As the holiday season approaches at what feels like break-neck speed, many travelers have already booked plane tickets to visit family. Others are abandoning the cold weather for warmer temperatures in exotic locales, and some adventurers may take the opportunity to go on a solo road trip.
One daunting truth about the holidays is that it is usually when we pack on a few extra unwanted pounds while gym visits decrease in their frequency and second helpings of your favorite fixings become commonplace. But there is good news. Expedia just released its Wellness Report for the 15 healthiest places to travel in the U.S. and Santa Clarita made the list, scoring a 21 on a 25-point rating scale.
Here’s the methodology for ranking the cities.
For each of the five criteria, each city is given a score from 0 to 5. The overall score can be as high as 25. The research includes a city’s fitness opportunities, healthy dining, and “ParkScore” as well other data from reputable publications. The rating criteria breaks down this way:
Fitness: The study took into account the quantity and variety of fitness facilities per capita according to the 2010 U.S. Census and considered the size of the city as well as the easy access to outdoor activities, like hiking, surfing, and cycling. Fitness and recreation centers that offered drop-in classes for travelers were a requirement.
Green space: The survey took the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore into account for this rating and to inspire further research of the region. Square acreage of parkland and amenities close by such as walking trails contributed heavily to score.
Food: While what is considered “healthy” tends to vary by individual preference, the highest food scores were given to cities that catered to a variety of health-related dietary needs, specifically vegan and vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, organic, and locally sourced.
Spas: In this category, cities with a health-focused spa culture that incorporated massage therapy, natural products, and licensed counselors.
Groups and events: The quantity of local meet-ups on topics including wellness, meditation, healthy eating, exercise, and emotional support as well as community organizations and clubs with a health focus.
Santa Clarita has been on a health kick for some time, and it appears to be paying off. According to a report by the League of California Cities, the first-ever release of childhood overweight and obesity numbers by city, conducted by UCLA Center for Health and Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, showed that almost 30 percent of Santa Clarita’s students were obese. This was particularly alarming since more than a quarter of Santa Clarita’s population is under the age of 18.
The shocking data produced by the CDC and UCLA, along with the goal of changing the community’s culture in regards to health and fitness prompted the city to take an even closer look into programs and services that emphasize the importance of developing healthy habits. In 2013, Santa Clarita launched HealthySantaClarita.com, a website designed as a resource for simple, inexpensive, and fun ways to incorporate healthy habits into homes and families. The site provides residents with information and solutions to battle the epidemic of obesity and offer links to the many programs and classes offered in Santa Clarita.
Fitness (5 out of 5)
“Seasons” is the city’s recreation registration page where visitors can explore and sign up for classes, activities, programs, events, and can be easily navigated by searching key words such as yoga, zumba, swimming, cooking classes, or by the park site nearest you, to find an activity that corresponds with your interests.
The city also has dedicated websites such as Bike Santa Clarita (bikesantaclarita.com) and Hike Santa Clarita (hikesantaclarita.com) to let visitors, and residents alike, know where the best places are to get in some outdoor physical fun.
Bike Santa Clarita is a website dedicated to creating an environment that promotes safe and fun bicycling experiences. It assists in locating challenging mountain terrains, miles of bicycle lanes, paseos, off-street trails, and multi-use trails. The city proudly boasts an over 115-mile bike network including 30 miles of on-street bike lanes/routes, 38 miles of paved bike paths, and 47 miles of natural paths which are also great for walking.
Green space (5 out of 5)
Equally impressive, Hike Santa Clarita also has a dedicated site which links travelers to all of the city’s beautiful hiking trails and open space and offers interactive maps that can be downloaded to your phone using their mobile app.
Also contributing to the increased interest in fitness in the city was the expansion of the annual Youth Sports Festival that began in 2009 at Santa Clarita Central Park. This event, while successful in its own right, still limited the activities that could be featured and the number of attendees. Therefore in 2012, the festival was moved to the Santa Clarita Sports Complex, which houses the aquatic center, activities center, gymnasium, and skate park allowing a wider range of activities for all skill levels and abilities for youth and families in the community. The event also incorporated a Healthy Families Festival component that addresses making wholesome choices and promotes a health-conscious community. The new and improved Youth Sports and Healthy Families Festival now garners more than 3,000 guests annually.
