A full 61% of Americans report that their work is a source of stress. Yet in 2017, half of all Americans who received paid vacation days didn’t use them all, leaving 705 million days left over at the end of the year (212 million vacation days were even given up willingly).
Vacations are proven to relieve stress, as long as the vacation itself isn’t overly stressful to plan. So where can Americans go to maximize fun when they finally decide to take time off? To find out, Stacker looked at WalletHub’s “Most Fun Cities in America,” which compared 183 cities—encompassing the 150 most populated and at least two from every state—based on entertainment and recreation, nightlife and parties, and costs. Each city was ranked on these three factors, using point values on 65 smaller metrics that eventually combined into a final score of up to 100. The highest scores correlate to the most fun cities in the country.
Before you plan your next vacation, take a look at this list to figure out the best places around the country to destress—from Florida beaches to bustling urban coasts.
Total score: 35.81
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #62
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #63
‘Costs’ rank: #18
Louisville is most famous two things: hosting the Kentucky Derby, and bourbon. Visitors who can’t make it to the former can embark on a deep dive of the latter with Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail, which includes 34 participating restaurants and bars, and explores the history of the spirit. Don’t leave the city without also checking out the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory and Muhammad Ali Center, each of which appeals to sports fan and history buffs alike.
Total score: 36.05
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #52
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #57
‘Costs’ rank: #67
Visitors to this bustling urban metropolis are sure to enjoy the wide variety of family-friendly attractions Tempe has to offer. From the SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium and Big Surf Waterpark to the Desert Botanical Garden, there’s something for everyone at all ages. The fun doesn’t stop after dark, either: Tempe’s Mill Avenue is home to a vibrant nightlife for adults, with streets packed with breweries, clubs, high-end restaurants, and even a piano bar.
Total score: 36.14
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #65
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #47
‘Costs’ rank: #60
Knoxville is integral to the history of American country and bluegrass music, and the city has not forgotten those roots. Walking tours take visitors on a musical journey through that history, while frequent live performances feature everything from rock ‘n’ roll to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the oldest continually performing orchestra in the Southeast.
Total score: 36.19
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #32
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #67
‘Costs’ rank: #58
Also known as the “Sunshine City,” St. Peterburg’s location between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay makes it the perfect spot for anyone looking to visit some of the best beaches in America. There’s more than just beach here, though. Pay a visit to The Salvador Dalí Museum or catch a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game to round out your St. Pete experience.
Total score: 36.71
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #76
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #49
‘Costs’ rank: #2
Oklahoma City is full of callbacks to the heyday of the American West. The Stockyards City district has shops full of cowboy boots, hats, and even a live, weekly cattle auction at the Oklahoma National Stockyards. A stop in at The American Indian Cultural Center provides an alternate historical perspective. Every district in the city comes alive at night, including the aptly named Adventure District where visitors can try their luck at the Remington Park racetrack and casino.
Total score: 36.9
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #78
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #42
‘Costs’ rank: #22
Steeped in the civil rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s, Birmingham’s history has become something everyone can explore. A two-day, self-guided walking tour leads visitors through museums, landmarks, and restaurants—some of which you’ll remember from high-school history class. Slightly less historical fun can be found in Birmingham’s robust (and underrated) food scene or at a University of Alabama football game.
Total score: 36.90
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #55
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #53
‘Costs’ rank: #9
Columbus is home to the Center of Science and Industry, a science center with more than 300 interactive exhibits, the state’s largest planetarium, and a brand-new dinosaur gallery complete with a full-sized Tyrannosaurus rex. Other unique spots include the historic German Village’s authentic food and breweries, and farms where you can pick your own produce just minutes from the city.
Total score: 36.97
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #48
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #60
‘Costs’ rank: #5
The warm weather in the southwest drives most of Phoenix’s best attractions outdoors: Camelback Mountain and South Mountain Park and Preserve provide two of many opportunities to hike and take in the stunning desert vistas. When it gets too hot outside, catch your breath at the Musical Instrument Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum, or the Heard Museum.
Total score: 37
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #34
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #51
‘Costs’ rank: #88
Virginia’s capital is as rich in history as it is in sculptures. The Virginia Repertory Theater produces a variety of new plays as well as well-loved classics, and is the largest professional theater in Central Virginia. The city is also home to the Richmond Jazz Festival each August, which features world-class performances in jazz, funk, and blues.
Total score: 37.29
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #61
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #30
‘Costs’ rank: #68
A few miles south of Las Vegas, Henderson stands on its own with just over 300,000 people. And don’t be fooled into thinking Vegas is the only place to get your kicks: If you’re looking for something to do in Henderson, you can feed real-life lions over at The Lion Habitat Ranch. If cats aren’t your thing, check out the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area to check out native rock art that’s thousands of years old.
