National Geographic: 50 smart cities travelers love (and why Paducah, Ky. is No. 5)

Thu, 2014-08-28 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

What makes a city smart -- and at the same time a hot ticket for travelers? In announcing its 2014 Traveler 50: World's Smartest Cities, National Geographic Channel's smart cities program consultant Ian MacFarlane suggests it starts with a sense of place.

Says MacFarlane: “A city needs a heart and soul -- typically the center, where people congregate for work and leisure. Smart cities are well-connected locally and internationally, have a sustainable lifestyle, and are places where people come first.”

That said, the list offers some surprises – including the town of Paducah, Kentucky coming in at No. 5. Never traveled to Paducah? Here's what the National Geographic says about it: "Paducah has us in stitches. This small Kentucky town was recently named a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art for its efforts to sew together world-class fiber arts assets (the National Quilt Museum is located here) and to attract creatives (potters, painters, jewelry makers) to its LowerTown Arts District."

Other cities in the top five may be less of a surprise:

1. San Francisco.  The city by the bay is described as a "global epicenter of big 'unrealistic' dreamers" and a place where there is "the excitement of new possibilities."

2. Paris. The Parisian capital's enthusiasm for bike-sharing is what the authors highlight.

3. Mumbai. It’s the Indian city's massive public art collection at Chhatrapati Shivaji airport that put it in the top five.

4. Rome. The past is always present in Rome, the article points out, and notes the reopening of the 2,000-year-old Colosseum and the baroque Trevi Fountain next year following restoration work.

From drones to the birthplace of Skype

There are more cities you might expect to see on a list like this, and more that are a bit curious. For example, Detroit seems to be called out at No. 20 because a local company designing drones and again at No. 26 for its startup culture. Tallinn, Estonia meanwhile, described as the birthplace of Skype and a "digital-age exemplar," is No. 22.

But we don't want to give it all away. Click here to read the full list.

And if you like city lists…