There it was. Headline. First thing this morning: The Ten Dirtiest Cities in America: New Orleans Tops the List. Needless to say, I had to investigate. Not because I thought the charge erroneous, but because I knew there must be a back story.

For one, it is clear that cleanliness is not necessarily linked to popularity. As it turns out, New Orleans has some good company in the top ten of America’s dirtiest cities: among them are New York, Memphis, Las Vegas, and Miami. Not exactly vacation backwaters. They are all among the Nation’s favorite vacation destinations. But I figured there must be more to the story.

After a couple of clicks, I got to the Travel+Leisure web site. It led me to the requisite, attention grabbing dirtiest cities story. And there I found that source was the 2010 America’s Favorite Cities survey. There was more to the story.

Cleanliness was one of over 50 different criteria. And needless to say, New Orleans, a favorite tourist destination did equally poor on some and exceptionally well on others.

Sidney's Saloon, Treme, New Orleans.

The survey topics where New Orleans rated poorly were quite obvious: New Orleans is not a good place to visit in the summer; pizza is not a first choice for food in New Orleans; New Orleans is not a center for fitness freaks; New Orleans is not clean, quiet, or safe; and, New Orleans is not a choice for a family vacation.

And while all of these help make New Orleans a singular place, it is the positive stuff that leads us to go back again and again. In times to visit, New Orleans ranks number one for New Year’s Eve, which is quite surprising. Under food and restaurants, it ranks number 1 in neighborhood joints and cafes, number 2 in ethnic restaurants, and number 4 in big-name restaurants. Visitors also like New Orleans’ B&Bs and boutique hotels, noteworthy neighborhoods, and shopping for antiques and vintage items.

Of course, New Orleans excels in a number of other areas. It is ethnically diverse and ranks number 1 in people watching. And, it should surprise no one, that New Orleans is ranked highly for a place to go for a wild weekend, and for live music, and is number 1 for cocktail hour and for and the singles/bar scene.

So, it pays not to go  just with the headline. There is often a lot more to the story.

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