America's Best Cities for Singles 2010
Social media strategist Jani Bowe moved to Chicago from Minneapolis in 2007 and was glad she did. “Before moving to Chicago I wondered where on earth all the 20- to 30-year-olds went, as the dating scene in Minneapolis was extremely thin,” she says. But she found a lot more action in the Windy City. “Chicago is a vibrant, tech-savvy city, and this is where people come to start their careers,” she says. “So many men, so little time!”
Lots of people feel the same way. Chicago came in as the sixth-best U.S. city for singles in the annual America’s Favorite Cities survey, where Travel + Leisure readers rated urban areas on culture, hotels, weather, and even how good-looking the locals are. Of course, the race for the top singles cities boils down, in many ways, to how good the bar scene is. It explains, for instance, why party-centric cities like San Francisco and New York slid into the top 10 as easily as a Jell-O shot.
That’s not to say smaller cities don’t have their appeal for unmarried types. Austin cracked the top 5 thanks to its unbeatable music scene and smart, friendly locals. But the capital city wasn’t the lone star in Texas—nearby Houston also has a sizzling scene. What gives? Warm-weather spots did well in the survey, since more people can get out year-round to enjoy the city’s offerings. Having good cultural outlets, as Houston does in spades, doesn’t hurt either.
Some warm-weather spots defy that logic, though, like Orlando, where you’re more likely to trip over a stroller than stumble upon a singles bar. Honolulu, meanwhile, won in the AFC survey for romance but scored low for its singles scene—implying that people come here when they’re already in love, or are too busy pushing strollers to hold a mai tai too.
Meanwhile, some chillier places apparently make their own heat—perhaps that’s why Chicagoans ranked only No. 19 for friendliness. Smaller cities tended to rank higher for local charm, and offer a different kind of bar scene. Providence came in at No. 10 for singles, perhaps thanks to its friendly people and neighborhood joints, while Nashville is perfect for anyone—single or not—who wants a night on the town backed up by a steel guitar.
So what’s your poison? Read on to see which city has the singles scene for you.
#1 New Orleans
The Crescent City is a nightlife triple threat in the AFC survey: not only does it rank first for singles, but it wins for its cocktail hour and live music scenes—and it’s the winner in the wild weekend category too. Its locals rank high in friendliness (No. 2) and diversity (No. 3), and if they’re not letting the bon temps rouler, they’re sitting down (and we do mean sitting down—the Big Easy came in last place for active people) for a nice beignet.
As the AFC survey’s three-year champ for good-looking locals, this sizzler of the South has all the makings of a great singles scene: stylish locals (No. 2), good cocktails (No. 4), and great weather (No. 5), so that the partying can go on year-round. It’s also a spectator sport: Miami ranks fifth in the U.S. for great people-watching.
It has a legendary music scene, unbeatable Tex-Mex and barbecue restaurants, and locals who seem too good to be true. This is one of the few cities where the degree of good looks is not balanced out by a lack of brains or an ability to smile. These urbane Texans are attractive (No. 5), smart (No. 2), friendly (No. 4), and athletic to boot (No. 3).
#4 New York
Manhattan has (almost) everything going for its millions of singles: it’s No. 1 in both big-name and ethnic restaurants as well as theater and classical music. Its locals are also the country’s most stylish and diverse. The only things weighing down the scene here: New York is the least affordable city in America, and those well-dressed locals are the least friendly. (Whaddayou lookin’ at??)
#5 Las Vegas
Clearly it doesn’t matter that survey-takers rated Vegas’s locals as not terribly attractive (they rank 19th), friendly (24th), or smart (dead last). After all, this is Vegas, which rates No. 2 for wild weekends and tells visitors they’re allowed to keep their Sin City secrets to themselves.
The Windy City bar scene may be bustling thanks to its young workforce, or just because everyone’s out looking for a nightcap after chowing down. Chicago ranks second for big-name restaurants, third for ethnic dining, and fourth for neighborhood joints.
Despite the city’s twangy history, singles here aren’t crying into their beers: they rank No. 1 in friendliness and No. 9 in looks. Stroll Broadway or the rest of downtown and you’ll see tomorrow’s Taylor Swifts (and a bunch of other types too) polishing their acts on street corners and in pizza joints—so it’s also no surprise that Nashville ranks second in live music.
Adieu, mechanical bull. Houston has come a long way since its Urban Cowboy days. Clearly it’s also attracting singles, and survey-takers also gave the city a top-10 ranking for cocktails and stylish, attractive locals.
#9 San Francisco
The locals are stylish and diverse, and they’re not hard on the eyes either (No. 11 in attractiveness). Pub-crawling is easy, too—San Fran ranks fourth in the survey as being pedestrian-friendly. Just bring your plastic: the City by the Bay is pricey (No. 27 in affordability).
The Rhode Island capital ranks eighth for its cocktail hour, but you might do better mingling with the singles if you pull up a stool at a neighborhood joint (the city ranks second in that category) or a cozy coffee bar (sixth).
