Best Cities for Geek Culture Fans: Orlando FL, Seattle, WA, and Salt Lake City, UT, Make a Bid to Be Bastions of Geekdom

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  • Orlando, FL, emerges as the best city for geek culture enthusiasts, due to a combination of interest in pop culture, like-minded people, geek-friendly employment options, many comic cons, and more.
  • Gaming jobs pay highest in the San Jose metro area – $214K/year – while techies have a shot at getting fat paychecks in the Bay Area – $142K/year.
  • The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area has the most gaming workers (15%)

In a world where quoting Yoda or mentioning which Hogwarts house you belong to serve as conversation starters, geek culture seems to have “conquered the Iron Throne” as the newest kid on the pop culture scene.

But the road to nerdy bliss is not without its challenges, even as fantasy, sci-fi and wearing thick-rimmed glasses have become mainstream. Much is related to the environment we’re living in, and the truth is that some places are better positioned than others to provide a rich experience for fans of geek culture.

If you’re searching for a new place to call home that caters to the tastes of geek culture enthusiasts, look no further. Our research team – who happen to have dropped by every filming location for Game of Thrones – analyzed over 300 cities with populations of over 100K to identify the ideal destinations for those who want to fully embrace their passions. The final ranking is based on a combined score that includes the following metrics:

  • Interest in geek and pop culture among local residents based on online searches for specific keywords including flagship movies, games and activities (comic book stores, “Dungeons and Dragons,” “Star Wars,” “Game of Thrones,” “Harry Potter,” “Batman” and “Stranger Things”).
  • A local employment scene offering good chances at finding a job in a “geeky” field (media, film, art & fashion, gaming, tech, science and finance) and the potential of high earnings in the area.
  • The percentage of locals holding a BA degree or higher.
  • The number of physical bookstores, gaming stores, comic bookstores, comic cons, costume stores, art supply stores, music stores and movie theaters per city.
  • The cost of living index.
  • Access to apartment units that come with geek-oriented community amenities (game rooms, media rooms, card rooms, art studios, on-site movie theaters, bocce ball courts and libraries).

We’ve also discussed self storage availability and rates, as people tend to turn to the service for keeping costumes, comic books, collections and other paraphernalia. If you remember what Sheldon Cooper’s storage unit looked like you will have an idea about what (not) to put into storage!

All things considered, Orlando, FL, emerges as the premier location for geek culture buffs, solidifying the Sunbelt as the dominant region with the highest number of spots in the coveted top-20 ranking, 8 cities in total. But there’s a bastion of geekdom in nearly every corner of the US.

Without further ado, here are the best places for geek culture aficionados, where cultural offerings combine with economic appeal for a comfortable lifestyle.

Orlando, FL, sets a perfect stage for geek culture fans, along with other Sunbelt hubs

If you want to let your geek flag fly high, there's no better place than Orlando, FL, as the city combines a high quality of life with a wide range of nerd-friendly amenities. It plays host to Universal Orlando and Disney World, which also touch upon the Marvel, Star Wars and Harry Potter universes. This gives the city a wide array of nerdy interests, making it a great destination for many types of fandoms.

Lake Eola Amphitheather Orlando FL

Lake Eola Amphitheater in Orlando, FL

The job market is also friendly to techies in Orlando. Roughly 3.1% of locals work in a gaming-related position that brings them an income that’s 90% higher the average local salary. Besides gaming, finance workers make up close to 3% of the workforce here, outearning the average-salaried Orlandoans by 51%. Media employees – which make up 1.4% of the local workforce – earn about 40% more than other local professionals.

And when the workday is over, pop culture buffs can easily indulge in their passions at home as most rental communities now come with lifestyle-oriented amenities. In fact, among the 300 largest cities in the US, Orlando ranks a strong 6th for offering renters easy access to card rooms. Libraries and media rooms are also widely available across Orlando apartment buildings.

Best cities for card rooms and bocce ball_pop-culture amenities in apartments

The comic book fandom is also strong in Orlando, reflected in both local’s interest in the topic and the several events in the city where they can play out their cosplay fantasies. The City Beautiful comes first for Google searches related to both regular bookstores and specialist comic bookstores with, respectively, 7.9 and 2.4 searches per 1,000 residents. As the city is home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it is not surprising that Orlando comes first in the country for Google search interest related to the wizard of Hogwarts. The city also hosts no less than 26 comic cons, making it easy for fans of the genre to meet fellow hobbyists. In addition, the local self storage sector is well equipped to provide extra space for storing collections, memorabilia or anything else that might clutter up a home. Renting an Orlando, FL, storage unit costs an average of $133/month for a 10’x10’ climate-controlled unit.

