America's Most Charming Accents

  • America's Most Charming Accents

    Photo: Marios Savva

    1 of 22

    Whether a distinctive twang or lilt, some regional accents make travelers feel especially welcome.

    From March 2013 By

    For Dallas-based Crissy Lintner, a certain kind of voice can transport her to another place—and even make her hungry.

    “When I hear a Cajun accent, I picture hanging moss trees, French-style architecture, and good food,” she says.

    No wonder: that vocal Creole is heard on the streets of New Orleans, whose locals scored near the top of the America’s Favorite Cities survey for their unmistakable accents. Every year, Travel + Leisure readers rank 35 U.S. cities for tangible features like great hotels as well as intangible qualities, such as a peaceful atmosphere and the refreshingly regional way that some locals talk. The friendly lilts in Savannah, GA, won for most charming accent, while two high-ranking island cities—Honolulu and San Juan, P.R.—confirm that some geographic isolation can make a city feel, and sound, unique.

    Accents are “an important piece of our history that has been transmitted down,” says Bridget Drinka, a linguist and chairman of the English department at the University of Texas at San Antonio—another city that ranked in the top 10, one where the idea of “Tex-Mex” can extend beyond tamales and into speech. 

    While plenty of folks insist that regional accents have faded, linguists only partially agree. Relocation dulls some twangs, but the gradual blurring of class distinctions has also made it so that more people don’t feel the pressure to “lose” their down-home-sounding accents anymore, according to Allan Metcalf, author of OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word. “Local accents that used to be stigmatized,” he says, “now seem charming.”

    Granted, some accents sound more charming than others. “The southern accent tends to be perceived as intimate, friendly,” Metcalf observes, “and the northern accent is perceived as intelligent—but not terribly friendly.” Indeed, Deep South and Texas accents dominate the top 20 survey results, while Boston (or Bahston) is the only northeastern city to crack the top 10.

    Lintner admits that she does judge folks by their accent when she travels, but in a good way. “I trust someone with an authentic accent,” she says, “because they’re probably natives—and so they know the best hidden places to go.”

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Savannah

    Photo: iStock

    2 of 22

    No. 1 Savannah, GA

    Is it their welcoming demeanor, or just the way they drop their r’s when they talk? Either way, T+L survey voters feel Georgians exude southern charm, both with their friendly personalities and their lovable tendency to add syllables to words (like maybe ice cuh-ream, a category in which Savannah also won the survey). That local lilt can be downright soothing: the city also ranked first for peace and quiet.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: New Orleans

    Photo: Ellen Isaacs / Alamy

    3 of 22

    No. 2 New Orleans

    The “Who Dat!” mantra of Saints fans says a lot about the gumboesque local accent (with shades of Cajun, southern, and Italian) in the Crescent City. Folks even call the accent “Yat” (as in, saying “Whe-yat?” as short for “Where are you at?”). There are plenty of chances to hear it straight from the locals’ mouths: they ranked first for their civic pride as well as for their cafés and street performers. To blend in, just remember to call the city Noo AW-lins.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Charleston

    Photo: iStock

    4 of 22

    No. 3 Charleston, SC

    In Rhett Butler’s old hometown, you’ll hear a variety of accents, from the traditional “Old Charleston” southern drawl to the Creole-influenced Gullah accent. Either way, T+L readers were smitten, embracing the civilized touches in the city, which ranked first for its fine dining and near the top for its quaint architecture.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Nashville

    Photo: Brian Jannsen / Alamy

    5 of 22

    No. 4 Nashville

    Even if Music City is famous for elevating down-home-style crooners, these Tennesseans have added some city to their southern drawl. Readers enjoyed Nashville’s colorful people-watching and happy hours, and every night here may be ladies’ night: Nashville also ranked near the top of the survey for girlfriend getaways.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: San Juan

    Photo: Danita Delimont / Alamy

    6 of 22

    No. 5 San Juan, P.R.

    It’s not exactly a traditional Spanish accent, nor classic Caribbean, either, but folks found the dialect pretty charming either way. Visitors especially loved the city for festive getaways: it ranked near the top for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and spring break.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Memphis

    Photo: iStock

    7 of 22

    No. 6 Memphis, TN

    In this bluesy town, the local southern accents take on a grittier quality—a mix of city and country, and perhaps influenced by their neighbors in Arkansas. Readers found the whole city to be a bit on the gritty side, but loved the overall affordability and such simple pleasures as the flea markets and legendary barbecue.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Honolulu

    Photo: iStock

    8 of 22

    No. 7 Honolulu

    The local “pidgin” dialect—which blends English, Hawaiian, Japanese, and more—goes well beyond “aloha.” One of the most common local phrases that can confuse visitors is “da kine” (as in, “the kind”), which is used to refer to almost anything. Then again, voters found almost everything blissful here: the city ranked first for weather and near the top for romance.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: San Antonio

