America's Craziest Cities
Move over, Las Vegas. After two years of national doldrums, crazy is on the rise again. From shrinks to drinks, The Daily Beast tallies who's handling their stress—and who’s losing it.
Keep Austin Weird—the famous slogan from Austin, Texas, was conceived as a marketing tool, but it’s grown for some into a mantra. And why not? It’s been a rough couple of years. Those that don’t embrace a bit of zaniness risk having it consume them.
For these crazy times, The Daily Beast decided to rank America’s craziest cities—more specifically, the 57 largest metropolitan areas—using four criteria: psychiatrists per capita, stress, eccentricity and drinking levels.
Las Vegas, New Orleans and New York all put in solid top ten showings. The least offbeat city should raise some eyebrows. And the one that falls furthest south of normal? Here’s a hint: it’s a bit north (and east) of Austin and better known for chili than crazy.
Psychiatrists per capita: 31 out of 57 Stress: 5 out of 57 Eccentricity: 12 out of 57 Drinking: 17 (tie) out of 57
Colorful Character: Jim Bonaminio won a local contest by creating a suite that looked like a grubby port-a-potty on the outside, but really led to a 10-stall restroom replete with flowers, marble, soft tile and tropical pictures.
#2, San Francisco
Psychiatrists per capita: 1 Stress: 57 Eccentricity: 2 Drinking: 11 (tie)
Local Character: Samir “Sammy” Keishk spent 18 months and $12,000 working on a 2,260-pound rubber-band ball in a quest to set a Guinness world record.
Psychiatrists per capita: 6 Stress: 38 Eccentricity: 21 Drinking: 7
Local Color: An local group last year created a 1,350-foot-long strand of red and white beads, breaking the Guinness world record.
Psychiatrists per capita: 10 Stress: 33 (tie) Eccentricity: 29 Drinking: 1 (tie)
Colorful Character: 36-year-old Don Gorske, who lives an hour away from Milwaukee, is known as the "Big Mac Enthusiast" for having eaten over 23,000 Big Macs in his lifetime. That's two a day for 30 years.
#5, Las Vegas
Psychiatrists per capita: 55 Stress: 9 Eccentricity: 9 Drinking: 1 (tie)
Local Color: Gamblers looking to make an apt political statement should visit Las Vegas’ Main Street Station Casino, where male patrons are invited to relieve themselves on a large chunk of the Berlin Wall.
Psychiatrists per capita: 30 Stress: 2 (tie) Eccentricity: 16 Drinking: 27
Local Color: In Philadelphia, New Year’s Day means one thing: Mummers. Every year on January 1, some 10,000 men and women dress up in exotic, often satirical, brilliantly colored costumes and sashay up one of the city’s main streets.
#7, New York City
Psychiatrists per capita: 4 Stress: 19 Eccentricity: 4 Drinking: 49 (tie)
Colorful Character: Robert John Burck, better known as the Naked Cowboy to anyone who’s ever walked through (or heard of) Times Square, stuns and entertains passersby with his outfit: cowboy boots, a hat, and briefs that he hides with a guitar.
Psychiatrists per capita: 21 Stress: 17 Eccentricity: 35 Drinking: 4
Crazy Law: If attacked by a criminal or burglar, you may only protect yourself with the same weapon that the other person possesses.
#9, San Antonio
Psychiatrists per capita: 42 Stress: 8 Eccentricity: 23 Drinking: 9
Colorful Character: Retired plumber Barney Smith is a master toilet seat-decorator, with more than 600 on display at his museum in San Antonio.
#10, New Orleans
Psychiatrists per capita: 3 Stress: 30 Eccentricity: 1 Drinking: 49 (tie)
Colorful Character: Bloody Mary (nee Mary Millan) is a New Orleans native who brings paying (and gullible) tourists on ghost hunts and voodoo rituals throughout the city.
Psychiatrists per capita: 14 Stress: 43 Eccentricity: 6 Drinking: 20 (tie)
Local Color: The Pardee Home Museum in Oakland contains human skulls that were reportedly stolen from a South American cemetery.
Psychiatrists per capita: 33 Stress: 46 Eccentricity: 3 Drinking: 1 (tie)
Colorful Character: Keep Austin Weird: In 1988, Vince Hannemann began building his Cathedral of Junk, which, today, is a trashy hub packed with 60 tons of castoffs: lawnmower wheels, car bumpers, kitchen utensils, ladders, cables, bottles, circuit boards, bicycle parts, bric-a-brac, and a lot of unidentifiable junk.
