America’s Most and Least Attractive People
Lauri Flaquer gets almost starstruck by people in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.
“They’re tall with long, graceful limbs, which work well for climbing over mountains of snow,” gushes the owner of consulting firm Saltar Solutions, based in New York City. People in Minneapolis, Flaquer continues, “are blond, with big blue eyes that sparkle with delight—even over cheese curds.”
No one is perfect. But according to Travel + Leisure readers, those Minnesotans come pretty close, ranking in the top 10 of the America’s Favorite Places survey for being attractive, as well as athletic and likable. Each year, readers rank major metropolitan areas in dozens of categories, including craft beers, luxury shops, lovely parks, and good-looking locals.
In the attractive category, this year’s survey results saw some shake-ups. Some of the hipster winners from last year have faded in the eyes of the T+L community, which favored cities with a tendency toward sunshine, smiling residents, and serious style.
One disqualifier, meanwhile, may be a weakness for team jerseys: the list of the 10 least attractive cities has an eerie overlap with the survey’s top 10 of enthusiastic sports fans.
Indeed, “characterizing the ‘look’ of Pittsburgh locals is easy: black and gold,” says NYC public relations exec Mary Apesos, who has family in Steel City, which did not make the top 10 for stunners. “Steelers attire can be seen in every season,” she says, “while daytime mall-shopping or as eveningwear at a fancy dinner. There are no fashionistas—just fanatics.”
Read on for the full results. And as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, if you disagree, make your point of view heard by voting in the America’s Favorite Places survey.
Most Attractive No. 1 Miami
After a down year in 2013, the Florida city is tanned, rested, and suitably blinged-out to recapture the Most Attractive title. Since Miami was also voted the No. 3 city for style and No. 1 for nightclubs—including 24-hour-party options like E11even—looking good at all hours is essential. To dress like a local, check out high-end boutiques such as Alchemist on Lincoln Road (a high-rise, architectural feat of its own), the celeb-magnet Jessie in South Beach, or the vintage finds at C. Madeleine’s in North Miami Beach.
Most Attractive No. 2 San Diego
This SoCal city wins the silver medal for the second time—more proof of the solar beauty power found in warm locales. San Diegans also ranked at No. 2 for being fit, and you can keep up with them by hiking the trails at the windswept Torrey Pines State Reserve, stand-up paddleboarding in La Jolla Cove, or boogie boarding in Pacific Beach. Perhaps because exercise is best done early, San Diego also ranked well for its fortifying brunches. Reward yourself with pineapple-upside-down pancakes at Snooze in Hillcrest and Carmel Valley, or South of the Border–style chilaquiles at the ocean-view Brockton Villa in La Jolla.
Most Attractive No. 3 Charleston, SC
These South Carolina locals consistently land among the survey’s top 10 for head-turners. One secret of their success, no doubt, is that pretty-is-as-pretty-does hospitality: Charleston also ranked well for being polite. Another factor, though, may be that with age comes beauty. The city scored highly for its charming old architecture and lovely antiques. To see both, go to Lower King Street’s Antique District, anchored by such stores as the fourth-generation Birlant and the artfully eclectic John Pope Antiques. Take a lunch break for the she-crab soup at Palmetto Café in the Belmond Charleston Place Hotel.
Most Attractive No. 4 Los Angeles
Looking camera-ready is always important in this celebrity-dotted city, which also scored well for grade-A people-watching. It’s no surprise, then, that voters also acknowledged L.A.’s fabulous shopping opportunities like Fred Segal on Melrose or the revamped, open-air Santa Monica Place, which includes Barneys, Kitson, and AllSaints. Perhaps ironically, the well-toned folk in the City of Angels also have serious sweet tooths, ranking at No. 8 for bakeries. You can eat your way through town with the éclairs at Chaumont Bakery & Cafe in Beverly Hills, the snack-cake-style Ding-a-lings at downtown’s Semi-Sweet Bakery, and the featherweight macarons at nearby Bottega Louie.
Most Attractive No. 5 Providence, RI
Even though the locals in Providence have dropped from last year’s second-place spot, brains and a hipster sensibility are clearly still appealing to T+L readers: the Rhode Island capital also won the survey for geeks. That said, even geniuses like to have smooth skin, and the city’s day spa of choice is at the Providence Biltmore, where full-body treatments include a cerebral-sounding Harmonizing Ear and Scalp Massage. And despite its distance from wine country, the foodie-friendly city scored high for its well-stocked wine bars. Check out Bocado Tapas Wine Bar, with 40 different small plates and a full list of Spanish wines.
Most Attractive No. 6 Minneapolis/St. Paul
Voters declared these healthy midwesterners the smartest in the U.S.—and gave them high marks for being attractive and charming, too. A good place to see those qualities on display is at one of the local bookstores, which ranked at No. 5 in the survey. Try Uptown’s Magers & Quinn Booksellers, a classic with new and used books, or the all-mysteries Once Upon a Crime. Local parks make a beautiful place to people-watch, as do cultural attractions like the no-admission-fee Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Most Attractive No. 7 Nashville
Loretta Lynn once sang, “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly,” but today’s typical Nashvillian does not seem to have such problems. The city, filled with people aspiring for a big break, won the survey for both concerts and live music. Sample the scene at reliable venues like the 5 Spot Live in East Nashville and a newer hot spot, Lower Broadway’s Acme Feed & Seed (which is, just as the name implies, a former feed store). Locals also get credit for having cutting-edge palates–as seen in the creative food trucks like the down-home and locally sourced Biscuit Love.
Most Attractive No. 8 Atlanta
These Georgia peaches are newcomers to the top 10 this year, in part because they dress to the nines, ranking in the top five for luxury shopping. They can also thank their city’s intoxicating mix of a lively singles scene and enticing cocktail bars like Proof and Provision, in the basement of the historic Georgian Terrace Hotel (order the Gibson, with gin, vermouth, and pink pickle juice). Atlanta even gussies up its high-ranking diners. At Buckhead Diner, for instance, comfort food translates to veal-and-mushroom meatloaf and Kobe beef hot dogs.
Most Attractive No. 9 Honolulu
Despite their timeless floral shirts, these Hawaiians didn’t score well for being particularly stylish. But Honolulu’s relaxed, paradise-like setting may just minimize frown lines: the city scored well for peace and quiet and free attractions. To find your own piece of tranquility, take the drive northeast of downtown to Pali Lookout—with views of the pointy-hat-shaped island of Mokolii—or hike to the top of Puu Ualakaa State Park, which overlooks Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor and is a great spot for a picnic. For your basket, pick up some ahi-and-avocado sandwiches from Andy’s in nearby Manoa.
Most Attractive No. 10 Tampa, FL
These Floridians may have struck readers as a little vain: they placed in the top 10 for being both pretty and snobby. And like their fellow foxes in Miami, Tampa locals enjoy a good platform for their looks at the high-ranking nightclubs. But the party scene definitely runs along a wide spectrum here: you can choose from the chic rooftop EDGE at The Epicurean Hotel or the more raucous, swimsuits-and-volleyball Hogan’s Beach, owned by Hulk Hogan himself. Tampa also scored well for its burgers: you can see the local drag queen beauties at kitschy favorite Hamburger Mary’s in the historic Ybor City neighborhood.
Least Attractive No. 1 Detroit
Motor City clearly did not wow voters with its looks, but it made an impression for its cool edge, ranking in the top 20 cities for hipsters. You can find them in the Midtown area, embracing the made-in-America aesthetic at shops like Shinola, known for its bicycles, watches, and leather goods. Detroit also won approval for its pizza, often served in a square shape, as at Buddy’s, a fixture at the corner of Conant and Six Mile roads.
Least Attractive No. 2 (tie) Memphis, TN
In a dubious sort of achievement, Memphis actually moved three slots closer to the bottom in this year’s attractive category. But perhaps that offers another good excuse to sing the blues. Memphis still ranked well for its music scene—whether it’s the free blues, jazz, or even opera at Levitt Shell in Overton Park (where Elvis had his first gig), or the acts at the newly resurrected Lafayette’s Music Room (back in the 1970s, it featured Billy Joel and KISS). While you’re in town, try one of the high-scoring local craft beers, perhaps the cans-only American pilsner from Wiseacre Brewing Co. or the French farmhouse–style ale Biere de Garde at High Cotton Brewing Co., whose taproom is near Elvis’s old haunt, Sun Studio.
