TIME Travel

Your Guide to Marijuana Tourism in America

Recommendations for the classiest of cannabis connoisseurs

Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, but only Colorado and Washington have licensed dispensaries that can legally sell recreational cannabis. Since legalization and sale came to those communities, the budding pot industry in these two states has tried to shape a future of vineyard-esque tours of marijuana farms, and fatty-friendly salons reminiscent of Amsterdam’s cafes. (The phrase “Napa Valley of weed” gets tossed around a fair bit.)

In the meantime, Colorado and Washington still have a ways to go before pot tourism can flourish. Jeremy Bamford, who started the Colorado Pot Guide website in 2013, directs thousands of daily readers to 420 tours and “Bud & Breakfasts,” but official barriers remain. City and state tourism boards still shy away from promoting weed as an attraction, marijuana lounges are still against the law, and hotels tend to give a pretty firm reiteration of their no-smoking policies when you ask about, say, using a marijuana vaporizer in your room, or smoking a joint on your balcony. (Though a few have vague advertisements on Bamford’s site that provide neither their names nor their addresses.)

One of the problems when it comes to official support is the lack of hard numbers. Over the 4/20 holiday, says Bamford, Visit Denver took stock of hotel occupancy rates, and found they were no greater than on an average weekend. Which makes sense, he points out, because Denver’s weed pilgrims are booking cannabis-friendly accommodations instead. The ongoing stigma of marijuana usage among big-name hospitality brands “reflects a bit of a perception problem, because Colorado’s cannabis tourists actually tend to skew older,” says Bamford. This reefer madness mindset is causing hotels to turn away Terry Gross listeners, not Miley Cirus fans.

Still, marijuana-themed tours of Denver and Seattle continue to fill up, and the boom in recreational dispensaries in Colorado and Washington has produced a range of offerings, with highlights and must-sees for newbies and discerning connoisseurs alike.

  • Denver, Colorado

    medicine-man-denver
    Courtesy of Medicine Man

    Despite a lack of promotion from the Colorado Tourism Office, a handful of cannabis-themed tour operators have sprouted up in the Mile High City. For the most part, they don’t offer anything you couldn’t get into on your own, but the aim is to be “your Colorado friend who holds your hand and shows you this is real,” says Matt Brown, who founded My 420 Tours with business partner James Walker. What their company offers is easily the most complete of those guided experiences. In the four-hour Dispensary & Grow tour, which starts at $129, guests are loaded onto a tinted-windowed party bus (that will, throughout the day, intermittently be filled with pot smoke, the shine of green LEDs, and the soothing tones of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High”) and given a short marijuana user’s guide, outlining the differences between sativa and indica plants; the effects of THC and CBD; and the pros and cons of smoking methods, vaporizers, and edibles.

    After being treated to a mixture of those sampling options, guests are whisked off to the Native Roots Apothecary for some discounted weed shopping. Out-of-staters can buy up to a quarter ounce of marijuana at a time, but edibles, says Bamford, “are the more popular option, because of the novelty, and because people on the street don’t have to know that’s a weed cookie you’re eating.” Which helps, because public consumption of pot is still banned in the state. Luckily, Colorado’s new regulations on labeling and potency restrictions makes it easier than ever to stay at or below the state’s (very sensible) recommended dose of 10 milligrams of activated THC per edible serving.

    Next up is a tour of Medicine Man, one of the biggest commercial marijuana grow facilities in the U.S. After a somewhat forgettable but by that point pretty satisfying meal at the Icehouse Tavern, the tour ends at Illuzion Glass Gallery, a high-artistry head shop with an extensive selection of smoking paraphernalia and “functional glass art.”

    For $1,000, a full weekend excursion with My 420 Tours includes airport transportation and a two-hour cannabis cooking class (pot-infused pumpkin muffins, anyone?) with chef Blaine Alexandr of Conscious Confections, which can also be booked on its own for $129. The $1,000 weekend package also comes with two nights at the Denver Crowne Plaza and a Silver Surfer vaporizer on loan. Edibles aside, vaporizing is the only way you can legally consume marijuana in a hotel room, but even that is best done on the sly, with a pocket vaporizer, as the city’s hotels remain wary of marijuana use, and include it with general smoking bans when it comes to balconies, outdoor lounges, and plazas.

    PuffPassPaint-Denver
    Adam Jeffers

    If you’d like to smoke marijuana in your room, your best bet in Colorado (or anywhere else in the U.S.) is to search Airbnb or HomeAway for the words “420 friendly.” Otherwise, in downtown Denver, there’s the Adagio “Bud & Breakfast,” a 122-year-old Victorian house in the Wyman Historic District, which has a well-reviewed “420 Happy Hour” and on-site cannabis-infused massages, done with a “blend of unique oils high in THC, CBD, and CBN, utilizing a full cannabinoid spectrum and allowing for maximum healing potential.”

    If Cannabis concierges and “Puff, Pass, Paint” art classes aren’t really your speed, Denver has no shortage of recreational dispensaries and head shops you can visit on your own. For a relaxing, controlled buzz, try the Cherry Slider at LoDo Wellness, or for something more euphoric, order the Ed Rosenthal Super Bud at EuFlora. Both dispensaries are a short walk from the 16th Street Mall, Denver’s pedestrian-friendly shopping district.

