America's Most and Least Attractive People 2012
Can just traveling to a city make you better looking?
Liz Eckert would say so. On a recent visit to southern California, the Connecticut real estate agent was struck by the gorgeous scenery—as in, the people. She chalked it up to the locals’ regular access to sand, surf, and sunshine. “After one week there, I actually looked and felt healthier,” she says. “My skin was glowing, my hair was shiny, and even my nails grew—and they never grow.”
Given the area’s seemingly magical powers of osmosis, it’s no wonder that both San Diego and Los Angeles made it into the top five cities for America’s best-looking people, according to Travel + Leisure readers. New results are in from the annual America’s Favorite Cities survey, in which readers rate 35 metropolitan areas for qualities such as people-watching, walkable streets, and hot music scenes.
This year, the attractive locals category saw a fair amount of movement: the new No. 1 city is a past champ that had previously fallen from grace, and several cities have made impressive rebounds in the rankings or else seemingly let themselves go. (What happened, Las Vegas?)
While plenty of the top 20 cities offer the potentially transformational elements that Eckert found in SoCal, other winners offered proof that being gorgeous is more than skin deep. Non-coastal (or downright chilly) cities such as Minneapolis, Nashville, and Kansas City fared just fine—and also ranked well with readers for being friendly.
One new category in this year’s survey may have also boosted chemistry: a charming accent, something T+L readers found lacking with the folks of Phoenix and Seattle, who also ranked among the less attractive.
Of course, a key ingredient in attraction is a solid fashion sense and that may be a reason that some sunny cities landed near the bottom. “Locals in Orlando know what they are to the world”—a giant theme park—“and don’t even try anymore,” says Lisa Finkelstein, a Tallahassee-based freelance writer. “Since it’s warm much of the year, shorts and a pullover shirt, plus tennies, takes them everywhere,” she says. “Even Angelina Jolie can’t work that look.”
No. 1 Miami
Did they do something new with their hair? These party-loving Floridians have reclaimed the top slot this year, which they haven’t held since 2009. They also ranked in the top 10 for their fashion sense and fit physiques. See for yourself over drinks at one of the city’s highly rated cocktail lounges. The only downer: Miamians also ranked as being pretty aloof.
No. 2 San Diego
It’s hard to argue with a beauty regimen of fresh air and miles of beaches for staying in shape. This SoCal city has consistently ranked as the first runner-up for good looks in T+L’s survey, even if readers tend not to be so impressed with the locals’ conversational skills. San Diegans do, however, score well for being tech-savvy.
No. 3 San Juan, P.R.
Last year’s winner slipped a few spots this year, but the island city is still a magnetic place for mingling with a good-looking crowd: it also ranks in the top three for its happy hour and singles scene. Readers downgraded the Puerto Rican city for its sense of style, but they were suckers for the fabulous local accent.
No. 4 Charleston
Proof that voters are a little fickle: this South Carolina city was No. 1 for attractive locals in 2010, but fell to No. 7 last year. While readers still find the locals to be charming—and think that the city makes a great romantic getaway—they were easily distracted by all the good shopping, ranking the city in the top five when it comes to antiques, design stores, and indie boutiques.
No. 5 Los Angeles
It’s easy to make jokes about some locals having “work” done. But whatever the reason, Angelenos have ranked in the top five for looks in the last three out of four years, and they won the silver medal this year for their fashion-forward style. They’re also trying that catch-more-flies-with-honey strategy: their niceness factor went up by three positions since last year.
No. 6 Nashville
A cowboy hat sets off the face nicely, doesn’t it? Music City jumped up seven places in the attractiveness category since last year, even if it lost its grip on the top spot in the survey for music. If you want an alternative to the honky-tonks, look for any crowd wearing SEC team shirts: Nashville ranked No. 3 for its sports bars.
No. 7 Austin
Folks in the Texas capital seem to be simultaneously quirky, smart, and buff: the only personal quality that voters were less-than-smitten with was perhaps residents’ tendency toward hipster fashion. Look for them hanging out by the No. 2–ranked food trucks or dining on gourmet burgers.
