Happy people make friendly cities, as does a willingness to offer visitors a smile and word of welcome. Safety, diversity and a variety of interesting (and affordable) places to hang out also help cities make the friendly grade. With that in mind, here are seven of America's friendliest cities.
1. Cleveland, Ohio
This underrated city on Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio makes the list of America's friendliest cities due, in large part, to the Midwestern charm of the locals. Professional sports teams and world-class cultural institutions such as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame are part of the appeal, too, as is the charming array of neighborhoods filled with boutiques, galleries and coffee shops. Plus, the culinary scene includes everyman "Iron Chef" Michael Symon.
2. Walla Walla, Washington
Walla Walla was once known simply as a college town and a place where delicious sweet onions were grown. The buzz these days has a lot to do with red wine, as this city is transforming itself into a wine-lovers mecca — complete with a downtown renaissance that includes wine bars. In between wine touring, enjoy the friendly, cultured air and laid-back surrounds.
3. New Orleans, Louisiana
The Big Easy may entice and seduce visitors with its good eats, music, party scene and unique heritage. But its residents also have considerable pull: They're eternally optimistic and not at all shy about greeting anyone they happen to pass on the street. Whether dancing in clubs, following an impromptu street parade, listening to jazz at Preservation Hall or enjoying beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde, there's plenty of opportunity to mingle and make new friends.
4. Nashville, Tennessee
Music City loves a catchy tune, and locals are more than happy to share both their music and good vibes with visitors. Find a concert nearly every night, whether your musical taste tends toward country, rock, rap, jazz or gospel. Options including taking in a performance at Opryland and tapping your toes as you down beers at honky-tonks along Broadway — where you just might witness the next big act.
5. Charleston, South Carolina
Nowhere is southern hospitality more charmingly or graciously on display than in Charleston, making this delightfully slow-paced city a no-brainer when it comes to inclusion on the America's friendliest cities list. Find a warm welcome with a southern drawl as you explore fragrant courtyard gardens and antebellum mansions, soak up three centuries of history, and sip a mint julep.
6. Austin, Texas
It's not unusual for perfect strangers to chat up visitors in this friendly city, which prides itself on acting like a small town despite being the state capital and home to the University of Texas. Enjoy music venues and green spaces, sample home-style cooking, and do such uniquely Austin things such as joining the crowd to watch the evening flight of the millions of bats that live beneath the Congress Avenue bridge.
7. Honolulu, Hawaii
You'll no doubt come for the sun, sand and surf; the underwater volcanic craters; the lush hiking trails; and the Pearl Harbor history. But you'll also find yourself getting to know the friendly locals. In Honolulu, a smile and a greeting of "Howzit?" (which means "How's it going?") often lead to a fascinating conversation.