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America's Best Cities for Night Owls

America's Best Cities for Night Owls: New Orleans

Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy

For Paul Cram, the best sporting activity in L.A. begins around midnight: people-watching.

“I’m a night owl,” says the actor, who recalls a parade of characters one night, about 1 a.m., at the Fatburger on Santa Monica Boulevard. “Several people wandered in from the local laundromat,” he says. “One woman and her little dog were dressed head-to-toe in hot pink. I also saw several drag queens in full sequins and feathers; the tallest had to crouch down to fit her headdress through the doorway.”

Thanks in part to that world-is-my-catwalk attitude, Los Angeles ranked among the top 10 cities that really come to life after dark. As part of the America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers rated 35 metro areas for such qualities as live music, cocktail lounges, coffee bars, and good people-watching—some of the same features that attract people who get their second wind around 11 p.m.

The best cities for night owls certainly have plenty of DJ-helmed nightclubs, singles scenes, and wild weekend appeal, including “reverse happy hours” in the wee hours. But they also offer thriving wine bars and sports bars, as well as excellent late-night cuisine and plenty of nonalcoholic fun. In New Orleans, San Diego, and Portland, for instance, movie theaters, bowling alleys, or donut shops may keep cranking well after midnight. We also factored in survey categories that create a something-for-everyone atmosphere: quirky locals, a gay-friendly vibe, and a noise level that stays up late, too.

Since last call in these cities can range from 1 a.m. to never, everyone has his own definition of late. For New Orleans bartender Colleen Vizents, after hours starts at about 1. “There are a dozen things going on at 1 a.m. in New Orleans, from concerts to burlesque shows,” she says. “But to be classified as ‘late night,’ karaoke must be going on somewhere.”

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