America’s Best Cities for Singles
“This is a city with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but only in the best ways,” says Rachel Harrison, a Brooklyn-based public relations exec. “You can dress a little wilder, slap on some fake eyelashes — you can do anything you want, at any age. There are no judgments.”
Unabashedly batting those faux lashes got the Big Apple more than a few second glances this year. New York City landed in the top 10 for the best cities for singles, according to Travel + Leisure readers. In this year’s America’s Favorite Places survey, readers ranked 38 cities on dozens of appealing qualities, including good-looking locals, cool shopping, and hipster-magnet coffee bars.
The winning cities in the singles-scene category excel in the off-hours, ranking highly for nightclubs, dive bars, and even great diners, where you might lock eyes with someone over a late-night order of fries.
But the most singles-friendly cities also put a creative spin on conventional meet-up spots. Plenty of big attractions — from the Brooklyn Museum to the San Diego Museum of Art — offer monthly happy hours, wooing artsy singles with cocktails and live music. In Boston, one of the coolest bookstores does Trivia Nights, while in downtown L.A. a popular bar stocks old-school video games.
Another strategy for uncovering a city’s best singles scene is exploring the activities that locals love most. “New Orleanians live and breathe festivals — like Jazz Fest, and even Creole Tomato Fest,” says native Stephen Schmitz. Just be warned: “The heat and humidity,” he says, “can make for a rough appearance.”
Read on for the full results. And make your point of view heard by voting in the America’s Favorite Places survey.
No. 1 Miami
Gorgeous locals, a wealth of nightclubs, and a wild streak as long as the beach: Miami climbed from second to first place this year, thanks to its flair for throwing a big party. Hot spots like Wall at the W South Beach or the Italian-restaurant-meets-cocktail-lounge Cavalliget a big boost when celebs grace the premises, whether it’s Bieber or the formerly single Clooney. Other trendy hangouts are a little more accessible to the non-red-carpet crowd: Tamarina, for one, features an oyster bar and alfresco champagne bar, plus a reasonably priced happy hour. You might meet other singles while strolling through galleries and past street art on the Wynwood Art Walks, held the second Saturday of the month. And in this otherwise well-dressed town, your best secret-weapon accessory may be a smile: readers found the locals to be a little aloof.
No. 2 Houston
Houston sashayed into the top five for singles this year, and why not—the locals ranked as both smart and stylish, and the city landed near the top for both its decadent barbecue and world-class art. Gallery Row, at the intersection of Colquitt and Lake streets, offers both great art and conversation starters: check out Hooks-Epstein for contemporary surrealists or Catherine Couturier Gallery for vintage photos. Houston also pulled off an upset by winning the wine bar category this year. Pull up a stool to chat at La Carafe—the city’s oldest bar, with a fabulous jukebox—or try the newbie, downtown’s Public Services Wine and Whisky, which is located in the old 1884 Cotton Exchange building and serves a wide range of global wines, sherries, and whiskeys.
No. 3 New Orleans
Last year’s No. 1 city for singles still knows how to whoop it up, ranking at the top of the survey for festivals, bars, and wild weekends. But a good singles experience in NOLA need not be limited to collecting beads: some cool places to meet a more local crowd, off the tourist grid, include the Saturday night dance party at the Hi-Ho Lounge in the Marigny; Bywater wine bar Bacchanal, with its live-music-filled courtyard; or Fulton Alley for late-night “boutique bowling,” with shareable, andouille-sausage tater tots.
No. 4 Austin, TX
The seat of Texas government is also the nation’s capital of hipsters, according to readers, who also ranked Austin No. 1 for cool locals. Given Austin’s high density of both college students and bearded Peter Pan types, the can’t-miss spots for meeting singles include dive bars and food trucks: you can find both at Wonderland on East 6th, a stylishly low-key bar that provides space outside for the Thai-flavored East Side King truck. To mingle with fellow foodies, check out The Picnic, a trailer park on Barton Springs Road, which is home to Turf N Surf Po’ Boy and Hey Cupcake! If you need an excuse to let down your emotional walls, consider that Austin also ranked well for feeling safe.
No. 5 Atlanta
The Georgia hub scored well for its java, and Dancing Goats Coffee Bar, a single-origin coffee and donut bar in Ponce City Market, is a fine place for a pick-me-up (and perhaps a pick-up line). If you prefer snobs of the burger variety, head to Holeman and Finch, where every night at 10 p.m., you can line up for one of the 24 acclaimed double-patty (grass-fed chuck and brisket) cheeseburgers, served on house-made buns. Atlanta’s residents also made the top 20 for being smart.
