America's Best Cities for Hipsters 2012

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Jake Stangel

They sport vintage bowling shoes and the latest tech gear—but they also know all the best places to eat and drink. Here are America’s cities with the biggest hipster scenes.

No. 1 Seattle

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These northwesterners prove that a key to hipsterness is being ahead of the curve: they won the survey for their smarts, their tech savvy, and their high-octane coffee. As a result, the geek chic may be a little more buttoned-down here than in other cities. Look for representatives in the up-and-coming South Lake Union area, near downtown, or in former Scandinavian neighborhood Ballard, site of some of the city’s hottest restaurants, such as oyster bar The Walrus and the Carpenter.

See all the America's Favorite Cities survey results!

America's Best Cities for Hipsters 2012

No. 1 Seattle

These northwesterners prove that a key to hipsterness is being ahead of the curve: they won the survey for their smarts, their tech savvy, and their high-octane coffee. As a result, the geek chic may be a little more buttoned-down here than in other cities. Look for representatives in the up-and-coming South Lake Union area, near downtown, or in former Scandinavian neighborhood Ballard, site of some of the city’s hottest restaurants, such as oyster bar The Walrus and the Carpenter.

See all the America's Favorite Cities survey results!

Jake Stangel

America's Best Cities for Hipsters 2012

There’s a quirky new microbrew in Seattle: Churchkey Can Company produces a pilsner in a flat-top can, which requires an old-fashioned “church-key” opener to drink it. A beer blog promptly declared it the “most hipster beer in the world”—which may or may not be a compliment.

Related: America's Best Cities for Hipsters

It’s no wonder that pilsner originated in Seattle, where a local taste for the retro, artsy, and wee-bit ironic boosted it to the top of America’s best cities for hipsters, according to Travel + Leisure readers who voted in the annual America’s Favorite Cities survey. They ranked 35 metropolitan areas on culturally relevant features like live music, coffee bars, and independent boutiques. To zero in on the biggest hipster crowds, we also factored in the results for the best microbrews and the most offbeat and tech-savvy locals.

It’s our take on the debated term hipster, which can inspire eye rolls or admiration. Once used to describe counterculture types, hipster is now so prevalent it’s at a possible tipping point. Whatever your take, you generally know hipsters when you see them—most likely in funky, up-and-coming neighborhoods. A smirking attitude toward mainstream institutions means they tend to frequent cool, often idiosyncratic restaurants, shops, and bars—the same kinds of venues that appeal to travelers looking for what they can’t find at home. (Yelp.com now even has a search feature for “hipster” ambience.)

There’s also an eco-conscious influence in contemporary hipsterdom. Some of the trendiest places to shop in New Orleans, for instance, are thrift shops. In Denver and Minneapolis, hipsters gather in coffee-or-tea cafés that double as low-carbon-footprint bike shops. Upping the ante, Portland, OR, is the home of BikeBar, where you can pedal stationary bikes that actually generate electricity for the organic micropub.

Indeed, techie haven Seattle got some serious competition from the craft-beer-loving, food-truck-dining, and notoriously mustachioed Oregon city. After all, Portland arguably corners the market on quirkiness, the X factor of hipness. Portland-based TV and film casting director Lana Veenker says that clients frequently ask her to hire “Portland hipster types”—and it’s not hard.

“There’s a guy in my neighborhood who regularly takes his pet pig for a walk around the block, on a leash,” Veenker says. She also sees a guy in a Darth Vader costume tooling around town on his unicycle—with bagpipes. “It’s just par for the course around here.”

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