Sure, motivation is found from within but let’s be real — sometimes you can find it on the outside, too.
Often dressed in a sunny day, an urban trail, or a badass juice bar, cities across the country are proof that the right weather and healthy vibes can trigger a contagious lifestyle. It’s not always about the best gyms and biggest marathons, either. From coast to coast, some cities are making healthy a way of life.
If you’re craving a move to a city that might pull you off your couch or if you’re looking for a sweaty vacation destination, read on! These American cities show us what it means to be active in their own unique way.
San Diego, CA
More affectionately referred to as Sun Diego, it’s not exactly a shock this beachside metropolis made the list. Beautiful babes and toned hunks can be found flipping Frisbees on a Tuesday while surfers slice up the superior swell. The majority of all San Diego activities can be (and should be) done outside, and that is not limited to day drinking — it’s not uncommon for beach-goers to hit roofless bars up and down PB (Pacific Beach) after a game of beach volleyball or flag football. San Diegans have got it figured out. Burn your calories before you drink them! Oh, and do it all outside.
San Luis Obispo, CA
What word best pairs with health? How about happy? San Luis Obispo, or “SLO” as the cool kids say, was found to be the happiest city in America in a study done by Gallup-Healthways. Perhaps it’s the excessive bike paths, coastal hiking, or relentless sunshine that makes this small wonder both happy and healthy. Similar to its California pal, San Diego, the cool kids of SLO take advantage of the blanket of sunlight covering their fun-loving city. During any given outing, you’re likely to dash by cyclists on your way to one of the many vineyards, or bump into a surfer on the sandy shores of Avila Beach. With all the happy people milling about, it’s hard not to smile and sweat in this fit city (often at the same time).
Sunny out? Yoga pants. First snowfall? Yoga pants. Grabbing some coffee at the local brew? Why not throw on some yoga pants? You get the picture. Aspen is swarming with active people (who love a good pair of stretchy pants!). However, there is more to Aspen than just yoga. Bike trails, hiking routes, a million Aspen Mountain shredding activities, and the most photographed placed in the U.S., Maroon Bells, keeps visitors and locals outside all year-round. Even if you opt to wear your pants a little looser (dudes!), you can still appreciate the yogic and outdoor culture that calls Aspen home.
Wheat is healthy, right? This hippie-esque city is as health conscious as it is craft beer-conscious. Two equally awesome yet totally different hobbies. Or are they? It’s not uncommon for Boulder natives to partake in both beer drinking and calorie-burning activities on any given day. The Boulder Ale Trail is 15 miles of gorgeous Colorado plains with 12 of Boulder’s finest microbreweries on the beer-inspired course. Perspire your way to each drinking hole, take in the scenery, and quench your thirst.
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
Twin-innnggg! Or rather, winning, when we are talking health and fitness in the Twin Cities. In the last few years, Minneapolis/St. Paul has dominated the health and wellness scene. With the overload of parks in the area connected by bike paths and farmers markets aplenty, the city’s health-o-mometer is through the roof! What’s more, the area has a low number of smokers and promotes regular blood pressure and heart screenings to locals (the effect shows). The city fully embraces its character through the annual Medtronic’s Twin Cities Marathon which was named the “Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America.” Keep doing your thing, Twin Cities!
Austin: Perfectly weird and wildly healthy. Between the lake water and rolling hills, Austin has become a mecca for both water sports and cycling, and ideal for triathlons and (oftentimes odd) fun runs. For instance, the Keep Austin Weird Fest and 5K is a summer sensation that curves around Lady Bird Lake with participants dressed in their strangest attire. And if you’re tired of non-weird watersports like kayaking and boating, check out surf lessons on a lake or yoga on a paddle board. In downtown Zilker Park, the “strange” inhabitants are often playing volleyball, soccer, or strolling with Fido. In South Austin, locals are exploring (and rock climbing) the caverns. Plus, free rooftop yoga at Whole Foods and Yoga in the Park offer touching moments with your inner Zen in this unusually awesome city. If health is weird, we don’t want to be normal!
Portland’s funkiness is not lost in its fitness. Skating rinks and skate parks dot the city while quirky vegan diners draw in crowds. Portland houses awesome veg options including Black Water Bar, a punk rock-themed vegan joint, and the Living Well Bistro, the first-ever vegan restaurant to be put in a hospital. It’s called clean living. And we haven’t even started talking about Mt. Hood yet! The mountain calls upon locals every winter to slash their way down the snowy hill. With Portlanders out and about in the perfect summertime weather, bike lanes and hiking paths stay packed in the sunshine months. Pick a month, any month, and experience some funky fitness!
