2023’s Best Cities for Pickleball Lovers

A female player returns a volley to her opponent in a pickleball game at a public court.

Which cities are making a racket in America’s pickleball scene?

To mark National Pickleball Day on Aug. 8 and the upcoming debut of the first-ever pickleball reality show, Lawn Love ranked 2023’s Best Cities for Pickleball Lovers.

We compared the 200 biggest U.S. cities based on three categories. We factored in access to pickleball courts and tournaments, the size of the pickleball community, and local interest in the sport, among 11 total metrics.

Paddle through our ranking below to find out where to play your best game. To learn how we ranked the cities, see our methodology.

City rankings + infographic

See how each city fared in our ranking:

Note: For presentation purposes, not all ties may be displayed for some metrics above.

Top 5 close up

Check out the slideshow below for highlights on each of our top five cities.

Morning light reflects across New York City’s skyline.
No. 1: New York | Overall score: 76.65

Access rank: 1
Community rank: 1
Popularity rank: 1

Photo credit: Roberto Vivancos | Pexels | Pexels License
A shot of the Austin, Texas, skyline and the Colorado River at twilight
No. 2: Austin, Texas | Overall score: 44.59

Access rank: 12
Community rank: 2
Popularity rank: 9

Photo credit: Carlos Alfonso | Unsplash | Unsplash License
A giant fountain pool sparkles in front of a miniature Eiffel Tower in downtown Las Vegas.
No. 3: Las Vegas | Overall score: 44.48

Access rank: 3
Community rank: 16
Popularity rank: 17

Photo credit: Solvej Nielsen | Pexels | Pexels License
Two people bike along the water overlooking the Chicago skyline.
No. 4: Chicago | Overall score: 44.04

Access rank: 9
Community rank: 3
Popularity rank: 5

Photo credit: Chait Goli | Pexels | Pexels License
Skyscrapers reflect in the lake during a pink sunset in Orlando.
No. 5: Orlando, Florida | Overall score: 41.59

Access rank: 6
Community rank: 5
Popularity rank: 19

Photo credit: M-DESIGNZ | Pexels | Pexels License

Key insights

The gist

Pickleball is sweeping the nation as the fastest-growing sport. Leading the growth in its popularity are cities like New York (No. 1), St. Louis (No. 6), and Mesa, Arizona (No. 7), which bounce to the top of our ranking with abundant pickleball courts and clubs. Some of these cities unsurprisingly also boast the biggest pickleball communities.

Meanwhile, some smaller cities like Joliet, Illinois (No. 198), and Laredo, Texas (No. 199) step out of bounds in our ranking, landing alongside Paterson, New Jersey, in last place. Residents hoping to take up the sport in these cities will find themselves in a pickle due to a lack of pickleball courts and clubs. All three cities earned low Popularity scores, indicating little pickleball passion.

Standout stats

Unmatched: The Big Apple Pickle

  • New York impressively places first — overall and in every single category. The city boasts the most pickleball facilities, 75, and courts, 279. NYC also offers the most free-to-play courts, increasing public access to the game. Otherwise, court reservation costs can add up, especially with prices like $80–$120 per hour in Central Park. 

Midwestern slam

  • St. Louis (No. 6) boasts the 2nd-highest number of pickleball facilities, 52, and 3rd-highest number of courts, 216. Cincinnati (No. 10) bests St. Louis, however, in number of pickleball courts, 224, the 2nd-highest in our ranking. 

Committed courts 

  • Pickleball courts can be few and far between, so picklers often resort to alternate surfaces like tennis courts and hockey rinks. Mesa, Arizona (No. 7), enjoys the most dedicated courts, 166, designed just for pickleball. That makes it easy for Mesa to host the most pickleball tournaments, including a Major League Pickleball event.

Home state serve

  • Three Washington State citiesSeattle (No. 20), Spokane (No. 52), and Vancouver (No. 67) — place in the better half of our ranking. That’s no surprise, considering pickleball was invented just outside of Seattle, which boasts the 3rd-highest number of pickleball facilities.  

Paddling with pals 

  • In the world of Major League Pickleball, avid players can aspire to play on one of 12 Premier-Level teams and 12 Challenger-Level teams. Residents can easily level up by first joining a local team in Los Angeles (No. 12), which offers the most pickleball clubs listed on USA Pickleball, or Philadelphia (No. 31), boasting the most pickleball Meetup groups. 

Pukaball passes

  • Pickleball is on the rise in Honolulu (No. 42), where locals also call it “pukaball.” The Big Pineapple landed in the top 50 overall with high Popularity, decent Access, and several local groups to join.

