America's Rudest Cities 2010
The least friendly Americans tend to live on one coast. But there’s a new champion in the contest for America’s Rudest Cities.
When comedian Jim Dailikis moved to New York City from Australia several years ago, he expected a city full of rude, abrasive people. But New Yorkers didn’t really live up to the stereotype, he says. “They’re friendly, but they have a different way of showing you,” he says. As he now says in his act, “I love New Yorkers—they stab me in the front.”
New Yorkers have long battled an image of being surly, but in Travel +Leisure’s survey, they have something to celebrate. The annual America’s Favorite Cities survey asked readers to rate 35 cities on 54 features, including affordable hotels, great restaurants, romance potential, and the overall personality of the locals. In the contest for least friendly locals, New York City was not voted as the rudest city in America—which means someone else now wears the championship belt in Rude.
So which city is it? A major contender is our nation’s capital, which came in at No. 5. Paula Ford, a marketing director in Tampa, recalls the time when she was an intern in Washington, D.C., and fainted while riding to work on the Metro. “When I came to, I was slumped over, hanging out of my seat,” she says. “Nobody said anything to me or offered to help.” The Atlanta native says she would have gotten better treatment back in Georgia. “I would have had a circle around me, offering me a Coke, a wet towel, or asking to call someone. I think what happened to me definitely reflected the vibe of D.C.”
Indeed, Atlanta fared better in the AFC survey—though ranking only at No. 11. But there is something to that idea of southern charm: Nashville, Savannah, and Charleston, S.C., all ranked as the least rude of the 35 cities in the survey.
They’re also smaller towns, which might give off a friendlier vibe. When we zeroed in on the 20 rudest cities, we saw that population counts: the more congested the metropolis, the rougher the attitude. That brusque image of northeasterners only goes so far, however: five out of the 10 rudest are along the Northeast Corridor, but what is Dallas’s (No. 10) excuse?
Interestingly, two cities whose main industry is tourism—and, presumably, hospitality—landed in the Top 10 of Rude, too: Las Vegas and Orlando. In their defense, one has to wonder: did visitors get flack from actual locals, or just other visitors who were throwing sharp elbows to get a picture with Minnie?
Sometimes, too, there may be a disconnect between what seems to be rudeness and what is perhaps just a different manner. Travel guide author Gail Lecht recalls jaywalking across Michigan Avenue after she had just moved to Chicago. “I hadn’t noticed a cop at the crosswalk,” she says, “and he flagged me down, presumably to ticket me or yell at me. Turns out, he only wanted to say, ‘Have a nice a day.’”
No. 20 Anchorage
Can bears be rude? In Alaska’s biggest city—surrounded by mountains, water, and wildlife—talking with other people is clearly overrated. The city ranks No. 9 for its views and No. 6 for peace and quiet. Even the pubs and nightclubs don’t inspire much friendly chitchat, AFC voters say: they rank the city’s bar scene as No. 33 out of 35 and its live music scene in last place.
No. 19 Houston
The big-business city may not welcome visitors with a Texas smile, according to AFC voters, but it does show hospitality in other ways. Houston ranks No. 4 for business hotels and No. 3 for affordable hotels. Even better, the city offers a great lunch: its burgers rank No. 1 in the land.
No. 18 Providence
Perhaps this Rhode Island city doesn’t score big points for being gregarious, but maybe that’s because locals don’t want to talk with their mouths full. It ranks No. 3 for three great tastes: neighborhood restaurants, ethnic food, and pizza. Wash it down with a beer: Providence ranks No. 4 for microbrews.
No. 17 SantaFe
The New Mexico city probably doesn’t mean to snub you, but rather wants you to focus on your shopping. In the No. 1 city for both culture and peace and quiet, the best things to do aren’t terribly social—such as browsing antiques shops (No. 4) or strolling around art galleries (No. 4). Come evening, you can read a book back at your B&B—AFC voters rank Santa Fe’s small inns at No. 3.
No. 16 Seattle
Are folks in the Emerald City a little too cerebral, a little too sensitive, to be friendly? The No. 2 winner for intelligent locals was also No. 3 for being environmentally conscientious, but has a mediocre showing in the how-ya-doin’ category. Your best bet: strike up a conversation at a farmers’ market (No. 2) such as Pike Place, or at one of countless coffee bars: Seattle is No. 1, of course, for java joints.
No. 15 Chicago
The locals are stylish (No. 8) and diverse (No. 5), and they throw a good happy hour (No. 5). But the Windy City’s best quality isn’t the people, according to AFC readers: Chicago ranks No. 1 for its skyline and also tops the charts for its over-the-top pizza.
