BEST CITIES FOR SINGLES IN THE MIDSOUTH
Atlanta was rated the best city for singles among America’s top 182 metro areas. Among cities in the MidSouth rated by WalletHub based upon dating opportunities, economics, and fun and recreation measures for singles, Chattanooga ranked the lowest in the MidSouth and among the bottom quartile of all cities studied.
1. Atlanta, also No. 1 in the country
2. Nashville, 49th overall
3. Knoxville, 64th overall
4. Columbus, Georgia, 94th overall
5. Memphis, 97th overall
6. Huntsville, Alabama, 108th overall
7. Birmingham, Alabama, 118th overall
8. Augusta, Georgia, 128h overall
9. Mobile, Alabama, 135th overall
10. Chattanooga, 138th overall
*WalletHub compared 182 cities using 34 metrics, ranging from the number of single persons and the gender balance in a city to the job opportunities, attractions and restaurant costs in each area.
BEST VS. WORST
› Detroit has the highest number of single persons as a share of the population: 73.77 percent. The lowest is in Fremont, California with only 37.71 percent.
› The lowest average restaurant-meal cost is in Garden Grove, California at $12.78. The highest is $120.00 in Dover, Delaware.
› Indianapolis has the lowest average price for a bottle of wine at $3.68, where as the highest is in Seattle at $14.19.
› The lowest average price for a movie ticket is in Port St. Lucie, Florida, where it is $6.63, compared to the highest average price of $14.93 in Atlanta.
Blackout Wednesday. Drinksgiving. Thanksgiving Eve. Call it what you will. In recent years, the night before Thanksgiving has become one of the busiest nights of the year for bars and restaurants across the country, according to Forbes.
On Wednesday in Chattanooga, Olivia Purcell, 28, sat on a couch inside M.L. King Boulevard's Hutton & Smith Brewing Co. with her dog, Mack, taking selfies and scrolling through her phone. Purcell was at the bar with a small group, but only about two dozen people filled the brewery that usually is bursting at the seams with the sounds of games and live music many weekend nights.
Down the street, where an even smaller crowd gathered at Oddstory Brewing Co., a lone figure stood outside Barley Chattanooga.
The lack of people filling Chattanooga's bars on one of the busiest nights of the year might illustrate why the Scenic City was recently ranked among the worst cities in the nation for singles.
Among cities in the Midsouth rated recently by WalletHub for their dating opportunities, economics, and fun and recreation measures for singles, Chattanooga ranked the lowest in the Midsouth and 138th out of 182 cities studied across the U.S.
Purcell isn't surprised by this, but also thinks dating is difficult no matter what when you're new to a city.
"I feel like as a young professional moving anywhere is going to be complicated," she said. "It's not the city itself."
She also noted that a lot of people her age seem to be already married, with kids, especially those who grew up in Chattanooga.
Tosh Bhole agrees. He moved to Chattanooga two years ago from Wisconsin, and before that, from India. He organizes running and hiking groups, as well as a "New to Chattanooga" group on Meetup.com. Though Bhole has found ways to meet people, he says dating has been more difficult. While Chattanooga is a young, trendy city, it is still rooted in some of the South's more conservative customs.
"People here seem to get married and have kids at a very young age," he said. "There is a deep-rooted religious background in Chattanooga, being in the South, and there are taboos that I have sensed."
There are many things that attracted Bhole to the city, such as Chattanooga's iconic outdoor scene and the opportunities it presents, as well as a lower cost of living compared to larger cities.
Most top-ranked cities excel in a few specific areas, said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez, especially when it comes to "fun and recreation," which included metrics like the number of restaurants or attractions per capita, parks, fitness centers, walkability and nightlife.
Ryan Lycan, 32, who has been dating Purcell for several weeks and grew up in Chattanooga, said that there are tons of date ideas in Chattanooga. He doesn't find dating difficult at all.
"For me, there's a lot to do," he said. "Whatever you're interested in — bars, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking. I don't think it's hard to date at all."
Despite Chattanooga's growing nightlife scene and location nestled in the Tennessee Valley, Gonzalez cautioned that the city might be losing singles to Atlanta, which is ranked the country's best city for singles.
"I think Atlanta might be drawing people in general away from Chattanooga, as it is a larger city with more opportunities for both jobs and entertainment. Aside from having a higher median income, and more attractions, Atlanta also has a larger share of single persons, 71 percent versus 60 percent in Chattanooga, and overall more dating opportunities," Gonzalez said in an email.
Many newcomers to the city meet people at work through colleagues or through Meetup groups, but more and more they are looking for a potential mate online through apps like Tinder, Bumble, Match and Hinge.
Down the street from Hutton & Smith on Wednesday, Thui Truong, 25, and her classmate Jason Weber, 26, sat in a booth in Bitter Alibi's dimly lit basement, a popular hangout spot for young people.
Truong uses Tinder and Bumble, but on the night before Thanksgiving, she took a new approach to meeting people — she brought a new deck of tarot cards to the bar and offered to tell strangers about their futures.
She asked a man sitting alone at a nearby table, "Hey, do you want to meet someone new?" and soon had gathered a small crowd of strangers, talking about their experiences trying to meet people in Chattanooga.
Weber has lived in Chattanooga his whole life and therefore has no shortage of people he knows but gets bored with the familiar faces.
"I've lived here so long that I see the same people at the same places," Weber said. "It's a small city, so eventually you run into the same people."
Despite a recent rise in empty condos and apartments in town, business owners and employers don't seem to find it difficult to attract young professionals or new workers to the city. Whether a lack of a dating scene for unmarried professionals hinders recruitment has yet to be seen.
The Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce said it was "proud of the way our community welcomes newcomers to Chattanooga" through organizations like Chattanewbies and Young Professionals of Chattanooga, which offers programs like after-hours networking and a monthly event focused on professional development, according to Sybil Topel, vice president of communications for the Chamber.
Ivan Maciel, 26, moved to Chattanooga from Atlanta about two years ago. He thinks it's easy to meet new people and find dates. His strategy is often just to go up to strangers when he is out, such as Wednesday night at Bitter Alibi when he introduced himself to the crowd mulling around Truong's tarot readings.
"I enjoy [Chattanooga] a lot. People are very approachable, very friendly," he said.
Staff writers Allison Shirk Collins and Dave Flessner contributed to this report.
Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at email@example.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.