The Best U.S. Cities for Digital Nomads

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Discover the best cities for remote working.

I’m not sure it even needs to be said, but for the purpose of this article, I’ll state the obvious: work has changed, forever. 

No longer is corporate work confined to a cubicle. The term “hybrid” no longer refers to agriculture. And, Zoom and its counterpart, Zoom fatigue, are household names.

In short, the genie is out of the bottle, and we’re most likely not going back, which means that a whole world of choices have opened up: where to live, how to work, and who to work for.  

That’s why this month, we’ve teamed up Tamara Sanderson, the co-author of Remote Works and former digital nomad, to determine the best U.S. cities for digital nomads based on a host of factors, such as short-term rental prices, distance to the airport, availability of restaurants and entertainment, ease of transportation, cost of living, air quality, and of course, access to free WIFI hotspots to get your work done.

Considering making the leap? Check out Zumper’s Flexpass, an annual subscription service that provides access to thousands of premium, fully furnished short-term rentals on Zumper’s marketplace, with significant cost savings due to the absence of security deposits, contracts and booking or hidden fees (including cleaning, transaction, application and broker).

Key takeaways

  • Columbus, OH is the overall best city for digital nomads
  • Phoenix, AZ has the highest density of entertainment options
  • Wichita, KS has the lowest median nightly short-term rental price
  • Anaheim, CA is the overall worst city for digital nomads

1. Columbus, OH

Columbus brought home an excellent remote work report card, with all A’s and B’s across the board. For digital nomads not ready to commit to one location, we’ve focused on pricing for short-term rentals across this study. Columbus’ median nightly rental price is $130 with a cost of living index well below the national average makes it a prime-time spot for financially savvy travelers. 

But Columbus offers much more than that. It’s not only a college town, which comes with its own set of remote friendly amenities like coffee shops and independent bookstores. It also ranked #2 on our list, right behind Chicago, for its arts center. Columbus is stock full of places to spend your free time, like museums, historic neighborhoods, and parks, now that you’ve kicked the daily commute. And, last but not least, there’s always football at the Ohio Stadium for all the sports fans out there.

2. Portland, Oregon

Calling all foodies and nature lovers. Portland might be your next stop as you slomad across the United States. While Portland has a higher than average cost of living, giving it an “F” for cost of living on our list, you can make up the difference by diving into its food truck culture, renowned used bookstore, Powell’s Books, and Forest Park Conservancy

As you can imagine, Portland scored high across the board on the food scene, ranking #1 on our list for food courts and pubs, and #2 for bakeries, bars, and cafes. You’ll never be at a loss to switch up your working environment. Plus, it’s easy to get around, earning an “A” grade for transportation on our list.

Oregon is also the home to the most coffee manufacturers, meaning you’ll have plenty of options for a midday caffeine pick-me-up. 

3. Kansas City, Missouri

The midwest is making a comeback with remote work, putting another city on the map: Kansas City. Though, give yourself some time if flying in. Kansas City received an “F” grade when it comes to distance to the airport, which is about 20 miles away in Platte County.

Similar to Columbus, the median nightly rental price is $131 with a cost of living below the national average, making Kansas City affordable for digital nomads. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have an inferior experience. 

Downtown Kansas City has gone through a massive redevelopment, with more than $6 billion in improvements in the 21st century, which is taking root. Kansas City has seen the downtown population quadruple, making it the ​​6th fastest growing downtown in America.

On your time off, you can take advantage of all that Kansas has to offer, like the nine-block entertainment area called the Power & Light District or the 18,500-seat T-Mobile Center arena. No wonder Kansas City received an “A” ranking in entertainment. 

I’d also be remiss not to mention Kansas City’s signature BBQ, characterized by slowly smoked meat.

4. Houston, Texas

I grew up in Dallas, which naturally made Houston the enemy. But, perhaps we were merely jealous. While Houston came in No. 3 for metro areas where drivers spend the most time in traffic that matters a lot less when you’re a remote worker.

While cars are in standstill traffic outside, you can explore Beyoncé’s childhood home city. Houston received top-notch scores in both the restaurant and entertainment categories, ranking #1 for cinemas, golf courses, parks, sports centers, biergartens, and fast food on our list. 

