People who live in cities like London, Boston, Chicago and Vancouver spend an inordinate amount of time talking, thinking, and predicting the weather. This list is not about those cities.
We look at those places in the world where you’re pretty much guaranteed perfect weather year round. 70 degrees and sunny? Yes, please. Here, 10 cities that rank high not just for the best weather in the world, but also for air quality, and the abundance of activities available in their beaches, parks, mountains, and deserts. Better pack comfortable shoes, and don’t forget your sunscreen.
1. SAN DIEGO
The city’s lauded perch on the extreme, sunny, Pacific-kissed bottom left of the country has long attracted surfers, adventurers and other residents who understand that making a living and cavorting with Mother Nature on school nights are not mutually exclusive. How can they be? Year-round sun and ocean sports, golf and the beguiling Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve are just the tip of a verdant, expansive public park system that’s the envy of the country. Accessibility to the outdoors is a point of local pride—from baby waves in Pacific Beach’s Tourmaline Surf Park designed to hook unsuspecting beginners on the sport to urban mountain biking in Balboa Park. After a surf lesson with Pacific Surf School, head to Fig Tree Cafe in Pacific Beach for a hearty breakfast. For dessert, get an ice cream at Mr. Frostie, a Pacific Beach shop that’s been serving soft serve and chocolate shakes from the same location since 1949. If the beach is not your thing, head to Balboa Park, which features 1,200 acres of hiking trails, fountains, performing art venues, gardens, and museums to explore right in the middle of the city. The Park’s free tram is a good way to see its most popular attractions. Don’t miss Palm Canyon, which features some 450 palms and 58 species, and is connected via a historic trail to the Old Cactus Garden. Back in Downtown, catch the ferry to Coronado Island and spend a few hours exploring. End the day watching the sunset at Sunset Cliffs and keep your eyes peeled and you might spot dolphins or whales migrating up and down the coast.
On average, Las Vegas gets 294 sunny days per year. In 2017, more than 42.2 million people traveled to the area and while many of them probably spent a good part of their visit cooped up inside casinos and shopping malls, we’re here to tell you that there’s much more to do and see in Sin City… or should that be Sun City? In fact, what makes this city great is the number of things you can do under a bright blue sky. Start your visit at the Container Park, an open-air venue where shipping containers are repurposed to house clothing boutiques, restaurants, bars, a wedding chapel and more. While wandering the Downtown’s streets, you’ll probably spot some of the great street art. In 2013 a team of international street artists and muralists blanketed the city’s walls with vibrant art for the launch of Life is Beautiful, a music and arts festival that goes down in September. The murals have become popular backgrounds for Instagram selfies. A short drive out of town there are hikes and trails to explore in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a place where nature lovers and geology fans can search for tracks of small bipedal dinosaurs stamped in the Aztec Sandstone. Open 24/7, Gold Spike is a smoke-free, co-working spot by day and adult playground featuring dining options and an outdoor backyard featuring a variety of oversized games, a stage for live music and bar by night.
There’s much more to see and do in the Shopping Capital of the Middle East than malls. Year-round sun and a dramatic combination of desert and beach offer Dubai visitors and residents the opportunity to partake in high-adrenaline endeavors of every kind. There’s paddleboarding, surfing and swimming with dolphins in the clear aquamarine waters of the Arabian Gulf. There are miles of golden beaches featuring volleyball courts and climbing gyms, as well as permanent food trucks complete with air-conditioned seating areas right on the sand. Feeling hungry? Do like the locals and check out a food truck. Try Salt, which serves Wagyu burgers, finger-licking-good chicken sandwiches, addictive fries, and refreshing lemonade from a sleek, silver Airstream trailer. Food trucks have become so popular in Dubai that there’s even a community called TruckersDXB, whose sole purpose is to get people out of the malls to eat street food as it should be experienced—in the open air, on eco-friendly plates, and from the side of a truck. Almost every weekend from October to April, a gaggle of trucks lines up at some of Dubai’s coolest beaches, parks, and streets to welcome hungry revelers, who dine on everything from Mexican (Calle Tacos) to Pakistani soul food (Moti Roti) while live bands and DJs play music. For something completely different, leave the city behind and dune bash in the desert, soar above the sand in a hot air balloon or go on safari in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve to get a taste of Bedouin traditions.
At a shade over a million residents, Tucson just snuck into our Best Cities ranking but is a must do for sun seekers. Arizona’s second city scored high (#20) in our Place category, thanks to good scores in Air Quality, Parks & Outdoor Activities, and, of course, Weather. It ranks an amazing #2 on the planet for Air Quality, with its Weather—always sunny and well over 100 degrees more often than not from June to September—ranking #17 on the planet. This is a city where its populace loves the outdoors. Emboldened city leaders have been swinging for the fences, first by telling the world that Tucson is “The Winter Training Capital of America,” made possible by the area’s five mountain ranges long used as Stairmasters by cyclists and triathletes in the know. More recently, Tucson wasn’t satisfied with its 700 miles of bike lanes. The result? Even more incentives to cycle, facilitated by new mixed-use bike boulevards along less popular driving roads—more than 150 miles worth.