No. 6 Las Vegas
Sin City naturally ranked highly for its people-watching and came in at No. 2 for nightclubs, including relative newcomers LiFE at SLS and the indoor-outdoor Drai’s at The Cromwell. If the dance floor is not your scene, one of the top places to give the locals another chance is at the elegant pre-Prohibition-style lounge Commonwealth on Fremont in Vegas’s happening downtown. LINQ’s BLVD Cocktail is a piano bar with craft cocktails, an LED-light cloud installation, and views of the High Roller observation wheel. For a more casual scene, go downstairs at the LINQ to Brooklyn Bowl, the 32-lane alley known for attracting lookers to its live music shows.
No. 7 Nashville
Music City is holding steady with its singles ranking from last year—and placed first for both concerts and friendly locals. To catch sets where the music and audience are equally compelling, check out the standing-room-only Marathon Music Works or Mercy Lounge; for more of a sit-down scene, go to Sutler Saloon, which offers “grass-fed” bluegrass shows on Sunday nights. Mondays call for the “Keep on Movin’!” dance party at The 5 Spot. Nashville’s high-ranking barbecue also draws a high-caliber crowd: try the platters of brisket and catfish (and the boozy milkshakes called Bushwhackers) at Edley’s Bar-B-Que, in East Nashville and the 12South area. As a testament to its wealth of strapping crooners, Nashville also ranked highly for fun girlfriend getaways.
No. 8 Los Angeles
Angelenos made a strong first impression on readers: attractive people with an on-trend sense of style. Within the sprawling metropolis, the revived downtown is one of the best places to break the ice. Go bar-hopping from the buzzy roof of the Ace Hotel to 82, an arcade bar with craft cocktails, vintage pinball machines, and old-school games like Frogger and Tron—an easy way to ask someone if they’d like to share your next life. Looking like an insider always helps in L.A., of course, and one good in-the-know spot is The Varnish, a speakeasy-style bar tucked behind the famous Cole’s French Dip on E. 6th Street.
No. 9 New York City
Singles are spoiled for choice in New York, though at first blush, the scene can be intimidating between outspoken, stylish locals and sky-high prices. For an alternative to the clubs, try gallery-hopping through SoHo or hitting one of the many after-hours mixers at top-ranked museums, like the First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum or the K2 nights—with Asian tapas, happy-hour drinks, and a DJ—at the Himalayan-art Rubin Museum. During daylight hours, the tavern-style Randolph at Broome has become an acclaimed meet-up spot, thanks to cozy seating, coffee-snob-worthy pour-overs, and afternoon happy-hour cocktail specials.
No. 10 Minneapolis/St. Paul
These Minnesotans made readers swoon for being the smartest, fittest, and friendliest in the nation—and they also ranked at the top for being gay-friendly. Depending on the season, you can mingle in the Twin Cities’ scenic parks or hole up indoors at beloved bookstores like Uptown’s Magers & Quinn or shops like Martin Patrick3, which offers sleek takes on the traditional Minnesota-plaid look, as well as elegant home design. Strike up a conversation over craft brews at the “breakfast-to-beer” micropub Freehouse, in the North Loop, or at the new Surly Brewing beer hall on Malcolm Avenue.
No. 11 San Diego
San Diegans dazzled readers with their sunny good looks and beach-ready abs. You’ll spy them jogging or surfing at the beach, namely Pacific Beach, La Jolla Shores, or Encinitas’ Moonlight Beach. To carbo-load before an outdoor workout, pull up a chair at the communal tables at the East Village’s Bottega Americano, one reason the city ranked in the top 20 for its gourmet pizzas. And even though San Diego always scores well for families, the city’s Balboa Park (where the famed zoo is located) is also the site of the singles-friendly San Diego Museum of Art, which hosts monthly DJ-fueled Culture & Cocktails events.
No. 12 Kansas City, MO
Kansas City appeals to singles by being refreshingly down-to earth (read: cheap dates); it ranked at the top of the survey for its affordability and its barbecue. The trendiest singles scene these days is in the Westport area—once a trading post for wagons heading west—where you can kick back at fancy sports bar Westport Ale House or sip a Saturday Night Special (PBR with cinnamon whiskey) at Julep. Speaking of suds, Kansas City took the silver medal this year for its craft beer, thanks to longtime favorite Boulevard Brewing Co. as well as newcomers like Cinder Block Brewery. Indeed, Cinder Block’s North Kansas City taproom offers easy access to the burnt ends from food truck Back Rack Grill, which parks outside on weekends.
No. 13 Chicago
Locals in the Windy City seem to have no trouble making a commitment—at least when it comes to sports teams. To canoodle with Cubs fans, check out the pre- or post-game scene at pubs like Sheffield’s or Vice District Brewing. When the weather’s fine, Chicagoans make the most of city parks. Join them for free waltz or cha-cha lessons at SummerDance in Grant Park or at the new Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park. No matter the forecast, Chicago also landed in the top 20 for food halls like the West Loop’s indoor Chicago French Market.
