America's Best Cities
No. 8 Charleston (tie)
Talk about southern charm: voters love this city for its genteel shopping (No.2-rated antique stores) but also for the polite locals and their lilting accents. Readers even took that loving feeling literally, ranking Charleston No. 1 for romantic getaways, just ahead of Savannah. Perhaps it was the burgeoning food scene that gave this city the edge; it ranked No. 1 for fine dining. Take a tip from Erin Perkins, College of Charleston art director, who recommends Two Boroughs Larder. “My go-to order is the noodle bowl with all the fixings: extra pork, kimchi, pickled mushrooms—and make it spicy.”
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.