Over the last four years, we've asked our readers to rate a city's "friendliness"in the Readers’ Choice Awards survey, especially with respect to where you felt welcome. Did an outgoing local show you the way? Was the city easy to navigate? Some 128,000 people took the survey in 2015—see what you had to say about the friendliest U.S. cities, and the ones that gave guests a cold shoulder. Counting down...www.cntraveler.com
A "live and let live" feeling pervades this New England college town that's "fun, laid-back, and artsy... winter or summer." "The locally brewed beer is incredible," "fresh meals at farm-to-table restaurants were too many to count," and "fantastic bike paths along Lake Champlain" make one newcomer "feel very much in tune with its natural surroundings."
"Favorite overall reason to visit New Orleans: the awesome, friendly locals" just about sums this "high-energy, eclectic, and always fun" charmer. "This is truly a place meant for enjoying life. Extraordinary sensory experiences at every turn, and it seems as if everyone wants you to have a good time."
"The people are friendly and the views are out of this world" here below the "breathtaking Tetons." It's a "genuine taste of the original American West" that includes "fantastic nightlife for the younger crowd." And let it be known that a raft trip down the Tetons was "the most enjoyable experience" one reader "ever had with clothes on."
"We loved Asheville," raved one reader. "Good restaurants. Gay-friendly (although we aren't gay). Lots of arts, theatre companies, art galleries," with an"eclectic, fun, and lively River Arts District." It's "an all-around wonderful small city," says another reader. "Great mountain scenery and friendly people. Always a smile from those you meet."
Readers appreciated the peerless vibe—"this is an amazing town that is totally different from the norm"—and the "spiritual scenery" of the surrounding countryside. "The atmosphere of friendliness and artistry," especially in the town square, along with delicious local food "draws us like a magnet. It's just one of those places that has captured our hearts."
That whole "Keep Austin weird" thing? One reader found the city "contrived and self-conscious," while another reveled in how it made the Texas capital "quirky and fun." Regardless of where you fall, it's hard to dismiss how rich with charm Austin is: "The Driskill Hotel is bar is really fun at any time, afternoon or evening, full of local characters and politicians...a riot!" "Take a Segway tour with a singing, guitar-playing guide" or stop to "watch the bats fly (take a blanket and sit below Congress Avenue Bridge)."
Nashville's atmosphere is hard to match: Music City, with its ever-present guitar strum, "has so much character, is the perfect size, has great live music, delicious restaurants, friendly people, affordable accommodations... the list goes on." "It's a city of characters and the vibe of downtown is hard to beat." "We came on vacation and never left."
"Bubbling with Southern charm," the locals of Savannah are so "fun and talkative" you'd think it was an act. (It's not.) The city feels eminently walkable and safe, but it's not all azaleas and smiles: "Rating a city's friendliness is always dicey," says an honest reader. One reader noted that the "cultural divide between races is subtle but present," while another said the "general laid-back atmosphere" and squares fringed with moss made for a "peaceful" setting.
Our readers raved about Park City—"the friendlier and more casual" mountain town, where even at the height of winter ski season or the Sundance Film Festival in January, "the locals were extremely friendly and welcoming." Service is also a top priority at the resorts: One guest of the Montage Deer Valley told a story about how her children were greeted by name on arrival, given a stuffed animal, and found hot chocolate and cookies waiting for them in the room. Who doesn't like that?
One reader put it perfectly: “People speak to each other!" (Ha. All those poor Northeasterners not used to a 'hello' on the street.) "The city is so lovely and easy to get around on foot.” “Charleston is by far my favorite city!," says another reader. "It has the charm of the South, the sophistication of the city, and a warmth and friendliness that is unmatched.”
"Everything in Charleston is perfectly designed for visitors to be comfortable, safe, and well taken care of," said another. In short, even as the city grows, Southern hospitality lives.
