The Best U.S. Cities for Digital Nomads
With so many of us now finding ourselves in careers detached from an office, life has become an IRL “Choose Your Own Adventure” of remote work. So, what to do with this newfound freedom? Many are adopting the digital nomad lifestyle, using their location independence as a way to travel and experience new places in a way that just visiting on vacation would never afford.
But if you can go anywhere, where do you decide where to go? And, what makes a city a great place for digital nomads in particular? To help, we’ve compiled a list of the top things you should look for in a digital nomad destination, along with the 15 best U.S. cities for digital nomads:
What makes a city good for digital nomads?
Before we dive into which cities you should add to your digital nomad bucket list, we’ll first dig into what makes a destination “good” for a digital nomad. Here are some key ingredients to look for:
1. A solid digital nomad community
One of the biggest keys to making the digital nomad lifestyle work is finding community. Just because digital nomads are working remotely away from their companies’ main office or are self-employed doesn’t mean they want to be hermits! And, being remote doesn’t mean they want to stay away from other professionals.
Many are still drawn toward areas with a large subculture of the “creative class,” a somewhat vague term that encompasses various types of (generally young) people who work in the tech sector, the arts, or even academia. It’s a mixed crowd, for sure, but the throughline is a community of dynamic and energetic people looking to create new things.
In the long run, traveling as a nomad could even be a career advantage! It might be a little counterintuitive, but removing yourself from a workplace and being socially active in a community of professionals can be a great way to network. And, there’s no question that some cities offer more opportunities for interacting with the creative class than others. For some nomads, this is an important consideration when choosing a new destination.
So, how do remote workers connect? Networking events, Facebook groups, and coworking spaces can be great places to find other digital nomads with similar careers and lifestyles.
2. A community that supports coworking
Coworking spaces were once most commonly associated with the well-known WeWork, but the concept has come a long way since then. For those not familiar, coworking spaces allow you to rent a smaller place to work when you don’t have an office of your own. That can mean a private room, a cluster of offices for a team, or most commonly, desk space for an individual. Most coworking spaces offer day passes or monthly rentals, and you can rent a specific, dedicated desk or a “hot desk,” which just means you’re a floater who can pick from whatever space is available.
Most coworking spaces actively try to be hubs for networking and social interaction as well, hosting regular events for both purposes. These events can be one of the best ways for digital nomads to connect with others. The prevalence of coworking spaces can be a good indication of the extent of a city’s digital nomad scene.
3. Digital nomad-friendly housing
Finding housing in an area you don’t plan to be in long-term can be tricky. For one, you don’t want to get locked into a long-term lease when you don’t plan to stay there for its full length. Also, no one wants to lug all their furniture and belongings from city to city every few months.
One way to get around this is by renting short-term furnished apartments from Landing. This type of month-to-month rental allows the flexibility that makes the digital nomad lifestyle possible, with flexible leases that make it easy to travel on your terms.
4. Fast internet speed
When choosing a city to travel to, many digital nomads will often try to determine the speed of the internet in that city. Online or remote work is generally what puts the “digital” in “digital nomad,” which means you need to have easy and high-quality access to the internet.
A lot of these lists will indicate the average internet speed in the area, as measured by websites like Ookla. These numbers are misleading, though, in that they are measuring all users in a city without taking into account how many of those people are investing in the best service available in their area.
The fact is that in contemporary America, your internet speed is going to vary more based upon your provider and plan than your physical location if you are in a city of decent size. The vast majority of people will be able to find a service that fills their needs, including video streaming and video conferencing, in any destination.
The place you may run into problems is when headed out into a rural area. So, if your dream is to live in a remote corner of Montana while editing and uploading 4K video, you may have your patience tried by your internet speed. (No shade on your life goals, but maybe it’s for the best.) For most other nomads, internet speed shouldn’t be a huge consideration when choosing a location.
If you’re one of the few who needs truly epic internet speeds, you can check where fiber optics is available here.
5. Places to find fun!
Alright, now that we have the practical questions out of the way, we can talk about what to actually do in a new city! If you can work remotely from anywhere you want, why would you go somewhere boring, right?
Of course, what constitutes a good time is going to vary from nomad to nomad. For some location-independent people, it’ll mean finding outdoor activities like nearby hiking, bodies of water, and winter sports. For others, it’ll mean more urban activities, like nightlife, restaurants, and cultural events. We’ve included some information on extracurricular activities available for each location below.
Without further ado, let’s get to our cities (listed in alphabetical order, not ranked):
The 15 best U.S. cities for digital nomads
Atlanta might be considered a little more of an up-and-coming travel destination for digital nomads, but it makes sense. The city offers everything you want in a big city—such as nightlife, restaurants, and professional sports—at a more affordable cost of living than many other cities in the U.S.
Atlanta is a major cultural hub for the Southeast and though the tech sector here may not be quite as developed as some of the places on this list, the creative class is well-represented.
Austin is the current poster child for a place where the creative class has flocked away from the country’s largest urban areas. Though the hype over the tech exodus from Silicon Valley to Texas may have turned out to be a little overblown, there’s no question that Austin has become a dynamic tech hub. It’s not just techies, though! Austin has long been known for fostering the creative, most famously with the South by Southwest festival and other top music festivals.
As for things to do, Austin is well-known for its live music and nightlife scene. It also gives plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, with accompanying sunny weather that allows you to take advantage of it. Austin is unquestionably one of the premier destinations for digital nomads.
Now, hear me out. For the better part of a decade, Boise has been a popular spot for techies fleeing the cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the fastest-growing city in America for a few of those years. Some larger tech companies (most notably Micron) have set up large operations there.