Houston also consistently ranks as one of the most diverse cities in the US, which shows up in its renowned food scene. It’s more than Tex-Mex, y’all, though cheese enchiladas will always be near and dear to my heart. Plus, it’s the home of the Houston Texans, Rockets, and Astros, so sports fans will have a game to watch year round. 

However, a few things stood in Houston’s way of ranking higher on our list. It received “F” grades for both air quality and distance to the airport, which I can attest is stressful, especially in rush hour traffic. 

5. St. Louis, Missouri

Stop and stay awhile at the city with the world’s tallest arch. St. Louis received “A” grades for rental prices and cost of living, which means you can stash more of your salary in your savings account while working remotely. The median nightly rental price is $127, making it the most affordable on our list.

St. Louis has 79 neighborhoods to choose from. In Lafayette Square, you’ll find St. Louis’ oldest historic district with colorful 150-year-old Victorian mansions, often referred to as the “painted ladies.” In Soulard, you’ll find the city’s oldest grocery store, church and building, making it a must-see place for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike. After work, make sure to check out some of the city’s best jazz and blues options.

These helped St. Louis earn a “B” grade in our entertainment and restaurant categories, but “D” grades for air quality and distance to the airport, and an “F” for public wifi pulled it down to middle of our our list.

6. Chicago, Illinois

I grew up with the Chicago Cubs always playing on the TV in the background. Despite moving to Texas in the late 1980s, my parents never adopted the Texas Rangers. So, naturally, I have to plug the baseball scene, with a cross-town rivalry: Cubs versus White Soxs. 

But even if you’re not a baseball fan, Chicago has so much to offer for remote workers. In our analysis, Chicago ranked No. 1 across our list for the Arts, Libraries, Museums, and Theatre. It’s a cultural powerhouse, listing the Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum, and the Museum of Science and Industry, within its borders. It’s also famous for its architecture, most notably the skyscrapers and Frank Lloyd Wright.

If you’re there during the summer, make sure to do as locals do and take advantage of the city’s beach scene. You’ll be surprised to find you’re still in the city as you squish the sand between your toes.

However, it’s important to note that you’ll pay a premium for all that Chicago has to offer. Chicago received “D”s for both median nightly price and cost of living. The median nightly rental price is $197 and its cost of living is ~20% above the national average.

7. Cincinnati, Ohio

Ohio makes the list again, this time, an hour and a half drive south from our No. 2 spot, Columbus. Ditching the car in the US can be tough, but Cincinnati has you covered, with a range of transportation options: from its modern streetcar system with 18 stops across downtown to its public Red Bike and electric scooter system. 

It gained an “A” grade in transportation—rightfully so. Just make sure to give yourself some extra time when going to the airport. Cincinnati received a “D” on our list for distance to the airport.

Take advantage of non-linear work days by recharging at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, visiting the art deco inspired Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park, or hiking around Stanbery Park’s 125 acres of streams and woodlands. It’s important to note though, that even with all these outdoor activities, Cincinnati received a “D” score for air quality. 

7. San Antonio, Texas

When most nomads think of Texas, they immediately imagine Austin. But, it’s a big state with nearly 30 million people. San Antonio ties with Cincinnati for No. 7 for digital nomads on our list, with standout scores on cost of living, airport access, and WIFI—all key to living your best remote life.

When you need to unwind, put your phone on silent mode and head to San Antonio’s notorious 15-mile long River Walk. You can pop into the San Antonio Museum of Art or stop at one of the city’s gastronomic delights. San Antonio is a great spot for snowbird digital nomads with daily temperature highs of 67 degrees Fahrenheit
Plus, it’s affordable. San Antonio received an “A” on our cost of living index, coming in 8% below the national average. Its median nightly rental price is $150, earning the city a “B” on our list.

8. Detroit, Michigan

Detroit has a lot to offer, just make sure you have a car. As a history refresh, Detroit is a motor city, known in the 20th century as the world’s automotive capital with Ford, Dodge, Packard, and Chrystler within its vicinity. In fact, Detroit covers so much ground that San Francisco, New York, and Boston could fit inside its city limits

However, Detroit continues to evolve—most notably with its large-scale street art, making the city a visual canvas. Take a work call on foot while taking in the urban murals, starting with the legendary Diego Rivera in the Detroit Institute of Art’s Rivera Court or the 130 murals within the Z parking garage.

