Most Popular T+L Stories of 2013
Find out which entertaining, informative, and provocative Travel + Leisure features caught readers’ attention in 2013.
Sure, fans of Travel + Leisure love to read about the world’s best places—but they also enjoy checking out the snobbiest cities, ugliest college campuses, and most attractive people. So, to showcase the range of topics that caught our users’ interest, we pulled together the 25 most visited, liked, and retweeted stories of the year.
Some, like our most popular slideshow, America’s Snobbiest Cities, are based on your votes from our annual America’s Favorite Cities Survey. Others, like America’s Best College Towns, began with crowdsourced suggestions from fans on Facebook and Twitter.
Foodies swarmed our website in search of the best steakhouses, Chinese restaurants, Mexican restaurants, and local eateries in America. Sun seekers took note of warm-weather getaways near and far, from islands like Palawan in the Philippines to quaint American beach towns and splashy pools in Las Vegas. Safety-obsessed travelers used TravelandLeisure.com as a vital data resource in 2013, with our list of most dangerous bridges and safest airlines, while comfort-minded travelers sorted through our picks for the best walking shoes.
Click through for all of our most popular stories in 2013.
No. 1 America's Snobbiest Cities
So what if they’re a little conceited? These snobby cities, as determined by readers in T+L’s America’s Favorite Cities survey, have plenty of reasons to feel like winners. After all, they include places with distinctive cultures, such as Seattle, with its concentration of espresso-drinking software engineers, and Charleston, SC, where a quaint southern tradition blends with a modern foodie scene.
No. 2 America's Ugliest College Campuses
College is about developing your inner beauty, and that’s a good thing. As for the campuses themselves, from a purely aesthetic point of view, they are sometimes beautiful, often plain, and occasionally downright ugly. While our resulting selection of campuses certainly won’t win any beauty competitions, if you’re choosing a college based on looks alone, you’re probably doing it wrong.
No. 3 Best Affordable All-Inclusive Resorts
Savvy travelers have discovered that an influx of service-oriented hoteliers has raised the bar on the all-inclusive resort model, introducing more amenities, better food, and more of a sense of place. From Mexico to Costa Rica, the best resorts guarantee vacations where, for a few nights, you can count on economic stability and ease of planning.
No. 4 World's Best Hotels 2013
Picture a cypress-lined road in Tuscany. Now picture yourself arriving at a 10th-century former castle on more than 4,000 acres of rolling hills. Welcome to Castello di Casole, a new 41-suite hotel that already ranks as No. 2 worldwide, according to reader votes in our annual World’s Best Awards. The list of top-ranking properties is not only a go-to hotel resource for planning your next trip, but also reveals the destinations that are important now.
No. 5 America’s Best College Towns
Strolling along Ithaca Commons in Upstate New York is a crash course in College Town, U.S.A. The four-block pedestrian area buzzes with vendors, cafés, festivals, and, of course, students around every bend. But venture beyond, and there’s another Ithaca to be discovered, including an intriguing wine region. Sure, big cities have their glitz, but it’s this kind of understated charm, diversity, and affordability that draws visitors to cool college towns Ithaca, San Luis Obispo, CA, and Flagstaff, AZ.
No. 6 America’s Most Dangerous Bridges
Millions of Americans drive over aging, deteriorating bridges daily. Consider Boston’s Storrow Drive, which has been deemed “entirely insufficient” based on an evaluation formula used by government inspectors. It’s one of many bridges to earn a low sufficiency rating. While a bad rating doesn’t necessarily mean danger is imminent, when combined with high traffic volumes, it signals possible trouble for a bridge—and those who cross it.
No. 7 Best Places to Spend Christmas
From New Mexico to New Zealand, a world of Christmas celebrations awaits. Whether your trip enhances your yuletide nostalgia with traditions, sparkly lights, and nippy air or makes a radical break from it—by, say, taking you to warmer climes or a quiet, far-flung hideaway—breaking the habit of staying home will always reward you with a Christmas you’ll never forget. With that goal in mind, we’ve rounded up diverse, exceptional places to get you in the spirit of taking off.
No. 8 Best Beaches on Earth
To determine the best sandy spots, Travel + Leisure launched our first annual Best Beaches Survey—and asked savvy travelers to reveal their favorites. One point came across loud and clear: you don’t have to travel far to experience a spectacular beach. In fact, U.S. beaches won out in almost every category, from seclusion to people-watching. Although you’ll have to travel the distance to reach the ultimate destination for wildlife spotting: Bahia Gardner, in the Galápagos Islands.
No. 9 America’s Best College Bars
Prepare to be schooled in craft brews and campus traditions at these college-town bars. They’re fan headquarters for away games. They’re stages where college bands become national acts. They’re divey, not sleazy, and give visitors an insider’s perspective and memorable stories. So here’s a toast to the mayhem of college and those bars that make it a great four years (or, in some cases, five…or six).
No. 10 Best Disney Restaurants
More than 17 million people vacation at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom each year, and that magic—and those long lines—can work up an appetite. When hunger strikes on your next visit, don’t turn to the nearest food cart or restaurant. It’s worth seeking out certain restaurants at Disney World and Disneyland that will satisfy kids and adults alike and enhance your experience.
No. 11 America’s Most and Least Attractive People
Travel + Leisure readers voted in the America’s Favorite Cities survey to crown the places with the best-looking residents—and this year, beach bums need not apply. Sun-kissed southern Californians, for instance, got shut out of the top 10, replaced by northern-city locals who often embrace a more hipster aesthetic. The nightclub-ready lookers of Miami and the Big Apple, meanwhile, got pushed aside for the more casual, corn-fed types from the Midwest.
