America's Most Romantic Cities
Consider yourself warned: Charleston, SC, is hard to shake.
“If you come to Charleston and experience it like us locals do, it will forever take place in your soul,” says David Szlam, a co-creator of Virgil Kaine ginger-infused bourbon. “Dining at Bowens Island Restaurant is especially romantic, watching the sun set over tidal creeks while enjoying some fresh steamed oysters—the list goes on and on.”
The Travel + Leisure community doesn’t need convincing. Charleston, with its cobblestoned streets, genteel mansions, and dynamic food scene, took top honors as the best city for a romantic escape in the America’s Favorite Places survey. Readers ranked cities in up to 67 categories, including wine bars, parks and gardens, live music, and brunch—the kinds of offerings that often attract couples.
Related: 50 Best Romantic Getaways
And don’t underestimate the allure of a warm climate: San Diego, voted No. 1 for its weather, came in fifth among the best cities for romance. “The days aren’t only filled with sunshine, but there’s the warmth from people who are almost giddy to live here,” says Gina Stark, owner of a fashionable downtown women’s boutique. “You can sail, and within minutes of docking be enjoying an outdoor concert at Humphreys by the Bay or sipping happy-hour drinks in the heart of downtown.”
Whether you’re looking to steal away for a weekend with your longtime honey or spark a new relationship, these cities will set the mood for love.
No. 1 Charleston, SC
It’s easy to feel you’ve stumbled upon a movie set as you wander the oak-lined streets of this charming inner-harbor city, which also took top survey honors for its architecture. Even hardened hearts fall under Charleston’s sway, between the antebellum mansions, horse-drawn carriages, and creative Lowcountry cooking. At much-praised Husk, James Beard Award–winner Sean Brock honors the area’s heritage, serving produce he raises from heirloom seeds. Hotels do their part to win over visitors, from quaint B&Bs to the 21-room Wentworth Mansion, with original Tiffany glass and gas fireplaces.
No. 2 Honolulu
Taken together, sun, sand, and surf are powerful aphrodisiacs and helped earn Honolulu the silver medal for romance. Relaxing is what island life is all about, so put your towel down on fabled Waikiki Beach and dig your toes in while watching the surfers and outrigger canoes—or engage your partner in some healthy competition on the water. For a classic Hawaiiana experience, order a round of mai tais while musicians play at House Without a Key and the sun sets over Diamond Head and another day in paradise.
No. 3 San Francisco
Like the fog in summertime, romance hangs thick in the City by the Bay. Stroll through Golden Gate Park and then cross the Great Highway to watch the surfers at Ocean Beach. For exquisite nighttime views of the Bay Lights installation on the Bay Bridge, settle in to one of the waterfront restaurants at the Embarcadero (Waterbar is known for its oyster bar). San Francisco is also less than 90 minutes from Napa and Sonoma valleys, earning it the No. 1 ranking among cities for wine lovers.
No. 4 New Orleans
Couples new or old will be hard-pressed to resist New Orleans’ sensual charms, starting with its food. The city took top honors in the poll for notable restaurants, from Galatoire’s (for Louisiana Creole) to relative newcomers like Domenica (for sophisticated Italian). Choose the rhythm that suits you two: a leisurely walk through Jackson Square; listening to live jazz on Frenchmen Street; falling into the “second line” in a Sunday-afternoon brass-band parade in the Tremé; or diving into the mile-long nighttime party on Bourbon Street.
No. 5 San Diego
Readers ranked San Diego No. 1 for its weather, which remains enviably sunny and mild year-round. Maybe not surprisingly, the city also received No. 2 honors for both its athletic and attractive locals. No location brings all of those elements together like Pacific Beach, where you’re either cruising the three-mile boardwalk on your bike or Rollerblades, or watching those who do. After nightfall, head to downtown’s historic Gaslamp Quarter for dinner at Bice followed by cocktails at one of the many rooftop bars.
No. 6 Tucson, AZ
Tucson isn’t just for snowbirds—it’s for lovebirds too, according to T+L readers. Golfers have their choice of courses, while more adventurous couples take a horseback ride up into the nearby mountains or hike into Saguaro National Park. The city has managed to hold on to vestiges of its Old West past, including the Hotel Congress, built in 1919 and today the busiest bar in town, and the popular Maynards Market & Kitchen, housed in the historic old train depot.
No. 7 Miami
Love may be blind, but it doesn’t hurt to look, according to T+L readers, who rated Miami residents No. 1 for attractiveness and No. 3 for stylishness. In addition, the city took the top spot for its singles scene and nightclubs, making the Miami one of the hottest metropolises for kindling romance. Couples will find plenty of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs that fit the bill in South Beach, while local singles tend to scope each other out in neighborhoods like Brickell in the downtown Financial District, and Midtown’s Design District.
No. 8 Albuquerque
For a glimpse of Albuquerque’s romantic side, look no further than historic Old Town, anchored by the adobe-walled San Felipe de Neri church. Spend an afternoon perusing the many museums, galleries, and shops—or rent bikes to explore the paved 16-mile Paseo del Bosque Trail that parallels the Rio Grande River as it winds through the city. For a 10,000-foot view, take the 2.7-mile tram to the top of the Sandia Mountains, where the city stretches out below. It’s especially beautiful at sunset, viewed from a table at the High Finance Restaurant & Tavern.
