2022’s Best Cities for Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse

Two office workers (one of them armed) crouch in front of a desk to hide from a couple of zombies in the background

In the (unlikely?) event of a zombie uprising, where do the living have the best chance of making it out alive?

Inspired by the CDC’s Zombie Preparedness 101 guide, Lawn Love dug through the data graveyard to rank 2022’s Best Cities for Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse.

We compared the 200 biggest U.S. cities on 26 key indicators of zombie invasion-preparedness, such as the share of the living population in poor health and access to “bunkers,” hunting-gear stores, and supermarkets.

Use our rankings and in-depth analysis to help you prepare to fight the undead. (If you ever encounter an actual zombie, aim for the head — and double tap!)

In this article

  1. City rankings
  2. The upshot
  3. Surprising findings
  4. Expert take
  5. Behind the ranking
  6. Final thoughts: Zombies are among us

City rankings

See how each city fared in our overall ranking below.

Infographic of the Best Cities for Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse, a ranking based on the share of the living population in poor health, access to hunting-gear stores, and more

The upshot

Orlando: Almost immune to zombies

To whoever can read this transmission: The survivors colony has moved to Orlando, Florida, from Huntington Beach, California, our 2021 Most Zombie-Resistant City. 

What makes the popular resort destination well poised to fight off a wave of zombies? Although The City Beautiful doesn’t have the healthiest population alive (No. 144), it has plenty of hospitals per capita (No. 30) to contain a disease outbreak. (Prevention is key.)

If s**t does hit the fan, rest assured you and the other survivors won’t run out of food or weapons for many years while waiting for a cure: Orlando ranked first in both the Supplies and Protection categories.

So, book that one-way ticket to O-Town before everyone around you starts to turn.

Gambling with your life in the Vegas metro

Army of the Dead” isn’t far off from reality after all. Although the movie depicts Sin City as a zombie wasteland, you’d be relatively safe here (No. 19 overall). But the rest of the Las Vegas metro area would be nothing more than a strip of human steak for hungry zombies.

Five of our bottom 10 cities surround Vegas proper. Among them are Sunrise Manor (dead last), Paradise (for zombies) at No. 2, and North Las Vegas at unlucky No. 10. You have slightly better survival odds in Henderson (95th best or 106th worst, depending on your outlook), but we wouldn’t bet on it.

Why are Vegas suburbs particularly unprepared for a zombie attack? Well, they collectively bombed every category, with some exceptions. For example, Enterprise is only 88th most vulnerable overall, homes are spacious in Spring Valley (No. 7) and Sunrise Manor (No. 15), and North Las Vegas is one of the most walkable (No. 26).

Coastal mobility

If zombie movies and shows have taught us anything, it’s that you need to keep moving. Once you’ve depleted one location of its resources, you’ll need to travel elsewhere to replenish your supplies. You’ll starve even sooner if competition arrives.

Our data shows it’s much harder to stay mobile in inland cities, especially those that are landlocked. So, stay close to the coast to avoid finding yourself on the wrong end of Lucille (Negan’s bat).

Map your trek through cities near water, such as San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Baltimore, which dominated our Mobility category. Most of these cities have access to ports and marinas — it will be even easier to evade an army of hungry corpses if you can stay off land completely because zombies can’t swim.

Surprising findings

Stay in the middle

If you fear the walking dead, then your best strategy for avoiding getting bit would be to shelter in place.

Surprisingly, the Midwest is the smart choice for a hideout. The Kansas City metro area, the Twin Cities, and Chicago suburb Naperville, Illinois, are all good places to invest in a home before the apocalypse. Properties in the Midwest region are not only generous in square footage, but they also commonly come with basements that you can convert into bunkers.

Nebraska’s two biggest cities, Omaha and Lincoln, as well as Des Moines, Iowa, are also ideal candidates. These cities are in states that are friendly toward an off-grid lifestyle. Des Moines’ population is especially at risk of being outpaced by limping zombies due to a low physical inactivity rate (No. 111), so staying inside and away from others (dead or alive) here would be to the locals’ advantage.

Atlanta: Only good for fighting fake zombies

All those zombies you see around Atlanta are just extras in “The Walking Dead,” but in a “real-world” zombie infestation, Atlanta would only fare OK-ish. Georgia’s capital and the filming location of the popular zombie series ranked a mediocre No. 79 overall.

Nearly half of the local population is in poor health, many homes lack complete plumbing and kitchen facilities, and there aren’t enough arms and ammo to go around. Combined, these cons would make Hotlanta a zombie hotspot. 

Thankfully, Atlantans love to shop, coming in at No. 5 for shopping centers and department stores per 100,000 living residents. Malls are like self-contained survivors colonies: Everything you need — food, clothing, shelter — is there, at least until it all runs out and the zombies take over.

Expert take

It’s been several years since the CDC published its guide to preparing for a zombie apocalypse. To keep the conversation alive, we asked a panel of warm-bodied experts to weigh in on the biggest considerations when fighting the undead.

  1. What is the likelihood of a zombie apocalypse actually happening and why?
  2. Movies have taught us that, in order to survive a zombie apocalypse, the living must keep moving. When traveling, how should you prioritize what to pack, who to bring, when to go, etc.?
  3. Where are the best places to seek shelter when on the move?
  4. What are the three best weapons against zombies and why those?
  5. What are your three most important tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse?
Thomas Lee PHD
Assistant Professor
Thomas J. Duszynski, MPH
Lecturer, Epidemiology Education Director
Hana Akselrod, MD, MPH
COVID-19 Lead, GWU Medical Faculty Associates, Assistant Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases
David Grace
Long-time member of The Science Fictions Writers Of America, DavidGraceAuthor.com
Thomas Lee PHD
Assistant Professor
University of Hawaii, Manoa

What is the likelihood of a zombie apocalypse actually happening and why?

The likelihood is higher than most would think. With major advances in genetic sequencing, and overall medical technology, the possibility is real. As humans, we will forever push the boundaries and along the way, there will be unintended consequences.

Movies have taught us that, in order to survive a zombie apocalypse, the living must keep moving. When traveling, how should you prioritize what to pack, who to bring, when to go, etc.?

Pack light and pack your essentials. You need comfortable shoes and clean underwear.

Where are the best places to seek shelter when on the move?

Places with easy escape avenues and 360 visibility.

What are the three best weapons against zombies and why those?

Having good cardio, any blunt weapon, or a weighted spear. You need cardio to gain enough space from the horde and to survive. A blunt weapon or weighted spear to slow them down.

What are your three most important tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse?

Stay calm, always check the entire room before dropping your guard, and learn how to use a map.

Thomas J. Duszynski, MPH
Lecturer, Epidemiology Education Director
Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

What is the likelihood of a zombie apocalypse actually happening and why?

What we think of as zombies are relatively new to American culture and really didn’t evolve into the “Hollywood” zombie until George Romero’s 1969 movie “The Night of the Living Dead” and the zombie craze was born. In the original script, Romero just referred to them as “flesh eaters” and were a metaphor of conformity, racism, militarism, and other social/societal ills. They were stories about people failing to respond in a proper way, by sticking it out as opposed to recognizing their own limitations.

With other movies, a music video (Thriller) and a series of events that lead people to believe that something like this could happen, it didn’t immediately grow into the level we see today for some time. The great recession (2008), government shutdowns, floods, fires, Ebola all played a role in the idea of an apocalypse. Much of an actual apocalypse is too scary for people to contemplate.

Hollywood steps in with the Walking Dead, and other movies and shows to allow a safe place to explore our apocalyptic worries, while in the back of our mind knowing it isn’t real. Real stories of disease, nuclear accidents/disasters are real, and maybe too much for most people to contemplate. People in general want to explore what it would be like, while they know it isn’t.

Zombies give people the opportunity to witness the end of humanity, satisfying their curiosity, putting themselves in characters, while allowing themselves to sleep at night because the catalyst of the end is fictional.

