The world has witnessed a significant shift in work dynamics in recent years. The once-niche lifestyle of digital nomadism has burgeoned into mainstream work culture, thanks mainly to advancements in technology and the changing perceptions of employers.
With the ability to work from almost anywhere, the importance of one’s physical location has transitioned from fixed office space to cities and environments that offer the right balance of work, lifestyle, and cultural experiences.
As we dive into 2023, the U.S. presents many cities that beckon remote workers with their unique offerings. But which ones truly stand out?
Using a combination of data points, including the much-revered “Nomad Score,” we’ve curated a list of the top 10 U.S. cities that every digital nomad should consider.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or just beginning your nomadic journey, this guide will offer insights into the best the U.S. has for the remote work lifestyle.
To curate our list of the top U.S. cities for digital nomads, we’ve leaned heavily on data, ensuring that our recommendations are based on popular opinions, concrete facts, and figures.
The core of our analysis is the “Nomad Score,” a comprehensive metric that evaluates cities on factors such as internet speed, cost of living, safety, and quality of life. This score provides a snapshot of how conducive a town is to the digital nomad lifestyle.
However, our analysis didn’t stop there. We also considered:
- Average Annual Salary: A reflection of the economic opportunities available in the city.
- Cost of Living: Utilizing the ZORI (Zoomed Out Rent Index) for June 2020 as a proxy for living expenses.
- Safety: Prioritizing cities with low violent and property crime rates to ensure the well-being of nomads.
To provide a clear picture, we’ve tabulated our findings:
Top 5 U.S. Cities for Digital Nomads in 2023
|Metro Area||Average Nomad Score||Average Annual Salary||ZORI (June 2020)||Violent Crime Rate (per 100k)||Property Crime Rate (per 100k)|
|San Jose, CA||3.294||$77,180||$3,083||308.8||2,275.1|
|New York City, NY||3.674||$63,079||$2,626||329.0||1,337.0|
The table above offers a snapshot of the top 5 cities for digital nomads, showcasing their average Nomad Score, salary offerings, rent index, and safety metrics.
For example, while San Jose offers a high average salary, it also comes with a relatively high cost of living. Meanwhile, Austin boasts the highest Nomad Score among the top 5, indicating its increasing popularity among remote workers.
Here’s a visual representation comparing the Average Annual Salary and ZORI (June 2020) for the top 5 U.S. cities for digital nomads:
- The blue bars represent the Average Annual Salary of each town.
- The red line plots the ZORI (Zoomed Out Rent Index) for June 2020.
From this chart, we can derive insights such as:
- San Jose, CA, offers the highest average annual salary among the top 5 but also has a high cost of living, as indicated by its ZORI.
- While having the highest Nomad Score, Austin, TX, offers a relatively moderate average salary but a much more affordable cost of living.
This visual provides a quick comparative view of earnings versus living expenses in these top cities, aiding digital nomads in making informed decisions.
1. San Jose, CA: The Tech-Driven Nomad’s Dream
Nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose stands out as a global tech hub and a promising destination for digital nomads.
With an average Nomad Score of 3.294, it’s evident that San Jose offers the right blend of amenities, opportunities, and lifestyle that remote workers cherish.
San Jose boasts an average annual salary of $77,180, making it the highest among our top 5 cities.
This economic prosperity is driven mainly by its tech-centric ecosystem, home to numerous startups and tech giants. For digital nomads with a tech background, opportunities abound in various domains, from software development to digital marketing.
Cost of Living
However, with great opportunities come specific challenges. The city’s ZORI for June 2020 stood at $3,083, reflecting the high cost of living typical of major tech hubs.
While this might seem daunting, the potential for high earnings can often balance out the expenses. Plus, with shared living spaces and co-living communities gaining popularity, there are ways to mitigate these costs.
Safety and Community
Safety is a top priority for most nomads, and San Jose shines in this aspect with a violent crime rate of 308.8 per 100,000. The city also fosters a strong community among tech professionals, making it easier for newcomers to network, collaborate, and socialize.
Recreation and Downtime
San Jose, CA, is well-known for its wide array of recreational activities and ample opportunities for downtime and relaxation.
The city is home to the Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services Department, which keeps the locals and visitors informed about park developments, community center activities, and various programs scheduled throughout the year.
With over 200 parks and 60 miles of scenic trails, including some fantastic regional parks, San Jose offers plenty of options for outdoor enthusiasts.
Sports lovers can indulge in the thrill of live matches, supporting the local baseball, soccer, football, or hockey teams.