Beyond the comparatively low cost of living (which is narrowing a little bit because of the influx), Boise has more outdoor activities than you could ever possibly experience. One unique favorite is the hot springs, like little natural jacuzzies, a short drive away.
It turns out some really great restaurateurs appreciate the slower pace of life, too, which means Boise also has a surprising downtown restaurant scene.
Denver has long been the mountain respite of people running from the coasts. Traveling to the middle of the Rocky Mountains gives remote workers access to some of the best outdoor activities possible. It’s especially impressive when considering the close proximity of the city and nature
The mountain environs are the primary draw of the Mile High City. As mentioned, what constitutes a fun place to travel is a personal preference. If you feel the call of the mountains and slopes, Denver is a great option for your next nomad destination.
5. Las Vegas
Sin City may seem an unlikely spot to travel to for a digital nomad, but it’s a low-cost alternative to a lot of the other major cities in the country. Combine that with the world-class range of activities and experiences possible, and you’re getting a lot of bang for your cost of living buck.
It’s also worth noting that Las Vegas is a very transient city. Few people who live there are from there—most have moved there. It’s a unique situation that makes it especially nomad-friendly.
6. Los Angeles
Like New York, LA is one of those places a lot of people want to experience for a little while at some point in their lives to see what all of the fuss is about. Visions of beach life, running into celebrities on the street, and hitting the nightlife with beautiful people may be enough to draw digital nomads from around the country.
LA isn’t necessarily known as the tech hub that the other end of California is, but it has a respectable startup culture, particularly along the western side of the city, sufficient to earn it the nickname Silicon Beach. Snapchat and Tinder are both from there, after all (why do those feel like especially appropriate products of LA?).
Tips from a Landing Member
“Los Angeles is packed with creatives, and the coffee shops have risen to the occasion. Every local spot I worked from had reliable Wi-Fi, plenty of room to spread out, and a community of people working on their laptops to motivate me to keep working (and not just go soak up the sun).”
If you can live anywhere, why not live on the beach? Warm weather, some of the best nightlife in the country, and an incomparable selection of Latin food. Some in the tech industry have off-and-on flirted with the idea of moving their operations to Miami to escape California. Though no mass exodus has materialized as of now, it remains an up-and-comer for the creative class.
If you love live music (and who doesn’t?), nowhere compares to Nashville for the sheer volume of talent on display every night at a hundred different venues. You couldn’t possibly see it all. One of the more low-cost options on this list, Nashville is a draw for other portions of the creative class as well. It’s a dynamic environment fit for any digital nomad.
9. New Orleans
NOLA is a world unto itself, with a unique culture that you’ll find nowhere else in the world, let alone the United States. For a lot of people, it’ll feel like visiting another country without the need for a passport or visa. New Orleans boasts prime culture, nightlife, food, food, and more food. Sipping Sazerac at a cafe on Bourbon Street while working on a laptop is a nomad’s dream!
Tips from a Landing Member
“I just spent two months living in New Orleans. I felt drawn to the city after spending an adventurous week there five years ago. There was just something about the culture that called to me, from the long, dark history dripping from its balconies and the rambling jazz music from Frenchman Street telling stories from decades past.”
— Jess Goudreault, “How I Spent Two Months Living in New Orleans“
10. New York City
Though NYC may be one of the cities that digital nomads have been fleeing due to being one of the least affordable places on earth to live, it’s a draw to many others who want to experience it anyway. “Live in New York City for a while” is on a lot of bucket lists. With a mind-boggling 447 co-working spaces, the city clearly has a lot of digital nomads hanging out there.
Not too much needs to be said about what there is to do in NYC, because I think we all know. It has eerything you could ever want from a city, but it’s not exactly known for its outdoor activities.
One of the more affordable urban centers in the U.S., Phoenix is everything you expect from a major city without some of the congestion. As a poster child for urban sprawl, Phoenix isn’t as compressed as a lot of urban areas, which could be a positive or a negative for you.
Its tech sector is also nothing to sneeze at. As just one example, both Uber and Waymo are testing out their autonomous driving cars in the area.
A lot of Portland’s charm is its unique and funky personality. Although migration into the city has diluted that to some extent, you’ll still see stalwart advocates of quirk driving around town with “Keep Portland Weird” stickers.
Digital nomads will find plenty of spots for coworking and plenty to do after work. When one of a city’s major landmarks is a bookstore (the must-see Powell’s Books), you know you’re among the creative class.
13. Salt Lake City
Like Denver, the winter sports options available in Salt Lake City are nearly endless and are a major draw for nomads. Enough tech companies have found their way to SLC that it’s taken on the nickname Silicon Slopes. (Can we stop with the “Silicon + Geography Type” thing now? If we keep going like this we’re going to end up with Silicon Steppe and Silicon Isthmus before long!)
14. San Francisco
Obviously, San Francisco is another one of the primary areas that people have been fleeing due to it being one of the least affordable places to live in the country. But it is still the center of the universe for the tech industry. Consequently, the networking opportunities available may make it look like an attractive place for a digital nomad. There is a plethora of coworking spots around the metro area to make connections at.
That is, of course, beyond being one of the most beautiful cities in the United States, with some of the best cultural opportunities, restaurants, and nightlife.
There are many reasons that remote workers might choose to relocate to Seattle. Being one of the largest tech hubs in the U.S., Seattle is one of the best places for tech networking. The noted coffee shop culture provides approximately a billion laptop-friendly locations around the city where you can work remotely.
Other types of creatives famously give the city much of its charm, dating back to the ’90s grunge scene. If you can handle the rain, Seattle might be the perfect spot to take your nomad lifestyle next.
Wondering where to move next?
One of the best parts of nomad life is that remote workers don’t have to pick just one of these cities. With flexible housing options like Landing, you can experience as many of these cities as you like. Learn more about becoming a Landing member today!