#11 Los Angeles
Angelenos rank fourth in being both attractive and stylish, not shocking in a town where even the frozen-yogurt shop workers keep their head shots handy. But they didn’t crack the top 10 best cities for singles—maybe because they’re the next-to-least friendly too?
Working on the assumption that smart is sexy, Boston is smoking hot. Its locals rank third in brains, even if they’re 25th in both looks and friendliness. Going out for a fun night may mean a little Chopin (the city ranks third in classical music) or a happenin’ lecture (it rates second in historical sites). Then again, Beantown came in only 12th on this list, so perhaps the assumption is faulty.
The City of Brotherly Love might actually just like you as a friend—and that may be okay. It ranks last for attractive locals, but the Philly folks love a good neighborhood place (No. 7) where you can wash down a cheesesteak with a good brew.
#14 San Diego
Is SoCal’s mellow bar scene too mellow to be singles-worthy? After all, it’s built largely on patio seating, which is a great showcase for the country’s best weather and some of its most attractive people—so why are they not getting together?
If you’re looking to meet other singles in the Mile High City, you might do better finding them on hiking and biking trails as opposed to the bars. Its people are the most active and—perhaps because they’re in such good shape—they rank No. 6 as most attractive too. No surprise: the city also rates second in good parks and outdoor spaces.
Where’s the heat, Hotlanta? If you’re coming to town for a fun time, you might do well to just stay at the airport. While the city fares only so-so in the survey on its nightlife (No. 22 for cocktail hour and No. 20 for live music), its Hartsfield airport rates fourth for its on-site restaurants and bars and No. 7 for its lounges. Just tell them you’re waiting for your “connection.”
#17 Minneapolis/St. Paul
These northerners rank first in intelligence, fifth in friendliness, and 10th in attractiveness. So maybe if the winters weren’t so long (weather ranks 28th), they’d come out and mix it up a bit more. Look for these Nordic dazzlers at the theater (which ranks No. 3) and catching some live music (No. 8).
#18 Washington, D.C.
There was no prize for “wonkiest” locals, though D.C. ranks sixth for smartest people and a lowly 28th for friendliest. It also ranks last as a “wild weekend getaway” and only slightly better for romance. What’s left? A lot of buttoned-down types who still like to blow off some steam. To find them at their best, check out the city’s great ethnic restaurants; our nation’s capital also rates 12th in good people-watching.
#19 San Antonio
The Riverwalk is always hopping, but unless you count spring break (No. 8), this isn’t so much a singles town as it is one for families. Or maybe folks are just too busy eating those amazing enchiladas and tamales (No. 5 in ethnic food) to notice anyone else. Word to the wise: it’s uncool to flirt inside the Alamo.
#20 Kansas City
Not a hair is out of place in this charming southern city, where the locals rank third for being both attractive and friendly. If it ain’t mint julep season, though, you might be hard-pressed to whoop it up. Overall the city ranks first for B&Bs, second for romance, and seventh as a family getaway.
When people go check out a bar band in Seattle, apparently they’re there to actually hear the music. While the locals rate well as being both intelligent and athletically active, the Emerald City doesn’t traditionally swing for the singles. To find the city’s best prospects, you might do better to take a hike in Discovery or Seward parks, or just browse the aisles at Elliott Bay Books.
The good news: as the AFC’s most affordable getaway, Cleveland is a cheap date. As for what to do? The home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does better for live music (No. 10) than it does for a bar scene. But hey, the people are pretty friendly (No. 13), if not, alas, stunningly attractive (No. 28).
How can a piece of paradise rank so low? Maybe it’s because this place is loaded with couples—it ranks No. 1 for romantic escapes and No. 6 for family vacations. And let’s face it: no one looks marketable in a Hawaiian shirt.
#25 Portland, OR
Maybe this northwestern city is just too laid-back for a hot singles scene. Or perhaps they’re too busy pedaling around town to stop at a bar for too long. The city ranks first for outdoor spaces and second for its athletic locals. Putting away too many microbrews would only slow you down.
This family-magnet city is—no surprise—a bit more repellent to singles. Funny how sporting the mouse ears while nursing your beer doesn’t reel in the ladies.
Perhaps “swinging” here applies only to golf clubs. This desert destination ranks second for its all-in-one resorts and seventh for peace and quiet. To catch its version of action, come around the holidays, when it ranks third for Thanksgiving holidays and fifth for Christmas and winter.
#28 Dallas/Fort Worth
Big D is a big dud to many visitors, who find the locals not so attractive (No. 18), intelligent (No. 27), or friendly (No. 23). But such ills can be cured, apparently, by a little retail therapy. The home turf of Neiman-Marcus and some top-notch malls helps Dallas rank 10th for luxury shopping.
#29 St. Louis
#30 Santa Fe
The city ranks No. 1 for peace and quiet, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the singles bar scene comes in dead last (that is, unless you hope to meet your next hookup while browsing an antiques shop). Come back once you’re happily coupled, though: the city ranks No. 5 for romance.