The Most Chill Cities in America
Some cities are simply wracked with anxiety. They're crowded, dirty and provide little financial and physical security to residents. But not all cities fall into this pit.
Since travel is all about good vibes, we've culled the 20 most chill cities in the U.S. Some of the most relaxed places on this list are go-to destinations, while others are places you may not have thought to visit. Besides having more carefree locals, all these cities are safe and comfortable options for a rejuvenating getaway.
If the locals are feeling good, you're sure to feel blissed out, as well.
Note: We may earn money from affiliate partners if you buy through links on our site.
20. Seattle, Washington
Total Score: 36.71
You wouldn't expect to see a state's largest city also be its most chill, but Seattle lives and breathes the art of enjoying life. If residents are ever stressed, all they need to do is head out into the surrounding nature.
Travelers, too, can enjoy the beauty of Washington by kayaking on Elliott Bay or going hiking in nearby Olympic National Park. Other relaxing things to do include visiting Pike Place Market (stop by the original Starbucks) and seeing the city from the top of the Space Needle.
Where to stay: citizenM Seattle Pioneer Square
*Rankings are based on WalletHub's 2022 "Most & Least Stressed Cities in America" report. The study analyzed work stress, financial stress, family stress, and health and safety issues across 182 cities.
19. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Total Score: 36.61
Minneapolis may not be as sexy as Seattle, but it's even chiller than the Emerald City. Here, easy access to nature also helps keep people's endorphin levels high — even in the harsh winters. Standing along the Mississippi River, you'll find many parks and islands near the city, so you can do outdoor activities without leaving the urban center.
And if you destress by appreciating the beauty of art instead, head to the Minneapolis Institute of Art or the Walker Art Center.
Where to stay: Elliot Park Hotel, Autograph Collection
18. Missoula, Montana
Total Score: 36.58
Once again, access to nature proves beneficial to people's happiness. In this chill Montana city, you'll get to enjoy public parks and many fishing spots. But you'll also get access to fun events and an exchange of ideas, thanks to the University of Montana bringing questioning young minds to the city.
Plus, the university also brings in a party culture that lets people regularly blow off steam.
Where to stay: Staybridge Suites Missoula
17. Boise, Idaho
Total Score: 36.49
When it comes to job security and safety, Boise is among the best in the country. This might explain why townspeople here get more sleep each night than most —they can rest easy knowing they're safe and secure.
Explore the city's history by visiting the Art Deco Boise Art Museum, the Old Oregon Trail and the Old Idaho Penitentiary, a decommissioned prison dating back to 1872.
When you 're done sightseeing, grab a bite at one of the local hotspots; the biscuits and gravy at Goldy's Breakfast Bistro is guaranteed to make you happy. Then head to the Stillwater Float Center to soak away your stress while combating conditions like hypertension, arthritis, back pain, muscle fatigue and insomnia.
Where to stay: Oxford Suites Boise
16. Nashua, New Hampshire
Total Score: 34.94
New Hampshire's southern city of Nashua is filled with riverside trails and waterside parks. Within an hour's drive are ski slopes for winter visits, as well.
In the summer, however, the top spot is definitely Mine Falls Park. Listed by TripAdvisor as the No. 1 place to visit in Nashua, it features a rejuvenating and relaxing mix of forest, wetlands and open fields.
Where to stay: Residence Inn by Marriott Nashua
15. Plano, Texas
Total Score: 34.89
Located near Dallas (No. 36 for stress) and Fort Worth (No. 76), low-key Plano gets to have big Texas-style fun without all the hassle. Debt-per-median earning, positive equity in affordable housing and steady household incomes keep financial stress at bay among locals.
You may have thought about visiting Dallas-Fort Worth, but the dreamy atmosphere of Plano is worth enjoying too. Walk around the historic downtown and enjoy its laidback restaurants, including, of course, plenty of terrific BBQ joints.
Where to stay: Four Points by Sheraton Plano
14. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Total Score: 34.11
The people of Cedar Rapids enjoy some of the most affordable housing in the U.S., allowing them to worry less about paying their bills and more about what they want to do on a Saturday afternoon.
If you've always thought there wasn't anything to see in Iowa, Cedar Rapids will happily prove you wrong with its high-quality Museum of Art and National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in the Czech Village and New Bohemia District. (The city is home to immigrants from both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and shares both countries' cultural traditions with pride.)
