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Shine on, America: The Country's 8 Sunniest Cities

Key West Albuquerque Las Vegas Honolulu Outdoor National Parks
by Hal Amen Oct 22, 2008
Feeling down? Spending some time in these cities might just brighten your mood.

EACH OF THE FOLLOWING cities sees sunshine for no less than 70% of annual daylight hours. But more than that, they provide great opportunities to get out and enjoy it!

Yuma, AZ: 90%

Not only does Yuma receive the most sunshine of any U.S. city, but it’s the Guinness Book of World Records’ pick for the sunniest place on Earth!

The landscape is decidedly desert, but thanks to the Colorado and Gila Rivers, water sports offer a perfect way to beat the heat. Boat rentals are available at some of the nearby lakes, and the Parks and Recreation Office leads canoe and kayak excursions.

Las Vegas, NV: 85%

There’s more to Las Vegas than craps tables and the glittering lights of the strip. The city experiences abundant sunshine and is positioned within the stunning geography of southern Nevada.

Hikers, mountain bikers, and rock climbers head to Red Rock Canyon. Lake Mead is also a short drive away, allowing bathers to stay cool while soaking up the sun, then wrap it up with a tour of the monumental Hoover Dam.

El Paso, TX: 84%

The past, present, and future of El Paso is inextricably tied to its sister metropolis across the river: Ciudad Juárez. Several festivals throughout the year pay homage to the area’s Hispanic heritage and are a great excuse to get out under sunny skies.

The well-attended Fiesta de las Flores takes place every Labor Day weekend, while the local celebration of Día de los Muertos (late October – early November) emphasizes the cultural connections between El Paso and Juárez. For fans of Mexican cuisine, La Que Buena Gordita Festival couldn’t sound more delicious.

Albuquerque, NM: 76%

Residents of New Mexico’s largest city are renowned for taking advantage of the outdoors. Nestled between the Rio Grande and the Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque offers up every activity imaginable, from golf to hang gliding.

In addition, the city relies on its fair skies to host the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta every October. The nine-day hot air extravaganza is the world’s largest and features around 700 balloons, adding even more color to Southwestern vistas.

Key West, FL: 76%

Of course, the sun doesn’t only shine in the West. Famous as the haunt of Hemingway and the southernmost city in the continental U.S., Key West mixes year-round mild temperatures with its solar rays.

The ocean dominates outdoor leisure time, whether it’s testing the sand’s softness on one of several beaches or voyaging offshore on a deep-sea fishing excursion. Alternatively, the historic Old Town lends itself perfectly to two-wheeled exploration. Island Bicycles and Eaton Bikes are among the many shops offering rentals.

Lake Charles, LA: 72%

Southwestern Louisiana is often most closely associated with the petrochemical industry, but it’s also home to another of America’s sunniest cities. Lake Charles is a center of Cajun culture, and its dozens of annual fiestas have earned it the nickname, “The Festival Capital of Louisiana.”

Though playing second fiddle to the main event farther east, Lake Charles’ Mardi Gras still draws crowds. Parades, live music, and a gumbo cook-off make for plenty of fun in the sun (with a more family-friendly atmosphere than New Orleans’ celebration). Later in the year, the huge Contraband Days Festival highlights the city’s colorful history.

Grand Junction, CO: 71%

Another outdoors mecca, Grand Junction is the largest city on Colorado’s Western Slope. Its proximity to the Colorado National Monument (and, farther afield, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park) introduces countless opportunities for whitewater rafting, camping, hiking, biking, and more.

Even winters see a lot of sun, making time spent in the snow that much more enjoyable. Powderhorn Resort, on Grand Mesa, is less than an hour away, while Telluride and Aspen are a three- and four-hour drive, respectively.

Honolulu, HI: 71%

Last but certainly not least, Hawaii’s capital has been a beacon for sun-seekers for centuries. Honolulu’s beach-related activities need no elaboration. Its hiking, both along the coast in places like Diamond Head Crater, and in the tropical mountains of interior Oahu, are less well-known but equally worthy of attention.

And for runners of all stripes, Honolulu hosts the sixth-largest marathon in the world. Around 30,000 athletes hit the streets each year to test their stamina under the Hawaiian sun.

What’s your favorite sunny city, whether in the U.S. or abroad? Share your top picks below!

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