Additionally, there is a strong gaming culture in the city, as Google interest for “game stores near me” seems to indicate: there are 1.6 searches per 1,000 people, triple what other cities get on average.

Still in the South, Atlanta, GA, is another nerd-friendly place. With the city both being a growing tech hub and having risen to prominence as a filming location, it only makes sense that it has a strong enthusiasm for techies and pop culture. And the city’s connection with geeky movies is evident, its denizens being especially interested in the “Stranger Things” universe, based on searches for this term (Google Trends gives it 86 points out of 100). With over 40% of locals having a bachelor’s degree, tech workers here bring home about $102K annually, while the 4.7% of Atlanta residents employed in gaming earn an average of $111K/year.

View of downtown Atlanta, GA

View of downtown Atlanta, GA

Alongside all the tech, the nerdy side of Atlanta is also witnessed through the locals’ love of books, as the city registers almost six times more Google searches for “book store near me” than the average for the cities in our ranking. Stories of superheroes and villains clearly often capture Atlantans’ imaginations, as interest in comic book stores is particularly high in the city. And then there’s the lively cosplay environment that’s keeping fans entertained — DragonCon and Momocon are among the biggest events hosted in the city — plus there is The Georgia Renaissance Festival, one of the largest renaissance fairs in the country where ladies and knights can revel in action role-playing.

For geek-culture fans, it's all fun and games when they get home too, with apartment living also including access to lifestyle amenities including game rooms, libraries, media rooms, music rooms and bocce ball courts.

Bocce ball court in the summer in Atlanta, GA

Bocce ball court in the summer

Raleigh, NC, also found its place among the hotspots for people having nerdy interests. The city provides a great setting for putting gaming skills to work – and it also pays off. Roughly 6.2% of the local population works in gaming and the average income in the field is nearly $115K, 90% more than the average income in the city. Finding a job in finance or media is also easy in Raleigh and these professions pay well too, $86K and $73K per year, respectively. Overall, more than 37% of the local population holds a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to a national average of around 25%.

But life after work is what makes Raleigh an exciting city. From larger events like sensational comic cons to snug bookstores and eye-catching comic book stores, there’s something for everyone here. Moreover, Raleigh offers a nice selection of pop-culture-friendly apartments with access to game rooms, media rooms and libraries. And as Raleigh is the best city for roommates, sci-fi and fantasy fans who shack up together can take their hobbies even further as sharing makes them even more enjoyable.

Seattle, WA, lands 2nd spot as enchanted land for geek culture buffs

Seattle, WA, is a haven for techies and gadget lovers, offering a friendly atmosphere to dive into geeky interests. The Emerald City has one of the highest percentages of college-educated people among its population (52%), and many of them work in gaming (8.5%). There is a high concentration of gaming developer companies in Seattle, which goes hand in hand with a high online interest for gaming (1 search/1,000 ppl), double the average among the cities in our list.

Besides gaming, nerds wouldn’t be nerds without their comics. They can visit the Golden Age Collectables in Seattle — said to be the oldest comic bookstore in the world — in search of comics, figurines or vintage toys. The local interest in comics is closely connected to the love “Star Wars” receives here as shown by Google searches – Seattle boasts an online interest of 81 out of 100 for the term. The wizarding world of “Harry Potter” also has Seattleites under its spell, with local enthusiasm for the series above what many other cities in the nation experience.

Seattle downtown skyline and Mt. Rainier, Washington

Seattle downtown skyline and Mt. Rainier, Washington

Moreover, with its longstanding tradition of supporting bookworms and fostering a love of the written word, it may come as no surprise that Seattle scores very high for interest in bookstores (5 online searches/1,000 ppl). For Seattle Independent Bookstore Day, a dozen or more bookstores partake in this free citywide event, featuring readings, speakers and much more – a spectrum of distractions that should make any pop culture fans head out the door.

There are several comic con conventions in the city where cosplay lovers can unite, with Sakura-Con, GeekGirlCon and Emerald City Comic Con among the most popular. You can also visit the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, home to permanent exhibitions such as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

Staying in close proximity to Seattle, it turns out that Tacoma, WA, also found its place among the hotspots for pop culture enthusiasts. The love for sci-fi and fantasy runs deep here, with online interest for "Star Wars" being one of the highest among the cities we analyzed. Similarly, “Dungeons and Dragons” also won the affection of locals, based on online interest. Gaming and reading are also an integral part of the local nerdy scenery, with Tacoma registering a high number of online searches for “bookstores near me” and “game stores near me”.

The local job market is also promising for people with nerdy interests in Tacoma. Media-related jobs can bring in a hefty income of 114K/year, 44% more than what you’d typically earn in Tacoma. Working in the film industry can also be rewarding, as you could earn about 92K/year in Tacoma.

