(T+L) -- Can just traveling to a city make you better looking?
Liz Eckert would say so. On a recent visit to southern California, the Connecticut real estate agent was struck by the gorgeous scenery—as in, the people. She chalked it up to the locals' regular access to sand, surf, and sunshine. "After one week there, I actually looked and felt healthier," she says. "My skin was glowing, my hair was shiny, and even my nails grew—and they never grow."
Given the area's seemingly magical powers of osmosis, it's no wonder that both San Diego and Los Angeles made it into the top five cities for America's best-looking people, according to Travel + Leisure readers. New results are in from the annual America's Favorite Cities survey, in which readers rate 35 metropolitan areas for qualities such as people-watching, walkable streets, and hot music scenes.
This year, the attractive locals category saw a fair amount of movement: the new number 1 city is a past champ that had previously fallen from grace, and several cities have made impressive rebounds in the rankings or else seemingly let themselves go. (What happened, Las Vegas?)
While plenty of the top 20 cities offer the potentially transformational elements that Eckert found in SoCal, other winners offered proof that being gorgeous is more than skin deep. Non-coastal (or downright chilly) cities such as Minneapolis, Nashville, and Kansas City fared just fine—and also ranked well with readers for being friendly.
One new category in this year's survey may have also boosted chemistry: a charming accent, something T+L readers found lacking with the folks of Phoenix and Seattle, who also ranked among the less attractive. Of course, a key ingredient in attraction is a solid fashion sense and that may be a reason that some sunny cities landed near the bottom. "Locals in Orlando know what they are to the world"—a giant theme park—"and don't even try anymore," says Lisa Finkelstein, a Tallahassee-based freelance writer.
"Since it's warm much of the year, shorts and a pullover shirt, plus tennies, takes them everywhere," she says. "Even Angelina Jolie can't work that look."
Number 1: Miami Did they do something new with their hair? These party-loving Floridians have reclaimed the top slot this year, which they haven't held since 2009. They also ranked in the top 10 for their fashion sense and fit physiques. See for yourself over drinks at one of the city's highly rated cocktail lounges. The only downer: Miamians also ranked as being pretty aloof.
Number 2: San Diego It's hard to argue with a beauty regimen of fresh air and miles of beaches for staying in shape. This SoCal city has consistently ranked as the first runner-up for good looks in T+L's survey, even if readers tend not to be so impressed with the locals' conversational skills. San Diegans do, however, score well for being tech-savvy.
Number 3: San Juan, Puerto Rico Last year's winner slipped a few spots this year, but the island city is still a magnetic place for mingling with a good-looking crowd: it also ranks in the top three for its happy hour and singles scene. Readers downgraded the Puerto Rican city for its sense of style, but they were suckers for the fabulous local accent.
Number 4: Charleston Proof that voters are a little fickle: this South Carolina city was No. 1 for attractive locals in 2010, but fell to No. 7 last year. While readers still find the locals to be charming—and think that the city makes a great romantic getaway—they were easily distracted by all the good shopping, ranking the city in the top five when it comes to antiques, design stores, and indie boutiques.
Number 5: Los Angeles It's easy to make jokes about some locals having "work" done. But whatever the reason, Angelenos have ranked in the top five for looks in the last three out of four years, and they won the silver medal this year for their fashion-forward style. They're also trying that catch-more-flies-with-honey strategy: their niceness factor went up by three positions since last year.
Number 6: Nashville A cowboy hat sets off the face nicely, doesn't it? Music City jumped up seven places in the attractiveness category since last year, even if it lost its grip on the top spot in the survey for music. If you want an alternative to the honky-tonks, look for any crowd wearing SEC team shirts: Nashville ranked No. 3 for its sports bars.
Number 7: Austin Folks in the Texas capital seem to be simultaneously quirky, smart, and buff: the only personal quality that voters were less-than-smitten with was perhaps residents' tendency toward hipster fashion. Look for them hanging out by the No. 2--ranked food trucks or dining on gourmet burgers.
Number 8: Savannah If these Georgians ever said anything unattractive or rude, voters might not even notice, so blinded were they by the top-ranked local drawl. Voters were also charmed by these southerners' willingness to indulge themselves: the handsome city ranked No. 3 for its happy hour, and No. 1 for ice cream parlors.
Number 9: Honolulu Despite the fashion gambles of occasional floral shirts and muumuus, the Hawaiians are regulars in the attractive top 10 for their compelling mix of diversity, fitness, and a mellow attitude. It can only help that the Hawaiian city won the top spot in the survey's weather category.
Number 10: Minneapolis/St. Paul After a two-year absence, the Twin Cities have returned to the top 10, perhaps because locals nicely walk the line between nerdy and outdoorsy: they won the survey for smarts, and the cities ranked No. 1 for their parks. Readers were also impressed by the Minnesotans' refined tastes in beverages, so to mingle, head to the local micropubs and coffeehouses.
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