    Photo: Carol Barrington/SACVB

    9 of 22

    No. 8 San Antonio, TX

    The Texas twang can combine with a little south-of-border lilt in this family-friendly city, with its many Spanish speakers. That blend of Tex and Mex likely explains why the city also ranked so well for its queso-heavy ethnic cuisine. San Antone, as other Texans might say, also scored highly for its wealth of free attractions.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Boston

    Photo: iStockphoto

    10 of 22

    No. 9 Boston

    The historic city’s erudite Brahmins may have had a refined speaking manner, but today people more readily recognize the Beantown accent that turns “chowder and beer” into “chowda and bee-ah.” Speaking of bee-ah, voters loved Boston’s sports bars, and gave props to the passionate local sports fans.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Minneapolis/ St. Paul

    Photo: iStock

    11 of 22

    No. 10 Minneapolis/St. Paul

    These Minnesotans may not think they have the kind of earnest-sounding (and, admittedly, stronger) accents found in the movie Fargo. But did they still charm T+L voters? You betcha. Locals also won raves for being both super-brainy and superb drivers, don-cha-know.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Providence

    Photo: iStock

    12 of 22

    No. 11 Providence, RI

    Geography has definitely shaped the Rhode Island accent, placing it aesthetically partway between New England Yankee and the New Yawkers to the south. Readers also loved the city for its food (they could perhaps hang a warning sign at the city limits, for anyone trying to diet): Providence scored near the top for burgers, pizza, food trucks, and ice cream.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Austin

    Photo: iStock

    13 of 22

    No. 12 Austin, TX

    You could be served a “y’all” with a “dude” on the side: the Texas twang has been slightly altered in this tech-friendly town, thanks in part to all of the West Coast transplants who have settled here. Voters also ranked the locals as some of the best-looking people in the nation, even if they seem a little bit weird—which many Austinites would take as a compliment.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Portland

    Photo: Courtesy of Greater Portland Convention & Visitors Bureau

    14 of 22

    No. 13 Portland, ME

    These Yanks may sound somewhat like their friends in Boston (want to take a day trip? Try going to Maine’s “Bah Habbah,” as locals might say). But they also boast their own lingo, such as calling lobsters “bugs.” Bugs or no, everything here seems to taste good when washed down with the local microbrews, which ranked at No. 3. The city won the survey, meanwhile, for feeling safe.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Santa Fe

    Photo: iStock

    15 of 22

    No. 14 Santa Fe, NM

    This southwestern city charms folks with its sensory medley: the smell of roasting chiles, the visual feast of art, and the mélange of accents from locals speaking Spanish or Native American dialects (particularly Tewa) around town. Readers loved the city best in autumn, which is chile season, and ranked it at the top for cultural getaways

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Atlanta

    Photo: iStockphoto.com

    16 of 22

    No. 15 Atlanta

    Atlanta came in at No. 10 for its slathered barbecue, but thick southern accents aren’t so common in this business hub, served by the world’s busiest airport—just a gentle version of the classic drawl. Voters did appreciate some of Atlanta’s big-city amenities, namely, the luxury stores.  

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Houston

    Photo: iStockphoto

    17 of 22

    No. 16 Houston

    Some people have said that hometown gal Beyoncé can’t shake her Houston accent, which may feature a bit more Gulf Coast drawl than other Texas twangs. Houstonians, meanwhile, may endure some of the worst summers in the nation, according to voters, but they rank respectably for their indoor diversions: theater and classical music, not to mention big burgers.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Baltimore

    Photo: iStock

    18 of 22

    No. 17 Baltimore

    Longtime locals speak “Baltimorese,” which is said to be a Philly accent mixed with a southern streak—for instance, if you’re thirsty, you might get a bottle of “wooder.” A good place to hear neighborhood folks (and throw back a few beer bottles) is the local sports bars. The city also ranked well for being affordable.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Chicago

    Photo: iStock

    19 of 22

    No. 18 Chicago

    In the Windy City, with that midwestern flattening of sounds, your relish-topped hot dog may sound more like a “hat dag.” But it’s the local pizza that T+L readers liked best, whether the traditional deep dish or Neapolitan style. The diverse city also scored last for its weather—not enough of that “hat” weather to please visitors.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Dallas/Fort Worth

    Photo: iStock

    20 of 22

    No. 19 Dallas/Fort Worth

    Even in a big city, you can still hear that Texas twang, as well as a few regional quirks: when ordering a soft drink at a barbecue place, for instance, your waitress might call everything a Coke (as in, “Y’all want some Cokes? What kind?”). Meanwhile, locals here may obsess over their Cowboys and Rangers—as in, the sports teams—but they know when it’s time to keep the jersey in the closet: the city also ranked in the top 10 for its luxury stores.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: San Diego

    Photo: iStock

    21 of 22

    No. 20 San Diego

    Readers may associate San Diego with buff surfers in wet suits as well as the valley-girl-meets-surfer dialect that makes your beach blanket sound more like a “blonket.” That mellow culture also helped the city rank well for its bustling singles scene, the great charbroiled burgers, and the fact that your dog is, like, totally welcome here.

