The 12 Best U.S. Cities for Outdoor Adventures (2023)

When some people think of travel, the first thing that comes to mind is the bar and restaurant scene. For others, it's premier museums and iconic art. But other travelers prefer to see the great outdoors, filling their days with challenging hikes, scenic vistas, rugged terrains, and opportunities to climb, swim, and explore. If that last one sounds like you, you're in luck, as we spoke with travel experts to learn which cities they recommend for those looking to get outside. These hotspots have a ton to see, from touring national parks to lounging on beautiful beaches to kayaking across tranquil lakes—and some spots on this list may even surprise you. Read on to find out which 12 U.S. cities you can visit for unforgettable outdoor adventures.

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Johnson City, Tennessee

The 12 Best U.S. Cities for Outdoor Adventures (1)

Nashville may be famous for its country music and rowdy bars, but adventurers will want to check out Johnson City in northeast Tennessee instead.

"While many cities boast that they have outdoor adventure opportunities, you often have to drive 30 minutes to an hour from the city to enjoy them. When visiting Johnson City, you can literally be at a trailhead to hike in 10 minutes from downtown,"Anna Cook, travel blogger and founder of Stuck On The Go, tells Best Life. "You can be at one of the best mountain biking parks in the area in five minutes. Outdoor adventure opportunities are at your fingertips in Johnson City."

You can also mountain bike at Tannery Nob or try your hand at whitewater rafting on the Nolichucky River. As for hiking, Cook recommends checking out Buffalo Mountain, Beauty Spot, or Roan Mountain.

"This is just a sampling of the outdoor adventure opportunities in northeast Tennessee!" Cook says.

Book your trip between late spring and early fall to ensure you have warm weather, but if fall foliage is your thing, you can wait until peak leaf-peeping season to visit Johnson City.

"Spring and summer will bring beautiful wildflowers and summer will be the most popular time for rafting," Cook explains. "You can't beat the stunning fall foliage of the Blue Ridge Mountains though."


New York, New York

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We know what you're thinking—the Big Apple is a spot for skyscrapers, and it's probably not what comes to mind when you hear "the great outdoors."

But according to travel expertBecca Siegel, from, one New York City borough is a haven for adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike.

"You might be surprised that Brooklyn, New York, is one of the best spots in the U.S. for outdoor adventures," Siegel says. "In Brooklyn, you'll find the City of New York's largest 'forest,' which is the Ravine, in Prospect Park (designed by the makers of Manhattan's Central Park)."

She notes that an "urban hike" through Prospect Park will have no shortage of wildlife sightings, including birds and other small critters. Even better, the "buzz of the city melts away when you hear a waterfall and look up at tall deciduous trees."

There's also plenty of waterfronts to take in the view, Siegel says. You can explore Brooklyn Bridge Park "with its winding paths and city views" or head south to Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach "where locals like to take the subway and have a day in the sun."

Siegel suggests taking a trip to see all Brooklyn has to offer between May and October. However, if you can visit during spooky season, you won't be disappointed.

"At the end of October, you can enjoy fall foliage throughout the leafy neighborhoods like Fort Greene and Park Slope," Siegel says.

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Seattle, Washington

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You might know Seattle as a hub for coffee aficionados, but this city is ripe with outdoor beauty that's ready for exploration year-round. Seattle is even nicknamed "the Emerald City" due to its lush green surroundings, including mountains, lakes, and some of the state's most amazing hikes.

"There's mountaineering on the big volcanoes (Rainier and Baker), world-class rock climbing in the Cascades, downhill skiing 45 minutes from downtown, and cross-country skiing a few hours from the city," says travel guru Scott Kubly, founder of Cabana, a modern mobile hospitality company.

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Sedona, Arizona

The 12 Best U.S. Cities for Outdoor Adventures (4)

Referred to as Red Rock Country, Sedona offers a never-ending supply of breathtaking views, happy hiking, and opportunities for outdoor escapades.

"Sedona is a city unlike any other and a magical destination perfect for adventure seekers," says Naveen Dittakavi, founder and CEO of Next Vacay. "It's surrounded by surreal red rock formations, steep canyon walls, and pine forests. Aside from its natural beauty, there are plenty of outdoor activities you can enjoy."