Also, families are never short of fun and entertainment in San Jose, thanks to the several family-friendly amusement parks, vibrant local festivals, bustling markets, and engaging events regularly held throughout the city.
San Jose, CA, with its blend of economic opportunities, safety, and community spirit, truly stands out as a top choice for digital nomads, especially those with a penchant for technology, whether you’re looking to upskill, network, or enjoy a blend of urban and natural beauty, San Jose beckons.
2. New York City, NY: The Bustling Metropolis for the Global Nomad
Often dubbed “The City that Never Sleeps,” New York City (NYC) is a melting pot of cultures, industries, and opportunities. With an impressive Nomad Score of 3.674, it’s no wonder that digital nomads from around the globe gravitate towards this iconic city.
Diverse Economic Landscape
NYC offers an average annual salary of $63,079, reflecting the myriad opportunities beyond its famed Wall Street.
From media and arts to tech and entrepreneurship, the city’s diverse economic landscape ensures that nomads from various professions can find their niche.
Living in the Big Apple
The vibrancy of NYC comes with a price tag. The ZORI for June 2020 was $2,626, indicative of the city’s premium living experience.
However, with neighborhoods ranging from the bohemian vibes of Brooklyn to the upscale streets of Manhattan, there’s a place for every budget.
Plus, the city’s efficient public transport system means you can live in affordable boroughs and still be connected to the heart of the action.
Safety, Community, and Networking
Despite its vastness, NYC boasts a violent crime rate of 329.0 per 100,000. The city is segmented into various communities, each with its unique flavor.
Recreation and Downtime in New York City, NY
Regarding recreation and downtime, the bustling city of New York is second to none.
- Central Park: The city’s green lung offers hiking, picnicking, birdwatching, and numerous cultural events.
- Broadway Theatre: See a spectacular show at one of the many theaters offering everything from blockbuster musicals to intimate plays.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: One of the world’s largest and finest art museums featuring over two million works.
- Sporting Events: Catch a game of the New York Yankees (baseball), the Knicks (basketball), or the Giants (football).
- Live Music: Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens have many live music venues.
- Food Tours: Explore unique tastings while learning about the neighborhood’s history, architecture, and culture.
With its unparalleled energy and vast opportunities, New York City is a dream destination for many digital nomads. Whether seeking professional growth, cultural immersion, or simply the thrill of living in one of the world’s greatest cities, NYC has it all.
3. Boston, MA: The Historic Hub of Innovation for Nomads
Boston is rooted in rich history and academic excellence and seamlessly merges the past with the present. With a commendable Nomad Score of 3.576, this city is not just a destination for scholars and history buffs but also a thriving ground for digital nomads.
Economic Prospects in Beantown
The average annual salary in Boston stands at $65,420, a testament to its robust economic landscape.
While renowned for its medical and academic institutions, Boston is also witnessing a surge in tech startups, marketing agencies, and creative industries, offering many opportunities for the modern nomad.
Cost and Quality of Living
Living in Boston can be a tad pricey, with the ZORI for June 2020 marked at $2,601.
However, the quality of life, from its pristine parks to its world-class amenities, often justifies the cost. Neighborhoods like Cambridge and Somerville offer affordable housing options without compromising the quintessential Boston experience.
Safety and Community Spirit
Safety is paramount in Boston, reflected in its violent crime rate of 305.3 per 100,000.
What’s more, the city exudes a strong sense of community. Whether you’re attending a tech meetup at MIT, a literature workshop in Harvard Square, or a community fair in the North End, there’s always an opportunity to connect and belong.
Recreation and Downtime in Boston, MA
Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, is rich in history, culture, and recreational activities.
From beautiful parks to insightful museums, there’s no shortage of ways to fill your downtime in this charming city.
- The Freedom Trail: A 2.5-mile-long trail that passes by 16 locations significant to the history of the United States. Guided tours offer a narrative of the American Revolution and beyond.
- Boston Common: The starting point of the Freedom Trail and the oldest city park in the United States, offering a lake for swan boat rides, sports fields, and a playground.
- Museum of Fine Arts: One of the most comprehensive art museums in the world, housing nearly 500,000 works of art.
- Boston Public Garden: An internationally renowned park in the city’s heart. She is known for her beautiful flower arrangements and the iconic Swan Boats.
- Newbury Street: Known as one of the most expensive streets in the world, this trendy locale offers a slew of boutiques, galleries, and eateries to explore.
- Fenway Park: Known as “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark,” it’s a mandatory stop for any baseball enthusiast.
Boston, MA, is more than just a historic city. It’s a place where innovation meets tradition, every street echoes tales of the past, and digital nomads can find a harmonious blend of work and leisure. Boston beckons if you want to immerse yourself in a city that offers professional growth and cultural richness.
