When the pandemic hit the U.S. last year, millions of jobs switched to remote work basically overnight, and as the year unfolded, many of those employers and employees realized this virtual work setup was, well, working . Major companies announced they’d be extending their work-from-home policies through at least 2021, if not indefinitely. People who had always been anchored to a city because of their job are now asking themselves a big question:
If you can work from anywhere, where do you want to live?
While you might technically be able to live anywhere, some places are certainly better suited for remote work than others. If you’re working virtually, you need fast, reliable internet. You need fun things to do when you’re not on the clock. You need a welcoming and inclusive community. You need easy access to transportation if you need to get back to the office at some point. You need cool places to co-work and meet up with people (when that’s something we can all do again).
To help you narrow down your list of dream remote work cities, Livability partnered with Fourth Economy to compile a list of the 10 Best Remote-Ready Cities in the U.S. Our metrics combined Livability’s 2020 Top 100 Best Places to Live rankings with indicators and data from Fourth Economy’s Community Index. Categories and amenities we focused on included broadband access, local jobs that could be done from home, affordability, a robust regional economy, and quality of life.
Here are the 10 cities that came out on top:
10. Duluth, Minn.
Unparalleled access to nature and outdoor recreation opportunities for every season make Duluth, Minn, a top place to work remotely. This northern Minnesota city sits right on Lake Superior, just a few miles from the border with Wisconsin, which means that right after you close your laptop for the day, you can head outside and make the most of your prime location.
You can hit the St. Louis River in your kayak or stand-up paddleboard before logging onto Slack each morning, ride your bike along the Duluth Lakewalk between Zoom (NAS:ZM) calls or play a round of golf on weekends. There’s skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and sledding in the winter. Year-round, you can grab a pair of binoculars and search for birds, enjoy the ever-changing views of the lake and explore Duluth’s 100 parks and 150 miles of natural-surface hiking trails.
Duluth also boasts superfast high-speed internet connections that can support three to four people at one time, so if you’ve got roommates or a partner who’s also working from home, you won’t have to strategically stagger your videoconference calls.
This pro-business community is home to lots of startups and small companies, a deep pool of educated workers and an affordable cost of living. And if you want to level-up your skills and go for a promotion, you’ll have plenty of options nearby: University of Minnesota Duluth, Lake Superior College, The College of St. Scholastica, University of Wisconsin-Superior and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College are all easily accessible.
9. Tucson, Ariz.
Not only is Tucson, Ariz., an affordable place to live and work remotely, but it also offers its 545,000 residents an incredibly high quality of life, with lots of ways to stay active and involved.
The warm southwestern climate is a huge perk of living here, since it makes it easy to get outside and explore during your lunch break and on the weekends — right out your front door, you’ll have your pick of miles of hiking trails and off-road bike trails, tons of rock climbing routes, satisfying bird-watching areas and more. Tucson is also a powerhouse of arts and culture, with a robust community of visual arts groups, top-tier performing arts venues, inspiring art galleries, innovative filmmakers and tons of public art to explore when you’re not working.
This city is home to the University of Arizona, a four-year public research institution, so if you’re charged with recruiting top talent for your company or if you just want to broaden your skill set, you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips. Other schools in Tucson include Pima Community College, Pima Medical Institute and Southwest University of Visual Arts.
In addition to high-speed internet throughout the city, Tucson is also home to a half-dozen co-working spaces (including one specifically designed for nonprofits !), so you’ll be able to find a community of fellow remote workers and entrepreneurs right off the bat.
Working remotely can be isolating, but in Albuquerque, you’ll find a true sense of community and place, no matter what your interests are outside of work. Whether you love watching (or learning!) flamenco, learning about Hispanic and Native American heritage, eating farm-to-table meals, wandering through art galleries or hitting the hiking trails after work, you’ll be able to find your niche right away in this eclectic southwestern city.
If you decide to change career paths or you just want to bolster your resume, Albuquerque has an incredible mix of high-wage jobs and offers great access to continuing education, professional certificate programs, workshops, lectures and seminars. Nearby schools include the University of New Mexico (the state’s flagship university), Carrington College, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, Southwest University of Visual Arts, Brookline College Albuquerque and Central New Mexico Community College.
