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America’s favorite cities

The envelope, please: the results of T+L’s annual survey, ranking everything from luxury hotels to burgers in 35 U.S. cities.
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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?

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.

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.)

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.)

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.