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Washington in all its roiling glory trumped such picturesque, civilized enclaves as Portsmouth, N.H., Tacoma, Wash., and Ithaca, N.Y.

Naturally, this unexpected victory has pleased those who must contend with critics.

“Whether it´s running, biking or exploring our diverse neighborhoods, District of Columbia residents have always taken advantage of the many activities that make our city great. We are honored to have Outside magazine recognize us as the best town in America.” said Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat.

“We’re thrilled,” said William A. Hanbury, president and chief executive officer of Destination DC, the city’s official convention and tourism office.

Still, the prowess of a city is subject to much interpretation.

Forbes magazine, for example, can’t make up its mind. The magazine ranks Washington No. 7 on a list of cities that are “worst for commuters” but sixth on a list of places that are “best for single people.” The District is only so-so on the global scale, named 44th on a list ranking the 50 best international cities released in June by Mercer Consulting, which used 39 “key quality-of-life determinants” to pass judgment.