4. Austin, TX: The Live Music Capital Meets Tech Innovation
Often referred to as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin’s vibrant arts scene is only one facet of its allure.
In recent years, it has rapidly emerged as a tech and startup hub, making it a magnet for digital nomads. With a stellar Nomad Score of 3.952, Austin offers a harmonious blend of work, play, and everything.
Economic Boom in the Heart of Texas
In Austin, nomads can expect an average annual salary of $51,840. While this might seem modest compared to other cities on our list, it’s essential to factor in Austin’s relatively lower cost of living.
The city’s booming tech industry, buoyed by giants like Dell and many startups, ensures ample opportunities for professionals from various domains.
Affordable Living with a Twist
Austin’s ZORI for June 2020 stands at $1,565, making it one of the more affordable major cities in the U.S.
However, “affordable” in Austin doesn’t mean “ordinary.” The city offers eclectic neighborhoods, each bursting with character—from the hipster vibes of East Austin to the serene landscapes of Barton Creek.
Safety, Diversity, and Inclusivity
Austin’s violent crime rate is 306.3 per 100,000, ensuring a safe environment for its residents.
Known for its progressive values, Austin champions diversity and inclusivity, making it a welcoming space for nomads from all walks of life.
Recreation and Downtime in Austin, TX
Austin, the “Live Music Capital of the World,” is known for its eclectic arts scene and outdoor beauty. Austin offers many recreational activities, from its vibrant nightlife to picturesque parks.
- Barton Springs Pool: This natural pool in the heart of Austin, fed by underground springs, provides a tranquil place to swim, sunbathe, and relax.
- Zilker Metropolitan Park: Home to various recreational opportunities and special events for individuals and families, from picnic areas to sports courts and botanical gardens.
- Lake Travis: An outdoor paradise for water sports such as boating, fishing, swimming, and zip-lining.
- The Blanton Museum of Art: The University of Texas’s art museum is one of the largest university art museums in the U.S.
Austin, TX, is a city of contrasts—a place where tech innovation meets soulful music, where traditional Texan roots blend seamlessly with a modern, progressive ethos. For digital nomads, Austin promises work opportunities and a holistic experience that resonates with the mind and the soul.
5. Seattle, WA: The Rainy Tech Paradise for Modern Nomads
Nestled between the waters of Puget Sound and the majestic Mount Rainier, Seattle is more than just its breathtaking landscapes.
Recognized globally as a tech powerhouse, home to giants like Microsoft and Amazon, it offers digital nomads a unique blend of professional opportunities amidst natural beauty.
With a remarkable Nomad Score of 3.604, Seattle seamlessly blends Silicon Valley’s hustle with the Pacific Northwest’s tranquility.
Tech Opportunities in the Emerald City
Seattle offers an enticing average annual salary of $63,120, reflecting its booming tech industry and diverse economy.
The city ensures many opportunities for tech professionals, entrepreneurs, and digital creators, from established tech behemoths to innovative startups.
Living Amidst Clouds and Coffee
The ZORI for June 2020 in Seattle was $1,983. While the cost of living mirrors its status as a major U.S. city, the quality of life is unparalleled.
Whether it’s the allure of neighborhoods like Capitol Hill with its vibrant arts scene or the serene suburbs of Bellevue, there’s a place for every nomad’s preference. And, of course, with Seattle being the birthplace of Starbucks, coffee lovers are in for a treat!
Safety and Community in the Pacific Northwest
With a violent crime rate of 353.7 per 100,000, Seattle places a premium on the safety of its residents. The city’s tight-knit communities and numerous tech meetups and events ensure newcomers can quickly feel at home and connected.
Recreation and Downtime in Seattle, WA
Seattle, known for its stunning landscapes and vibrant arts scene, offers countless recreational activities, from cultural explorations to outdoor adventures.
- Pike Place Market: A historic market featuring a variety of local shops, restaurants, and unique experiences along the waterfront.
- Space Needle: An iconic Seattle landmark offering panoramic views of the city and the surrounding areas from its observation deck platform.
- Chihuly Garden and Glass: A museum in the Seattle Center showcasing the captivating glass art of Dale Chihuly.
- Washington Park Arboretum: A 230-acre park featuring many trees, plants, and walking trails.
- Seattle Art Museum: An exceptional collection of art from around the world, from ancient times to contemporary pieces.
- Gas Works Park: A lakeside park that provides a unique waterfront experience, offering stunning views of Seattle’s skyline.