Psychiatrists per capita: 11 Stress: 2 (tie) Eccentricity: 43 Drinking: 29
Crazy Law: Women are forbidden from wearing patent leather shoes, so that men will not see the reflections of their underwear.
Psychiatrists per capita: 12 Stress: 12 Eccentricity: 26 Drinking: 38 (tie)
Local Color: Local slogan (with hat tip to Austin): Keep Louisville Weird.
Psychiatrists per capita: 40 Stress: 1 Eccentricity: 10 Drinking: 38 (tie)
Crazy Law: Panhandlers must first obtain a $10 permit before begging on the streets of downtown Memphis.
Psychiatrists per capita: 16 Stress: 24 Eccentricity: 38 Drinking: 14 (tie)
Crazy Law: It is illegal to lend your vacuum cleaner to your next-door neighbor.
#17, Portland, OR
Psychiatrists per capita: 18 Stress: 49 Eccentricity: 7 Drinking: 20 (tie)
Local Color: The Portland Alien Museum, the only UFO museum west of Roswell, New Mexico, features newspaper stories about close encounters with aliens as well as evidence from the Roswell incident.
Psychiatrists per capita: 22 Stress: 18 Eccentricity: 39 Drinking: 16
Crazy Law: It is illegal to sleep outside on top of a refrigerator.
Psychiatrists per capita: 8 Stress: 56 Eccentricity: 8 Drinking: 25 (tie)
Crazy Law: On Sundays, it is illegal to purchase a mattress, television, or any kind of meat. On all days, it is illegal to pretend that your parents are wealthy.
#20, Columbus, OH
Psychiatrists per capita: 39 Stress: 13 Eccentricity: 37 Drinking: 8
Local Color: The Basket Building in Newark, a city 33 miles outside of Columbus, is exactly what it sounds like: a seven-story replica of a hand-woven basket.
#21, St. Louis, MO
Psychiatrists per capita: 20 Stress: 23 Eccentricity: 34 Drinking: 22 (tie)
Local Color: Despite Missouri’s generally lenient open-container laws (read: there aren’t many), it is illegal on the curb of any city street to drink beer from a bucket.
#22, San Diego
Psychiatrists per capita: 7 Stress: 53 Eccentricity: 18 Drinking: 22 (tie)
Local Color: Before it fell in a 2008 storm, a literal tree of shoes (hundreds!) stood on a grassy slope in San Diego’s Balboa Park, where visitors could challenge themselves with attempts to toss a pair on a branch or, even more difficult, to retrieve one.
#23, Kansas City, MO
Psychiatrists per capita: 35 Stress: 21 Eccentricity: 13 Drinking: 32 (tie)
Colorful Character: Joseph Stephen O'Laughlin, a former waiter at the Kansas City pizza shop Waldo's, erected a bathroom memorial in his own honor that is decorated with a polka dot floor, fluorescent ceiling, disco balls and a singing fish.
Psychiatrists per capita: 5 Stress: 41 Eccentricity: 25 Drinking: 34
Colorful Character: Crime novelist Laura Lippman takes readers on an underground tour of Baltimore in her quirky bestsellers, visiting such attractions as Orpheus, a 24-foot naked statue on the grounds of Fort McHenry.
#25, Newark, NJ
Psychiatrists per capita: 13 Stress: 4 Eccentricity: 46 Drinking: 42 (tie)
Crazy Law: It is illegal to sell ice cream after 6 p.m.—unless the customer has a note from his doctor.
Psychiatrists per capita: 37 Stress: 28 Eccentricity: 28 Drinking: 14 (tie)
Local Color: The Lakeview Museum's Community Solar System spreads over 60 miles of Illinois, making it the largest complete solar-system model in the world. The sun, 36 feet across, rests at the museum, while Saturn and its rings, nearly eight feet across, orbit at a grocery store in East Peoria, and the Earth, a mere four inches, hangs in a gas station.
#27, Los Angeles
Psychiatrists per capita: 28 Stress: 22 Eccentricity: 5 Drinking: 53
Colorful Character: Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski have transformed their home into a Bunny Museum, a shrine to over 23,000 bunny collectibles that include bunny-themed furniture, light fixtures, kitchenware, toiletries, books, and games.
