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Best Cities for Dating During the Pandemic

By: Justin Chaplin, Olyvia Ruhlmann, and Ezra Bernardino
November 17, 2020

The best time of the year is here! The holiday season is upon us, and if you’re looking to avoid your aunt’s prying questions into your relationship status this year, this report is for you.

It’s no secret that the pandemic and state lockdowns have made dating a challenge this year. Dating is hard enough — but throw in a pandemic, where close proximity and physical affection with pseudo-strangers is severely frowned upon, and you’re dealing with a whole new ball game.

At this point, we think singles everywhere deserve a medal or, at the very least, a participation trophy for dealing with the beast that is pandemic dating.

But not all hope is lost. Despite the pandemic’s shift to our schedules, daily commutes (or lack thereof), and the hottest fashion accessories (hello masks!), singles are still making the most of the dating scene in several cities.

Although indoor dinner dates and good night kisses are few and far between, our digital world offers a host of opportunities to put yourself out there and find your special someone this holiday season. Siri, please add Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to the queue.

Last year, Apartment List brought you the best cities for dating. But how do we define the top cities for dating amidst our new normal?

Methodology

To discover the best metro areas for pandemic dating, we used two metrics from our previous rankings: local dating satisfaction and the percentage of singles in the area.

We also accounted for the new COVID dating environment by examining the satisfaction with outdoor activities in a city. Since singles can no longer visit a local coffee shop or check out a new concert venue, hikes and “park & wine” dates now reign supreme. These three weighted metrics allow us to score a metro area on their pandemic dating scenes.

  • Dating Satisfaction (50%): In our Annual Renter Satisfaction Survey, we ask renters: “How satisfied are you with opportunities for dating in your current city?” The latest data reflects renter’s perception of a city’s dating scene during the pandemic.
  • Outdoor Satisfaction (30%): In our Annual Renter Satisfaction Survey, we ask renters: “How satisfied are you with outdoor recreation in your current city?” Since most indoor dates are out of the question, we see outdoor recreation as the best COVID-friendly dating option. Masks included, of course!
  • Percentage of Singles (20%): It can’t be a great city for dating if everyone’s taken! This final metric pulls recent data from the Census Bureau about the marital status of local residents.1

Top 10 Cities for Dating During the Pandemic

RankMetroDating Scene SatisfactionOutdoor Recreation SatisfactionPercent SinglesComposite Score
1Austin, TX34.6%89.7%52.5%0.79
2Boston, MA43.1%65.7%52.8%0.78
3Virginia Beach, VA36.7%75.0%52.6%0.74
4Miami, FL28.6%65.7%56.3%0.66
5Las Vegas, NV34.8%49.2%56.0%0.65
6San Antonio, TX29.0%63.4%55.6%0.64
7San Diego, CA31.5%72.2%52.0%0.63
8Houston, TX34.4%70.5%50.5%0.63
9Detroit, MI32.3%56.8%54.7%0.62
10Milwaukee, WI23.3%80.5%53.9%0.61

Austin and Boston Place 1st and 2nd for Pandemic Dating

Despite all the changes that have taken place this year, one thing remains the same: Austin, TX is still the best city for dating.

The city, which secured our #1 spot in our 2019 list, is the prime spot for pandemic dating, with its ample outdoor opportunities and prolonged summers and temperate winters. In fact, Austin had the highest outdoor satisfaction score on our list.

Looking for the perfect place for your first date? Thrillist put together an awesome list of pandemic-friendly date ideas in Austin. They include drive-in theaters and picnics at Zilker Park.

Coming in second place is Boston, led by high marks in dating satisfaction. Boston had the highest dating satisfaction score on our list, with 42.1% of single renters reporting satisfaction with the metro’s dating scene.

Although the winters can be bone-chilling, there are some great outdoor dating spots in Boston. Pick up some bites and warm beverages at Boston Public Market and kick back at the Boston Public Garden.

Boston is one of the most walkable cities in the country. That makes hopping from date spot to date spot easy.

Finding Love in Beach Towns

One takeaway from our rankings? Coastal cities are quite satisfied with their pandemic dating lives. Virginia Beach (#3), Miami (#4), and San Diego (#7) all rank in our top 10. It’s easy to see why.

From oceanfront dining to romantic walks on the beach, outdoor dating opportunities are endless in these cities. These three cities also offer temperate to warm weather year-round. That makes outdoor dates readily available.

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With many jobs going remote due to the pandemic, renters are choosing to migrate from their current location to cities with better amenities and lower costs of living. In the latest iteration of our migration report, we found that new Virginia Beach and Miami renters were most likely to have moved from New York City.

On the West Coast, San Diego is seeing its largest influx of renters coming from Los Angeles and San Francisco. Plenty of new, masked faces moving into these cities are leveling up their dating scenes.