Least Attractive No. 2 (tie) Oklahoma City
Readers may have taken the idea of plain a little too literally when sizing up this Plains city, a newcomer to the survey. OKC ranked in last place for high-end shopping, but perhaps the locals are just scoring great deals: the city ranks at No. 2 for feeling affordable and for flea-market-style shopping. Browse vintage fashions and kitschy collectibles at Bad Granny’s Bazaar in the Plaza District and at shops in the Paseo Arts District. Locals did get credit for being friendly and for being excellent drivers.
Least Attractive No. 4 Baltimore
Maybe it’s not that these Marylanders are totally unattractive to readers: they’re just a little kooky, ranking in the top 10 for quirkiness as well as sports-team passion. You can watch them fly their freak flags at the high-ranking dive bars. Two notable ones in Fell’s Point: Bad Decisions (home of the Bee Sting, made with mead and Woodpecker Cider) and The Horse You Came In On, legendary as the last place Edgar Allan Poe was seen before his mysterious death.
Least Attractive No. 5 Philadelphia
Just because readers did not find residents drop-dead gorgeous does not mean that there are not things of beauty in the City of Brotherly Love. The local art scene—from the big-name Barnes Foundation to the smaller but no-less-fascinating Center for Art in Wood—ranked at No. 5, while several local staples may count as works of art. South Philly’s old-school cheesesteaks at Pat’s and Geno’s no doubt helped the city take the bronze for sandwiches, while food trucks came in at No. 5. Try the Caribbean comfort foods at Gigi and Big R in University City, or the gastropub on wheels (offering, say, braised duck with cucumber) from the roving Local 215.
Least Attractive No. 6 Pittsburgh
Locals in this Rust Belt city might argue that beauty is in the eye of the beholder—or, more bluntly, it depends on what color jersey you’re wearing. The home of the Steelers won the survey for its sports fans, who are on full black-and-gold display at Jerome Bettis Grille 36 (or “Bettis”), located near Heinz Field and famous for its 50 TVs and a 36-ounce, bone-in New York strip steak. The hometown of ketchup also excelled at pizza and sandwiches. The kielbasa, bologna, or pastrami masterpieces from Primanti Bros. come topped with coleslaw and French fries. Pittsburgh locals also ranked in the top 10 for being welcoming—unless, perhaps, you show up in a Ravens sweatshirt.
Least Attractive No. 7 Cleveland
No one got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just by being pretty, and these Ohioans have more to offer than looks. Fresh food, for instance: Cleveland ranked in the top five for its food halls, thanks to the indoor-outdoor West Side Market, which opened in 1912 to serve the city’s immigrants and still offers a huge array of seafood, produce, baked goods, spices, and international foods. Even so, readers liked Cleveland’s scenery best after dark, and perhaps ideally during the holiday season. The city ranked at No. 5 for Christmas lights like those on the big tree at downtown’s Playhouse Square.
Least Attractive No. 8 Orlando, FL
The good news is that Orlando locals do not look any worse to readers than they did in last year’s survey—perhaps proof that time can stand still in this storybook world. Goofy aside, the locals scored dead last for being quirky, but the town did rank well for its predictably good weather and for feeling freshly scrubbed. These days, you can see some of the city’s ambient beauty at Lake Eola Park, or at Winter Park’s chic Alfond Inn. And while Orlando does not get much credit for its nightlife, it could be that readers don’t know where to look. One of the hottest bars downtown is Hanson’s Shoe Repair, a speakeasy that requires a password (you call them, they send you a text) for entry.
Least Attractive No. 9 Louisville, KY
While these southerners were upstaged by their peers in Georgia and South Carolina, readers still embraced them for being pleasantly unconventional. The city ranked well for its fun festivals—like the Kentucky Derby Festival with its steamboat race in April and the eco-conscious Forecastle in July— and also for gourmet street cred. It came in at No. 7 for both craft beer (try the bourbon-barrel-aged beer at Bluegrass Brewing Co.) and notable restaurants. Edward Lee of PBS’s Mind of a Chef runs MilkWood, where you can dine on braised oxtail and gator schnitzel.
Least Attractive No. 10 Portland, ME
How the gorgeous have fallen: the New England city was previously in the top five for handsomeness, but perhaps locals felt that the Fisherman Look was too last year—or century. Still, it’s hard to complain about a city that scored well for being pedestrian-friendly and safe along with two smile-inducing features: great coffee and excellent bakeries. Don’t miss the espressos, pies, and sticky buns at Tandem Coffee Roasters, or the gibassiers (lovely French galettes with candied orange) at the Old Port’s Standard Baking Co.