Study: 100 most relaxing places to visit in the U.S.

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The tranquil harbor of Alexandria, Virginia, exhibits why this city is one of the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S.
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The U.S. has no shortage of great vacation destinations to choose from, but if relaxation is your top priority, then certain cities stand out above the rest — especially if they’re easy to travel to.  We analyzed what makes a relaxing getaway and discovered there’s a lot to consider. We looked at the number of top-rated parks and spas, the amount of noise pollution, air quality, crime indexes and walkability to get a full picture of what each city is like. After combining those factors, we curated a list of the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S. in 2022. You might be surprised to see who topped our list.Peruse the locations, choose your most zen destination, then get packing — whether it’s for a one-time vacation or to scope out a future second home destination. 

1. Alexandria, Virginia

A chart displays some of the factors that make Alexandria, Virginia, the most relaxing place to visit in the U.S.
Next door to the nation’s capital, Alexandria wears the crown as the most relaxing place to visit in the U.S. With two major airports nearby and multiple train lines into the city, it’s easy to get there, and the free public bus system is a convenient way to get around while you’re visiting. The city has about 950 acres of green space and 30 recreation centers to help its residents and visitors de-stress. The Mount Vernon Trail connects miles of paved paths for joggers and cyclists to enjoy along the waterfront. The historic Old Town section of the city is extremely walkable, making it easy to visit its many shops and restaurants.

2. Boulder, Colorado

A chart displays some of the factors that make Boulder, Colorado, one of the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S.
Only 25 miles northwest of Denver, Boulder is the peaceful alternative to the congestion of big city life. Nestled near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder can provide the necessary fix of nature you need to feel rejuvenated. The nearest major airport is almost 50 miles away. While that may add an extra hurdle for out-of-staters looking for a vacation spot, it also greatly reduces the overall amount of noise pollution you’ll experience while you're there. If your idea of relaxation still requires a bit of activity, the surrounding area offers world-class rock climbing routes of varying difficulty. Chautauqua Park provides popular hiking trails around the Green Mountain Flatirons.     Boulder has also been featured on other top-city lists like AARP’s Top 10 Healthiest Cities to Live and Retire and the Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index, showcasing the quality of life it has to offer its visitors and residents.

3. Madison, Wisconsin

A chart displays some of the factors that make Madison, Wisconsin, one of the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S.
People are starting to recognize the many advantages of living in Madison — which may be why it's the fastest-growing city in Wisconsin, according to the 2020 census. The city has the highest number of public parks per capita when compared to the 100 largest cities in the country. There are 12.7 parks and seven playgrounds for every 10,000 residents. Mad City received the “Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community” rating by providing safe bike paths to its residents, greatly increasing its appeal as a peaceful place to visit in the U.S. since you could potentially ditch your car altogether.Recreational enthusiasts have a variety of year-round options. The many state trails are used by bicyclists in the summer and cross-country skiers in the winter. Madison's five surrounding lakes — Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, Kegonsa and Wingra — allow you to spend time sailing or ice fishing, depending on the season.The Dane County Farmers’ Market is the largest producer-only farmers market in the country, satisfying all your fresh produce, meat and cheese needs in an open-air environment. 

4. Clearwater, Florida

A chart displays some of the factors that make Clearwater, Florida, one of the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S.
Situated next to the Gulf of Mexico, Clearwater has all the sun and sand your inner beach bum can hope for in a vacation spot. Tripadvisor ranks Clearwater Beach as one of the top 25 beaches in the country. Unlike many Florida beach towns, Clearwater doesn’t get overrun with wild spring break energy. It’s known as a calm family vacation destination with unbeatable weather. Clearwater is close to two international airports, making it a convenient destination for out-of-staters. The Clearwater Jolley Trolley provides easy and cheap commuting throughout the city and the beach. To further simplify travel, the Clearwater Ferry allows you to bypass traffic and parking hassles at multiple locations throughout Pinellas County.

