Which cities are best for recreation and living an active lifestyle? If you value exercise and personal health, then finding a city that can offer you a variety of recreational activities should be high on your list of priorities when it comes to choosing a place to live. Cities with lots of parkland, playgrounds and recreation centers can provide you with plenty of options to maintain your particular level of physical activity.
We evaluated the 10 best cities for recreational activities based on these questions:
- Does the city have plenty of recreational options for those with varying skills and interests? We assessed the volume of available options by reporting the number of recreational facilities per 100,000 residents. Recreational facilities include ball diamonds, skateboard parks, basketball hoops, ice-skating rinks, golf courses, swimming pools and tennis courts. Only public facilities were included.
- Does the city have a lot of green space? We included the acres of parkland as a percentage of city area.
- Does the city have recreation options for those of all ages? We included the number of recreation and senior centers per 20,000 residents.
- Does the city have playgrounds? We included the number of playgrounds per 10,000 residents to assess whether there were kid-friendly recreation options in the city.
Best Cities for Recreational Activities
1. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis offers a bounty of recreational opportunities. You can lace up your ice skates and hit the ice at The Depot, an indoor skating rink inside a restored railroad depot. Avid skateboarders can check out the six skate parks in Minneapolis, while golfers can tee up on one of seven courses. There are even disc golf courses for Frisbee fans! Hiking, biking and skiing trails can be found at Fort Snelling State Park, an historic military site. Whether you’re looking to start a fall sports league or go camping for the weekend, Minneapolis has the perfect accommodations. The University of Minnesota runs youth programs for area children, as well.
2. Madison, Wisconsin
Madison has a diverse parks system, with attractions including bay-front beaches, golf courses, pools, botanical gardens and conservation parks. Popular community sports clubs include the Mad-City Ski Team, Mad City Disc Golf, the Madison Curling Club, the Madison Rowing Club and the Madison Ultimate Frisbee Association. For kids, there is the Madison Area Youth Soccer Association and plenty of public playground options. You can take part in outdoor adventures, sports and special fitness programs for different age groups and abilities through the Madison School & Community Recreation department. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Recreational Sports department offers facilities with basketball courts, indoor tracks and gymnasiums. Membership is open to the general public.
3. Saint Paul, Minnesota
Partnered with Minneapolis as half of the Twin Cities, Saint Paul is another great city for recreation in Minnesota. The city has 173 parks, four golf courses and four swimming facilities. Not to mention, dozens of basketball courts, tennis courts, playing fields, fishing sites and city gardens. There are also ice rinks, horseshoe courts and volleyball courts for your use. Saint Paul provides adaptive recreational programs for those with disabilities and mobile recreational options for those who don’t normally have access to facilities. If you’re trying to improve your fitness, you can joint the Saint Paul Getting Fit program, a special “Active Living” fitness membership that offers access to participating recreation center fitness rooms and indoor walking tracks.
4. Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati has recreational options that can help improve your body and mind. Many recreation centers offer a variety of dance classes and activities ranging from martial arts to pottery. If you like sports, you can find leagues for baseball, basketball, football, kickball, softball and volleyball. The city’s Division of Therapeutic Recreation provides programs for individuals with disabilities. Cincinnati has over 100 playgrounds throughout the city, and kids can live their MLB fantasies by participating in the Red Rookie Success League, a free, coed, character-building summer baseball program for 6 – 12 year olds. The University of Cincinnati’s R.E.C. Kids program helps children achieve healthy lifestyles with fun camps during summer vacation and school holidays.
5. Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk has plenty of recreational amenities, like beaches, bike trails, gymnasiums recreation centers and pools. The Norfolk Fitness & Wellness Center is a large complex with indoor and outdoor pools, and courts for tennis, racquetball and basketball. The Center offers classes in Tae Kwon Do, kickboxing, yoga, ballet and Pilates. It also has a Fit Kid Zone, which offers children ages 5 – 14 the chance to learn about fitness equipment and techniques. Norfolk has a huge range of parks to enjoy: festival parks, recreational areas, community parks, dog parks, skate parks and neighborhood parks can all be found in the city. There are also various youth and adult sports leagues available year-round.
6. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The award-winning Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge maintains 184 parks in the Parish of East Baton Rouge. You can find activities for individuals and families, like canoeing, kayaking, fishing and hiking. You can visit botanic gardens, the Farr Park Equestrian Center, the Blackwater Conservation Area and the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center. If you like sports, there are leagues to accommodate just about any interest, like Australian-rules football , rugby and flag football. Daredevils can show off at the BMX track, Skate Park and rock climbing tower. The Commission’s Adult Leisure Department has 17 centers for adults and seniors to participate in a variety of exercise and arts activities.
7. Anchorage/Anchorage Borough, Alaska
Anchorage/Anchorage Borough’s city area is 40% parkland, which makes it easy for residents to spend time in nature. The Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department maintains 223 parks, 110 athletic fields, five pools, eleven recreation facilities and 250 miles of trails and greenbelts. Anchorage has two Municipal beaches, which allow for swimming, floating and rowing. Popular community sports include kickball, skate skiing and cross-country skiing, and canine Frisbee! Outdoor activities run the gamut from horseback riding to biking, rafting and hunting. Chugach State Park lies within the boundaries of Anchorage and offers opportunities for glacier sightseeing and wildlife viewing.
8. Washington, D.C.
D.C.’s Department of Parks and Recreation has facilities that meet the needs of every resident: playgrounds, gymnasiums, fitness centers, community gardens, athletic fields, pools, tennis courts and senior service centers. There are urban camping programs for kids and teens, and each year the department holds the Annual DC Senior Games, a 15-event athletic competition for seniors. If your family enjoys the outdoors, they can take part in the Outdoor Explorer Family Adventures and explore the natural areas around the city. The city’s numerous athletic fields support adult basketball, flag football, kickball and softball, while kids can take part in a variety of other sports, as well.
9. Irvine, California
Irvine offers residents access to trails in the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, Bommer Canyon, Turtle Rock Nature Center and acres of open space. You can find aquatics centers, athletic fields, neighborhood and community parks, skate parks and tennis courts. The city has adult sports leagues for basketball, softball and soccer, and many youth sports options. The city provides an array of summer camps for children and UC Irvine’s Campus Recreation offers Anteater Recreation Summer Camps and weekend activities for local kids. Your dog can get some exercise on the nearly three acres of field at Central Bark.
10. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Citiparks, the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Parks and Recreation, keeps the community active. The BIG League Sports program is a combined effort by Citiparks, Pirates Charities and the Pittsburgh Penguins to provide city youth with team sports leagues. There are several community footraces throughout the year, for both beginners and experts. The city has community recreation centers, cycling tracks, skate parks, pools and a bowling green! Adults can join the Pittsburgh Sports League, an adult sports league run through a nonprofit, the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project. Seniors can stay active with a variety of physical and mental activities available at the 14 senior community centers in the city.
|Rank||City||Number of recreation facilities per 100,000 residents||Acres of parkland as percentage of city area||Recreation and senior centers per 20,000 residents||Playgrounds per 10,000 residents||Overall score|
|3||St. Paul, MN||212.8||13.40%||1.9||2.8||47.7|
|6||Baton Rouge, LA||121.4||3.00%||3||3.1||44.9|
|7||Anchorage/Anchorage Borough, AK||83.1||39.90%||0.3||2.9||43.2|
Data was obtained from the Trust for Public Land. 95 cities were included in this analysis.