Updated June 10, 2014

Study: Best Springtime Cities

Read more about What Not to Buy in March

When it comes to weather, March is the meanest month of the year. It's a tease.

If you live in the northern U.S. and Canada but have family pretty much anywhere else, you know what we’re talking about. March is when you start to get phone calls from Mom in her warmer climate, talking about how she and Dad were just playing tennis outside. It’s when your old college roommate posts Facebook comments about how it’s “so sunny here! We put sunscreen on the cat!” while you still have to wear a jacket every time you go outside. And it’s when TV weather maps color-code every other part of the country in warm, happy orange while you linger in the frozen, miserable purple zone.

So if you’re still digging out in Duluth or shivering in Chicago, this list is for you. To help you get through this transitional time between wishing winter were over and full fun in the sun, we found the best springtime cities - places where they’ve put that snow shovel away and are having that picnic you’ve been dreaming of right now. Shed that coat and start dreaming by visiting any of the following places in your mind.

Study Methodology

We formulated our list based on four criteria:

  • The prevalence of locations for our fabulous imaginary picnics
  • Relatively high temperatures for the springtime
  • A limited number of spring allergies that would ruin any fun
  • Early tanline potential

Springtime is meant for walks and Frisbee – activities you can’t do for months if you live in certain parts of the country. So we took a look at acres of parkland per 1,000 people from the Trust for Public Land’s public report on parks in 2012. Alaska has the max with over 1,700 acres per 1,000 people; Hialeah, Fla., is the worst at just 0.8, even though it’s a decent size city.

We also calculated 30 years of average high temps for March, April, May, and June, leaning on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). We gave this information only 25% of the weight of the other criteria.

Allergy data comes from a recent Quest Diagnostics’ annual allergy report, which provides an index based on the percentage of residents who are allergic to ragweed, mold, dust mites, cats, dogs, and even food. Dallas wins the award for the most itchiness;Portland came in last.

Exposing pasty skin to the sunshine as quickly as possible is one of the many pleasures of springtime (always wear your sunscreen, people), so we looked at NOAA’s sunshine statistics over at least five years for all cities; for some metropolitan areas, they cover more than 50 years. Again, we took the average for March, April, May, and June.

After all those calculations, here’s where you want to go this spring.

10 Best Springtime Cities

10. Denver, CO

Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado

  • Acres of parks per 1,000 people: 9.8
  • Allergy index: 642
  • Average spring high temperature: 67.4
  • Early tanline potential: 67.5%

Denver is one of the chillier towns on the list when it comes to springtime temperatures (and its winter weather is nothing to sneeze at), but Denver is also one of the sunniest cities in the country. Its sunshine goes a long way. Also, there’s some entertainment value: on the rare 75-degree days, sunbathers will carpet Washington Park faster than you can say “Peyton Manning.”

Did you know?
Many Colorado ski resorts stay open until the end of April.

9. Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California

  • Acres of parks per 1,000 people: 11.1
  • Allergy index: 660
  • Average spring high temperature: 67.4
  • Early tanline potential: 68.5%

The California coast has a naturally lush climate. When spring arrives, everything is in bloom, making L.A. lovely. The town has relatively few acres of parks per 1,000 people, but with the beaches and mountains nearby, you can grab a decent spot to watch the annual bikini parade.

Did you know?
Every spring, Snoop Dogg hosts the Snoop Lion 420 Festival “inviting celebrity friends and members of the general public to a joyous marijuana celebration.” The event takes place at “an undisclosed, private, and luxurious Hollywood mansion and usually begins around 2 p.m.,” according to Partyearth.com.

8. Houston, TX

Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas

  • Acres of parks per 1,000 people: 23.6
  • Allergy index: 639
  • Average spring high temperature: 81
  • Early tanline potential: 61%

Houston turns into a sweaty mess in the summer, but in the spring, it’s sublime. With lots of parks, there are plenty of places to soak up some warmth and forget about winter.

