2.1 million: Population (metro)
$106,000: Median home price
B-: Multisport grade
1 million: Pounds of goetta a German dish consisting of pork, beef, and steel-cut oats consumed locally each year
With its low cost of living and resilient and well-balanced blend of industries (everything from aerospace to advertising), Cincinnati topped our charts for best economy. But what about actually living there? For a local perspective, we turned to former Outside staffer Jay Stowe,a Cincinnati native who's now editor in chief of Cincinnati Magazine, for a (mostly) objective opinion. For starters, Stowe says, it's an incredibly easy city. The downtown is "very urban and completely walkable," and the city is ringed with green spaces, parks, and lush hillsides. The city council and mayor are trying mightily to get a streetcar line running through the urban core, a long-term cycling-infrastructure plan that will include a downtown bike-commuter complex is in the works, and ground has been broken on the Banks, an $800 million multi-use riverfront development that will change the face of the city. For its size, Stowe says, Cincinnati boasts "cool architecture, genuinely awesome independent restaurants, and neighborhoods full of affordable, eclectic houses and one of the country's biggest Oktoberfests, where people willingly don lederhosen and do the Chicken Dance totally unironically." Then there's its proximity to what Stowe refers to as a "vast inland adventure empire," by which he means Kentucky and West Virginia. The city is just two hours from Kentucky's Red River Gorge, a world-class climbing area (and a great place to hike and camp), and four hours from Fayetteville, West Virginia, the whitewater hub of the East Coast.