Plus, thanks to Albuquerque’s high desert climate and 300-plus days of sunshine each year, you can enjoy outdoor recreation all year long — skiing, mountain biking, road cycling, rock climbing, running, golf and more. And if you want a change of scenery from your home office, the city is also home to several welcoming co-working spaces, including FatPipe ABQ Co-working Space, Ideas and Coffee Co-working, FreeRange and Optimum Co-working.
7. Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento, CA, is a diverse community where all remote workers can thrive, no matter their backgrounds, thanks to the community’s focus on inclusion and equity.
This northern California city, the state’s capital, is home to more than 500,000 residents, tons of high-paying careers and high-speed internet for all, so you’ll be in good company when you work remotely from Sacramento. And if you want to be surrounded by some of Sacramento’s best and brightest minds, you can work from The Urban Hive, Capsity Coworking, Outlet Co-working, Trade Coffee & Coworking and a handful of other fun and inviting co-working spaces around town.
After work, head to the city’s farmers market (one of Sacramento’s nicknames is “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital”), try one of the amazing restaurants, or hop on your bike and hit the 28-mile Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, a paved multiuse path that snakes along the American River. Another fun way to stretch your legs after a day of being glued to your laptop? Snapping photos of the many murals and public art installations sprinkled throughout the city.
For a California city, Sacramento is affordable, with residents’ average rent or mortgage payments clocking in significantly lower than other cities in the state, so you’ll be able to make the most of your remote work paycheck, too.
6. Frederick, Md.
With lightning-fast high-speed internet and a diverse community, Frederick, Md., stands out as a remote work hot spot. Perhaps nowhere in the country blends history with technology as reverently and creatively as Frederick: many of the upper floors of the city’s historic downtown buildings are occupied by tech companies and startups doing cutting-edge work in 200-year-old spaces.
This central Maryland city is just the right size with 72,000 residents, so you’ll be able to find your happy hour crew or a lunch buddy with ease, even though you don’t have co-workers nearby. Co-working spaces like Cowork Frederick can help you stay motivated and inspired whether you’re working on a big project or trying to tackle a complicated problem. And if you ever decide to strike out on your own, you’ll be surrounded by startups and entrepreneurs who have specifically chosen Frederick as their young companies’ headquarters.
If your remote job requires you to visit your company’s H.Q. from time to time, Frederick offers unparalleled access to much of the East Coast. It’s less than an hour’s drive from both Washington, D.C., and Baltimore (and their many airports), with easy access to Philadelphia and New York City, too.
And for quality of life, Frederick offers a little something for everyone. This growing city has a small-town vibe with all the amenities of a big city, ranging from museums and historical sites to performing arts venues and fine dining restaurants. On the weekends, you can meander along the Frederick Wine Trail, get lost among the trees at Gambrill State Park or immerse yourself in Civil War history.
5. Fort Collins, Colo.
If you love stretching your legs after a long conference call or grabbing a refreshing craft beer after work, Fort Collins is for you. This outdoorsy northern Colorado city, crowned the No. 1 Best Place to Live in America on Livability’s 2020 Top 100 list , is nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, which means you’ll be able to get outside and stay active all year long. Plus, the various outdoor activities will help you make new friends and network with fellow remote work professionals — there are meetups and social groups for everything from hiking to gravel biking here.
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But Fort Collins is about so much more than outdoor rec. It’s also a foodie town, complete with innovative restaurants and pioneering craft breweries to explore after work or on the weekends. Plan your own self-guided bike-to-brewery tour at spots like Odell Brewing Company, New Belgium, Funkwerks and Horse & Dragon, then head over to Ginger and Baker for a slice of decadent pie.
You’ll get to take advantage of Fort Collins’ superfast high-speed internet connection at your home office, which can support you, your spouse, your roommate, and even a houseguest or two, without any lag. If you want to freshen up your professional portfolio or just feel inspired, you can enroll in classes or attend a lecture at Colorado State University, a four-year, public land-grant university with formal and informal opportunities for continuing education.
4. Oak Park, Ill.
You might know Oak Park, Ill., for being architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s muse — it’s where he lived and worked for many years in the early 1900s. But, in addition to all the inspiring architecture, this Chicago suburb is also a great place to be a remote worker, thanks to its diverse business community, inclusive culture and strong sense of place.