Salt Lake City claims 3rd spot for featuring a thriving geek culture scene

Salt Lake City, UT, is definitely a pop-culture-friendly place, thanks to a variety of reasons. A little over 35% of its population aged 25+ holds a bachelor's degree, with great chances of finding pop culture buffs among them. Gaming culture is particularly strong in SLK – both in the workplace and as a hobby. Roughly 4.6% of the local workforce is employed in gaming, and the city comes first for online searches related to game stores.

Besides gaming, locals are deeply connected to the sci-fi and fantasy universes of more than one TV series. Salt Lake City has in fact shown the strongest enthusiasm for “Stranger Things” and “Star Wars,” with the city achieving a maximum score, beating all other cities for online searches for both of these universes. “Harry Potter” also bewitched the locals’ minds and hearts, scoring the second-highest interest for the topic among the 300 cities we looked at. Reading is also very popular among Salt Lake City residents, with about 3.6 searches for “bookstores near me,” a figure more than double the average across the cities we ranked.

The Crossroads of the West also offers events such as The Fanx Salt Lake Comic and Pop Culture Convention and Anime Town Utah — events that allow geeks to gather and celebrate their interests.

Once you’re done roaming the city for nerdy adventures, you can easily continue the fun at home as many apartment buildings now offer access to libraries, game rooms and media rooms.

Several Texas locations also find their spot in the Geek Hall of Fame

Texas is home to more than one hotspot for techies. In fact, the Lone Star State is represented by five cities in the top 20, with Austin, in particular, shaping up to be an excellent place to celebrate all things nerdy. Locals can earn the highest incomes in tech, which generates about $113K/year, followed by gaming, where average earnings reach $109K/year. They can also make a comfortable income in local media, with $86K in annual earnings.

One of the favorite pastimes of pop culture fans in Austin is exploring the worlds of "Game of Thrones" and "Dungeons and Dragons", as online activity related to these topics suggests. Interest in “game stores” is also strong in Austin, and there are several places around town where gamers can fuel their passion, including “I Luv Video,” one of the largest independently owned video game stores in the city.

Living up to its official motto of “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin also has more music stores than many other cities in the ranking and it also plays host to Greater Austin Comic Con, one of the many conventions where nerds can share their talent for cosplaying.

Aerial view of downtown Austin, TX

Aerial view of downtown Austin, TX

Plano is yet another place that smiles upon inveterate nerds, thanks to a flurry of features that cater to nerdy tastes and interests. in particular shaping up to be an excellent place to celebrate all things nerdy. About 5% of Plano residents work in gaming, bringing in about $110K/year – 80% more than the average local salary. Professional life aside, many locals have a vested interest in pop culture as Plano is ahead of most other cities in the nation for searches related to “games stores near me” and science fairs per 1,000 residents. The social setting is also just about right for nurturing interest in the fantasy and sci-fi worlds, as the city plays host to 13 comic cons celebrating all things geeky.

Allen is also a place in Texas that caters to pop culture enthusiasts. Close to 40% of locals have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher and science enjoys a sweet spot in local’s hearts with about 0.9 online searches for science fairs per 1,000 locals, the third-highest number when population is factored in.

Denver, CO, holds on to its reputation as an exciting geeky hotspot

Colorado is also jumping on the pop culture bandwagon, with Denver representing the state with its welcoming atmosphere for enthusiasts. First, if you’re looking to be in the company of cosplayers dressed as Chewbacca or Star Troopers, Denver, CO, is probably the most likely city in the state to encounter one. The city has a long history of celebrating nerd culture, having hosted the first “Star Wars” fan fete in 1999, after the release of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.” The city continues to be a bastion for the “Star Wars” fandom, with many local fans exploring the topic online — Google Trends data puts interest at a high 74 points out of 100 for Star Wars-related searches. Besides sci-fi movies, Denverites are also taken with fantasy series – the city registers similar interest in “Game of Thrones” (71 points out of 100).

The job market is also favorable for techies. Roughly 5.5% of the workforce is employed in gaming, outearning the regular Denverite by over 70%, with an annual paycheck of about $122K. Tech and media also offer good chances of decent earnings, the former offering the heftier average paycheck of $114K/year and the latter paying nearly $95K per year.

Panorama of Denver skyline

Panorama of Denver skyline

Online interest for bookstores in Denver shows that reading is held in high esteem: there are 5.1 searches per 1,000 people for the topic locally whereas most cities in our ranking average 1.6 searches per 1,000 for the same query. Local pop culture buffs can also easily congregate with other like-minded people, as Denver has more comic cons than you can imagine. Fan Expo Denver, Colorado Anime Fest and Rocky Mountain Con are just some of the events that the town puts on for fantasy and sci-fi fans.

