The 20 Best Cities for Your Summer ‘Vaxcation’

Family on summer vacation
Joshua Resnick /

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on LawnStarter.

You’re vaccinated against COVID-19 and ready to travel, but which cities offer the most bang for your buck while keeping you safe?

To help you plan your first post-pandemic trip, LawnStarter ranked the best cities for your summer vaxcation.

What exactly is a “vaxcation”? Just what it sounds like: a vacation for the vaccinated.

We compared the 200 biggest U.S. cities based on 30 key metrics. We looked into costs, Airbnb rates, the weather, and — of course — each city’s vaccination rate, among other indicators of a fun (and relatively low-risk) summer break.

Wherever you travel this summer, have a safe journey — and follow CDC guidelines and state and local recommendations.

See how each city fared in our rankings.

1. San Francisco, CA

Runners in San Francisco California
oneinchpunch /

Overall score: 52.04

Getting around rank: 9

Lodging rank: 176

Dining and drinking rank: 10

Having fun rank: 1

Staying safe rank: 2

Being outside rank: 50

2. Portland, OR

Portland, Oregon waterfront
Josemaria Toscano /

Overall score: 46

Getting around rank: 14

Lodging rank: 99

Dining and drinking rank: 17

Having fun rank: 8

Staying safe rank: 20

Being outside rank: 60

3. Providence, RI

Providence, Rhode Island
Sean Pavone /

Overall score: 45.73

Getting around rank: 2

Lodging rank: 67

Dining and drinking rank: 12

Having fun rank: 13

Staying safe rank: 74

Being outside rank: 98

4. Garden Grove, CA

Garden Grove, California
TonelsonProductions /

Overall score: 45.49

Getting around rank: 46

Lodging rank: 118

Dining and drinking rank: 9

Having fun rank: 5

Staying safe rank: 113

Being outside rank: 3

5. Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.
orhan-cam /

Overall score: 45.24

Getting around rank: 1

Lodging rank: 135

Dining and drinking rank: 6

Having fun rank: 22

Staying safe rank: 140

Being outside rank: 91

6. Honolulu, HI

Honolulu, Hawaii
MNStudio /

Overall score: 43.64

Getting around rank: 63

Lodging rank: 166

Dining and drinking rank: 21

Having fun rank: 2

Staying safe rank: 70

Being outside rank: 1

7. Jersey City, NJ

Jersey City, New Jersey
f11photo /

Overall score: 43.48

Getting around rank: 10

Lodging rank: 147

Dining and drinking rank: 1

Having fun rank: 67

Staying safe rank: 50

Being outside rank: 128

8. Seattle, WA

Seattle skyline
Checubus /

Overall score: 43.35

Getting around rank: 15

Lodging rank: 116

Dining and drinking rank: 20

Having fun rank: 33

Staying safe rank: 9

Being outside rank: 70

9. Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas, Nevada
Kobby Dagan /

Overall score: 43.34

Getting around rank: 134

Lodging rank: 158

Dining and drinking rank: 7

Having fun rank: 3

Staying safe rank: 82

Being outside rank: 43

10. New Orleans, LA

New Orleans street scene
Michael Rosebrock /

Overall score: 42.59

Getting around rank: 54

Lodging rank: 164

Dining and drinking rank: 2

Having fun rank: 9

Staying safe rank: 88

Being outside rank: 191

11. Paradise, NV

Palm trees at sunset in Paradise, Nevada
aceshot1 /

Overall score: 41.26

Getting around rank: 118

Lodging rank: 199

Dining and drinking rank: 3

Having fun rank: 10

Staying safe rank: 22

Being outside rank: 43

12. Oakland, CA

Oakland, California
yhelfman /

Overall score: 41

Getting around rank: 18

Lodging rank: 113

Dining and drinking rank: 28

Having fun rank: 27

Staying safe rank: 47

Being outside rank: 50

13. Boston, MA

Boston, Massachusetts
ESB Professional /

Overall score: 40.92

Getting around rank: 11

Lodging rank: 148

Dining and drinking rank: 36

Having fun rank: 41

Staying safe rank: 12

Being outside rank: 82

14. Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City, Utah
f11photo /

Overall score: 40.78

Getting around rank: 26

Lodging rank: 103

Dining and drinking rank: 18

Having fun rank: 7

Staying safe rank: 186

Being outside rank: 58

15. Pittsburgh, PA

esb-professional /

Overall score: 40.5

Getting around rank: 38

Lodging rank: 111

Dining and drinking rank: 15

Having fun rank: 20

Staying safe rank: 59

Being outside rank: 168