Visit the Verde Canyon Railroad, drive the scenic routes, go on a Pink Jeep tour, or book a helicopter ride for aerial views. Some of the best hikes are Devil's Bridge Trail, Cathedral Rock, and Bell Rock, where you'll take in some truly jaw-dropping views, according to Dittakavi.

"Catching the sunset from one of these incredible spots and stargazing at night in Sedona are two unforgettable experiences to add to your bucket list," Dittakavi says.

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Los Angeles, California

The 12 Best U.S. Cities for Outdoor Adventures (5)

The desert is certainly rich in beauty, but sometimes, the water calls your name. Enter Los Angeles, an excellent basecamp for outdoor explorers who want to travel up and down the center of California's coast.

"Los Angeles pretty much has it all. You have amazing food all over the city, beaches in town and all the way up and down the coast, wineries with delicious sips and incredible views, and killer slopes for skiers and snowboarders only two hours away," says Kubly. "Hike up the fire trails to Griffith Observatory for stunning views of the city, or join the famous rollerskating scene at Venice Beach."

If you're up for a drive, Kubly recommends renting a convertible or Jeep and driving the Pacific Coast Highway 1 from Los Angeles to Malibu. You'll get sights on sights for the whole ride—not to mention delicious food on both ends of the trek!

There's also plenty of natural beauty to admire heading away from the coast, such as Joshua Tree, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and the Mojave Desert.


South Lake Tahoe, California

The 12 Best U.S. Cities for Outdoor Adventures (6)

South Lake Tahoe is another great spot in California—and it's a gorgeous three-hour drive to get there from San Francisco. As a bonus, this city is beautiful any time of the year.

"During the winter months, South Lake Tahoe's powdery mountains are huge attractions for snowboarders and skiers," says Heath Hammett, CEO of rental search platform VacationRenter. "In summer, the clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe are the perfect setting for kayaking, paddle boarding, and other aquatic activities."

South Lake Tahoe is also near a handful of nature parks, such as Emerald Bay State Park and El Dorado National Forest, both of which offer countless hiking trails and camping grounds.

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Moab, Utah

The 12 Best U.S. Cities for Outdoor Adventures (7)

There's no doubt about it: A visit to Moab will make you feel like you're in a theme park for outdoor lovers.

"Unquestionably, one of the top cities for outdoor adventure in the United States is Moab, Utah,"Taylor Beal, owner and author of the travel blog Traverse With Taylor, tells Best Life. "Moab is a smaller town that, overtime, has grown significantly due to its proximity to Arches National Park. There is a massive amount of things to do outdoors in the area, and Utah's natural beauty truly shines through."

Arches is exceedingly popular, and that's for good reason, according to Beal.

"It's one of the most premier parks in the nation, and the wow factors here are incredible," she explains. "The most popular hike, Delicate Arch, will reward travelers with the view that is commonly seen on the Utah license plate. You can even hike down into the middle of the arch for an amazing photo op."

If you're visiting Moab with kids who aren'tup for a more taxing hike (but still want to be outside), Beal says that you should check out the Sound and Light river boat tour and show.

"This unforgettable experience will take you and your family onto the waters of the Colorado River and into Utah's canyons as a light show complete with music plays on the walls around you," Beal gushes.

As far as the ideal time to visit, Beal says that spring is your best bet, as opposed to summer.

"You do not want to go to Moab in the summer! Seriously, avoid it at all costs. It is massively crowded, and boy, does it get hot!" Beal warns. "Travel, instead, during the spring. The temperatures are perfect for hiking, and you'll get a more local feel from Moab. Plus, you won't have to wait in (very long) lines on the one-lane roads to get in and out of the town and the park!"


Fort Collins, Colorado

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Fort Collins is located about an hour from Colorado's capital in Denver—and it's a destination where adventurers will feel right at home.

"Fort Collins is abundant with national parks, forests, and mountain ranges, making it an outdoors enthusiast's dream," says Hammett. "If you visit Fort Collins, be sure to [check out] Roosevelt National Forest. Vibrant with lush greenery and mountainous scenery, the national forest is the perfect place to rock climb, hike, [or try] horseback riding."

The Cacha la Poudre River is also a great spot for white-water rafting, swimming, and outdoor picnicking. Hammett says it's not too far from Horsetooth Falls, which offers an unforgettable panoramic view of Fort Collins once you reach its peak.

