The Top 25 U.S. Cities for Fit Millennials
Last Updated: May 05, 2016
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Using a specially devised formula, LIVESTRONG.COM ranked the U.S. cities that are luring the most smoothie-drinking, SoulCycle-ing millennials. These wired-in, tech-friendly cities offer access to fitness classes, bike trails and other outdoor fitness options as well as all-around happiness. And fit twentysomethings are taking note! Our formula to determine the fittest cities for millennials utilizes a number of key metrics including the American College of Sports Medicine American Fitness Index (AFI) ranking, the Best Cities for Millennials list and the Gallup polls for the happiest and healthiest cities. Bonus points were given to cities that were home to boutique fitness studios like SoulCycle or Pure Barre as well as healthy fast food options, such as Lyfe Kitchen and Tender Greens.
What makes this city so enticing? With its walkability and an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, Aurora scores well for millennials gasping for fresh air. Plentiful outdoor parks include the Cherry Creek State Park (pictured above), with lakeside biking and running trails and even a model airfield for remote-controlled aircraft. The Aurora Reservoir also provides fishing, sailing, boating, windsurfing and an eight-mile trail for running and biking. Another green space, Expo Park has outdoor disc golf, tennis courts and walking paths. Take paddleboard yoga classes before shopping the various boutiques of downtown, or head to one of the breweries before enjoying cowboy-size meal portions, square-dancing lessons or a ride atop the mechanical bull at Stampede.
Does it surprise you that Pittsburgh scored very well as a bike-friendly destination? Indeed, you can ride your fixed-gear bike along the miles of riverfront trails winding alongside the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. Nextbike offers the Healthy Ride program, a convenient membership bike-rental program with several locations throughout the city. Take a post-work ride to Point State Park; it’s a gorgeous spot to take in the sunset. But Pittsburgh has loads of other outdoor green spaces and hikes to enjoy. Emerald View Park has landscaped trails perched on a hill overlooking the city as well as a boxing club, basketball courts and baseball fields. Check out Fitt.co for a wealth of information about healthy restaurants, snacks, hiking and fitness classes throughout the city.
For some, Anaheim is all about the family-friendly destinations of Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and Legoland. While “the happiest place on earth” might conjure images of less-than-healthy snacks -- be it hot dogs, massive suckers or cotton candy -- Anaheim, believe it or not, offers plenty of nutritionist-approved alternatives. Plant-forward eateries like Healthy are all over the Center Street area. The Downtown Anaheim Certified Farmers Market runs mostly year-round and offers a fresh harvest of organic produce on Thursdays, while the two-acre Farmers Park near the Anaheim Packing District, a Sunkist shipping facility, has another market on Fridays. To work off those good eats, the many ClassPass options include the $5 happy-hour yoga classes at The Yoga Mat studio.
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This peach of a city has emerged from the Southern states as one of the newest (and most surprising) healthy destinations to live and work. Atlanta scored well on the AFI rank of accessibility to fitness classes. Whether winter or summer, the young and fit can be found everywhere from the indoor rock-climbing gym at Atlanta Rocks! to outdoor boot camp sessions at Piedmont Park. Think the city’s dining scene is fried to perfection? Actually, healthy restaurants have cropped up throughout Atlanta as well. There’s True Food Kitchen for Shiitake and Organic Tofu Lettuce Cups and fresh green juices and Gusto! Wood Fire Grill for more healthy fast casual food cooked from scratch.
The capital city of California has welcomed a number of young professionals in recent years. Some have decamped from the cluttered and expensive San Francisco area for a more affordable residence, while others have simply converged on the city for, well, the fun. The Sacramento Business Journal reported that millennials find that the value, weather and the good times to be had (again, at a better value) are the main draws to the city. And there’s no need to give up career aspirations: There are a variety of organizations and networking groups for the career-minded, such as the Millennials in Media mentorship group and Metro Edge. Get a ClassPass and work off that IPA gut at Spin or TRX classes -- or sweat it out at hot Pilates or hot yoga.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Los Angeles isn’t just a health mecca, it’s probably the place most health and fitness trends are launched. Do SoulCycle, acroyoga, OmGym and slacklining sound familiar? While these fitness trends are starting to get attention elsewhere, they’ve been in L.A. for years. Yet, the city didn't rank high for walkability, bike-ability or on Niche's rank for cities for millennials. Still, with the startup movement termed “Silicon Beach” is also thriving, with organizations like WeAreLATech and General Assembly clamoring around the tech scene, it's a solid choice for fit millennials. And, of course, you can’t go a block without a cold-pressed juice store.
Like a college town that has grown up, Madison scores very well on Gallup polls for happy and healthy residents. Not to mention its high marks on Livability.com, which rates the burg for quaintness, affordability and options for entertainment. Here, the community-minded Main Street mentality of small-town America is met with the influx of diverse interests arriving with college students attending school in Madison. There is a thriving independent music scene, with several live music venues and music festivals. Outdoor options include botanical gardens, the arboretum at University of Wisconsin-Madison and lakeside trails like Lake Monoma Lakeside Run.
