We’re always suckers for highly specific ranked lists of cities, even when they’re transparent marketing ploys that we can rip to shreds for their absurd methodologies. But here are two that seem pretty worthwhile, the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore (where we’re no. 4!), and WalletHub's survey of the best and worst cities for recreation (in which we come out right in the middle).
[jump] First, the ParkScore. It’s a metric that measures demographics against park access, acreage, and facilities/investment, and it and seems pretty legit at first glance, refreshingly free of clickbait-y surprises (like that unconscionably obnoxious Advocate list that says Salt Lake City is the gayest [insert manicure emoji in lieu of a link]) or random suburbs with wee populations going-head to-head with major cities.
San Francisco is fourth overall. High-minded, civic-oriented Minneapolis and St. Paul take the no. 1 and 2 spots, respectively, and the planned metropolis that is our nation’s capital is no. 3. NYC and Portland tied for fifth, while further down the list are Oakland (11), Sacramento (13) and San Jose (29). Poor, dusty Fresno is tied with Charlotte, N.C. for 74th and last place. (In all likelihood, Charlotte's population is expanding so quickly that it outgrew its original public parks, and because suburban sprawl means a backyard for everyone, developers give little thought to additional green space. Fresno, also growing quickly, is just a sad place.)
WalletHub’s Best and Worst Cities for Recreation List is a little more specious, and not just because it touts some Richard Florida-esque quantifications of how green space contributes to wellness and other bloodless, Ted X-friendly data points. It’s an aggregation of four criteria: Entertainment & Facilities, Costs, Quality of Parks, and Climate. Oddly, for recreation, San Francisco doesn’t do nearly as well (taking the no. 52 spot, out of 100) as it does in the ParkScore, but this might be because the Bay Area would rank more highly if considered as a region.
The rugged, outdoorsy West ranks highly overall (Scottsdale is third, Boise is fourth, Reno is ninth, Denver is tenth, etc.) but Cincinnati’s high Entertainment score pushed it to the no. 1 spot, with Omaha right behind, owing to its low costs and high-quality parks. San Diego (#24) is the highest-ranking California city, while San Jose is basically right behind us at no. 55. (Oakland is 68th). S.F.’s high costs (ranked 93rd out of 100) are keeping us down, but we still trump Chicago (54) Los Angeles (70), and New York (86) overall.
And in case you’re wondering, Riverside, Calif. has the best climate, and Buffalo, N.Y. has the worst. We’re right in the middle, at no. 49, which sounds about right, but take that with a grain of salt: New York is no. 55 and Newark is no. 97, even though they're only seven miles apart.