Here are the liveliest singles scenes, whether at bars, bookstores or bowling alleys
The singles scene in New York City is a little crazy, maybe even certifiably so.
“This is a city with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but only in the best ways,” says Rachel Harrison, a Brooklyn-based public relations exec. “You can dress a little wilder, slap on some fake eyelashes—you can do anything you want, at any age. There are no judgments.”
Unabashedly batting those faux lashes got the Big Apple more than a few second glances this year. New York City landed in the top 10 for the best cities for singles, according to Travel + Leisure readers. In this year’s America’s Favorite Places survey, readers ranked 38 cities on dozens of appealing qualities, including good-looking locals, cool shopping, and hipster-magnet coffee bars.
The winning cities in the singles-scene category excel in the off-hours, ranking highly for nightclubs, dive bars, and even great diners, where you might lock eyes with someone over a late-night order of fries.
But the most singles-friendly cities also put a creative spin on conventional meet-up spots. Plenty of big attractions—from the Brooklyn Museum to the San Diego Museum of Art—offer monthly happy hours, wooing artsy singles with cocktails and live music. In Boston, one of the coolest bookstores does Trivia Nights, while in downtown L.A. a popular bar stocks old-school video games.
Another strategy for uncovering a city’s best singles scene is exploring the activities that locals love most. “New Orleanians live and breathe festivals—like Jazz Fest, and even Creole Tomato Fest,” says native Stephen Schmitz. Just be warned: “The heat and humidity,” he says, “can make for a rough appearance.”
Read on for the full results. And make your point of view heard by voting in the America’s Favorite Places survey.
Gorgeous locals, a wealth of nightclubs, and a wild streak as long as the beach: Miami climbed from second to first place this year, thanks to its flair for throwing a big party. Hot spots like Wall at the W South Beach or the Italian-restaurant-meets-cocktail-lounge Cavalli get a big boost when celebs grace the premises, whether it’s Bieber or the formerly single Clooney. Other trendy hangouts are a little more accessible to the non-red-carpet crowd: Tamarina, for one, features an oyster bar and alfresco champagne bar, plus a reasonably priced happy hour. You might meet other singles while strolling through galleries and past street art on the Wynwood Art Walks, held the second Saturday of the month. And in this otherwise well-dressed town, your best secret-weapon accessory may be a smile: readers found the locals to be a little aloof.
Houston sashayed into the top five for singles this year, and why not—the locals ranked as both smart and stylish, and the city landed near the top for both its decadent barbecue and world-class art. Gallery Row, at the intersection of Colquitt and Lake streets, offers both great art and conversation starters: check out Hooks-Epstein for contemporary surrealists or Catherine Couturier Gallery for vintage photos. Houston also pulled off an upset by winning the wine bar category this year. Pull up a stool to chat at La Carafe—the city’s oldest bar, with a fabulous jukebox—or try the newbie, downtown’s Public Services Wine and Whisky, which is located in the old 1884 Cotton Exchange building and serves a wide range of global wines, sherries, and whiskeys.
Last year’s No. 1 city for singles still knows how to whoop it up, ranking at the top of the survey for festivals, bars, and wild weekends. But a good singles experience in NOLA need not be limited to collecting beads: some cool places to meet a more local crowd, off the tourist grid, include the Saturday night dance party at the Hi-Ho Lounge in the Marigny; Bywater wine bar Bacchanal, with its live-music-filled courtyard; or Fulton Alley for late-night “boutique bowling,” with shareable, andouille-sausage tater tots.
The seat of Texas government is also the nation’s capital of hipsters, according to readers, who also ranked Austin No. 1 for cool locals. Given Austin’s high density of both college students and bearded Peter Pan types, the can’t-miss spots for meeting singles include dive bars and food trucks: you can find both at Wonderland on East 6th, a stylishly low-key bar that provides space outside for the Thai-flavored East Side King truck. To mingle with fellow foodies, check out The Picnic, a trailer park on Barton Springs Road, which is home to Turf N Surf Po’ Boy and Hey Cupcake! If you need an excuse to let down your emotional walls, consider that Austin also ranked well for feeling safe.
The Georgia hub scored well for its java, and Dancing Goats Coffee Bar, a single-origin coffee and donut bar in Ponce City Market, is a fine place for a pick-me-up (and perhaps a pick-up line). If you prefer snobs of the burger variety, head to Holeman and Finch, where every night at 10 p.m., you can line up for one of the 24 acclaimed double-patty (grass-fed chuck and brisket) cheeseburgers, served on house-made buns. Atlanta’s residents also made the top 20 for being smart.
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