If you’re considering sobriety or currently maintaining a sober path, knowing where to go and where to not go can be crucial. Whether you’re choosing a place to live or somewhere to travel to within the U.S., you may want to steer clear of cities known for high alcohol consumption: Green Bay, Madison, Eau Claire, and Appleton, WI, claim the top four drunkest cities in the U.S. with nearly 27% of adults “drinking to excess*,” according to a 24/7 Wall Street review (18% is the national average). Warning: Wisconsin took home the gold (or in this case, whatever last-place delivers) with 10 of the top 20 drunkest cities in the country!
But if you’re hoping for cities that are friendly to non-drinkers, those exist in America too. So, where are the driest cities in the U.S.? With the exception of Utah, the cities with the lowest excessive drinking rates (EDR) are concentrated in the country’s southern states. Take a look!
Home to Brigham Young University, Provo-Orem is by far the driest metro area in the United States. While towns with large universities will often have high drinking rates due to the common hobbies of many college kids, BYU’s honor code prohibits students from drinking alcohol because of its close association with the Mormon Church.
The Mormon pillars influence the state’s drinking rates as a whole, with three more metro area’s ranking high on the dry list: St. George, UT—10.8%; Logan, UT—11.6%; Ogden-Clearfield, UT—12.9%. Utah’s gems range from incredible National Parks like Zion, Moab, and Arches to annual events such as the Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent film fest in the country.
As the state’s capital, Charleston is home to West Virginia’s lowest population of excessive drinkers. Most likely due to a poor economic situation, West Virginia as a state ranks well below the national average at 11.8% and has a couple of other metro areas with low drinking rates: Beckley, WV—10.8%; Parkersburg-Vienna, WV—12.2%; Huntington, WV—12.6%.
If you’re looking to visit or relocate to WV, the state has some of the most beautiful untouched wilderness for camping, hiking, whitewater rafting, and just about any outdoor activity you desire. Once you arrive, you’ll know why it’s nicknamed “Wild and Wonderful!”
Western Tennessee has a lot to offer that isn’t centered around drinking. The birthplace of Rockabilly — a fusion of country and rock music — Jackson is home to some of the region’s best live music shows East of the Mississippi. Whether you want to spread your towel down at one of the outdoor amphitheaters, belly up to a mom-and-pop diner, or show up early for a sunrise Civil War Reenactment, there’s no shortage of quirky attractions for the whole family.
If Jackson isn’t your style, check out the state’s five other metro areas ranking in the top 20 driest cities: Morristown, TN—11.9%; Cleveland, TN—12.2%, Johnson City, TN—12.3%; Knoxville, TN—12.3%; Bristol, TN—12.7%.
Of the 25 metro areas in Texas, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission has by far the lowest excessive drinking rate. And if you happen to be an avid birder (you know who you are), you won’t want to miss this city. Hugging the border of Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley, McAllen headquarters the World Birding Center and the National Butterfly Center — home to 200 species of butterflies.
I don’t know about you, but walking through a field of colorful butterflies and iridescent hummingbirds are high on my list of dream-like experiences — ones that don’t call for an ounce of liquid intoxication. Plus, because of its location, the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metro area has delicious Mexican fusion cuisine. Tacos, tacos, and more tacos.
Not surprisingly, metro areas with fewer college students tend to have low excessive drinking rates. Just 4.3% of the population in the Dothan metro area are enrolled in graduate or undergraduate classes, making this town a great getaway for those looking for low-key, quiet nights.
Dothan is known for its botanical gardens, street murals, and an old-fashioned drive-in movie theater that will make you feel like you’re living the scenes of the throwback classic Grease. Or, take a road trip north to Gadsden (12.4%) for more of that down-home, small-town fun.
No matter the city, know that there are options for sober fun wherever you land. Use your resources to seek out the types of experiences you value and you’re likely to meet locals along the way willing to welcome you with open arms in their town’s own unique way.
*Editor’s note: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excess or binge drinking is defined by four or more drinks on a single occasion for women and five or more for men — and heavy drinking is eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more for men.