No. 8 Savannah
If these Georgians ever said anything unattractive or rude, voters might not even notice, so blinded were they by the top-ranked local drawl. Voters were also charmed by these southerners’ willingness to indulge themselves: the handsome city ranked No. 3 for its happy hour, and No. 1 for ice cream parlors.
No. 9 Honolulu
Despite the fashion gambles of occasional floral shirts and muumuus, the Hawaiians are regulars in the attractive top 10 for their compelling mix of diversity, fitness, and a mellow attitude. It can only help that the Hawaiian city won the top spot in the survey’s weather category.
No. 10 Minneapolis/St. Paul
After a two-year absence, the Twin Cities have returned to the top 10, perhaps because locals nicely walk the line between nerdy and outdoorsy: they won the survey for smarts, and the cities ranked No. 1 for their parks. Readers were also impressed by the Minnesotans’ refined tastes in beverages, so to mingle, head to the local micropubs and coffeehouses.
No. 11 San Francisco
They may not have the sun-kissed look of southern Californians, but Bay Area locals still impressed voters for being cool in an edgy way. And if they seemed unfriendly, it may just be that they don’t want to talk with their mouths full: the City by the Bay ranked in the top five for fine dining, ethnic cuisine, and cafés.
No. 12 Santa Fe
These New Mexicans are an intriguing bunch: they’re offbeat and smart, and their city seems to exude romance. But voters seemed more interested in relaxing here, rather than hooking up: the mild-weathered city ranked near the top for being chill, and near the bottom for its singles scene.
No. 13 Providence
These Rhode Islanders made a positive impression for being quirky and brainy, although voters may be most excited to talk with them about lunch recommendations. Providence scores well in the survey for both ends of the foodie spectrum, from fine dining to pizza and ice cream. It’s also a great place for connections of the wireless sort: the city ranked No. 4 for its coverage.
No. 14 Denver
Is the Rocky Mountain city letting itself go a bit? It dropped nearly 10 positions from last year and also let slip, by two slots, its lock on the trophy for being the fittest city in the land. No matter: voters are still drawn to the natural beauty and gave it the silver medal for its microbreweries.
No. 15 New York City
All that shopping continues to pay off for New Yorkers: they’re No. 1 again for their style and inched up two slots in the good looks category. They’re also getting a little bit friendlier, according to voters, having smiled their way out of last year’s worst place showing in that category.
No. 16 Chicago
Voters ranked these midwesterners as only so-so for stimulating conversation, but loved partying with them in the city’s highly rated bars. At the very least, people who come to the Windy City may be looking for someone to snuggle with: it ranked next-to-last for its blustery weather.
No. 17 Kansas City
Voters were perhaps most dazzled by the fiscal freedom they found in Kansas City: it won the survey for being the most affordable city to visit in the U.S. Once there, voters would want to grab a bar stool next to these easygoing Missourians: the local beer scene zoomed into the survey’s top five this year.
No. 18 San Antonio
San Antonio ranked a dismal No. 30 for attractiveness last year—so what happened to make readers take more notice of these friendly Texans? It wasn’t that they saw more locals out jogging; they still rank in the bottom 10 for being fit. Maybe it was the smell of tamales that made voters swoon: San Antonio won third place for its ethnic food.
No. 19 New Orleans
Yet again this year, the Crescent City won the category that implies a certain level of attraction—people-watching—even if the people getting gawked at were debaucherous tourists. Locals also made the top 20 for exuding a lovable, one-of-a-kind vibe: they won the offbeat category, while the city ranked near the top for its quaint buildings and its coffee.
No. 20 Boston
Beantown locals tend not to score well in the survey for being friendly, but this year they made the most of their secret weapon, winning over voters with that distinctive accent. Bostonian brains and that classic preppy style also proved pretty irresistible.
No. 21 Dallas/Fort Worth
Texas’s Metroplex got a big makeover compared to last year, climbing 11 slots from last year’s wince-worthy No. 32. They still rank in the bottom 10 for being friendly, but landed in the top 20 for their sense of style, as well as for their passion for sports bars.