No. 9 Tampa, FL
Tampa’s warm climate encourages lingering outside for those Gulf of Mexico sunsets. Bayshore Boulevard, with its nearly 4.5-mile sidewalk, has long been the see-and-be-seen waterfront promenade in Tampa. Elsewhere, the nearly complete Tampa Riverwalk—along 2.5 miles of the Hillsborough River—is bringing new life to downtown. A mile away, the Ybor City neighborhood, with its Cuban and Spanish past, is the place to go for lively nighttime cafés and bars.
No. 10 Seattle
Surveying the city from atop the Space Needle is a no-brainer. But if you really want to move the romance needle, rent a beautiful wooden sailboat, canoe, or rowboat at the Center for Wooden Boats on South Lake Union, taking in the views of Gas Works Park to the north. Pull up to the dock at Westward, secure your boat, and order cocktails to enjoy around the restaurant’s outdoor fire pit.
No. 11 Las Vegas
Las Vegas made the list of best cities for romance—and we should add the best place to look for romance, too. Readers voted it No. 6 for its singles scene, and No. 5 for cocktail bars. For a swoon-worthy dinner, book an outside table at Mon Ami Gabi, where you can watch the magnificent Bellagio fountains across the street while sampling classic French bistro fare. Afterward, toast your trip over cocktails at Foundation Room on the 43rd floor of Mandalay Bay.
No. 12 Providence, RI
Providence’s redeveloped waterways and canals evoke one of the best-loved cities in the world, Venice—complete with gondolas plying the Providence River. Back on dry land, Westminster Street is packed with trendy little shops, while Waterplace Park’s cobblestoned streets and arched bridges are lined with restaurants.
No. 13 Portland, ME
With its beautifully preserved brick buildings and bayside setting, Portland makes a charming backdrop for romance. There are a number of ways to explore the historic cobblestoned Old Port area, including organized wine strolls and foodie and cocktail tours. Nearby Congress Street is home to a number of funky shops and art galleries—and on the first Friday of every month (rain or shine), many of the city’s museums, galleries, streets, and other venues host the popular Art Walk. Portland has gained a name for its food scene, and one of the best places to get locavore religion is at Grace, occupying a pre–Civil War-era Gothic Revival church.
No. 13 Los Angeles
Beauty isn’t skin deep but it might be the first thing you notice in L.A., according to T+L readers, who rated Angelenos No. 4 for their attractiveness and No. 2 for their stylishness. For another kind of beauty, drive north toward Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway for arresting ocean views, then pull over in Pacific Palisades to spend a few hours at the gorgeous Getty Villa museum. Griffith Park is home to the famous Hollywood sign and observatory, and owns some of the best views in the city. For nighttime views, Perch Los Angeles’ rooftop bistro overlooks downtown L.A. from its 15th-floor patio.
No. 15 New York City
Whether your tastes run to simple pleasures like strolling through Central Park or along the High Line, or splurges like dinner at Thomas Keller’s Per Se, New York City has couples covered. Shopping, museums, parks, restaurants—there’s nothing that a duo bent on romance can’t see or do in NYC. Almost any park bench or café window seat guarantees fantastic people-watching; readers named New Yorkers the No. 1 most stylish.
No. 16 Minneapolis/St. Paul
Brains and brawn coexist, especially in the Twin Cities, ranked No. 1 by readers for intelligent and athletic residents. It also earned top honors for its public parks and gardens, so after a day spent jogging, biking, or—in the winter—cross-country skiing, locals head to the North Loop, where recently refurbished brick warehouses along the Mississippi River house an exciting up-and-coming neighborhood of restaurants and bars. Enjoy one of Jesse Held’s bespoke craft cocktails at Parlour before making the short walk to The Bachelor Farmer for a modern twist on classic Nordic fare.
No. 17 Boston
Despite being voted No. 5 for its rude and snobby locals, Beantown made the top 20 list of romantic escapes (further proof, perhaps, that there’s someone for everyone). Spend an afternoon discovering Quincy Market, strolling through Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park or Boston Public Garden, or walking the neighborhood streets of Beacon Hill. Come evening, if you can stop gazing into each others’ eyes long enough, the views from the 52nd-floor Top of the Hub restaurant are some of the best in town.
No. 18 Kansas City, MO
Money won’t buy you love, and that’s good news for romantics in Kansas City, voted the most affordable city in the survey, including third place for its many free attractions. Kansas City also scored No. 1 for its barbecue, and second for both its craft-beer scene and its passionate sports fans. Wander around Loose Park, site of a Civil War battle, and its impressive rose garden (more than 4,000 roses); check out the photography collection at Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; and when the sun goes down, plan on catching some great jazz at either the Blue Room or Kill Devil Club.
No. 19 Portland, OR
Whether life imitates art (Portlandia, anyone?) or the other way around, Portland ranked as one of the quirkier U.S. cities. When romance is in the offing, chances are good you’ll find couples sipping on something: Portland snatched the top spot in the country for both coffee and craft beer, and the No. 2 spot for wine. Readers also gave it the highest marks for its bookstores, thanks in no small part to Powell’s Books, the largest independent bookstore chain in the world.
No. 20 Chicago
Chicago rounds out the list of top romantic getaways, with its world-class museums (the Art Institute of Chicago owns one of the largest collections of French Impressionist paintings) and restaurants. Readers also gave the Windy City third place for its architecture and cool buildings, thanks to heavyweights Frank Gehry, Mies van der Rohe, and Frank Lloyd Wright, who’ve all left their mark here. Get a handy overview by booking a table at the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower.