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Is it that the locals are fascinating, good-looking, or just
kind of weird? Travel + Leisure readers rank the best American cities
for people-watching.

For many travelers, people-watching is the best
entertainment money can’t buy, and one of the easiest ways to get a feel for a
city.

Brooklynite Alisha Miranda says she likes to go sit in Manhattan’s
Union Square “and just take in the crazy around me.” The freelance writer adds,
“I love watching couples walking by, skateboarders, the ice cream trucks parked
on the corner, and the man doing flips shirtless as people fork over spare
change.”

The City That Never Sleeps, no surprise, came in near the
top of the people- watching category in the 2011 edition of America’s Favorite
Cities (AFC).  The annual survey asks Travel + Leisure readers to rank
35 cities in 54 categories—ranging from hotels and restaurants to the general
vibe
of the places, such as how clean they are, how safe they feel—and how fun it is to “take in the crazy.”

Which city could possibly beat out New
York
in this category? When we looked at the top 20, we found that the best
people-watching cities tend to have good weather and lots of room
to walk around
—after all, it’s harder to notice how fascinating locals are
when they’re holed up in their cars.

But does ranking near the “top” for people-watching mean
that a city is filled with attractive
people
or, frankly, odd ones? Dallas/Fort
Worth
, which came in last place in the category, may take some comfort in
the idea that its locals are just too normal to attract many looky-loos. Savannah’s top 5 finish, on the other hand, is further proof of its southern charm: the
city also landed in the top 5 for its locals’ good
looks
, style,
and friendliness.

In the great gawkable cities, one could argue that many of
the people being watched welcome it. “My favorite thing about people-watching
in NYC is that flat-out staring is kind of accepted,” says media
strategist Erin Scottberg. “It’s like the people you’re staring at—whether
they’re glamorous, crazy, funky, or totally out there—are proud that they’ve
commanded your attention.”

America's Best Cities for People-Watching

Is it that the locals are fascinating, good-looking, or just
kind of weird? Travel + Leisure readers rank the best American cities
for people-watching.

For many travelers, people-watching is the best
entertainment money can’t buy, and one of the easiest ways to get a feel for a
city.

Brooklynite Alisha Miranda says she likes to go sit in Manhattan’s
Union Square “and just take in the crazy around me.” The freelance writer adds,
“I love watching couples walking by, skateboarders, the ice cream trucks parked
on the corner, and the man doing flips shirtless as people fork over spare
change.”

The City That Never Sleeps, no surprise, came in near the
top of the people- watching category in the 2011 edition of America’s Favorite
Cities (AFC).  The annual survey asks Travel + Leisure readers to rank
35 cities in 54 categories—ranging from hotels and restaurants to the general
vibe
of the places, such as how clean they are, how safe they feel—and how fun it is to “take in the crazy.”

Which city could possibly beat out New
York
in this category? When we looked at the top 20, we found that the best
people-watching cities tend to have good weather and lots of room
to walk around
—after all, it’s harder to notice how fascinating locals are
when they’re holed up in their cars.

But does ranking near the “top” for people-watching mean
that a city is filled with attractive
people
or, frankly, odd ones? Dallas/Fort
Worth
, which came in last place in the category, may take some comfort in
the idea that its locals are just too normal to attract many looky-loos. Savannah’s top 5 finish, on the other hand, is further proof of its southern charm: the
city also landed in the top 5 for its locals’ good
looks
, style,
and friendliness.

In the great gawkable cities, one could argue that many of
the people being watched welcome it. “My favorite thing about people-watching
in NYC is that flat-out staring is kind of accepted,” says media
strategist Erin Scottberg. “It’s like the people you’re staring at—whether
they’re glamorous, crazy, funky, or totally out there—are proud that they’ve
commanded your attention.”

Philip Scalia / Alamy

America's Best Cities for People-Watching

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