The Best Cities for Adventurers Who Eat a Plant-Based Diet

We hope you’re eating your veggies, because Nov. 1 was World Vegan Day.

Each year, a growing number of athletes and outdoor folk are moving toward plant-based diets. And while Kelly Slater, Hannah Teeter, Geoff Rowley and Bode Miller’s meat-free diet certainly draws attention, it’s the everyday surfers, travelers, snowboarders, yogis, skaters, skiers, bikers and climbers who are making the biggest impact.

best cities for vegan adventurers
Nov. 1 is World Vegan and Vegetarian Day so we’re looking at how our favorite cities stack up for those on a plant-based diet. Courtesy of Marco Verch/Flickr.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States and Australia eat the most meat per capita. Eating meat every day is a luxury that citizens of developed nations tend to enjoy. But the industry, particularly beef, uses massive amounts of water while contributing to deforestation, the death of coral reefs and most notably, a good chunk of greenhouse gasses.

There’s plenty of science behind the health benefits of vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian diets, particularly if you replace bacon with vegetables and not, let’s say, donuts.

And then there’s the millions of animals who live their lives in factory farms that don’t have to die, if that’s something you care about.

In honor of the holiday, the folks over at WalletHub decided to rank US cities by how friendly they were to those seeking a plant-based diet. They researched things like the cost of groceries for vegetarians, the share of restaurants serving meatless options and salad shops per capita. They found out that no vegans will go hungry in the Pacific Northwest, New York City has a juice bar on every corner, and if you’re a vegetarian headed to Laredo, TX, you might want to pack some carrots and celery.

best cities for vegan adventurers
Besides being a healthy alternative, plant-based diets can also help protect our precious resources. Photo courtesy of Marco Verch.

We decided to take it one step further and examine the best cities for the things ASN readers love: great hiking, awesome beaches and good access to snow-covered hills where vegans and vegetarians can order something besides the frozen veggie burger puck from a box that hasn’t been opened since the last lone vegetarian came through town. For hardcore vegans – or for those just looking to cut some of the saturated fatty beef out of their lives – here are the best cities for vegetarian and vegan outdoor folk.

Portland, Oregon

Mt. Hood Meadows, just 90 minutes outside of Portland has it all. Photo courtesy of Mt. Hood Meadows.

Ok, you saw that coming. Portland is so progressive, it’s not even funny. Actually if you’re a fan of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, it’s freaking hysterical.

Portland itself has been known for its legendary skate spots for decades and the Rose City is 90 minutes (just 70 miles) from Mt. Hood Meadows with its powder, sun filled bowls and 2,150 acres of varied terrain. Then it’s about the same drive out to Oregon’s coast, where stunning forests grow on points jutting into the sea with seal colonies, quaint harbors, secret surf spots and Dungeness crab. Around Portland in every direction is some of the best hiking and mountain biking you’ll find adjacent to a major US city.

best cities for vegan adventurers
Vtopia Restaurant and Cheese Shop is vegan, healthy and delicious. Photo courtesy of

Portland also ranked No. 2 overall as vegan and vegetarian friendly and No. 15 in affordability (that is until the rest of California moves there.) Prasad and Harlow are two favorites with the same owner. There’s Papa G’s Vegan Organic Deli, the restaurant and vegan cheese shop Vtopia, the tiki-themed No Bones Beach Club and Homegrown Smoker, which serves up amazing BBQ. Interestingly, it’s also home to Casa Diablo, the only vegan strip club anyone has ever heard of.

San Diego, CA

best cities for vegan adventurers
San Diego makes the list for its great vegan food and many surf spots. Photo: Flickr.

San Diego, LA, and San Francisco were all ranked within the top ten of WalletsHub’s list. California has always been ahead of the game when it comes to vegetarian options(the state produces about two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts.) But San Diego stands out simply because there are so many great waves in this county. From Sunset Cliffs to Blacks and all those magic spots in North County – reefs, points and beachbreaks – San Diego is just loaded with good surf (if you can navigate the crowd.) You can also be up at Big Bear skiing or riding in just about two and a half hours, making it possible to surf and ski or snowboard all in the same day.

Beyond the waves, go explore the 2,000 acres of Torrey Pines State Park Reserve. Hike Cowles Mountain to the highest point in San Diego. Check out the La Jolla Caves by sea kayak, or reserve a site at one of the storied campgrounds right on the beach.

best cities for vegan adventurers
Kindred: edgy look, radical cocktails. Photo courtesy of Kindred.

San Diego is also home to dozens of vegan restaurants and pretty much every eatery has solid non-meat options. Since this is San Diego, the options for Mexican food abound. Sipz Vegetarian Fusion Café and Plumeria both specialize in Asian options. Kindred is an edgy spot with radical cocktails. If all else fails, and you’re having trouble finding vegan food, just go to Leucadia.

New York City, NY

best cities for vegan adventurers
Caravan of Dreams in NYC is a mainstay for vegans. Photo courtesy of

NYC has been called the capital of the world and there are few places on earth that boast so many global influences. And it actually ranked as the No. 1 city in the US for veg heads, leading the nation in the most salad shops and juice bars per capita, and placed second in vegetarian-option eateries and the most farmers markets. The tri-state area is actually very rich in farming tradition.

The Lower East Side of Manhattan is possibly the oldest counter cultural mecca in the country, with a long history of music, yoga, art, and different spiritualities. It was the home of Anglica’s Kitchen, one of the first veg/vegan restaurants in the 1970s (which sadly closed as NYC becomes ultra-gentrified.

But today, places like Caravan of Dreams, Seasoned Vegan, the Butcher’s Daughter (three locations), Candle 79, The Cinnamon Snail, Red Bamboo and Govinda’s carry the torch across the five boroughs.

best cities for vegan adventurers
Food of the vegetarian variety is easy to find in NYC. The adventure takes a little more work and fortitude, but it’s there. Photo courtesy of VisitNYC.

