers, Millennials are tasked with finding a great place to live at an affordable price that provides plenty of entertainment, food, culture and transportation – and I assure you, this is no easy task.
The Atlantic published an article entitled, “Why It’s So Hard for Millennials to Find a Place to Live and Work” and I thought to myself, “Why is it so hard?” Are we perhaps too narrow-minded and hung up on calling one of the “sexier” cities home? This got me thinking and led me to explore some of the other less popular destinations that may just be perfect for you both professionally and personally.
And I admit, a few of these are obvious choices. For instance, I wasn’t going to leave The Big Apple off a Top 10 city list… but some of the others may surprise you!
“Enzo’s Top 10” is going to be a monthly feature here as a part of MillennialCEO’s Lifestyle content, so please let me know via Twitter if there’s anything specific you’d like me to create a list for.
#10: Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore has charm. In fact, it’s nicknamed “Charm City.”
Looking for a ‘real’ city? Baltimore has the authenticity to crack the Top 10 of this list. It’s also the same reason Millennials are flocking here in droves.
One key aspect of the Millennial mindset is the desire to make a difference. And the good news? There are major green, sustainability and youth employment initiatives taking place in Baltimore. Unemployment for a big city is relatively low. There is also a great technology industry in the city, making it an awesome place to land your first tech job straight out of college.
Most people are attracted by the relatively low cost of living for a major city, as well as the educational opportunities for students. There are some unique employment opportunities in the area, and the public safety department is top notch. It’s definitely not perfect, but Baltimore is a city that demands your attention and has a lot to offer its residents.
#9: New Orleans, Louisiana
Who doesn’t love great food, amazing entertainment (in case you’ve been living under a rock, “NOLA” is internationally known for its Mardi Gras celebrations), oh, and a major regional hub for the healthcare industry?!
This is a perfect city for the Millennial looking for a less-congested major city without sacrificing the entertainment, job opportunities or paying through the nose. Fortunately, New Orleans median rent is under $900, allowing Millennials to afford a place on their own.
Enzo’s Tip: Don’t even think about leaving without trying the beignets at Cafe Du Monde! They will change your life.
#8: Tampa, Florida
Tampa?! Isn’t that “God’s Waiting Room?”
No longer, my friends.
In large part to the University of South Florida, the city has realized a 7% increase in Millennials. Not only are they coming to school here, but they’re sticking around afterwards!
And don’t be fooled: Tampa has an amazing entertainment and restaurant district downtown.
The average salary is over $47,000 which is 28% higher than the average amongst other Florida cities and towns.
With a low median rental cost of $946, Tampa cracks my Top 10 in style.
And who can forget the color of that Gulf of Mexico water?!
#7: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Say what you want about “Cheese Heads,” but Milwaukee has a high influx of employers, leading to plenty of new hires in the future.
There are a large number of service and finance companies setting up shop, making it a great destination for more than just blue collar workers. With a median rent of $736, Milwaukee is extremely affordable.
What about entertainment? Their baseball team isn’t called the Brewers for nothing. Boasting great breweries, Milwaukee is also great spot for beer snobs.
#6: Denver, Colorado
A great sports scene is just one of the many reasons Denver rounds out the bottom half of our list.
Denver is situated perfectly between the West Coast and large Midwest cities like Chicago, which makes it a great location for travelers, business people and personal adventure. It’s home to an amazing park system, some of the best winter sports in the country, as well as many local and national breweries – so you’ll always have plenty to do.
About the only thing that isn’t a mile high in Denver is the rent and unemployment rate (for a major city). Coming in at just under $800 for rent, the unemployment rate holds at 7%, making it an extremely affordable (and fun!) spot to live.
#5: Austin, Texas
Austin is arguably the Millennial mecca, which is the same reason it’s not the top pick on MY list. It’s definitely hard to ignore all the Millennial benefits to this city, so it would have been a disservice to not include it. From a thriving night-life to world class employers, Austin has plenty to offer young professionals.
Let’s take a look at the job situation: Austin is the headquarters for organic, natural foods retailer Whole Foods as well as the location for other major employers like Dell, Apple and Google. Thanks to the tech giants, the median income sits at just below $60,000. Job growth is strong and the Austin rental market is one of the top in the country for Millennials.
Another really cool fact about Austin is that it is environmentally sustainable (a huge factor amongst Millennials) and aims to be carbon neutral by 2020!
Last, and surely not least, is Austin’s fitness obsession! Equipped with the outdoor landscape that provides a backdrop for residents’ commitment to health, Austin was called the “No. 1 Fittest City in the U.S.” by the American College of Sport Medicine.
Enzo’s Tip: Check out some of the 206 parks near Austin, as well as other areas of green space where residents enjoy walks, including more than 50 miles of trails and 12 preserves.
#4: New York City
New York City is a brand – to leave it off the list would have been blasphemy. I just couldn’t see it at the top of the list due to the high cost of living here.
NYC is a great place for Millennials because no idea is too big, no outfit is too strange and it literally is a “melting pot” of all types of people from all over the world. Millennials undoubtedly put up with a financial struggle to live here for the long-term payoff.