The modern Hollywood Zombies have their origins in the Haitian culture and religion that was transported via slave trades from central and western Africa. However, when exploring other cultures, we find a similar creature in almost every culture or population, throughout history.

Prior to the acceptance and understanding of germ theory, the limitations of science and the microscope, people needed a means to explain what they were seeing when it came to disease and death. From the Chinese hopping zombie, the English Revenant and the Norse Draugr (translating to “again walker or ghost”) to the German Nachtzehrer and the Hindu Vetala, were all part of the oral and eventual written tradition of people trying to explain, what they were witnessing in their own population.

With the development of scientific methods and advancements, these creatures remain part of history, with no scientific facts behind them. While there have been more than 40 new diseases that emerged and reemerged in the human population in the past 50 years, none have caused a zombie to appear and likely won’t. There are certainly mind-altering diseases, some that are infectious, like rabies, but can be easily controlled and managed.

The likelihood of zombie-like infection is small, especially when you think about it from a sense of what kind of etiological agent would this be? Virus, bacteria, parasite? It would have to come from something that already exists in the world, since we don’t have the ability to create a living organism from nothing. It would have to acquire a mutation, or successive mutations (variants), which means it would have to infect a lot of people to do so and go noticed by science. It would have to be incredibly infectious person to person and would likely not have an animal reservoir to really become a pandemic. So in short…..NO it isn’t likely to happen.

Movies have taught us that, in order to survive a zombie apocalypse, the living must keep moving. When traveling, how should you prioritize what to pack, who to bring, when to go, etc.?

If there were a fast moving apocalypse, and you have to move from a disaster, you need to think about where you are going and how you are going to get there. If you can drive you can carry a lot more of what you deem as necessities, as opposed to walking (or running), then your perception of necessity will change.

If you take daily medicines that would likely be something small that you should take as opposed to trying to carry your 60” flatscreen with surround sound. A laptop or tablet would be great, because they are small, but you will also need a place to charge, and need to be kept dry. They also need the internet to be useful. Is that going to exist? If not, then they become paperweights.

The question of who to bring seems obvious, especially from a public health standpoint. Everyone! We want to save everyone, and we try to save everyone, we want everyone to have the opportunity to survive as long as they can. Unfortunately, in disasters, people get left behind, or get separated and lost, or intentionally don’t want to leave and are lost to the disaster. We see this with hurricanes and with the recent anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, of individuals who didn’t want to leave their home and succumbed to the violent eruption.

Where are the best places to seek shelter when on the move?

Depending on the situation, there are places that people can seek shelter. I often think of when I was a child in elementary school and the tornado shelters in our school were the bathrooms. Of course, boys went to the boy’s bathroom and girls went to the girl’s, and I often thought what would happen in a real tornado and I couldn’t make it to the boy’s bathroom. Would I die because I wasn’t allowed in the girl’s bathroom?

In today’s world there are shelters that can be stood up quickly to accommodate the movement of people. The more time to prepare and plan, the better the shelter. You would need/want a place with food, clean water, working toilets and showers and a low population. You would want medical care if needed.

There is the joke that the best shelter is a Sam’s Club or Costco. They are generally built out of concrete. They have a lot of food, places to sleep, water and you need a membership to get in, which the presumption is that zombies wouldn’t have a membership and be turned away. But thinking about that, would everyone else go there? Then resources become more challenging when everyone is clamoring for them.

Also, when dealing with an infectious disease-causing agent, the fewer people around you, the less likely disease transmission can occur.

What are the three best weapons against zombies and why those?

Knowledge, Science, and Reasoning are the best weapons for a zombie apocalypse or any disaster. I know you wanted to know which physical weapon to bring (machete, gun, etc). However, those are short term, last option resources. Arming yourself with knowledge, science, and reasoning is limitless, doesn’t take any space or weight and can be used in all situations.

Knowledge of what is happening and how to best protect yourself, and is the core goal of science.

Science is the process of understanding what is occurring, proven facts, and deterministic relationships. We gain knowledge through science.
Finally, reasoning, the ability to make decisions based on evidence and ability to read situations that help us to determine what is safe and what isn’t, allowing humanity to survive.