Detroit also rose to the top of our lists specifically in the bakery and beverages department, so you’ll have no problem scheduling a networking meet-and-greet or an afterwork happy hour with new co-working friends. Overall, Detroit received an “A” for entertainment, restaurants, and public transportation, but middling grades for nightly rental price (C), cost of living (D), air quality (D), distance to the airport (F), and public wifi (C) brought Detroit down on our list.

9. Denver, Colorado

Denver is a no-brainer for outdoor enthusiasts with the Rocky Mountains in your backyard. Ski, bike, or hike—Denver is your oyster. There are 72 scenic trails available for you in the Denver area alone. It’s important to remember, though, that Denver’s called the mile high city for a reason, which earned it an “F” on our list for air quality. It can take 24 to 36 hours to acclimate to the change in altitude. 

To prevent burnout, it’s important to take regular breaks to recharge. So, try out the Japanese practice of Forest Bathing for a few hours, or better yet, head off camping with your phone on airplane mode for the weekend. 

While known for nature, Denver is more than just natural beauty. Of our Top 10 cities, Denver ranked No. 1 for nightclubs and No. 2 for pubs. So, let off a little steam and get on the dance floor. Dancing has been scientifically proven to reduce cortisol levels and increase dopamine and endorphins, making it a natural mood booster and painkiller.

Similar to Detroit, Denver is on the more expensive side of our list, with a “C” for median nightly rental price and a “D” for cost of living. 

10. Minneapolis, Minnesota

The state of Minnesota is unofficially nicknamed the Land of 10,000 Lakes, though that might be on the humbler side. Minnesota has 11,842 lakes to be exact, making it an excellent destination for sailing and kayaking. Its air quality index was one of the highest in our list, earning it a “B” grade. 

It’s not just our list where Minneapolis shines. Nearly every day, Minneapolis tops destination lists, from the best city for college grads to the third best city for airport food, which is important to all the frequent flyers out there. 

Plus, Minneapolis is a compact city, earning an “A” on our transportation ranking. Pop on the city’s award winning transportation system or Nice Ride bike share to get around in a flash. It also has some of the best air quality on our list and has a calendar packed with festivals, fairs, and farmers markets. 

Overall, Minneapolis scored consistently across our index, with nothing below a “C” grade.

Cities ranked by top categories

Here are the top five cities for each individual category:

Lowest median nightly rental price for short-term rentals

  1. Wichita, KS
  2. Madison, WI
  3. Oklahoma City, OK
  4. Des Moines, IA
  5. El Paso, TX

Wichita is the most affordable option on our list, with a median nightly rental price of $90. Madison and Oklahoma both fall below the $100 mark, with prices of $94 and $99 respectively. Des Moines and El Paso are slightly higher, at $100 and $104 per night respectively.

Shortest distance to the airport

  1. Long Beach, CA
  2. Miami, FL
  3. El Paso, TX
  4. Chattanooga, TN
  5. Norfolk, VA

All five cities are less than a three mile drive to the nearest airport. Long Beach tops the list at 0.83 miles, closely followed by Miami at 0.91 miles. El Paso, Chattanooga, and Norfolk are all slightly over two miles away from the nearest airport, at 2.01, 2.26, and 2.77 respectively.

Density of entertainment options

  1. Phoenix, AZ
  2. New York, NY
  3. Houston, TX
  4. Los Angeles, CA
  5. Denver, CO

Phoenix leads our list with 67,544 entertainment options within its radius, followed by New York with 59,292. Houston, which made our list for US digital nomads, came up next with 51,491 establishments, inching out LA with 51,428. Denver rounded out the top five with  45,742 entertainment options.

Density of restaurant options

  1. New York, NY
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. Chicago, IL
  4. Denver, CO
  5. Houston, TX

New York easily takes the lead with 124,631 restaurants. Los Angeles follows with 77,902 restaurants. The next three on the list all made our US digital nomad list, with 57,889 dining options in Chicago, 40,241 in Denver, and 38,076 in Houston.

