It’s easy to associate whole states with a single metropolis: Say New York, and most folks think of the Big Apple, just as Nevada summons images of the Las Vegas Strip. But for those who actually live in the states that contain these cities, the perception can seem a little simplistic. Why overlook value and variety elsewhere in the state and let a single place hog all the glory? After all, America is home to hundreds of charming smaller cities, and many offer costs of living far below that of major hubs. When you really ask locals, do they feel their state’s most prominent city is worthy of its hype?
We performed that experiment for you, asking residents to pick the most overrated and underappreciated cities in their own states. Our survey included more than 2,500 Americans hailing from every state in the U.S. Ready to see how their opinions compare to national reputations? Keep reading.
The Most Overrated Cities in America
In the majority of states, the city residents identified as overrated most often was also the town most familiar to the general public: take Indianapolis for Indiana, or Chicago in Illinois. Interestingly, however, the most overrated city was a matter of relative agreement in some states, whereas others expressed more mixed opinions. In Louisiana, for instance, 65 percent of residents identified New Orleans as the most overrated city. In Washington, two-thirds of locals picked Seattle. But in Michigan, the most common response (Detroit) received just 20 percent of residents’ votes. The same trend was true in Missouri, where St. Louis got a plurality with just 21 percent of residents’ pick.
In some states with multiple large urban areas, resident opinion was particularly telling. Los Angeles was deemed most overrated by Californians, although San Francisco has quite a reputation as well. Similarly, Austin came in for the most criticism in Texas, whereas Dallas or Houston could have been contenders as well. Elsewhere, residents passed up their capital cities to diss other places: Colorado picked Boulder over Denver, and Utah identified Provo as opposed to Salt Lake City.
The Most Underrated Cities in America
When asked which cities they felt were most underrated, residents of each state named their local favorites. Some of the most common choices were actually the very same cities deemed most overrated, such as Detroit and Tulsa. Others were names most Americans would recognize, such as San Diego, California, which has recently gained a glowing reputation for its weather and culture. Elsewhere, cities sometimes overshadowed by their better-known neighbors shined: Pittsburgh beat out Philly, and Buffalo trounced New York City as well.
Some of our most interesting findings, however, included places most Americans would struggle to place on a map. These included largely unknown outposts such as Pocatello, Idaho (home to the Museum of Clean), and Gilbert, Arizona (once known as the Hay Capital of the World). Congratulations, Winooski, Vermont, and Spearfish, South Dakota – you win both the approval of your state and our unofficial contest for most creative names. We hope our findings bring you more acclaim – without spoiling your undiscovered appeal.
Use the search box in the interactive table below to see your state’s most overrated and underrated city side-by-side.
|State||Overrated City||Underrated City|
|California||Los Angeles||San Diego|
|Iowa||Des Moines||Iowa City|
|Mississippi||Jackson||Ocean Springs/ Hattiesburg/Biloxi (Tied)|
|Missouri||St. Louis||Kansas City|
|New Jersey||Hoboken/Atlantic City (Tied)||Jersey City/Cape May (Tied)|
|New Mexico||Santa Fe||Las Cruces|
|New York||New York City||Buffalo|
|South Dakota||Sioux Falls||Spearfish|
|Utah||Provo||Salt Lake City|
Rating Our Own Cities
Of course, those with the strongest opinions of a city’s reputation and reality may be those who inhabit it. Of all those surveyed, 77 percent did not hail from either the city they called most overrated or the one they deemed most underrated, an indication they may be more unbiased in their opinions. Nearly 8 percent said they lived in the city they voted most overrated, however – a hard call to make about the town you call home. Conversely, 15 percent resided in the city they voted most underrated. Hey, who can blame them for expressing some hometown pride with their picks?
To Each Their Own (Home)
While our results will certainly stir up a little rivalry within each state, it’s important to note no single rating can encompass the appeal of any city. From varying tastes to personal considerations like friends and family, so many variables contribute to how much (or little) we enjoy the place we live. So don’t set your sights on a new location based on any vague impression. The way you engage your city may matter as much as what it can offer you.
No matter where you live currently, however, you’ll need a place you’re proud to call your own. That’s where RENTCafé can really help, with comprehensive rental listings that are updated constantly. We’ll make the whole process so easy that you may just start thinking finding a new apartment is underrated.
To create the charts shown above, we surveyed 2,587 Americans in all 50 states solicited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and Reddit postings for states with inadequate Mturk responses. We asked individuals to only answer questions relating to their primary state of residence. We asked the same series of questions and collected short-answer responses from each respondent. We then analyzed the answers and organized and grouped similar answers where appropriate. We did our best to collect similar amounts of residents from each state, although some states had more representation than others. All states had at least 30 responses, but some had more than others due to response rates in certain states. Counts of responses from each state listed in the table below:
The content above is intended solely as entertainment and should not be considered an academic, scientific, or educational piece. While the content above was collected, analyzed, and presented as accurately as possible, there are limitations to our findings. While we did our best to include all answers, the variation in answers, spellings, and interpretation of responses was largely subjective. We could not ask those surveyed follow-up questions as to the meaning of their answers, so some groupings and judgment calls were made as to the meaning of answers. Because of the sample size, these figures may not represent the opinions of all members of a state and are only a small sampling.
Fair Use Statement
Want to rep your state and share our results? That’s fine as long as it’s for noncommercial purposes. We ask only that you cite RENTCafé and provide a link back to this page when you do.