Texas Cities Dominate the Rankings

Outside of the dating gem that is Austin, two other Texas cities make the top 10: San Antonio and Houston. With the Lone Star State’s warm climate and host of outdoor opportunities, it’s no surprise the state dominated the top 10. Each Texas city had strong scores in both dating satisfaction and outdoor satisfaction.

Over the past couple of years, renters have been flocking to Texas for more affordable living. This has become an even bigger trend with the increase of remote work. Whether you’re sitting outdoors eating BBQ in Houston or enjoying socially-distanced Tex-Mex in San Antonio, Texas clearly offers a strong dating scene.

Bottom 10 Cities for Dating During the Pandemic

RankMetroDating Scene SatisfactionOutdoor Recreation SatisfactionPercent SinglesComposite Score
31Sacramento, CA20.5%61.8%51.8%0.42
32Charlotte, NC16.3%70.5%51.6%0.40
33Baltimore, MD18.8%54.3%53.7%0.40
34San Jose, CA17.9%80.0%48.2%0.39
35Kansas City, MO25.0%55.6%49.7%0.39
36St. Louis, MO18.6%63.8%51.3%0.39
37Riverside, CA18.8%49.2%53.5%0.36
38Hartford, CT14.8%52.6%53.7%0.33
39Cleveland, OH7.1%60.5%55.8%0.32
40Jacksonville, FL14.8%36.4%53.0%0.23

Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Hartford Make Up the Bottom Three

The Jacksonville, FL metro area hit rock bottom, coming in last on our list of best metros for pandemic dating. Although we’d expect the outdoor dating opportunities to be similar to top-ranking Miami, Jacksonville fell in our rankings. Only 14.8% of Jacksonville singles were satisfied with its dating scene.

Cleveland, OH is our second worst city for dating during the pandemic. It recorded the lowest dating satisfaction on our list at a measly 7.1%.

Hartford is the third worst on our list. It recorded the same dating satisfaction score as Jacksonville.

However, it gets a slight bump for its higher outdoor satisfaction score. In last year’s iteration of this report, Hartford was the fourth lowest city on our list.

Although the pandemic has changed plenty of day-to-day life, Hartford’s dissatisfaction with the local dating scene has, unfortunately, remained the same.

Three California Cities Fall in the Bottom 10

Everyone knows you can’t beat the California sunshine. However, three California cities — Sacramento, San Jose, and Riverside — fell to the bottom of our list. So, what happened in these three Golden State cities?

Sacramento and San Jose both report strong outdoor satisfaction scores, especially San Jose at 80%. However, both cities are driven down in our rankings with low dating satisfaction scores. Similar to the Kings’ record over the years, Sacramento hasn’t had the strongest history, consistently falling towards the bottom of our previous dating reports.

Riverside, on the other hand, has a rare combination for California cities. They record low scores in both dating satisfaction and outdoor satisfaction.

Dating During a Pandemic - Tips from an Expert

Regardless if your city ranked high or low on our list, we could all use some dating advice, especially during these uncertain times. Check out these tips from our friend Sarah May Bates, host of the self-help podcast, Help Me Be Me and co-host of the relationship podcast, Love is Like a Plant:

The holidays can add a lot of pressure to all romantic relationships, especially during a pandemic. It’s known as “breakup season” for a reason: partners tend to reassess how they feel about relationships when they head home for the holidays. It’s also a time when singles can feel the most alone – and the pandemic only intensifies feelings of isolation.

That said, in many ways it’s a wonderful time to date: virtual dating means that many get the opportunity to get to know someone before they get physical, which is a major plus if you’re looking for a committed, long-term relationship. Being more socially isolated also means many are more vulnerable and authentic– because intimacy is of high value. Even though life is incredibly challenging right now, there are silver linings to all experiences – we just have to remember to look for them.

Full Data

Curious where your city lands on our list? Find it in the table below!

RankMetroDating Scene SatisfactionOutdoor Recreation SatisfactionPercent SinglesComposite Score
1Austin, TX34.6%89.7%52.5%0.79
2Boston, MA43.1%65.7%52.8%0.78
3Virginia Beach, VA36.7%75.0%52.6%0.74
4Miami, FL28.6%65.7%56.3%0.66
5Las Vegas, NV34.8%49.2%56.0%0.65
6San Antonio, TX29.0%63.4%55.6%0.64
7San Diego, CA31.5%72.2%52.0%0.63
8Houston, TX34.4%70.5%50.5%0.63
9Detroit, MI32.3%56.8%54.7%0.62
10Milwaukee, WI23.3%80.5%53.9%0.61

  1. Source: United State Census Bureau, Table S1201, 2019 1-year estimates. The percentage of the population age 15+ whose marital status is “Never married.”
AUTHOR
Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More
AUTHOR
Olyvia is a Content & Media Associate at Apartment List, working to bring Apartment List's vision to life. Olyvia has a BA in Media Studies from the University of Virginia. Read More
AUTHOR
Ezra is a content and marketing intern at Apartment List. Ezra is currently a Year Up student - a nonprofit organization closing the opportunity divide. Read More
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