Largest volume of public transportation options

  1. Chicago, IL
  2. New York, NY
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. Miami, FL
  5. Detroit, MI

Wondering which cities have the most public transportation options, including bus stops, railway stations, car rentals, etceteras? Chicago and New York top our list, followed by Los Angeles, Miami, and Detroit. Though, it’s important to remember that some of these cities are car-centric, like Los Angeles and Detroit, which might be an issue for some nomads. 

Annual average air quality index

  1. Anchorage, AK
  2. Urban Honolulu, HI
  3. Virginia Beach, VA
  4. Norfolk, VA
  5. Richmond, VA

Unfortunately, none of our nomad hotspots made the Top 5 for air quality. Anchorage leads the group at 28.6, followed by urban Honolulu at 29.2, Virginia Beach at 32.3, Norfolk at 32.2, and Norfolk at 35.9.

Cost of living index (COLI)

  1. Oklahoma City, OK
  2. Augusta, GA
  3. Knoxville, TN
  4. Akron, OH
  5. Des Moines, IA

Unfortunately, none of our nomad hotspots made the Top 5 for Cost of Living, though St Louis did take the #6 spot. Oklahoma is the most affordable city on our list, with a COLI of 83.9, followed by Augusta at 84.5, Knoxville at 84.9, Akron at 85.9, and Des Moines at 86.

WIFI hotspots

  1. New York, NY
  2. Long Beach, CA
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. Jersey City, NJ
  5. Miami, FL

New York takes the lead with the most wifi hotspots with 12,038 within the city. Long Beach and Los Angeles tie with 10,496 hotspots. Jersey City and Miami round out the list with 4,766 and 3,895 wifi hotspots respectively.

The five worst cities for U.S. digital nomads

  1. Anaheim, CA 
  2. Santa Ana, CA
  3. Plano, TX
  4. Asheville, NC
  5. Fort Lauderdale, FL

While these cities might make great places to live, they’re not as suitable for digital nomads who are on the go. Anaheim came in last place, receiving “D” ratings in restaurants and transportation, with “F” ratings in all other categories. Similarly, Santa Ana received all “F”s except in nightly median rental price (D) and distance to the airport (A). 

Plano, my hometown, received an “F” in most categories as well, except for D in nightly median rental price and wifi grade—making it a better place for permanent residents than nomads.

Asheville, surprisingly, ranks low of US digital nomads, despite its draws. Its small size earned it an “F” for restaurants, entertainment, transportation, and wifi hotspots. It also received an “F” for its median nightly rental prices. It did, however, receive an “A” for air quality.

Finally, there is Fort Lauderdale coming in #96 on our list, with “F” grades in median nightly rental prices, entertainment, restaurants, and cost of living. 


To determine the best cities for digital nomads we analyzed the top 100 cities on eight key metrics. These metrics included the following:

Each city received a ranking and a weighted score for each metric. Median nightly price of short-term rentals accounted for 25 percent of the weighted score. The cost of living index was weighted at 15 percent, as were the density of entertainment, restaurant, and transportation options. Lastly, distance to the nearest primary airport, average air quality index, and WiFi hotspots accounted for five percent each. We then assigned letter grades to each city based on the quintiles for each data point:

  • A = rank higher than 80% of cities
  • B = rank higher than 60% of cities
  • C = rank higher than 40% of cities
  • D = rank higher than 20% of cities
  • F = rank in the bottom 20% of cities

