America's Strangest People
Whether they’re riding unicycles, peddling art, or strolling in the nude, America’s offbeat locals put out a colorful welcome mat for travelers.
The last time Greg Newkirk visited New Orleans, one of his favorite local attractions was an actual local.
“I had walked into a shop to ask a few questions and ended up getting a thorough history of New Orleans voodoo by a man who was the nicest self-professed vampire you would ever meet,” says the Cincinnati-based editor of Roadtrippers.com. “He gave us weird travel advice, delicious food advice, and psychic life advice. If that doesn’t sum up the French Quarter, I don’t know what does.”
Such full-service eccentricity made New Orleans a natural contender for the nation’s strangest people, based on votes in the offbeat category of T+L’s annual America’s Favorite Cities survey. Readers rank 35 metropolitan areas for features such as live music and food trucks as well as their residents—be they smart, attractive, or, indeed, lovably weird.
Certainly, New Orleans had some tough competition in the offbeat category. Austin, TX, and Portland, OR, have staked their reputations on quirky hipster charm, while Savannah, GA, Santa Fe, NM, and New York have deep traditions of colorful local characters.
And while a little bit of the bizarre always provides great people-watching, travelers may also embrace such destinations because they encourage them to step out of their own shells and relax.
“People feel very uninhibited when they visit,” Fred Perrotta, cofounder of Tortuga Backpacks, says of his hometown of San Francisco. “Why be reserved, trying not to offend the person next to you, when he’s half naked, riding a unicycle, and carrying a pet pig?”