Miami has always been a destination, both for its accessible exoticism that coaxes frozen northerners, as well as the profound, magnetic Latin American community that serves as the point of entry for so many from Central and South America and, of course, Cuba and the Caribbean. Miami’s alchemy of immigrant hustle and hedonism is unrivalled in the U.S. It’s why locals, inspired by the visual bounty of the land and sea, have always tried to do one better—first with some of the most striking Art Deco architecture on the planet and, most recently, wrestling the crown away from several cities for the title of Art City. It’s been 16 years since international art fair Art Basel landed, followed by the Frank Gehry-designed New World Symphony Center and the adjacent Soundscape—a 2.5-acre public park designed by Dutch architectural firm West 8.
Think Barcelona and what comes to mind is incredible Gothic and Modernista architecture, the marvel that is Gaudí’s Sagrada Família (it’s finally close to being completed) and the dreamlike building La Pedrera, museums and galleries that showcase some of the best contemporary art by established and up-and-coming artists, and boisterous tapas bars where the city’s populace gathers to talk politics, arts, and last night’s fútbol match over tortilla and beer. Yes, it’s all that, and the best part is that wide, pretty beaches are just blocks from all of the attractions. Start in Barceloneta, the neighborhood renovated for the 1992 Summer Olympics. Take a selfie in front of Roy Lichtenstein’s Barcelona Head, a 64-foot-tall ceramic tile sculpture that stands at the entrance to marina OneOcean Port Vell. Nearby is the Catalonian History Museum, where permanent and temporary exhibits convey 3,000 years of Catalan history. Stop at La Mar Salada, where former El Bulli chef Marc Singla makes a killer seafood paella. Take the 10-minute Port Cable Car to connect across the port to Parc de Montjuïc, which is home to Fundació Joan Miróamong other museums and attractions.
The Golden Gate Bridge, glowing against the shifting Pacific fog, is a reminder that engineering makes even the formidable possible. Here, even the geography seems to have an algorithm, with 49 hills distilled in the city’s seven-by-seven-mile grid. Nature is still mostly free and resonates more than ever, with the city’s strong Top 20 finish in our Place category, led by great weather, plenty of parks and a bounty of outdoor activities teed up for all manner of athletes and explorers. There’s even free humpback whale watching from the Golden Gate Bridge. Investment in the city’s outdoor and cultural icons continues, with the reopening of a renovated Alcatraz in 2018 and the ongoing build-out of the oceanfront former military barracks of The Presidio. Here, visitors can learn to mountain climb in an old airplane hangar and sip with a view of the Golden Gate at the new Fort Point Beer Co. venue before walking the bridge by foot to the wilds of the Marin Headlands to the north.
The sun and Pacific shine bright, with the City of Angels finishing 7th best in the world for Weather and #30 for Parks and Outdoor Activities. Water quality in the shimmering (but long neglected) Pacific Ocean is militantly monitored, with more locals and visitors paying attention to the blue bounty at L.A.’s front door. Expanding park space—ranging from Santa Monica’s new Tongva Park (a reclaimed parking lot featuring a playground, waterfalls, paths and Pacific views) to downtown’s bustling five-year-old Grand Park—is slowly but surely turning L.A. into a place where hitting the trails trumps hitting the gas.
Cape Town was named World Design Capital for 2014 and with good reason. The beaches are impressive, but so is the culinary and design scene. Start your day with a cable car ride up Table Mountain for spectacular views of the city and the ocean. A 10-minute drive from the city center is the crescent shaped Camps Bay beach. After a mandatory selfie with the peaks of the Twelve Apostles in the background, make your way to De Waterkant, a vibrant neighborhood with cobblestone streets and pretty pastel-painted cottages where young entrepreneurs have opened trendy little cafés, boutiques, and restaurants. Walk down Bree Street, the coolest strip in town, where you can sip a latte while browsing the selection of vinyl records at Hard Pressed Café, shop for the type of sexy dress Charlize Theron might wear at Klûk CGDT (the design duo behind the label is a favorite of the actress), and reserve a table for dinner at the cool Italian eatery The Cousins. Orphanage Cocktail Emporium is the place for a late-night cocktail.
Ranked #7 globally in our multifaceted Place category, with an impressive sixth overall in Parks and Outdoor Activities, Sydney is first and foremost a natural beauty—gifted with perfect integration of the natural and built, and accessible by all manner of ferries and watercraft from which new angles on icons like the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are revealed. Locals new and old leave plenty of time to take in the natural treasures by foot. And few routes get you out there better than the Bondi to Coogee Walk, a coastal meander that serves up beautiful coastlines, diverse beaches and spots to refuel on coffee and smoothies. At two hours, it’s a rite of passage to appreciate just to what degree Sydney won Mother Nature’s lottery. Bondi Beach—a mix of fashion boutiques and massive waves (an alchemy that produces some of the best people-watching on the planet)—has been known to make visitors contemplate citizenship after a few minutes in the neighborhood.