New York may seem to be an odd choice for this list. Most folks don’t really consider it a city where you move to follow your outdoor passions. It will never be mistaken for an East Coast SF in that respect. But for those who can get up early enough to beat the traffic (that’s key) to the Rockaways for a hurricane swell, a gorgeous day of climbing the Gunks or a powder day in the Catskills, the New York lifestyle doesn’t have be fully concrete.

Austin, TX

best cities for vegan adventurers
Vegans and vegetarians are having a great time in Austin. Photo courtesy of The Vegan Yacht.

It’s really no wonder that Austin comes up as a haven for those seeking a plant-based diet. Although it’s in the middle of conservative Texas, it’s a progressive city with a huge tech industry, younger demographic and ethnic diversity. It’s the most obvious home for Texas Vegfest each September and landed at the No. 7 spot in WalletHub’s findings, but came in No. 4 in the country for affordability. That’s a key statistic; You’re not going to be a very healthy vegan if you can’t afford vegetables.

Revolution BBQ serves up Texas BBQ sans flesh, Counter Culture offers vegan comfort food and The Vegan Yacht is a popular food truck…. and there are way too many more to name.

As for adventure, the high temps most of the year are in the 70s and 80s with minimal rain, making it an ideal climate to load up the roof racks every day. Obviously, there’s no ocean or snow-covered peaks, but Austin is a short flight to many of the best resorts in the Rockies. Furthermore, (and this is huge) Austin is a unique landlocked city in that it’s the home of NLand Surf Park and a two-hour drive from the BSR Surf Resort.

best cities for vegan adventurers
The BSR Surf Resort may have had a bacterial flaw, but once the water is safe, it’s going to bring epic waves to the Austin community. Photo courtesy of BSR Surf Resort.

The mighty Colorado River runs through Austin, making it perfect for canoeing and kayaking, and the stand up paddle scene is bursting at the seams. The hiking, biking and camping opportunities are pretty much endless.

Scottsdale, AZ

best cities for vegan adventurers
Scottsdale has access to endless desert hiking, riding and climbing. Photo courtesy of Sonoran Outdoor Adventures.

Scottsdale, home of the Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes, came up as the No. 8 city in the US for vegetarians and vegans, but has the highest share of restaurants serving vegetarian options at 33 percent, and the highest share of restaurants serving vegan options at 20 percent (you’re 38 times more likely to find a vegan establishment than in Newark, NJ.)

Scottsdale – a bit more upscale and stylish than its neighbor, Pheonix – is home to Urban Beans, a vegan cafe that’s open 24-hours a day, not to mention Bubbles, a vegan champagne bar.

Arizona is known for its outdoor exploration, and is home to countless national parks, forests and monuments from deserts to mountains. Camelback Mountain of the Phoenix City Parks System is something of a mountain within the city. Just minutes from the greater Scottsdale area, it offers 1,420 feet of vertical hiking to its “humped” summit. Then there’s the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which offers 180 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, climbing and biking.

Tampa, FL

best cities for vegan adventurers

If you have a friend in Florida who doesn’t bring you a bag of oranges (or mangos, in season) when they visit, they’re not your friend. Florida’s climate is fantastic for growing citrus, tomatoes, corn, watermelon and grapefruit, plus all sorts of nuts. And Tampa came up as the No. 12 city nationally for vegetarians and vegans.

The American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration named Tampa Parks and Rec as a finalist in the 2018 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. And then of course, there’s the legendary Skate Park of Tampa, home to the most raucous skate events and ever-evolving features. Located on Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, there are endless possibilities for SUPing, sailing, kayaking and fishing.

Natural places like Egmont Key State Park are just begging to be explored and the inland waterways are a wonderland. While the Gulf of Mexico is no one’s idea of surf paradise, there is rideable surf with year-round warm water near Tampa.

best cities for vegan adventurers
The Skatepark of Tampa holds some of the most rowdy events in the country. Photo courtesy of

After working up an appetite on the water, you can swing over to Farmacy Vegan Kitchen and Bakery or the vegan chain, Loving Hut. You can also find farmer’s markets every weekend, all over the city. Sweetwater Organic Community Farm, a fully organic CSA co-op, is 20 minutes from downtown.

Seattle, WA

best cities for vegan adventurers
With this is your view just outside the city, Seattle is doing something right. Photo courtesy of

Seattle, what can we say? It’s an inspiration for epic music, nestled right on the Puget Sound and home to one of the most famous markets in the world. It unsurprisingly came up No. 4 on WalletHub’s list, which is one spot north of San Francisco. (While SF is rife with veggie stir fry, big surf and trekking, it didn’t make our list simply because it ranked 99th in affordability.)

Where else besides Seattle can you find an all-vegan metal bar? The Highline Bar hosts all manner of heav music with plant-based sandwiches and tacos to accompany this theme, like the Reubender, Crazy Train and the Obituary. Seattle has it all, from the comfort food of the Wayward Vegan Cafe, the No Bones Beach Club, the classy Harvest Beat and Pizza Pi – which claims to be the oldest vegan pizza joint in the country.

best cities for vegan adventurers
No Bones Beach Club is a Tiki-themed vegan restaurant in Seattle, Portland and Chicago. Photo courtesy of No Bones Beach Club.

Like the rest of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is an adventurer’s city, possibly the best option on this whole list. Within two hours, you can be in the Cascade or Olympic Mountains and riding or skiing world class snow. Across the sound is Olympic National Park, a gem of the NPS, encompassing everything from the epic riding/skiing at Hurricane Ridge to the wild Pacific beaches as well as stellar kayaking, camping, backpacking and climbing.

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