  • Colorado

    Other noteworthy shops from Colorado’s early dispensary boom include Helping Hands, an all-organic dispensary in Boulder; Telluride Bud Company, the only dispensary in Telluride that grows all its weed in town; and Aspen’s STASH, where strains come with print-outs detailing soil nutrients and grow conditions. Maggie’s Farm, which is touted as Colorado’s only true outdoor marijuana grow, runs a handful of dispensaries throughout the state, but its Manitou Springs location is the most popular, due to its location at the foot of Pike’s Peak. It’s not hard to find a dispensary near any one of Colorado’s many national parks, but keep in mind that possession of marijuana on federal land is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

  • Seattle, Washington

    CannabisCity-Seattle
    Courtesy of Cannabis City

    Seattle’s leader in kush tourism is Kush Tourism, a tour operator founded by Chase Nobles and Michael Gordon. For $150, they offer a three-and-a-half hour jaunt led by employees dressed in refreshingly non-stonerish khakis and polos. The education-focused tour includes a walkthrough of Sky High Gardens, a 30,000-square-foot growing facility on Harbor Island; a visit to Analytical360, a pot-testing lab; a demonstration at the Boro School of glassblowing, which also offer beginners classes where you make your own pipe; and Uncle Ike’s, a popular local pot shop. “You can get stoned anywhere in this country,” Nobles once told the Seattle Times. “Our tour’s more about education … we take you to see something you can’t otherwise see.” The menu at Uncle Ike’s changes fast, but a few current highlights are the Bettie Page, which offers a potent but clear high that is great for daytime smoking, and Champagne Kush, which has a refreshing, bubbly-reminiscent taste.

    bacon-mansion
    Courtesy of Bacon Mansion

    If you’re stationed in Lower Queen Anne (Space Needle territory), Cannabis City, the first recreational marijuana store in the city, is another great place to buy weed. Short-term rental sites will be your best bet if 420-friendly accommodations are a must, but the Bacon Mansion, a Capitol Hill bed-and-breakfast, permits marijuana smoking on outside porches and patios, or the use of vaporizers indoors.

  • Washington

    the-evergreen-market-renton
    Courtesy of The Evergreen Market

    Head outside Seattle, and you can check out the Evergreen Market, which offers a pretty awesome vision for what the weed dispensary could be, with modern fixtures, a generous, open floor plan with an industrial vibe, and hardly a pot-leaf insignia in sight. In Olympia, Green Lady Marijuana is an unassuming little pot shop with a great selection of edibles and discreet vaping pens. Spokane also has a fine selection of weed shops, including Satori, which is known for its friendly, knowledgeable staff and impressive selection.

    As of July of this year, recreational marijuana use is legal in Oregon, but production and retail licenses won’t be approved until January of 2016. (Alaska is in a similar situation.) Just across the Columbia River from Portland, however, you can spend a few hours touring the grow operation of farmer Tom Lauerman, the “Walt Whitman of weed,” in Bush Prairie, Washington. On the first tour, in June of 2014, Oregon Live reported that he “spoke with equal pride about his tasty sugar snap peas and his Chemdawg, a popular strain of marijuana,” and began the event “with an offer of a complimentary joint.”

    This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure

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TIME beauty

Ronda Rousey Has the Best Response to People Who Think Her Body Is Too Masculine

Her body isn't designed to please men. It's designed to take care of herself.

 

MMA fighter Ronda Rousey is giving critics of her body an one-two-punch (around 6:18 in the video). Throughout her career, some have called Rousey’s body “huge” and “masculine.”

The athlete, who has also appeared twice on the big screen this summer in Furious 7 and Entourage, fired back at critics in a UFC video promoting her Aug. 1 fight with Bethe Correia. She said every muscle has a purpose and that her body isn’t designed to please anyone:

I have this one term for the kind of woman my mother raised me to not be, and I call it a do nothing b—. A DNB. The kind of chick that just tries to be pretty and be taken care of by someone else. That’s why I think it’s hilarious if my body looks masculine or something like that. Listen, just because my body was developed for a purpose other than f—ing millionaires doesn’t mean it’s masculine. I think it’s femininely badass as f— because there’s not a single muscle on my body that isn’t for a purpose because I’m not a do nothing b—. It’s not very eloquently said but it’s to the point and maybe that’s just what I am. I’m not that eloquent, but I’m to the point.

Rousey’s defense of her own body comes just three weeks after J.K. Rowling slammed a tweeter who said tennis star Serena Williams was “built like a man.” Posting a stunning picture of Williams in a dress, the Harry Potter author wrote, “Yeah, my husband looks just like this in a dress. You’re an idiot.”

TIME Travel

These Are America’s Best Cities for Picnics

Take note of the local rules

Jennifer Pearson-Smith packs a few vital tools when she embarks on a road trip: a vintage Pendleton blanket, a soft-sided cooler, a corkscrew and a cheese plane. “We’ve dined al fresco in such destinations as Sedona, Lake Tahoe and Napa,” says the Costa Mesa-Calif.-based social media consultant. “It’s so much fun to discover local markets when selecting picnic eats.”

One of her favorite picnic cities—San Diego, where she has dined above the crashing waves at Sunset Cliffs— is also a favorite of Travel+Leisure readers. In the annual America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 38 cities on such urban qualities as luxury shopping, cocktail lounges and cool food trucks. But to calculate which cities offer the best grassy dining, we looked at the more outdoor-feast-friendly rankings: parks and gardens, gourmet markets, epic sandwiches, accommodating weather, and perhaps the lovely accompaniment of wine.

With or without a fine bottle, there is something magical about a picnic while traveling: picking up sandwiches, local tacos, or just some fresh bread and cheese (assuming you packed that cheese plane) and settling in for a fresh-air meal and people-watching in a city park. In some winning cities, the best picnic spots offer uniquely local settings, whether you’re next to a natural spring, in front of an iconic band shell, or in the shade of an 80-foot-tall shuttlecock.

Picnicking can also make you feel more like a local—though it’s also important to know the local rules. Pearson-Smith, for instance, has learned that there’s no glass permitted in San Diego’s Balboa Park. “No picnic in San Diego would be complete without sampling a brew or two from the local craft beer scene,” she says, “so I stock up on versions from local breweries like Saint Archer and Ballast Point—in cans.”

