America's Best Cities
No. 2 Santa Fe
Voters clearly don’t come to Santa Fe looking for a raucous time; it landed in the bottom 10 for its happy hours. But the No. 2 favorite outperformed most other cities when it came to cultured, mellow pursuits, such as checking out art galleries (rated No. 4), appreciating architecture, and browsing the top-rated independent shops. “Curators of Santa Fe’s boutiques are true global nomads,” reader John Clifford posted to T+L on Facebook. “They travel from Bangkok to Bali to Beirut for an international mix.”
What makes a city the most lovable in the nation? According to Travel + Leisure readers, it could be a mix of food, culture, and some funny accents.
Many people travel to eat, others to shop, and some even to pedal.
“In Savannah, I feel like biking anywhere I want, exploring on my own, just to soak in the atmosphere,” says Baltimorean Amanda DiGiondomenico, a producer for the Travel Channel. “There’s just something very inviting about the city.”
Savannah’s carefree energy has worked its charms on countless other visitors—enough to land it among the top 10 cities in America, according to Travel + Leisure readers. In the annual America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers evaluate 35 metropolitan areas in a variety of categories that make an impression on travelers, such as which city has the widest array of hotel options, which offers the best museums, flea markets, and microbrews, and which locals are friendliest or have the sweetest accents.
When we tabulated the overall popularity results—those cities with the most top-five rankings across the 66 categories—a clear winner emerged. New Orleans scored in the top five in more than half of the survey’s categories, from fine dining, architecture, and antiques to the entertaining people-watching and its No. 1-ranked music scene. As reader Danya Powell Bushey posted to T+L on Facebook: “New Orleans is the epitome of soul: strong people and satisfying food mixed with passion-fueled tunes.”
Music also helped propel a city that might surprise you toward the top of our results. “Nashville offers a small-town feel with big-city personality,” explains Tennessean Amanda Staley, who adds that the self-named Music City “doesn’t hold the country-music-only stigma it once did.”
Indeed, Nashville was the champ for such small-town qualities as affordability and friendliness—and tied for third with New York City in the overall city rankings. The Big Apple, meanwhile, made its big impression for other reasons, winning the No. 1 slots for its theater scene and for harboring the nation’s most stylish and diverse population (why not do a little mingling at one of the local highly rated cocktail bars?).
Whatever its strong suit, each of these top-ranked destinations clearly makes its own case for a visit. Read on to find the right city for you—and share your recommendations and reactions by posting a comment below or on Twitter.