No. 12 America’s Best Cities for Hipsters
For the best coffee, shopping, and culture, follow the trail of the skinny-jeaned trendsetters. The votes for America’s Favorite Cities are in, and Travel + Leisure readers have ranked the best cities for hipsters. The results include San Francisco, where Hayes Valley’s Proxy Project features food and art in shipping containers, and Minneapolis, where residents love their polka-infused supper club.
No. 13 Best Steakhouses in the U.S.
The constancy of the dry-aged porterhouse and old-school vibe at Brooklyn’s Peter Luger (est. 1887) is comforting, yet the past decade has ushered in an equally worthy breed of steakhouses that are more stylish in the dining room and more inventive in the kitchen. We think discerning carnivores will agree that these steakhouses, whether old-school or trendy, are a cut above the rest.
No. 14 World’s Strangest Natural Wonders
Ever played the game of Twister on water? The green, yellow, and brown polka dots that form on British Columbia’s Spotted Lake each summer make it look like you could. It’s a far cry from the stereotypical landscapes of clear blue lakes, rolling green hills, and white-sand beaches that inspire most travelers—and that’s part of what makes strange natural wonders like Spotted Lake so thrilling. They remind us that there’s plenty of mystery left to explore.
No. 15 Best Chinese Restaurants in the U.S.
Just how all-American is Chinese food? We’ve been placing delivery orders since the 1920s, and there are now more than 41,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S., nearly three times the number of McDonald’s, according to Chinese Restaurant News. With this expansion, you’ll find restaurants setting the bar higher in immigrant enclaves like New York City’s Flushing neighborhood and California’s San Gabriel Valley, but also in Vermont, Chicago, and Salt Lake City.
No. 16 America’s Best Little Beach Towns
The quest for a great American beach town like Boca Grande, FL is a national summertime passion. Beach towns are a mainstay of the hot months, a beacon for countless citizens looking for a reprieve from the daily grind. The Great American beach town, apart from being idle as all get out, is also resolutely democratic, conscious that the sand belongs to all. These spots serve as emblems of our God-given right to get too much sun and to eat tasty—if nutritionally unfortunate—fried food.
No. 17 Best Mexican Restaurants in the U.S.
Oaxaca-inspired dishes like those of José Andrés at D.C.’s Oyamel, were once hard to find in the U.S. Now they are increasingly considered mainstream. And while authenticity is prized, highly regarded chefs have also turned their attention and creativity to Mexican, which has become a cuisine célèbre. Satisfy your craving at these restaurants serving the best tacos, mole, and barbacoa north of the border.
No. 18 World’s Best Islands
Palawan, a chain of white-sand islands in the Philippines, is the latest far-flung beach destination to capture the imagination of travelers, specifically, discerning T+L readers who voted it the No. 1 island in the latest World’s Best survey. Whether you prefer a quiet sliver of sand a few time zones from home, or a more accessible and bustling local scene, you’ll find inspiration among these top-rated islands.
No. 19 America’s Best Places to Eat Like a Local
Like beignets (made from a 143-year-old recipe) in New Orleans or a bagel sandwich in New York, the best regional American fare feels close to home—even if you’re dining far from yours. With the combined forces of our staffers and contributors, we canvassed the 50 states, happily put our stomachs to work to yield a menu of America’s must-try dishes from Maine to Honolulu.
No. 20 America’s Favorite Towns
For our first America’s Favorite Towns survey, we asked our fans and followers to nominate their favorites on social media with the hashtag #TLTowns—and then vote for the 744 towns in 55 categories. To determine the overall popularity results, we calculated each town’s average score. The results reveal a soft spot for small towns in the Rockies, with the No. 1 title going to Aspen, CO, which scored highly for its attractive locals, beer scene, and Victorian-era Main Street.
No. 21 World’s Safest Airlines
Travelers can find plenty of reasons to complain about airlines—except when it comes to safety. None of the 240 leading airlines incurred a crash last year, making 2012 the safest on record. Yet not all of the world’s regions are equal; many carriers in sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet Union still have disturbing records. We combined the two major global safety rankings with other critical factors to determine the top airline rankings worldwide.
No. 22 It List: The Best New Hotels 2013
We logged thousands of miles to find the extraordinary new hotels that promise to improve your next vacation. Many of our favorites showcase what’s distinctive and authentic about their location. In Sicily, Monaci delle Terre Nere’s walls are cut from local volcanic rock and the mini-bars are stocked with regional wines and beers; Sugar Beach resort employed a Rastafarian craftsman to create a tree-house spa for the St. Lucia property.
No. 23 Best Pools in Las Vegas
With nearly 40 million visitors hitting the Strip in 2012, many with a seemingly insatiable appetite for daytime drinking and dancing, it’s no wonder hotels are devoting real estate to mega pool parties. Still, we’ve also identified swimming pools where kids are welcome, as well as some oases that are free or blissfully serene.
No. 24 Newest Wonders of the World
Each summer, UNESCO convenes to announce new picks for the World Heritage List, chosen for their cultural, historical, and environmental importance, from vast sand dunes and mountains towering 22,000 feet high to magnificent palaces.
No. 25 Best Walking Shoes for Travel
Finding chic yet comfortable walking shoes for travel is easier said than done. But you’re in luck: we’ve browsed to find the classic ballet flats, preppy loafers, and booties that will give you a leg up on your next trip.