America’s Most Attractive Cities 2016
Aug. 18, 2016 — Oscar Wilde never visited Houston, Texas, but he might as well have. “Crying is for plain women,” he reportedly quipped. “Pretty women go shopping.” And the lovely ladies (and men) of Houston do a lot of shopping. Whether at luxury megamalls or one-of-a-kind boutiques, they have endless retail options to keep them looking pretty.
So too, do residents of Scottsdale, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada. No surprise then, that in Travel + Leisure’s 2016 America’s Favorite Places survey, each of these merchandise meccas earn high praise for their gorgeous locals.
In the annual America's Favorite Places survey, readers of all stripes evaluate hundreds of cities and towns across a range of categories, from the friendliness of the locals to the quality of the pizza. Unlike Travel + Leisure'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.
These factors take different forms in each city. Bronzed surfers dot the coastlines of some, while ski-bunnies race down the mountains near others. The fine foodies in one town enjoy some of the country’s best barbecue, while those in another dine at restaurants from the world’s most famous chefs. And a Friday evening means drinking local beers for some of America’s best looking people, but attending a world-class symphony performance for others.
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.
15. San Antonio, TX
San Antonio is a barbecue-loving Texan town more famous for its history than the beauty of its people. In between stops at the Alamo and strolls along downtown’s restaurant-lined River Walk though, T+L readers this year noticed that San Antonians themselves were just as eye-catching as the cityscape. See them at their happiest on weekends during the holiday season, when they converge at the river to see it lit by 6,000 luminaria. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation, either. San Antonio’s residents earned a perfect score for being friendly.
14. Norfolk, VA
For those whose type is men or women in uniform, Norfolk, Virginia, is the place to be. The world’s largest navy base and NATO’s Strategic Command headquarters are there, and the Department of Defense is the city’s largest employer. But Norfolk’s officers and admirals have a soft side too, enjoying a booming arts scene a full calendar of festivals—including annual celebrations of Cajun food, jazz, and wine—and coastal Virginia’s best restaurants.
13. Savannah, GA
Savannah bills itself as the “Hostess City of the South,” in a nod to its reputation for Southern charm. And with such gorgeous locals, T+L readers are all too happy to be guests in this fair city. People-watching is the activity of choice in Savannah’s leafy town squares, lined with 18th- and 19th-century mansions. It’s all undeniably romantic, with Spanish moss dangling from the trees and fountains splashing water into the air, making Savannah a perfect spot for a couples’ getaway.
12. Las Vegas, NV
Viva Las Vegas, indeed. Tens of millions of visitors head to Sin City each year for debaucherous weekends of gambling, partying, and tying the knot. They stay at the glitziest resorts outside of Dubai and dine at restaurants from the world’s leading chefs. They spend oodles at luxury boutiques, and, if they’re feeling adventurous, they venture into the desert to see the Grand Canyon, just three hours away. Turns out, that recipe for a perfect vacation has attracted an ever-growing number of beautiful people as well, and T+L readers find people in Sin City to be among the country’s best-looking.
11. Alexandria, VA
Just south of Washington, D.C., Alexandria has quietly become one of the region’s most popular destinations thanks to a reputation for good shopping and good eating. This year, T+L readers also noticed the city’s good-looking residents. Many of them work for nearby government agencies and nonprofits. When they’re not in the office, Alexandrians are walking or biking in Old Town, where boutiques and restaurants in 18th- and 19th-century buildings line the bustling King Street. Watch them all go by from a room at Kimpton’s Lorien Hotel & Spa, whose red-brick facade overlooks the historic thoroughfare.
10. Madison, WI
Anyone looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right needs to consider a move to Wisconsin’s state capital. T+L readers give Madisonians perfect or near-perfect scores for their friendliness, intelligence, quirkiness, athleticism, and, to top it off, good looks. Brainiacs affiliated with University of Wisconsin get their caffeine fix at Michaelangelo’s on State Street before going sailing (or, in the winter, ice fishing) on Lake Mendota. For date nights, they have dozens of bars and concert venues to choose from, earning Madison points for its vibrant singles scene.
