What? Cleveland tops Philly?

When you think of America’s “most glamorous cities,” Philadelphia might not be in the top 5 — but are we really less glamorous than. . . Cleveland?

Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River catches fire (Photo: WKYC)

That is not my opinion, I get it from an online outfit called LawnStarter which does a lot of this kind of pop “research.”

Mostly I ignore these kinds of bullbleep findings, usually done by magazines, usually aimed at increasing circulation.

LawnStarter is a little better than average because it does provide its methodology, the characteristics it studied to come to its conclusion.

Spoiler Alert: Philadelphia finished 23rd. Cleveland finished 16th.

Ever been to Cleveland? It’s the 53rd largest U.S. city, it has (somehow) the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and used to have LeBron James, and Halle Berry, not to mention a river that caught fire — more than once.

But knocking Cleveland doesn’t build up Philly. 

Some of the criteria used by LawnStarter were Michelin-starred restaurants, country clubs, Fashion Week events, personal wealth, 5-star hotels, arts/entertainment/recreation. LawnStarter also tells you what sources it used.

And Cleveland beat us?

I hate to keep dwelling on this, but have you ever been to Cleveland? I have — once, in the ‘80s. I was there on a press junket and stayed at the massive Hotel Willard, which I think was named for a rat. 

With the other journalists, I hung out in the Flats, on the bank of the Cuyahoga River, known for its nightlife, with edgy bars and clubs hosting live music, comedy and drag shows.

Ranked #1 is Miami, and I think that makes sense, especially if you are thinking of Miami Beach.

New York finishes second, followed by San Francisco, Las Vegas and Atlanta, that finishes before L.A., which is questionable.

Not to pick on Cleveland, but I dug into the scores and came away scratching my head.

Under dining and drinking, Cleveland scored a 10, compared with Philly’s tragic 45. What?! Almost every legitimate news source lists Philly as an outstanding foodie town. This ranking is insane.

Under arts and entertainment, Cleveland rates a 13 to Philly’s 12. I mentioned the Flats, and Cleveland does have a symphony orchestra, like it has a baseball team 🙂, but Philly has the world-famous Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philly Pops, the ballet, and a ton of music venues (when there is no plague). Yes, maybe the term “rock ‘n’ roll” was invented there, but the early roots of rock are found in Philly doo-wop, and then Gamble & Huff’s The Sound of Philadelphia. Cleveland should not even be close.

The beauty, fashion and shopping rank for Cleveland is 13, just behind Philly’s 12. (Cleveland did have America’s first indoor mall.)

How Cleveland gets a 15 for wealth and success while Philly gets a 21 is a mystery. Maybe they didn’t count the Main Line as part of Philadelphia, nor did they count our universities and hospitals. 

Anyway, it’s not to be taken seriously, but I can’t dispute Philly lacks glitz and flash. 

Some might say the roots of this are found in our modest Quaker heritage, but, really, I think there are only three Quakers left, and I don’t see them as, um, influencers of our zeitgeist.

Philadelphians seem to have an aversion to bragging, just the opposite of, say, New Yorkers, and Texans.

I was interviewing a Philly club owner who had put a ton of money into rehabbing a bank into a night club. During a pre-opening tour, he showed me the crystal chandeliers he had bought, the marble bars, the parquet floors, the imported wallpaper.

I admired what he had done and asked how much he had spent.

“I don’t want to say,” he said. “It would seem like bragging.”

I told him if we were in New York, not only would he tell me, but he would lie by a factor of three.

I finally wheedled him to tell me he had spent “more than six figures.”

I told him he got his money’s worth.

This might be another way of saying Philadelphia lacks “showmen,” which I realize is gender specific, but screw it. 

Among local politicians, Ed Rendell was a showman, a mayor who bragged about his city and pushed it relentlessly. I can’t think of another in his class, but Frank Rizzo was another mayor with unabashed pride in the city of his birth.

On City Council, the late Thacher Longstreth was an unapologetic  cheerleader for the city. I might be overlooking someone.

In the world of entertainment, Kevin Bacon always touts his hometown, and involves himself in local causes. So does Henri David. Almost all the old-time acts that came out of Philadelphia talked up the town, with the notable, and funny, exception of W.C. Fields. 