#28, Rochester, NY
Psychiatrists per capita: 17 Stress: 7 Eccentricity: 40 Drinking: 45
Local Color: Locals believe that a facility underneath Rochester’s Andrews Street Bridge houses a project where a “Montauk Chair” can supposedly achieve “psychic effects.”
Psychiatrists per capita: 41 Stress: 15 Eccentricity: 42 Drinking: 11 (tie)
Local Color: At the Buffalo Zoo, locals and tourists alike pay to watch Surapa the Elephant paint canvases by holding brushes in her trunk.
#30, Birmingham, AL
Psychiatrists per capita: 9 Stress: 31 Eccentricity: 36 Drinking: 38 (tie)
Local Color: It is illegal to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in church.
Psychiatrists per capita: 2 Stress: 52 Eccentricity: 55 Drinking: 6
Colorful Character: James Allen, a 19th-century burglar who went to jail for attempted murder, hired a bookbinder to print his autobiography on his own skin after he died. The book-on-skin, made as a gift for the man Allen had tried to kill, is on display at Boston’s Athenaeum Library.
Psychiatrists per capita: 23 Stress: 16 Eccentricity: 19 Drinking: 57
Crazy Law: It is illegal to roller-skate and listen to a CD at the same time.
#33, Troy, MI
Psychiatrists per capita: 26 Stress: 27 Eccentricity: 51 Drinking: 17 (tie)
Crazy Law: It is illegal to sell cars on Sunday.
#34, Riverside, CA
Psychiatrists per capita: 56 Stress: 29 Eccentricity: 31 Drinking: 5
Local Color: One of the weirdest Riverside legends goes that an unidentified group of little people hide on Mount Rubidoux throwing small stones at hikers walking alone.
#35, Raleigh, NC
Psychiatrists per capita: 19 Stress: 31 Eccentricity: 27 Drinking: 45 (tie)
Crazy Law: Fortune-telling is an illegal profession. If you want to read palms for fun, you must do it in a school or church.
#36, Jacksonville, FL
Psychiatrists per capita: 45 Stress: 6 Eccentricity: 45 Drinking: 28
Local Color: A 62-foot tall can of 7-Up holds 65,000 gallons.
#37, Richmond, VA
Psychiatrists per capita: 27 Stress: 10 Eccentricity: 48 Drinking: 42 (tie)
Crazy Law: It is illegal to flip a coin in a restaurant to see who pays for a coffee.
Psychiatrists per capita: 49 Stress: 40 Eccentricity: 17 Drinking: 22 (tie)
Local Color: The World’s Largest Patio Chair rests in Dallas, after those organizing a world tour were forced to abandon the 5-foot-6 contraption after they found it too difficult to move.
#39, Oklahoma City
Psychiatrists per capita: 29 Stress: 25 Eccentricity: 20 Drinking: 55
Local Color: The World of Pigeon Wings Pigeon Center honors the flying pests.
#40, Anaheim, CA
Psychiatrists per capita: 34 Stress: 50 Eccentricity: 33 Drinking: 13
Colorful Character: Debra Jo Chiapuzio, an Anaheim tattoo artist, owns Emma the Biker Dog, the Labrador-Great Dane whom Chiapuzio dresses in goggles and a biker jacket so that the dog will look fittingly stylish when it, yes, rides her own doggie motorcycle.
Psychiatrists per capita: 50 Stress: 11 Eccentricity: 40 Drinking: 30 (tie)
Crazy Law: It is illegal to let your pig run free in Detroit unless it has a ring in its nose.
#42, San Jose, CA
Psychiatrists per capita: 15 Stress: 54 Eccentricity: 32 Drinking: 35
Local Color: The Winchester Mystery House was built after Sarah L. Winchester, a wealthy New Englander who later migrated to California, lost her child and husband. Wracked with grief and superstitious tendencies, Winchester commissioned a Victorian mansion with staircases that lead nowhere, secret passageways, and other architectural details to protect her from "bad" spirits.
#43, Sacramento, CA
Psychiatrists per capita: 32 Stress: 45 Eccentricity: 49 Drinking: 10
Local Color: There a memorial plaque on the state capitol grounds for Senator Capitol Kitty, a black cat that roamed the area for 13 years until it died in 2004.