Where to stay: Hilton Garden Inn Cedar Rapids
13. Lincoln, Nebraska
Total Score: 33.70
The Midwest claims several of the top 20 most chilled-out spots in the country, including Nebraska's cool capital city. Work stress is low here, with residents registering overall job contentment, in part because they don't have to endure many overtime hours.
When they aren't working, locals spend their time among the sculptures in the Sunken Gardens, attending football games at the University of Nebraska's Memorial Stadium or taking a quiet walk around Holmes Park and Lake. Visitors seeking R&R would be wise to follow suit.
Where to stay: Graduate Lincoln
12. Portland, Maine
Total Score: 33.60
Undoubtedly one of the most scenic cities in the entire country, Portland boasts the quintessential Maine coastline — complete with white-and-red lighthouses. It's simply difficult to hold onto stress when the Atlantic Ocean salts the breeze.
Enjoy fresh seafood and boutique shopping at the Old Port. Go on whale-watching tours (when in-season), and visit the Portland Museum of Art. Of course, you can't leave without visiting Portland Head Light.
Where to stay: Portland Harbor Hotel
11. Irvine, California
Total Score: 33.24
Orange County's Irvine may be landlocked — unlike its SoCal neighbors such as Huntington Beach — but that doesn't mean it isn't a calming place to spend a few days.
For its residents, Irvine is perfect, as it has some of the nation's lowest crime rates. Family is important here, and the city has low divorce rates as well.
That dedication to family is the reason many of the city's attractions are kid-friendly, including the Pretend City Children's Museum, Orange County Great Park and Tanaka Farms, where you can enjoy good old-fashioned tractor rides and pick-your-own fruits and veggies in the heart of a metropolitan area.
Where to stay: Irvine Marriott
10. Burlington, Vermont
Total Score: 33.24
Another university town, Burlington helps residents relax with its microbreweries and locally owned restaurants that create a sense of community pride. It also has urban green spaces, understanding the appeal of a city where trees abound.
You'll never be far from a good hiking spot, and Lake Champlain provides plenty of fun in the spring and summer.
Where to stay: Hotel Vermont
9. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Total Score: 32.94
Lack of sleep landed many cities high on the stressed-out list, but in Sioux Falls, locals are getting more zzz's each night than in most of the cities analysts reviewed.
It's easy to sleep peacefully through the night when you can spend your day outdoors at Falls Park, home of the falls for which the city is named — and the No. 1 attraction in town, according to Tripadvisor.
Where to stay: Clubhouse Hotel Sioux Falls
8. Bismarck, North Dakota
Total Score: 32.91
As far as capital cities go, Bismarck is relatively small but big on being carefree. Its part of the Missouri River is used for daily relaxation and play, and residents love to spend the day lazily fishing on it.
Fishing may be a calming activity, but not everyone takes to the water. As a capital city goes, this one has a sizable share of dining establishments, cultural attractions and things to do.
Moreover, WalletHub found Bismarck's minimal stress can be attributed to residents having some of the nation's highest median credit scores.
Where to stay: Home2 Suites by Hilton Bismarck
7. San Jose, California
Total Score: 32.85
Population: 1.01 million
The capital of Silicon Valley is situated near tech behemoths like Google, Meta and Apple — employers that are renowned for providing workers with a healthy work-life balance, not to mention park-like campuses to enjoy. With bosses catering to employee happiness, it is easy to see why San Jose's residents are laidback and happy.
When not taking a lunch break on the lawn, San Jose locals take advantage of California sunshine at the Municipal Rose Garden, Los Gatos Creek Trail and Happy Hollow Park and Zoo. The Tech Interactive Museum, while not particularly geared toward chilling out, is also a favored activity.
Where to stay: Sonesta Silicon Valley
6. Columbia, Maryland
Total Score: 32.12
Columbia was designed to be a livable city. James W. Rouse developed it with the idea that all residents could easily walk to work, schools and shops. The idea has succeeded in many parts of the city, with residents having the luxury of walking more than they drive — a rare privilege in the United States.
This, plus an abundance of urban green spaces and parks, makes residents very happy. As for travelers, they also seem to love getting to actually use their feet.
Where to stay: Merriweather Lakehouse, Autograph Collection
4. Fargo, North Dakota (Tie)
Total Score: 31.46
The people of Fargo get a lot of sleep at night. And while this can partly be attributed to cold winters that call for bundling up in bed, it also likely has to do with the fact that locals are happier than those in other cities, enjoying lots of physical activity during the day in the summer and winter months. This activity additionally keeps residents fit, with WalletHub finding Fargo to have a relatively low rate of obesity.
