Which is worse when you’re traveling: the local driver who blithely cuts you off in traffic or the surly cabbie who gives you attitude right to your face?
Such skirmishes no doubt fueled this year’s America’s Rudest Cities contest, voted on by Travel + Leisure readers. Three-time-champion Los Angeles, home of road rage, went head-to-head with classically brusque East Coast cities such as Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.—all of which landed in the top five.
New York ultimately claimed the title of No. 1 rudest city, a dubious award determined as part of T+L’s annual America’s Favorite Cities survey, in which readers rank 35 major cities in categories such as the best pizza, the most pedestrian-friendly streets, and even the most reliable wireless coverage.
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A look at this year’s rudest top 20 reveals one overarching trend: the bigger the city, the bigger the attitude—or at least its perceived attitude. “People in big cities tend to be very direct,” says Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and owner of Protocol Etiquette School of Texas. While that alone can be fine, she adds, “it’s no excuse for being rude. ”
Smaller cities often have a slower pace, which may help explain why New Orleans, Savannah, and Charleston all ranked in the top five for friendliness. They are also literally warmer cities, which may further mellow the locals.
But don’t give too much credit to southern hospitality. Atlanta made it into the rudest top 10—perhaps because it’s a sprawling metropolis, or because visitors expected more charm from the Georgian capital. Similarly, some visitors assume that they’ll get an all-smiles welcome in Orlando; any subsequent disappointment helped land the city at a grumpy No. 9.
New Yorkers, meanwhile, have long endured the notion that everyone expects them to be hostile. But are they just misunderstood?
“People in New York are constantly in a rush,” says Big Apple manners expert Thomas P. Farley, who writes the blog What Manners Most. “Certainly, they don’t linger on corners smiling, waving, and waiting to help people. But once you’ve stopped a New Yorker and asked them for directions, they’re usually more than helpful.”
And if someone gives you guff anyway? “Move on,” says Gottsman. “You can’t take it personally. If you do, then you start getting rude.”
No. 1 NewYork City
The Big Apple reclaims its heavyweight title in hostility, a dubious honor it last held in 2009—and a reputation it has had for much longer (“You talkin’ to me?”). Besides its fast pace, New York City is also No. 1 for diversity. As a result, you might encounter unfamiliar mannerisms that aren’t meant to be mean but come across that way. Deep down, voters probably love New York for its flamboyant, bird-flipping spirit. After all, it’s also the No. 1 city for great theater.
No. 2 Miami
They’re gorgeous, a little wild, and terrible drivers, according to voters. While bad weather may explain crabbiness in some cities, Miami can’t use that excuse. Voters are willing to shrug it off, though, as long as they are whooping it up in one of the city’s many loud settings, such as its bar scene or its raucous New Year’s Eve.
No. 3 Washington,D.C.
Politics is ugly, and perhaps getting uglier. Even though our nation’s capital still counts as a great family getaway, it got two spots ruder since last year. For less attitude, voters preferred to hang out with any locals cast in bronze or granite: the city ranked first and second for its museums and historical monuments.
No. 4 Los Angeles
The City of Angels is polishing its halo a bit this year, having moved from last year’s No. 1 position. While the locals still have some work to do on the charm front, voters gave them props for being attractive and stylish. If someone hurts your feelings here, try retail therapy: the city ranked third for both luxury and design stores.
No. 5 Boston
Are they just a bunch of smart mouths? Folks in Beantown ranked near the top for intelligence, but that didn’t endear them to visitors. Bostonians might also be guilty of gloating about their championship sports teams. But visitors still love the city as a cultural getaway, and ranked it highly for its festive 4th of July.
No. 6 Dallas/FortWorth
Locals in this sprawling city have probably tired of tourists’ old jokes about oil wells and cattle ranches—and may be venting with the kind of brusqueness associated with big metropolitan areas. At least voters did love the local barbecue joints, where it’s actually not rude to lick your fingers.