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    22 of 22

  • America's Most Charming Accents

    For Dallas-based Crissy Lintner, a certain kind of voice can transport her to another place—and even make her hungry.

    “When I hear a Cajun accent, I picture hanging moss trees, French-style architecture, and good food,” she says.

    No wonder: that vocal Creole is heard on the streets of New Orleans, whose locals scored near the top of the America’s Favorite Cities survey for their unmistakable accents. Every year, Travel + Leisure readers rank 35 U.S. cities for tangible features like great hotels as well as intangible qualities, such as a peaceful atmosphere and the refreshingly regional way that some locals talk. The friendly lilts in Savannah, GA, won for most charming accent, while two high-ranking island cities—Honolulu and San Juan, P.R.—confirm that some geographic isolation can make a city feel, and sound, unique.

    Accents are “an important piece of our history that has been transmitted down,” says Bridget Drinka, a linguist and chairman of the English department at the University of Texas at San Antonio—another city that ranked in the top 10, one where the idea of “Tex-Mex” can extend beyond tamales and into speech. 

    While plenty of folks insist that regional accents have faded, linguists only partially agree. Relocation dulls some twangs, but the gradual blurring of class distinctions has also made it so that more people don’t feel the pressure to “lose” their down-home-sounding accents anymore, according to Allan Metcalf, author of OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word. “Local accents that used to be stigmatized,” he says, “now seem charming.”

    Granted, some accents sound more charming than others. “The southern accent tends to be perceived as intimate, friendly,” Metcalf observes, “and the northern accent is perceived as intelligent—but not terribly friendly.” Indeed, Deep South and Texas accents dominate the top 20 survey results, while Boston (or Bahston) is the only northeastern city to crack the top 10.

    Lintner admits that she does judge folks by their accent when she travels, but in a good way. “I trust someone with an authentic accent,” she says, “because they’re probably natives—and so they know the best hidden places to go.”

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Savannah

    No. 1 Savannah, GA

    Is it their welcoming demeanor, or just the way they drop their r’s when they talk? Either way, T+L survey voters feel Georgians exude southern charm, both with their friendly personalities and their lovable tendency to add syllables to words (like maybe ice cuh-ream, a category in which Savannah also won the survey). That local lilt can be downright soothing: the city also ranked first for peace and quiet.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: New Orleans

    No. 2 New Orleans

    The “Who Dat!” mantra of Saints fans says a lot about the gumboesque local accent (with shades of Cajun, southern, and Italian) in the Crescent City. Folks even call the accent “Yat” (as in, saying “Whe-yat?” as short for “Where are you at?”). There are plenty of chances to hear it straight from the locals’ mouths: they ranked first for their civic pride as well as for their cafés and street performers. To blend in, just remember to call the city Noo AW-lins.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Charleston

    No. 3 Charleston, SC

    In Rhett Butler’s old hometown, you’ll hear a variety of accents, from the traditional “Old Charleston” southern drawl to the Creole-influenced Gullah accent. Either way, T+L readers were smitten, embracing the civilized touches in the city, which ranked first for its fine dining and near the top for its quaint architecture.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Nashville

    No. 4 Nashville

    Even if Music City is famous for elevating down-home-style crooners, these Tennesseans have added some city to their southern drawl. Readers enjoyed Nashville’s colorful people-watching and happy hours, and every night here may be ladies’ night: Nashville also ranked near the top of the survey for girlfriend getaways.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: San Juan

    No. 5 San Juan, P.R.

