As a Nashville native, Meagan Nordmann thought she knew all about friendly locals—until she flew to Albuquerque.
“Before my plane had even landed in The Land of Enchantment, I had probably 20 tweets from locals offering to take me out for coffee,” says the digital marketer, who recently relocated to the New Mexico city. “I dare say, Albuquerque is even friendlier than Nashville. I suppose this is one of the reasons locals here jokingly call it ‘The Land of Entrapment.’ ”
That group-hug mentality is indeed one reason why the Southwestern city—as well as the affable folks in Tennessee—made Travel+Leisure’s top 10 for friendly cities. In the most recent America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 38 metro areas for such inviting features as wine bars, pizza and luxury shopping—along with the conviviality of the locals who might be serving drinks, ringing up your order or just offering directions outside your hotel.
Geographically, the top 15 winners represent a distinct advantage among heartland cities—though one could argue that the size of city, not the location, may be a better indicator of heart. The winning cities also ranked well in the survey for some concrete features that make it easy for locals to show off their sunny demeanors: pedestrian-friendly streets, cool boutiques, coffee houses, and even communal, picnic-table-equipped food truck pods.
The friendliest cities have certain intangible qualities, too. Charleston’s high ranking may come in part from its slower-paced lifestyle, says Isabelle Furth, a p.r. exec who lives in Washington D.C. (a city that, ahem, did not make the top 15 this year). “I remember walking into an upscale boutique in Charleston and being offered sweet tea and a cookie,” says Furth. “The soft Southern accents don’t hurt, either.”
Travel + Leisure’s America’s Favorite Places survey opened on 10/8/2015 and closed on 04/15/2016. It was open to everyone, and ran alongside a sweepstakes. The open-response survey asked respondents to submit their favorite place and rate it in over 65 categories, including affordability, notable restaurants, and public parks. Cities are defined as governed bodies with a population over 100,000.