As travelers, we talk a lot about the best places to visit. But it takes more than amazing sights or culture to make a place worth visiting; for a lot of people, their perception and experience of a destination is enhanced by the people they meet there. There are some place we automatically assume are full of “friendly” people, but that leads us to ask, which cities in the U.S. are actually considered the friendliest locales for travelers? The answers might surprise you!
10. Minneapolis, Minnesota
At first glance, there may not be a lot to recommend about Minneapolis and nearby St. Paul, but further investigation will reveal a friendly, welcoming city with plenty of attractions. Minneapolis appeals to visitors by offering free admission to places like the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The city also has a well-regarded craft brewery scene, including the Dangerous Man Brewing Co. Perhaps the best recommendation for the Twin Cities, however, is their locals: these Minnesotans are friendly folks who know how to make people feel welcome. The cities are said to have a non-threatening atmosphere. Grab a beer with some of the locals to learn what’s going on in the cities during your stay or to get some recommendations for food and fun.
9. Jackson, Wyoming
The Tetons might rise to lofty heights in Jackson, Wyoming, but the locals are certainly down-to-earth folk. Despite the earthy tones, Jackson boasts a number of world-class attractions, like the National Museum of Wildlife Art and, perhaps surprisingly, a sophisticated restaurant scene. For younger tourists, Jackson also has a happening nightlife—perhaps an offshoot of saloon culture that once pervaded the Old West. Jackson’s Old West authenticity extends to shopping: it’s one of the best places to pick up a bonafide cowboy outfit. The city rounds out its list of attractions by capitalizing on its natural surroundings: follow bike trails around Snake River or visit in the wintertime for skiing at the Snow King or Jackson Hole Mountain resorts. Jackson can also be your gateway to the nearby Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
8. Albuquerque, New Mexico
A couple of places in New Mexico frequently rank amongst the friendliest cities in America, and Albuquerque is one of them. The city gets great weather and unlike other metropolises around the nation, is noted for a lack of noise. That makes Albuquerque a great place to relax—and you’ll want to relax too, with the city’s laid-back atmosphere. The city is renowned among visitors for its street food and is well-represented on New Mexico’s so-called Breakfast Burrito Byway. If you’re just looking for a snack, check out some of the sweets related to Breaking Bad, like “Blue Sky” donuts at Rebel Donut. One of the things that seems to keep the locals in good spirits is a healthy sense of humor, although Albuquerque is much more than just a running joke in old Bugs Bunny cartoons.
7. Asheville, North Carolina
Most tourists planning a trip to North Carolina will be directed to Raleigh or Charlotte, the state’s two biggest hubs. Travelers looking to get away from the hum of metropolitan areas, however, will delight in a small-town destination, one like Asheville, North Carolina. Like Jackson, Wyoming, Asheville combines great mountain scenery and outdoorsy fun with a homey sense of the local. Restaurants focus their fare on locally sourced and traditional dishes, and many will serve up beer from local brewery operations. Sometimes described as “eclectic,” Asheville also has a vibrant arts and culture scene, embodied in the lively River Arts District and complemented by festivals like the LaZoom Comedy Tour. Perhaps most importantly, the locals are friendly and welcoming, earning Asheville a reputation as one of the most friendly cities in America.
6. New Orleans, Louisiana
Given depictions of the fun and friendliness that supposedly pervade New Orleans during Mardi Gras celebrations, it’s something of a relief to know the city lives up to the hype—and actually is one of America’s friendliest places all year round. Although Louisiana’s capital might have a frenetic energy that overwhelms some, other revel in it. Sensory overload is one way to describe the experience of New Orleans: from great food to amazing sights, to history and vibrant visual and performing arts, New Orleans is a city of the senses. Better yet, the locals are friendly and, moreover, apparently just as invested in making your stay a good one. Some might call it hedonistic, but New Orleans is about enjoying life—and it’s hard not to when everyone around you seems intent on doing just that.
5. Austin, Texas
Nicknamed the “Capital of Live Music,” Austin has already earned a reputation among travelers as one of the best places in America to catch a concert or take part in a music festival. The state capital’s charms don’t end there, however: with the slogan “keep Austin weird,” the city thrives on being quirky. From local shops to great dining experiences, Austin has more on tap than music. With a youthful appeal and a focus on arts and culture, Austin easily blends Texan charm and hospitality with the best of the modern and the local. Pick up farm-fresh produce or handmade products at one of the city’s markets, or seek out off-the-map restaurants for a meal you won’t soon forget. Experiences like a Segway tour with a singing, guitar-playing guide or bat-watching underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge are uniquely Austin.
4. Nashville, Tennessee
Maybe it’s music, maybe it’s Southern hospitality or maybe it’s some strange combination of the two, but Nashville, Tennessee’s second largest metropolis, is easily one of America’s favorite cities. Unlike in LA and New York, Nashville’s role as a recording hub for the music industry hasn’t translated into an elitist celebrity culture in the city. Instead, you’ll find Nashville characterized by live musical performances, affordable accommodations and great dining experiences. The city’s downtown is often abuzz with festivals, markets and performances, leading to the perception that the state capital is anything but boring. The same can be said of the locals with their affable ways make the city a place worth visiting. Be warned, however: some people go intending just to visit and simply decide to never leave Music City.
3. Charleston, South Carolina
Although we’ve seen some cities in the South on this list already, Charleston, South Carolina, really speaks to the idea of “Southern hospitality.” The South’s culture has long been characterized as easy-going, laid-back and welcoming, and that is readily apparent to visitors the moment they set foot in Charleston. The city blends an easy-going attitude with an air of sophistication to create an almost magical atmosphere. The friendly locals love to showcase their city to people from all corners of the globe. Visitors will feel comfortable no matter what they choose to do in this city (even if they choose to do nothing at all). Charleston has been lauded by various travel publications as the friendliest location in the U.S. and the most polite and hospitable city in America. Guess there is something to be said for Southern hospitality after all.
2. Savannah, Georgia
Southern hospitality lands another city on the list—this time, we’re visiting Savannah, Georgia. Once the capital of the Peach State, Savannah is the oldest city in the state and its history, architecture and beauty demands visitors slow down and really take it all in. With plenty of tourist information available for travelers looking to explore the city, you may not need to ask for directions—but the talkative and friendly locals will be more than happy to point you the right way. The people are described as fun and bubbling with Southern charm, ensuring that visitors to Savannah will feel welcome. A thriving art scene, centered on the Savannah College of Arts and Design, and 22 park like squares round out Savannah’s charms, making it an ideal getaway for anyone who wants to relax and unwind in a friendly, beautiful place.
1. Park City, Utah
Park City, Utah, is about 32 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, and is perhaps best known to attendees of the annual Sundance Film Festival. However, Park City has plenty of other attractions, no matter what time of year you want to visit: the city has two major ski resorts and has actually been awarded for its network of bike trails and amenities for cycling enthusiasts. It has also been named one of the prettiest cities in the U.S. A tourist hotspot, the city seems to function as a congregation space for people from all walks of life: cyclists and skiiers, movie buffs and film geeks and even families will find plenty that appeals to them here. A hip culture and a party-like atmosphere furthers many visitors’ pleasant experiences—as do the positive and friendly attitudes of most of the locals. Even during the height of Sundance, locals are more than welcoming.