Oak Park is home to some 52,000 residents, which means you’ll be able to dive right in, get involved and find your crew. This small city, which spans 4½ square miles, has a strong identity all its own that’s steeped in arts and culture, social justice and community. Check out groups like Compound Yellow, an artist-run space in Oak Park where you can volunteer your professional services, take a workshop or just flex your creative muscles after hours of staring at your laptop screen.
Oak Park also hosts dozens of free events each year, designed to bring together families, working professionals, retirees and everyone in between — you’ll get to know your neighbors by attending concerts, festivals, movies in the park, carnivals and more.
If your remote job requires you to travel (or you like to take advantage of your ability to work from anywhere!), you’ll be just 30 minutes by car from O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International airport, which offer flights to destinations all over the world. You’re just a short train or bus ride from downtown Chicago, too.
3. Bellingham, Wash.
Bellingham’s natural beauty and year-round recreation activities will help you stay motivated and work efficiently at your remote job — as soon as you’re done for the day (or even during lunch!), you can head outside and get moving. Bellingham is located right on the water of Bellingham Bay, just 20 miles south of the Canadian border. From your home office or your back deck, you may have views of the water, the Cascade Mountains, the San Juan Islands and the vast wilderness of northern Washington.
For remote workers, Bellingham also offers robust high-speed internet that can support three to four people at a time, abundant options for continuing education, networking opportunities and co-working spaces both large and small. Attend after-work seminars or enroll in a formal program at one of the Bellingham region’s many colleges and universities, including Western Washington University, Whatcom Community College and Bellingham Technical College.
Bellingham is also home to a thriving arts and entertainment scene, a growing selection of craft breweries, many museums and fun annual events that bring the community together. If you get bored with the four walls of your home office, you can hop on your bike or walk to many of Bellingham’s hip coffee shops — like Caffe Adagio or The Lettered Streets Coffeehouse — to get a little work done.
2. Grand Rapids, Mich.
Grand Rapids, Mich., is a great place to grow your career, whether you report to a traditional workplace or you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur or remote worker hustling on your own every day. This western Michigan city (located just below the pinkie finger of Michigan’s “mitten”) has tons of resources and programs to help you develop leadership skills, learn a new skill set or simply take the next step in your career.
Beyond that, Grand Rapids is an eclectic and vibrant place to live, with tons of young professionals, modern bars and restaurants and quick access to outdoor recreation. It’s home to some 200,000 people and feels like a bustling big city, minus all the hassle.
You’ll get to choose from eight distinct neighborhoods, each with its own character and charm (and plenty of history!) Whether you’re looking for a downtown loft or a sprawling backyard, you’ll find the perfect place to put down roots while also enjoying your remote work freedom. Plus, your paycheck will stretch further in Grand Rapids, which offers an affordable cost of living without sacrificing life quality.
Above all else, you’ll find that Grand Rapids residents are supportive and welcoming. You won’t have any trouble making new friends or building a community here, which is a hugely important consideration when you don’t have a built-in network of co-workers.
1. Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio, takes the top spot for remote-ready cities in 2021, thanks to its forward-looking outlook, high quality of life, affordability and welcoming attitude — it’s a well-rounded community where remote workers of all backgrounds can thrive.
For your off-work hours, this central Ohio city offers 20 parks and more than 200 miles of trails to explore, plus lots of nearby state parks and regional wilderness areas. The city’s thriving arts and entertainment scene ranges from family-friendly festivals like the annual Jazz & Rib fest to world-class museums like the Columbus Museum of Art.
If you love sports, you’ll have plenty of options in Columbus, home to The Ohio State University Buckeyes (Division 1 college athletics), the Columbus Blue Jackets (pro hockey), the Columbus Crew SC (pro soccer) and the Columbus Clippers (pro baseball), the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.
Columbus, home to 892,000 residents, has nearly a dozen diverse neighborhoods within its bounds, each with its own vibe and energy. Whether you’re looking for a condo in the Arena District or a historic brick house in German Village, you’ll be decorating your home office in no time. Plus, Columbus is actively investing in its transportation infrastructure, thanks to a $50 million Smart City Challenge grant it won in 2016 — when you’re dashing off to client meetings or heading to your co-working space in the morning, you’ll be able to get around easily via public transit, bike, electric vehicle or even your own two feet.