No island fever here! The active residents of Oahu’s Honolulu opt to stay put in the city that yanks patrons off their couch and into their natural surroundings. Life is lived in the outdoors in this spiritually hip beauty. Aina, meaning land, is a concept treasured by natives as it suggests the importance of being one with nature. The near perfect climate and the ‘aloha spirit’ sets the stage for beach volleyball, golf, surf, and sandy yoga. The Haiku Stairs, Diamond Head, and nearby tropical forests are a few reasons to lace up those hiking boots and snag your poncho (rain is unpredictable here!). Above water activities not your thing? Hanauma Bay is the perfect wet spot to get your snorkeling on. And you better believe they make a mean poké bowl.
The polls are in! But don’t expect a blue and red controversy when it comes to health in DC, green is the key to success in this fit city. The lush and abundant parks spew greenery throughout the metropolis laying the foundation for a healthful lifestyle. When tourists are bumping into runners on every sidewalk, we’d say that is a good indication DC has got it figured out. And get this! Last year, Mayor Bowser implemented free gym memberships at Department of Parks and Recreation facilities to locals. No need to tally up the votes, it’s obvious DC made the ballot!
San Francisco, CA
Don’t let the fog fool you. This northern California personality is all about being active outside. Known for events such as Bay to Breakers, which melds exercise with partying HARD, SF upholds its reputation for being both fun and fit. Looking for an alcohol-free (and cost-free!) kind of run? The Roadrunners Club meets every Saturday at 745am to stomp the endless hills linking sweet vistas throughout the city. Is it just us or does everyone own a Frisbee and a dog in this city? Frisbee golf and dog parks can be found in nearly every patch of greenery. Bikes compete with cars in the streets and on any given day you can find just as many walkers on the Golden Gate Bridge as you can automobiles. It takes more than a wall of fog to keep San Franciscans still; these people love to move!
Wild horses, cacti, and sunrises illuminating orangey-pink brightness are only a few motives to enjoy the outdoor action in Scottsdale. The sunny weather keeps ASU party-goers out and about, despite the long nights and the often-scorching sun. It’s not uncommon to rise earlier than the sun in the summer months to enjoy the countless activities before that blazing star spoils the fun. For starters, Camelback Mountain is a challenge for the novice hiker and the expert hiker, alike. Not keen on hiking? Mountain Bike at Pinnacle Park Peak at sunset, kayak down Salt River in July, or dash to one of the several healthy restaurants taking up real estate.
Seattle, notorious for limited sunshine, only gets an average of 152 days of rays each year. But don’t be fooled — Seattle is an active person’s playground. For starters, Mount Rainier (known as “The Mountain” by locals) is 14,410 feet of pure dominance, reaching through the clouds and sky. Snag your helmet and road bike and hop on the ferry to Bainbridge Island to cycle your butt around the 33-mile, 2,700-foot-gain beauty — be prepared to capture surreal glimpses of Emerald City skyscrapers from across the water. The summer months in Seattle are known to sprinkle magic in the air, too. Expect boating shenanigans to create wake while hiking fanatics charge up Discovery Park for a good sweat and an even better panorama of Puget Sound.
One of the only southern cities to entice us with fitness, Raleigh extends their Southern hospitality through thick greenery and endless waterways. William B. Umstead State Park is a whopping 5,599 acres of gorgeousness, lending its space to mountain bikers, boaters, and hikers seeking a productive Saturday. Lake Johnson Park also serves to charm our Southern socks off with its endless boating, kayaking, and canoeing. If you’re fixin’ for some Southern-themed vegan food, Fiction Kitchen will keep your diet in check while upholding traditional country cuisine. And it’s a fact: The lengthy list of outdoor activities matched with the clean cuisine are doing the trick — Raleighites are getting healthier by the day.
Hartford, Connecticut is the perfect blend of city lights and leafy greens. In the heart of the urban decor, busy streets smack right into Bushnell Park, providing easy access to professionals on their lunch breaks. Amongst the overload of park acreage, Riverside Park is the Jack-of-all-trades — boating, beach volleyball, and nature trails give a diverse offering to visitors. Hungry for freshness? Farmers markets are a go-to source of grocery shopping among residents. The seven markets spotlight fresh produce from local farmers urging residents to ‘Buy Local, Eat Fresh.’ Good advice, Hartford!
Bostonians, known to indulge in chowders (sorry, chowdahs) and fried fish, are also known to work it off, adding rank to their fitness culture. In more recent years, the Esplanade Association has helped raise over 28 million dollars to improve parks all over the city. What’s more? The association loves its canines! The Esplanade 5K encourages runners to bring a furry date! That’s right — run with pup on the border of Charles River. Speaking of dogs, find your downward dog in Yoga Around Town. This monthly series pops up all over the metropolis urging yogis to hold poses while soaking up stellar views of Boston landmarks. Working up an appetite yet? Farmers markets are a way of life here. Oh, and we heard they have a marathon…