No. 7 Atlanta
Voters weren’t feeling the love here, in more ways than one. The city scored near the bottom for romantic escapes, and the locals ranked as some of the least attractive. But at least the rudeness is of a fairly mellow variety: Atlanta placed in the bottom 10 for wild weekends.
No. 8 Phoenix/Scottsdale
Feeling some heat? Phoenix/Scottsdale moved into the top 10 this year after placing at No. 12 last year. Perhaps the locals get fatigued by the snowbirds that fly in as soon as the local weather turns pleasant: the area ranked as the third-best winter destination.
No. 9 Baltimore
This Maryland city excels in classical music and history, but voters seemed to detect crabbiness alongside those famous crab cakes, and didn’t even feel terribly safe. Maybe it’s just a different sense of humor—the city also ranked in the top 20 for being offbeat.
No. 10 Orlando,FL
Apparently, being family-friendly is different from being just friendly. One wonders, though, if it’s locals who are snapping at visitors, or if it’s just other tourists, who are cranky after waiting in theme-park lines. Perhaps because of that, voters really loved one thing about being in Orlando: getting back to their hotels.
No. 11 Philadelphia
Since it was the third-rudest city last year, the City of Brotherly Love appears to be successfully returning to its namesake roots. While these sports-loving folks may still have some East Coast curtness, you can break the ice by asking for a good lunch recommendation: the city ranked in the top five for burgers and street food.
No. 12 Las Vegas
Vegas got four slots friendlier since last year, but voters apparently still think that it’s a look-but-don’t-chat sort of town. It ranked No. 2 for its nightlife, wild weekend potential, and the jaw-dropping people-watching. Otherwise, voters liked to keep to themselves, ranking Vegas in the top 10 for romantic getaways.
No. 13 Anchorage
Talk about an Arctic breeze: these Alaskans ranked seven spots ruder than last year (No. 20). You might not get much reaction if you try to talk sports with the locals—they ranked near the bottom in that category. Or maybe voters just confuse the silent treatment with a placid attitude. The city also ranks No. 4 for peace and quiet.
No. 14 Chicago
Can these not-so-sunny midwesterners blame their demeanor on those frigid winters? If you want to get Chicagoans to warm up, try complimenting their city—by pointing out that you love their music scene or find their pizza much preferable to that thin New York stuff. Chicago ranked fourth for its glowing civic pride.
No. 15 San Francisco
Voters might have found these northern Californians intimidating: they placed in the top 10 for being attractive, stylish, and dazzlingly offbeat. They’re also known to be foodies, and if that makes them snobbish, at least their fine tastes are justified; local cafés, upscale restaurants, and ethnic eateries all ranked in the top three among America’s Favorite Cities voters.
No. 16 Houston
These Texans didn’t charm voters with their looks, athletic prowess, or even their ability to parallel park. But voters did give the city credit for its fashion sense and for offering bang for the buck. Houston ranked No. 4 for luxury stores and No. 6 for overall affordability.
No. 17 Seattle
A little too cerebral? These Washingtonians came in first place for their brains, but could loosen up their small-talk skills, according to voters. They might be more welcoming if you bring your dog along: the outdoorsy city ranked No. 6 for being pet-friendly.
No. 18 Providence, RI
The Rhode Island city is holding onto its position from last year, and voters indicated that they didn’t always feel like sticking around to get acquainted. The city ranked No. 2 as a great launching pad for day trips. Two good reasons for visitors to stay in town: Providence ranked No. 3 for its theater and No. 1 for its fabulous burgers.
No. 19 San Diego
Bummer: this surf-loving city has returned to the Rudest 20 this year. Maybe the locals just get wiped out from working out so much—they ranked as the second-most athletic locals in America. Or perhaps residents are bristling at the growing number of rowdy visitors: the city is now tops for spring break.
No. 20 Salt Lake City
Talk about a meltdown. This ski destination ranked in the top five for friendliness last year. Why did it fall so dramatically to become the 20th rudest? Perhaps voters just don’t find this tidy city that fun-loving—it came in last place for nightlife. If you can’t find a friendly ear here, you can always call home: Salt Lake City ranked No. 2 for its excellent wireless coverage.