Pittsburgh flies the geek flag for the Rust Belt

Further up north, Pittsburgh, PA, is another excellent place to celebrate all things nerdy. About 3.2% of the local workforce is employed in gaming, earning about $98K/year, 71% more than the average local employee. No less than 3.1% of the locals are employed in finance and 1.5% work in tech. The latter bring home over $103K annually, 80% more than the average worker here earns. It’s no surprise that many locals are working in nerdy white-collar fields, as more than a third of Pittsburgh’s population has a bachelor's degree or beyond. The city is home to higher education institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and several other colleges.

Locals have a high interest in the pop culture universe with around 3.3 Google searches for comic bookstores, one of the highest scores in our ranking. "Dungeons and Dragons" also seems to be popular among Pittsburghers, as the city registered an online search index of 50 for this topic.

Downtown skyline of Pittsburgh, PA at sunset

Downtown skyline of Pittsburgh, PA at sunset

Portland, OR, can also be all fun and games

Heading west can be a good idea if you’re looking for some other pop culture hotspots. Besides San Diego and San Francisco, other cities here have also started to stand out for their nerd-friendly environment, with some places outside of California fitting the bill. Portland, OR, is not only a green city but also a pop-culture-friendly place thanks to a mixture of factors.

Many of the locals are college educated – no less than 41% – and the job market is diverse enough to support nerd-oriented professions. The city mixes a tech side – earning it the Silicon Forest nickname – with a creative side, providing a balanced mix of job options. About 2.2% of locals work in tech, 4.2% in gaming and close to 2% of them are employed in local media. Tech employees bring home about $115K/year, while those working in gaming get paid about $110K/year – some of the highest average incomes locally.

Among the many events and activities nurturing the locals’ passion for geek culture, “Rose City Comic Con,” “Kumoricon” and “Fan Expo Portland” are some of the best.

Earning big in geeky fields: which professions lead the way?

While above-average access to comic bookstores, gaming stores, comic cons and other nerdy amenities is an important signal about a city’s ability to cater to pop culture enthusiasts, the affordability component is no less important — the high cost of living in a city can only be offset if you’re bringing in sufficient earnings. To see which professions and which locations can yield the discretionary income for people to pursue their hobbies and interests, we looked at how much jobs pay in “geeky” fields such as media, music, film, art and fashion, gaming, tech, finance and science.

As it turns out, gaming and tech are the areas that can bring you the highest earnings, $116K/year for the former and $107K/year for the latter, on average.

Cities in the San Jose metro area have the highest incomes in the gaming sector

With Silicon Valley located in California, it’s no wonder that the state has the highest concentration of high-earning cities in gaming. You can bring home over $214K/year whether you live in Santa Clara, San Jose or Sunnyvale, with the metro area leading the country as the host of the largest concentration of locals working in gaming (15%). You get the second-highest paycheck ($167K/year) for gaming-related jobs in the San Francisco metro area, whether you live in Berkeley, CA, San Francisco, CA, or Concord, CA.

The San Francisco metro area has the highest-paying tech jobs

Unsurprisingly, Californian cities also come out on top for tech jobs. In fact, the San Francisco metro area has the fattest paychecks at an average of $142K/year in San Francisco proper, Berkeley, CA, or Concord, CA. The second-highest paychecks in tech professions ($132K/year) can be earned in the San Jose metro area, in cities such as Santa Clara, San Jose and Sunnyvale.

Salt Lake City, UT, spearheads online interest in gaming

While geeks have many interests, gaming always seems to be a very strong one. Rising to prominence thanks to the internet, which removed the need for clunky equipment, gaming has become popular with a large chunk of the population. In fact, 75% of households have at least one player and 64% of adults play video games, based on Entertainment Software Association estimates. Moreover, the gaming industry is bringing in more profits than the movie and music industries combined.

As such, we thought it noteworthy to see in which places gamers are likely to congregate, based on online Google searches for “game store near me.” As it turns out, the gaming crown is awarded to Salt Lake City, UT, with 2.4 searches per 1,000 locals. And it’s no coincidence, as Salt Lake City is home to several gaming companies, including Epic Games, Wildworks and Red Games Co. Following closely behind are Westminster, CO (1.8 searches/1,000 ppl), and Minneapolis, MI (1.7 searches/1,000 ppl).

Self storage helps fans of geek culture to keep their costumes, collectibles and more safely away from home

Geek culture enthusiasts are famously collectors of things, be they comic books, costumes or movie props. While keeping some of these items at home promotes hobby enjoyment, they require extra space and special conditions to be stored in order to preserve them in tip-top condition. That seems to be even more relevant in the case of collectibles, which are often delicate. In this case, keeping them at home poses logistical and safety challenges.

