An on-line survey, developed by the editors of Travel + Leisure, in association with America Online (AOL), appeared on AOL from August 3, 2001 to December 31, 2001. Respondents were asked to rate their choice of 14 cities (Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Phoenix/Scottsdale, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.) in their choice of subject categories (accommodations, family travel, interests & activities, people, restaurants & nightlife, romance, shopping, and the arts). Subject categories appeared on AOL in stages during the survey period; all subject categories were available for rating at all times. Responses were collected and tabulated by AOL.

Rankings are based on averages of responses concerning applicable characteristics. Respondents were asked to rate a city on how good it is for each applicable characteristic, using a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score.

These were the characteristics rated within each subject category:

For accommodations: super-luxe, cheap (but good), rooms with a view, hotels with hot restaurants, hotels with happening bars.

For family travel: fun for everyone, hotels that make it easy, family-friendly (but good) restaurants, sightseeing, yawn-free museums, value.

For interests and activities: architecture nuts, foodies, hipsters, history buffs, nature lovers, shopaholics, walkers and runners.

For people: diverse, eye candy, friendly, helpful with directions, laid-back, type A's.

For restaurants and nightlife: top-rated dining, cheap (but good) eats, ethnic restaurants, street food, cool bars and hot clubs, gay scene.

For romance: honeymoons, popping the question, romantic walks, secret rendezvous, steamy encounters, singles scene.

For shopping: designer outposts, unique boutiques, big bargains, bookstores worth browsing, flea markets with finds, gourmet shops, home design meccas.

For the arts: classical music, jazz clubs, latin beat, rock scene, museums and galleries, theater.