Wednesday, April 24, 2024


The slide Movato posted showing why Cambridge is the "most exciting suburb” in America.

The slide Movato posted showing why Cambridge is the “most exciting suburb” in America.

When Cambridge and Somerville were named nerdiest and seventh-nerdiest city in Massachusetts by the Movato Real Estate blog, we were happy to accept the basis for its calculations and report the news.

But Cambridge being named the Most Exciting Suburb in America by the same blog?

Nope, sorry. Honor not accepted.

The means for determining Cambridge’s excitement level are reasonable enough: nightlife per capita (bars, clubs, comedy, etc.); live music venues per capita; active life options per capita (parks, outdoor activities, etc.) and fast food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better) and percentage of restaurants that are fast food (the lower the better).

It’s the definition of “suburb” that’s troublesome. Movato content editor Randy Nelson explains that the staff “decided to start 2014 off by turning the preconceived notion that suburbs are boring on its ear” and applied a standard formula to data it had gathered. But the entire justification for calling Cambridge a suburb is that, in Movato’s dictionary, “suburbs are set up to play the proverbial second fiddle to their bigger brethren.”

Nelson and the Movato staff should have looked at an actual dictionary, where suburbs are identified as outlying districts of a city, and mainly residential. And “outlying” has a definition as well: It means something is situated far from a center or is remote.

Cambridge isn’t “outlying” from Boston, and it’s not mainly residential. Just having a larger city nearby doesn’t make a city a suburb of another city. Somerville is not a suburb of Cambridge. Saugus is not a suburb of Melrose (which is bigger by a few hundred people). Boston is not a suburb of New York.

Nice try, Movato. Catch us on the next list.

But, for the record, here are the things the site has to say about this suburb cramming about 16,000 people into each of its hugely urban square miles:

When most people think of Cambridge, they either a) picture classrooms full of students at Harvard and M.I.T. with their noses buried in books or b) say “Hey, isn’t that in England?” From now on, when we think of this Boston suburb, we’re going to think “excitement.”

True, a big part of Cambridge’s success in this ranking has to do with the fact that it’s home to not one, but two top-tier universities. Its population of 18- to 34-year-olds is, as a direct result, a whopping 49 percent, easily clinching a 1st place win for the city in this criterion by nearly 6 percentage points. Cambridge was also in the top 10 overall for active life options (third), live music (sixth), and nightlife (sixth).

Cambridge has one nightlife option for every 1,002 residents, and when they’re spots like The Druid and The Comedy Studio, that figure gets even more exciting. The city also ranked in the top 10 (10th, in fact) for its low percentage of fast food restaurants compared to all dining options (a mere 4 percent). This means your tastebuds will be subjected to fewer McDonalds and exposed to more A-grade eateries like Hungry Mother and Craigie On Main.