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Video: America’s most inviting cities

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    AL ROKER reporting: This morning on TODAY'S TRAVEL , the best cities in America . Maybe you're thinking about visiting one of these great cities here in these United States , but you're not sure which one to go to. Well, guess what, the folks at Travel + Leisure can help you decide. Their picks for their favorite cities in America based on everything from how friendly the folks are to where to find the best music , it's all in the December issue. And Nilou Motamed is the features director for Travel Leisure magazine. And can you see this now on your new iPad app?

    Ms. NILOU MOTAMED (Features Director, Travel Leisure Magazine): You can -- wow, thank you so much once again for acknowledging the iPad app. You cannot see it on this month's iPad app, but it is available for download.

    ROKER: Ah, OK. All righty. Well, let's get...

    Ms. MOTAMED: But this is more important. This is...

    ROKER: Yes.

    Ms. MOTAMED: This is not our picks of the favorite cities , it's...

    ROKER: These are your readers.

    Ms. MOTAMED: But not only the readers, but travelers. Anyone who's an enthusiastic traveler, who wanted to say something about great cities in America ...

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MOTAMED: ...35 of them, they got to go on travelandleisure.com and cast their votes in over 50 different categories, and the results are being announced live here, and then they're going to be on our Web site .

    ROKER: All right. So Charleston , South Carolina , does pretty well.

    Ms. MOTAMED: They did really well this year. Not only did they get -- come in number one in friendliest people...

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MOTAMED: ...but they also came in number one in most attractive people.

    ROKER: Wow.

    Ms. MOTAMED: And they also came in number one in best B&B 's and inns. So when you go to seek out those friendly, attractive people...

    ROKER: They're a triple threat.

    Ms. MOTAMED: They are. It's dangerous down there.

    ROKER: So they're really, really friendly, attractive people at a bed and breakfast.

    Ms. MOTAMED: Who can put you up. So one of our -- there are over two dozen B&B 's and inns in downtown Charleston .

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MOTAMED: And one of our favorites is Wentworth Mansion . And you can get tons of Southern hospitality and Southern charm there. So we love it.

    ROKER: All right. Next up, top city for ethnic foods. No surprise, right here in New York .

    Ms. MOTAMED: I know, there's no need for a drum roll. I like the fact that we got both ethnic food number one and also big-name restaurants number one. So I like...

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MOTAMED: We've got a balance of both.

    Ms. MOTAMED: But honestly, local people here, and you know this, when we go out we like to kind of spin the globe, decide where we want to go eat based on what we're in the mood for.

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MOTAMED: So if I'm in the mood for Korean fried chicken , literally in the shadow of the Empire State Building , Bon Chon is delicious. If I want to have a bahn mi sandwich from Vietnam , I can go to the lower east side to An Choi . If I'm in the mood for ramen, for -- I don't have to go all the way to Japan .

    ROKER: Sure.

    Ms. MOTAMED: I can go to Totto Ramen , which is delicious. And if I'm in the mood for pizza, and New York has done fantastic with all the pizza.

    ROKER: We don't have many pizzerias here.

    Ms. MOTAMED: No, no, we have a lot of pizza. But now we have the...

    ROKER: Oh, the -- I was joking.

    Ms. MOTAMED: Oh, I'm sorry, that was a joke. Sorry. We have Neapolitan pizza at a place called Motorino in the East Village which is really as good as being in Naples .

    ROKER: OK. Now, best city for historical monuments, what a surprise, Washington, DC.

    Ms. MOTAMED: Well, it was kind of a close race. We had Washington , we had Charleston and we had Savannah .

    ROKER: Really?

    Ms. MOTAMED: And then Washington pulled out ahead, of course, because we have everything...

    ROKER: Have people not heard of the Lincoln Memorial ?

    Ms. MOTAMED: Well, and the Washington Monument .

    ROKER: Or the Jefferson Memorial ?

    Ms. MOTAMED: And the White House . Yes, it's true, people really caught on...

    ROKER: The Holocaust Museum?

    Ms. MOTAMED: There's a lot...

    ROKER: I mean, all these places.

    Ms. MOTAMED: Yes. Vietnam Memorial also. Well, one thing that people may not realize is you can go to the top of the Washington Monument .

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MOTAMED: I don't know if you knew that.

    ROKER: I did.

    Ms. MOTAMED: You can take an elevator up. But the -- people -- a lot of people wait in line for hours to get to -- to get their tickets, which are free. One thing that is a sneaky thing you can do is you can go online and buy your tickets and reserve a spot so you don't have to go and stand in line.