  • 10. Houston

    houston
    Shannon O'Hara—Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

    While summer temperatures in this Texas hub may have you looking for shade and a breeze, Houston still impressed readers with its picnic-friendly gourmet markets and deep wine selection (you can find both at Revival Market). The best new picnic spot is Buffalo Bayou Park, near the spot where the city was founded in 1836, which now has pedestrian bridges and canoeing trails. Houston also ranked at No. 5 for its world-class art—like the Menil Collection, which has a picnic-magnet lawn, and the promise of air-conditioned bliss afterward, as you look at the Byzantine and Surrealist art inside. Its Museum District location also means you can pick up some portable sliders from Little Bigs, a representative of the city’s No. 5 ranking for burgers.

  • 9. Kansas City

    kansas-city
    Visit KC

    A day of art mixes nicely with a picnic in this Missouri city, which ranked at No. 7 for museums and No. 1 for affordability. There’s Penn Valley Park, which lies next to the free-admission National WWI Museum, or the Hall Sculpture Park at the also-free Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where you can feast in the shadows of the iconic, 18-foot Shuttlecock. In mid-July, the Nelson-Atkins even hosts a big picnic on the lawn, where diners can participate in a living-quilt installation. To pack a meal with the nation’s top-ranked barbecue, get some brisket mac ’n’ cheese from Broadway Butcher Shop or sausages from The Local Pig— like those made with bourbon-apple, goat chorizo or local burnt ends.

  • 8. Tampa

    tampa
    Visit Tampa Bay

    This Florida city exudes a serene vibe to readers, who ranked it highly for feeling clean and peaceful, and for having nice parks—many with water views. In fact, you can even picnic on the water: local operator eBoats lets you bring your basket and captain a boat on Tampa Bay or Hillsborough River. But for many travelers, just sitting next to the water is enough: Water Works Park, on the northern tip of the Tampa Riverwalk, has a bandshell, old oak trees and possible sightings of dolphins and manatees. To complement the view, pick up a Beef Martini sandwich (rare roast beef with bacon and white-wine-marinated mushrooms) from Wright’s Gourmet Café. For a local beverage, pick up some Florida Cracker Belgian-style White Ale from hot craft beermaker Cigar City Brewing.

  • 7. New Orleans

    new-orleans
    Karim Rezk—Flickr

    New Orleans always charms readers with its lovely architecture and festival atmosphere, but it secured its lock on the picnic top 10 by winning the survey for sandwiches. For an excellent po’ boy, go to Parkway Bakery and Tavern or Killer Poboys, but if you want a classic muffaletta, head to Central Grocery on Decatur Street, which is credited with making the first olive-laden indulgence. Once you’re armed with your sammie of choice, take it to moss-canopied City Park, or to Crescent Park, which sits on the Mississippi River with lovely views of downtown. The city also ranked at No. 1 for fascinating people-watching.

  • 6. Charleston

    charleston
    Peter Frank Edwards

    Perhaps because the South Carolina city ranked at No. 2 for relaxing getaways, Charleston excels in picnic-friendly settings: you can get harbor views from Waterfront Park, or see Castle Pinckney from White Point Garden, along the Battery. As a top five city for fine dining, Charleston doesn’t take any shortcuts in its lunch options, either: Caviar & Bananas has duck-confit paninis and Creole white fish sushi, while Queen Street Grocery—a corner store that’s been around since 1922—offers sweet and savory crepes (including a chicken-and-waffles crepe called the Dashing Ashley). In accordance, the locals also ranked at No. 3 for being pretty.

  • 5. Providence

    providence
    joeysworld.com/Alamy

    The Rhode Island capital ranked at No. 6 in the survey for historic charm, and one of the most popular picnic spots embraces the city’s beginnings: the 435-acre Roger Williams Park, named for the city’s founder, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has more than 100 acres of ponds. If you want a soundtrack for your picnic—Providence made the top 10 for live music—go to Waterplace Park, along the Woonasquatucket River, where you can hear free concerts on summer Friday nights. Otherwise, readers’ favorite activity in Providence was chowing down, ranking it in the top 10 for pizza, bakeries and brunch. For a locally authentic basket, pick up some Italian sandwiches from Venda Ravioli in Federal Hill.

  • 4. Atlanta

    atlanta
    John Davidson—Corbis

    Thanks to the ever-expanding BeltLine project along an old railroad corridor, the city’s picnic-ready green spaces are only getting better. The Historic Fourth Ward Park, for instance, is one of the first completed parks along the BeltLine–and it sits conveniently behind food hall Ponce City Market, which is about to get a branch of the renowned cheeseburger purveyor Holeman and Finch (Atlanta ranked in the top 10 for burgers). For dessert, stop by Alon’s in Morningside, which has won awards for its sold-by-the-pound cookies, like the chocolate chip pecan or Krakovskis: an almond cookie topped with raspberry preserves. With their flair for colorful accents, Atlantans also made the top 10 for fashion sense.

  • 3. Los Angeles

    los-angeles
    Ian Dagnall—Alamy

    While Los Angeles boasts a long coastline of beach-picnic locales—from Redondo Beach (pick up a sub at Rinaldi’s) to Venice and Santa Monica, where you can take out from Tacos Por Favor—Los Angeles also impressed readers with its picnic-ready concerts. Maybe you’re listening to live jazz on Friday evenings while eating outside LACMA, or getting a gourmet basket from Patina before a show at the Hollywood Bowl. Readers also applauded Angelenos for their elegant (if perhaps snooty) taste: you can join them for a refined picnic at Hollywood’s Barnsdall Art Park (home of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House), which does Friday night wine tastings during the summer.

  • 2. San Diego

    san-diego
    Courtesy of Jim Blank

    In the No. 1 city for weather, who would want to eat inside? Balboa Park offers a variety of pastoral settings—from the Japanese Friendship Garden to the butterfly-filled Zoro Garden—and neighbors some of the best takeout options in the city, like Big Front Door in Hillcrest (which does an avocado-topped Cali Cubano) and North Park’s Venissimo Cheese, which is located inside craft-beer shop Bottlecraft. For a blissful picnic on the sand, head north to uncrowded Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, with its backdrop of sandy bluffs and feathery pine trees. Whether it’s the idyllic scenery or the good-looking locals, San Diego also made the top 5 for romance.

