three Arizona cities amongst Prime 20 for outside lovers


Outdoor activities can add up quickly when you factor in gear, gear, and clothing. For example, an average bike costs over $300, with some bikes costing thousands of dollars depending on make and model. Likewise, skiing is a particularly expensive outdoor activity, with most annual ski passes costing nearly $1,000. Other outdoor activities like hiking are more affordable for outdoor enthusiasts. An annual US National Parks Pass is only $80.

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Given these costs, participation in outdoor activities not only depends on easy access to outdoor recreation areas, but also on disposable income. In this study, we identified the best spots for outdoor enthusiasts, considering livability, occupation, and access to the outdoors. We found Scottsdale (#4). Phoenix (#12) and Tucson (#17) all rank among the top 20 cities in the US for outdoor enthusiasts.

This is SmartAsset’s third study of the best places to live and work for outdoor enthusiasts. View the previous version here.

Important Findings

Access to parklands is a hallmark of the top 10 cities. On average, parklands make up 24% of cities in the top 10. This compares to just 7% in the bottom 10 cities. The cities with the highest percentage of parklands are Anchorage, Alaska (84%), Fremont, California (49%), and Chesapeake, Virginia (41%).

Median income in nine of the top 10 cities increased by more than 14% over five years. Among the top 10 cities, Tampa, Florida has the largest five-year change at 25%. Of all 96 cities we look at, another Florida city (Miami, ranked 19th) has the largest five-year change in income at 48%.

Cities in Florida and Virginia dominate the top 10. Three Florida cities (St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Orlando) rank in the top 6, while three Virginia cities (Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Arlington) round out the top 10 over a five-year period. Cities in Virginia also do well because of their low unemployment rate and high air quality.

1. St. Petersburg, FL

For the second year in a row, St. Petersburg, Florida takes the top spot. This city ranks in the top 15 cities in four metrics. It has the 5th lowest unemployment rate as of March 2022 (2.4%), 13th best air quality (with an average daily particulate matter or PM2.5 of 7.5), and 14th highest percentage of parklands (17.64%). In addition, Florida has the third largest outdoor recreation economy after Hawaii and California.

2.Madison, WI

Madison, Wisconsin retains its place as the second best place for outdoor enthusiasts to live and work this year. In terms of employment, Madison has the third lowest unemployment rate as of March 2022 (2.3%). Just over a tenth of commuters come to work by bike or on foot (fourth best). And for individuals looking to maximize their time in nature, Madison boasts the 10th highest concentration of nature parks and campgrounds (1.47 per 100,000 residents).

3. Anchorage, AK

Anchorage, Alaska’s outdoor recreation access is unsurpassed when compared to the other 95 cities in this study. Anchorage ranks first in terms of how much of the city is designated as parkland (84.17%, which is more than 30% more than any other city) and how many nature parks and campgrounds (nearly 5 per 100,000 people ) available. Alaska also has the second-largest state outdoor recreation economy (with revenue from outdoor recreation businesses accounting for 3.2% of its economy) and the second-highest state and national park coverage (9.10%).

4.Scottsdale, Arizona

This city of around 255,000 people is made up of almost 27% parkland, which ranks sixth. For outdoor enthusiasts looking for a more stable employment climate, Scottsdale, Arizona is one of the cities with a lower unemployment rate. In fact, as of March 2022, the unemployment rate is 2.4%, which is the fifth lowest among the cities in our study. Paying a down payment on a house in the city is also easier than most. We found their deposits to revenue ratio to be the third best at 0.34.

5. Tampa, FL

Tampa, Florida, performs best on employment-related metrics, boasting the 12th lowest unemployment rate as of March 2022 (2.5%) and the 19th highest five-year change in median household income (25.21%). In addition, state and national parks cover approximately 6.63% of Florida, the sixth highest ratio of any 50 states.

6. Orlando, FL

Although Orlando, Florida is known for its many theme parks, it’s also a great option for outdoor enthusiasts to live and work in. The March 2022 unemployment rate (2.5%) ranks twelfth in Tampa, FL, and median household income increased 23.17% from 2015-2020. In addition, Orlando air quality remains at safe levels. Orlando’s average daily particulate matter level is 5.4, which is the second lowest of any city analyzed in this study.

7. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota has the third-lowest unemployment rate as of March 2022 (2.3%). In this city, just over a tenth of commuters walk or bike to work, which ranks ninth best. For recreation, Minneapolis has the 20th highest percentage of parklands (which make up almost 15% of the city). At the state level, outdoor recreation accounts for 2.2% of the economy (ranking fifth out of all 50 states).

8. Virginia Beach, Virginia

About 16% of Virginia Beach, Virginia is designated as parkland, which is the 16th highest rate of any of the 96 cities we tracked. There are also four nature parks and campgrounds in this city, or a rate of 0.89 per 100,000 residents. In addition, Virginia Beach’s air quality is high, as the average daily particulate matter pollution is 6.7 (ranked 8th best).

9. Chesapeake, Virginia

The second Virginia city in the top 10 is Chesapeake. Almost 41% of the city is parkland, which is the third highest value for this metric. The city offers three nature parks and one campsite (which equates to approximately 1.24 per 100,000 inhabitants, which ranks 14th highest). Finally, Chesapeake ranks in the top 25 cities for two metrics we track, quality of life and employment (deposits-to-earnings ratio at 0.70 and unemployment rate at 2.7% as of March 2022).

10. Arlington, Va

Arlington, Virginia rounds out our list of the top 10 cities for outdoor enthusiasts. For those in the home buying market, the down payment to income ratio in our study is best at 0.30. Arlington also has the lowest unemployment rate as of March 2022 (2.0%), and commuters who walk or bike to work make up 6.5% of the workforce.