Tech and software startups are right in the heart of venture capitalists, investors and smack dab in the middle of two of the world’s largest stock exchanges. While this may sound hectic to some, others love the fast-paced lifestyle only New York City can bring.
Enzo’s Tip: Spend a day (or four!) at the American Museum of Natural History. Visit during Christmas time to feel the magic, especially Bryant Park’s Winter Village. Oh, and go ice skating in Central Park! It’s vastly underrated but very magical. While walking the streets, make sure you also grab some roasted cashews or almonds from a street cart!
#3: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The only non-U.S city on this list, but for good reason – Matt Black, editor for MCEO Lifestyle, lives there! In fact, Matt says that he loves Toronto because, “it’s a safe, culture-stuffed city filled with smart, driven people who respect one another.” Oh and because there’s a restaurant called Poutineville.
Speaking of culture, nearly half of the population in Toronto was born outside of Canada. That also means it’s growing (and is now bigger than Chicago).
Cleanliness? This picture is just a small look into that, but says so much. Here is a Toronto subway stop, operated by the Toronto Transit Commission.
Last I checked, I’ve never seen that in NYC.
How about food? Well, if you are into Chinese food, there are six (count ’em: 6!) Chinatowns! Not into Chinese food? Go check out the St. Lawrence Market – it’s one of the best, if not the best in the world.
It’s got street cars like San Francisco and looks like New York City does in the movies. Speaking of the film industry, Toronto is one of the best actors in Hollywood, serving as a filming location for famous flicks such as “A Christmas Story,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Chicago,” “American Psycho,” “Mean Girls,” “Kick-Ass” and “X-Men,” with the hit TV series “Suits” also being shot there almost exclusively.
A short drive out of the city, and you are in wine country! Surrounded by beautiful lakes, cottages and not to mention, some massive waterfalls!
According to the Economist, Toronto is the safest city in North America and the eighth-ranked city in the world. Who doesn’t want to live in a safe place?
One of the best things about Toronto is that you can be in your bathing suit one minute, and your parka the next. For someone from New England, that doesn’t scare me one bit.
Enzo’s Tip: Move here as soon as you can, before everybody figures it out.
#2: Chicago, Illinois
And now I’m down to my last two.
Chicago, the “Second City” yet again. Believe me, it’s anything but a compromise. My friend, Lisa, a native Chicagoan, says this about her wonderful city:
“While there are dozens of reasons why Chicago is a great place to live, what makes it a great option for Millennials is how affordable it is in comparison to other large cities. Here, you can find a great one bedroom apartment in a trendy neighborhood for the same price you’d pay to live in a cramped apartment with a few room mates in New York or San Francisco. Additionally, the city’s great public transportation make it easy to live here without a car. The art, culture, dining, cultural diversity, architecture, and the fact that it was voted America’s Best Drinking City are all added bonuses.”
Well said, Lisa!
In the Wicker Park section of the city, crime has gone down and there has been a steady influx of bars, restaurants and stores that Millennials love.
In terms of transportation, it may not be quite on par with New York City, but it’s pretty cheap to get anywhere on the train.
Chicago is famous for its food – not only as a gourmet dining mecca, but as the home of several local specialties. If you want a real Chicago experience, you have to try the staples: Chicago deep-dish pizza, the classic Chicago-style hot dog and the Italian beef. Everyone has their personal favorites, so you’ll have to figure that out on your own.
I love the small town feel of neighborhoods like Streeterville and Wrigleyville. Even the touristy areas aren’t overwhelming to the point where you feel claustrophobic.
Enzo’s Tip: Catch a game at Wrigley and grab a pizza at one of Lou Malnati’s locations.
#1: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
This was a hard choice for me.
Ultimately, the cleanliness of Pittsburgh beat out Chicago… but it was a tough one.
Yes, I know: “Enzo, you’re a fu**ing Steelers fan!” And as I sit here sipping coffee from my Steelers mug, with my Pirates hat on under my Clemente Bridge photo, I couldn’t be prouder to have the Steel City as #1 on my list.
This city is a championship town built on the backs of winners and blue-collared steel workers who vowed to leave and never come back.
But they were wrong.
Pittsburgh is clean, friendly and full of history. It’s really easy to navigate and get around. There’s also plenty of culture, much of which is deeply rooted in their love of food and sports.
Affordability? It ranks in the Top 10 in terms of cost of living index (where it comes in at 95.6). The Steel City’s neighborhoods have transformed.
Pittsburgh is home to several universities leading many major companies to set up operations here to benefit from the knowledge base of some of the most respected research operations in the world.
Enzo’s tip: Check out the Shadyside neighborhood. Plenty to do, lots of shops, and affordable housing (median rent is $672), making it a great choice for Millennials. Oh, and make sure you walk the Clemente Bridge to a Pirates game while you’re at it.
Be sure to tune in next week to Enzo’s Top Ten: Watches for Every Occasion
Have you visited or lived in any of these cities? Would love to hear from you. Join in the conversation here, on Twitter or anywhere you can find me and don’t forget to come back every month as I reveal a new Enzo’s Top 10.
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