Pickling potential

  • Boston (No. 110) claims the 15th-highest Popularity rank but fails to meet demand with low Access to courts. Nashville, Tennessee (No. 97), and Detroit (No. 107) share similarly high Popularity and low Access scores. Nashville recently celebrated its 2nd annual Pickleball Festival, and picklers are currently advocating for more courts in the city. 

Pickleball paradise

  • While its population is too small to be considered in our ranking, Naples, Florida, is a proud pickleball destination, claiming the title of “Pickleball Capital of the World.” Their county has invested over $4 million in pickleball facilities. Paradise Coast also hosts the Minto US OPEN Pickleball Championships, the largest pickleball event in the world, with nearly 34,000 attendees in 2022.

Expert take

Playing a new sport can be intimidating, so we turned to a panel of pickleball experts for some tips. Read their insights below.

  1. What makes pickleball different from tennis, ping-pong, and badminton? 
  1. Why has pickleball exploded in popularity in recent years? 
  1. What are your three best tips for first-time pickleball players?
  1. How can pickleheads find new pickleball courts in their city?
  2. Pickleball’s popularity is causing a popping problem. How can venues best prevent irritating neighbors with pickleball noise?
Lisa Farley, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, College of Education
ZáNean McClain, Ph.D.
Professor of Kinesiology
Ray Mencio
Executive Director of Club Sports, Fitness and Recreation
Jonathan Howe, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor | Department of Sport and Recreation Management, Coordinator | Race, Sport, & Leadership Certificate Program
Lisa Farley, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, College of Education
Butler University

What makes pickleball different from tennis, ping-pong, and badminton?

There is a good reason it is the NBC Nightly News report even declared pickleball the “fastest-growing sport in America.”

  • The culture of pickleball is “nice” – camaraderie is a big part of the draw. Sportsmanship abounds. It attracts people of all ages. According to Gitnux (April 11, 2023), pickleball has an 85% retention rate, meaning most participants continue playing after their first experience.
  • According to NPR, Bloomberg, and the Pickleball Channel, cross-generational play happens more in pickleball than in most other sports.
  • NPR states that it is less physically demanding than tennis or other sports – but still contributes to being healthy. It is easier to play than tennis. Pickleball is accessible for players who are young enough to still be developing fine motor skills and those who are older or recovering from past injuries. It’s easy to learn, but there’s plenty of room for advanced players to compete.
  • Pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors, on dedicated pickleball courts, or re-purposed badminton, tennis, or basketball courts.
  • A pickleball game doesn’t require a large space. If you have a badminton or tennis court, you can play pickleball on it with very little modification. The court is almost the same size as a badminton court, making it easier on the body than tennis.
  • More people are playing, which makes it easier to find games than badminton.
  • It’s more of a physical workout (typically) than table tennis, so people like it for the physical benefit. Most recreational pickleball players play doubles, which makes the smaller court more fun. And because the court is smaller, you can fit more courts in a space than tennis.
  • You can play doubles or singles – this makes pickleball great for all ages and abilities.
  • It’s easy to learn the rules. If you’re new to pickleball, don’t worry; it won’t take long to understand the basic rules of this game. There are a few rules to understand that are different, but within an hour of instruction, most beginners are able to start playing a game.
  • It is relatively inexpensive. You need a paddle ($20-300), sneakers, and a place to play. With more parks and neighborhoods opening courts, all you need is a group to play with.

Why has pickleball exploded in popularity in recent years?

The “Pickleball Adventure” talks about how Erin McHugh turned her love for pickleball into media with a book titled “Pickleball is Life” that explores everything from etiquette to how to build a DIY court at home. She has also helped build two courts and developed a fitness program for new students.

“When you love pickleball, I think you become a little bit of a missionary,” she said. “You want everybody to play. You want everybody to be as happy as you are.”

She says she chose the title for her book because of the benefits she’s seen from playing the sport.

“What I’d like to think about more is: why isn’t life more like pickleball?” she said. “Pickleball is easy. You can always get better. Anyone can play. You can teach anybody. It’s inexpensive. You get healthy. You meet new friends. What else is there?”

What are your three best tips for first-time pickleball players?

Three tips for first-time pickleball players:

1. Get a lesson or go to a clinic. While you can learn the basics on your own, a good lesson or clinic will help you learn the why behind the shots, the proper way to execute them, and how to get into the local community games.

2. Play a few times in the first week or two. The more you get on the court, the more you will understand the rules and some of the basic strategies behind the game. This will help you with the drive to play and the feeling of connection to others around you.

3. Remember it is fun. You can work hard to improve your skills but don’t lose sight of the fun of the game. It is ultimately why so many start playing in the first place.

How can pickleheads find new pickleball courts in their city?

There are some good pickleball apps to find courts:

Many communities have clubs — like Indy Pickleball Club — you can join that have benefits to finding courts and competition. Most tennis clubs have pickleball now. Schools and universities are adding courts all the time, like the new Butler courts.