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St. Petersburg, Florida

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St. Petersburg set the record for the longest number of consecutive sunshine days in the world, which means its "Sunshine City" nickname is well deserved. The year-round glorious weather makes planning a visit easy, and once you're there, the adventure doesn't stop.

"St. Petersburg is a postcard-perfect seaside destination with 35 miles of stunning white sand beaches," notes Dittakavi. "You'll be surrounded by wildlife and have access to the most exhilarating outdoor activities, from hiking and windsurfing to kayaking and parasailing."

Dittavaki says you shouldn't miss your chance to visit St. Pete Beach, which TripAdvisor named the number one beach in the U.S. and number five in the world in 2021. Known for its gorgeous views of the Gulf of Mexico, this beach destination offers visitors plenty of thrilling water sports activities.

Also, check out Shell Key Preserve (clear kayak recommended), drop by the secluded Caladesi Island State Park, or go snorkeling over the ruins of Fort Dade located off the coast of Egmont Keys.


Bend, Oregon

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Want to do it all? Get yourself to Bend, Oregon.

"Travelers flock to Bend to visit Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which is made up of 54,000 acres of volcanic land, remnants of an explosion that occurred over 1,000 years ago," says Hammett. "Bend is also home to Smith Rock State Park, where many come to hike, bike, horseback ride, and camp. This park is best known for its various rock climbing routes—the most famous being the Monkey Face spire."

He adds that the Deschutes River is located just a few miles away from Smith Rock and is the perfect spot for anyone who wants to fish, kayak, canoe, or go whitewater rafting.

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Duluth, Minnesota

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Minnesota has been dubbed the land of 10,000 lakes, and believe it or not, that's an understatement. The state actually boasts over 14,000 lakes and is also home to 66 state parks. Located about two hours north of the Twin Cities, Duluth will put you near a hearty supply of satisfying outdoor exploration.

One of the biggest draws is Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which is located in Ely. Stretching over 150 miles across the U.S. and Canada border, it's comprised of over one million acres of unspoiled natural beauty. Duluth is also near Voyageurs National Park, George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, Cloquet Valley, and Sax-Zim Bog (a birder's paradise).

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Austin, Texas

The 12 Best U.S. Cities for Outdoor Adventures (12)

For the best of many worlds, head to Austin, Texas where you can enjoy delicious dining, great music, the arts, and plenty of open-air activities. Nearby Hill Country and West Texas beckon visitors with their scenic landscapes and outdoor activities, including swimming holes, tubing rivers, and natural springs.

"Check out Hamilton Pool Preserve or Jacob's Well," Kubly suggests. "And if you feel like driving out to West Texas, stop by Fredericksburg and Enchanted Rock, then keep going out to Balmorhea Pool and the Davis Mountains for hikes, swims, and endless picturesque views."


The 12 Best U.S. Cities for Outdoor Adventures? ›

Seattle | Washington

Encased by forests, mountains, and sea, there are few major cities in America that have it as good as Seattle when it comes to outdoor adventure.

What US city has the most outdoor activities? ›

Seattle | Washington

Encased by forests, mountains, and sea, there are few major cities in America that have it as good as Seattle when it comes to outdoor adventure.

What is the outdoor recreation capital of the US? ›

El Paso: Outdoor Recreation Capital of the U.S.

What state offers the best outdoor recreation? ›

According to our research, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, and Colorado are the most outdoor-friendly states with the best environments and opportunities for outdoor recreational employment and fun.

Is Boston an outdoorsy city? ›

Boston is a four season city, with all sorts of wonderful things to do outdoors. This list of popular outdoor activities in Boston include both urban and suburban venues, like parks, playgrounds, walking trails, water activities and more.

What is the #1 city in the US travel and leisure? ›

We are thrilled to share that Charleston, South Carolina has been voted the No. 1 City in the World and No. 1 City in the U.S. and Canada in the Travel + Leisure 2016 World's Best Awards. For the very first time, readers of Travel + Leisure have voted Charleston the No.

What is the #1 tourist city in the US? ›

With an estimated 10 million visitors to New York City every year, this is indisputably the most visited city in the US.