What are your three most important tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse?

While practically no such etiological agent exists that would render a human into a zombie-like state, we could therefore look at any disaster in a similar light. Global warming allows for a disaster scenario that will affect everyone on the planet, which might mimic a zombie movie. You have to flee your home; you will be on the move with people you don’t know. You won’t have cell phone coverage or even power to charge a device. What would you do?

First, you need a detailed plan of what to do and where to go, with a backup option or two. What if there was a flash flood that forced you from your home? Where would you go, how would you get there? How would you communicate with your family or friends? Where would you stay? Thinking about it from a practical standpoint, if you can answer these questions, then likely you are already somewhat prepared.

Second, you have to think about how you would receive information about what is occurring, what is safe, and where to go to travel? Taking that laptop, tablet, or smartphone are great if they can be charged and there is a wifi signal that you can access. However, an FM radio has much more versatility. They are equipped to transmit a signal that has been around for centuries, the radio can have batteries, but they have hand crank radios that you can charge by turning the handle. They are portable and have a wide range of station options as you relocate.

Third, make a supply kit for quick use. Three days of food and water is generally what is recommended, however in a true disaster you can’t expect the federal, state, or local government to come in and help. The scale would be too great.

In that kit you also need any medications, and supplies, like a can opener and cooking pots, utensils, matches, flashlights as well as something to occupy your mind, like a deck of cards. Camping supplies are great, they are lightweight, small, store easily, and can be used in a variety of environments. Although, waiting until a disaster occurs to “stock” up is too late, because everyone else will also be trying to do the same.

Hana Akselrod, MD, MPH
COVID-19 Lead, GWU Medical Faculty Associates, Assistant Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases
George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences

What is the likelihood of a zombie apocalypse actually happening and why?

While it is hard to predict the exact clinical features of a new disease, the unfortunate reality is that a potential zombie pandemic is more likely to happen now or in the coming decades, than at any point in human history up until now.

Recent decades have seen an acceleration in the emergence of new zoonotic infectious diseases across the world (including COVID-19, Zika, new strains of Ebola, Marburg, and other hemorrhagic fever viruses), as well as the rise of treatment-resistant versions of old foes (such as tuberculosis, malaria, and diarrheal infections).

Growing human populations, aggressive development of previously wild areas, and human-caused climate change all place unprecedented stress on natural environments, making it more likely that a virus will “spill over” from a higher to isolated animal species into domesticated animals and people.

At the same time, we have become more interconnected than ever by travel, globalized supply chains, and competition for scarce resources, making it far more likely that an outbreak that begins in one part of the world will quickly find susceptible hosts in another.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the many ways in which our society is vulnerable to emergent infectious diseases, from the failure of global governance to the inadequacy of our disease surveillance and response systems, the steep social inequalities that allow infections to fester and mutate, and the malicious agents of misinformation who profit from perpetuating viral transmission.

Where we go from here in terms of averting the zombie apocalypse is up to us. If we are any kind of intelligent species, we will draw upon the hard-earned lessons of COVID-19 and raise sustainable systems of defense against the emerging disease threats of the future.

Movies have taught us that, in order to survive a zombie apocalypse, the living must keep moving. When traveling, how should you prioritize what to pack, who to bring, when to go, etc.?

  • No matter what kind of disaster you are preparing for, it is prudent to plan for two contingencies: 1) hunkering down, like in case of prowling zombie marauders or a highly contagious respiratory virus spreading through public places, and 2) evacuating rapidly, like in case of a stampeding zombie horde or an approaching wildfire. Plan for both in advance, and choose the most prudent course of action based on changing circumstances and guidance from trusted authorities when the time comes.
  • Make sure to keep any prescription medications filled and a reasonable first-aid kit stocked. Include feminine hygiene products (they can double as wound dressings), high-quality masks such as KN95 or N95 (COVID-19 hasn’t gone away just because there is a zombie pandemic now), and a multivitamin (vitamins C and D and zinc, are important for maintaining a healthy immune system). Know a few reliable recipes you can prepare with limited, long-lasting ingredients (on the move from zombies is not the right time to learn your way around sourdough). Do not take safe drinking water for granted. Get to know options, including filtration, chemical disinfection, ultraviolet light treatment, and boiling (if safe to light a fire without attracting zombie attention), and practice on a camping trip.
  • Consider a backup (solar or motion-powered) recharging device for your smartphone — it will be crucial to communicating, checking up on family members, and conducting televisits with a doctor in case of medical emergency. Keep digital copies of important documents uploaded to a secure cloud location, including your COVID-19 vaccination card.