Food (4 out of 5)
The availability of better food options is another factor in why Santa Clarita scored high as a healthy city.
Restaurants such as the Lyfe Kitchen and the Eat Real Cafe have menus packed with special dietary options such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and non-gmo, as did many other restaurants in the city and surrounding area. A great tool for tracking down these, and other similar restaurants are applications like Happy Cow, which do all of the work for you. Happy Cow specializes in keeping an updated catalog of all vegan and vegetarian restaurants. All travelers need to do is enter the zip code or city for the area and Happy Cow will provide them with a restaurant summary complete with photos, reviews, and contact information for the venue.
The website, The Primal Traveler, is a similar resource for those looking for Paleo options while traveling.
For those dining at home with families during their travels or staying in an AirBnb with its own kitchen, the Healthy Santa Clarita site also offers a “Create Your Plate” tab which offers plenty of valuable information such as navigating nutrition labels on packaged foods, understanding serving size and portion control, making better drink choices to avoid a high sugar intake, and successful snacking on the go.
Spas (4 out of 5)
When researching spas, the small city of Santa Clarita packed an impressive punch when it came to the number of available day spas in the area. A simple search on Yelp, provided nearly 60 options with a wide range of specialty offerings at varying price points. The Ivy Day Spa was the most highly ranked and reviewed venue in Santa Clarita but also very highly recommended were Beyond Harmony MedSpa, Balance Point Spa, and Elevate Float Center, a unique experience where clients float in private specialty tanks meant to be therapeutic and good for meditation.
There are a number of health benefits associated with regular visits to a spa:
• A massage improves blood circulation, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the cells.
• Massages stimulate the lymphatic system, which carries away the body’s waste products.
• Massages release a hormone called Serotonin that enhances the body and mind’s “feel good” state.
• Massages are beneficial for athletes and other physically active individuals to help ease muscle tension and cramps.
• Massage therapy can help with pain management in chronic conditions such as arthritis, sciatica and muscle spasms.
• Body polishes gently exfoliate your skin, promoting cellular renovation, refining pores and gives your skin uniform relief.
• Heat treatments in the form of either warm, dry air or warm, moist air heat the body to stimulate blood circulation and purify the body.
• Therapeutic muds exfoliate dead skin cells, eliminate toxins and increase circulation.
• Body wraps are exceptionally beneficial as a quick way to rematerialize the body, replenish it with nutrients and elements lost on a daily basis, thus boosting moisture in your skin, helping to rejuvenate and relax you.
• Cold water or ice applied to the body have been proven to stimulate the circulatory, lymphatic and immune system.
Groups and Events (4 out of 5)
The last of the criteria focused on groups and events that travelers could easily join in on to stay active while visiting the city and Santa Clarita had plenty. Just a handful of groups in the city’s Meetup search resulted in finding a number of different hiking clubs such as The PM Hikers, a group that links up regularly for night hikes, The Santa Clarita Community Hike Club, and Hikers Plus. The city also boasted a pick-up soccer group, an I Love Tennis link up, the Southern California Naturist Association, The High Desert Cyclists, a number of dance groups and even an Underwater Hockey Club. There was certainly no shortage of fun and unique ways to get out and active while visiting the city.
The San Francisco Bay area, with a score of 22, was the only other California city to make this list which was rounded out (in no particular order) by Cheyenne, Wyo.(19); Santa Fe, N.M.(21); Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (20); Salt Lake City, Utah (23); Scottsdale, Ariz. (21) Boise, Idaho. (20) Arlington, Va. (22) Lincoln, Neb. (19) Aurora, Colo. (21) Honolulu, Hawaii (21); Minneapolis, Minn. (23), Portland, Ore. (23); and Seattle, Wash. (23)