Exploring nature within your city is a great way to destress and get moving into the new year.
So, which cities have the best access to parks and yards?
Lawn Love ranked nearly 100 of the biggest U.S. cities to determine 2023’s Cities With the Most Green Space.
We compared the cities based on the number of parks, total acreage, and average yard size, among five total factors.
Get ahead of your fitness goals and fill your new year with fresh air with the help of our rankings and analysis below.
In this article
See how each city fared in our ranking:
Results in depth
Active along the Atlantic
It’s easy to hit the trails for some green exercise in Atlantic-adjacent cities — three of which landed among our top five greenest cities.
Chesapeake, Virginia, brings home the gold with the highest total green area per capita out of the cities in our ranking. Jacksonville, Florida (No. 2), has the highest park acreage, followed by Chesapeake. With more than 400 public green spaces, Jacksonville runs the largest urban park system in the nation.
These two cities — along with Virginia Beach, Virginia (No. 5) — boast high scores across the board, offering plenty of green space to soothe their urban residents.
Meanwhile, it’s not easy being green in dense, coastal cities like Miami (No. 88) and Hialeah, Florida (No. 96). These two cities sank to the bottom of our ranking, lacking parklands and forests to frolic through.
- Chesapeake: Wander through wetlands at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, which Chesapeake shares with nearby Suffolk and North Carolina. This park has plenty of room to hike, fish, canoe, and even hunt during designated seasons.
- Jacksonville: Go fishing or take a sandy stroll at Little Talbot Island State Park. Explore the trails at Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park, or dive into thousands of years of history at Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve.
- Virginia Beach: In addition to miles of oceanfront beaches, Virginia Beach is home to beautiful spots like Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, False Cape State Park, and the iconic Mount Trashmore Park, a former landfill converted into a city park featuring two man-made mountains.
Soaking up the sun
Parks are pretty popular in Southwestern cities.
Albuquerque, New Mexico (No. 9), has the third-highest share of land used for parks and recreation, with Scottsdale, Arizona (No. 4), and the Las Vegas metro following closely behind. Each of these regions has high total park acreage, offering plenty of parkland for hiking or picnicking.
The Valley of the Sun is full of parks to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. Scottsdale is a major golfing destination — the city has more than 50 golf courses to play on and stroll through. Sprawling Phoenix (No. 13) has the third-largest total park acreage among all the cities we ranked.
- Albuquerque: Spy on 250 species of birds at Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, or explore trails heading to the Bosque and Rio Grande. Watch colorful hot-air balloons take off in the Balloon Fiesta Park, or head to the outskirts of the city to hike through the majestic Sandia Mountains.
- Scottsdale: If you don’t feel like golfing, you can hike through McDowell Sonoran Conservancy’s Tom’s Thumb trailhead or the massive Tonto National Forest located just outside of the city.
- Phoenix: South Mountain Park and Preserve is one of the nation’s largest urban parks, with three mountain ranges and dozens of miles of trails to explore. Watch the sunset over the city at the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, or make a resolution to complete the Phoenix Summit Challenge this year.
Green Southern sanctuaries
Southern cities value their green space, sprouting to the top of our ranking thanks to high total green area per capita. Lexington, Kentucky, ranked No. 2 overall in this metric, behind Chesapeake, Virginia.
Texas cities San Antonio, Houston, and El Paso trekked into our top 20. Each of these cities — plus Austin at No. 22 overall — have high scores across the board. Houston stands out with the fourth-largest total park acreage.
North Carolina cities have some of the largest lawns, with Winston-Salem at the top. Greensboro and Durham — along with Nashville — aren’t far behind. Every North Carolina city in our ranking landed within the top 10 of average yard square footage. This, along with high total green area per capita, leaves plenty of space for residents to roam.
- Lexington: When the weather heats up, you can cool off in the natural springs at McConnell Springs Park. Hike through Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, or go horseback riding in the Horse Capital of the World at Hisle Farm Park.
- San Antonio: In the summer, you can go for a swim at San Pedro Springs Park, the second-oldest park in the U.S. Explore more historical sites at the San Antonio Missions, or keep an eye out for dinosaur tracks while walking through Government Canyon State Natural Area.
- Houston: After a trip to the Houston Zoo, explore the 445-acre Hermann Park Conservancy. Here, you can paddle around in a pedal boat, visit the McGovern Centennial Gardens, or catch a show at the Miller Outdoor Theatre.
Escaping the concrete jungle
Jersey City (No. 95) and Newark, New Jersey (No. 97), scored low across the board, leaving residents with few options for a green getaway. These two Garden State cities are dense and highly populated, leaving little room for large green landscapes.
Despite being the most quintessential concrete jungle, New York (No. 7) prioritizes green space for its residents. New York has the highest number of parks and green spaces to explore. NYC also has a large share of land used for parks and high total park acreage. In fact, an astounding 99% of residents in The Big Apple live within a 10-minute walk to a park.
- New Jersey: Step out of the city and into the Garden State with a day trip to Wharton State Forest or Sourland Mountain Preserve.
- New York: NYC is full of iconic parks like Central Park, which sees more than 42 million visitors each year. Go skating through Prospect Park, or stop and smell the flowers at the High Line, an abandoned line of railroad tracks turned into a greenway.
For each of the 200 biggest U.S. cities, we gathered publicly available data on the five factors listed in the table below.
Next, we calculated weighted scores for each factor and averaged the scores for each city across all factors.
We eliminated 103 cities lacking sufficient data across all five factors, resulting in a final sample size of 97 cities.
The city that earned the highest average score was ranked No. 1 (most green space), while the city with the lowest was ranked No. 97 (least green space).
Federal Housing Finance Agency, Interior Beat, and Trust for Public Land
Final thoughts: Gorgeous green gems
Parks are the perfect place to rest and recharge, and access to green space is pretty important for our overall mental well-being.
Today, 100 million people in the U.S. lack access to parks in their neighborhood. Thankfully, initiatives like the 10-Minute Walk campaign are pushing for city park investments and improvements so that more urban residents can have access to green spaces.
Get outside in 2023, and explore some more iconic U.S. city parks:
Is your New Year’s resolution to sit back and enjoy your own backyard green space? Hire a local Lawn Love pro to help you meet your lawn care goals.
Main photo credit: iStock