  • 1. Albuquerque

    albuquerque
    Cindy Petrehn

    With its fresh mountain air, farmer’s-market cuisine and mellow ambience—the city ranked at No. 5 for peace and quiet—Albuquerque topped the list for blissful picnics. At Downtown Growers’ Market, for instance, you can fill your basket with fresh fruit and plenty of local flavors, like burritos from Java Joe’s or green-chile bacon quiches from New Mexico Pie Company. After that, you don’t even have to walk far: the center of the market has a park area, often featuring live music. To dine al fresco at a higher elevation (like 6,500 feet), go to the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area, which has hiking trails, pinon-juniper trees, and views of the Sandia (meaning “watermelon”) Mountains. To pick up a local vintage first—Albuquerque also ranked in the top 10 for wine—stop by centuries-old Casa Rondena Winery.

    Read the full list here. This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure

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TIME Travel

How to Master a Disney Cruise

The Disney Dream docks at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the tropical waters of the Bahamas.
David Roark The Disney Dream docks at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the tropical waters of the Bahamas.

Be prepared to stay offline, but limitless activities will keep you busy and entertained

For those who love to have their vacations well-mapped, a Disney cruise—with an itinerary that’s almost entirely pre-planned—holds a lot of appeal. It’s why, when I booked my first-ever cruise, I went with a four-day trip in the Caribbean on the Disney Dream—despite the fact that I was going with my boyfriend… and that we don’t have any children. Still, I spent many hours researching to make sure we maximized our time on board, and learned way more upon embarking. The takeaways, below:

Pre-Purchase

Disney, which has made a name for itself in the service industry, makes you feel like you’re in incredible hands throughout the entire booking process. Because it’s one of the most popular cruise lines and almost always sells out, Disney rarely offers deals—as a rule of thumb, the sooner you book, the lower the price. Once you confirm your booking, Disney sends a pre-cruising booklet, with just about any information you could ask for—general itinerary, embarkation and disembarkation times, what to bring (and what’s prohibited), and more. I loved having a physical copy to refer to as I was planning my trip. And don’t toss the booklet after you’ve read through it, because it includes luggage tags to ensure your bags get delivered to the right room.

Flights and Transportation

The official embarkation time is noon, but the process actually starts much earlier. We took the earliest flight in, and ended up with precious extra hours on the ship. And while disembarkation starts at 7 am, and Disney recommends not booking a flight before 1pm, we got off the boat with time to spare. Budget in extra time for customs upon disembarkation—sadly, TSA doesn’t (yet) run as efficiently as Disney.

Disney offers transportation from the airport to the ship, but at $70 per person, I thought it was a bit steep (though it may be worth it for the peace of mind, or if you have a lot of luggage, because they’ll check your bags onto the ship for you). We ended up taking a shuttle from CorTrans, for $40 each roundtrip.

Port Excursions

Even though we were only docking in two places, Nassau and Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island), there was an insane amount of activities to choose from, from basic equipment rentals to a full day at Atlantis’s water park to a rum tasting tour. Book these early, as the most popular ones fill up. We decided to snorkel in Nassau, which worked out perfectly because it happened to be drizzling that day. On Castaway Cay, we opted to just enjoy the pristine beach. There’s a family beach and an adults-only one, and more than enough space for everybody.

Day Bag

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that once you’ve handed your luggage off to crew members—which could be as early as 10 a.m., you won’t see it again until much later that afternoon. So make sure to have a separate bag with a change of clothing in case you want to hit the pool early on, any medications, and of course, your passport and required forms for boarding.

On the Cruise

The only semblance of calm you’ll see on a Disney Cruise is if you get on board as early as possible on day one—the water slide line will be shorter, the buffet lines more approachable. Use this time to sign up for last-minute port excursions, get tickets to meet Disney princesses and characters, or just to enjoy the room. Every night, a Personal Navigator is delivered to your room with the next day’s activities, movies, events, and more. Even better, download the Disney Cruise app, with a map of the ship and the full calendar, before you board—this saved us time when we forgot where certain activities were held or if we wanted to know what was going on elsewhere on the ship. And don’t miss the amazing water slide, which is great during the day but even better at night when it’s lit up with lights. Yes, the line can get long, but if you go while the ship is in port, it’s much more manageable. And the movies on the big outdoor screen above the pool are a welcome distraction while you’re waiting.

Food

I’ll admit I didn’t have the highest expectations for the food, save for the specialty restaurants, Remy and Palo, which cost additional. I’m happy to report that the food far exceeded my expectations. There were a few favorites at the buffet I returned to over and over again—stone crab claws, peel-and-eat shrimp, chicken fingers, chocolate chip cookies—and the evening meals were varied and delicious. But the highlight, without a doubt, was our meal at Palo, the Italian restaurant on board. For $30 each, we had an incredible meal that rivaled any fine dining experience in New York. (Remy, the newer French restaurant, costs an extra $80 per person.)

Entertainment

The first thing we discovered, to my utter delight, was that the in-room TV has every single Disney movie available on-demand, for free. I’ll admit I could have gladly watched movies for 72 hours straight, but stopped myself. Every night, there’s a different musical show that incorporates Disney songs and characters, both classic and new. And first-run movies are shown in the two big theaters—on our cruise, these included Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tomorrowland, and Big Hero 6. There’s popcorn and soda sold outside the theaters, or you can save a few bucks by heading to the buffet before the show for soda, soft serve, and yes, more chocolate chip cookies.

Final Notes

Cash is not accepted on the ship or at the island, so all you have to do is carry your room key, which is connected to a credit card. Cell service is non-existent on the ship and at Castaway Cay, and Wi-Fi is quite expensive on board, so be prepared to stay offline the entire cruise. I was worried about being so disconnected, but the seemingly limitless activities kept me more than busy, and the lack of email meant I truly felt like I was on vacation. In fact, as we returned to Port Canaveral, I felt pangs of sadness as the AT&T bars popped back up—it meant it was time to leave the incredible cocoon of a world that Disney has created at sea.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure

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TIME Travel

These Are the Friendliest Cities in America

These cities will welcome you with open arms

As a Nashville native, Meagan Nordmann thought she knew all about friendly locals—until she flew to Albuquerque.

