8 Best Cities for Frugal Lovers of the Outdoors


Reconnecting with nature is one of the best things we can do to improve our mental and physical health. In fact, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that our physical environment has a direct impact on stress levels.

Here are eight cities that make it easy and affordable for their residents and visitors to access nature.

1. Portland, Oregon

In Portland, Oregon you can pick your weather. It's a short drive to skiing in the winter, or surfing in the summer. If you have a penchant for camping, hiking, and exploring on your own two feet, Portland makes it easy to do that all year long with its temperate climate and abundant natural beauty. Portland's residents are some of the most passionate environmentalists in the country, and the city has been named one of the most bike-friendly places in the word.

2. Burlington, Vermont

The summer I spent in Burlington, Vermont was one of the best summers of my life. I could bike or walk everywhere. The city itself is covered in trees and green space, and it's surrounded by deep woods complete with lakes, streams, and mountains. The integration of the city into its natural environment lends an easy-going, friendly atmosphere to its residents and visitors alike.

3. Fort Collins, Colorado

The Rocky Mountains are icons of the natural beauty that's so abundant in the American West. Nestled into the foothills of Rocky Mountain National Park, Fort Collins is a city that provides a perfect blend of urban culture and nature. Whether your vehicle of choice is a bike, kayak, or your running shoes, Fort Collins offers plenty of ways to get around and enjoy the scenery. It's no wonder that it's consistently a receiver of best city awards lists in multiple publications.

4. Charlottesville, Virginia

I would think I'm a bit biased toward C'ville because I went to Darden Business School at UVA. However, publications were raving about Charlottesville long before I was there, and have continued to do so in the eight years since I graduated. With the Blue Ridge Mountains at your doorstep, you can't help but have an amazing time outdoors in this charming quintessential college town.

5. Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota

With the twin cities, you get two for the price of one. While cold in the winter, Minneapolis and St. Paul are phenomenal choices for bike lovers in the spring, summer, and fall because of their extensive park systems. You can enjoy boat access to both the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers. Hiking is also a common and much-enjoyed pastime for residents and tourists.

6. Buffalo, New York

Buffalo is booming. Recent revitalization efforts have transformed downtown and brought a much-increased sense of culture to this former industrial town. A stone's throw from Niagara Falls and Toronto, another scenic nature-loving city, Buffalo is perfectly situated for people who want to combine urban convenience with plenty of time spent close to nature. New York State's wine country is also an easy drive from Buffalo.

7. Nashville, Tennessee

In case you haven't heard, the travel world is buzzing about Nashville. Long known as the seat of country music, this vibrant city is also a nature lover's dream. Situated on the banks of the Cumberland River (a tributary of the Ohio River), Nashville's mild winters along with long spring and fall seasons make it easy to enjoy the outdoors for most of the year. Two new riverfront parks are under construction on the east and west banks of the city, and will include an outdoor amphitheater for those who want to combine their passions for the arts and the outdoors.

8. Charleston, South Carolina

This fall I took my first trip to Charleston and I fell in love with it. Its scenic river views, rich history, and southern charm gracefully build a bridge (literally) between nature and the built environments. People in Charleston also take the time to enjoy the view, and when you're around them, you do, too. They know how good they have it, and after one visit you'll be planning a return trip.

If you've been longing to get back to nature in an affordable way, these eight cities are well worth a visit. Who knows? You might just find a new hometown to call your own.

What city brings you closest to nature? Tell us where to go in comments!

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