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The Punchline

America’s Top Ten Filthiest Cities

Katharine Crnko Jun 14, 2011

Who knew that one of America’s favorite festivals would land New Orleans the not-so-coveted title of America’s dirtiest city.

New Orleans, known for its jazz, food and Mardi Gras celebrations, has been named the most filthy city in America by Travel + Leisure magazine. The massive cleanup efforts following the annual Mardi Gras celebration, coupled with the remnants of Hurricane Katrina sent this city to the top spot.

The cities were chosen by Travel + Leisure readers in the annual “America’s Favorite Cities” survey for 2010. Readers rated cities on categories such as litter, air pollution and even the taste of the local tap water.

But that didn’t stop some of America’s biggest, most iconic metropolises from making the list.

Places like Las Vegas and Miami (which took the No. 7 and No. 8 spots, respectively) received high ranks on things like great nightlife, bar scenes, live music, and people watching. But received low marks when it came to cleanliness.

Los Angeles — famous for its freeways, smog layer, and traffic — claimed the No. 3 position for the third year in row.

New York, on the other hand, has cleaned up it’s act this year. Last year it took the No. 1 spot, but this year it’s moved down to No. 5.

Some disagree of the survey. Patrick Scullin, Atlanta ad exec, says he loves Baltimore, and not because it is particularly pristine. “Yes, there’s litter, smokers, and graffiti,” he says, “but that’s just life going on. The air sometimes offends, but a cool breeze off the harbor can ease all worries. It’s a gem of a city.”

Of course, judging a city on its cleanliness is subjective — casual visitors will have a very different opinion than lifetime residents. But many of the cities that ranked poorly on the AFC survey were also ranked low when it came to environmental awareness, nice public parks, or pedestrian-friendly streets.

But for many travelers, a little dirt won’t stop them from visiting some of America’s favorite cities.

“I love New York City because it’s not pristine,” says Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan, founder of family travel site MomAboard. “It’s a city that has never shunned a chance to fully experience life–and it has the scars to prove it.”

Voting for the 2011 America’s Favorite Cities survey is now open. You can vote here.

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