Happy people make friendly cities, as does a willingness to offer visitors a smile and word of welcome. Safety, diversity and a variety of interesting (and affordable) places to hang out also help cities make the friendly grade. With that in mind, here are seven of America's friendliest cities.

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1. Cleveland, Ohio

This underrated city on Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio makes the list of America's friendliest cities due, in large part, to the Midwestern charm of the locals. Professional sports teams and world-class cultural institutions such as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame are part of the appeal, too, as is the charming array of neighborhoods filled with boutiques, galleries and coffee shops. Plus, the culinary scene includes everyman "Iron Chef" Michael Symon.

2. Walla Walla, Washington

Walla Walla was once known simply as a college town and a place where delicious sweet onions were grown. The buzz these days has a lot to do with red wine, as this city is transforming itself into a wine-lovers mecca — complete with a downtown renaissance that includes wine bars. In between wine touring, enjoy the friendly, cultured air and laid-back surrounds.

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3. New Orleans, Louisiana

The Big Easy may entice and seduce visitors with its good eats, music, party scene and unique heritage. But its residents also have considerable pull: They're eternally optimistic and not at all shy about greeting anyone they happen to pass on the street. Whether dancing in clubs, following an impromptu street parade, listening to jazz at Preservation Hall or enjoying beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde, there's plenty of opportunity to mingle and make new friends.