    It’s not exactly a traditional Spanish accent, nor classic Caribbean, either, but folks found the dialect pretty charming either way. Visitors especially loved the city for festive getaways: it ranked near the top for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and spring break.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Memphis

    No. 6 Memphis, TN

    In this bluesy town, the local southern accents take on a grittier quality—a mix of city and country, and perhaps influenced by their neighbors in Arkansas. Readers found the whole city to be a bit on the gritty side, but loved the overall affordability and such simple pleasures as the flea markets and legendary barbecue.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Honolulu

    No. 7 Honolulu

    The local “pidgin” dialect—which blends English, Hawaiian, Japanese, and more—goes well beyond “aloha.” One of the most common local phrases that can confuse visitors is “da kine” (as in, “the kind”), which is used to refer to almost anything. Then again, voters found almost everything blissful here: the city ranked first for weather and near the top for romance.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: San Antonio

    No. 8 San Antonio, TX

    The Texas twang can combine with a little south-of-border lilt in this family-friendly city, with its many Spanish speakers. That blend of Tex and Mex likely explains why the city also ranked so well for its queso-heavy ethnic cuisine. San Antone, as other Texans might say, also scored highly for its wealth of free attractions.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Boston

    No. 9 Boston

    The historic city’s erudite Brahmins may have had a refined speaking manner, but today people more readily recognize the Beantown accent that turns “chowder and beer” into “chowda and bee-ah.” Speaking of bee-ah, voters loved Boston’s sports bars, and gave props to the passionate local sports fans.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Minneapolis/ St. Paul

    No. 10 Minneapolis/St. Paul

    These Minnesotans may not think they have the kind of earnest-sounding (and, admittedly, stronger) accents found in the movie Fargo. But did they still charm T+L voters? You betcha. Locals also won raves for being both super-brainy and superb drivers, don-cha-know.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Providence

    No. 11 Providence, RI

    Geography has definitely shaped the Rhode Island accent, placing it aesthetically partway between New England Yankee and the New Yawkers to the south. Readers also loved the city for its food (they could perhaps hang a warning sign at the city limits, for anyone trying to diet): Providence scored near the top for burgers, pizza, food trucks, and ice cream.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Austin

    No. 12 Austin, TX

    You could be served a “y’all” with a “dude” on the side: the Texas twang has been slightly altered in this tech-friendly town, thanks in part to all of the West Coast transplants who have settled here. Voters also ranked the locals as some of the best-looking people in the nation, even if they seem a little bit weird—which many Austinites would take as a compliment.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Portland

    No. 13 Portland, ME

    These Yanks may sound somewhat like their friends in Boston (want to take a day trip? Try going to Maine’s “Bah Habbah,” as locals might say). But they also boast their own lingo, such as calling lobsters “bugs.” Bugs or no, everything here seems to taste good when washed down with the local microbrews, which ranked at No. 3. The city won the survey, meanwhile, for feeling safe.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Santa Fe

    No. 14 Santa Fe, NM

    This southwestern city charms folks with its sensory medley: the smell of roasting chiles, the visual feast of art, and the mélange of accents from locals speaking Spanish or Native American dialects (particularly Tewa) around town. Readers loved the city best in autumn, which is chile season, and ranked it at the top for cultural getaways

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Atlanta

    No. 15 Atlanta

    Atlanta came in at No. 10 for its slathered barbecue, but thick southern accents aren’t so common in this business hub, served by the world’s busiest airport—just a gentle version of the classic drawl. Voters did appreciate some of Atlanta’s big-city amenities, namely, the luxury stores.  

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Houston

    No. 16 Houston

    Some people have said that hometown gal Beyoncé can’t shake her Houston accent, which may feature a bit more Gulf Coast drawl than other Texas twangs. Houstonians, meanwhile, may endure some of the worst summers in the nation, according to voters, but they rank respectably for their indoor diversions: theater and classical music, not to mention big burgers.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Baltimore

    No. 17 Baltimore

    Longtime locals speak “Baltimorese,” which is said to be a Philly accent mixed with a southern streak—for instance, if you’re thirsty, you might get a bottle of “wooder.” A good place to hear neighborhood folks (and throw back a few beer bottles) is the local sports bars. The city also ranked well for being affordable.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Chicago

    No. 18 Chicago

    In the Windy City, with that midwestern flattening of sounds, your relish-topped hot dog may sound more like a “hat dag.” But it’s the local pizza that T+L readers liked best, whether the traditional deep dish or Neapolitan style. The diverse city also scored last for its weather—not enough of that “hat” weather to please visitors.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: Dallas/Fort Worth

    No. 19 Dallas/Fort Worth

    Even in a big city, you can still hear that Texas twang, as well as a few regional quirks: when ordering a soft drink at a barbecue place, for instance, your waitress might call everything a Coke (as in, “Y’all want some Cokes? What kind?”). Meanwhile, locals here may obsess over their Cowboys and Rangers—as in, the sports teams—but they know when it’s time to keep the jersey in the closet: the city also ranked in the top 10 for its luxury stores.

  • America's Most Charming Accents: San Diego

    No. 20 San Diego

    Readers may associate San Diego with buff surfers in wet suits as well as the valley-girl-meets-surfer dialect that makes your beach blanket sound more like a “blonket.” That mellow culture also helped the city rank well for its bustling singles scene, the great charbroiled burgers, and the fact that your dog is, like, totally welcome here.

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