16. Fullerton, CA

Fullerton, California
Matt Gush /

Overall score: 40.23

Getting around rank: 100

Lodging rank: 180

Dining and drinking rank: 30

Having fun rank: 4

Staying safe rank: 116

Being outside rank: 3

17. Hollywood, FL

Hollywood Florida
Richard Cavalleri /

Overall score: 40.19

Getting around rank: 65

Lodging rank: 190

Dining and drinking rank: 8

Having fun rank: 6

Staying safe rank: 133

Being outside rank: 180

18. Arlington, VA

Arlington, Virginia
Sean Pavone /

Overall score: 40

Getting around rank: 17

Lodging rank: 91

Dining and drinking rank: 11

Having fun rank: 81

Staying safe rank: 27

Being outside rank: 91

19. Sunnyvale, CA

Sunnyvale, California
Sundry Photography /

Overall score: 39.95

Getting around rank: 25

Lodging rank: 64

Dining and drinking rank: 128

Having fun rank: 21

Staying safe rank: 26

Being outside rank: 50

20. Lexington, KY

Lexington, Kentucky
Henryk Sadura /

Overall score: 39.55

Getting around rank: 4

Lodging rank: 56

Dining and drinking rank: 49

Having fun rank: 85

Staying safe rank: 21

Being outside rank: 111


A man studies financial data at his computer
NicoElNino /

We ranked the 200 largest U.S. cities from best (No. 1) to worst (No. 200) based on their overall scores (out of 100 possible points), averaged across the weighted metrics below.

Vaccination rates were collected on June 9. For the most current rates, please see The New York Times’ county and state COVID-19 vaccination tracker. National and state rates also are available from the CDC.

  • Per-Kilometer Taxi Rate
  • Walk Score
  • Bike Score
  • Pedestrian Fatalities per 100,000 Residents
  • Average Hotel Rating
  • Average Daily Airbnb Rate
  • Restaurants per 100,000 Residents
  • Cocktail Bars per 100,000 Residents
  • Lounges per 100,000 Residents
  • Average Cost of Restaurant Meal
  • Average Price of Beer at a Restaurant
  • Average Price of Bottle of Wine
  • Number of Attractions
  • Tours per 100,000 Residents
  • Festivals per 100,000 Residents
  • Water Parks per 100,000 Residents
  • Public Gardens per 100,000 Residents
  • Number of Trails
  • Number of Camping Sites
  • Average Yard Size (in Square Feet)
  • Shopping Centers and Department Stores
  • Music Venues per 100,000 Residents
  • Dance Clubs per 100,000 Residents
  • Vaccination Rate (as of June 9, 2021)
  • Natural Hazards Index
  • Crime Index
  • Average Monthly Summer Temperature
  • Average Monthly Summer Rain (in Inches)
  • Average Monthly Percentage of Summer Sunshine
  • Average Number of Very Hot Days in Summer

Sources: AllTrails, AllTheRooms, American Public Gardens Association, ArbNet, Everfest, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NeighborhoodScout, The New York Times, TripAdvisor, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Walk Score, and Yelp

Why This Study Matters

Couple on vacation
Akhenaton Images /

It’s what many of us anxiously have been waiting for: the chance to travel again — even if our destination hasn’t fully reopened yet.

In New York City, for example, there’s loads to see and do, but most Broadway shows won’t be back until September. Sure, San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge, but its iconic cable cars won’t be moving again until August and won’t return to full service until September.

Even your beach getaway may not be what you expected. Corpus Christi, Texas, like some other beach cities, still requires social distancing while catching rays or building sand castles.

But after months of lockdowns, at least 14 days of quarantine (for some of us), and more than a year of social distancing and working from home, we’re ready to visit our families, eat pizza in our hometowns, and just chillvax on the beach.

Never again will we take for granted “the ability to travel freely,” one of the top three luxuries that U.S. adults missed the most about pre-pandemic life.

Whatever will make you feel alive again, our ranking of the best cities for your summer vaxcation had you in mind. Enjoy your summer of vaccinated freedom — but bring along plenty of masks, as you’ll need them on planes, trains, and cars (Uber, Lyft, and taxis).

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