15 Sprawling American Cities With the Most Land
You probably know that New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are the American cities with the most people. Those metropolises will still be among the 15 biggest U.S. cities in 2046, too, but only in terms of population. The largest, most sprawling American cities have hundreds or thousands of square miles and are bigger than some states.
All the cities we’re about to visit are huge, but the No. 1 location on our list is much bigger than three U.S. states combined.
15. Suffolk, Virginia
Size: 400 square miles
Can a mammoth city be tucked away anywhere? Well, Suffolk tries. It’s located just west of Norfolk and Virginia Beach in southeast Virginia, and it extends from the North Carolina border north to the Chesapeake Bay area. The size of the city combined with a population of 90,237 breaks down to roughly 225 people per square mile.
Next: Rising crime rates are a problem in this city.
14. San Antonio
Size: 460 square miles
Population: 1.51 million
San Antonio is one of the U.S. cities dealing with rising crime rates, and we can understand why. At 460 square miles, it’s one of the most sprawling American cities. San Antonio added 66 new people every day in 2017, which makes it the fastest-growing city in the United States.
Next: Not a surprise at all.
13. Los Angeles
Size: 468 square miles
Population: 3.99 million
If most people had to pick one city as the poster child for sprawl, they would probably choose Los Angeles, what with its endless roads making life miserable for drivers. It extends from the foothills of Angeles National Forest in the north all the way south to the Pacific Ocean, which is roughly 10 miles south of downtown. When you combine all that land and all those people, it’s how you end up with one of the dirtiest cities in America.
Next: The first of four capital cities.
12. Nashville, Tennessee
Size: 475 square miles
Tennessee’s capital city is also one of the most sprawling American cities at nearly 500 square miles. The city boundaries extend so far north that the Kentucky border is only about 10 miles away. Unlike some big cities (both physically and population-wise), you can have a house with a yard and garage and still be within the city limits.
Next: Visit this spread-out city while you still can.
Size: 516 square miles
Population: 1.62 million
If you’ve been to Phoenix and enjoyed downtown activities, you’ve only seen a fraction of the city itself. It extends 20 miles north of the city center, which makes it one of the most sprawling cities in the United States. If you went to Arizona’s capital and enjoyed your time there, be sure to go back soon. It will be so hot by 2100 you won’t be able to visit.
Next: You need to pack an overnight bag if you’re traveling around this city.
Size: 599 square miles
Population: 2.31 million
Houston is spread out, expensive, and overpopulated, which are three reasons nobody wants to live there anymore. An aerial view of Houston’s city limits looks like a giant Rorschach test blotch. NASA mission control and the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park downtown, both within the city limits, are 25 miles apart, and the city extends well beyond where the baseball field is.
Next: All that land can’t help out potential residents.
9. Oklahoma City
Size: 606 square miles
At more than 600 square miles, Oklahoma City is one of the most sprawling American cities. The city has a ton of land, but it’s not helping out potential residents. The real estate in Oklahoma’s capital is as costly as ever, so it’s gotten a lot more expensive to buy a house there.
Next: Let’s head north.
8. Butte, Montana
Size: 716 square miles
Butte is tucked between Yellowstone National Park to the southeast and several national forests to the north and west. The huge footprint and relatively small population mean just Butte houses about 47 people per square mile. It’s a big, sprawling city in Big Sky Country, but it needs to add more land to become the biggest city in Montana.
Next: You can stand on the edge in this spread-out town.
7. Anaconda, Montana
Size: 736 square miles
We’re still in Montana, but Anaconda has a bigger footprint and a much smaller population density than neighboring Butte, which is just a few miles southeast. You can stand on the edge of the continental divide just outside Anaconda, which has just 12 people per square mile.
Next: One of the most sprawling cities in America has two other distinctions.
6. Jacksonville, Florida
Size: 747 square miles
Since we’re discussing sprawling American cities, you know Jacksonville is one of them. Parts of the city sit on the Atlantic Ocean, but other parts extend more than 50 miles inland. Jacksonville also has two other notable distinctions:
- It’s one of the U.S. cities with the most churches. It contains nearly 1,500 churches, temples, mosques, and other holy sites.
- The taxes are amazing. Jacksonville has one of the lowest individual tax burdens of any American city. Between property, sales, auto, and income taxes, residents pay just over $2,700 per year.
Next: We’re in one state the rest of the way.
5. Anchorage, Alaska
Size: 1,704 square miles
Let’s get the unpleasantness out of the way early. Anchorage is one of the most polluted cities in the United States since so many residents use wood-fired stoves for winter heat. Most residents live in the city center near the Turnagain and Knik Arms bodies of water. However, there are also houses to the northwest near the foothills of Chugach State Park.
Next: This city is spread out.
4. Wrangell, Alaska
Size: 2,541 square miles
Alaska is bigger than Texas, California, and Montana, the next three largest states, put together, so cities there are free to spread out. Wrangell is one of them. The city occupies the northwestern part of Wrangell Island, which is just off the Alaskan mainland near British Columbia, Canada. It’s sprawling and sparsely populated with just one person per square mile.
Next: Two states combined are barely bigger than our next city.
3. Juneau, Alaska
Size: 2,717 square miles
Juneau is the only U.S. state capital to border another country. Part of it is because most states don’t have international borders, and another part of it is that Juneau is so damn big. If you combine Rhode Island and Delaware, their 2,989 square miles are barely bigger than Juneau. Another fun fact? It’s a city with an outsize number of millionaires. More than 9% of the population is part of a millionaire household.
Next: A beautiful small town — if you go by population.
2. Sitka, Alaska
Size: 2,874 square miles
Some people say Sitka is one of the most beautiful small towns in the U.S., but that’s only if you go by population. When you look at the square mileage, it’s one of the most sprawling American cities you’re going to find. The city boundaries extend across several islands on the Pacific Ocean, and the mix of Inuit and Russian influences help make it beautiful and unique.
Next: It’s No. 1, and it’s not even close.
1. Yakutat, Alaska
Size: 9,459 square miles
You have two great reasons to visit Yakutat. First, to see the Hubbard Glacier, which is about 20 miles from the city center and one of the must-see breathtaking natural wonders in the U.S. The second is to say you visited the largest city in America, according to ThoughtCo. At more than 9,400 square miles, it’s bigger than eight states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island. Heck, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island combined are more than 1,500 square miles smaller than Yakutat.
All population figures are 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
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