Alternatively, turning to self storage can be a viable solution, especially if you place items in a climate-controlled unit. Rates for these units vary depending on location, while the national average rate is $144/month. For instance, renting such a storage unit in Honolulu, HI, ($343/month) can come with a higher price, as does a New York City, NY, storage unit ($373/month). Other cities, including some of the best cities for geeks, come with lower rates. Getting a climate-controlled storage unit in San Antonio, TX, calls for $124/month while in Minneapolis, MN, and Cleveland, OH, they cost $110/month and $127/month, respectively.

Self Storage Rates in 300 Biggest Cities 

RankCity, StateSelf Storage Rent*
1Amarillo, TX$90
2West Jordan, UT$92
3Oklahoma City, OK$95
4Sterling Heights, MI$96
5Olathe, KS$98
6Des Moines, IA$100
7Omaha, NE$102
8Chattanooga, TN$103
9Augusta, GA$105
10Lansing, MI$106
11Irving, TX$107
11Surprise, AZ$107
11Broken Arrow, OK$107
11Winston-Salem, NC$107
15Indianapolis, IN$108
15Akron, OH$108
18Raleigh, NC$109
18Rio Rancho, NM$109
18Independence, MO$109
18Pasadena, TX$109
22Minneapolis, MN$110
23Round Rock, TX$111
23Wichita, KS$111
25Concord, NC$112
25League City, TX$112
25Louisville, KY$112
28Mobile, AL$113
28Killeen, TX$113
30Cincinnati, OH$114
30Aurora, CO$114
30Highlands Ranch, CO$114
30Garland, TX$114
34Murfreesboro, TN$115
34Kansas City, KS$115
34Grand Rapids, MI$115
37Cary, NC$116
37Arlington, TX$116
37El Paso, TX$116
40Allen, TX$117
40Tulsa, OK$117
40Memphis, TN$117
40North Charleston, SC$117
40Spring Valley, NV$117
40Las Cruces, NM$117
46Norman, OK$118
46Gilbert, AZ$118
48Fort Worth, TX$119
48Elgin, IL$119
48Joliet, IL$119
48North Las Vegas, NV$119
48Columbus, GA$119
53Aurora, IL$120
53Columbia, SC$120
53Lincoln, NE$120
53Spokane, WA$120
53Baton Rouge, LA$120
53Fort Wayne, IN$120
61Lewisville, TX$121
61Lakewood, CO$121
61Durham, NC$121
61St. Louis, MO$121
61Naperville, IL$121
67Lubbock, TX$122
68Plano, TX$123
68Las Vegas, NV$123
68Chandler, AZ$123
68Henderson, NV$123
68Chesapeake, VA$123
68Lafayette, LA$123
74San Antonio, TX$124
74Colorado Springs, CO$124
74Charlotte, NC$124
74Houston, TX$124
74Meridian, ID$124
74Vancouver, WA$124
80Albuquerque, NM$125
80Brandon, FL$125
84Overland Park, KS$126
84Dayton, OH$126
84Lee's Summit, MO$126
84Peoria, AZ$126
89Grand Prairie, TX$127
89Columbus, OH$127
89Carrollton, TX$127
89Cleveland, OH$127
89Wilmington, NC$127
89Provo, UT$127
95Birmingham, AL$128
96Frisco, TX$129
96Denton, TX$129
96Baltimore, MD$129
96Pearland, TX$129
101Tucson, AZ$130
101Mesa, AZ$130
101Waco, TX$130
101Spring Hill, FL$130
101Spokane Valley, WA$130
107Centennial, CO$131
107Eugene, OR$131
109Huntsville, AL$132
110Orlando, FL$133
110Dallas, TX$133
110Kansas City, MO$133
110Glendale, AZ$133
110Mesquite, TX$133
110Sioux Falls, SD$133
110New Bedford, MA$133
110Lynn, MA$133
110Jackson, MS$133
120Pittsburgh, PA$134
120Knoxville, TN$134
120Richardson, TX$134
120Allentown, PA$134
124Sugar Land, TX$135
124Bakersfield, CA$135
126Jacksonville, FL$136
126The Woodlands, TX$136
126Boise, ID$136
126Little Rock, AR$136
126Stockton, CA$136
131New Orleans, LA$137
131Reno, NV$137
131Moreno Valley, CA$137
134Ontario, CA$138
134South Bend, IN$138
137San Bernardino, CA$139
138Richmond, VA$140
138Tempe, AZ$140
138Roseville, CA$140
138Sparks, NV$140
138Fayetteville, NC$140
138Macon, GA$140
138Corona, CA$140
145Sandy Springs, GA$141
145Virginia Beach, VA$141
145Dearborn, MI$141
145Palmdale, CA$141
145Warren, MI$141
150Austin, TX$142
150Tampa, FL$142
150Phoenix, AZ$142
153Modesto, CA$143
154Salt Lake City, UT$144
154Tacoma, WA$144
154Thornton, CO$144
154Antioch, CA$144
154Corpus Christi, TX$144
159Denver, CO$145
159Chicago, IL$145
159Lexington, KY$145
163Ann Arbor, MI$146
163Hampton, VA$146
163Hartford, CT$146
166Newport News, VA$147
166Brockton, MA$147
166Brownsville, TX$147
169Portland, OR$148
169Tallahassee, FL$148
169Waterbury, CT$148
172Atlanta, GA$149
172Savannah, GA$149
172St. Paul, MN$149
172Hialeah, FL$149
172Rochester, NY$149
177Fresno, CA$150
177Cape Coral, FL$150
177Fontana, CA$150
180St. Petersburg, FL$151
180Lowell, MA$151
182McAllen, TX$152
183Fremont, CA$154
183Manchester, NH$154
183Metairie, LA$154
186Kent, WA$156
186Buffalo, NY$156
186Clearwater, FL$156
189Murrieta, CA$157
190Nashville, TN$158
190Sacramento, CA$158
190Paterson, NJ$158
193Providence, RI$159
193Philadelphia, PA$159
193West Palm Beach, FL$159
193Lancaster, CA$159
193Pompano Beach, FL$159
198Irvine, CA$161
198Gainesville, FL$161
203Gresham, OR$162
203Charleston, SC$162
203Riverside, CA$162
206Hillsboro, OR$163
206Arvada, CO$163
206Temecula, CA$163
206Rancho Cucamonga, CA$163
210Concord, CA$164
211Columbia, MD$167
212Fort Lauderdale, FL$169
213Fullerton, CA$171
213El Cajon, CA$171
215Quincy, MA$172
215Hayward, CA$172
218Syracuse, NY$173
220Pembroke Pines, FL$175
220Santa Clara, CA$175
220Sunnyvale, CA$175
223San Jose, CA$176
225Carlsbad, CA$177
225Chula Vista, CA$177
225Elk Grove, CA$177
229Renton, WA$179
231Scottsdale, AZ$180
231Hollywood, FL$180
231Bridgeport, CT$180
231Newark, NJ$180
235Davie, FL$181
236Everett, WA$183
236Santa Ana, CA$183
236Coral Springs, FL$183
240San Diego, CA$185
240Miami, FL$185
240Elizabeth, NJ$185
243West Covina, CA$186
245Huntington Beach, CA$187
245Escondido, CA$187
247Seattle, WA$188
248Garden Grove, CA$195
249Anaheim, CA$196
250Miami Gardens, FL$197
251Alexandria, VA$199
252Bellevue, WA$201
252Yonkers, NY$201
254Orange, CA$209
255Detroit, MI$210
255Oakland, CA$210
257Santa Clarita, CA$211
258Stamford, CT$212
259Torrance, CA$218
261Boston, MA$225
261Pomona, CA$225
264Jersey City, NJ$239
265Daly City, CA$243
266Berkeley, CA$244
267Pasadena, CA$246
268San Francisco, CA$247
269Arlington, VA$249
270Costa Mesa, CA$252
271Glendale, CA$259
272Burbank, CA$261
273Inglewood, CA$264
274Anchorage, AK$268
276Richmond, CA$276
277San Mateo, CA$278
278Clovis, CA$280
279Norwalk, CA$283
280Los Angeles, CA$287
281Honolulu, HI$343
282New York, NY$373
*Self storage street rates refer to 10’x10’ climate-controlled units.
RentCafe analysis of Yardi Matrix data.