“Before my plane had even landed in The Land of Enchantment, I
had probably 20 tweets from locals offering to take me out for coffee,” says the digital marketer, who recently relocated to the New Mexico city.
 “I dare say, Albuquerque is even friendlier than Nashville. I suppose this is one of the reasons locals here jokingly call it ‘The Land of Entrapment.’ ”

That group-hug mentality is indeed one reason why the Southwestern city—as well as the affable folks in Tennessee—made Travel+Leisure’s top 10 for friendly cities. In the most recent America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 38 metro areas for such inviting features as wine bars, pizza and luxury shopping—along with the conviviality of the locals who might be serving drinks, ringing up your order or just offering directions outside your hotel.

Geographically, the top 15 winners represent a distinct advantage among heartland cities—though one could argue that the size of city, not the location, may be a better indicator of heart. The winning cities also ranked well in the survey for some concrete features that make it easy for locals to show off their sunny demeanors: pedestrian-friendly streets, cool boutiques, coffee houses, and even communal, picnic-table-equipped food truck pods.

The friendliest cities have certain intangible qualities, too. Charleston’s high ranking may come in part from its slower-paced lifestyle, says Isabelle Furth, a p.r. exec who lives in Washington D.C. (a city that, ahem, did not make the top 15 this year). “I remember walking into an upscale boutique in Charleston and being offered sweet tea and a cookie,” says Furth. “The soft Southern accents don’t hurt, either.”

  • 1. Nashville

    1-nashville
    Courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation

    With a song in their hearts—and probably one on their lips, too—these Tennesseans won the survey for making visitors feel welcome. Not surprisingly, they also won the survey for their music scene: you can mingle with the locals at the singer-songwriter-loving Listening Room Café; the rehabbed, music-plus-eats Acme Feed & Seed; or at lovable dives like Santa’s Pub, the double-wide-trailer-housed bar managed by a suspiciously jovial bearded fellow. Nashville also ranked at No. 11 for its cheery food trucks, like Biscuit Love and Smokin Thighs. All that smiling is apparently good for the skin: Nashvillians also made the top 10 for their good looks.

  • 2. Salt Lake City

    2-salt-lake-city
    Adam Barker

    These outdoorsy locals apparently treat visitors like family. In that spirit, the city also ranked near the top for being both kid-friendly and having a sense of adventure; outside of ski season, you can combine the two at Snowbird—by hiking, mountain biking or riding its twisting Alpine Slide and Mountain Coaster. If you come to ski in December, though, you can see why the city also ranked at No. 3 for Christmas lights. Year-round, readers’ favorite food in SLC was the burger, in part because the city has its own regional quirk: pastrami-topped wonders, like the originals found at Crown Burgers.

  • 3. Minneapolis/St. Paul

    3-minneapolis-st-paul
    Meet Minneapolis

    If they’re weren’t so darn nice, you might have to loathe these Minnesotans, who also ranked at the top of the survey for being smart and super-fit. Plus, they know how to entice visitors, earning the silver-medal spot for free attractions like the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (currently showing an exhibition of pieces from the royal Habsburgs) and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (home to Claes Oldenburg’s Spoonbridge and Cherry). To bond with the locals over one of their well-ranked craft brews—they took the bronze medal for beer in this year’s survey—go to Dangerous Man Brewing Co., where, just to be nice, patrons are invited to join in community volunteer projects. Speaking of perceived danger, the Twin Cities also ranked near the top for feeling nicely non-threatening.

  • 4. Kansas City

    4-kansas-city
    Visit KC

    These helpful Missourians clearly made readers feel at ease: the city ranked at the top for being both affordable and having good drivers. The locals also warmed the hearts of readers with their barbecue, which won the survey this year. While you can’t go wrong with the classic burnt ends at either Arthur Bryant’s or Gates Bar-B-Q (with its “Hi, May I Help You?” sign), carnivorous foodies also love The Local Pig, near the East Bottoms stockyards district, which boasts of using only humanely raised meats and gets creative with lamb, rabbit, and duck, along with dishes like burnt-end bratwursts and Thai peanut sausage.

  • 5. Oklahoma City

    5-oklahoma-city
    Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau

    The folks in Oklahoma’s state capitol struck readers as having few pretensions: they ranked as the least rude and the least snobby in the nation (but, alas, also as the least stylish). But perhaps they just have a misunderstood fashion sense: some of the best shops in the artsy Plaza District have a serious streak of kitsch, like the retro boutique Dig It and the in-your-face vintage of Bad Granny’s Bazaar. To channel a little more of the city’s grandmotherly karma—and see why the city was perhaps underrated for its wild side—order a slice of Bird Dog Buttermilk (peaches, raspberries and brown sugar oat crumble) at the neighborhood’s Pie Junkie.

  • 6. Charleston

    charleston
    Peter Frank Edwards

    Not only do these South Carolinians rank as some of the best-mannered people in the nation, they’re also some of the best coiffed, ranking at No. 3 for being pretty. Charleston also scored No. 1 for its pretty (and hospitable) architecture: You can stay in the John Rutledge House Inn, the only home of a Constitution signer that is now a B&B. Since the city also ranked near the top for home décor and antique shopping, you can take some of the hospitable vibe home: check out the Matouk and Sferra linens at The Boutique, off Washington Square, which, despite all the crystal and china, also welcomes dogs (assuming they are well-mannered, too).