The data also revealed that the people of Fargo avoid the bad habits of smoking and binge drinking at higher rates than others. And despite what the TV and film adaptation of "Fargo" has suggested, the crime rate here is pretty low, too.
If you are in Fargo, check out the recreated 19th-century Bonanzaville, which offers a glimpse into what life was like long ago through 43 historic buildings and more than 400,000 artifacts.
Where to stay: Jasper Hotel
4. Overland Park, Kansas (Tie)
Total Score: 31.46
This city just outside of Kansas City is the second-largest in the state, and while that may make for some stressful commuting, worry is less acute here than in K.C. (ranked 50 on the most-stressed list). WalletHub finds Overland Park has some of the most affordable housing in the country as well as one of the lowest poverty rates.
Museums and entertainment are important to residents, which also ensures there's plenty for out-of-towners to enjoy. Stroll through the Johnson County Museum or check out the stained-glass architecture of the Museum at Prairiefire.
Where to stay: The Inn at Meadowbrook
3. Madison, Wisconsin
Total Score: 31.27
The capital of Wisconsin is not too far from Chicago. And like its larger southern neighbor, Madison has a lake, a zoo, a college and Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings. What it doesn't have is stress. While Chicago is No. 24 on the list of most-stressed places, Madison can be found at the other end of the list.
Family-stress factors are minimal in Madison, with strong social ties and longer marriages contributing to an overall lack of tension.
At the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, enjoy the restorative benefits of the outdoors amid a fragrant assortment of roses and perennials, free of charge. How's that for a stress-busting activity?
Where to stay: The Edgewater
2. South Burlington, Vermont
Total Score: 31.14
Fewer than 20,300 people live in South Burlington, making it a tight-knit community of friends and family. And those close social connections help the psyche. The city touts low depression rates, a high overall sense of well-being among locals and a low percentage of adults in poor health, according to WalletHub.
Located along Lake Champlain, South Burlington offers water sports, hiking, nearby skiing and quality craft beer at the Magic Hat Brewing Company, a local favorite that tourists also love. Enjoy a pint after a day exploring the area's abundant natural assets.
Where to stay: Green Mountain Suites Hotel
1. Fremont, California
Total Score: 28.58
The least-stressed city in America, according to WalletHub, is Freemont, a suburb located on the San Francisco Bay. Here, divorce and poverty rates are low, while median credit scores are high.
Job security and a good living can keep the stress away, sure, but consider the city's location, as well. From Mission Peak Regional Preserve to Coyote Hills Regional Park, and Sunol Regional Wilderness to Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area, this is a city that loves its outdoor living.
So, too, do its visitors, ranking Coyote Hills the top attraction in the area.
Where to stay: Best Western Plus Garden Court Inn
Honorable Mention: Huntington Beach, California
Huntington Beach (and the other honorable mentions) didn't make it in the top 20. But because it had this honor in previous years and is within the top 30, we think it's worthy of a shoutout.
Surf City USA, as it's known, is one of the most laidback cities in the country, and not just because it's filled with blissed-out surfers. It's considered safe and stable, with minimal worries about sleep, jobs or finances. Plus, Huntington Beach residents (and guests) get to wake up to a 1,850-foot beach every day. Sounds carefree enough for us!
Plus, the city welcomes 281 days of sunshine a year, boosting serotonin to foster calm and happiness.
Where to stay: Kimpton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort
Honorable Mention: Scottsdale, Arizona
Right next door to Phoenix is the far-more-relaxed city of Scottsdale. Here, five-star resorts and grassy green golf courses are surrounded by the brown and golden hues of the desert. (The same one that stretches out to Chandler.)
High rates of physical activity help account for Scottsdale locals enjoying minimal stress. Hiking is big here, at places like Papago Park and Camelback Mountain. Since hikers are pretty chill, we can see why Scottsdale is as well.
While visiting, make sure to stop by Old Town for world-class dining, arts and entertainment.
Where to stay: Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia
Honorable Mention: Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha doesn't suffer from the traffic of other cities, as it is home to a popular stop along the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail that never gets congested.
Top things to do in this midwestern prairie city include enjoying nature at the Lauritzen Gardens Omaha's Botanical Center and getting cultural at the Durham Museum, Joslyn Art Museum and Omaha Children's Museum. The top way to chill in Omaha? The Henry Doorly Zoo, a great place to take a leisurely stroll among 160 acres of exhibits and gardens.
Where to stay: Hotel Deco