If you’re looking for a city that suits an active, outdoor lifestyle, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that the San Francisco Bay Area is one of your best bets.
Using data drawn from our 2021 Best Place to Live list, Money ranked cities and towns based on the percentage of their population living within a 10 minute walk of a park. Foster City, California, came out on top, with 100% of its population of 33,805 living within a short walk of one of its 24 public parks.
Foster City is located on just 4 square miles of land (plus 16 square miles of water) outside San Francisco in San Mateo County. There are ample opportunities to get outside, from bike paths to bocce ball courts to sailing on the five-mile long lagoon system, according to the city’s Parks and Recreation department. It’s also an easy drive to the famous state and national recreation areas along the California coast.
Research has shown that close proximity to parks can give home values a boost. One review of 33 studies found that a reasonable estimate of the premium for properties next to passive parks (as opposed to active parks containing sports fields) in cities is between 8% and 10%.
Of course, housing in Foster City and the rest of the Bay Area is notoriously expensive already — that was true before the pandemic and it’s still true today. The median value of a home in the town is $1,839,923, according to Zillow. That’s well above the national average of $316,368 and nearly 16% higher than it was a year ago.
A serious shortage of inventory, combined with historically low mortgage rates and lifestyle changes prompted by the pandemic have sent home prices soaring.
Foster City is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, making it a long-time magnet for high-earning professionals. The town is home to a slew of tech companies as well as pharma giant Gilead Sciences. Between 2015 and 2019, the median household income was $158,529, according to Census Bureau data. That’s more than 150% higher than the national median of $62,843 over the same period.
Luckily, there are plenty of more affordable options for outdoor lovers. Evanston, Illinois — a bustling suburb of Chicago that’s also home to Northwestern University — ranked second on our list with 99.8% of people living within 10 minutes of a park. It has a median home value of $477,617. Somerville, Massachusetts, located just a few miles from downtown Boston, tied with Evanston for second place. The typical home in Somerville is worth $837,574. Columbia, Maryland, with a median home value of $433,510, ranked fifth with 99.6%.