America's Snobbiest Cities
Not Travis Levius, a Big Apple photographer who has found that another city along the Northeast Corridor has more attitude.
“In D.C., it’s all about what you do,” he says. “You can be among New York City's elite if you're an artist, but in D.C., that might get you, at best, a look of ‘bless your little heart.’”
Snobbery may indeed be in the eye—or ear—of the beholder. In the America’s Favorite Places survey, Travel + Leisure readers rated New Yorkers to be the snobbiest, with D.C. at No. 4 (perhaps they’d accuse Levius of harboring a hometown bias). It’s just one of the categories, including wine bars, museums, and cleanliness, in which voters evaluated 38 major metropolitan areas.
Among the survey's snobbiest cities, some residents—like the hipsters in Boston or Portland, OR—perhaps just came off as intellectually, well, confident. Other cities take their specialties so seriously that it borders on pretension. In Seattle, your choice of coffee speaks volumes, while in San Francisco, someone might look down his nose if you don’t toss your Pellegrino bottle in the right bin.
Certainly, in many top-scoring cities, the snobby label is only skin deep—if that. Phoenix-Scottsdale spa owner Heidi Lamar laughs at her hometown’s nickname of Snottsdale, and knows that even the most ostentatious locals must drop their guard at some point. “Last week I had a Maserati, a Ferrari and a Bentley in my spa parking lot, right next to the VWs, Hondas, and Fords,” she says. “But inside the spa, you couldn't tell which guests were which.”
Find out which other cities make a snobby impression on visitors—and make your opinions heard by voting in the America’s Favorite Places survey.
No. 1 New York City
Is it really snobby if you’re on top of your game and you know it? New York won handily in a lot of survey categories that may feel elitist to some: art scene, theater, and luxury shopping. Plus, it ranks as the least affordable city in the survey. Money can't always buy access, though: The Standard Hotel’s Top of the Standard bar in the Meatpacking District is off-limits to non-guest-list types by 11 p.m. on most nights. And most New Yorkers would also say that some of the greatest features are its affordable luxuries like classic deli sandwiches and don’t-you-dare-use-a-fork pizza.
No. 2 Miami
These Floridians won the survey yet again for being good-looking, and ranked near the top for their velvet-rope-transcending style. To find them in their natural habitat, go to cocktail bars and nightclubs such as Miami Beach’s LIV or Story, which has 60 VIP tables. (If it’s celebrities you’re after, try to snag a reservation at the Browns Hotel’s steakhouse.) To experience another kind of insider’s Miami—the world of its own in Little Havana—go to the Cuba Ocho Art & Research Center, an art gallery that also offers live music, mojitos, and cigars.
No. 3 Los Angeles
In Hollywood, there are those who walk the red carpet, and those who try to get close to it. To feel like you're a little nearer, spend an afternoon on West Hollywood’s Robertson Avenue, where upscale department stores like Kitson and Intermix offer excellent chances to rub shoulders with celebs, who, indeed, shop just like us. Grab a bite at star-magnet The Ivy or at Gjelina over on ever-trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard. L.A. also has an everyman sense of fun: the city ranked in the top 10 for its retro-cool diners, burgers, and bakeries (although one in Echo Park is named Donut Snob).
No. 4 Washington, D.C.
For power-broker-watching in our nation’s capital, head to the leafy, townhouse-filled Georgetown neighborhood (consider Austrian restaurant Kafe Leopold) or to the Politics & Prose Bookstore on Connecticut Avenue. Daily readings—by the likes of Joe Scarborough or New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand—pack the house. And take advantage of the platinum-level free attractions, such as the National Gallery of Art, home to the only Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas, and the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, which offers free daily musical performances. It's a reminder that D.C. still has an egalitarian side.
No. 5 Boston
In this elite university town, anyone can browse the aisles at the Harvard Book Store, or Schoenhof’s Foreign Books in Cambridge. And you can test your wits while hanging with MIT’s trivia-night types at Area Four in Kendall Square. It serves clam pizzas, croissant-crumb-topped mac ’n’cheese, and appropriately named cocktails like the Last Word, made with gin, Chartreuse, and maraschino liquor. Readers may have encountered another kind of attitude in Boston, when they got behind the wheel: Bostonians ranked near the bottom for their driving.