9. Houston, TX
Beyonce is from Houston. Tom Ford, Patrick Swayze, and Matt Bomer, too. That list alone should earn Space City a high score for attractiveness. But T+L readers also note the city’s penchant for fashion. Montrose neighborhood’s boutiques and the enormous Galleria Mall’s 375 luxury shops ensure Houstonians always look their best. See them wearing athleisure clothes in any of the city’s 337 parks, or in black-ties and gowns at performances from the world famous Houston symphony, ballet, and opera companies.
8. Denver, CO
The Mile-High City earns lofty scores for its beautiful locals, who don’t let their privileged location near the Rockies go to waste. Hiking, skiing, and boarding are all popular ways to stay active around Colorado’s famously sunny state capital. Off the trails, meet beer-crazy locals—there are nearly 60 breweries in the city itself—at any of the bars in the RiNo (short for River North) arts district. A good conversation starter? The Broncos. T+L readers give Denver’s residents high marks for their hometown pride.
7. Charleston, SC
Charleston, South Carolina has warmed its way into the hearts of travelers, nabbing this year’s World’s Best City award. Antebellum residences and hip restaurants fill its historic downtown, on a flat peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers just before they flow into the Atlantic. But it’s not just the buildings, food scene, and waterfront views that grab visitors’ attentions. Charlestonians themselves are another main appeal. Readers give locals high marks for their good looks, which, when paired with their over-the-top friendliness and oh-so-southern charm, makes for an irresistible combination.
6. Nashville, TN
Little wonder singer-songwriters flock to Nashville for musical inspiration: the city’s beautiful locals provide perfect muses. Get inspired yourself at local haunts like Martin’s Bar-B-Que and its just-opened downtown outpost, where pitmaster Pat Martin serves some of the best pulled pork in America, or at newcomer Bar Luca, an East Nashville wine and small-plates spot. Readers also love locals for their effortless look—casual, a little undone, and heavy on the denim.
5. San Diego, CA
San Diego’s nickname, America’s Finest City, left an impression on Travel + Leisure readers, who gave its residents high marks for their fine, SoCal looks. A near-perfect climate means that there’s rarely an excuse to stay indoors, allowing San Diegans ample opportunity to stay active. When they’re not cycling through the bike-friendly downtown, they’re running along the waterfront or surfing at the Trestles beaches—and ending the day with well-deserved beers at one of 120 breweries.
4. Salt Lake City, UT
Brigham Young hailed Salt Lake City as a “Kingdom of Heaven on Earth” when he founded it in 1847. Walk the streets of Utah’s capital today, and it’s hard to disagree with the Mormon leader. Not only are the sidewalks spotless—SLC earns top marks for cleanliness—but the locals are attractive, too. In the winter, they have eight nearby ski resorts at their disposal, including those of Park City, America’s favorite mountain town. During warmer months, active Salt Lakers explore the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, an ever-expanding route of biking and walking paths following the shores of the ancient Lake Bonneville.
3. Scottsdale, AZ
What keeps Scottsdale residents looking so good? It could be the abundant Vitamin D from its roughly 300 days of sunshine a year. Or possibly the hours spent walking in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which protects 30,000 acres of mountainous desert habitat. Then again, it could be the sheer volume of spas: more per capita than anywhere else in the United States. Whatever it is, it’s working, and Travel + Leisure readers have taken notice. Scottsdale also earns a perfect score for its plethora of luxury boutiques.
2. Boulder, CO
Brains or beauty? Boulder has both. At the doorstep to the Rockies, this university town is a high-altitude playground for its fit and fine residents. Chautauqua Park, home to the iconic Flatiron rock formations, is where business professionals on lunch breaks and University of Colorado students in between classes venture for hikes. Come winter, skiing takes hold, and everyone heads to nearby slopes. Visitors planning to keep up with active locals should check in to St. Julien Hotel & Spa, fresh off a $1 million overhaul, whose 10,000-square-foot wellness center is a sight for sore eyes after strenuous mountain adventures.
1. Honolulu, HI
More than 2,500 miles from the landlubbers of mainland North America, Honolulu is in a class of its own. Islanders here make use of great weather by hiking up Diamond Head or surfing the city’s famous waves at Waikiki. Locals didn’t get top marks for their style—an over-reliance on Hawaiian shirts, perhaps? But when you’re so close to the beach, street clothes aren’t all that necessary anyway.