In some cities, a night out means martinis, high heels, and velvet ropes. In others, even your good jeans might be too formal for the singles bar scene—and “after five” is open to interpretation.
“In Austin, people love to drink at all hours of the day,” says Lindsey Reynolds, a local food publicist. “Flip-flops and jorts—short jean shorts—are found everywhere, even at more upscale places.” That mellow attitude makes it easy to mingle, so it’s no surprise that the Texas capital made the top 10 again this year for its singles scene, according to Travel + Leisure readers.
In the annual America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 35 cities on dozens of features, from hotels to wireless coverage, as well as the qualities that make for a vibrant nightlife, such as live music, cocktails, and attractive locals. In the singles/bar scene category, New Orleans took the No. 1 spot yet again—thanks in part to that year-round Mardi Gras vibe, but also because of a certain homegrown effervescence, aside from any booze.
“We talk to strangers. We dance in the streets. We wear costumes for no reason,” says Colleen Rush, the editor of NewOrleans.com and a happy single herself. “It’s not difficult to dive in and meet people here.”
In Los Angeles, it’s all about dressing to impress, preferably on a swanky rooftop, while in San Diego, hipster beer purists mingle in microbrew tasting rooms. In New York, the No. 1 ranked city for diversity, there’s a bar for every taste—even a Lower East Side speakeasy-type joint that reportedly offers a cocktail with extremely aged spirits for $150 (a reminder to think twice before asking, “Buy you a drink?”).
Even in the cities with legendary nightlife districts—such as the Vegas Strip, or Miami’s South Beach—locals are quick to point out that the best scene is off the tourist path. “Most people think Bourbon Street is New Orleans,” says Rush, but she recommends Frenchmen Street instead, with its eclectic range of food and drink options and lots of live music—another category that New Orleans won in the survey.
Of course, a singles scene doesn’t need to involve any bar stools at all. In Austin, even the jogging trail around Lady Bird Lake can be a pick-up spot; according to Reynolds, “it’s meat-market city.”