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10 best cities for outdoor gatherings

Learn about the best cities for hosting safe, small outdoor get-togethers.

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The last year has brought a renewed interest in outdoor space, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic making indoor gatherings extremely limited. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends smaller outdoor gatherings to lower the risk of transmission when visiting other households in person. 

To find the best U.S. cities for outdoor gatherings, we looked at the country’s 50 most populous metropolitan areas and ranked them according to four different criteria. 

  • Lowest summer temperatures
  • Warmest winter temperatures
  • Residents living within 10-minute walk of a park
  • Percentage of state covered in state or national parks

You’ll notice a trend in the results: the list is dominated by Californian cities, primarily because of comfortable year-round temperatures and a high percentage of state and national parkland. 

As you’re reading, note that we did not factor in state or local guidances, since these are constantly changing depending on where you live. Check your city and state’s latest restrictions on park openings, gathering sizes and other guidelines before you plan your next get-together. 

With those thoughts in mind, now let’s find out the top 10 cities for socializing outside. 

#1: San Francisco, CA

Illustration indicating that San Francisco is the best city for outdoor gatherings

 

San Francisco soars to the top with three first-place finishes in our ranking categories. Parks are plentiful in the city, with 100% of residents living within a 10-minute walk of public outdoor space. The state of California as a whole also has the largest geographic footprint of both state and national parks, giving San Franciscans plenty of options. Plus, the city offers mild temperatures year-round, especially in the summer months.

  • Average January temperature: 52.1 degrees
  • Average July temperature: 63.8 degrees
  • Residents living within 10-minute walk of a park: 100%
  • Percentage of state covered in state or national park: 7.49%

 

#2: San Diego, CA

Next we travel down the California coastline to San Diego, our number two pick for outdoor gatherings. San Diego residents enjoy mild summers and winters. In fact, the average July temperature is about 71 degrees, while winter days tend to hover just below 60 degrees. City parks aren’t quite as plentiful as those in San Francisco, but over 80% of San Diegans can still walk to one within 10 minutes. 

  • Average January temperature: 58.6 degrees
  • Average July temperature: 71 degrees
  • Residents living within 10-minute walk of a park: 81%
  • Percentage of state covered in state or national park: 7.49%

 

#3: Sacramento, CA

While winters are chillier in Sacramento, summer temperatures still remain around 76 degrees, making it easy to enjoy time outside together without getting overheated. There are also several state parks located in and around Sacramento. Even if the buildings are closed during the pandemic, residents can still enjoy the grounds of places like Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park.

  • Average January temperature: 48.7 degrees
  • Average July temperature: 76.6 degrees
  • Residents living within 10-minute walk of a park: 83%
  • Percentage of state covered in state or national park: 7.49%

 

#4: Seattle, WA

Seattle earns a spot on our top 10 list in part because of its low summer temperature. In fact, it comes in second behind San Francisco with the average July temperature reaching just 67 degrees. The city also has a high percentage of public parks within walking distance of residential areas, making it easy to get together with friends without having to go inside. 

  • Average January temperature: 45.1 degrees
  • Average July temperature: 67 degrees
  • Residents living within 10-minute walk of a park: 96%
  • Percentage of state covered in state or national park: 3.93%

 

#5: San Jose, CA

San Jose winters are the kind we dream about, averaging 62 degrees in January. Not only is it palatable to gather outside year-round, 82% of San Jose residents also have quick and easy access to park space. There are also plenty of parks surrounding the city, like Almaden Lake Park for picnics and fishing or Alum Rock Park for hiking an extensive network of trails.

  • Average January temperature: 62 degrees
  • Average July temperature: 82 degrees
  • Residents living within 10-minute walk of a park: 82%
  • Percentage of state covered in state or national park: 7.49%

 

#6: Boston, MA

While ranked number six overall, Boston is the first East Coast city to grace our list for outdoor gatherings. The average January temperature of 36 degrees may make winter get-togethers uncomfortable, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel during the summer months, which typically stay below 80 degrees. Plus, Boston is home to 217 parks and 65 squares, giving you plenty of options to relax outside.

  • Average January temperature: 36.3 degrees
  • Average July temperature: 77.2 degrees
  • Residents living within 10-minute walk of a park: 100%
  • Percentage of state covered in state or national park: 4.23%

 

#7: Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles makes an ideal spot for outdoor gatherings in the winter months with the average January day reaching nearly 60 degrees. Plus, the area is teeming with diverse public parks to take advantage of, including canyon trails at Will Rogers State Historic Park and beach space at places like Dockweiler State Beach.  

  • Average January temperature: 57.9 degrees
  • Average July temperature: 81 degrees
  • Residents living within 10-minute walk of a park: 62%
  • Percentage of state covered in state or national park: 7.49%

 

#8: Miami, FL

It’s easy to enjoy the outdoors together all year round in Miami, thanks to a winter-time low of just 71 degrees. Plus, the vast majority of city residents can walk to a park in 10 minutes or less, making it easy to meet up with family or friends. In addition to those public parks, residents also have plenty of opportunities for beach access.

  • Average January temperature: 71.5 degrees
  • Average July temperature: 85.9 degrees
  • Residents living within 10-minute walk of a park: 87%
  • Percentage of state covered in state or national park: 6.63%

 

#9: Hartford, CT

Hartford winters are cold compared to most of our other top picks, but the rest of the year allows for comfortable outdoor get-togethers. In fact, the average summer day stays below 80 degrees. Plus, 94% of residents are within easy walking distance to a park, so you don’t need to worry about having a car or public transportation to find an outdoor place where you can hang out.

  • Average January temperature: 33.1 degrees
  • Average July temperature: 78 degrees
  • Residents living within 10-minute walk of a park: 94% 
  • Percentage of state covered in state or national park: 7.41%

 

#10: Washington, D.C. 

As the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. has quite a bit of public park space to access. While there’s no data for state or national park land in the city, 98% of residents can quickly walk to a park. Plus, the National Mall accounts for over 300 acres, plus nearly a two-mile stretch of public pedestrian space from the steps of the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial. 

  • Average January temperature: 39 degrees
  • Average July temperature: 81 degrees
  • Residents living within 10-minute walk of a park: 98%
  • Percentage of state covered in state or national park: N/A

Illustration of a list of the top 10 cities for outdoor gatherings

 

Even if you don’t live near any of these cities, there are plenty of ways to gather outdoors all year long. Check out our tips on how to do it safely regardless of location.

Methodology

The Zebra pulled four data points to analyze the top 50 MSAs (by population) in the U.S. 

MSA data was used where applicable, and we sometimes substituted city or state data as necessary. 

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