America’s Favorite Cities
Locals also loved the southern city's ample water views, central location, and friendly vibe. "[It's] an amazing, historic city with [a] vibrant downtown area," another noted.
Every year in our annual America's Favorite Places survey, we ask Travel + Leisure readers to dish about their hometowns — the place they grew up or have lived in and know better than anywhere else on Earth.
Unlike T+L's World's Best Awards, which encourages readers to weigh in on travel experiences across the globe, the America's Favorite Places survey is a way for locals to share what their hometowns do best. Readers ranked their hometowns and cities across a range of categories, from the friendliness of the locals to the quality of the pizza.
But to find out which hometown was most loved overall, we took a composite score of all the individual categories, from the top city for things to see and to do, to the one with the most exciting places to eat and drink.
And this year, the small city of Norfolk, Virginia took the No.1 spot in a number of categories. When people who live, or have lived, in Norfolk were asked about their hometown, they raved about how welcoming this port city is to tourists — and what a great place it was to grab a burger, sip a pint of craft beer, and even admire creative street art.
Related: America's Most Underrated Cities
"Norfolk continues to place a priority on public art as part of any major new development," explained one local, while more than a few pointed visitors interested in street art in the direction of the upcoming NEON District.
This year, small cities and major metropolises from every region in the country appeared on the list of America's Favorite Cities. Did your hometown make the cut?
20. Cleveland, Ohio
Readers spoke about a number of different things when describing why they love Cleveland. Some touched on the rising number of independent restaurants while others focused on the 81 miles of groomed bridle trails. "It's home," said one. "And better than you think."
19. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Locals take pride in living in the nation's only UNESCO World Heritage City. It also earned high marks for its culturally diverse food scene, world-class theater, historic attractions, and accessibility. "I love Philly because it is the perfect-sized city. It's generally walkable and easy to navigate, but still has that ‘big city' vibe in Center City."
18. Fort Worth, Texas
"I am so lucky to [have been] born in my favorite city," said one T+L reader. "You can't just talk about Fort Worth — you have to experience it. Come on down…we will get some sweet tea and my momma will make a brisket."
17. Portland, Oregon
This Pacific Northwest city charms with its incredible hiking trails, coffee scene, and bookstores. A number of readers raved about the sprawling Powell's Downtown bookstore, and the city's homegrown coffee roasters. "Coffee is almost religion in Portland," explained one local.
16. Washington, D.C.
"Beautiful city with plenty of green space, great restaurants, landmarks, and monuments. [It's] a great place to visit and live," said one pleased local. This year, Washington, D.C. took the No. 1 spots for both free and cheap attractions as well as museums.
15. San Diego, California
"I didn't appreciate it until I moved away," one survey respondent lamented. "What I love is that San Diego gives you any kind of experience, from urban to country living and everything in between." San Diego was this year's No. 1 beach destination, and the top spot for year-round perfect weather.
14. Scottsdale, Arizona
This desert city is well heeled and affluent, and earned high marks for cleanliness, weather, and athleticism. "I live where people have their dream vacations," remarked one T+L reader.
13. Louisville, Kentucky
Most famous for the Kentucky Derby, this southern river city is hailed for its friendly locals and strong bourbon scene (the Bourbon Trail has more than 50 distilleries within a 50-mile radius).
12. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
"It's a great place, especially for young adults looking for a [destination] that doesn't get a lot of spotlight. It's a blossoming arts city, with tons of museums, theaters, and artist-friendly spaces as well," raved a survey respondent. Locals recommend visiting between early spring and mid-autumn for the best experience.
11. New York City
Readers had strong feelings about New York City — many of them describing what an overwhelming, but rewarding, place the Big Apple is to call home. "I've moved out and returned," explained one born-and-raised reader. "Traveling has made me so much more appreciate of this city…you can do and get anything, anytime you want, and you cannot truly appreciate that until you leave."
10. Rochester, New York
Readers had a lot to say about Rochester, describing this underrated city as a destination experiencing something of a renaissance. Outdoor activities are easily accessible in the nearby Finger Lakes region, while downtown, there's a refreshed public market, a number of craft cocktail spots — and even a voluminous, 96-foot waterfall.
9. Greenville, South Carolina
"Its proximity to major cities, as well as the views of the nearby mountains, make Greenville a jewel in South Carolina," explained one pleased local. Others remarked about the affordable and diverse food scene.
8. Nashville, Tennessee
Unsurprisingly, a vibrant music scene (including excellent karaoke bars) helped propel Nashville to the top of the list. It was also deemed one of the best cities in the nation for a bachelor or bachelorette party.
7. Indianapolis, Indiana
Locals love how surprised and impressed visitors are by Indy, which has a beautiful canal and striking architecture. Other reasons to love this Midwest city? Affordable prices and a friendly, accessible vibe.
6. Chicago, Illinois
Even lifelong Chicagoans admitted they hadn't seen and done everything in the city, which is an incredible destination for both foodies as well as die-hard sports fans. "There's something special about each season in Chicago," explained one T+L reader. "…even when it's blustery cold." Watch the Cubs or White Sox in the summer, and visit the Christmas markets during the holiday season.
5. San Francisco, California
Street art, public parks, and coffee were just a few points of pride for San Franciscans this year. And despite rising prices, locals still have a deep affection for their hometown. "Having lived all over America, there is no place quite like San Francisco," said one T+L reader. "It has culture, class, adventure, diversity, friendliness, year-round cool weather, tolerant attitudes, and endless things to do." Talk about a rave review.
4. Santa Fe, New Mexico
"Santa Fe is one of those very few American cities that still has its own uniqueness," one survey taker ventured. This Southwestern city has a small town feel, and is best known for its arts scene, galleries, and historic adobe homes. It also took the No. 1 spot for quirkiest city in the country this year.
3. Buffalo, New York
According to T+L readers, Buffalo is one of the best cities in the nation for pizza and ice cream — but it also has some of the finest green spaces and architecture. The city lays claim to seven Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures.
2. New Orleans, Louisiana
"There is no other city like New Orleans. So much history. A beautiful city. The people know how to make visitors feel welcomed, said one T+L survey respondent, while another described its color, incredible food, and famous festivals. This year, NOLA took the top spot for bachelor or bachelorette parties, festivals, and dining and drinking.
1. Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk leapt from the No. 4 city in 2016 to America's favorite place this year, earning top marks for things to see overall, the cleanliness of the city, and for the people, who readers described as smart, friendly, and welcoming to visitors. Sounds like a good reason to visit Norfolk.