These Are The Best Cities In The US For Plant-Based Tourists

These Are The Best Cities In The US For Plant-Based Tourists

5 minute read time

After losing out on so many big trips in the last few years, vacations are finally back. However, with many countries still having a number of strict guidelines to foreign travelers, a number of Americans are deciding to vacation at home.

The pent-up demand for travel is high, with residents all making the same decision and flocking in their thousands to go on staycations. Google searches in the US for the likes of “Texas holidays” and “resorts in Florida” have increased by up to 83% in the last year, with Americans looking to explore their homeland.

Yet with an estimated 9.7 million Americans now being plant-based, one of the biggest risks when going on vacation is finding enough options for vegans and vegetarians. When you go on city breaks, you often want to be able to rely on convenience, and go to a restaurant or cafe close to the tourist hot spots. But not all restaurants provide for plant-based eaters or those with a food sensitivity.

With over 368,000 searches per month in America for “vegan restaurants”, we set out to discover which cities in the US are best for American tourists who prefer to eat vegetarian or vegan diets.

Where in the US is the best for plant-based tourists?

We looked at five tourist spots in each city, and then analyzed the menus of five restaurants close to each spot, to calculate how many mentions of vegetarian or vegan food items they had. For extra measure, we also looked at the number of gluten free options, too.

Austin is the best city for plant-based tourists

With 223 vegetarian and vegan options at the restaurants analyzed, Austin, Texas, is the best city for tourists looking for meat-free meals.

The city, which is often lauded for its friendly locals, hiking trails and weather, also has a thriving food scene, and caters well to vegetarians and vegans.

Visitors to the natural gem Lady Bird Lake Hike, the Barton Springs Pool and the Texas State Capitol Building, will find that they have a number of options from restaurants that span a number of cuisines, including Indian, Mexican, Italian, and Japanese.

The top 10 cities for vegans and vegetarians are:

Rank CityNumber of vegan and vegetarian options
1Austin, Texas223
2Philadelphia, Pennsylvania208
3Phoenix, Arizona203
4Chicago, Illinois178
5San Jose, California174
6Portland, Oregon170
7Raleigh, North Carolina169
8San Diego, California146
9San Francisco, California140
10Colorado Springs, Colorado129

Philly comes in second place

Whether you’re a devoted vegan or you just prefer to go for the meat-free option from time to time, Philadelphia has a number of creative, tasty offerings, coming in second place.

Tourists visiting the Liberty Bell Center, the Museum of Art and Eastern State Penitentiary will be able to quench their appetite with hundreds of vegan and vegetarian options. At the Reading Terminal Market, one of America’s oldest public farmers markets, Philly visitors will benefit from a number of vegan offerings from some of the local food merchants.

California is an idyllic state for vegans

The sunshine state, known for its glorious year-round weather, is also heavenly for herbivores. San Jose, San Diego and San Francisco all came in the top ten with over a hundred meat-free meals. There’s even one restaurant close to Little Italy in San Diego which has an entire menu of vegan food. Though Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco is known for its array of seafood, there’s also over 30 vegan and vegetarian options.

Which cities in the US are the worst for plant-based tourists?

With only ten options out of the 25 restaurants analyzed, Mesa in Arizona came bottom in the rankings, suggesting that visitors to its Museum of Natural History and the Mesa Arts Center could struggle if they’re averse to meat.

Despite California being home to a number of the top cities for vegans, Long Beach came in second to last, while Milwaukee, Wisconsin and El Paso, Texas also had fewer than 30 vegan options out of all restaurants analyzed.

Which cities in the US are best for gluten-intolerant tourists?

Many restaurants now not only label meals which are suitable for vegans and vegetarians, but also the ones which are most suitable for those who have a gluten intolerance.

Up to 20 million people in the United States are estimated to be gluten-sensitive, with an increase of 306% of Americans searching on Google for “gluten free restaurants” in the last year.

There’s no reason that suffering from coeliac disease or a gluten sensitivity should stop you from traveling, but it’s always nice to go with the peace of mind that you’re not going to struggle to eat and risk having a flare-up while on vacation.

Chicago is the best city for gluten-free restaurants

The windy city, also known as Chicago, is the best city in the US for those who have a gluten sensitivity, with over 260 options in tourist hotspots. The city, known for its one-of-a-kind architecture, cultural offerings, live music and deep dish pizza, is full of gluten-free options and menus available for everyone.

Tourists who want to go to the observation deck, cloud gate, millennium park and the art institute won’t be disappointed with the number of gluten-free specific menu items here. Chicago also has a number of vegan hotspots too, since it’s in the top ten

The top 10 cities for gluten-free menus are:

Rank CityNumber of gluten-free options
1Chicago, Illinois260
2Colorado Springs, Colorado255
3Columbus, Ohio229
4Jacksonville, Florida173
5Austin, Texas163
6Phoenix, Arizona160
7Raleigh, North Carolina150
=7Virginia Beach, Virginia150
9Indianapolis, Indiana140
10Nashville, Tennessee139

Austin continues to shine for coeliacs

With options aplenty for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free meals, Austin is a perfect tourist vacation spot for Americans this year.

Similarly, Raleigh in North Carolina was in the top ten in both studies. Tourists who want to check out nature in the City of Oaks and see Pullen Park, the Historic Yates Mill and Umstead State Park will have no problem finding restaurants that cater to their needs.

Kerri Ferraioli, expert nutritionist at YorkTest, commented on the research:

“One of the best things about going on vacation is being able to experience new tastes, so you don’t want to have to do an extensive Google search prior to going out for dinner each evening to make sure the restaurant caters to your needs.

“Plant-based innovation means that, for many of the menus in Austin, Raleigh and San Jose, there’s not just one vegetarian option on the menu anymore, there’s now hundreds of options in some popular vacation cities across America.

“There are some cities where it appears that the bulk of their menus are still very meat-friendly, especially the areas where BBQ food is the popular cuisine. As more people are deciding to opt for a plant-based diet due to the health benefits, animal welfare and environmental reasons, it’s a sensible business idea for more restaurants to cater to these dietary requirements – especially as tourism grows in America.”



YorkTest took the 50 most populated cities in the USA, according to

It then used TripAdvisor to find five popular tourist destinations in each city, and then looked at the menus at the restaurants closest to each destination, according to TripAdvisor. A meal was counted as vegan, vegetarian or gluten free when it was labeled as such, and there was no extra cost to get the meal substituted.

To discover the increase in Google searches for various terms in the United States, YorkTest used Google Keyword Planner.

Data is correct as of March 2022.


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