 

Geek culture buffs can find their nirvana in many cities across the U.S., as the culture has entered the mainstream. However, some locations are particularly successful at combining high concentrations of like-minded people with community events, not to mention places where geeks can get the gear they need — all in all, creating an excellent background for them to cultivate their passion. While popular cities for comic cons and other geek events such as San Francisco, LA or New York City might first spring to mind, other places such as Atlanta and Orlando are also stepping up, offering a balanced environment that nerds of all stripes can appreciate.

Here's how the largest cities in the country fare in terms of their geek friendliness:

What the experts are saying

Rob Weiner, Popular Culture Librarian, Texas Tech University

Rob Weiner

1. How would you describe the impact of pop culture on society?

My mentor, pop culture scholar Peter Rollins, used to say: "if it's not popular it's not culture." Popular culture has a tremendous impact on society whether it’s sports, music, art, film, comics, fashion, social media etc., or the lives of the rich and famous. People love to feel a part of something whether it is going to a concert, a play, a sporting event, or a convention. They are also fascinated with the lives of other people who are in the public eye. Pop culture’s impact is all around us. We see it every day whether it is social media platforms like TikTok, YouTube, or Instagram and by following various influencers. Sports continue to be popular and impact our culture along with the impact of video games (many of which allow the player to be part of the story). Remember that Shakespeare was once pop culture even though his work is now considered “high art” — the lines between high and low art are blurred now more than ever before. What’s more, sequential art (comics) has become such a part of our culture with even university presses publishing graphic novels, not to mention how many popular films and streaming series are based on comic source material. Even the use and popularity of AI platforms like ChatGPT could be considered a form of pop cult. Science fiction is the most popular genre right now in film, literature, streaming, video games etc., while it was once considered an outsider genre that just a few geeks liked.