Pickleball’s popularity is causing a popping problem. How can venues best prevent irritating neighbors with pickleball noise?

Tennis isn’t a silent sport, but the pickleball sound has a higher frequency which bothers some people. Existing neighborhood courts — often converted tennis courts — have been adding a sound barrier to help.

New courts should be planned:

  • With trees around them (that also block some of the wind)
  • A decent distance from any homes
  • With a time limit for play during typical sound ordinance times.

Invite the neighbors to be part of the pickleball community. If they don’t want to play, they can be part of the social aspect.

Bonus pickleball info:

  • USA Pickleball states that 130 new locations are added per month – the database as of Jan. 2023 includes 10,724 known locations in North America.
  • Though it was invented in 1965, its meteoric rise in the past 3 years now includes professional players, other professional sports people getting involved in teams, collegiate championships (and scholarships), pickleball in schools, pickleball in retirement communities, an increase in prize money for all levels of tournaments, grant money for communities and schools (USA Pickleball), etc.
  • The sport has become so popular that approximately 6 million pickleball players are playing 20 million games a year. According to the USA Pickleball organization, there are more than 70,000 USA Pickleball members (30% more than in 2022).
  • The Washington Post and the 2022 Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) state that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated player numbers. The estimated number of players by 2021 was 4.8 million US players. CNBC (Jan. 5, 2023) stated that according to a new report by the Association of Pickleball Professionals, the number is closer to 36 million people who have played pickleball. 14% of Americans played at least once in a 12-month period, and 8.5 million played eight times or more.
  • “It’s all about equality,” says Anne Worcester, a strategic adviser for Major League Pickleball. “All ages can play — all genders, all geographies, indoors or outdoors. It’s fun, it’s social, and it’s easy to pick up regardless of athletic ability. It’s affordable and inexpensive. Pickleball meets every consumer need.” Though pickleball is known as a sport for older generations, it’s popular for players of any age. The age range with the most overall players is 18-34 years old, but players range from six years old to 75+.
  • According to SFIA’s most recent numbers, the largest age demographic is still 65-plus (849,000 players last year), though younger players aren’t far behind — 787,000 ages 25 to 34; 600,000 in 18 to 24; and 610,000 in 35 to 44. Players tend to be white, college-educated, and earn at least $100,000 annually.
  • There are no current studies on the job growth rate for pickleball. However, clubs like Lifetime (nationwide) have added permanent courts to 30 clubs, communities across the nation are adding courts, pickleball pros, and new pickleball clothing lines, and professional pickleball teams and television stations are being added around the country. Job growth for pickleball has skyrocketed nationwide.
  • It is a social game. You can create your own group to play with or a group of individuals can come together to play. That’s called “drop-in” pickleball and is very popular in places that have it. There is greater growth in the sport when you offer places for people to play who don’t know other players.
  • It’s a competitive game. You can find fun and competitive games at all levels. You don’t have to be “good” to find some fun games that fill your competitive spirit. With the traditional classification system (similar to tennis), people can match up with others at tournaments around the world to compete for medals, money, and a variety of prizes.
  • There are lots of opportunities for promotion. The American Pickleball Association offers various online courses and certification tests that allow you to become a certified pickleball referee, and you can play in tournaments.
ZáNean McClain, Ph.D.
Professor of Kinesiology
California State University, East Bay

What makes pickleball different from tennis, ping-pong, and badminton?

The equipment and size of the playing area are the main differences between all four. All four sports activities are considered net games.

  • Pickleball is a lead-up game to tennis.
  • Although the skills may be similar in pickleball and badminton, I believe that’s where the similarities stop between the two.
  • Ping-pong is a much faster game with a smaller amount of movement than pickleball.

Why has pickleball exploded in popularity in recent years?

More people have become familiar with pickleball and it can be a lifetime activity.

What are your three best tips for first-time pickleball players?

1. Spend time developing the techniques and strategies.

2. Be prepared to increase your heart rate during practice and gameplay.

3. Have fun with like-minded individuals.

How can pickleheads find new pickleball courts in their city?

There are many locations inside and outside to play pickleball. They may just want to start by searching the internet for gym-like facilities that offer a variety of structured and unstructured physical activities.

Of course, there are websites dedicated to pickleball, so they may be a resource as well.

Pickleball’s popularity is causing a popping problem. How can venues best prevent irritating neighbors with pickleball noise?

I do not really see this as a major problem. The noise isn’t too different from many other activities using a type of ball, so maybe just putting space between the facility and neighbors may help with the noise problem.

Ray Mencio
Executive Director of Club Sports, Fitness and Recreation
Sacred Heart University

Why has pickleball exploded in popularity in recent years?