Palm trees, oceanfront bars, sunshine and bikinis. There’s no doubt that the partially clothed atmosphere of Miami is conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Physique-friendly food options are everywhere, from the kitschy but healthy munchies at The Lost & Found Saloon (bar food gleefully gone vegan) to the vegan and gluten-free cupcakes at Bunnie Cakes and delicious veggie burgers of Lokal. Beware, though: A few recent studies have shown that Miami is one of the least affordable cities for millennials, due in part to the large number of retirees and overseas investors the city attracts.
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
San Jose comprises the heart of Silicon Valley, and many associate the area with office parks, sprawling industrial buildings, gated residential communities and massive corporate headquarters of technology companies. And while all of these are present, San Jose is home to a number of outdoor parks to counter all that indoor pixel-pushing. The lush and forested Cataldi Park has outdoor workout areas, a dog park, barbecue pits and swings, and Communications Hill has a number of stairs for cardio workouts. The city scored very well as a bikeable destination, with numerous bike trails. A number of gyms and The Studio indoor rock-climbing gym, with 11,000 square feet of climbing terrain and 3,000 feet of bouldering, are also good options on rainy days.
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SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
Not merely a beachy destination with surf-worthy swells, San Diego is also a growing city with a variety of nightlife options, trendy boutiques and wired-in accessibility. The hilly Little Italy area, not far from the Waterfront Park area of downtown, has numerous Italian delis, healthy restaurants and boutiques. It’s easy to avoid traffic: Several bike paths populate areas of downtown, and the San Diego Bicycle Coalition is planning 12 miles of scenic bike paths around Mission Bay. Enjoy the view from the gorgeous and central Balboa Park overlooking downtown, or wind around the San Diego Bay’s mixed-use trails for hiking, biking or running.
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LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Long Beach: Home to a thriving music culture with its a rockabilly, pin-up and vintage-car scene alongside walkable neighborhoods with cool bars and shops and…Snoop Dogg. The Southern California pin-up scene is alive and well, seen by its clothing boutiques, vintage stores and bazaars throughout the trendy 4th Street area. Sneaky Tiki Boutique has vintage and handmade goods from local artists, while the occasional Retro Betties Bazaar is a fun cocktail of independent vendors in Signal Hill. Organic, vegan and raw-food restaurants abound, as do spots for fitness classes, both indoors and outdoors.
It’s made waves in recent decades with an incandescent independent music and live events scene. By attracting music-industry veterans and newbies alike, South by Southwest and Austin City Lights Festival inform the year-round scene of this Texas hot spot. While less-healthy eats like barbecue and fried Southern food are plentiful, there are a number of venues serving fare that’s fresh, fast and healthy. Many restaurants around North Austin cater to the startup and tech communities around the Dell and HP headquarters, such as Inka Chicken, purveyor of fast and healthy rotisserie chicken. Keep fit by biking through the city with the Bike Austin resource, a site that allows members to build custom bike routes between destinations, explore group rides and access bike valets.
Seattle may be known for its rainfall and music scene dating back to jazz, the original ’60s breed of garage rock, and, of course ’90s grunge, but it’s also a destination for outdoor exercise enthusiasts. Gore-Tex is an essential ingredient for Seattle survival. Bike trails wind through the city, and great urban hikes are found at both the University of Washington Arboretum Botanical Gardens and the 500-acre Discovery Park. Both Microsoft and Amazon are headquartered in the city, ensuring plentiful plugged-in, techie vibes and free Wi-Fi. The historic Pike Place Market is home to a farmers market and a craft market, not to mention local coffee roasters, carefully sourced chocolatiers and other sundry artisanal eats.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Fear not! Millennials of New York now have their own website. The site parodies the Humans of New York storytelling-through-images site and features tongue-in-cheek satire to accompany photos of twentysomethings from around town. So, millennials, don’t fear moving to New York: You are sanctioned. Satire aside, New York has something for everyone -- juicing is everywhere and restaurants vary from organic and vegan prix fixe menus to fast casual dining. So why didn’t NYC crack the top 10? While Central Park has bike lanes and jogging trails galore -- even boulders for rock climbing -- it all comes at a high price. Plus, New York scored really low on Gallup poll's health and wellness scale, taking it down a few notches in our list.
JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY
Jersey isn’t widely known as a health metropolis, but it has a surprising edge over its big cousin across the bridge. The city scored well on the Gallup poll for healthy residents. Organic food options are everywhere, from the Community Supported Agriculture Farmers Market or Downtown Harvest, where members purchase shares and volunteer to distribute their farmers’ bounties. Several restaurants cater to a jet-set fit lifestyle, such as Fresh n’ Lean, which delivers fresh and healthy meals. For many, Jersey City is an ideal enclave -- small enough to offer a slower pace and lifestyle than New York, but a short commute into the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.
In Chicago, an affordable lifestyle and low rent meet with big-city advantages. With shopping ranging from high-fashion downtown and on Rush Street to the indie boutiques of Bucktown and Wicker Park, expect some standout street style. Even though a well-developed public transportation system makes getting around painless, the city is still very walkable. Great outdoor trails line Lakefront Trail at Lake Michigan. There’s also the relatively new 606 Trail, a nearly three-mile stretch connecting Ashland Avenue to Ridgeway Avenue along what was formerly the Bloomington Rail Line.
SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA
The smaller burg adjacent to Minneapolis and one half of the Twin Cities is known for great live-music venues, plentiful bars and fine dining. Famous for its microbrew selection, the Amsterdam Bar and Hall has a full roster of live music and storytelling performances. Charming indie and vintage shops, record stores and vegan restaurants surround the Grand Avenue area near Macalester College and Concordia University. Athletic clubs abound, from small yoga studios to large-scale and expansive mega-gyms.
Like its neighbor to the north, Seattle, this Pacific enclave attracts technophiles, hipsters and outdoorsy folk alike. Carefully poured and superlatively roasted coffee and Wi-Fi abound, especially in the area of Buckman, which seems to be the epicenter of the millennial scene, with 43 cafes and eight yoga studios. In fact, half of Buckman residents are twenty- and thirtysomethings. They love Portland’s variety of live music acts playing at venues like the Jupiter Hotel, a midcentury-modern motor lodge, and the adjacent Doug Fir Lounge, a rustic bar and music venue.
Minutes from San Francisco via the BART, but worlds away in mindset (and when the trains stop running), Oakland became popular with millennials looking for more affordable rents. It has now emerged from a difficult period of gang violence and economically depressed neighborhoods to become a thriving city with its own scene. The Telegraph Hill area booms with independent businesses and restaurants focused on microclimate and organic food menus. Formerly vacant commercial buildings have become co-working spaces like Impact Hub, shared by companies focused on positive impact, and Oakstop, an office space and art gallery.
Denver is both a quaint city nestled in the shadows of mountains and a busy metropolis host to a number of tech jobs. Skiers and snowboarders love that Breckenridge, Boulder, Colorado Springs and Aspen are all within a quick drive, and those areas become perfect for hiking and mountain biking in the offseason. The city charms millennials with its Old West feel, plentiful microbreweries and bike paths connecting the central city to its outskirts. The River North Art District was a former industrial area that now is home to art galleries, urban farming centers and studio spaces.
Philadelphia visually stuns, from its wide waterfront areas to the high-rise-lined downtown. The Kensington and Fishtown areas are vibrant neighborhoods home to galleries and mom-and-pop stores best enjoyed on the first Fridays of the month, when galleries open their doors for art-walk events. Johnny Brenda’s is a concert venue with performers ranging from country-rock bands to DJs. The historic Italian Market in South Philadelphia has 10 city blocks of gourmet grocers, bakeries, chocolatiers and eateries.
One of the highest-ranked cities for hiring those under 35 in the United States, 63 percent of Boston’s workforce is comprised of millennials. And just where are the young and ambitious working? Shared workspaces and incubators like WeWork, Impact Hub, The Food Loft (specifically for food-tech startups) and Hatch-Fenway, a co-working space for companies with “disruptive ideas.” Healthy food options can be found across the city. Fast and fit purveyors Sweetgreen and vegan juicer and salad restaurant Cocobeet are just a sampling of the tasty and healthy options in Boston. And despite how cold it can get, you’ll still find joggers throughout the year on the city’s many running trails.
The nation’s capitol has so much more to offer than historical buildings, monuments and museums. Beyond the National Mall’s cluster of museums, which offers everything from modern art to artifacts (all free), the city’s nightlife twinkles with live-music venues, cocktail lounges and dive bars. The U Street Corridor teems with music clubs like Blues Alley and DC9, scores of hip cafes and a handful of yoga studios. The city even hosts Millennial Week, a conference created by and catering to thought leaders and influencers under the age of 30.
“Welcome to Paradise.” So reads the wooded carved archway beckoning drinkers and revelers into the campy, tiki-themed Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge, a bar and live-music venue. So goes the entertainment in Minneapolis -- a little left of center with a welcomingly anachronistic vibe. Plus, a resurgent economy and affordability attracts a number of would-be entrepreneurs. Ranking high on the healthy and happy polls, Minneapolis makes it easy to stay fit, with plentiful fast and healthy food options and gyms. Natural and organic eateries like Good Earth entertain a growing number of health-conscious customers.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Drumroll, please: San Francisco wins as the best U.S. city for fit millennials. Despite sky-high rents, a steep cost of living and few sunny days, the city still ranks as one of the most walkable, bikeable and convenient locales for both technophiles and fitness-focused folks. The San Francisco area continues to outpace most American cities as the entrepreneurial hub of the technology industry. San Fran also has sprawling acres devoted to green outdoor public spaces perfect for outdoor workouts or just hanging out. Millennials can be found jogging, biking and launching their drones in the newly renovated Mission Dolores Park, the Golden Gate Park’s 1,017 acres of lush green and the Presidio, a former army post overlooking the Bay.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Are you a millennial? What do you think? Where do you live? Do you agree with the LIVESTRONG.COM ranking of best U.S. cities for fit millennials? Do you agree with SF as the #1 city? Are there any cities you were surprised didn't make the top 25? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Also, use the link below to follow LIVESTRONG.COM on Facebook and share your opinions with us there.
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