No. 6 Tampa
Tampa, a newcomer to the survey, made a dramatic entrance by ranking within the top 10 for its snob appeal. Every sophisticated city needs a SoHo, and in Tampa, it’s South of Howard. The upscale Southside delivers good people-watching and dolphin-watching along Bayshore Boulevard. It’s also where you’ll find the Epicurean Hotel, which has a wine shop and a cheeky dessert shop called Chocolate Pi, and faces local institution Bern’s Steak House. Readers also acknowledged Tampa for its cleanliness, giving locals another reason to feel superior.
No. 7 Dallas
After a few years of somehow dodging the snobby top 10, Big D reminds readers what old-school attitude is about: this is a city where right-of-way is determined by blue-book value, and the stereotypically well-coiffed locals struck readers as the opposite of quirky. Staying at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, or shopping at NorthPark’s Neiman-Marcus have long been hallmarks of good Dallas living. The new generation of Ewings might also be found at downtown boutique hotel The Joule, which just got three new penthouse suites, a tasteful Taschen library that does a weekly champagne afternoon tea, and Texas’s first imported-from-Europe ESPA spa. Readers gave Dallas credit for backing up its attitude with world-class museums and theaters, including the Rem Koolhaas-designed Wyly Theatre.
No. 8 San Francisco
According to readers, Bay Area locals possess an intimidating combination of traits: hip, brainy, and perhaps a bit persnickety. (Visitors may feel underdressed just by pulling out an iPhone 4S.) Thanks to the city’s ironclad rep for methodically sourced food, coffee, and wine, locals have high standards when it comes to dining. Sought-after tables include creative Thai restaurant Kin Khao in Union Square hotel Parc 55, and North Beach’s revamped and romantic Tosca Café.
No. 9 Salt Lake City
How did down-to-earth Utah end up in the top 10 for being snobbish? Perhaps because any city can ramp up its elegance when it wants to: Salt Lake has the Italian-marble-laden Grand America Hotel and the quaintly strollable 15th and 15th neighborhood, where you’ll find the King’s English Bookshop and the Paris Bistro. Salt Lake is also getting its own version of a Hollywood enclave: one of the best new places to get a bratwurst and craft beer is Beer Bar, owned by Modern Family star (and Salt Lake local) Ty Burrell. Even if the locals struck readers as snobby, they’re hardly unapproachable: the city ranked at No. 2 for friendliness.
No. 10 Providence
The Rhode Island capital may have sidled into the top 10 thanks to its Ivy League affiliation with Brown, or due to the humbling tech savvy and avant-garde vibes of locals. But Providence denizens might also admit to a certain well-deserved provinciality. After all, why bother driving to a whole other state (even if it’s a pretty short trip) when you can find everything you need at home? The city ranked near the top for its notable restaurants such as Federal Hill’s Gracie’s and downtown’s farm-to-table Birch, from James Beard nominee Ben Sukle. The city also scored well for its gourmet food shops.
No. 11 Atlanta
Atlanta ranked near the top for its home décor stores, such as the plush antiques, art, and lamps of Miami Circle, in genteel Buckhead. For shopping beyond your tablescape, check out the new six-block stretch of stores, Buckhead Atlanta, including branches of Hermès, Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo (as well as simpler luxuries, such as Shake Shack). Meanwhile, in the food categories, readers gave highest marks to Atlanta for the indulgent, high-falutin’ meal of brunch.
No. 12 Kansas City
It’s hard to accuse this Missouri city of being hoity-toity when it also ranked No. 1 for affordability. Perhaps readers were just wowed by the City of Fountains’ top-notch museums, the posh shopping around Country Club Plaza, and that certain midwestern reserve. Locals do have an excellent reason to throw their weight around: they won the survey, again, for their barbecue. For the best burnt ends, local purists prefer local BBQ institutions such as Gates Bar-B-Q and Arthur Bryant’s.
