Knoxville, TN is the Saddest City in America, Says Amazon

Travel Features America

Full disclosure: The title you just read is not exactly how Amazon chose to present the data when the publicist’s email arrived in my inbox this morning. In fact, they took a very different angle, and it’s only fair that I share their perspective before we continue:

“’s Top 20 Most Romantic U.S. Cities

Virginia may be for lovers but according to, Knoxville, Tennessee is the most romantic city in the US…”

Now, before you call me a liar and a muckraker, know that I was fully prepared to take Amazon’s romance rankings at face value. Until I read the study’s methodology:

“Each year, Amazon culminates sales from steamy romance novels, relationship advice books, rom-com titles and a curated list of love songs to determine the list of America’s most romantic cities.”

HOLD UP! We’re judging the romance of a city by how much shitty romantic “art” its residents consume? Sorry, Amazon, but you and I both know that the people who read romance novels, or watch rom-coms, or listen to love songs, are the saddest people in existence. They’re seeking out love stories in the absence of their own, or as a temporary cure for being perpetually heartbroken. Happy people don’t buy this crap! They just go around whistling!


Come on. That’s like saying, “Milwaukee, Wisconsin is the thinnest city in America because they buy the most fad diet books.”

I can’t accept the premise, Amazon, so I’m sticking to my guns: Knoxville, TN is the saddest city in America. Here are the other sad cities that round out the top five:

1. Knoxville, Tenn.
2. Miami, Fla.
3. Orlando, Fla.
4. Alexandria, Va.
5. Vancouver, Wash.

I’ve never actually been to Knoxville, or to Vancouver, WA, but I have been to the other three cities, and I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that romance purchases aside, all of them are insanely sad. Orlando, FL really takes the cake—it’s a nightmare of traffic, fast food, and Disney. I once gave in and went to a McDonald’s in Orlando, for lack of any other option, and watched as a furious woman who had not received the correct soft drink threatened to kill the workers at the drive-thru. Miami is horrible in its own way—just like New Orleans, but without the culture or history, and gaudy in a way that New Orleans will never be, and also a monotonous suburban nightmare built up into a city that is exactly the opposite of New Orleans. And Alexandria, VA is mostly notable for the misery of its residents, who spend roughly 74 percent of their lives slamming their fists against their steering wheels in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Beltway. Outside of I-95, though…well, it’s totally charmless.

What I’m saying is that my anecdotal experience backs up the Sadness Factor, which makes my twist on Amazon’s data more valid than their own.

The rest of the top 20:

6. Cincinnati, OH—Somehow, worse than Cleveland.
7. Dayton, OH—Somehow, worse than Cincinnati.
8. Columbia, SC—Personal confirmation: Awful.
9. Round Rock, TX—Named after the most interesting thing in town.

10. Murfreesboro, TN—I tricked Paste’s Dacey Orr, who has a Tennesee background, into giving me her thoughts on Murfreesboro, but she was annoyingly positive: “I have a ton of friends who grew up there and they are all great people with normal lives.” I was stumped, but then I remembered: SHE WENT TO COLLEGE IN KNOXVILLE! OF COURSE MURFREESBORO WOULD BE AWESOME TO HER!

11. Las Vegas, NV—Hasn’t been cool since Hunter S. Thompson left.
12. Pittsburgh, PA—Essentially a city-sized abandoned steel mill.
13. Everett, WA—Probably rains all the time.
14. Broken Arrow, OK—Any city with “Broken” in the name is default sad.
15. Springfield, MO—Practically Arkansas.
16. Salem, OR—Not even the cool “witch trial” Salem. Also, rain.
17. Billings, MT—There’s no speed limit here because everyone wants to die.
18. Wilmington, NC—Has a beach, but way too close to Charlotte.
19. Gainesville, FL—All the bad parts of southern Florida, plus a swamp.
20. Erie, PA—They named their city after the feeling of being creeped out.

Notice which cities you don’t see on here: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Madison, Richmond, Savannah, Charleston, Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, Austin, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, or Chicago. In other words, any city anyone would describe as “cool,” where the people are happy. And aside from Knoxville and Gainesville, you also don’t see any big college towns, which I attribute to the fact that students still have too much hope to completely give up on life and buy romance novels.

On the other hand, congratulations to San Antonio, Seattle, Spokane, San Jose, and Sioux City, all of whom fell off the list this year and are presumably way happier now.

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