America's Friendliest Cities

Southern hospitality isn't fiction - apparently, cities in America's South are nicer than the rest of the country and they filled almost the entire top 10.

Southern hospitality isn’t fiction — apparently, cities in America’s South are nicer than the rest of the country. The best way to be like a local on vacation is to get advice from a local, but that’s easier said than done in some places.

While the Northeast lived up to its reputation for being brash by making up nearly half of the top 10 least friendly cities in the U.S., the South lived up to its own reputation, according to a poll of readers of Conde Nast Traveler.

A lot of the top cities were described as “charming” or “quaint” by readers and it didn’t hurt that there was plenty of activities for visitors.

10. Branson, Missouri

Score: 82.8

Population (2011): 10,739

The Branson Scenic Railway

The area has theaters, wineries and family entertainment, so it’s not surprising that Branson is a popular destination. The area is also home to a 40-mile scenic train ride through the Ozark Mountains, departing from a historic depot. Plus, it’s home to a Titanic-themed museum, housed in two-story museum shaped like the Titanic.

9. Sonoma, California

Score: 82.9

Population (2011): 10,741

Sebastiani Theatre in the plaza. Photo by Bernard Gagnon.

Although California had four cities on the list of the least friendly cities in America, it managed to squeeze one into the top friendliest list. Wine lovers will be interested in Sonoma as an alternative to Napa and Conde Nast’s readers all agreed Sonoma is laid back and charming — perfect for unwinding and relaxing.

8. Telluride, Colorado

Score: 82.9

Population (2011): 2,368

Telluride is already popular with skiers and people who like to spend some quality time with Mother Nature. But the readers of Conde Nast also love the people, the restaurants and the live music, which goes a long way to making up for how cold the city can get. It’s also possible to spot celebrities if you visit for the Telluride Film Festival.

7. Natchez, Mississippi

Score: 83.0

Population (2011): 15,672

The pre-Civil War-style home, Melrose

Southern states can usually boast beautiful pre-Civil War architecture and Natchez is a popular tourist destination partly for that reason. As a mostly undiscovered location, it’s “an amazing town to visit and relax.”

6. Jackson, Mississippi

Score: 83.0

Population (2011): 175,561

Downtown

Two in a row for Mississippi, this time it’s the state’s capital. Perhaps residents are so friendly to visitors because they live in a metro area that provides the third best “bang for your buck,” according to Forbes. Visitors might also be surprised to know that Jackson sits atop an extinct volcano, one of just four located inside cities in the U.S.

5. Austin, Texas

Score: 85.2

Population (2011): 820,611

Photo by Ed Schipul

Austin has always been known for being … well, “weird.” It seems the diverse culture and the city’s young, health vibe appeals greatly to visitors. Plus, there’s plenty to do, whether it’s history, food, film or music you want. Austin also has, by far, the largest population of any city on this list.

4. Asheville, North Carolina

Score: 87.5

Population (2011): 84,458

Plaza in downtown. Photo by Billy Hathorn.

Asheville is no stranger for making national rankings. It’s been called a New Age Mecca by CBS, the New Freak Capital of the U.S. by Rolling Stone and one of the best places to reinvent your life by AARP. Asheville has also been named Beer City USA for four years running thanks to its multitude of microbreweries. Conde Nast readers insist that the city has “hidden treasures around every corner.” Asheville is also popular during the fall as people drive the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.

3. Savannah, Georgia

Score: 87.8

Population (2011): 139,491

Forsyth Park

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and its downtown area is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the U.S. Readers raved about the city’s restaurants, museums “warm” local vibe.

2. Galena, Illinois

Score: 87.9

Population (2011): 3,435

A former mining town, a trip to Galena is a “step back in time.” The city, which has one of the smallest populations on the list is quaint and relaxing, but has plenty to do, bringing in over a million tourists a year.

1. Charleston, South Carolina

Score: 91.5

Population (2011): 122,689

People sure do love Charleston. The city is often one of the best cities in the U.S. because of its ambience, friendliness, restaurants, culture and shopping and has taken the top spot for three years running now. Not only are the locals incredibly nice, but there are nearby beaches and impressive architecture.