Which US city has the most parks? ›

About 24% of land in Washington, D.C. is reserved for parks, among the highest in the U.S, the report says. In fact, the the nation's capital lead all cities in terms of park access and park equity.

What city is known as the adventure capital of the world? ›

Queenstown New Zealand - The Adventure Capital of the World.

What state has the most recreation? ›

California has the most state parks in the country, with 270. There are a total of 3,729 state parks in the United States, with 11 states having more than 100 state parks each.

What state has the most fun activities? ›

California tops the list of most fun states. That's no surprise given that WalletHub says it has the most movie theaters and restaurants per capita. Rounding out the top five are Florida, New York, Washington and Colorado, in that order. According to the ranking, West Virginia is the least fun state in the union.

What state is best for fun? ›

Top 10 most fun states in America:
  • California.
  • Florida.
  • Nevada.
  • New York.
  • Illinois.
  • Colorado.
  • Washington.
  • Texas.
Oct 3, 2022

Is Boston considered a world class city? ›

Boston came in at No. 36 in this year's 2023 World's Best Cities Report, a comprehensive annual study by Resonance Consultancy.

Is Vermont outdoorsy? ›

Vermont takes its outdoor pursuits very seriously! We've got hiking trails and biking trails, lakes and rivers for paddling, swimming, and fishing, and a whole mountain range to explore. Whether you're looking for a stroll through the woods, a magical sunset, or a backcountry escapade, Vermont will deliver.

What is the most remote town in Massachusetts? ›

Mount Washington is a town in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Mount Washington, Massachusetts
Location in Berkshire County and the state of Massachusetts.
Coordinates: 42°05′00″N 73°27′00″W
CountryUnited States
25 more rows

Which is the beautiful city in USA? ›

1. Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is by far one of the most beautiful cities in the US. Pastel-painted houses line the cobblestone streets, while colossal oak trees with Spanish moss set the scene.

What is the most livable city in the US? ›

These are the most livable US cities in 2023, study finds
PlaceMetro area2023 ranking
CambridgeBoston Area1
ArlingtonWashington, D.C. Area2
The WoodlandsHouston Area3
NapervilleChicago Area4
15 more rows
Mar 25, 2023

What is the ranking most fun cities in America? ›

Top 20 most fun cities in the U.S.
  • Las Vegas, NV.
  • Orlando, FL.
  • Miami, FL.
  • Atlanta, GA.
  • New Orleans, LA.
  • San Francisco, CA.
  • Austin, TX.
  • Honolulu, HI.
Dec 16, 2022

What city has the most attractions? ›

Overall, New York, USA is ranked the best city in the world for its combination of paid and free tourist attractions, followed by London, UK, and Tokyo, Japan, based on 28 separate attraction data points.

What are the top five most visited cities in the US? ›

In order to accurately reveal each city's tourism potential, the tourism statistics of 2019 (before the pandemic) have been used for this list.
  1. 1 Orlando, Florida.
  2. 2 New York City, New York. ...
  3. 3 Chicago, Illinois. ...
  4. 4 Los Angeles, California. ...
  5. 5 Seattle, Washington. ...
  6. 6 Las Vegas, Nevada. ...
  7. 7 Denver, Colorado. ...
  8. 8 Miami, Florida. ...
Apr 4, 2023

What is the #1 park in the US? ›

The #1 rated national park in America is Olympic National Park in Washington.

What is America's most visited park? ›

Great Smoky Mountains remains America's most visited national park by a long shot. Nearly 13 million people visited the park straddling North Carolina and Tennessee last year, according to newly released National Park Service numbers.

Which state has the most theme parks? ›

CALIFORNIA – With over 30 to choose from, you'll find more theme parks in California than in any other state. Since the Santa Claus theme park opened in Indiana in 1946, Americans have had a love affair with roller coasters and themed rides and are willing to pay for them.

What is the city of fun and adventure? ›

Legazpi City's claim to fame is the Mount Mayon, a perfectly symmetrical volcano and also the most active one in the Philippines. However, Mount Mayon is just one of the many reasons why tourists flock the city. The City of Fun and Adventure, Legazpi City is located in the province of Albay in the Bicol Region.

