The Most Laid-Back Cities Across the U.S. [2024]

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FinanceBuzz looked at more than 25 factors across some of America’s biggest cities to find out which cities are the most laid-back and relaxed versus which ones are the most stressed.
Updated April 7, 2024
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From the high-energy buzz of New York City to the beautiful mountain views of Salt Lake City, every city has a vibe. While some cities cultivate a chill, laid-back environment, others are more uptight or formal. Though there’s nothing inherently wrong with either, the energy of a city can make a big impact on enjoyment.

Our team at FinanceBuzz wanted to find out which cities bring the easygoing vibes and which ones are contributing to higher levels of stress. To do this, we created a scoring system and methodology and examined more than 25 different data points across America’s biggest cities.

Key findings

  • Seattle, Minneapolis, and Portland are the most laid-back cities in the United States.
  • Houston, Memphis, and San Antonio are the least laid-back cities.
  • Texas is the only state with multiple cities that are among the 10 least laid-back in the country. Three different Lone Star cities (Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio) rank in the top 10.

The categories and metrics we considered

Well-being

It is easier to relax when you don’t have to worry about your mental or physical health, so cities where residents are mentally and physically fit tend to be more laid-back. For this category, we looked at statistics related to:

  • Sleep
  • Working from home
  • Self-reported mental health scores
  • Search volume for “stress relief”
  • Wellness scores

Economic factors

Money is a major source of stress and worry for many people, so it’s likely easier for people to relax in cities where they are better off financially. Scores in this category were comprised of data relating to:

  • Cost of living
  • Hours worked per week
  • How many people live below the poverty line

Livability

Some cities are easier than others to navigate, with infrastructure playing a big role in how difficult or easy it is to get from one place to another. Cities that are harder to navigate can cause stress in residents, while cities where it’s easy to get around contribute to a more laid-back environment. Here we looked at factors like:

  • Commute times
  • Noise pollution
  • Weather
  • Walkability
  • Bikeability
  • Traffic

Leisure activities

Cities where it’s easier for people to eat out and engage in leisure activities also make it easier for people to relax. For the scores in this section, we looked at the number of:

  • Theme parks
  • Golf courses
  • Yoga studios
  • Farmers markets
  • Spas
  • Cannabis dispensaries
  • Restaurants
  • Concert venues and performing arts centers

The most laid-back cities in America

After running the numbers, it’s no surprise that many of the top cities on our list are also some of America’s cultural capitals. Each of the top cities on our list has a distinct and unique personality — one that clearly passes through to its residents.

A map of the U.S. showing the most laid-back cities in America. Seattle is #1.


1. Seattle, WA

Seattle scored well in multiple categories, particularly well-being and livability. 36% of workers in Seattle work from home (the highest percentage of any city in the country). Plus, the city has the fifth-most parks per capita, and its walkability and bikeability scores rank among the 10 highest in the country.

2. Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis residents sleep well, as 73% reportedly sleep for at least seven hours a night. This city also has one of the highest rates of yoga studios per capita in the U.S., and workers in the city average 38.1 hours worked per week — tied for the ninth-lowest rate of any U.S. city.

3. Portland, OR

Portland lands in the top three for many of the same reasons as its Seattle neighbors, including high community wellness scores and the highest percentage of people that sleep at least seven hours per night (tied with Seattle). Several additional economic factors, such as a poverty rate of 12.7% (the 10th-lowest in the country) helped Portland score highly.

4. Pittsburgh, PA

An abundance of leisure activities makes Pittsburgh a chill haven, as the Steel City is tied for the highest number of golf courses per capita in the country (50 per 100,000 people), while also scoring high for several other leisure activities, including number of yoga studios and performing arts centers per capita.

5. Salt Lake City, UT

Leisure is a major factor in Salt Lake City’s fifth-place ranking, as Utah’s capital is top three when it comes to things like the number of yoga studios and spas per capita. Looking at livability, workers in Salt Lake City benefit from the shortest average commute time in the country, at just 19.9 minutes.

6. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta has one of the 10 best weather index scores in the country, indicating that the city has one of the more pleasant climates. That pleasant climate is probably part of the reason that the Georgia capital boasts the second-most farmers markets per capita of any city in the country, at 13 per 100,000 people, which helps boost the city’s leisure-activity score.

7. Providence, RI

Providence scores well in multiple areas, including livability and leisure activities. The city ranks in the top 10 when it comes to walkability and a lack of traffic, while also being top three in the number of coffee shops, golf courses, and performing arts centers per capita.

8. Orlando, FL

It comes as no surprise that one of America’s top vacation destinations is filled with fun ways for locals and tourists alike to relax and enjoy themselves. As a result, Orlando has the highest leisure activity score of any city, thanks in part to the highest per-capita rates of theme parks and spas of any city in the country.

9. Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is one of the most walkable and bikeable cities in the country, ranking in the top 10 for both of those metrics. Additionally, D.C. residents have performed online searches for “stress relief” at the lowest rate of any city in the country over the last five years, which contributes to a healthy well-being score for the city.

10. Denver, CO

Well-being contributes heavily to Denver’s ranking in the top 10. 73% of Denver residents average at least seven hours of sleep per night, one of the five highest rates in the country, while Denver also has one of the 10 highest community wellness scores of any city. For those looking to indulge in substance-assisted relaxation, Denver has one of the nation’s highest rates of cannabis dispensaries per capita, with 29.5 per 100,000 people.

The least laid-back cities in America

Stress is unavoidable, no matter where you live. However, extenuating circumstances in some places can make stress more common or amplify existing stressors. That can make it harder for people who live in these cities to be able to unwind and relax as fully as they might like.

A map of the U.S. showing the least laid-back cities in America. The least laid-back is Houston, Texas.


1. Houston, TX

Three different Texas cities rank among the top five most uptight cities, led by Houston in the number one overall spot.

A lack of leisure activities relative to population size contributes significantly to this ranking, as Houston ranks among the bottom five when it comes to the number of theme parks, golf courses, yoga studios, and concert venues per capita. Finally, Houston’s workers average an even 40 hours per week on the job, more than any other city.

2. Memphis, TN

Memphis has one of the lowest well-being scores of any city in this analysis, thanks to multiple factors. Just 10.7% of residents work from home (the fourth-lowest rate of any city), while 19.6% of residents report having poor mental health (the fifth-highest rate in the country).

3. San Antonio, TX

San Antonio has the lowest leisure activities score of any city in the country, indicating a lack of relaxing diversions available for citizens. The city ranks in the bottom two for many factors, including golf courses, yoga studios, farmers markets, sushi restaurants, performing arts centers, and concert venues per capita.

4. Detroit, MI

No city is struggling more than Detroit when it comes to well-being, as the city has the lowest score of any city in that category. Just 54% of Detroiters sleep seven or more hours per night, the lowest rate of any city. Additionally, more than one-fifth of people in the Motor City (20.5%) report having poor mental health, which is also the highest rate in the nation.

5. Dallas, TX

Like the other Texas cities on this list, Dallas suffers from a lack of leisure activities relative to population size. Beyond that, Dallas is in the bottom 15 when it comes to the number of parks per capita, and workers in Dallas work 39.9 hours per week on average — the second-highest total in the country.

6. Indianapolis, IN

Only four cities have fewer parks per capita than Indianapolis (26.3 parks per 100,000 people), and Indy has the third lowest walk score of any city. Both of these aspects negatively impact the city’s livability score. Indianapolis also has low numbers when it comes to several key leisure activities, including bottom-10 rates of coffee shops and sushi restaurants per capita.

7. New York, NY

New York is many things, and one of them is noisy. NYC has the third-highest noise pollution level of any city in the country. That level of noise can make it difficult to relax, as can the financial worries that come with the high cost of living in the Big Apple. San Francisco and San Jose are the only cities that are more expensive to live in than New York.

8. Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville is one of the most stressful cities to navigate for anyone who does not have a car (or simply doesn’t want to drive). This city has the second-lowest walk score in the country and one of the 10 lowest bike scores. Jacksonville is also tied for the lowest number of farmers markets per capita and has the third-fewest concert venues per capita.

9. Columbus, OH

More than 18% of people in Columbus report having poor mental health, which ranks among the 15 highest rates in the country. Additionally, Columbus residents have searched for “stress relief” at one of the 10 highest rates in the country over the last five years.

10. Los Angeles, CA

It’s hard for LA drivers to relax behind the wheel. Los Angeles has the highest traffic index score in the country. This city also has the second-lowest rate of parks per capita, and the fourth-highest cost of living of any city.

A city-by-city breakdown of America’s most and least laid-back cities

City Well-being Livability Economic factors Leisure activities

Overall city score

(Out of 100)

Seattle, WA 23.0 18.8 17.4 12.4 71.8
Minneapolis, MN 19.0 16.6 19.1 16.8 71.5
Portland, OR 20.1 18.0 19.8 13.3 71.2
Pittsburgh, PA 14.3 17.1 18.3 20.9 70.5
Salt Lake City, UT 14.7 17.1 18.3 20.1 70.2
Atlanta, GA 17.5 15.4 16.5 20.3 69.6
Providence, RI 10.2 18.0 18.2 21.7 68.0
Orlando, FL 12.6 13.7 18.5 22.8 67.7
Washington, DC 21.9 17.4 16.3 10.8 66.5
Denver, CO 20.0 15.9 17.4 12.9 66.2
St. Louis, MO 12.5 18.9 18.2 16.4 66.0
Boston, MA 17.7 15.9 16.9 13.5 64.1
San Francisco, CA 23.1 16.1 14.1 9.1 62.5
Hartford, CT 6.4 15.6 16.7 22.4 61.2
Richmond, VA 11.1 18.2 16.6 14.9 60.8
Raleigh, NC 17.7 13.7 19.6 8.0 59.0
Tampa, FL 11.0 13.8 17.1 16.9 58.8
Cincinnati, OH 9.7 16.1 15.7 17.2 58.7
Buffalo, NY 7.0 18.2 19.6 13.3 58.2
Riverside, CA 7.9 12.0 19.6 18.2 57.8
Sacramento, CA 12.0 17.2 19.9 8.4 57.5
San Jose, CA 21.3 15.3 15.3 4.8 56.8
Miami, FL 10.5 11.4 16.4 18.2 56.5
Virginia Beach, VA 13.8 17.3 19.4 5.2 55.6
Baltimore, MD 10.8 16.1 18.2 10.0 55.1
Las Vegas, NV 9.2 15.5 19.2 10.0 53.8
San Diego, CA 15.7 15.3 16.0 6.0 52.9
Nashville, TN 14.2 16.1 17.8 4.3 52.4
Austin, TX 17.2 14.4 16.5 4.0 52.1
Milwaukee, WI 9.3 15.2 18.3 8.3 51.0
New Orleans, LA 9.8 17.6 15.0 8.0 50.4
Charlotte, NC 16.7 11.4 18.3 3.9 50.2
Kansas City, MO 9.6 15.2 18.3 6.7 49.8
Oklahoma City, OK 10.2 13.9 19.1 5.7 48.9
Chicago, IL 13.7 13.9 17.9 3.1 48.7
Louisville, KY 9.0 15.6 18.9 4.6 48.1
Phoenix, AZ 12.8 13.6 17.4 4.0 47.8
Philadelphia, PA 10.0 15.2 16.5 5.5 47.2
Cleveland, OH 6.1 14.1 14.6 12.2 47.0
Birmingham, AL 5.7 14.1 14.1 12.5 46.4
Los Angeles, CA 13.1 12.7 17.1 2.7 45.6
Columbus, OH 8.9 14.8 18.2 3.4 45.3
Jacksonville, FL 11.0 13.0 18.0 3.0 45.1
New York, NY 13.2 13.7 15.3 1.6 43.9
Indianapolis, IN 9.6 11.1 18.6 3.5 42.8
Dallas, TX 10.9 12.7 15.5 3.6 42.7
Detroit, MI 4.8 13.0 13.2 10.2 41.2
San Antonio, TX 7.8 12.0 19.8 1.5 41.2
Memphis, TN 6.3 12.5 16.3 2.6 37.7
Houston, TX 10.7 10.4 14.5 1.7 37.3
Average 12.7 15.5 17.3 3.6 49.2