No. 22 Seattle
Perhaps these nerdy northwesterners are just hiding their good looks under their raingear. Despite their commitment to exercise, even in the drizzle, this year Seattle locals dropped two places in the survey for their looks. But they rule in a few indoor pursuits: the city won the survey for its coffee and for being tech-savvy.
No. 23 Las Vegas
Sin City may be suffering from a few morning-after effects as last year it ranked at No. 12 for attractive residents. But voters were clearly able to overlook any shortcomings in the name of a good time: Vegas still ranks near the top for its singles scene, and won the survey for being the noisiest city in the nation.
No. 24 Houston
Perhaps Houston residents could boost their standings by spending a little more time in their own shops—or asking a clerk for help. The oil town ranked No. 6 for its luxury stores, but only No. 22 for its sense of style. Houston scored much higher for its great, sloppy foods: burgers and barbecue.
No. 25 Phoenix/Scottsdale
If you’re looking for someone with a good golf swing, these Arizonans may be just your type. Otherwise, voters didn’t find the locals terribly stylish or quirky. They did, however, find them a little mysterious, having almost no discernible accent.
No. 26 Memphis
Voters may not come to the Tennessee city’s happy hours for mingling: rather, they seem attracted to the great music and good bargains since both are plentiful (and highly rated) in Memphis. Voters also found the locals to be pleasantly offbeat.
No. 27 Portland, ME
Perhaps readers don’t get breathless at the sight of someone who knows how to crack into a lobster properly. The city ranked at the top, however, for feeling safe, and in the top 10 for other wholesome qualities, such as tidiness and delicious ice cream.
No. 28 Atlanta
Georgia’s capital improved its position by five slots since last year, but voters still struggle to warm up to these southerners: they ranked Atlantans as being pretty unfriendly, perhaps because they have less of a sweet-tea accent than their neighbors in Savannah. Atlanta did claim some new respect in this year’s survey, however, by cracking the top 10 for its barbecue.
No. 29 Salt Lake City
Voters seem to find these Utah locals—how to be diplomatic?—boring. They came in last place for diversity, and next to last for being offbeat. Even the ethnic food, according to the survey, is a bit bland. But voters still like to come here for some down time: it ranked in the top 10 for peace and quiet.
No. 30 Portland, OR
Here’s evidence that the hipster look is on a downswing: the mustachioed city keeps slipping in the ranks of hotness, despite being a nerve center for so many other cultural trends. It’s the greenest city in America, according to voters, as well as home to the best food trucks and microbrews.
No. 31 Washington, D.C.
The election campaigns may be taking a toll: this year, our nation’s capital fell to last place in the friendly locals category, and the city hasn’t budged from its bottom five showing on good looks. Voters preferred to focus on the city’s inanimate features, giving D.C. high marks for its architecture and mass transit.
No. 32 Orlando
Residents have consistently ranked near the bottom in the attractive category, perhaps for being lumped in with the tourist hordes and their uniform of shorts, T-shirts, and sneakers. Ever popular with kids, Orlando fell among the bottom 10 for peace and quiet, although visitors did appreciate the variety of hotel options.
No. 33 Philadelphia
We can’t blame folks in Philly for overindulging, since their street food—as well as their pizza—ranked in the top five. Too much of a good thing, however, may have led to the locals’ falling eight spots on this year’s hottie scale. They also ranked in the bottom five for their apparent lack of athleticism.
No. 34 Baltimore
Being in Baltimore seemed to make voters a little uptight: it ranked, yet again, as the least safe-feeling city in the country, and also as the most unkempt. Footballs fans, however, might feel a little more chemistry with residents as the city did make the top 20 for its beer, pizza, and sports bars.
No. 35 Anchorage
Yet again, the frontier look didn’t appeal to Travel + Leisure voters: the Alaska city held onto its last-place position from 2011, and the locals again took last place for their Gore-Tex-laden style. The Alaskans still mean well, though: they ranked in the top 20 for being both affable and a little offbeat.