What is the most adventurous place in the world? ›

Atacama Desert, Chile

For an out-of-this-world adventure, look no further than the Atacama Desert in western Chile. With jagged ravines, billowing geysers and arid salt flats, there's an extra-terrestrial quality to its landscapes that NASA once harnessed to field test Martian rovers.

What is a city adventure? ›

City Adventure is an intuitive build-it-yourself asset containing all elements necessary to create modular town-related games with pedestrians & traffic AI system. All that packed into one project that comes with example scenes, blueprints & effects.

What is the least fun state to live in? ›

According to WalletHub, West Virginia is the least fun state in America. It bombed in a number of categories. West Virginia tied for 49th with the lowest personal expenditures on recreation services per capita. It tied for 44th in the lowest variety of arts, entertainment and recreational establishments.

What 5 states have no national parks? ›

In fact, 20 states don't have any national parks at all. These include Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Where is it most fun to live? ›

Las Vegas

Vegas is all about having fun, so it's no surprise it takes the top spot, and ranks No. 1 for nightlife and parties. The city also ties with San Francisco for the most dance clubs and most restaurants per capita. It's in the top five for most festivals per capita, too.

What is the messiest state? ›

Grossest States
2South Carolina
3North Carolina
46 more rows
Aug 11, 2022

What is the most unique state in the US? ›

According to the data from the State Similarity Index, Hawaii is the most unique state in the country. No other states are especially similar to it. In fact, for the majority of states, Hawaii is their least similar state. This is no surprise, since the distance between Hawaii and the other states is vast.

What US state has the happiest residents? ›

WalletHub this week released its "Happiest States in America" list for 2022, ranking Hawaii as No. 1.

What is the most relaxing state? ›

Here are the 10 least stressed states based on the analysis:
  • Utah.
  • Minnesota.
  • South Dakota.
  • Wisconsin.
  • New Hampshire.
  • Hawaii.
  • North Dakota.
  • Massachusetts.
Mar 28, 2022

Which US state has the most beautiful nature? ›

Home to nine national parks (more parks than any other state in the country), California is undoubtedly the most beautiful state in America for natural wonders. From sandy beaches drenched in sunlight to majestic granite mountains, arid desert landscapes and the tallest trees in the world, California has it all.

What is the most forgotten US state? ›

The results from Sporcle's “US States Quiz” make it clear that Missouri is the most forgotten state. The quiz has been attempted by players more than 19 million times, and Missouri is the state the lowest percent of people guess correctly.

What is the most difficult state to live in? ›

U.S. & World News ranks Louisiana the worst state in the nation, as it has every year since 2017.

What is Boston famous for? ›

Boston is best known for its famous baked beans, Fenway Park, The Boston Marathon, and of course for the bar from Cheers, but dig a little deeper below the surface and you'll find a surprising wealth of things that make Boston one of the best cities in America—and the world.

What is the nickname of Boston? ›

If you've bean around Boston for a while, you might be familiar with Boston's best-known nickname. That's right, today we're talking all things Beantown.

Which city is bigger Boston or Atlanta? ›

Metro Atlanta now has a population of about 5.7 million, compared to 4.8 million for the Boston region – a lead that continues to grow.

Why do people vacation in Vermont? ›

Visitors love Vermont for its colorful fall foliage; ski mountains like Killington, Manchester, Stowe, and Mount Snow; mountain vistas; and attractions for families and kids. Although Vermont is an inland state, it has beaches and water sports at the Lake Champlain, along with many lakes, streams, and swimming holes.

Is Maine an outdoorsy state? ›

The numbers show Maine is one of the top five states in the country when it comes to the value of outdoor recreation in the state's total gross domestic product.

What is the most walkable city in Vermont? ›

The heart of Vermont's communities, walkable town centers are steeped in history with cultural attractions, space for social gatherings and memorable shopping and dining experiences. If you're looking for an unforgettable downtown experience, look no further than Newport, Winooski and Waterbury.

Which US city has the most tourist attractions? ›

The city of San Francisco, California, has long been a favorite destination for travelers. San Francisco is among the most visited cities in the US, with more than 20 million local and international visitors yearly.

What city has the most fun things to do? ›

Most Fun Cities in America
Overall Rank*CityTotal Score
1Las Vegas, NV73.95
2Orlando, FL63.90
3Miami, FL55.60
4Atlanta, GA53.59
61 more rows
Dec 7, 2022


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