Where are the best places to seek shelter when on the move?

  • While fleeing zombies during the COVID-19 pandemic, the best shelters offer both an easily defended perimeter and good ventilation. When establishing a base for a large group of refugees, designate a triage area in which you can sequester persons under investigation who were recently exposed to a zombie and might be presymptomatic or whose COVID-19 test results are pending.
  • Be aware that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent due to climate change, and conditions in your region may not be what you are used to. Be aware of environmental threats, including wildfires, heavy rainfall, storm surges, and flooding. Avoid walking through flood water — it may conceal downed wires, partially submerged zombies, and disease-causing bacteria.

What are the three best weapons against zombies and why those?

  1. A spear will keep the zombie or COVID-19 carrier six feet away, while a shield can be used to deflect any respiratory secretions flying your way.
  2. The scientific method is our best weapon against emerging variants, the walking undead, and viral misinformation.
  3. Cardio, cardio, cardio! Staying in good cardiovascular health will improve your chances against both zombies and severe COVID-19. Getting 30 minutes or more of exercise several times a week is also a natural way to manage the stress of living in a world full of rapidly changing threats.

What are your three most important tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse?

  1. Whether you are hunkering down or fleeing, your most important asset will be people who are worthy of your trust. Pick companions who share your risk perception, understand scientific reasoning, can identify misinformation, and are able to defuse stress with humor or kindness. Decide in advance on your meet-up points and protocols to keep out asymptomatic carriers.
  2. Get vaccinated against COVID-19 and promote vaccination among your close contacts. Oxygen tanks, intravenous remdesivir, and skilled ICU nurses will all be very hard to find after hospitals are overrun by zombies.
  3. Our best chance of survival in the long term is to understand the root causes that drive the emergence of infectious diseases and to create the systems, policies, and human capital that will keep us safe.
David Grace
Long-time member of The Science Fictions Writers Of America, DavidGraceAuthor.com

What is the likelihood of a zombie apocalypse actually happening and why?

Yes, the likelihood of a real Zombie Apocalypse is vanishingly small, but pathogens mutate all the time and viruses do jump into humans from other species.

If there are “zombie genes” that induce murderous rage, cannibalistic desires, and insensitivity to pain, then one or all of them could be activated by the right combination of environmental and viral factors.

Extremely, really, really unlikely, yes. Absolutely impossible? Well, Scientists try to avoid using the “I” word.

While the probability of a Zombie Apocalypse is incredibly small, highly unlikely weird stuff does happen.

When traveling, how should you prioritize what to pack, who to bring, when to go, etc.?

Good question. The primary concerns, in order, are:

Protection from the elements;
medical materials;

Secondary sorting categories are:

Escape: Good shoes, binoculars, sunglasses, camouflage clothing
Defense: Kevlar vest, aluminum or titanium spear
Weapons: short knife, long knife/sword; hand gun with hollow point bullets, sawed-off shotgun
Protection: Hat, waterproof, warm coat; waterproof ground sheet, thin rubber sleeping mat, mosquito netting
Food: can opener, frying pan, water container, salt, water purifier, fork, book on edible plants
Medical: bandages, iodine, antibiotic pills and cream, needle & thread
Reproduction: condoms

Who to bring?

You would want to have a companion who was totally trustworthy, reasonably strong and brave, with lots of common sense and who is physically fit. If your primary goal is survival, then everything beyond that is just personal preference.

If your goal includes protecting your family or loved ones, then, of course, you’re going to drag along the wife and kids. But at least prepare them in advance by teaching them how to gut and skin a deer.