2. Is geek culture now a part of pop culture?

Yes, geek culture is now a part of pop culture and everyday life. What was once thought of as an outsider culture is now mainstream. The popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe both in film and streaming shows just how ingrained geek culture has become in our world. In addition, comic cons and other types of convention are now events for everyone where people cosplay and go to learn more about pop culture. In fact, comic cons used to be only about comics, but now they are major events covering all kinds of pop culture topics from film, television and anime to video games. Many of the geeks are now in high positions in Hollywood or working as IT specialists. We depend on them to keep our technology running. So, it’s fair to say that the geeks have taken over!

3. What makes a city great for pop culture fans and geek culture buffs?

A city that has several distinct types of cons every year (whether it is manga/anime, comic cons, or general pop culture cons that bring in celebrities) help make that city a good place for geek culture buffs. If there are societies/fan groups that cater to specific types of popular culture, this is a good sign. For any city, catering to popular culture fans and “geeks” by providing a wide variety of avenues to explore makes it great.

Kathryn Lane, Independent Scholar

1. How would you describe the impact of pop culture on society? Kate Lane

Popular culture is all of the things that make our interactions with society interesting — art, film, television, music, language, fashion, books, news, media, and so much more.

2. Is geek culture now a part of pop culture?

Absolutely! Geek culture is a part of popular culture in the same way that Star Trek is a part of popular culture or Alfred Hitchcock. "Geek" language is now part of the general lexicon.

3. What makes a city great for pop culture fans and geek culture buffs?

Any city in which pop culture fans and/or geek culture buffs can be themselves is a great city for them!

Dave Dorman, Eisner and Inkpot-Award-Winning Illustrator

1. How would you describe the impact of pop culture on society? David Dorman

Pop culture gives us a common language and a shared experience we can relate to, despite any other differences we may have. Pop culture often unites us.

2. Is geek culture now a part of pop culture?

Geek culture — sci-fi, fantasy and horror, for example — has always been part of pop culture. People just didn’t always have a convenient, one-word label for it.

3. What makes a city great for pop culture fans and geek culture buffs?

Any city with a comfortable temperature and climate for cosplay, interesting museums, unique indie bookstores (because geeks are big-time fiction readers) and geek-oriented events is ideal. For example, Seattle has Paul Allen’s sci-fi museum and a moderate climate. They also host Emerald City Con, a wonderful geek show.

Rob Salkowitz, Pop Culture Art Author & Journalist

1. How would you describe the impact of pop culture on society? Rob Salkowitz

Pop culture always reflects the larger society. Today we have a pop culture that is more expansive, but more siloed, than ever before, as creators take advantage of all the new ways to reach audiences. Today it is much harder to create a worldwide sensation like “Harry Potter” but much easier to maximize your reach to a niche audience of superfans.

2. Is geek culture now a part of pop culture?

The whole thesis of my 2012 book Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture was about how geek culture, specifically around comics, sci-fi and other genre entertainment, ended up eating the rest of popular culture for breakfast. Geek culture is perfectly suited for the business environment of the past 15 years, with its focus on worldbuilding, spectacular visuals, immersive storytelling that can easily hop from page to screen, and the ability to activate superfans as shock troops for marketing.

3. What makes a city great for pop culture fans and geek culture buffs?

Outside of the megalopolises of NY, LA and Chicago, great geek culture cities tend to be places where a critical mass of weird people can afford to live and indulge their passions, talents and thirst for community. In years past, that was Portland, OR, Austin, TX, or even my hometown of Seattle, WA, but good luck finding a place to live in any of those cities that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. These days, especially post-pandemic, it’s places like Columbus, OH, Detroit, MI, and any small- or medium-sized community around the country with enough people to host a Dungeons & Dragons night at the local coffee shop.