    ROKER: Ah.

    Ms. MOTAMED: The one thing is there's a $1.50 per ticket charge. But I think that's totally worth it.

    ROKER: Mm-hmm. Now, this one might surprise people. For best live music you might think, say, someplace like New York or Los Angeles . Nashville , which of course is known as Music City , number one.

    Ms. MOTAMED: Country music capital is number one. And you had Taylor Swift on recently.

    ROKER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. MOTAMED: And she is a Nashville resident. And she will sing about everything, including how much she loves living in Nashville .

    ROKER: You know who else is from Nashville ?

    Ms. MOTAMED: Tell me.

    ROKER: Ke$ha .

    Ms. MOTAMED: Oh, see, look at this. The list -- I mean, honestly, the list of amazing musicians from Nashville keeps on growing. And one fun place to go there is The Station Inn . Every Monday there is a band called the Time Jumpers, and they come on. They're an 11-piece country swing band, and they come on and they've been doing it for 10 years. It is one of the funnest things to do in Nashville to get a little slice of the Grand Ole Opry .

    ROKER: Wow. And finally, for folks who like the great outdoors, I can't disagree with this one, I love this city , Portland , Oregon .

    Ms. MOTAMED: Portland , Oregon , has been doing so phenomenally well in terms of a great foodie destination. But -- and the Pacific Northwest is magical if you want to be outdoors.

    Ms. MOTAMED: And Portland , Oregon , with 36,000 acres of green areas in the city, is one of those places where you can't basically walk an inch without finding some beautiful place to be outdoors.

    ROKER: Oh.

    Ms. MOTAMED: We actually love the Japanese garden there. They're five acres and beautiful views of Mount Hood .

    ROKER: That's right , great food and great mass transit.

    Ms. MOTAMED: And great micro brews.

    ROKER: Yeah.

    Ms. MOTAMED: They actually did number one for micro brews, as well.

    ROKER: Suddenly our director paid attention. But...

Image: Austin City skyline from Riverside overlooking Town Lake with guitar statue in tribute to local music artists Copyspace. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.
David Coleman / Alamy
The Austin City skyline from Riverside, overlooking Town Lake with guitar statue in tribute to local music artists. Austin is among America's favorite music cities, according to Travel + Leisure.
updated 11/8/2010 9:40:51 AM ET 2010-11-08T14:40:51

Who has the better pizza — New York or Chicago? Who has better live music — Austin or New Orleans? And where will you find the most (and least) attractive people in America?

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These aren’t questions that cities take lightly: They inspire urban pride and more than a little emotion. But when you’re planning a city getaway, there’s nothing like getting a little wisdom from people who’ve been to that city themselves. That’s why, for the fourth consecutive year, Travel + Leisure is here to help. In our America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers have weighed in on everything from hotels to antiques shops to microbrews.

Related: See all the results from T+L’s America’s Favorite Cities survey

Last summer, we asked our users to rate 35 cities around the U.S., from San Diego to Seattle and from Boston down to Miami — and a lot of hot spots in between — in 54 categories. For example, which city is the best for relaxing? (Both Portlands — Maine and Oregon — made the top 10.) Where should you go if you want an active vacation? (Apparently, not New Orleans.) And once you’re there, how friendly — or rude — are the locals you’ll meet? (Let’s just say New York didn’t fare well.)

Video: America’s most inviting cities (on this page)

This year, we added seven new destinations: Savannah; Salt Lake City; Baltimore; Memphis; Anchorage; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Portland, Maine. We also threw in some new categories, such as the all-important best burgers, best flea markets, and how “green” a city is. (Note to Vegas: put out a few more recycling bins.)

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Some new competitor cities made a big splash in the survey. Savannah’s locals ranked in the top five for both looks and smarts, and the city holds its own against New York, Seattle, and New Orleans for such traveler magnets as pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, boutique hotels, and good coffee bars. Anchorage and Salt Lake City may not be anybody’s ideas of a wild weekend, but their beautiful natural settings helped knock both Las Vegas and Boston out of the top 10 for city views.

There were also some surprises. Miami lands in the top six for its bar scene, but perhaps only if you’re ordering cocktails. (It fell into the bottom five for its microbrews.) And which cities are best for New Year’s Eve? Mild-weathered party towns like New Orleans and Honolulu dominated the top five, while New York and its famously frigid Times Square celebration came in at No. 13.

