25 Best Cities for Newly Remote Workers Who Value Affordability (and Sushi) [2020]

Affordable cost of living? Check. Fast Wi-Fi? Check. Plenty of parks and restaurants to enjoy? Check. These cities have everything you need as a remote worker.
Last updated Jul 22, 2020 | By Lindsay Frankel
Kansas City, Missouri

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As more people work from home to observe social distancing measures, many workers find they enjoy the flexibility, and some employers realize the option alleviates office space costs as well. Some large employers, such as Twitter and Facebook, have already announced they will make remote work permanent for their workforces.

With this newfound freedom to live anywhere, it makes sense that some workers might consider a change of location. A recent FinanceBuzz survey found that more than one-quarter of Americans are considering a move because of COVID-19.

We want the best for this newly remote workforce, so we dug into the data and compiled the best cities for remote workers. Of course, everyone has a different opinion of what constitutes a great place to live, and some might opt for truly remote locations or even to try RV life. We took a different approach and found cities that offered many of the amenities you might find in hubs such as NYC and San Francisco, only at a fraction of the cost.

How we picked these cities

What makes a location great for remote work? We looked at a range of factors, including:

  • Cost of living (40%): One perk of remote work is that your salary could stretch further if you move somewhere with a lower cost of living. We’ve weighted this factor more heavily than others, as it will have a big impact on your lifestyle and the options for affordable real estate in the area.
  • Wi-Fi speed (20%): You’ll need reliable Wi-Fi if you don’t want your Zoom calls to lag. And while you’re at it, check out the other top tools that make remote workers successful, and find out how to lower your internet bill.
  • Delivery options (10%): What’s the point of living somewhere your salary stretches further if you can’t use the extra money to order a vat of sushi or baked pasta to be delivered to your door every weekend? We’ve got you covered with the comfort of delivery from a selection of nearby restaurants.
  • Parks per capita (10%): When you’re ready to walk off all the grub, you’ll need green space so you have room to exercise.
  • Proximity to a major airport (10%): As much as we think you'll love these cities, we know how important it is to get away from time to time. COVID-19 might be slowing down travel plans right now, but when you're ready to vacation, you'll be ready to fly.
  • Affordable three-plus-bedroom homes on the market (10%): We assessed the percentage of three-plus-bedroom homes available below the median home price in the area to ensure you would have plenty of options for home buying within your budget.

Top 25 Cities for Newly Remote Workers

  1. Kansas City, Missouri
  2. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  3. Lubbock, Texas
  4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  5. San Antonio, Texas
  6. Durham, North Carolina
  7. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  8. Saint Louis, Missouri
  9. Jacksonville, Florida
  10. Raleigh, North Carolina
  11. Chesapeake, Virginia
  12. Baltimore, Maryland
  13. Charlotte, North Carolina
  14. Louisville, Kentucky
  15. Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  16. Aurora, Colorado
  17. Austin, Texas
  18. Anaheim, California
  19. Wichita, Kansas
  20. Nashville, Tennessee
  21. Buffalo, New York
  22. Greensboro, North Carolina
  23. Henderson, Nevada
  24. Richmond, Virginia
  25. Cleveland, Ohio

1. Kansas City, Missouri

A low cost of living and above average broadband speeds make Kansas City ideal for remote work, and you’ll find a vibrant arts scene and plenty of options for dining. Kansas City is known for its barbecue restaurants and local distilleries.

2. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee has a ton of affordable three-plus-bedroom homes on the market. Plus, it’s stuffed with quirky shops, breweries, food halls, and places to eat custard. There are also plenty of trails for those who love the outdoors, a spectacular art museum, and gorgeous murals all around town. Milwaukee is home to one of North America’s largest annual German Fests.

3. Lubbock, Texas

Lubbock has one of the lowest costs of living on our list, and broadband speeds are above average as well. The city is known for being the birthplace of Buddy Holly and has a bustling arts and cultural scene and plenty of family-friendly outdoor activities, from lakes to apple orchards. It’s a bit low on delivery options, however.

4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

You can get more than just cheesesteaks in Philly. The city has thousands of delivery options and a rich history with gorgeous architecture and plenty of museums worth exploring. And although the city itself is relatively low on green space, there are beautiful forests, creeks, and state parks you can visit within the state of Pennsylvania. There are plenty of affordable three-plus- bedroom homes in Philadelphia as well.

5. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio is a beautiful city with a relatively low cost of living. The miles-long river walk is the centerpiece of the city, with plenty of shops and restaurants to visit along the way. San Antonio is also home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Missions National Historical Park.

