America's Most and Least Attractive People 2011
Travel + Leisure readers have ranked cities with the best-looking people—and the secret may lie in equal parts of jogging and smiling.
Is it something in the water? What makes the locals of one city so consistently attractive or not?
That’s what Tennessee marketing exec Natalie Roberson wonders every time she visits one South Carolina city. “I look and feel like a troll every time I'm in Charleston,” she says. “Their bone structure, the preppy clothes, and the consistent—almost persistent—friendliness make everyone prettier.”
Last year, Travel + Leisure readers agreed and ranked Charleston No. 1 for attractiveness in the America’s Favorite Cities survey. But now Charleston has lost its best-looking title to another comely city—and one with a very different vibe.
Across this year’s most attractive American cities, we found distinct personalities: in San Diego, the perfect weather has perhaps given locals a sunny glow, while Salt Lake City, known for its clean living, may lend itself to a corn-fed, well-rested appeal. In San Francisco—with its high rankings for culture, intellect, and fine dining—the locals exude an aura of urbanity.
Just because you’re “cool,” however, doesn’t mean you have to swat away admirers. Portland, OR, scored high on many features in the survey—environmental awareness and cool food trucks—but landed near the bottom of the list for looks. Perhaps some regional tendencies just don’t translate. “Why does the soul patch ‘work’ in Portland,” wonders San Francisco–based Web publisher Sara Ost, “but it repulses women in any other metropolis of the world?”
A city’s ranking in the friendliness category might also play a part: New York City landed well outside the top 10 this year for good looks, despite its winning fashion sense. Readers also perceived, shall we say, an attitude problem.
Like New York, many cold-winter cities suffered from a lack of warm smiles—and perhaps the chance to get outside and stay in shape. Denver, however, was an exception. With plenty of hiking, biking, and skiing, the Mile High City is home to the fittest folks in the land, according to the survey.
“The entire city of Denver has been indoctrinated by bizarre health and fitness regimes, such as kettlebell swinging,” says British Web marketer Matthew Barker. “They’re all completely bonkers—but they look great.”
No. 1 San Juan, P.R.
They’re gorgeous, they dress fabulously, and you can’t even hate them: the locals in the sunny Puerto Rican capital rank high for friendliness as well as attractiveness. They also know how to charm visitors with simple pleasures: San Juan ranked near the top for its café con leche, and won the street food category.
No. 2 San Diego
The locals in this Golden State city are holding onto their silver medal status from last year—and can give some credit to the heavens above. The top-ranked weather makes it easy to stay super-fit year round. Since there’s no need for bulky winter gear—and almost any clothes look flattering with flat abs—they also ranked in the top 10 for style.
No. 3 Miami
Voters couldn’t stay away from these good-loving Floridians, even if it wasn’t always good for them. Miami ranked highly for being wild and noisy and for having fabulous cocktails. Just watch your step—the city also ranked pretty highly for danger.
No. 4 Los Angeles
Did they have some “work” done? The City of Angels has staged a major comeback in the beauty category, rising 10 slots from last year. Locals could still stand to work on their friendliness, according to voters, but deserve credit for staying reasonably trim, given the tempting dining options.
No. 5 Denver
All that fresh air and strenuous exercise have paid off for these fresh-faced Coloradans, who are inching closer to the top. Denver is already No. 1 for fit locals, but residents’ attractiveness isn’t just a matter of brawn; the city also made it into the top 10 for brains.
No. 6 Honolulu
More proof that feeling good makes you look good. The Hawaiian capital is holding steady in its position from last year—and it’s still high on the list for romance, fit locals, and sunny skies.
No. 7 Charleston, SC
The South Carolina city tumbled seven spots from last year’s No. 1 best-looking ranking, but the locals are too polite to make a fuss. They still rank in the top 10 for style. It’s the element of surprise that may be lacking: they ranked in the bottom 10 for being offbeat.
No. 8 Savannah, GA
In this pedestrian-friendly city, one needs only to stroll down the quaint streets to see how lovely and welcoming the locals are. Voters also gave the city high marks for the sense of peace and quiet.
No. 9 San Francisco
A little intimidating, maybe? Bay Area locals ranked closer to the top for being cultured and brainy than for attractiveness. Voters felt that, like the summer here, San Franciscans were also a little chilly.
No. 10 Salt Lake City
Salt Lakers ranked at the bottom for being diverse, and were also duds for fashion. So credit must go to all those smiles. The wholesome lifestyle—the quietest bar scene and lowest chance of wild weekends—gives the city a fresh look. (It ranked in the top five for cleanliness.)
No. 11 Austin, TX
Austinites seem to be magnetic in a quirky but down-to-earth way: they rank in the top 10 for being intelligent and athletic, but also offbeat. Good places to check them out: mixing it up in the lively bars and lining up next to the city’s great food trucks.
No. 12 Las Vegas
True, the people in Sin City who impressed voters may not be the kind you take home to Mother. But the last-place city for family vacations offers fabulous people-watching, great bars, and a fair amount of bling, according to readers.