No. 14 SanFrancisco
For AFC voters, San Francisco is the picture of urbanity: excellent luxury hotels and stores, in addition to well-heeled locals (the city ranks No. 5 on all counts). But visitors wish the city would pick up a bit (it ranks No. 24 for cleanliness) and—while they’re at it—lower a few prices (it’s No. 28 for affordability).
No. 13 Memphis
Even if the locals here don’t win raves for being friendly, they do better on this front than on other personal qualities. AFC readers rank these Tennesseans dead last for being attractive, athletic, and smart. Good thing that barbecue (No. 1) and music (No. 8) are such tourist magnets.
No. 12 Phoenix/Scottsdale
Listen, sometimes it’s just too hot outside to smile. Phoenix barely avoided the Top 10 for rudeness, but it scores even worse for its neighborhoods (No. 30) and for being a cultural getaway (No. 28). All the better to hole up in an all-in-one resort—the city ranks No. 2 for them—where staff is guaranteed to be nice to you.
No. 11 Atlanta
What happened to that southern charm? This corporate center ranks well for its business hotels (No. 8), but lousy when it comes to romance (No. 29), being kid-friendly (No. 27), or even feeling safe (No. 29). Comfort yourself with a few plush souvenirs instead: the city ranks No. 13 for luxury stores and No. 15 for its home décor shops.
No. 10 Dallas/FortWorth
Big D is a big dud according to AFC voters, who find the city and its locals anything but fun-loving: its cocktail hour ranks No. 29 and the live music is next to last (No. 34). And not only are the residents deemed not-so-smart (No. 28), they’re not even worth looking at, AFC readers said: the city ranks last for people-watching.
No. 9 Orlando
Some happiest place on earth. Maybe it’s the crowds and long lines that make even the locals prickly. That may be especially true during what AFC voters found to be the worst time of year to visit—when school’s out (it ranks No. 30 for summer travel). They also don’t score any points for those Mickey ponchos: its locals are ranked No. 30 for fashion.
No. 8 LasVegas
Nobody ever equated being fabulous with being nice. Vegas is the No. 1 city for wild weekends and one of the top spots for dropping cash: it ranks first for luxury hotels and No. 2 for high-end shopping.
No. 7 Baltimore
Maybe the folks in Baltimore should offer to buy more visitors a drink—or anything. The city ranks in the bottom 10 of all but one of the “people” categories: most notably, its people rank No. 33 for their style and No. 34 for looks. Perhaps as a result, its live music and singles scenes both rank No. 32.
No. 6 Boston
Those Brahmins aren’t huggers, according to AFC voters, or maybe winter’s cold air outside just brings a chill inside. The No. 30 city for weather is also home to some of the least affordable hotels (No. 33). Warm yourself, then, with a nice ale (it’s ranked No. 7 for microbrews) and some civilized music—it’s No. 2 for classical.
No. 5 Washington,D.C.
Our nation’s capital ranks No. 1 for monuments, and if you want a sense of how the locals will take to you, imagine hugging the Lincoln Memorial. The locals here are a brainy crowd—they rank No. 4 for intelligence—but as President Truman supposedly once said, if you want a friend in this town, get a dog.
No. 4 Miami
These Floridians are pretty appealing at first look: they rank No. 3 for their fashion sense and No. 4 for their overall looks. The bad news: they might be even ruder when you turn your back. While they rate near the bottom with visitors for friendliness, the locals actually rank themselves as the least friendly people in America.
No. 3 Philadelphia
Apparently, Philly’s charm offensive has been on a downward slide since, well, Ben Franklin. AFC voters also ranked the locals as No. 33 for being attractive and No. 30 for being intelligent. That’s a good excuse to focus on the good ol’ days while you’re here—its museums rank No. 8 and its historical monuments are No. 6.
No. 2 NewYork City
In a city where yelling, “What are you lookin’ at?” counts as small talk, it’s no surprise that The Big Apple scored so poorly. So what? They win in so many other categories—big-name restaurants, luxury stores, theater—that they know you’ll probably put up with it anyway. The city also ranks a horn-honking No. 34 for peace and quiet.
No. 1 LosAngeles
Maybe too many AFC voters have been welcomed to L.A. by a one-fingered wave out a car window. No surprise, the traffic-laden city ranks last for being pedestrian-friendly, which probably cuts down on your chances to break the ice with locals. Looking good is your best revenge: the city’s brightest light for visitors is its luxury stores, which scored a red-carpet-ready No. 4.