6. Durham, North Carolina

Durham is a growing city that’s big on green space and home to the gorgeous Eno River State Park. The Bull City is said to have a laid-back and inclusive vibe and to feature a large community of artists, which contribute to the city’s vibrant entertainment scene. You’re also just a 30-minute drive from Raleigh, so you have access to another city as well.

7. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh has its fair share of quirky shops, fun themed bars and breweries, and parks. It’s also a family-friendly city with fun museums like Inventionland and experimental art installations at The Mattress Factory. Record collectors will be delighted to check out one of the country’s best record stores, and foodies can enjoy the city’s many food halls.

8. Saint Louis, Missouri

St. Louis has a low cost of living and plenty of green space worth enjoying, including one of the biggest urban parks in the nation, which also features a greenhouse filled with floral displays. You’ll also find a sculpture park, plenty of family-friendly museums, and a Six Flags theme park. STL’s food scene is growing, and you’ll find everything from fine dining to frozen custard. There are plenty of delivery options as well.

9. Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville has a good number of affordable three-plus-bedroom homes available, so you might even be able to snag something with a pool. Not only is Jacksonville one of the country’s top 20 art destinations, but it's also one of the cheapest places you can live in close proximity to the beach. And if you need more options for outdoor activities, you can explore the 80,000 acres of green space.

10. Raleigh, North Carolina

The capital city of North Carolina, Raleigh is a university town with above-average broadband speeds and plenty of parks. The city is known for its music scene, particularly its bluegrass festivals, along with craft breweries and artisan spirits retailers. The downtown area contains two giant food halls, and there are plenty of hiking and biking trails for outdoor enthusiasts.

11. Chesapeake, Virginia

Located in coastal Virginia, Chesapeake is a great option for anyone who loves the outdoors. There are more than 22 miles of waterways in the city and plenty of parks and trails where you can enjoy activities like kayaking and zip-lining. You’ll also find a ton of art galleries, museums, and theaters in the city.

12. Baltimore, Maryland

This harbor town is packed with shops and restaurants, especially in the inner harbor, along which you can travel by water taxi. Baltimore is home to famous attractions like the National Aquarium, and the nation’s largest free arts festival happens there every July.

13. Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte is a major city in North Carolina that’s just a short distance away from the airport. Charlotte has a vibrant culinary scene and plenty of local breweries, and there are rooftop bars with showstopping views in Uptown. The city is low on green space, but Charlotte is just a short drive from some awesome outdoor activities, such as the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

14. Louisville, Kentucky

If you like bourbon, Louisville might be your dream city. The Urban Bourbon Experience is a city-wide trail dotted with micro-distilleries and other bourbon-related activities. Louisville is also known for its innovative Southern cuisine and has been called “one of the friendliest cities in America” due to its inclusive vibe.

15. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Winston-Salem has a low cost of living and a walkable city center packed with craft breweries, museums, and shopping. You could spend two days touring the city’s historic gardens, or drive a bit north to two state parks. There’s also an arts district covered in murals and mandalas, which makes Winston-Salem an Instagram-worthy city.

16. Aurora, Colorado

You’ll get the best of both worlds in Aurora, as it’s in close proximity both to the booming city of Denver and many parks and trails. Aurora itself is home to Cherry Creek Reservoir, where you can try stand-up paddleboarding or horseback riding, as well as an arts district dotted with galleries. Stanley Marketplace, Colorado’s largest indoor marketplace, is an awesome venue to grab dinner or do a little shopping.

17. Austin, Texas

Austin, which has long been known for its music and arts scene and its inclusive LGBTQ community, has lightning-fast broadband speeds and a ton of delivery options. When the pandemic passes, you can also enjoy the many music festivals and diverse nightlife. Plus, you’ll get 300-plus days of sunshine and warm weather year-round, which you can enjoy from Austin’s many beautiful outdoor spaces.

18. Anaheim, California

Anaheim has the highest cost of living to make our list, but if you’re a high-earner and want to enjoy Southern California weather and close proximity to Disneyland, it might be just your speed. With 57 parks, Anaheim has above average green space, and it’s about 30 minutes driving distance from three of Southern California’s most popular beaches. Plus, you’ll be able to enjoy all the festivals that come through Orange County each year.

19. Wichita, Kansas

From a row of museums along the river to monthly downtown art walks, there’s plenty to see and do in Wichita. For almost 50 years, Wichita has welcomed a nine-day festival each June that is filled with activities like drone races, fireworks, and hot air balloons. Wichita has fewer delivery options than some of the other cities on our list, but the cost of living is low.

20. Nashville, Tennessee

Known for Country music, Nashville also brings a comedy festival and several food events each year. It was named one of the 20 best places to go in 2020 by Condé Nast Traveler. Nashville has a diverse music and entertainment scene, and it’s also an excellent place to get a buzz going; the bars on Honky Tonk Highway feature free live music each and every day.