Looking to travel this spring? Consider using an airline credit card.

7. Kansas City, MO

  • Acres of parks per 1,000 people: 37.9
  • Allergy index: 640
  • Average spring high temperature: 71
  • Early tanline potential: 61.8%

Finally, a city in the Midwest. With a ton of parks and a balmy average high of 71 degrees, Kansas City lands right in the sweet spot of springtime bliss. Steady sunshine is more of a treat here than in other cities, but we can kill time eating barbecue while we wait.

6. San Diego, CA

San Diego, California
San Diego, California

  • Acres of parks per 1,000 people: 35.9
  • Allergy index: 648
  • Average spring high temperature: 68.1
  • Early tanline potential: 63.8%

This outdoorsy town is situated so far south that folks are already breaking out the tube tops by March. But make sure your clothes include a pocket for Kleenex: the allergy index there means you better be ready to sneeze.

Did you know?
The buds of the California chaparral, a type of native flower, can survive a fire if they bury themselves deeply enough in the soil. They flower profusely the first spring after a fire, according to the University of California Cooperative Extension.

5. Miami, FL

Miami, Florida
Miami, Florida

  • Acres of parks per 1,000 people: 3
  • Allergy index: 599
  • Average spring high temperature: 85
  • Early tanline potential: 72.5%

You’d think Miami would land higher on the list, but with Florida’s sometimes cloudy weather, your chances of having any tanlines to show off are much lower than the other cities. Plus, Miami has one of the lowest parks-to-people ratios on the planet - guess we’ll have to take our picnic to the beach.

Did you know?
The University of Miami’s golf team played in the Florida Challenge tournament on January 27 - the middle of winter.

4. Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Acres of parks per 1,000 people: 5.3
  • Allergy index: 620
  • Average spring high temperature: 83.3
  • Early tanline potential: 88%

Most of the juicy stuff that happens in Vegas happens indoors, but in springtime, one of the best things about this town is what’s outside. Las Vegas is already toasty by spring, with an average daily high of 83.3 degrees for the March-June period. And with all that sun, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to take that bikini out for a spin by the pool at the Hard Rock.

Did you know?
Spring is a great time to get your finances in order. Consider applying for a cash back credit card to earn rewards.

3. Tampa, FL

Tampa, Florida
Tampa, Florida

  • Acres of parks per 1,000 people: 10.2
  • Allergy index: 589
  • Average spring high temperature: 83.5
  • Early tanline potential: 72%

Tampa has been a favorite spring break destination for eons - you almost can’t graduate from college without proof of at least one visit to Tampa. The town is relatively cloudy, but with temps in the 80s and miles of beaches, nobody’s complaining.

Did you know?
Travel website Orbitz ranks Tampa as number 5 on the list of most popular spring break destinations (Orlando was number 1).

2. Sacramento, CA

Sacramento, California
Sacramento, California

  • Acres of parks per 1,000 people: 10.9
  • Allergy index: 614
  • Average spring high temperature: 75.8
  • Early tanline potential: 85%

Sacramento has the fewest parks per thousand people of the California cities that made our list, but it beat out LA and San Diego because it’s warmer, has less of an allergy problem, and gets more sun.

1. Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona

  • Acres of parks per 1,000 people: 32.6
  • Allergy index: 695
  • Average spring high temperature: 90.2
  • Early tanline potential: 90%

Phoenix is a glorious place when you’re digging out of three feet of March snow. Notice that we said springtime - not the entire year. Phoenix gets blazing hot in the summer, we know. But with over 30 acres of parks for every 1,000 people and sunny, warm weather, who wouldn’t want to ditch the icicles for popsicles this time of year?

Did you know?
Phoenix is the home of the “Cactus League,” which is Major League Baseball’s nickname for the teams that travel there for spring training every year.

Some cities are luckier than others when it comes to their start dates for spring. We hope this list inspires you to doing some dreaming when all the leaves are brown and the sky is gray.

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