  • 7. Pittsburgh

    pittsburgh
    VisitPittsburgh

    These Pennsylvanians got high marks for being exuberant—they ranked at No. 1 for sports-team passion—but they know how to make nice in the off-season. If you want to break bread with them, go to one of their famed (and No. 6-ranked) sandwich places—like Primanti Bros., where the sliced-bread sandwiches are topped with coleslaw and French fries, or Peppi’s, where you can butter up the Steelers fans by ordering a Roethlisburger (named for quarterback Ben, and topped with ground beef, sausage, eggs and cheese). Pittsburgh also made the top 20 for its mass transit: the buses and light rail are accommodatingly free within the city’s Golden Triangle zone.

  • 8. New Orleans

    8-new-orleans
    Pat Garin

    In the city that triumphed at No. 1 for quirky locals, wall-to-wall festivals, and wild weekends, readers clearly felt they could be themselves here. Since the city ranked in the top five for nearly every nightlife category, locals might seem even friendlier after dark: you can come as you are to the no-cover-charge, Saturday night dance party at The Hi-Ho Lounge (with DJ-spun funk, jazz and “underground disco” until 3 a.m.), or pull up a stool to the tabby-cat bartender at beloved dive bar Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge (known to attract fun-loving celebs like Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney). No coincidence, the city also ranked at the top of the survey for vivid people-watching.

  • 9. Albuquerque

    9-albuquerque
    MarbleStreetStudio.com

    The New Mexico city made the friendly top 10 for its affable citywide demeanor: it ranked well for its lack of noise, great weather, and overall relaxing vibe. The locals also seem to have a healthy sense of humor: You can spend the night in a rehabbed psychiatric hospital (the sleek Hotel Parq Central), or pick up sweets related to the city’s connection to Breaking Bad, like the faux crystal-meth candy from The Candy Lady or even the “Blue Sky” donuts at Rebel Donut. Just don’t spoil your appetite: Albuquerque also ranked well for its street food, and has a large presence on the state’s so-dubbed Breakfast Burrito Byway: two classic spots are Frontier and Burrito Lady.

  • 10. Austin

    10-austin
    Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau

    The Texas capital is a highly social town. You can find chatty locals jogging around Lady Bird Lake (they ranked at No. 5 for being fit), taking a dip in the bracing waters of Barton Springs, or just waiting in line for the legendary brisket and trimmings at East Austin’s Franklin Barbecue. The city also ranked well for brainy locals and bookstores—and you can find both at BookPeople, the city’s nerve center for readings and book signings. Granted, these locals might want to be more than friends: Austin also ranked in the top 5 for its singles scene.

    This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure

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TIME Internet

Cecil the Lion, Walter Palmer and the Psychology of Online Shaming

What the online hate directed at a U.S. dentist, who shot and killed a lion in Zimbabwe, says about us.

Walter Palmer, the U.S. dentist who shot and killed Cecil the lion while on a hunting trip in Zimbabwe is, not surprisingly, facing a barrage of hate, threats and shaming on social media.

Palmer’s River Bluff dental practice in Bloomington, Minnesota has been shut since news of the scandal broke with a throng of protesters campaigning outside. Meanwhile, Internet users have flooded his Yelp page with stinging “reviews” and calls to boycott his practice. He is quickly losing his reputation and his business.

Palmer has maintained that he didn’t know the hunt was illegal, nor that the lion he killed was collared or part of a study. But in the eyes of impassioned online commentators and celebrity tweeters, Palmer is an “instant villain.”

“Something like this, which involves a lion, touches so many nerves.” Glenn Selig, founder and chief strategist at The Publicity Agency, a PR firm that works in crisis management, tells TIME. “This doctor becomes an instant villain: he’s apparently wealthy, and been portrayed as entitled and doing what he wants.”

And as so many before Palmer have found out, it doesn’t take killing an endangered animal to make you public enemy No.1.

In 2012, Lindsey Stone became an online pariah after a photo went viral of her posing and giving the finger next to a sign at the Arlington National Cemetery that read “Silence and Respect.”

Stone told the Guardian that it was a joke between friends to take stupid photographs and she had no idea her Facebook settings were not set to private.

Within 24-hours of the photo going viral, Stone had found herself in the middle of the equivalent to a public lynching. She received thousands of derogatory comments, including death and rape threats and was fired from her job as a care worker.

“Literally overnight, everything I knew and loved was gone,” Lindsey told the Guardian. She became depressed, suffered insomnia and barely left the house for a year.

Justine Sacco shared a similar fate in 2013, when flying from New York to South Africa she tweeted a couple of sarcastic jokes, including one about getting AIDs.

“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” the tweet read.

Unbeknown to Sacco, a PR officer in New York, during the 11-hour flight her tweet had been picked up and had gone around the world faster than she had, with thousands of people angrily calling her a racist and reveling in the fact she didn’t even know about the online hate awaiting her. By the time Sacco landed she was the No.1 worldwide trend on Twitter, reports the New York Times. Like Stone, she was also fired and suffered emotional trauma.

“Situations can turn terribly viscous with the truth often becoming the biggest casualty,” says Selig. “There’s so much talk on social media but no one is policing what’s being said. And people believe it regardless of who is speaking.”

The Internet is rife with examples of online shaming, whether it be for being fat, breastfeeding in public, wearing the “wrong” maternity clothes or for a silly tweet or photo. But what is it about the Internet, and in particular social media, that enables ordinary people to turn into crazed lynch mobs so readily?

Aaron Balick, a psychotherapist and author of The Psychodynamics of Social Networking says venting online is an easy, and anonymous, way to feel good about yourself.

“It’s so easy to be abusive online because it is just a matter of a few clicks on a keyboard and the “enter” key. An individual gets to get the bad feeling off their chest without considering that there is another human being, somewhere, on the other side of that tweet,” he said.

“This also happens on a group level where the shamed person online is made a scapegoat and the braying masses, however ultimately destructive, get to feel good about themselves.”

Jon Ronson, a journalist who has written extensively on online shaming, has interviewed Stone and Sacco at length and is author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, said social media users wield a lot of power.

“There’s a lot of people like Justine Sacco, there’s more everyday,” Ronson said in a recent TEDtalk.