No. 14 Dallas
These Texans attracted readers with their well-heeled fashion sense. They also made a big impression for brunch, which was rated highly—to understand why, sample fried egg, bacon, and Gruyère sandwiches, paired with Bellinis, at The Libertine Bar, on happening Lower Greenville Boulevard. While Dallas natives did strike some readers as snobby, you too can feel above it all, literally, at the GeO-Deck on top of the city’s iconic Reunion Tower; 50 stories up, you can share the views with other singles from the revolving bar at Wolfgang Puck’s Asian-flavored Five Sixty.
No. 15 Providence, RI
Locals in this New England city—which readers applauded for being LGBT-friendly—came across as hip, smart, and quirky. They also love good food, with Providence ranking near first place for everything from fine dining to bakeries. For a cool cocktail lounge with an above-and-beyond bar menu, try The Dorrance, in a former Federal Reserve building. Order duck confit or fried-oyster-topped burgers, washed down with an Up and Cumber, made with organic cucumber vodka, elderflower liqueur, and ginger beer. To network with the artsy locals, check out the performance art, galleries, and one-time weekend classes—say, lessons in laser cutting or darkroom photography—at arts space AS220.
No. 16 Cleveland
This city knows how to get the weekend started. The Cleveland Art Museum throws Mix nights on the first Friday of the month, with drinks and performances, while the 78th Street Studios—a complex of galleries, shops, and cafés in the former American Greetings warehouse—ramps up the live music and food trucks on the third Friday. Readers saluted the Rust Belt town for its impeccable craft brews, and you can discuss your IPA or porter with other beer nerds at standouts like Market Garden Brewery and Great Lakes Brewing, both in the hip Ohio City neighborhood.
No. 17 Tampa, FL
Readers embraced this beach city for its ability to let down its hair—and perhaps tie on an eye patch at the same time—making it a winner in the dive bar category. One of the classic watering holes is the pirate-themed Gaspar’s Grotto in Ybor City, which turns up its swashbuckling spirit during winter’s Gasparilla festivities, named for an infamous 18th-century buccaneer. Non-pirate types, meanwhile, might prefer the elegant rooftop bar at downtown’s Fly Bar or bonding over the live zydeco music and “Floribbean” cuisine—like oysters, grouper, and fried gator tail—at Skipper’s Smokehouse. Someday, when you’ve settled down, you’ll want to come back with the kids: the city also ranked near the top for family vacations and peace and quiet.
No. 18 Baltimore
Readers consistently give the Maryland city props for its sports-team spirit and its bravado; Baltimore ranks highly for both dives and nightclubs—like Power Plant Live, the bar-filled complex along the Inner Harbor—and kooky locals. For an elegantly quirky bar night, go to Federal Hill’s supper-club-style Bookmakers Cocktail Club, where the bar welcomes drop-in diners and offers craft cocktails like the Blood and Sand (Pig’s Nose blended scotch, cherry liqueur, sweet vermouth, fresh orange). If you want to flirt with Ravens or Oriole fans, go to Mother’s Federal Hill Grille (which features a Ravens-friendly Purple Patio), the beloved sports bar offering good local crab cakes as well as 20 kinds of wings (including the General Tso’s–like “Jet Li”).
No. 19 San Francisco
These Californians ranked as good-looking but also a little snobby, with very high standards for food and drink. No surprise that the top nightlife options, according to the survey, are the local wine bars. Still, there are well-stocked options offering more than quality vintages. In the Financial District, the Hidden Vine has a bocce court to complement its pages-long wine list, while the Mission District’s Urban Putt offers an impressive selection to enjoy while trying your hand at indoor mini golf. And at the Hotel Zetta, you can order a drink at the lobby’s S&R Lounge, then take it upstairs to the Playroom to challenge someone to a game of Plinko, Wii, or even Connect Four. There’s clearly something special here that sets the mood: San Francisco ranked No. 3 for romantic escapes.
No. 20 Boston
Boston’s locals came off as pretty cerebral to readers, so singles may want to mingle at the well-ranked bookstores like Trident Booksellers and Café in the Back Bay, which does flirt-and-flaunt-worthy Trivia Nights. Otherwise, one of the highest concentrations of singles-scene establishments is in the Seaport District. Find a spot on the deck at Atlantic Beer Garden—with local brews like Clown Shoes and Harpoon’s UFO beers—or the happy-hour-ish First Fridays at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Boston also scored well for its parks; you never know when you could have a memorable encounter, whether skating at Boston Common’s Frog Pond or joining one of the park’s drop-in yoga classes.