G. J. Bingham, Writer

1. How would you describe the impact of pop culture on society? G.J.Bingham

Despite what I’ve said, I tend to approach these subjects, in my mind, as an outsider. And I generally question the “popular” definitions of “pop-culture.” Because I’ve been around for so long, I’ve watched the evolution of the term. I’m sure you know “popular culture” came into being in the 1800s and was a disparaging phrase referring to the “uneducated masses” who needed entertaining. I never became aware of the word until the 1970s — and then what springs to mind is the 1960s: Andy Warhol, Muzak, popular TV programming, Lawrence Welk — most of which was disrupted by rock music and the Vietnam War. Then, thanks to TV winning over the elites, the culture for the masses morphed into something that would be altered, generation to generation. And preceded by popular music and art, and propelled by commercial and entertainment corporations. My analogy being: rock & roll becomes MTV, MTV loses the “M,” until the masses stop watching and turn to their computer screens.
To answer your question more directly, each of these transitions (and others) become the driving force behind fashion, attitudes, art and writing and how modern culture sees itself. And drives a stake through the heart of popular movements that came before.

2. Is geek culture now a part of pop culture?

As to my previous comments, of course, geek culture, by virtue of its ubiquitous nature with the speed of all things technological, and how it has been embraced by younger and younger audiences exponentially, and geeks becoming the protagonists of youth, on every screen and monitor in our houses, while still a lesser segment of our pop-culture overall, it can only spread out even more.

3. What makes a city great for pop culture fans and geek culture buffs?

Not sure I can answer this question without bias. Because geek culture and pop culture are not yet fully synonymous, and I, myself — like many others these days — have fled the “professional world” of pop culture, in search of less-intrusive lifestyles. As for cities, in the 1970s, when I was throwing myself into that pop world, there were really only two cities to consider — New York and Los Angeles. But as of the 21st century, other cities are becoming more attractive. As geeks (like myself) are more able to work from their homes, we choose to work near the bigger cities, rather than in them. And we look for attractive cities. Not too big, but big enough to come with real cultural attractions — concerts, art, museums…and people of like-minds.

Peter G., Head of Sine Timore Animation Studios

1. How would you describe the impact of pop culture on society? Peter Holland

That's actually kind of a complicated question, because each one influences the other. It's not a one-way street. Pop culture is art, and art is a reflection of the people and the world around them. it's part of the reason why, when people say art should just entertain and things like politics shouldn't enter into it, it's impossible. Creators are shaped by the people, places, and events around them — it's simply going to happen. And just as we see pop culture being influenced by society, the same works in reverse. Clark Gable doesn't wear a shirt in a movie, and shirt sales plummeted. Pop culture is a reflection of us, and we are a reflection of it. It is a symbiosis that only the foolish disregard.

2. Is geek culture now a part of pop culture?

It always has been, it just hasn't been celebrated and profited from until relatively recently. Lots of people recognize the Vulcan peace sign but didn’t necessarily think of using it. What has changed is that people stopped walling such ideas off from their experiences, thinking they had to leave such things in the past. There's an awareness that this is part of our make-up, that informed our values and interests, and it's being embraced instead of shunned.

3. What makes a city great for pop culture fans and geek culture buffs?

Diversity. And I don't just mean as far as race or religion. Pop culture doesn't exist much in rural areas where most time is spent working to get by. It needs a place with a work/life balance and people with various ideas. From there, people begin to reach across to each other when they see similarities between themselves and appreciate things the others celebrate. But that doesn't happen in an environment where people have no time for leisure and art and creation. Hubs like Chicago, New York and LA exist because there is just so much happening and so many people putting their interests out there.

Methodology

This analysis was done by RentCafe Self Storage, an online platform that provides apartment and storage unit listings across the nation.

We created a ranking of the best cities for geeks by selecting the largest 300 cities with populations over 200K for which data was available.

For employment information, we turned to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2023), using data at metro level. For cities within the same metro area, we used the rest of the metrics to help us place them in the overall ranking.

For online searches, we used two different sources: Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends. For searches resulting from our research using Google Keyword Planner, we worked with the keyword search volume, specifically the average number of times a keyword is searched between July 2022 and June 2023.

For Google Trends searches, the numbers show peak popularity of search interest for the given region and time, with 0 indicating the lowest point of interest and 100 showing the highest popularity for the term for the period July 2022 – August 2023.

The data on self storage street rates and square footage per capita was taken from Yardi Matrix, RentCafe’s sister division and a business development and asset management tool for brokers, sponsors, banks and equity sources underwriting investments in the multifamily, office, industrial and self-storage sectors.

We used these metrics to rank these cities from 1-300:

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the research, graphics, and images presented in this article. When doing so, we ask that you credit our research by linking to RentCafe Self Storage or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.

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Mirela is a real estate writer and lifestyle editor for Yardi. With an academic background in English and translation, Mirela now covers a range of topics including real estate trends, lifestyle and economy. Her previous experience in proofreading academic articles has inspired Mirela to choose a writing career path. In her free time, Mirela enjoys reading, but also hiking and creating art. You can contact Mirela via email.

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