#44, Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL
Psychiatrists per capita: 48 Stress: 14 Eccentricity: 41 Drinking: 36 (tie)
Crazy Law: Doors of all public buildings must open outward.
#45, Minneapolis-St. Paul
Psychiatrists per capita: 44 Stress: 51 Eccentricity: 15 Drinking: 30 (tie)
Local Color: At the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, passengers and tourists often make a pit stop at a very particular men’s bathroom—the one where former U.S. Senator Larry Craig was arrested on sex-solicitation charges.
Psychiatrists per capita: 46 Stress: 33 (tie) Eccentricity: 24 Drinking: 38 (tie)
Crazy Law: It is illegal to make faces at schoolchildren while they are studying.
#47, Norfolk, VA
Psychiatrists per capita: 24 Stress: 37 Eccentricity: 50 Drinking: 32 (tie)
Local Color: There are over 300 10-foot long statues of mermaids placed throughout Norfolk, and it is up to the tourists to see how many they can spot before leaving the city.
Psychiatrists per capita: 47 Stress: 26 Eccentricity: 14 Drinking: 56
Crazy Law: You can go to jail for up to 30 days for selling oranges, the state fruit, on the sidewalk.
Psychiatrists per capita: 52 Stress: 42 Eccentricity: 11 Drinking: 47
Local Color: Known among locals as the Garage Mahal, Houston's Art Car Museum features over-the-top automobiles, including Faith, a 1984 Camaro adorned with beads and a Cape buffalo head, and Big Red, a finely kept 1967 Ford Galaxy.
#50, Orlando, FL
Psychiatrists per capita: 51 Stress: 35 Eccentricity: 47 Drinking: 25 (tie)
Local Color: The town of Cassadaga, 30 miles outside of Orlando, prides itself on being a community of psychics.
Psychiatrists per capita: 53 Stress: 44 Eccentricity: 30 Drinking: 36 (tie)
Colorful Character: Alice Cooper grew up and currently lives in Phoenix.
Psychiatrists per capita: 38 Stress: 20 Eccentricity: 57 Drinking: 49 (tie)
Local Color: Indianapolis hosts Gen Con, the world's largest gaming convention, where thousands of participants dress up as their favorite game character and collectively spend millions of dollars at local shops, bars and restaurants.
#53, Hartford, CT
Psychiatrists per capita: 57 Stress: 39 Eccentricity: 54 Drinking: 17 (tie)
Crazy Law: A pickle is not officially considered a pickle unless it bounces.
#54, Washington, DC
Psychiatrists per capita: 25 Stress: 47 Eccentricity: 52 Drinking: 48
Crazy Law: It is against the law to marry your mother-in-law.
#55, Charlotte, NC
Psychiatrists per capita: 43 Stress: 36 Eccentricity: 53 Drinking: 42 (tie)
Local Color: Since 1969, North Carolinians participate in the annual Hollerin’ Contest, in which participants attempt to revive a “lost art” and compete to see who can scream loudest and longest in front of thousands of strangers.
#56, Fort Worth, TX
Psychiatrists per capita: 54 Stress: 47 Eccentricity: 22 Drinking: 54
Local Color: The home of George “ Machine Gun Kelly” Barnes is a popular, albeit offbeat, stop for tourists.
#57, Salt Lake City
Psychiatrists per capita: 36 Stress: 55 Eccentricity: 56 Drinking: 49 (tie)
Crazy Law: If you persist in walking on the cracks between paving stones on the sidewalk of a state highway, you are committing a felony.
• Psychiatrists per capita: How many shrinks there are to fill the therapy demand per person, with data from the Census and Citysearch.com. Read: The lower the score, the more psychiatrists per capita.
• Stress: Emotional and mental health, based on a 2008 national survey by Gallup-Healthways.
• Eccentricity: How crazy, wacky, and weird each city is, compiled with help from travel writer, and student of all things eccentric, Mike Barish
• Drinking: Whether the metropolitan area’s residents are heavy drinking, defined as two drinks a day or more for men, and one drink a day or more for women. With data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2008.
Correction: The Riverside, CA, entry initially referred to San Luis Obispo, which is not located in Riverside.
Clark Merrefield oversaw these rankings, with assistance from Tali Yahalom