These Are America’s Friendliest Cities
Here, you can more or less count on a smile from strangers — and at least a dozen offers to personally provide directions (or maybe just escort you to your destination) should you look even remotely lost or bewildered.
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 quality of the pizza to the demeanor of the locals.
And when it came to general friendliness — not just hospitality toward tourists and neighborly love but also manners, politeness, and warm dispositions — there weren't too many surprises. This year's list was still dominated by cities in the American South and the Midwest, as well as destinations with year-round good weather and natural beauty (we're looking at you, Honolulu).
And yet it was an East Coast city in famously frigid upstate New York that earned the No. 1 spot on this year's list of America's friendliest places. But even there, locals seem to be living up to long-held expectations. Buffalo isn't called the City of Good Neighbors for nothing.
"I've said for years that Buffalo is a Midwestern city dropped on the other side of Lake Erie," one reader explained.
Travelers who love to strike up conversations with locals should head straight to one of these cities, where big smiles and big hearts are easy to come by.
20. Denver, Colorado
"What is there to complain about with all that Colorado has to offer?" asked one survey responder. "That is how the locals feel — no complaining because life is good."
19. Honolulu, Hawaii
"We'll treat you like family even if you're staying here for three nights. When you leave, you'll feel like you're leaving home," said one local about their home city, Honolulu. Hawaii's gorgeous scenery almost certainly contributes to everyone feeling so friendly and upbeat all the time.
18. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
According to locals, "Minnesota Nice" is a real thing. Residents of the Twin Cities are known for being affable and helpful.
17. Rochester, New York
"Rochester has a more Midwestern pleasantness than it does an East Coast attitude," explained one reader. "We're subdued though, as we're not as boisterously friendly as you'd experience in the South. People are very genuine."
16. Kansas City, Missouri
"We are in the heart of the Midwest!" said one T+L reader. "We are down-to-Earth, low-key, and being welcoming is in our nature."
16. Santa Fe, New Mexico
A number of readers explained that no matter where you find yourself in Santa Fe, be it on a hike, at a local coffee shop, on the street, or at a Jiffy Lube, you're likely to get involved in a genial conversation with locals. This year, Santa Fe landed in a dead tie with Kansas City.
14. Cleveland, Ohio
"You will rarely find a Clevelander that will not try to go out of [his or her] way to assist you," said one survey responder.
13. Grand Rapids, Michigan
One reader said West Michigan is the friendliest place around — so expect to chat with plenty of locals during a visit.
12. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
After living away from home for a decade, one Pittsburgher returned to their hometown to find people were as friendly, chatty, and welcoming as ever. "During my first trip to the grocery store, I talked to the deli man for a half hour about cheese — including one that he insisted tasted like pierogies. It did. It was good to be home."
11. Birmingham, Alabama
Locals say Birmingham is a true example of Southern hospitality. Residents will want to learn all about you — "especially if you know someone they might know," one survey respondent noted.
10. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
"The people of Milwaukee are amazing. We live Midwestern hospitality to the core — it's like a small town vibe in an urban setting." Visitors said that whomever you sit next to at the bar or in a park could wind up feeling like an old friend.
9. Fort Worth, Texas
"People say ‘hello,' they will hold the door open for you, and always tell you the best places to eat. Usually, it's in their mama's kitchen and you'll be invited over."
8. Louisville, Kentucky
"Our state is known as the Gateway to the South. Therefore, our hospitality is second to none." Travelers should be prepared to hear directions from everyone — and share at least a few glasses of bourbon with strangers.
7. Nashville, Tennessee
Southern manners are a point of pride to Nashville residents, who spoke fondly of the city's friendly banter and sense of camaraderie. Tourism is a major part of the industry, many T+L readers observed — meaning locals are well versed in hospitality.
6. Indianapolis, Indiana
"We are known for Hoosier hospitality," one reader told T+L. As did another. And another. "Hoosier hospitality is our catch phrase, and it's real. Authentic, helpful, caring is just in our DNA."
5. San Antonio, Texas
"If you sneeze, four strangers will say ‘bless you," said one T+L reader. More than a few survey respondents who moved to San Antonio from other cities said they're still amazed, even after decades, how friendly the Texas town is. San Antonio "takes prides in being friendly," another explained. They even brag about it.
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
"Everyone has a story — and wants to hear yours," is how one T+L reader described New Orleans' friendliness. "In neighborhoods, all doors are open, or everybody is sitting on the porch."
3. Greenville, South Carolina
Edging out even famously friendly Charleston is Greenville, which has that quintessential southern charm travelers (and locals) love. A resident claimed that everyone on Main Street wears a smile on his or her face, and will grin or wave at passersby.
2. Norfolk, Virginia
Despite being right below the Mason-Dixon line, Virginia is still the South — and very proud to support the notion of southern hospitality.
1. Buffalo, New York
"People smile at each other on the streets. We talk to strangers all the time and are just overall willing to help each other," said one local Buffalo resident. "They don't call us the City of Good Neighbors for nothing." One reader recommended that visitors ask for directions — not because they're lost, but because a local might just escort them to wherever they're going.