Check out the full results from America’s Favorite Cities 2010 to see how your favorite town —or your next travel destination — stacks up.

Related: America's most attractive people

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

Photos: Take a Bite Out of The Big Apple

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  1. A full moon rises over the skyline of New York City, as seen across the Hudson River in Weehawken, N.J., on April 25, 2013. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Commuters move through the grand hall of Grand Central Terminal in New York City on Jan. 25, 2013. Since its grand beginnings in 1913, when it was dubbed the greatest railway terminal in the world with an $80 million price tag, Grand Central has been an integral part of New York City. (Brendan Mcdermid / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Revelers cheers under falling confetti at the stroke of midnight during the New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square on Jan. 1, 2014. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. One World Trade Center overlooks the wedge-shaped pavilion entrance of the National September 11 Museum, lower right, and the square outlines of the memorial waterfalls in New York. (Mark Lennihan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees walks back to the dugout after flying out in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians on June 13, 2011, at Yankee Stadium. Located in the South Bronx, the new stadium opened in 2009. (Jim Mcisaac / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Central Park was the first public park built in America. Its 843 acres include woodlands, lawns and water. Central Park was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and a New York City Landmark in 1974. More than 25 million visitors enjoy Central Park each year. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Saint Patrick's Cathedral is the largest decorated gothic-style Catholic cathedral in the U.S. The cathedral's construction began in 1858, and it opened its doors in 1879. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Skaters glide around the rink at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. The ice rink, open between October and April, has attracted more than 250,000 people a year since it first opened on Dec. 25, 1936. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Patrons line up outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem to see Amateur Night. Since 1934, Amateur Night at the Apollo has launched the careers of famous entertainers such as Billie Holiday, James Brown, The Isley Brothers, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, and many others. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The South Pool at the National September 11 Memorial in New York City commemorates those who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. (Justin Lane / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Pedestrians pass along a walkway under falling snow on the Brooklyn Bridge on Jan. 3, 2014, in New York. One of the oldest suspension bridges in the U.S., the Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Statue of Liberty looms over a visitor as he uses binoculars to look out onto New York Harbor on Oct. 13, 2013, in New York. About 4 million people visit the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island each year. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Coney Island features entertainment parks, rides, an aquarium, a public beach, a boardwalk, fishing and Nathan's restaurant. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. New York City Subway dancer Marcus Walden aka "Mr Wiggles" performs acrobatic tricks on the subway while passengers watch Nov. 23, 2010. More than 4.3 million people ride the New York subway system every day. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on the southern tip of two-mile-long Roosevelt Island - between Manhattan and Queens - was dedicated in 2012. (Paul Warchol / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York has been around since 1924 and includes large balloons, floats and performances. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Visitors view the Manhattan skyline from Rockefeller Center's "Top of the Rock" observation deck. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Pedestrians walk along a path on the High Line park on June 7, 2011, in New York City. The High Line was formerly an elevated railway 30 feet above the city's West Side that was built in 1934 for freight trains. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The moon rises at sunset behind New York's Empire State building, which opened in 1931. At 102 stories high, the Empire State Building is the fourth tallest skyscraper in America. (Gary Hershorn / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Image: A full moon rises over New York City above 42nd Street, as seen across the Hudson River in Weehawken, New Jersey
    Gary Hershorn / Reuters
    Above: Slideshow (19) The Big Apple
  2. Image: Lifeguard Station on South Beach
    Richard Cummins / Corbis
    Slideshow (21) Super South Florida
  3. Southern California Spared From Savage Weekend Storms
    David McNew / Getty Images
    Slideshow (24) City of Angels
  4. Boston Skyline
    Bob Krist / Corbis
    Slideshow (14) Bustling 'Beantown'
  5. Image: Aerial Photo Of The Washington Memorial and Capitol
    Andy Dunaway / USAF via Getty Images
    Slideshow (30) Dreaming of D.C.
  6. Tourists Clamor For A View From The Top Of The Sears Tower
    Tim Boyle / Getty Images
    Slideshow (13) Welcome to the Windy City
  1. Image: Opening Of Wayne Newton's "Once Before I Go" - Show
    Ethan Miller / Getty Images for Tropicana
    Slideshow (12) What’s new in Las Vegas - What's new in Las Vegas
  2. Las Vegas Strip Exteriors
    Ethan Miller / Getty Images
    Slideshow (23) What’s new in Las Vegas - Viva Las Vegas!


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