When to go?

Before you leave, you will need to have a better place to go to than the one where you already are. Then you have to ask yourself,

“What are the chances that I can actually get there?”

If you know of such a place and your chances of reaching it are reasonably high when compared to the risks of remaining where you are, and if the weather there is not materially worse than the weather where you are, then go.

If not, then stay.

Where are the best places to seek shelter when on the move?

This is a tough decision. People think of defensible locations like caves, but sites like that are also places where you are easily trapped, and if trapped you will die from lack of food or water.

So, you want a defensible location with multiple exits and, ideally, access to an ample supply of clean water.

What are the three best weapons against zombies and why those?

First, a long, sharp-pointed spear because with that you will be able to stab the zombies in the eyes while keeping yourself out of their clutches. Dead or undead, they need to see you to effectively attack you. Once you have punctured their eyes then you can move in and kill them with your close-in weapons.

Second, a long blade such as a sword or machete. A sharp, solid sword will be able to cut off a zombie’s head with one good stroke. Without a head a zombie ceases to be a threat.

Third, a sawed-off shotgun, or, failing that, a handgun with hollow-point bullets. A bullet to the brain will pretty much eliminate any zombie as a real threat.

Fourth, a long gun. There may be times when you will need to kill game for food or a zombie from a distance. But, long guns and their ammunition are heavy and bullet supplies are limited so that’s why this is, technically, off the list of the top three.

What are your three most important tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse?

Watch out for a sharp uptick in mass killings by apparently normal people (again, Steven Paddock types) with no known motive or history of violence. This may be a sign that something is turning one or more of the “off” genes “on.” If these events become uncomfortably common, start collecting your survival gear.

Have an escape and survival plan.

Give some really smart Scientists at least a seven-figure endowment to research zombie genes and design sprays, ointments, and injections that will return their DNA back to the “off” position should the human race become host to a Zombie Plague.

Behind the ranking

For each of the 200 biggest U.S. cities, we first gathered publicly available data on the factors listed in the table below.

We then grouped those factors into four categories: Vulnerability, Hideouts, Supplies, Protection, and Mobility.

Next, we calculated weighted scores for each city in each category.

Finally, we averaged the scores for each city across all categories. The city that earned the highest average score was ranked “Best” (No. 1), while the city with the lowest was “Worst” (No. 200).


American Hospital Directory, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Costco, Homes.com, LawnStarter, Livability, Marinas.com, MilitaryBases.com, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Realtor.com, ReserveAmerica.com, RxList, Sam’s Club, Target, U.S. Census Bureau, Walmart, World Port Source, and Yelp

Final thoughts: Zombies are among us

Zombies, it seems, are never far from our collective minds. The Walking Dead’s 11th and final season aired in August last year, so you could say a zombie apocalypse is already upon us. Fear the Walking Dead’s Season 7 also limped its way onto screens last October.

Zombies have long been a staple of pop culture. Amazon has a whole category of Zombies Books. Among these are the “Plants vs. Zombies” series, “Last Man Standing: The Complete Zombie Apocalypse” trilogy, and “The Zombie Survival Guide” by Max Brooks. 

In movies, Will Smith tries to find a cure in “I Am Legend,” Brad Pitt battles the undead in “World War Z,” and it’s “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies” in a 2012 action-comedy horror B-movie. George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” (1978), considered one of the best zombie movies of all time, was remade by Zack Snyder in 2004, followed by his “Army of the Dead” in 2021.

In music, it seems The Zombies never left us (well, maybe they went underground for nearly 30 years). The band, maybe best known for the 1968 hit “Time of the Season” and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019, is back and are currently on tour

Can’t get enough zombies? There’s Zombie Burps cotton candy, zombie stress balls, Roblox Apocalypse Rising action figures, and all sorts of zombie socks. 

Wayfair even has a Zombie Bedding page with some scary comforters that might not help you to rest easy. But maybe catching some Z-z-z’s means catching some zombies for some dreamers?

Main photo credit: iStock

Staff Writer