Baltimore is still "up against monumental odds," said one reader. "The once-showplace Inner Harbor shopping area is in desperate need of a renewal" and the area outside downtown felt "unsafe," while "the public transportation was unreliable." Perhaps "it's a city you need to know well in order to enjoy it," said one reader optimistically. "Go with someone who has been or really do your research." "Federal Hill [Cross Street] Market and [Nick's] Oyster Bar!" suggested a reader. "Baltimore is a city for oyster lovers! Fells Point is a walk back in time."
L.A. was hit hard by readers for being "plastic, dirty, and crowded," with "awful roads," "aggressive drivers," "too much celebrity stuff," "snobbish and pricey restaurants," and "gasping smog." "Bit of a let down considering the hype!" Though maybe it just requires a bit of patience: "Who knew L.A. had a subway?" said a reader. "It's slow, but not a bad way to get around, especially to/from airport if you have some time to kill." And we can't say enough good things about Downtown L.A. right now.
"If I did not have family there, I wouldn't have a reason to go there," said one reader. Ouch. "Was really just passing through" said...more than a few. Another found the people "rude"—"not a place I would want to visit again"—and a difficult place to get to off the highway. But wait, there's hope! Seek out the Wilmington Opera, the Delaware Symphony, and Hotel du Pont for a more memorable stay.
Poor Delaware. Can't catch a break. "A nice quiet town" starts one reader, "almost nondescript, though. There are some cute areas—[but] it is not truly memorable." One reader wasn't all that interested in the city's hot spots—its military base and casino—but "Dover is a great town but when you are going with a purpose," like Firefly Music Festival and the Sunday brunch at McGlynns.
The city of New Haven, beyond the ivy-covered walls, seemed "tired and spiritless," said one reader, calling Yale within "a little oasis." It's a refrain we hear often: that there isn't much to see in New Haven beyond the university, and "the contrast between the academic wealth and local poverty is poignant." But this year, we were happy to hear our readers trumpet the great restaurants in the city, particularly on Wooster Street, home to some of the best pizza in the U.S. "Frank Pepe's Pizza for life!"
Connecticut's "forgettable" state capital "shuts down at night" and is considered "dreary, especially when it rains or snows." "It definitely needs a facelift!" Traffic and "seedy sections" of the city aside, "it appears to be trying to rejuvenate itself." The food scene is on the rise (a few readers loved Firebox restaurant); "Elizabeth Park's rose garden is wonderful" and the "river walk with its cultural and food festivals" are worth a visit.
We have a feeling Motor City won't be long on this list. While some people said the city was still facing hard times, others reinforced the notion that "Detroit's coming out of the bad times and really has a lot to offer, both in the city and in the surrounding suburbs." "The energy is all you need to feel to want to return to the city again and again," said another reader. "Things are changing and you can be a part."
"Atlantic City is a shame," said one reader. "It is not safe to leave the boardwalk. The beach is okay but there are so many beautiful beaches along the coast that AC is not outstanding. It could be a boon to NJ if the surrounding areas could be cleaned up." "It's a strange, split-personality town: an odd mix of grinding poverty and over-the-top conspicuous consumption. The promise of casino-funded urban renewal never really materialized."
This East Bay city retains its no. 2 position, with one reader simply stating: "Some parts of the city are scary." But more readers thought that "Oakland is starting to renew itself. New eateries are popping up everywhere...most are local finds at this stage." Temescal Alley is still one of the hippest parts of the city, and the weekend markets are where you'll find the best of the city.
Alas, Newark takes the top spot again, for least-friendly city in the country. "This was one of the saddest looking cities I've ever seen," said one reader. Another said it was a "business necessity. Extreme traffic, poor signage." "I often stay in Newark...and dine in Hoboken." Geez! Doesn't anyone ever go to the Ironbound District? Or anywhere other than the airport? Those looking on the bright side will tell you to head there, along with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Prudential Center. Newark has its bright spots, too.