5. Charleston, South Carolina

A chart displays some of the factors that make Charleston, South Carolina, one of the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S.
Charleston has a thriving tourism industry that often puts it at the top of city rankings. In 2016, Travel + Leisure named it the greatest city in the world, but what makes it one of the best relaxing places to visit in the U.S. in 2022? For starters, it has the beachfront access and amazing weather many people seek out for their vacations. Get beautiful city views from atop a paddleboard or from the comfort of a chartered boat in Charleston Harbor.Visit one of Charleston’s many top-tier spas to be surrounded by a relaxing atmosphere while receiving body treatments or massage therapy. Or spend the day at a golf resort to receive your daily dose of vitamin D and physical activity. But it’s not only the activities that will help you to relax — Charlestonians can also help you to decompress. Southern Living named Charleston the most polite and hospitable city in America.

6. Tampa, Florida

Tampa, Florida’s close proximity to the ocean is one factor that makes it one of the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S.
Our second Florida destination is the third-most populated city in the state and a neighbor to Clearwater. Tampa visitors benefit from some of the accommodations one would expect in a big city while retaining the leisurely spirit of a relaxing destination. Enjoy sunny waterfront views along the 2.5-mile Tampa Riverwalk as you walk or bike to many local attractions. Rent a bike from stations all over the city. Or ride the rails — the TECO line streetcar connects downtown with historic neighborhoods.Tampa has over 30 top-rated spas to keep your body loose and your mind free, plus 2,286 acres of beaches and parkland for lounging to your heart’s content.

7. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach’s miles of beaches are just one factor that make it one of the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S.
Virginia Beach, our second relaxing destination in Virginia, has less of the relaxed professionalism of Alexandria and more of an East Coast surfing vibe. This oceanfront city is well-known for its resorts, with hundreds of hotels filling its coast. Virginia Beach is in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest pleasure beach in the world, at about 35 miles. The Resort City has one of the best park systems in the country, with over 4,000 acres of green space. In 2013, the park system was ranked eighth in the nation by the Trust for Public Land.    The city is served by two international airports for ease of access. Although the city has the lowest walkability score out of our top ten cities, it has comprehensive bus and train services to ease travel during your stay.

8. Providence, Rhode Island

Providence, Rhode Island’s historic buildings and parks are part of what makes it one of the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S.
Providence is one of the most densely populated cities in the country, which helps explain why it has the highest walkability score among our top 10 cities. At one time, the city boasted the eighth-highest percentage of pedestrian commuters in the country, making it the perfect vacation spot for visitors without cars.The city has roughly 1,200 acres of parkland. Roger Williams Park alone has about 472 acres and houses a zoo, planetarium and botanical center. Staying true to its New England roots, it has cobblestone paved walkways giving it a quaint charm. It was one of the first cities established in the U.S., so it is teeming with historical buildings that are prime for a walking tour.

9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s many bike trails are part of what makes it one of the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S.
Pittsburgh regularly ranks high in lists of the most livable cities — and many of those livability factors also make it one of the most peaceful places to visit in the U.S.The city has a great mixture of urban density, making it easy to get around, while also having spacious neighborhoods and parkland to offer mental release. Frick Park contains 664 acres of woodland that bird watchers visit to spot more than 100 species of birds. The City of Bridges even has a program underway that converts former railroad tracks to recreational trails. Pittsburgh’s inland location means it faces little risk of natural disasters in the form of hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and wildfires. This provides stability to the businesses in the area and the families that visit it.

10. Honolulu, Hawai’i

Honolulu, Hawai’i’s tropical climate is part of what makes it one of the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S.
Branching away from the continental U.S., we find our final top 10 city in Hawai’i. The state’s largest city, Honolulu, is complemented by beautiful tropical weather, pristine beaches and breathtaking scenery. The city received up to 15,000 visitors per day pre-pandemic, so it is well-equipped to accommodate your dream vacation. It has the highest number of top-ranked spas of all the cities in our study, with 92. Whether you are a land or water lover, Honolulu has something to offer you, from playing golf to snorkeling above coral reefs. The city currently lacks a train network, but it ranks among the highest in per-capita bus use in the country.

The 100 most relaxing places to visit in the U.S.