Full data

Ranking City Median Nightly Price Cost of Living Entertainment Restaurant Transportation Distance to Airport Air Quality Index WiFi
1 Columbus, OH A A A A B B B B
2 Portland, OR A F B A A B A A
3 Kansas City, MO A B A B B F C B
4 Houston, TX B A A A C F F A
5 St. Louis, MO A A B B B D D F
6 Chicago, IL D D A A A C D A
7 Cincinnati, OH B B B B A D D B
7 San Antonio, TX B A B B C A D A
9 Detroit, MI C D A A A F D C
10 Denver, CO C D A A A F F B
11 Minneapolis, MN C C B B A C B C
12 Baltimore, MD A D B B A D C D
13 Atlanta, GA C C A A C D D B
14 Seattle, WA D F A A A A C A
15 Madison, WI A C C C B C A C
16 Louisville, KY C B C B B A B B
17 Phoenix, AZ F D A A A D F A
18 Oklahoma City, OK A A B C D D D C
19 Philadelphia, PA B D A A B D C F
20 Indianapolis, IN B A C B C D D B
21 Orlando, FL D D A A A F B B
22 Milwaukee, WI C C A B C C C C
23 Cleveland, OH A B C B D F D C
24 Los Angeles, CA F F A A A D F A
25 Tampa, FL D C B C A B C B
26 Raleigh, NC B B C C B D A F
27 Dallas, TX C C B A C B F A
28 Miami, FL F F B B A A C A
29 Richmond, VA A B C B C F A B
30 Tucson, AZ B C B B B C C B
31 New York, NY F F A A A C D A
32 Washington, DC D F A A B B C B
33 Omaha, NE C A B C C D B C
34 Tulsa, OK B A D C B C D C
35 San Jose, CA D F B A A A C A
36 Austin, TX D C B A B D C A
37 Jacksonville, FL B B B C D F C B
38 Boston, MA F F A A A B B B
39 Pittsburgh, PA B C C B B F B D
40 Charlotte, NC C B C B C C C B
41 Knoxville, TN B A D D B C B C
42 San Diego, CA F F A A A A C A
43 Albuquerque, NM B A B C C C D F
44 Oakland, CA C F C B A B B C
45 Fort Worth, TX B B B B D F F B
46 El Paso, TX A A C D D A D D
47 Salt Lake City, UT B D D C B B D A
48 Des Moines, IA A A D D D B A D
49 Lincoln, NE A A C D F B A D
50 Las Vegas, NV F C B B C A F A
51 San Francisco, CA F F B A A D B A
52 Spokane, WA A C D D B C A D
53 Sacramento, CA C D A B C F D D
54 Aurora, CO B D B C B F F C
55 Mesa, AZ D D A C C D F C
56 Durham, NC A C F D B D A D
57 St. Petersburg, FL C C D C A D C F
58 Rochester, NY D C C C D A A B
59 Colorado Springs, CO C D C B D C D C
60 Tallahassee, FL D B D C C C B F
61 Chattanooga, TN B A D D F A B D
62 Memphis, TN C A C D D D C B
63 Wichita, KS A A D F F C C D
64 Buffalo, NY C B C D D C A C
65 Long Beach, CA D F D C B A F A
66 Lexington, KY C B F D D C A C
67 Greensboro, NC A B F D F C A D
68 Arlington, VA D F C C B B C A
69 Fresno, CA A D C D D B F F
70 Nashville, TN F B C C D A C B
71 Akron, OH B A D F F F B F
72 Boise, ID A D F F C A B D
73 Syracuse, NY B B F F D B A F
74 Anchorage, AK D F C F C A A F
75 Glendale, AZ F C C D B F F A
76 Gilbert, AZ F D A D D C F F
77 Shreveport, LA A A F F F A B D
78 Norfolk, VA C B F F F A A F
79 New Orleans, LA D D D C C F B F
80 Reno, NV D D D D D A C F
81 Charleston, SC F B D D F B A C
82 Arlington, TX B B F F F F F B
83 Baton Rouge, LA C B F F F B D D
84 Irving, TX A C F F F B F D
85 Bakersfield, CA B D D F F B F D
86 Jersey City, NJ D F F D C C D A
87 New Haven, CT D D D D D A B F
88 Urban Honolulu, HI F F D C C B A C
89 Virginia Beach, VA F B D C F D A F
90 Winston-Salem, NC B B F F F F B F
91 Newark, NJ C F F F D A D C
92 Providence, RI D D D F F C B C
93 Henderson, NV F C D F F D F C
94 Augusta, GA F A F F F B A D
95 Scottsdale, AZ F D F D C F F D
96 Fort Lauderdale, FL F F F F D B C D
97 Asheville, NC F C F F F D A F
98 Plano, TX D F F F F F F D
99 Santa Ana, CA D F F F F A F F
100 Anaheim, CA F F F D D F F F

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