21. Buffalo, New York

Buffalo has one of the lowest costs of living on our list, and there are also plenty of affordable three-plus-bedroom homes on the market and a plethora of delivery options. In recent years, the craft beer scene has grown and waterfront neighborhoods have been redeveloped. The city has seven Frank Lloyd Wright buildings for you to tour and plenty of Buffalo-style pizza places for you to try. The best part? The city is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Niagara Falls.

22. Greensboro, North Carolina

For such a picturesque location, Greensboro has a relatively low cost of living. It’s also a biker’s paradise, with more than 90 miles of greenways and trails. And there are plenty of dining and nightlife options for residents to enjoy. What’s more, Greensboro is a family-friendly city with tons of activities for kids, from berry farms and butterfly farms to water parks and gardens.

23. Henderson, Nevada

About 20 minutes outside Las Vegas sits Henderson, the perfect city for weekend gamblers and anyone who likes drinking beer at the mall. Although the most prominent nearby attractions are in the city of Las Vegas, there are plenty of golf courses and spas in Henderson, which means it’s a relaxing place to live that isn’t too far from all the chaos (and fun) of a big city. There are hundreds of delivery options in Henderson as well.

24. Richmond, Virginia

Richmond has all the best features of a big city: a thriving arts scene, a beer trail, and plenty of museums and attractions. It’s also a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts, with multiple options for biking, hiking, and river rafting. And there’s a diverse culinary scene with hundreds of delivery options to keep your appetite sated.

25. Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland has the lowest cost of living of the cities we compared, and there are also plenty of three-plus-bedroom homes at below median value. There are plenty of delivery options as well, but be aware that average broadband speeds aren’t up to par with other cities on our list. You can hit the beach in the summer, explore the many hiking trails, or visit attractions like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or the Cleveland Botanical Garden.

Here's a more detailed breakdown showing how the cities on our list compared across the six ranking factors. (1 = best in category)

Cost of living Wi-Fi speed Delivery options Parks per capita Airport proximity Affordable 3+ bedrooms

1

Kansas City, Missouri

9

1

11

11

10

19

2

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

8

23

18

19

11

1

3

Lubbock, Texas

3

3

25

22

9

23

4

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

18

16

2

20

18

3

5

San Antonio, Texas

13

5

10

18

16

22

6

Durham, North Carolina

16

7

14

6

22

18

7

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

10

17

6

7

19

5

8

Saint Louis, Missouri

4

18

4

5

14

20

9

Jacksonville, Florida

14

11

17

25

17

6

10

Raleigh, North Carolina

20

4

12

9

13

25

11

Chesapeake, Virginia

21

10

13

3

21

16

12

Baltimore, Maryland

11

15

9

16

12

13

13

Charlotte, North Carolina

17

8

5

14

7

24

14

Louisville, Kentucky

12

19

21

21

2

8

15

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

5

13

24

13

25

21

16

Aurora, Colorado

22

9

3

2

23

14

17

Austin, Texas

24

2

8

12

6

17

18

Anaheim, California

25

22

1

1

20

7

19

Wichita, Kansas

6

21

23

24

4

11

20

Nashville, Tennessee

19

12

15

17

1

10

21

Buffalo, New York

2

24

16

10

3

2

22

Greensboro, North Carolina

7

20

22

23

5

12

23

Henderson, Nevada

23

6

20

4

24

9

24

Richmond, Virginia

15

14

19

8

15

15

25

Cleveland, Ohio

1

25

7

15

8

4

Final thoughts

With the variety of city vibes available to choose from, you might find moving somewhere with a lower cost of living to be a wise choice. Keep in mind that numbers are rapidly changing as a result of COVID-19, so some measures of affordability may not be completely accurate.

Still, you should be able to assess whether one of these cities might allow you to get more bang for your buck. When considering a move, be sure to calculate your relocation costs and any change in salary to make sure these are offset by the lower cost of living in your new city.

If you don’t currently work remote but the idea appeals to you, check out these sites for finding remote work. Although working remotely might not be the right choice for everyone, it certainly affords a more flexible lifestyle, whether you’re traveling the world or just squeezing in an afternoon nap. And working from a city with a lower cost of living means more disposable income to spend on travel, entertainment, and the things you enjoy the most.

Methodology

To compile this list, we started by looking at the 100 cities with the highest population of the civilian labor force (i.e. people ages 16 and older who are eligible to work). We looked at six factors (cost of living, broadband speeds, food delivery options, parks per capita, proximity to a large airport, and availability of three-plus-bedroom homes below the city's mean price) which we weighted and normalized. Data in this report was collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, bestplaces.net, speedtest.net, yelp.com, airport.globefeed.com, and zillow.com.

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