Who takes the cake: New York or L.A.?
As part of our Destination USA project pitting rival cities against each other, New York beat Los Angeles in our completely unscientific poll, gaining 52% of the approximately 7,000 votes cast, compared with L.A.'s 48%.
But Angelenos walloped New York in enthusiastic support for their city, sharing our Los Angeles lover's column on L.A.'s virtues more than 30,000 times on Facebook, compared with 1,400 endorsements for our transplanted New Yorker's love letter to NYC.
And that robust participation from the City of Angels translated into more than 500 reader comments on the Los Angeles story, compared with 150 on the New York installment of the smackdown.
We asked iReporters and commenters to share the very best things about their respective cities and why they like them better than any other. Some felt the need to add a little trash talk. You decide if they're right.
Talking a little smack
New York inspires people to accomplish great things they could not imagine anywhere else, according to iReporter Mandana Armand of Gramercy Park, in Manhattan. "That greatness is just around the corner, always in New York. You never know what kind of fortuitous kindling this city will throw at you." New York is the center of the modern world, claims iReporter Craig Clemens, a former Los Angeles resident. "Finance, real estate, publishing -- it's almost too much for an Angeleno to take in. I should know because I used to be one."
Not so, claims L.A. defender cornholio5. "L.A. intimidates people because they're afraid to admit it's better than where they're from. In L.A., we order bagels from people that don't yell at us. We don't care if your pizza is better. We like ours, but we like yours, too. We legally smoke weed, we surf, we go to work in flip-flops and we drive Priuses. We work hard, we're laid back, we eat avocados and we do yoga. We respect N.Y., and don't even expect it back. That's how we roll."
Residents of Los Angeles rave about the good weather, and more. "Los Angeles has the better weather, the better technology, the car capital of the world, better jobs, better food and better people," writes another commenter. "New York City: You pay outrageous rent, and who wants to pay $1,000/month just to park your car?"
Let's go out and play in New York
We admit it, both cities have great places to play, whether you're splurging or traveling on a budget. New York offers full price theater tickets to "The Book of Mormon" and discount theater tickets at the TKTS booth. Make reservations to Per Se or Eleven Madison Park for fine dining or grab an affordable (and incredible) burger and cheese fries at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park or "chicken fried chicken" at Cowgirl in the West Village. iReporter Beth Barret, who grew up on Manhattan's Upper East Side and lives in Riverdale in the Bronx, offers you her walking tour route, free of charge. "One of my favorite things to do with friends who visit me is to start walking from the bottom of Manhattan," she writes. "We start at the Statue of Liberty, walk north through Battery Park, Wall Street, the South Street Seaport, Chinatown, Little Italy, Tribeca, Soho, Greenwich Village & Chelsea. And that is only day one!"
"Every nook and cranny of the city exudes its own pleasures, flavors and personality," claims Barret. "I honestly don't think you can ever see it all. From the Edgar Allen Poe cottage in the Bronx to the site of the ... World's Fair in Queens, there is always something to see that will wow you!"
Head to One World Trade Center, says Charlottesville, Virginia, resident and iReporter Joanne Ciccone, who visits New York regularly to see her son. "One World Trade Center is at the heart of what this country is about. Like the Phoenix rising from its ashes, NYC is building up from the horrors of 9/11. This rebuilding of structure and attitude makes NYC the greatest city on Earth. It will not be destroyed in building or beliefs."
Let's play in L.A.
Los Angeles offers everything from swimming and surfing at the beach to skiing in the mountains and camping in the desert. A short drive (traffic permitting) will get you to some of the most beautiful outdoor spots in the world.
"The feeling is laid back while you cruise down Sunset Blvd. and dig on the celebrities," writes iReporter Allen Mealey. "Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world, from the Hollywood film industry to all of the great concerts and clubs, we beat Manhattan hands down! And those Hollywood nights, those Hollywood hills." (With thanks to Bob Seger.)
DigitalGypsy, who lives in Culver City but also loves Venice, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Silverlake, never wears anything heavier than a hoodie because the weather is so fabulous. "It's definitely the spot to be in for surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding. Life is a little more laid back and you get to enjoy the beauty of nature that surrounds you."
Let's eat some good food
There's no shortage of advice online or in print on the best cuisine in Los Angeles or New York. Both towns have food critics who have their preferences for high-end, low-end and everything in between -- although only Los Angeles can claim the first winner of a Pulitzer Prize for food criticism in Jonathan Gold, now at the "Los Angeles Times. "
If you're craving a particular cuisine or need to eat in a particular part of town, plenty of foodie websites can help you out. If you're talking to residents, make sure they really like food -- because there's plenty of bad food to be had in both cities.
Manhattan resident Mandana Armand loves the 21 Club for the feel of old New York, drinks at the Gansevoort Hotel and the chocolate waterfall brunch at the Waldorf Astoria. For vegetarians and vegans, Armand recommends Pure Food and Wine restaurant. "It's a raw food restaurant that delivers the most exquisite flavors imaginable. You will not believe it is raw food."
And yes, Mexican food can be found almost anywhere in Los Angeles. However, commenter VikoG suggests visitors move beyond the assumption of Mexican food as beans, rice, tacos, burritos and enchiladas. "Angelenos know better (and) we take advantage of all the delicious non-Americanized cuisine, especially mariscos, Poblano cusine, Oaxacan cusine and so many more," he writes.
Pitting one city against the other is pointless, say some, like comparing an SUV to a sports car. "If you want a house with a big yard, pool and palm trees, NYC is not the place for you," writes commenter Chris Allen, who was raised in Los Angeles and visits New York. "If you want to live in a high-rise building in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood where you can take the subway to work, your lifestyle options in L.A. will be rather limited. Both are cool places."
Todra Payne is married to New York City, but it's not exclusive. "NYC is home for me, but L.A. is my secret lover," she writes. "Can't beat the way you can walk Manhattan and meet people along the way, meander in and out of shops, restaurants, etc. You just can't do that in L.A. But the sunshine, beaches and palm trees and the laid back vibe in L.A. are golden. If there was a way to combine the two, it would be paradise."
Both cities, it seems, are willing to share the people they love with the city on the opposite coast.
Next on our smackdown list: Charlotte, North Carolina, home to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, versus Tampa, Florida, home to the 2012 Republican National Convention. How will you vote? Share your photos and suggestions on iReport.com.