Advice from our experts

While our study helped us better understand what makes up a livable town, we also had our own questions about what might drive people away from certain places. To find out, we asked a panel of experts.


Tips for reducing stress and staying in control of your finances

  • Put your savings on autopilot. All-in-one budgeting apps, such as Rocket Money, can set you up for financial success while lowering your monthly bills altogether.
  • Check out open work-from-home roles. Try searching for remote work in your area to avoid expensive commutes and unnecessary car maintenance.
  • Earn rewards on big expenses. Learn more about the best credit cards for gas and groceries in order to earn cash back and travel rewards while you spend.

Methodology

FinanceBuzz collected data on 50 of America's biggest cities.

Data for four major categories were collected for each city. Those categories were well-being, economic factors, livability, and leisure activities. Each of those categories was created using individual data points, listed below. Each data point was indexed using a 0 to 5 scale. Those scores were then weighted and added together to create a score of 0 to 25 for each category, then added together again to give each city an overall score on a 0 to 100 scale. We deemed the highest-scoring cities to be the most laid-back.

For individual data points, a weight of 1.00 is standard, with weights above 1.00 having a larger impact on a category’s score and those below 1.00 having a lesser impact. The weights and sources for the individual metrics used in each category are as follows in the table below.

Well-being
Factor Weight
Google Trends score for "Stress Relief" over the last five years Google Trends 1.00
The percentage of people that sleep 7+ hours per night CDC 500 Cities Project 1.00
The percentage of people who work from home U.S. Census 1.00
The percentage of the population reporting that they have poor mental health CDC 500 Cities Project 1.00
Community Wellness Score Sharecare Well-Being Index 1.00
Economic factors
Factor Weight
Cost of Living BestPlaces 1.67
The percentage of people below the poverty line U.S. Census 1.67
Average hours worked per week U.S. Census 1.67
Livability
Factor Weight
The number of parks per 100,000 people The Trust For Public Land 0.72
The average commute time U.S. Census 0.72
Weather Comfort Index score BestPlaces 0.72
Average noise pollution level ArcGIS 0.72
Walkability score Walk Score 0.72
Bikeability score Walk Score 0.72
Traffic Index score Numbeo 0.72
Leisure activities
Factor Weight
The number of theme parks per 100,000 people YellowPages 0.46
The number of golf courses per 100,000 people GolfPass 0.46
The number of yoga studios per 100,000 people YellowPages 0.46
The number of farmer's markets per 100,000 people YellowPages 0.46
The number of spas per 100,000 people YellowPages 0.46
The number of cannabis dispensaries per 100,000 people YellowPages 0.46
The number of American/comfort food restaurants per 100,000 people YellowPages 0.46
The number of sushi restaurants per 100,000 people YellowPages 0.46
The number of coffee shops per 100,000 people YellowPages 0.46
The number of performing arts centers per 100,000 people YellowPages 0.46
The number of concert venues per 100,000 people YellowPages 0.46

In all cases where population was used to create a “per 100,000 people” calculation, population data came from the United States Census Bureau.

Author Details

Josh Koebert Josh Koebert is an experienced content marketer that loves exploring how personal finance overlaps with topics such as sports, food, pop culture, and more. His work has been featured on sites such as CNN, ESPN, Business Insider, and Lifehacker.

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