“The great thing about social media was that it gave a voice to voiceless people. But we are now creating a surveillance society where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless.”

TIME advice

How to Decide Whether to Rent or Buy a Home

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Getty Images

Thinking about how long you'll be in the property

When determining whether or not you’re ready to be a homeowner, there are a number of factors to consider — several of which are personal, and hinge on exactly where you want to live.

“Many property experts would say that there are parts of the country where renting outweighs the costs of ownership,” says Brian Sergi-Curfman, a Realtor in Pittsburgh. “Potential buyers or tenants may find themselves in markets that are depreciating or, conversely, in areas where values have priced them out of the housing market. The decision to rent or buy should be influenced not only by market trends but by the client’s long- and short-term goals.”

Sheryl Grider Whitehurst, regional vice president for the National Association of Realtors, says home ownership rates are declining, having reached a peak at 69.4 percent in 2004. In the first quarter of 2015, the home ownership rate was 63.8 percent, which is the lowest it’s been since 1994.

“Young people are delaying buying a home due to student debt,” Grider Whitehurst says. “They just aren’t earning enough to carry a mortgage and the debt. Another factor is the economic crisis that occurred in 2007. People started losing their properties and have to get their finances in order to buy property again.”

And yet nationally, buying a home is 35 percent cheaper than renting, according to Trulia.com. With 30-year mortgage rates available below 4 percent, home ownership appears more affordable than many might think.

The economics of where you live certainly weigh heavily on the decision to buy or rent, but what other factors should you consider?

The pros and cons of renting

After 20 years of owning a three-bedroom, three-bath, two-story home on a steeply sloped lot, empty nesters Gay and Harry Stephens were ready to downsize. They now live in a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in a building that was once an all-girls Catholic school in Newport, Kentucky.

“We wanted to rent because it’s easier to take care of and we have the ability to turn the key and walk away when traveling,” she says. “There’s no yard work, and someone else is now responsible when there are maintenance issues.”

Gay Stephens says the couple also likes their location and accessibility to favorite restaurants and entertainment venues in Northern Kentucky and downtown Cincinnati.

“I was surprised how much I enjoy urban living,” she says, adding that there are some negatives to renting, such as slow response times for repairs and not building equity through their housing costs.

Other disadvantages to renting can include unanticipated rent increases, non-renewal of a lease, and not being able to customize the living space.

“On the other hand, you’re not tied to the property nor do you have to come up with a down payment and closing costs to live there,” says Realtor Josh Bushner in Austin, Texas. “If you’re new to a city or not sure you’ll be there for longer than three years, I usually recommend renting until you’re certain you’ll be staying longer. Also, make sure coming up with a down payment won’t put you in a cash-strapped position. Take time to get familiar with a city and find neighborhoods that will meet your lifestyle.”

Elizabeth Cales of Clarksville, Tennessee, says that despite being financially secure enough to purchase a home, she’s happy to rent.

“It’s a buyer’s market here,” she says. “You can get a mortgage for $650 a month, which is what we pay in rent, but with my husband’s work we’re not sure we’ll be here in three years. We don’t want to take a loss on a house we might not be able to sell.”

Cales says one of her favorite aspects of apartment living is the close-knit community, so much so that the Angie’s List member gave her complex a positive review. “The neighbors are all close and it’s just nice,” she says. “I feel more secure having people around.”

The pros and cons of owning a home

Home equity is one of the biggest assets to buying instead of renting. In addition, most buyers can obtain tax benefits by writing off real estate taxes, mortgage interest, and specific closing costs, whereas renters don’t typically get federal tax deductions. Although, some states will offer a tax break for renters.

In addition, house renters often don’t realize that they’re paying the principle, interest, taxes, and insurance (and usually some extra padding for landlord repairs) in their monthly payments, which could be put toward building equity in their own homes.

Newlywed Leslie Radigan-Yodice of Albuquerque, New Mexico, initially thought she and her expanded family would move from an apartment into a rental home, but after figuring out the finances, they decided in the summer of 2014 that it was a great time to buy.

“My monthly payment is about $300 more, but we have a four bedroom, two-bath house with a garage,” she says. “I love that we’re building equity while creating a true home. And I love that I don’t have to walk across the street to do my laundry.”

Sometimes, the decision to own a home comes down to certain intangibles.

“While there’s definitely a strict financial answer to whether it’s better to rent versus buy, don’t discount the emotional part of the process,” says Deb Agliano of Re/Max Andrew Realty in Medford, Massachusetts. “For some people, it’s not a matter of what makes more financial sense, emotionally they want to know that they own their own home.”

Mary and Garret Goetzinger of Portland, Oregon, say owning their four-bedroom Craftsman is a welcome change after 15 years of renting.

“Being able to create your own space and freedom to design it however you want is a positive,” the couple agree, noting that they did have to move a little farther out than they anticipated to get the house they wanted. “Owning a home isn’t cheap, and we’re on the hook if something goes wrong.”

Handling the maintenance, upkeep and repairs is one of the biggest differences for Janice Pare and her husband Gordon Wichern, who recently purchased a three-bedroom Cape Cod in Arlington, Massachusetts.

“One other negative is the lack of flexibility to move whenever and wherever we want with just 30 days notice,” Pare says. “But we feel that being homeowners makes us more invested in our community, and we plan to get more involved in our new part of town.”

Deciding to buy a house is a big responsibility, and potential homeowners need to answer some serious questions before taking that leap, says real estate agent Dianne Hansen in Fairfax, Virginia.

“Will it give you a sense of pride?” she asks. “Are repairs stressful or something you’re willing to learn to do? How long will you be in the house? If it’s less than two years, it might not be worth buying. If you’ll be there five or more years, it’s a good bet.”

So … rent or buy?

After weighing all the factors, it might come down to what will make you happy.

“If you’re not sure if you want to buy or rent, think about the enjoyment you will get out of owning your own home,” Hansen says. “If there isn’t any, you might want to rent for a few more years.”
Sergi-Curfman agrees, and says no one should frown upon the idea of renting.