It’s funny. A lot of national magazines have Philly as a top destination, despite our admitted lack of flash.

Maybe LawnStarter doesn’t read them.

7 thoughts on “What? Cleveland tops Philly?”

    Gotta agree wit cho ! What number did our unabashed colloquiums finished ? Geet yet? You touched on how rounded out Philly used to be. Back in the ’60s & ’70s, you could go into any neighborhood and find a piano bar. We had music of every genre. Way back when, we had all kinds of popular people coming out of Philly. From the crooners of South Philly to the Hip Hop & Rappers of North Philly.
    And yea, I was in Cleveland probably twenty years ago. It’s a nice small clean town. You better like winter ! I know that now, they’re known for medicine.
    Philly had it all. Maybe someday – hopefully – Philly will have it again .

  2. You have to remember we are part of Delaware County and Cherry Hill New Jersey and many other surroundings that offer all of the above that Cleveland can not match. so being Judgemental must include surrounding communities. Sadly, our marketing comes from all the negatives we try to address but when the media, federal authorities, and our politicians have no response then being a center of attraction is difficult to face the reality of poor press, and vacant leadership. I seek my bi-partisanship at any level to show that commor heads can close the curkin on my mother for rec

  3. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    It seems clear that the ratings and article you mentioned was based on some incomplete and perhaps biased research. But this may be connected with the fact that, as I hear, Cleveland is making a come-back. I have seen some promotional materials. Readers might want to search for “Cleveland” on Youtube.

    Once upon a time, Cleveland was a very rich town and a great center of industry. My sense of the matter is that promoting Cleveland now belongs to a current tendency to re-promote the industrial Mid-west. That’s not such a bad idea. Recall that of the current 10 largest cities in the country, only 3 are East of the Mississippi (NY, Philadelphia and Chicago). I think you have to ask about what happened to the rest of the Mid-west? –keeping the severe decline Detroit in mind. Recall, too, that we once had an “Ohio dynasty” of Presidents –which speaks to the political and economic power the state once held. We can’t keep giving up on American cities; and the prosperity of the Mid-west might do reasonable proxy for American prosperity –as contrasted with its being considered “fly-over” America.

    Part of the problem for our fine town, of course, is that we are stuck between Washington, D.C. and New York City. All political power tends to flow South, the more so as the roles of the federal government increase; and economic power tends to flow North and out of the city and the region, the more so as wealth and finance (and everything else) are concentrated in NYC.
    Globalization has increased the economic and political power of the coasts over the rest of the country, and in a significant sense, Philadelphia is an “in-land” city –meaning we are less subject to benefits and problems of foreign trade and influences. (It takes about 6 hours to sail down the Delaware to the Atlantic Ocean.) Like Pennsylvania, as the saying goes, “Philadelphia is representative” (of the virtues and problems of the country as a whole). Salesmanship won’t fix the problems.

    Keep in mind that though Philadelphia is the poorest of the 10 largest cities in the country, many slightly smaller places are much worse off and have suffered much greater declines in population and industry over our life-times. “Viva Cleveland!” is ok. by me –though we may hope that someone eventually gets all the statistics right. Although larger, Philadelphia is more or less in the same boat. One difference or advantage of Philadelphia, though, is that since our city is a kind of national symbol of independence & etc., it would shame the entire country if we declined in the fashion of Detroit.

    H.G. Callaway

    1. I agree with most of what you say, including that Philly suffers from geography.
      A smart leader would turn us being a sandwich between NYC and DC into an advantage. What is now Visit Philly worked successfully to get people to spend a night here, rather than just a rest stop between NYC and DC.

    You and your readers are my age and older ( except for the women who remain “30” ). Think back to when Philly had something to offer to the world. This was an inexpensive mecca to the European vacationer. The world came to the “City of Brotherly Love ” to see history. The sports minded still come here for regalias. We have the occasional convention that is a bonanza for the city.
    What happened ? POLITICS ! Philly turned into a murder capital. That sent the Europeans elsewhere. Loss of revenues drove up prices for conventions, etc leaving us without tourists and income.
    The solution is quite simple, yet almost impossible ! All of the pols have to go. GRIP ! “Get Rid of Incompetent Politicians”! Clean up city hall. Clean up the city. Welcome business and tourist . Philly does have a lot to offer .

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