There are many other relaxing places to visit in the U.S. that did not make our top 10. Explore the rest of the cities that round out our top 100 relaxing vacation destinations for more ideas on where to visit — or make a second home. 
100 most relaxing cities in the US
1. Alexandria, Virginia
2. Boulder, Colorado
3. Madison, Wisconsin
4. Clearwater, Florida
5. Charleston, South Carolina
6. Tampa, Florida
7. Virginia Beach, Virginia
8. Providence, Rhode Island
9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
10. Honolulu, Hawai'i
11. Scottsdale, Arizona
12. Huntington Beach, California
13. Raleigh, North Carolina
14. Miami, Florida
15. Carlsbad, California
16. Bend, Oregon
17. Henderson, Nevada
18. Springfield, Missouri
19. Wilmington, North Carolina
20. McKinney, Texas
21. Orlando, Florida
22. St. Louis, Missouri
23. Aurora, Illinois
24. Berkeley, California
25. Richmond, Virginia
26. Rochester, New York
27. Atlanta, Georgia
28. New Orleans, Louisiana
29. Spokane, Washington
30. St. Petersburg, Florida
31. Minneapolis, Minnesota
32. Long Beach, California
33. West Palm Beach, Florida
34. Plano, Texas
35. Temecula, California
36. Colorado Springs, Colorado
37. Burbank, California
38. Boise, Idaho
39. Norfolk, Virginia
40. Chattanooga, Tennessee
41. Lansing, Michigan
42. Pasadena, California
43. Bellevue, Washington
44. Pasadena, Texas
45. Ann Arbor, Michigan
46. Frisco, Texas
47. Riverside, California
48. Irvine, California
49. Syracuse, New York
50. Cleveland, Ohio
51. Fort Collins, Colorado
52. Hollywood, Florida
53. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
54. Costa Mesa, California
55. Knoxville, Tennessee
56. Chandler, Arizona
57. Stamford, Conneticut
58. Everett, Washington
59. Reno, Nevada
60. Grand Rapids, Michigan
61. St. Paul, Minnesota
62. Salt Lake City, Utah
63. Santa Rosa, California
64. Fremont, California
65. Chico, California
66. Anchorage, Alaska
67. Des Moines, Iowa
68. Springfield, Massachusetts
69. Green Bay, Wisconsin
70. Oceanside, California
71. Lincoln, Nebraska
72. Cincinnati, Ohio
73. Cary, North Carolina
74. McAllen, Texas
75. Durham, North Carolina
76. Aurora, Colorado
77. Hartford, Conneticut
78. Carmel, Indiana
79. Westminster, Colorado
80. Jersey City, New Jersey
81. Fort Wayne, Indiana
82. Cape Coral, Florida
83. Buffalo, New York
84. Greensboro, North Carolina
85. Rochester, Minnesota
86. Pompano Beach, Florida
87. Tulsa, Oklahoma
88. Coral Springs, Florida
89. Columbia, South Carolina
90. Oakland, California
91. Dayton, Ohio
92. New Haven, Conneticut
93. Peoria, Illinois
94. Las Cruces, New Mexico
95. Allentown, Pennsylvania
96. Torrance, California
97. Tempe, Arizona
98. Vancouver, Washington
99. Eugene, Oregon
100. Akron, Ohio
If your primary goal for a vacation is to have quality time to unwind, then consider visiting some of the cities unearthed in our study. Spending time in these relaxing places will have you recharged and ready to take on your daily life. Many of these cities make great locations to plant permanent roots with a second home too.

Our methodology 

This study was conducted in April 2022. To determine the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S., we compared six ranking factors across a sample of mid-size cities in the U.S. (populations ranging from 100,000 to 500,000 people), sourced from the U.S. Census BureauOur ranking factors were used to determine how relaxing a city is and how easy it is to visit. They included and were assigned a weight out of 100 as follows: 
  • Number of parks — 25 points
  • Number of spas — 25 points
  • Noise pollution — 15 points
  • Walkability — 15 points
  • Crime index — 15 points
  • Air quality — 5 points
Each city was then given a score based on these factors and assigned an overall ranking. The cities with the highest scores were deemed the most relaxing places to visit in the U.S. Our data was sourced from Tripadvisor, Google Maps, AirNow.gov, City-Data.com, Walk Score, and the National Transportation Noise Map. 

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