- Ballard Locks (Hiram M. Chittenden Locks): A historic site allowing visitors to observe boat traffic navigate between the Puget Sound and the Ship Canal while also enjoying the accompanying botanical gardens.
Seattle, WA, is a dream come true for digital nomads who seek the perfect balance between career growth and quality of life. In this city, innovation isn’t limited to tech campuses; it’s reflected in every cafe, every mountain trail, and every sunset over the Sound. If you’re a nomad who cherishes technology and nature, Seattle awaits with open arms.
6. Santa Rosa, CA: The Wine Country Retreat for Relaxed Nomads
Amidst the rolling vineyards and scenic beauty of California’s wine country lies Santa Rosa, a city that offers a unique blend of relaxation, culture, and opportunity.
While it might not be as bustling as some major tech hubs, its Nomad Score of 3.478 showcases its potential as an emerging hotspot for digital nomads seeking a slower pace without compromising modern amenities.
Economic Landscape in the Heart of Wine Country
Santa Rosa provides an average annual salary of $57,060. While the city is rooted in its wine and agricultural industries, there’s a budding ecosystem of tech startups, digital agencies, and remote-friendly businesses.
For nomads, this means working in diverse sectors while soaking in the serene surroundings.
Affordable Living Among Vineyards
The ZORI for June 2020 in Santa Rosa stood at $1,785, making it relatively affordable compared to some of California’s more urban areas.
Whether you’re nestled in the historic Downtown with its charming boutiques or in the picturesque outskirts surrounded by vineyards, the city offers a quality of life that’s both enriching and relaxed.
Safety, Community, and the Wine Culture
Santa Rosa boasts a violent crime rate of 396.2 per 100,000, ensuring a peaceful environment for its residents.
The city is deeply rooted in its community spirit, often reflected in its numerous wine festivals, farmer’s markets, and local events. This means ample opportunities for nomads to mingle, network, and immerse in the local culture.
Santa Rosa, CA, is a hidden gem for digital nomads who seek a balance between work and relaxation. In this city, every workday can end with a glass of world-class wine, and every weekend can be a new exploration amidst nature and culture. If the hustle and bustle of urban centers isn’t your calling, Santa Rosa might be your perfect nomadic retreat.
7. Sacramento, CA: The Golden State’s Capital for Nomadic Exploration
As California’s capital city, Sacramento boasts a unique blend of historical significance, governmental prominence, and contemporary vibrancy.
With a solid Nomad Score of 3.397, it emerges as a desirable destination for digital nomads seeking a mix of urban life, cultural experiences, and the beauty of the Central Valley.
Diverse Opportunities in the Capital
Sacramento offers an average annual salary of $54,190. The city’s economy is not just limited to governmental and administrative jobs; it’s witnessing growth in sectors like tech, healthcare, education, and arts. For digital nomads, this translates to many job opportunities and freelance gigs.
Affordable Living with a Touch of History
With the ZORI for June 2020 marked at $1,445, Sacramento offers a relatively affordable living experience, especially compared to some of California’s coastal cities.
The city’s neighborhoods, from the historic charm of Old Sacramento with its Gold Rush-era buildings to the modern amenities of Downtown, provide varied living experiences for every preference.
Safety, Community, and Riverside Tranquility
Ensuring a safe environment, Sacramento has a violent crime rate of 469.2 per 100,000. The city’s position along the Sacramento River provides scenic beauty and numerous waterfront activities and events. Its local festivals, art walks, and farmers’ markets show a strong sense of community.
Recreation and Downtime in Sacramento, CA
Sacramento, California’s state capital, offers many activities for adventure-seekers, culture enthusiasts, and nature lovers.
- Old Sacramento Waterfront: This lively area featuring historic buildings from the gold rush era offers shopping, dining, entertainment, and river cruises.
- California State Capitol Museum: Located in the State Capitol building, the museum provides a history of California in the form of portraits, murals, artifacts, and antiques.
- Crocker Art Museum: Known for its comprehensive collection of California art and impressive holdings of European master drawings and international ceramics.
- Sacramento Zoo: The zoo is home to over 500 exotic animals and is an excellent place for family outings.
- Fairytale Town: A storybook-themed children’s park that has been an integral part of Sacramento since 1959.
- Sutter’s Fort State Historical Park: Offers a peek into the pioneer days of California.
- Sacramento Theatre Company is a nationally recognized professional theatre company presenting classic and modern plays.
Sacramento, CA, offers the best of both worlds – the state capital’s dynamism and the Central Valley’s relaxed pace. For digital nomads, it promises a fulfilling work-life balance, rich cultural experiences, and the opportunity to be part of a historically significant and forward-looking city.
