Research suggests that millennials all across the U.S. are looking to try something new and move to a different city.
But millennials are notoriously broke, lonely and bored, so where could they possibly live so that they can be engaged with their community — where there's enough affordable and accessible stuff to do and likeminded residents their age with whom to do it so that they're not bashing their heads through walls?
We've dug into a wealth of research that suggests some of the best cities across America for millennials. Here are our tip 10 picks.
1. New York City (for the accessible fun)
Sure, New York City is an expensive one. But it's give and take. You might live in a shoebox on a shoestring budget, but according to WalletHub's 2019 happiest states report, New York is the happiest state in America — and New York City has a lot to do with that. Perhaps it's because of how active New York City is. According to WalletHub's 2019 Best & Worst Cities for an Active Lifestyle, New York City ranks first compared to the 100 biggest cities across 38 key metrics. Specifically, it ranks first for fitness centers, sports clubs, basketball hoops and walks per capita.
Perhaps New Yorkers' happiness also has to do with the fun activities they have all around. According to WalletHub's 2019 Most Fun Cities in America, New York City also comes in at first place, compared to more than 180 U.S. cities across 66 key metrics. Specifically, it ranks first for restaurants, bars and attractions per capita, sixth for dance clubs per capita and 22nd for festivals per capita.
And all of this activity is accessible. According to WalletHub's 2019 Cities with the Best & Worst Public Transportation, New York City has the country's best public transportation, compared to 100 cities across 17 key metrics. More people use public transportation in New York City than any other city in the study, and they spend a heck of a lot less time in traffic getting to and from their extracurriculars.
2. Seattle, Washington (for the healthy lifestyle)
Millennials are moving to Seattle, Washington in droves. No, they're not going for the weather (it rains a good chunk of the time!). But they are going to the minimalist, healthy lifestyle that Seattle supports and millennials love. In fact, Seattle ranks second as the healthiest city in America, according to a WalletHub study. That's because Seattle ranked no. 1 in the whole country for the number of adults who are physically active, and it ranked no. 3 for the number of running trails available, among other metrics.
3. Burlington, Vermont (for the incentives)
Millennials love Vermont for a whole host of reasons. The Green Mountain State has it all: farm-fresh produce and cheese, nationally renowned beer and cider, and damn good coffee. On top of that, visitors have all the hiking, skiing and kayaking options they need to burn it all off. And Burlington is a bustling city there that boasts it all. Burlington, in particular, sits in the northwestern corner of the state, along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain just south of the Canadian border.
What makes Burlington especially awesome for millennials, however, is Vermont's conscious effort to appeal to them. Recently, Vermont governor Phil Scott signed a bill into law that will pay remote workers $10,000 over two years if they move to the state. The program is called the New Remote Worker Grant Program, which was set in place since the population of Vermont was aging fast than other states. The aging population has created a quickly shrinking tax base that the governor wants to curb. And because the median age in Vermont, as the time of signing the bill, was 42.8, the state is recruiting young millennials to move there by offering incentives.
4. Austin Texas (for the food)
Austin is repeatedly ranked among the best food cities in America. Something about Austin is nostalgic — it’s a city, and it’s your childhood backyard. Perhaps it’s the searing summer heat reminiscent of sweet creamed corn and barbecued brisket. Or the congenial conversation that makes company of strangers. Austin’s Sixth Street is known for its eclectic live music scene centered around country, blues and rock — live music bars on live music bars. But it’s not the only place to go. Rainey Street is a bit less... touristic. And it’s got plenty of food trailers with bar stools on which to plop yourself, chow down on the BBQ and chat up your neighbors.
5. Nashville, Tennessee (for the music)
For millennials who love music, Nashville, Tennessee is the place to be. The Music City is known for its lively arts and entertainment scene, from the whole host of honky-tonk live music watering holes to its historic music venues like the Grand Ole Opry. In fact, Nashville is even one of the most affordable cities to live in America — the cost of living in Nashville is three percent lower than the national average, according to Payscale. Tenants typically pay $990.26 per month on rent, for example.
6. Denver, Colorado (for the likeminded people)
Denver, Colorado is a hot spot for millennials — and it has been for quite some time. In fact, millennials would be hardpressed to find others like them in the city. Almost a quarter of Denver's population is made up of millennials, after all. According to The Millennial Influence in Metro Denver, released by Development Research Partners, suggests that 24 percent of the region’s population base — or almost 891,500 people — now consists of millennial residents. Many of them come to Colorado for the skiing and snowboarding in the winter or the hiking in the fall and summer, and they end up staying for the young culture full of live music, good beer and adventure activities around every corners. That's why Denver ranked sixth on the Meyers Millennial Desirability Index, anyway.
7. Moab, Utah (for the adventures)
Millennials are the most outdoorsy of any generation, according to a wealth of research. They venture to the great outdoors more than any other population. And Moab, Utah is full of adventures around every corner. Slickrock, a 10.5-mile loop of Navajo Sandstone, for example, is widely considered one of the most famous bike trails in the world. It boasts steep inclines and descents, plus some of the best views in Utah—of a red rock panorama stretching from the Colorado River to the 13,000-foot La Sal Mountains. Active millennials love Moab for outdoor activities like this one. And it doesn't hurt that the cost of living in Moab is quite nice, too — it's just about $700/month for a basic apartment, according to Numbeo.
8. Oahu, Hawaii (for the sunshine)
People come to visit Oahu on vacation all the time. After all, Oahu is known as “The Gathering Place,” and it’s the third-largest of the Hawaiian Islands, home to about two-thirds of the population of Hawaii. And Oahu’s seven-mile North Shore is known for its legendary waves that top 30 feet, attracting both Hawaiians from around the state and international surfers alike. The surf spot is so renowned, in fact, it hosts the world’s premier competitions during the peak winter months, like the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. But the swell attracts the world’s best surfers, the sunshine in general lures people to stay forever.
9. Orlando, Florida (for the startup culture)
Orlando, Florida is basically known for its startup culture, which millennials love. In fact, millennials tend to choose the entrepreneurial life over corporate culture on the regular According to WalletHub's 2019 Best Large Cities to Start a Business, Orlando ranks no.1 compared to 100 U.S. cities across 19 key indicators of startup viability (i.e. five-year business-survival rate to office-space affordability). Of course, the sunshine and relatively inexpensive cost of living in Orlando help; rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is about $1,473.92, according to Numbeo.
10. San Francisco, California (for the women-owned businesses!)
San Francisco, California is an ideal place for millennial women because of all the empowering women-owned businesses in the area! And we know that women-owned businesses means more opportunities for the women working for them, too. Analysts at MagnifyMoney.com evaluated and ranked the largest 50 U.S. metro areas to determine which are the most/least friendly to women-owned businesses — taking into account several factors including business income for self-employed women, business earnings for self-employed women compared to wage earners, the rate of self-employed and "incorporated" women, and parity of business ownership between men and women. It found that, in general, west coast cities fared well for female business owners. And San Francisco takes the cake!
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.