No. 13 Nashville
What residents may lack in physical fitness, they make up for with style and plenty of friendly charm, at least as far as readers are concerned. And why not take an attractive local out on the town? Nashville ranked near the top for great bargains and won for live music.
No. 14 Minneapolis/St. Paul
Voters found these Minnesotans exemplary—smart and affable—but those qualities don’t necessarily grab a visitor’s attention. The Twin Cities ranked a middling No. 14 for attractive locals and even lower for people-watching.
No. 15 Providence, RI
They’re smart and diverse, have great performance art—and are beginning to catch the eye of voters. Providence residents are up seven spots in the attractiveness category since last year. Seek them out in one of the city’s highly ranked cafés.
No. 16 Santa Fe, NM
This New Mexican city has a reputation for deep thoughts, earthy style, and super-calm vibes, and ranked No. 1 for peace and quiet. Your best bet is to get acquainted with locals in one of the cool design shops or art galleries.
No. 17 New York City
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, New York. The Big Apple fell four slots from last year—perhaps because it also reclaimed first place in the rude category. Surprisingly, for such a pedestrian-friendly city, the locals also landed in the bottom 20 for physical fitness.
No. 18 Chicago
The city of big shoulders made a humdrum showing in the brawn category, and didn’t impress voters with its erudite locals. But these midwesterners still serve up the nation’s best pizza and great ethnic cuisine.
No. 19 New Orleans
While locals in the Crescent City may not talk your ear off about current events or suggest you train for a triathlon together, they will make you feel welcome and are lovably kooky, according to voters.
No. 20 Seattle
The locals might have scored higher with readers if they got their noses out of their books—or perhaps switched to decaf. The Emerald City won both the java and brains categories, but were only so-so when it came to eye-catching looks or striking up a conversation.
No. 21 Phoenix/Scottsdale
Voters were perhaps more attracted to Phoenicians as potential golf partners: the locals didn’t impress visitors with their intellect, chitchat, or fashion sense.
No. 22 Boston
Bostonians have improved their attractiveness ranking by a few spots since last year, but still scored poorly for smiling or being quirky. Voters were more infatuated with the city’s culture, such as its theater, museums, and 4th of July festivities.
No. 23 Portland, ME
That salty sea air makes for some great New England dining, but it’s perhaps not doing any favors to the locals’ rugged complexions. Voters were dazzled by the sight of these Yanks when it came to parallel parking: they ranked No. 1 for driving ability.
No. 24 Kansas City, MO
The locals have a nice slap-you-on-the-back demeanor, according to voters, but otherwise didn’t make anyone swoon. Until, perhaps, visitors saw their hotel bills: Kansas City won the affordability category.
No. 25 Philadelphia
Has everyone in the City of Brotherly Love sworn off cheesesteaks or signed up for a giant group Pilates class? This year, readers catapulted them up nine spots from last year’s ratings in both the good looks and the fitness categories.
No. 26 Memphis, TN
A steady diet of great barbecue and live music may be paying off: the Tennesseans have climbed their way out of last place, and then some, since last year.
No. 27 Houston
It’s hard to pull off good-hair days in this humid oil town, which ranked near the bottom for both weather and strollable streets.
No. 28 Portland, OR
These Oregonians have nearly cornered the market on quirkiness, and they took the gold medals for being environmentally aware and having cutting-edge microbrews. But that slacker sense of style isn’t universally attractive.
No. 29 Orlando, FL
Chances are that visitors here were focused on the “locals” dressed as cartoon characters and shaking hands in the theme parks. This top-ranked family vacation city also landed near the bottom for its singles and art scenes.
No. 30 San Antonio, TX
It’s hard to stay slim with all that Tex-Mex and barbecue. Still, voters found the locals quite welcoming, and were ready to make themselves at home in this affordable town with fun flea markets.
No. 31 Washington, D.C.
Despite the diverse crowd in our nation’s capital, voters found the locals a bit dull: they didn’t show any signs of being offbeat or even approachable. Voters would rather gawk at anything behind glass in D.C.: its museums ranked No. 1.
No. 32 Dallas/Fort Worth
The people in North Texas have apparently let themselves go, slipping 11 slots since last year—and also taking the dubious honor of being the least intelligent city, according to voters. What did voters like here? The shopping.
No. 33 Atlanta
These Georgians ranked near the bottom for being athletic as well as for being smart—but maybe voters were judging them largely based on their freeway experiences. Atlanta ranked next to last for good drivers.
No. 34 Baltimore
Voters perhaps took the whole “crabby” thing a little too literally—they found these Marylanders in the dumps for both friendliness and noise. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time here: the city ranked in the top 20 for wild weekends.
No. 35 Anchorage
Are they hiding inside their parkas? Voters found these Alaskans nice enough, and kind of groovy, but there’s definitely some chemistry missing. And despite the chance it offers to cozy up by a fireplace, the city also ranked in last place for Valentine’s Day.