Some U.S. cities are renowned for their dazzling skylines, some for their brash style, and others for a high density of big thinkers and artists. But where can travelers expect warm smiles, firm handshakes, and easygoing hospitality? Travel + Leisure’s 2009 America’s Favorite Cities Survey asked who is the nicest of them all, and the answers may surprise you.
Covering 30 U.S. cities from Boston to Seattle, the survey—now in its fifth year—offers a snapshot of America’s up-to-date opinions on such popular travel topics as the best cities for hotels, dining, nightlife, and shopping, among other categories.
Additionally, it aims to take the country’s temperature regarding residents—which U.S. city has the most attractive population or the smartest? As those who’ve traveled to a hotel and been treated to bad service or dismissed by gruff waitstaff can attest, there’s no underestimating the friendliness, too, when it comes to travel.
Louisiana’s largest city ranks high on the list for friendliest people. Despite the ravages of Hurricane Katrina and a battered economy in recent years, New Orleanians, according to survey-takers, still walk on the brighter side of life.
Maybe a collective sense of optimism springs from the city’s laid-back, laissez les bons temps rouler attitude. Or perhaps the city’s good old-fashioned hospitality can be traced to pride in its rich cultural heritage—from its gracious architecture and chicory-laced coffee to its cool strains of jazz. Whatever the answer, New Orleans was one of the top contenders for this year’s congeniality prize.
But the Louisiana city is not alone in its welcoming and ultra-sociable demeanor; other urban centers rank high on the nice scale, too. Take Minneapolis/St. Paul—which also ranked first in the 2009 survey for city with the most intelligent residents—or the southern belle city of Charleston, S.C.
“I moved to Charleston over a year ago and was so touched by how friendly and welcoming the residents in this little city were. People feel comfortable saying hi, introducing themselves to you, asking you questions, even inviting you over for a dinner party!” says 37-year-old physician’s assistant Catherine Kelso.
Some cities, however, did not fare as well with the survey-taking public. Bostonians are not winning friends with their buttoned-up Yankee style; Angelenos are coming off as more vain to out-of-towners than nice; and belying the friendly southern city trend, Dallas/Fort Worth ranked in the bottom third of the list.
Kindly souls and thoughtful people exist everywhere, but thanks to their residents, some cities are genuinely more pleasant to visit.