Best & Worst Cities for Recreation
Kick off your Sunday shoes and put on some sneakers. It’s time to get moving, folks. Whether your favorite pastime is playing ball, exploring museums or hitting the local nightlife, everyone has a reason to celebrate, as July is National Park and Recreation Month.
Speaking of parks and recreation, public facilities aren’t just for the physically active. They provide immense support to the overall well-being of a city, including the health of its community, environment and economy. Unsurprisingly, Americans’ fondness for the outdoors is evident in the amount of greenbacks they invest on green space. In 2013, the most populous U.S. cities combined spent more than $6.2 billion on parks and recreation.
And the return on their investment will be notably positive. Neighborhood parks historically have been instrumental in building community cohesion, boosting property values, improving public health and reducing pollution. Take Washington, D.C., for instance, where close proximity to parks increased property values by five percent, or $1.2 billion, in 2006. As another example, consider health care spending in Sacramento, Calif. In 2007 alone, the various park facilities that allow the city's residents to engage in physical activity contributed to an estimated savings of nearly $20 million in health care costs. The 100 largest cities in the United States perpetuated the trend, installing more than 120 new parks four years later.
In an effort to educate Americans on the value of an active lifestyle and the importance of public open spaces in their communities and finances, WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities and highlighted those with the most diverse opportunities for recreation, sports and culture. We did so using 24 key metrics that examine each city’s finances, parks quality, entertainment and recreation facilities as well as its weather and environmental conditions. To learn how we ranked each city, check out the Methodology section at the end of this article.
|Overall Rank||City||Financial Rank||Park’s Quality Rank||Entertainment & Recreational Facilities Rank||Weather Conditions Rank|
|6||St. Petersburg, FL||32||10||17||40|
|7||St. Louis, MO||18||23||9||94|
|8||Boise City, ID||6||34||37||26|
|12||Baton Rouge, LA||3||56||29||54|
|16||St. Paul, MN||44||21||12||68|
|19||New Orleans, LA||37||17||23||53|
|23||Kansas City, MO||33||31||30||44|
|31||Colorado Springs, CO||25||19||54||42|
|34||San Diego, CA||76||12||34||34|
|36||Virginia Beach, VA||62||6||31||90|
|41||San Francisco, CA||91||40||27||49|
|46||Las Vegas, NV||42||92||41||18|
|51||Fort Wayne, IN||2||74||73||96|
|54||Oklahoma City, OK||17||69||76||35|
|58||Long Beach, CA||86||60||55||12|
|68||El Paso, TX||34||28||97||25|
|72||North Las Vegas, NV||68||96||62||5|
|73||Fort Worth, TX||38||43||94||32|
|76||Corpus Christi, TX||60||62||68||65|
|78||San Bernardino, CA||47||82||90||8|
|81||Los Angeles, CA||90||77||79||7|
|87||San Jose, CA||97||33||91||23|
|88||Santa Ana, CA||96||95||70||21|
|89||Gilbert Town, AZ||49||99||89||14|
|90||New York, NY||98||35||82||55|
|93||San Antonio, TX||75||75||87||73|
|95||Jersey City, NJ||77||91||86||55|
|98||Chula Vista, CA||99||79||84||29|
As many cities have proven, parks yield many positive effects on the well-being of a community, its government and its economy. But some areas may not be realizing such potential in their own neighborhood parks. We consulted a panel of experts in related fields to learn how local authorities can improve facilities and services for their residents and duplicate the success of the cities with the best park systems.
Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and responses to key questions below. You also can click on the left and right arrows to view the comments in the order that the experts appear.
1. How can a city improve its parks and recreational facilities without overspending?
2. When it comes to public parks and recreational facilities, what is the biggest mistake local authorities can do?
3. Do you believe it is a good idea for local authorities to subsidize recreational activities for certain groups of the population (e.g. elderly or children)?
4. Do you believe that there is a direct link between the size of a park and the benefits it provides to the local community? Do you believe the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted for parks is still valid today – “long spaces that you could dream away in”?
In an effort to educate Americans on the value of an active lifestyle and the importance of public open spaces in their communities and finances, WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities and identified the ones that offer the most diverse opportunities for recreation, sports and culture. We looked into 24 essential metrics such as spending on parks per resident, number of attractions, parkland acres per capita and weather conditions to help us measure the quality of each city’s offerings.
The metrics as well as the corresponding weights we used to construct our overall rankings can be found below. The four categories under which the metrics are listed were used for organizational purposes only and did not factor in to our overall rankings.
- Spending on Parks per Capita: 0.5
- Movie Costs: 1
- Bowling Costs: 1
- Beauty Salon Costs: 1
- Average Drinks Price (Beer& Wine): 1
- Average Food Price (Pizza & Burgers): 1
- Prevalence of Affordable 4.5+ Star Restaurants: 1
- Percent of Population with Walkable Park Access: 1
- Percent of Designed Parkland Areas: 1
- Presence on Tripadvisor’s Top 25 Parks List: 0.5
- Park Playgrounds per Capita: 1
- Parkland as % of City Area: 1
- Acres of Parkland per Capita: 1
Entertainment & Recreational Facilities
- Music Venues per Capita: 1
- Coffee & Tea Shops per Capita: 1
- Number of Public Beaches per Capita: 0.5
- Tennis Courts per Capita: 1
- Public Golf Courses per Capita: 1
- Swimming Pools per Capita: 1
- Ball Diamonds per Capita: 1
- Basketball Hoops per Capita: 1
- Bike Rental Facilities per Capita: 1
- Number of Attractions per Capita: 1
- Cities with the Best & Worst Weather Ranking: 2
Source: Data used to create these rankings is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, the Council for Community and Economic Research, the Trust For Public Land, Yelp.com, Tripadvisor and WalletHub Research.