Is it something in the water? What makes the locals of one city so consistently attractive or not?
That's what Tennessee marketing exec Natalie Roberson wonders every time she visits one South Carolina city. "I look and feel like a troll every time I'm in Charleston," she says. "Their bone structure, the preppy clothes, and the consistent--almost persistent--friendliness make everyone prettier."
Last year, Travel + Leisure readers agreed and ranked Charleston No. 1 for attractiveness in the America's Favorite Cities survey. But now Charleston has lost its best-looking title to another comely city -- and one with a very different vibe.
Across this year's most attractive American cities, we found distinct personalities: In San Diego, the perfect weather has perhaps given locals a sunny glow while Salt Lake City, known for its clean living, may lend itself to a corn-fed, well-rested appeal. In San Francisco -- with its high rankings for culture, intellect, and fine dining -- the locals exude an aura of urbanity.
Just because you're "cool," however, doesn't mean you have to swat away admirers. Portland, Oregon, scored high on many features in the survey -- environmental awareness and cool food trucks -- but landed near the bottom of the list for looks. Perhaps some regional tendencies just don't translate.
"Why does the soul patch 'work' in Portland," wonders San Francisco-based Web publisher Sara Ost, "but it repulses women in any other metropolis of the world?"
A city's ranking in the friendliness category might also play a part: New York City landed well outside the top 10 this year for good looks, despite its winning fashion sense. Readers also perceived, shall we say, an attitude problem.
Like New York, many cold-winter cities suffered from a lack of warm smiles--and perhaps the chance to get outside and stay in shape. Denver, however, was an exception. With plenty of hiking, biking, and skiing, the Mile High City is home to the fittest folks in the land, according to the survey.
"The entire city of Denver has been indoctrinated by bizarre health and fitness regimes, such as kettlebell swinging," says British Web marketer Matthew Barker. "They're all completely bonkers -- but they look great."
-Katrina Brown Hunt
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