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Is Midwestern charm, Texan enthusiasm or Southern hospitality the most appealing way to win American hearts? Recently, Big 7 Travel tried to find out. The content company took a poll of its 1.5 million-strong social media audience to discover which U.S. states people considered to be the friendliest places in the country.
Big 7 ranked every state — and in case you’re wondering, New York landed in the bottom spot, No. 50. Arkansas and Delaware didn’t fare much better, and California dropped in at a low No. 40.
Well, of course Hawaii is friendly — it’s paradise, after all! This state is governed by the Aloha spirit, which is more than a greeting tourists get upon getting off the plane. In fact, it’s a unifying philosophy that is defined by state statute within the Aloha Spirit Law, which says, “Each person must think and emote good feelings to others.” It’s a symbolic rule deeply rooted in native Hawaiian tradition, which means that being friendly is simply part of the culture there. Oahu, the third largest of the eight main islands, hosts almost 600,000 guest arrivals per month, which gives Hawaiians plenty of opportunities to show off their reputed friendliness.
“Brand new state! Gonna treat you great!” Oklahoma is the place to be, or so we hear. The University of Cambridge in England actually did a study, back in 2008, that determined that Oklahomans are friendlier and have a stronger sense of duty than many fellow Americans. The research also ranked Oklahoma high in “agreeability,” according to the Tulsa World. That Sooner kindness will come in handy if you go to this Great Plains state to visit its many natural wonders, such as canyons, mountains and caves, along with cool towns like Oklahoma City, Stillwater and Tulsa.
I’m rather partial to Kansas, since it’s my home state and I often miss the rolling hills of the northeastern part of the state, as well as the big sky and the golden wheat fields in summer. It comes as no surprise to those of us who know the “Land of Ahs” (yes, that was a real slogan from the late 1970s and ’80s) that the Sunflower State is considered super-friendly and open. Which is useful, since we know you’re going to make Dorothy and Toto jokes as soon as you set foot in the state, and we’ve heard them all about a hundred times.
Big 7 Travel’s ranking for the Centennial State (it became a state 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence) says, “Colorado’s progressive atmosphere makes it an enjoyable state to visit, with some of the friendliest people in the world to boot.” Most people visit here to experience the outdoors — to hike in the Rocky Mountains or view the state’s other natural beauties. But cities like Denver and Boulder are also awesome places to eat, watch sports and enjoy entertainment and culture.
Back in 1962, author Walter Havinghurst said, “Whatever its origin, the name of Hoosier has had a lasting appeal for Indiana people and has acquired a quite enviable aura. For more than 100 years, it has continued to mean friendliness, neighborliness, an idyllic contentment with Indiana landscape and life.” So being a resident of this state along Lake Michigan is all about doing right by other folks and nature. Indiana holds several additional distinctions: Fort Wayne is where the first professional baseball game was played, and Indianapolis is home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the Indianapolis 500 takes place every year.
In 2008, the Wyoming Star-Tribune took umbrage with a study that rated the rugged state low in agreeableness. “If you’re looking at friendliness per capita, Wyoming should rank right near the top,” the paper’s editorial board groused. “People here are likely to say hello to strangers and help people who need it. So what if we don’t invite you in for tea?” Well, it looks like the Cowboy State, also known as the Equality State because women were granted the right to vote in 1869, has been redeemed by the Big 7 Travel list, which points out the sense of community that exists even in larger cities such as Cheyenne (population: 65,000-ish).
This should come as no surprise. After all, the Texas state motto is simply: “Friendship.” Texans are known for loving food, football, freedom and going big, since their state is the largest in the continental U.S. If you visit, expect a giant “Howdy!” from locals even in big cities like Dallas, which retain their small-town feel thanks to their friendly vibes. Real-estate site Movoto notes about Texans, “They wave hello as they pass you in traffic, especially on the backroads. And if you ever need to ask directions, don’t hesitate to ask. You’ll probably even end up with a detailed map drawn on the back of your hand.”
3. South Carolina
This lovely state oozes Southern charm, thanks to places like Charleston, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach. And it’s high on the Big 7 Travel List, which says, “The Southern states are well known for their hospitality and kindness and South Carolina has both in spades.” If you like beaches and golf, we’re thinking the Palmetto State might be an excellent destination for your next vacation. It’s a great place to take in some Civil War history — that war’s first battle at Fort Sumter took place here — and to do the Shag, the state dance, with all the local friends you’re sure to make.
Big 7 Travel says about this Southern stronghold, “That classic Southern charm is in full swing in Tennessee, where locals have a buzzing attitude and an eagerness to show off their city to out-of-towners. Add in the lively music scene and it’s clear why it’s one of the friendliest states in America.” Did you know that this state is called the Volunteer State, thanks to services it rendered in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War? Clearly, residents here care about doing things for others, and perhaps that’s one reason it ranks No. 2 on the list. It also has a great combination of city and country, with sights like Nashville and multiple gorgeous mountain ranges.
The friendliest state in the nation? Big 7 Travel gave that honor to the unassuming state of Minnesota, saying, “It’s called ‘Minnesota Nice’ for a reason — the atmosphere in the Twin Cities and beyond is hard to match, with a homey feel and locals who go the extra mile to welcome tourists.” The Land of 10,000 Lakes, as it’s often called, is a neighbor to Canada and Lake Superior. Visitors come not just to see the natural wonders of the state named after the Sioux words for “sky-tinted water,” but to visit the Mall of America and the attractions of the Twin Cities, St. Paul and Minneapolis — and, it looks like, to enjoy the hospitality and openness of its awesome, friendly citizens.