No. 13 Las Vegas
The social hierarchy is simple in Sin City, which ranked highly for its swanky cocktail bars and luxury stores. The more you can win—or spend—the better. The most exclusive nightclubs include the newly opened LiFE at SLS Las Vegas and Hakkasan at MGM Grand, while the most sought-after table is at Giada (from the Food Network’s De Laurentiis) in The Cromwell. To indulge another form of local snobbery—the fact that most locals want nothing to do with the Strip—head to the bars of Fremont East like Vanguard Lounge.
No. 14 Charleston
This refined South Carolina city impressed readers with its picture-perfect architecture. And as you wander King Street—lined with upscale boutiques and antiques shops—you might feel as if you should dress a little better, or perhaps just invest in an antique fainting couch. (For something more contemporary, browse for art at the George Gallery nearby.) The most elegant neighborhood is South of Broad, yet some of the best restaurants are now on the traditionally un-fancy Upper King, from the oyster hall The Ordinary to the small-batch spirits of High Wire Distilling.
No. 15 Phoenix
This desert city and its luxury-shop-lined enclave Scottsdale (sometime called Snottsdale) likely made the top 20 thanks to its rep for tan denizens with confident golf swings. This year, however, the Arizona capital is boosting its crowd-pleasing potential by bringing the Super Bowl to town; the city also hosts the biggest PGA tourney of the year near the luxurious Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. The brick-oven pies at Pizzeria Bianco have also made Phoenix a destination for pizza snobs. Insiders know to go at lunch, when you get the same menu but much shorter waits.
No. 16 San Diego
Flip-flops and board shorts are acceptable attire in most parts of this SoCal city. But one exception to the casual rule is the Old Hollywood–loving, jacket-required Turf Club at the Del Mar racetrack. In fall 2014, the horse-racing track holds a retro Bing Crosby Season, complete with vintage-fashion contests. You might also experience some ’tude as part of the serious craft beer scene: local beer nerds can be found ruminating about the notes in their IPA at Stone Brewing’s World Bistro and Gardens or at microbrewer Alpine Beer Co.
No. 17 Chicago
Think Chicagoans have less attitude than New Yorkers? Try wearing your Yankee sweatshirt into a Wrigleyville sports bar. Some of the newer sports bars in Chicago go way beyond divey spots for a beer and nachos. State, in Lincoln Park, counts more than 100 flat-screen TVs, along with upscale bar food like filet mignon sliders and garlic kielbasa cooked in wheat ale. American Junkie, in River North, has a more intimate 25 TVs as well as “gastro-chic eats” that include grilled octopus and lobster mac ’n’ cheese. According to readers, Chicago has also earned an air of superiority for its top-ranked, deep-dish pizza.
No. 18 Houston
While Houstonians are quick to point out that folks in Dallas are snobbier—and readers agreed this time—Houston’s oil-tycoon types have a history of investing their money in blue-chip ventures. The city has a deep art collection, from the Menil Collection to the Rothko Chapel, and it also ranked at the top of the survey for its elegant wine bars; raise your glass at Midtown’s 13 Celsius or Camerata at Paulie’s in Montrose. Houstonians are also legitimate snobs about their Tex-Mex. For what purports to be the nation’s original fajitas, head to Ninfa’s and order Mama’s Tacos al Carbon.
No. 19 Seattle
These techy, brainy northwesterners embrace their own form of exceptionalism when it comes to local specialties. That includes, for instance, fresh salmon and oysters at chef-driven restaurants like Tom Douglas’s newest, the Scandinavian-themed Ändra Loft at Hotel Ändra. For snob-worthy coffee—since many locals claim never to drink at Starbucks—get a single-origin pour-over at Fremont’s Milstead & Co. Seattle also ranked highly for its artisanal bakeries, craft beer, and bookstores.
No. 20 Orlando
A turnstile doesn’t exude as much grandeur as a velvet rope, but this Florida theme-park destination made the snobby top 20 anyway—perhaps because a dose of exclusivity can be a relief after a long day of listening to “It’s a Small World.” The local hotel lineup already includes a Waldorf Astoria and Grand Bohemian Hotel, which has 150 rare artworks and an Imperial Grand Bösendorfer piano, and now Orlando also has the Four Seasons at Walt Disney World Resort, featuring a rooftop steakhouse with VIP-worthy views of the nightly fireworks.