Best Cities and Worst Cities for a Staycation

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Homeward Bound

As gas prices continue soaring and inflation keeps getting pumped up, many of us are reevaluating our travel plans for the summer — opting for staycations over vacations. But which cities are ideal for close-to-home excursions and which ones miss the mark? WalletHub conducted a study to evaluate the best and worst cities for a staycation, comparing them across three main dimensions: recreation, food and entertainment, and rest and relaxation. The dimensions break down even more into 44 different metrics. Here’s a glimpse into the 10 worst and 10 best cities for a staycation.

Related: How to Relax From the Comfort of Your Own Home

Fremont, California

10th Worst: Fremont, California

Even though California includes some cities that are great for staycations and vacations alike, there are plenty of duds in the state, too. Fremont is in the San Francisco Bay area, but unlike San Fran, the city doesn’t have as good of a reputation for recreational activities — in fact, out of all 182 cities assessed, Fremont wound up at No. 160 for recreation. And if you’re thinking of taking a dip in a pool or grabbing an ice cream cone to cool off in Fremont, think again — the city ranks nearly dead last for the number of both swimming pools and ice cream shops per capita. Despite being home to the Aqua Adventure Water Park and the Ardenwood Historic Farm, residents are better off traveling a bit further away to San Francisco for a weekend getaway. 

Related: Free and Cheap Things to Do in San Francisco

Dallas Texas evening skyline

9th Worst: Garland, Texas

Just being near a big, bustling city doesn’t automatically make a place fun to explore. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Garland is living proof of that. The city doesn’t have much to offer in the food and entertainment department, scoring in the bottom 10 for the category among all 182 assessed cities. Plus, it has just about the lowest number of museums per capita. 

Related: Circus World and Other Weird Museums Across America and Beyond

Las Colinas area of Irving, Texas

8th Worst: Irving, Texas

Residents of Irving are better off traveling to nearby Dallas for a semi-local weekend getaway rather than planning a staycation in their own city, especially if a relaxing staycation is the goal — Irving is in the bottom five for rest and relaxation. The city does showcase The Irving Arts Center and the Ruth Paine House Museum, but the attractions aren’t enough to improve its overall score in any of the evaluated categories.

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Fontana, California

7th Worst: Fontana, California

Until World War II when a steel mill was built in the area, Fontana was a pretty rural area in California. Despite being more industrialized now, it’s still not the greatest place to plan a staycation. Especially since it scores in the bottom five for food and entertainment — one of the most important factors to consider when planning a staycation.

Arial View of Las Vegas,northern part, Nevada USA

6th Worst: North Las Vegas, Nevada

Suburban North Las Vegas is not to be confused with the bustle and twinkle of Las Vegas, which is on the other side of this list. Unlike Las Vegas, North Las Vegas scores detrimentally low in the food and entertainment category at 175 out of 182. Residents aren’t likely to spend the weekend tooling around town if they’re looking for a good time, and it’s pretty safe to assume you might find them on the strip instead.

Related: Free and Cheap Things to Do in Las Vegas

Waterfront houses in Oxnard California USA

5th Worst: Oxnard, California

Northwest of Los Angeles rests the seaside city of Oxnard. But the wide Pacific shoreline isn’t redeeming enough to make Oxnard the ideal place for a staycation. Residents who are foodies are especially likely to go away for the weekend since Oxnard is second-to-last out of 182 major cities in the food and entertainment category. The city also scores extremely low for rest and relaxation, meaning there’s a lack of spas, beauty salons, and beaches in the area, despite its proximity to the ocean.

Snowcapped San Gabriel Mountains in Rancho Cucamonga

4th Worst: Rancho Cucamonga, California

Nestled on the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest, you might think Rancho Cucamonga could be a good place for recreational activities like hiking, biking, or rock climbing. But alas, it actually has the fourth-lowest score in the recreation category.

Moreno Valley, California

3rd Worst: Moreno Valley, California

Yet another California city that leaves much to be desired for its residents in terms of a local weekend getaway, Moreno Valley has the third-lowest score in the food and entertainment category. It also scores really low for recreational activities.

Aerial view of little park in front of Otay Lake City Reservoir.
Thomas De Wever/istockphoto

2nd Worst: Chula Vista, California

Rounding out the list of cities in California that aren’t ideal for planning a staycation, Chula Vista has some of the fewest swimming pools and museums per capita and its overall score for rest and relaxation sits at 179 out of 182 evaluated cities.

Pearl Harbor

Worst City for a Staycation: Pearl City, Hawaii

To those of us who don’t live in the island paradise that is Hawaii, it’s hard to fathom that there’s actually a place there that is anything less than ideal for a weekend getaway. Yet, Hawaii somehow offers the best and the worst cities for staycations. So what pulls Pearl City so far down the list? It actually comes in dead last in both the recreation and food and entertainment categories. And if you like to start your morning with a cup of coffee, be warned: Pearl City has the fewest coffee shops per capita.

