America’s Top 10 Cities for Hipsters

We liked these places before they were cool

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Kristin Murphy / Getty

A happy hipster at the "I Am Not a Hipster" premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival

Do you have your iPad at hand? If so, ostentatiously kick off your loafers and get to browsing Travel + Leisure magazine’s compilation of America’s Best Cities for Hipsters, and then maybe you can put it on your Tumblr alongside the Instagram photos of your Brechtian shoelaces and androgynous girlfriend ironically snorting lines of chamomile off the seat of a fixie bike.

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T + L readers scored 35 urban centers on such hipster-friendly amenities as live music, coffeehouses, independent boutiques, thrift stores and flea markets, and on residents’ hipsterish traits, such as tech-savvy and the propensity to microbrew.

Here are the top 10:

  1. Seattle

Chosen chiefly for the clever, tech-savvy reputation of its inhabitants, pumped up on highfalutin concept coffee. Labeled as being “ahead of the curve,” Seattle hipsters are pushing into up-and-coming neighborhoods like South Lake Union and Ballard, taking hot new restaurants with them.

  1. Portland, Ore.

The city that helped put hipsters on the map, Portland was always going to end up high on this list. Quirky experiences abound: A vintage clothing store in a double-decker bus! A bar where you can play shuffleboard! An organic pub whose customers pedal stationary bikes to generate the establishment’s electricity! All fodder for the next season of Portlandia, we suspect.

  1. San Francisco

San Francisco’s role as America’s ancestral hippie homeland seems to have come full circle, with the birthplace of the original counterculture now home to a thriving hipster scene — just trade the daisy chains for skinny ties and spliffs for soy lattes (well, most of them). Respondents also gave the city high marks for its diversity and fine-dining opportunities.

  1. New Orleans

NOLA places highly for its renowned live-music-and-arts scene as well as its café culture, which is almost as dynamic as the rich nightlife. But the touristy French Quarter is beneath the contempt of your average self-respecting hipster, notwithstanding the occasional ironic Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s; they’re more likely to be found elsewhere, for example bars such as the Hi-Ho Lounge and Mimi’s in the historic Marigny district. And these jitterbugging Bohemians have the opportunity to dress the part, with vintage boutiques and flea markets abounding.

  1. Portland, Maine

Like its Oregon namesake, Portland’s north-woods locale belies a thriving foodie culture, where plaid-wearing hipsters can get crumbs stuck in their beards at the voguish Fore Street restaurant or dribble niche beers down their hemp blouses at the city’s plethora of microbreweries. 

  1. Providence, R.I.

Home of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence is in the Ivy League of hipsterdom. Its artsy, Wayfarered nerds get creative and theatrical in places like the multiuse space AS220, and can eat everything from cutting-edge cuisine served up by graduates of the local Johnson & Wales culinary school to traditional red-sauce Italian in the Federal Hill historic district.

  1. Austin

Although the live-music heritage of Texas is time-honored, it still plays heavily in the lives of the trendy types of East Austin, an area that also scores high for its newfound tech-savvy ways. Art galleries and food trucks also pop up throughout the Texas capital.

  1. San Juan, Puerto Rico

For hipsters on holiday, check out this Caribbean island city, whose Old Town boasts plentiful street-food stalls (particularly south of the city’s historic fort, Calle Fortaleza — an area known as SoFo) as well as bustling flea markets.

  1. Philadelphia

Microbreweries? Check. Esoteric coffee? Check. A thriving and well-lubricated art-and-drinking scene? Check and check. Still, the City of Brotherly Love also brings something more traditionally cultured to the party, ranking highly for old-school pursuits such as theater and classical music. 

  1. Denver

With something for everyone, Denver is a paradise for those who prefer to defy categorization. There, hipsters can choose between youth-cool knitting at the popular Wild Yarns, retro cocktails at one of the city’s “speakeasy” bars and a sampling of the city’s famed microbrews, for which it ranked first place.

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