Pickleball has exploded in popularity for a variety of reasons:

  • Anyone can learn and play — at any skill level and any age.
  • The rules are simple and easy to follow so that everyone can grasp them right off the bat.
  • It’s fun.
Jonathan Howe, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor | Department of Sport and Recreation Management, Coordinator | Race, Sport, & Leadership Certificate Program
Temple University

What makes pickleball different from tennis, ping-pong, and badminton?

Pickleball has many unique features that differentiate it from tennis, ping-pong, and badminton.

Compared to tennis:

  • Pickleball is played on a smaller court (badminton-size) and uses different equipment, such as a smaller, solid racket/paddle and plastic ball with holes instead of a rubber ball.
  • In addition to the equipment, rules differ as pickleball players must serve underhand and there is no stepping in “the kitchen” area.
  • Only the team that serves can win a point, scoring is to 11 or 15, and you have to win by two.

Compared to badminton:

  • Pickleball is played on the same court size. However, pickleball players must let the ball bounce.
  • The paddle is also smaller and solid as opposed to a longer and stringed racket.

In comparison to ping-pong:

  • Pickleball can be more intense.
  • Additionally, in ping-pong, players can serve however they wish.

Thus, while pickleball takes elements from each of these games, it maintains unique features that make it appealing.

Why has pickleball exploded in popularity in recent years?

Pickleball has existed since the 1960s but has gained popularity in recent years — partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a time when people were shut in and practicing social distancing, pickleball allowed socializing and exercising to happen in a safe manner.

The pandemic was not the only factor in the rise in popularity. Pickleball is a fun game that provides avenues to socialize and stay active more broadly. With unique rules and a smaller court size than tennis, pickleball is a lower-impact sport — which makes it more appealing to individuals of a wider age range.

Another factor to consider is the cost. While not fully accessible to all, the sport is cheaper than many recreational sports requiring club memberships. A paddle is likely the most expensive necessity, ranging from $75 to $200.

What are your three best tips for first-time pickleball players?

1. The first and most important tip is to become knowledgeable about the rules. While venturing into any new activity can induce nerves, understanding the game can help ease anxiousness.

2. Like tennis, ping-pong, and badminton, pickleball players want to keep their feet moving and their knees bent. Stagnant feet will put you at a disadvantage, and keeping your knees bent will put you in a position to return the ball.

3. The last tip I will share is being sure to keep the ball low over the net for your return, which will minimize the options opponents have to return.

How can pickleheads find new pickleball courts in their city?

Aside from potentially hearing pickleball being played in your city/neighborhood, individuals can utilize websites like Places2Play or Pickleheads. Individuals can search their city and even addresses to find nearby pickleball courts.

Pickleball’s popularity is causing a popping problem. How can venues best prevent irritating neighbors with pickleball noise?

1. The first and most important strategy that venue owners and potential pickleball venue owners should enact is consulting with community members. A cause of frustration could come from a lack of communication and reasonable compromises, which can be avoided if venues establish a relationship with the community.

2. Next, there are sound barrier options that venues could install in order to reduce the popping problem, such as those found here.

3. Additionally, in consultation with community members, strategic hours of play could mitigate frustration. Having play end at a reasonable time during the working week and before people wind down for the night is a potential solution.

Behind the ranking

First, we determined the factors (metrics) that are most relevant to rank the Best Cities for Pickleball Lovers. We then assigned a weight to each factor based on its importance and grouped those factors into three categories: Access, Community, and Popularity. The categories, factors, and their weights are listed in the table below.

For each of the 200 biggest U.S. cities, we then gathered data on each factor from the sources listed below the table.

Finally, we calculated scores (out of 100 points) for each city to determine its rank in each factor, each category, and overall. A city’s Overall Score is the average of its scores across all factors and categories. The highest Overall Score ranked “Best” (No. 1) and the lowest “Worst” (No. 200). Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be No. 200 due to ties.

Sources

Google Ads, Major League Pickleball, Meetup, Pickleheads, USA Pickleball, and Yelp

Final thoughts

Pickleball remains America’s fastest-growing sport for the third consecutive year. As of 2022, there were an estimated 36.5 million pickleball players in the U.S., growing at an average rate of nearly 159% over three years.

The pickleball craze is even garnering celebrity interest. While Bill Gates has been playing the sport for over 50 years, many Hollywood A-players like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx have caught the pickleball bug more recently. 

The sport’s popularity is likely to continue growing, too, with NBA star LeBron James purchasing a Major League Pickleball team and rapper Drake and actor Michael B. Jordan also investing in one. 

Want pickleball in your own court? Hire a local Lawn Love pro to help with cleanup so you can transform your backyard into a pickler’s dream. 

Media resources

Main photo credit: iStock

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate from the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.