“The American dream has always included the white picket fence surrounding a house in the suburbs, but for many people, this dream is really a myth,” he says. “Renting should never be looked at as inferior to owning a home. You and only you know your goals best, and it is incumbent upon any potential buyer or renter to seek out professional advice from people that they trust to give them a fuller financial picture of their current and future goals.”

Yet, Grider Whitehurst says despite the potential attractiveness of renting, most people want to own a home at some point in their lives.

“Overwhelmingly, Americans see home ownership as a good investment,” she says. “You have to pay to live somewhere — whether you rent or own. You just have to know when is the right time for you.”

This article originally appeared on Angie’s List

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TIME advice

How to Save on Your Energy Bill

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Try using fans instead of air conditioner

Cooling off in the summer has come a long way from the days of my childhood. Back when I was a kid, we used to hang out all day in the local ice cream shop because they had central air conditioning, and we went through those colored ices that comes in plastic sleeves (you know, the ones you have to rip open with your teeth) like they were life support. Couple that with late-afternoon trips through the sprinkler and you had your summer energy-savings program in order. These days, though, with central air conditioning, summer cooling bills can easily skyrocket as high as your winter bills. Here’s a few easy ways to shave off some dollars.

Just like I told you in the winter, the key to home heating and cooling efficiency is insulation, insulation, insulation. It’s important to make sure the walls and windows of your home aren’t leaking air. Just like your refrigerator shouldn’t be left open to cool the whole kitchen, your house shouldn’t be cooling the yard. Buy a cheap roll of weatherstripping tape, and seal up those doors and windows. Also, make sure to clean the filters on your air conditioning vents at least once a month — this will help your air conditioning be more efficient.

Next, if you have fans in your house, use them. If you don’t, considering installing a few. Fans can go a long way to cooling down a room and take up a lot of less energy than having your air conditioning on full blast. Having fans in your house allows you to program your thermostat up to 4 degrees higher because of the air circulation they provide.

Also, try line-drying your clothes instead of using the dryer. When you use the dryer, clean the lint trap after each use, and make sure your dryer is set to the proper moisture setting. Often, dryers run for much longer than they need to get clothes dry.

Another thing you can do is to try not to use your dryer or your oven or other appliances that can heat up the house during the hottest time of the day. This makes my kitchen absolutely unbearable, and the only way to catch a break is to crank up the AC. Bad idea. Try doing your cooking in the cooler morning hours or after the sun goes down if you can.

I know this one’s an oldie, but it’s a goodie — turn those appliances off! This can definitely save you a bundle when done right. That means not just putting your computer in sleep mode, but turning it off completely. The same goes for your TV, stereo and any other home electronics. Even better — if you can, unplug them. This can save you 10-20 percent on your yearly energy bill. Try hooking up all the electronics at your desk to one power strip and switching it off at night.

Finally, why not keep some of those plastic sleeve ice pops handy as a last resort? Or better yet, hearken back to the days of yore and make your own ice pops. They’re a lot cheaper than keeping your air conditioning on high, and in my humble opinion, they work even better.

This article originally appeared on MNN.com

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TIME advice

5 Unusual Ways to Stay Cool

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No need to run air conditioner all day long

In the Northern Hemisphere, there’s no doubt summer is here — and with it, the perpetual quest to stay cool. For those of us interested in sustainability, the thought of huge summer cooling bills (and all the greenhouse emissions they cause) is enough to send a chill down the spine.

You’ve probably heard the basics of summertime energy management: keep your air conditioner filters clean, make sure your weather stripping is tight, draw the drapes during the heat of the day, and avoid the use of big heat-creating appliances like ovens and ranges whenever possible. If you want a quick review of hot weather energy-saving ideas, check this giant list of summer cooling tips.

But there are other ways to keep your cool through the summer. We’ve rounded up five for your consideration, including several tried-and-true methods from the days before central air. Give one or two a shot, and see how they work for you.

1. Go tropical

Take the lead of those who spend most of their lives in tropical climates: loose, lightweight cotton and linen clothing rules.

The guayabera, sometimes called the “Mexican wedding shirt,” is constructed to cool you naturally. A relative of the traditional Filipino barong, the guayabera wicks moisture from the skin and is worn untucked to promote air circulation. Madras is another good summertime choice for both men’s and women’s clothing.

Don’t forget the old standard of the American Deep South: seersucker. Originally an Indian import, its crisp cotton and cooling ridges make it a hot weather classic.

2. Cool that pulse point

When you were sick as a child, your mom may have brought you a cold facecloth. This idea works the same way.

Chill your pulse points by running cold water over your wrist for a minute or so each hour. Splashing water on your temples or face can produce a similar effect. And be sure to put some of that tap water into a glass and stay hydrated.

3. Don’t eat: Graze

Ever notice how you feel hot after a big meal? It’s not just because the food was served warm.

Big, protein-laden meals force your body to stoke its metabolic fires. The solution is to break up your eating into smaller, more frequent meals. You’ll feel cooler — and it’s better for you, anyway.

4. Eat to sweat

Latin America, India, Thailand — some of the world’s hottest places. And they happen to serve some of the world’s hottest foods.

Scientists have argued for years over why this is the case, but the most likely reason is that spicy foods make you sweat without actually raising body temperature. Chalk it up to capsaicin, a chemical found in things like hot peppers. Once your skin is damp, you’ll feel cooled by its evaporation.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to also reread our article on choosing a safer deodorant.

5. Stay cool under the covers

A lot of people find it difficult to sleep in hot weather.

Want to cool the bed down? Fill a standard hot water bottle with ice water. Use it to cool your ankles and the back of your knees — it works. You can also try bagging your sheets and tossing them in the freezer for an hour or two before bed.

Cooling your head cools your entire body. Opt for a cool and absorbent pillow of organic cotton if at all possible. Put aside down and latex pillows until the weather cools down this autumn.

This article originally appeared on MNN.com

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