Related: The Best of Hawaii on a Budget

Seattle skyline at night with Mt Rainier in the distance

10th Best: Seattle

With thousands of acres of parkland, mountains, evergreen forests, and the Pacific Ocean, it’s not surprising that Seattle is one of the best cities to have a staycation. Whether you plan a day at the beach, visit national and state parks, unwind at a beer garden — the city has the fifth-highest number of beer gardens per capita — or take a trip to the Space Needle, you’ll never run out of things to do in Seattle.

Downtown San Diego skyline in California, USA

9th Best: San Diego

Looking for a city that offers as much fun and recreation as it does rest and relaxation? San Diego fits the bill. There’s the chic, upscale Little Italy neighborhood that teems with restaurants, brewpubs, cocktail bars, trendy clothing boutiques, and indie music venues. Or if you’re looking to unwind and rejuvenate, San Diego offers a variety of resorts and spas. The San Diego Zoo, beaches, parks, museums, and art galleries are just a few of the other attractions that are showcased in San Diego.

New York City Skyline, Central Park, autumn foliage, aerial view

8th Best: New York

Whatever your tastes are when it comes to entertainment, you’re sure to find satisfaction when you take a bite out of the Big Apple. The city has the highest number of spas and beer gardens per capita and the fifth-highest number of museums. Being that NYC encompasses five boroughs, the list of things to do in the city is just about endless. From elite hotels like the Ritz Carlton and The Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn to sunset cruises past the Statue of Liberty and strolls through Central Park, there really is something for everyone in New York City.

Related: Free and Cheap Things to Do in New York City

Evening skyline of San Francisco, painted ladies

7th Best: San Francisco

There are tons of options when it comes to booking a place to stay in San Francisco, whether you want to kick your feet up in a luxurious, sophisticated hotel or keep it low key in a hilltop hideaway. Exploring the city won’t leave you disappointed either. San Francisco ranks third for food and entertainment, plus it has the third-highest number of museums per capita. Not to mention, as a cultural hotspot, the city covers all cuisines, so whatever you’re in the mood for is probably attainable without having to travel far.

Aerial view of Las Vegas strip in Nevada

6th Best: Las Vegas

You’re probably not surprised to see this city on this list — it’s obvious that there’s plenty to do in Vegas. The city ranks second out of 182 major cities in the food and entertainment category — also tying Orlando for the highest number of zoos, aquariums, and ice cream or frozen yogurt shops per capita. With bustling casinos, luxurious hotels, over-the-top shows, and extravagant restaurants, there are limitless ways to have fun in Vegas. But don’t count the city out if you’re looking for a relaxing staycation, either — Las Vegas also has the highest number of spas per capita.

Related: Bucket List Restaurants in Las Vegas

Colorful sunrise at Portland Head Lighthouse in Maine
Michael Ver Sprill/istockphoto

5th Best: Portland, Maine

NYC isn’t the only northeastern city that’s good for staycations. Portland offers unique adventures that you can’t find in many other states, such as lighthouse tours. The city scores second for recreation — which considers things like parks and playgrounds, biking and hiking trails, and shopping centers. 

Related: 18 Spectacular Lighthouses Across America

Aerial View of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Art Wager/istockphoto

4th Best: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Known for its beaches and boating canals, residents of Fort Lauderdale never miss the opportunity for a fun-in-the-sun staycation. With luxury resorts like the Ritz-Carlton and charming destinations like the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, Fort Lauderdale appeals to different speeds. It ranks third for recreation and second for rest and relaxation, which considers the amount of spas, beaches, and beauty salons.

Chicago Skyline aerial view

3rd Best: Chicago

The Windy City’s fifth-place score for recreation is probably attributed to its high number of swimming pools and tennis courts per capita. The city is renowned for a lot of things, such its bold architecture, museums, and art galleries. You can take a river cruise and admire the skyscrapers, stay at the 21C Museum Hotel surrounded by contemporary art, and visit the famous Art Institute.  

Orlando Florida, skyline, Lake Eola, cityscape, skyscrapers, reflections, water, night

2nd Best: Orlando, Florida

Residents of Orlando are more than likely not strangers to amusement parks — the city is home to Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld, after all. Between the theme parks (and all of the sub-parks within them) and having the highest number of aquariums, zoos, ice cream or frozen yogurt shops, and spas per capita (plus the second highest amount of coffee shops per capita), it’s no wonder Orlando is the top city for food and entertainment out of all 182 cities that were evaluated.

Skyline Aerial of Honolulu Hawaii
Art Wager/istockphoto

Best City for a Staycation: Honolulu, Hawaii

If you’re lucky enough to live in the beautiful city of Honolulu, congratulations — you live in the best city for a staycation. As Hawaii’s main gateway to the world, Honolulu is an epicenter for dining, nightlife, and shopping. Relax in the sun on Waikiki Beach, enjoy Hawaii’s best luau, swim with the dolphins, or visit the Honolulu Zoo. Whatever you decide to do in Honolulu, chances are, you’re going to have a good time.

Related: Amazing Hawaii Beach Houses to Rent