Biggest city in every state
Are you someone who loves experiencing the exciting pace, shining lights, and endless opportunities for entertainment that you can find in a major metropolis? Then set your sights on traveling to the biggest city in every state. New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago are known as the top three most populated cities in the country, but what about the rest of the states—the ones with smaller, but often equally entertaining cities that tend to get overlooked?
Stacker compiled information from the 2017 U.S. Census Population Estimates and the 2016 American Community Survey to determine which city in each state is the largest by population. Every city with a population of 50,000 or more was ranked to get this list, with the exception of Vermont—the state doesn’t have a single city with more than 50,000 people, so state-level population was used. Their corresponding metro areas are also included in the population tally.
Read on to discover some tidbits about how the cities came to be as large as they are, and learn a little about what it’s like to live there.
National rank: #107
Corresponding metro area: Birmingham-Hoover (Population: 1.1 million)
Population of this city compared to New York City: 2.4%
Second largest city: Montgomery (Population: 199,518)
Though it’s the state’s youngest city—Birmingham was founded in 1871—it’s also the largest, thanks to being built at a confluence of railroads and incredibly rich mineral deposits. Today, residents enjoy a range of cultural and historical offerings, world-class golf, and a humongous statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking.
National rank: #67
Corresponding metro area: Anchorage (Population: 400,888)
Population of this city compared to New York City: 3.4%
Note: Only one city in this state has a population of over 50,000.
Anchorage was originally built for the Alaska Railroad’s construction needs in 1914, and population boomed immediately after. More growth came between the '30s and '50s when the military took up residence, and again in 1968 after oil was discovered. Today the city has a casual, easy-going vibe and is integrated with wildlife and nature.
Population: 1.6 million
National rank: #5
Corresponding metro area: Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale (Population: 4.7 million)
Population of this city compared to New York City: 18.9%
Second largest city: Tucson (Population: 535,677)
Jack Swilling, founder of the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company, first settled Phoenix in 1867—and soon a rapid influx of pioneers followed him. By the time the city incorporated in 1881, it already had about 2,500 residents. Those who live in Phoenix today face a limited public transportation system, but the city is quite driveable and there’s a large emphasis on biking. Locals also love water parks, coffee, golfing, and exploring the nearby desert.
Arkansas: Little Rock
National rank: #120
Corresponding metro area: Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway (Population: 738,344)
Population of this city compared to New York City: 2.3%
Second largest city: Fort Smith (Population: 88,037)
The first permanent settlers came to Little Rock in 1820 and land prospectors looking to stake their claim arrived soon after. The town made history on account of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African-American students who tried to integrate the local high school in 1957. Music and art are a big part of the city now, and much of the buildings downtown are on the National Register of Historic Places.
California: Los Angeles
Population: 4 million
National rank: #2
Corresponding metro area: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim (Population: 13.4 million)
Population of this city compared to New York City: 46.4%
Second largest city: San Diego (Population: 1.4 million
Los Angeles faced its first population boom in 1842 with the discovery of gold in Placerita Canyon, and the more commonly known California Gold Rush boosted the city’s population again in 1849. About 45 years later, the discovery of oil brought thousands of more settlers, and in 1911, the first movie production company opened. Since then, the city has blossomed for the acting community, and locals are likely to see celebrities hopping around the shops and restaurants all throughout the metro area.
National rank: #19
Corresponding metro area: Denver-Aurora-Lakewood (Population: 2.9 million)
Population of this city compared to New York City: 8.2%
Second largest city: Colorado Springs (Population: 464,474)
In 1858, nine years after the California Gold Rush, some prospectors from Georgia found gold in Colorado at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Suddenly, hopeful prospectors from all over the country flooded to Denver to try and find their own fortune. Today, the Mile High City enjoys a booming art scene, excellent nature excursions, and a growing craft beer industry.
National rank: #179
Corresponding metro area: Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk (Population: 949,921)
Population of this city compared to New York City: 1.7%
Second largest city: New Haven (Population: 131,014)
Bridgeport was originally founded as a farming and fishing town in 1821. Then the railroad came through, almost immediately shifting the focus to manufacturing of everything from sewing machines to bullets. The city now values its multicultural feel and all the ethnic restaurants that come with it, combined with great beaches and an up-and-coming atmosphere.
National rank: #501
Corresponding metro area: Wilmington (Population: 288,156)
Population of this city compared to New York City: 0.8%
Note: Only one city in this state has a population of over 50,000.
Wilmington has been growing and changing since it was first settled in 1638 by the Swedish. The King of England granted the town a borough charter in 1739 and it continued to steadily grow up to and after the American Revolution. Modern Wilmington is a corporate paradise, most attractive to financial and insurance companies.
National rank: #12
Corresponding metro area: Jacksonville (Population: 1.5 million)
Population of this city compared to New York City: 10.3%
Second largest city: Miami (Population: 463,347)
Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821, and by that time, Jacksonville was already a small, but thriving city. By 1845, when Florida became a state, Jacksonville was the biggest commercial region, exporting many goods to the north. People flock to the city today for its spectacular white sand beaches and a thriving sports scene.
National rank: #38
Corresponding metro area: Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell (Population: 5.9 million)
Population of this city compared to New York City: 5.6%
Second largest city: Augusta-Richmond County consolidated government (Population: 197,166)
Atlanta was founded in 1837 as a transportation hub at the end of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, and it remains as such today with one of the busiest airports in the country. The past mingles with the present in modern-day Atlanta, seamlessly integrating historic mansions in neighborhoods like Buckhead with architectural masterpiece skyscrapers downtown.2018 All rights reserved.