8. San Diego, CA: The Sun-Kissed Harbor for Tech and Leisure
With its pristine beaches, world-class attractions, and burgeoning tech scene, San Diego stands as a beacon for digital nomads seeking the quintessential Californian experience.
Earning a commendable Nomad Score of 3.293, it’s not just the sun and surf that attracts remote workers but also the promise of growth and discovery.
Tech and Beyond in America’s Finest City
San Diego offers an average annual salary of $57,650. Traditionally known for its strong military and defense sectors, the city now sees a tech renaissance.
Biotechnology, healthcare, telecommunications, and software are flourishing industries, offering myriad opportunities for professionals.
Living the Californian Dream
While the ZORI for June 2020 in San Diego stands at $2,328, its lifestyle often justifies the cost.
From the hip urban vibes of Gaslamp Quarter to the laid-back beach communities of La Jolla and Pacific Beach, there’s a neighborhood for every nomadic soul.
Safety, Community, and the Coastal Vibe
Safety remains a priority in San Diego, with a violent crime rate of 366.9 per 100,000. More than just a city, San Diego feels like a close-knit community.
Regular beach cleanups, surf festivals, and tech meetups foster a sense of belonging and collaboration among its residents.
Recreation and Downtime in San Diego, CA
San Diego is a coastal California city with many recreational activities, including beautiful beaches, parks, museums, and entertainment options.
Here are some places for enjoying your downtime in the city:
- Balboa Park: A large urban cultural park with numerous gardens, museums, theaters, walking paths, and even the San Diego Zoo.
- Torrey Pines State Reserve: This coastal park offers stunning views, hiking trails, native flora, and rich birdlife.
- SeaWorld San Diego: An oceanarium, animal theme park, and marine mammal park with shows, rides, and attractions.
- USS Midway Museum: A maritime museum on the retired aircraft carrier USS Midway, offering interactive exhibits and narrated tours.
- Sunset Cliffs Natural Park: An expansive park along the coast that offers dramatic cliff views and stunning sunsets.
- La Jolla Cove: A picturesque cove and beach with opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and observing marine life.
San Diego, CA, perfectly embodies professional opportunities and leisure activities. For digital nomads, it offers the chance to grow their careers while living the dreamy Californian lifestyle. In San Diego, work feels less like a chore and more like a journey, with the Pacific’s waves cheering you on.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Nomad City
1. Cost of Living vs. Earning Potential
- Balancing Act: Weighing the cost of living against potential earnings in a city is essential. While some cities may offer high salaries, they might also come with steep living expenses.
- Local Opportunities: Look for cities with a thriving job market in your field. This ensures not only a steady income but also growth opportunities.
2. Safety and Community
- Crime Rates: Research the city’s crime rates and general safety records.
- Expat and Nomad Communities: Cities with a significant expat or nomad community can provide a sense of belonging and ease the transition.
3. Local Policies for Remote Workers
- Visa and Work Permits: Some countries now offer digital nomad visas, making it easier for remote workers to stay longer.
- Tax Implications: Understand the local tax regulations and how they might impact your earnings.
4. Connectivity and Internet Speed
- Essential for Work: A stable internet connection is the lifeline of a digital nomad. Prioritize cities with reliable and fast internet.
- Backup Options: Always have alternatives like coworking spaces or cafes that offer good WiFi.
5. Opportunities for Networking and Community Events
- Growth and Learning: Cities that host regular meetups, workshops, and networking events can be invaluable for personal and professional development.
- Social Interactions: These events also provide an opportunity for social interactions, which is essential for mental well-being.
Challenges of Being a Nomad in the U.S.
The U.S. offers various visa options, but they might not cater specifically to digital nomads. It’s crucial to find a visa that aligns with your work situation.
The U.S. healthcare system can be complex and expensive. Consider international health insurance or plans tailored explicitly for nomads.
Adjusting to Different Time Zones for Work
Navigating multiple time zones can be challenging when working with global clients or teams. Tools like World Time Buddy can help manage this.
Tips to Navigate These Challenges
- Research: Before moving, thorough research on visa options, health insurance, and local norms can save a lot of trouble.
- Engage with Communities: Join U.S.-based digital nomad forums or groups to gain insights from those who’ve been through similar challenges.
The U.S., with its diverse cities and opportunities, offers a unique playground for digital nomads.
From the tech hubs of Seattle and Austin to the cultural melting pots of Boston and San Diego, there’s a city for every nomadic spirit.
While challenges exist, they can be navigated with the right approach, leading to a fulfilling nomad journey in the land of opportunities.