The 15 Best Cities for Spring Outdoor Activities in 2021

Happy woman riding bike outdoors in spring
Soloviova Liudmyla / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on LawnStarter.

Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and vaccines are flowing — spring and hope have finally arrived.

After a winter in which we all stayed much closer to home than we would have liked, we’re desperate to get outside in the sun, fresh air, and nature.

But where to go and what to do?

LawnStarter ranked the best cities for spring outdoor activities by comparing the 200 biggest U.S. cities across 17 key metrics — from the number of public gardens, trails, and campsites to walkability to the amount of spring sunshine.

Check out our rankings and methodology. Then grab a blanket, walk to your nearest park, and take a breath of fresh air!

1. San Francisco, CA

San Francisco
Maridav / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 58.78

Outdoor Activities Rank: 17

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 6

Spring Climate Rank: 51

2. Portland, OR

Hiking in Portland, Oregon
Rajat Chamria / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 55.95

Outdoor Activities Rank: 5

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 11

Spring Climate Rank: 103

3. Honolulu, HI

Honolulu, Hawaii
MNStudio / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 55.62

Outdoor Activities Rank: 11

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 101

Spring Climate Rank: 1

4. Mesa, AZ

Mesa, Arizona
Tim Roberts Photography / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 54.71

Outdoor Activities Rank: 93

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 3

Spring Climate Rank: 33

5. Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.
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Overall Score: 54.27

Outdoor Activities Rank: 13

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 8

Spring Climate Rank: 110

6. Tucson, AZ

Tucson
Chris Rubino / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 54.08

Outdoor Activities Rank: 6

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 69

Spring Climate Rank: 46

7. Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles neighborhood.
Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 53.34

Outdoor Activities Rank: 10

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 98

Spring Climate Rank: 4

8. Long Beach, CA

Long Beach California homes
L.A. Nature Graphics / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 52.77

Outdoor Activities Rank: 32

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 33

Spring Climate Rank: 18

9. Huntington Beach, CA

Huntington Beach California
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 52.05

Outdoor Activities Rank: 44

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 34

Spring Climate Rank: 5

10. Las Vegas, NV

Las vegas in daylight
nito / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 51.82

Outdoor Activities Rank: 19

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 74

Spring Climate Rank: 26

11. Lincoln, NE

Lincoln, Nebraska capitol building
19885732 / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 51.41

Outdoor Activities Rank: 3

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 23

Spring Climate Rank: 155

12. Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City, Utah
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 50.98

Outdoor Activities Rank: 8

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 48

Spring Climate Rank: 89

13. New York, NY

New York City coastline
IM_photo / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 50.9

Outdoor Activities Rank: 7

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 13

Spring Climate Rank: 174

14. Seattle, WA

Seattle, Washington
kwest / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 50.78

Outdoor Activities Rank: 22

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 10

Spring Climate Rank: 153

15. Oakland, CA

Oakland bridge
Micha Weber / Shutterstock.com

Overall Score: 50.5

Outdoor Activities Rank: 42

Visitor Friendliness Rank: 31

Spring Climate Rank: 51

Methodology

A man studies financial data at his computer
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We ranked the 200 most populated U.S. cities in descending order — from best to worst — based on their individual score totals in the metrics list below. The city that scored the highest was ranked No. 1, or “best.”

  • Number of Attractions
  • Number of Public Gardens per 100,000 Residents
  • Number of Arboreta per 100,000 Residents
  • Number of Trails
  • Number of Camping Sites
  • Average Yard Size (square feet)
  • Walk Score
  • Bike Score
  • Pedestrian Fatalities per Capita
  • Natural Hazard Index Score
  • Violent Crime Rate
  • Average Monthly Temperature in Spring
  • Average Monthly Precipitation in Inches in Spring
  • Average Amount of Sunshine in Spring
  • Yearly Average Number of Very Cold Days in Spring
  • Yearly Average Number of Very Hot Days in Spring
  • Air Quality

These scores were factored into categories including outdoor activities, visitor friendliness, and spring climate.

Sources: AllTrails, American Public Gardens Association, ArbNet, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, TripAdvisor, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Walk Score, and Yelp.

Due to current public health restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, we excluded spring-festival and travel data from this year’s edition of our ranking.

Why This Study Matters

A happy couple runs off to explore the outdoors during the coronavirus crisis
Pikoso.kz / Shutterstock.com

This winter of our discontent was made worse by social distancing, mask-wearing, and working from home. With warmer temperatures and soon the smell of fresh-mowed grass, we need to get outside.

A third of all U.S. adults have reported feeling stressed, anxious, or deeply sad during the pandemic.

And while spending time in nature isn’t a cure for anxiety or depression brought on or made worse by the pandemic, Harvard University researchers have found that even a relatively short outdoor stroll can improve one’s mental health, mood, and even the physical health of the brain.

Just as Americans need time in nature to improve their health, outdoor industries and attractions (theme parks, zoos, outdoor dining at restaurants) need consumers to be healthy again. Maybe you could hike along the Grand Canyon and in Rocky Mountain National Park, as visits to national parks plummeted in 2020.

Yes, spring is here (or nearly here in some parts of the U.S.), and vaccinations against COVID-19 are increasing, but it’s still too early for mass tourism or traveling. An increase in travel could prolong the pandemic.

So what can you do now that spring has sprung? Get outside. Walk, run, ride a bike, or roller skate. The whole point, according to the Mayo Clinic, is to find ways to exercise at a safe distance and with plenty of moving air.

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