Total score: 37.3
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #63
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #31
‘Costs’ rank: #108
The fun this small coastal city offers is quintessentially New England. Whale-watching makes for a great summer activity, while many residents take advantage of snowy winters to brush up on skiing and sledding skills. Visitors can wrap things up with a visit to six lighthouses around the city for a postcard-worthy end to their experiences.
Total score: 37.3
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #35
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #54
‘Costs’ rank: #36
No Cleveland-bound music fan should skip the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which charts more than half a century of music history. Cleveland is also home to a huge indoor food market and the Cleveland Arcade, a Rockefeller-funded, indoor shopping complex with a stunning, 300-foot skylight that illuminates a totally heightened consumer experience.
Total score: 37.78
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #26
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #72
‘Costs’ rank: #62
Famous for Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, Charleston’s biggest attractions are a blend of past and present. The Historic Charleston City Market, one of the oldest public markets in the country, offers a variety of authentic, local products. From there you can explore the surrounding neighborhood by horse-drawn carriage.
Total score: 38.21
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #37
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #52
‘Costs’ rank: #13
Omaha has a thriving performing arts scene that includes the Omaha Community Playhouse and The Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Center. The city is also home to the annual NCAA College World Series and a 3,000-foot walking bridge named Bob that connects 150 miles of trails.
Total score: 38.23
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #56
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #39
‘Costs’ rank: #7
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to the Indy 500, is a highlight for any NASCAR fan visiting the city. Bring the kids to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the largest kids’ museum in the world with exhibits on everything from superheroes to basketball.
Total score: 38.47
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #59
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #26
‘Costs’ rank: #49
Food forms a cornerstone of culture in Raleigh, a city that has managed to keep its roots in Southern cooking while embracing a global foodie scene that attracts award-winning chefs and restaurants to town. Raleigh’s nightlife is similarly booming. Beer aficionados will appreciate the Raleigh Beer Garden and its 366 beers on tap; and don’t overlook the Raleigh beer trail where you can visit more than 25 local breweries and win prizes.
Total score: 38.72
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #41
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #35
‘Costs’ rank: #41
There a reason Reno is famous for its nightlife: Few cities come close to this city’s evening offerings. With casinos in most hotels and nightclubs scattered across the city, it’s hard to avoid having something to do any night of the week. The fun continues well into the morning, too, with walking food tours around Reno’s Downtown and Midtown districts. When you’re sufficiently stuffed, be sure to stop in for a visit at the National Automobile Museum to check out more than 200 different vehicles ranging from celebrity or movie cars to champion race cars.
Total score: 38.72
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #33
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #45
‘Costs’ rank: #30
Every year, Jacksonville hosts one of the largest jazz festivals in the country and a free festival called “Springing the Blues.” Other regular arts events defining Jacksonville’s eclectic cultural scene include the monthly Jax Beach Art Walk and the weekly Riverside Arts Market, where community members can purchase handmade crafts and enjoy live entertainment.
Total score: 38.91
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #39
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #41
‘Costs’ rank: #19
Milwaukee is occasionally referred to as the “City of Festivals;” and its packed summer calendar lives up to the name. Nearly every weekend, residents and visitors can head out to ethnic festivals, pride parades, and SummerFest, the world’s largest summer music festival. The rest of the year doesn’t let up, ensuring there’s always something to do while you’re here.
Total score: 39.17
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #43
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #25
‘Costs’ rank: #70
Country music forms the heart of Nashville’s major attractions. The Grand Ole Opry hosts rising and established country music stars, while The Johnny Cash Museum and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum celebrate the history of the genre.
Total score: 39.39
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #29
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #37
‘Costs’ rank: #65
Bordered on the east by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Scottsdale is infused with Native American culture and influence. The tribe operates a casino and resort that form part of Scottsdale's bustling nightlife, among other enterprises. Several museums and galleries further serve to further connect Scottsdale’s residents and visitors to the original inhabitants of the land.
Total score: 39.62
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #21
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #48
‘Costs’ rank: #76
The larger of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis’ strong music and performing arts scene gave birth to iconic artists such as Prince and Bob Dylan. That legacy continues today with the city’s thriving nightlife, where everyone can dance until sunrise at the famous First Avenue dance club or enjoy the Varsity Theater's diverse performances.
Total score: 39.78
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #28
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #61
‘Costs’ rank: #3
Tucson turns everything into an adventure. The city even makes rocks cool at the annual Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase, the largest of its kind in the world. Just crossing the streets in Tucson can be an experience: The Diamondback Bridge lets pedestrians walk through a giant rattlesnake to get to the other side of a busy highway.
Total score: 40.06
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #44
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #20
‘Costs’ rank: #56
With a storied musical history, Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood is the heart of the city’s nightlife. There, you can catch live music any day of the week at a mix of new and historical venues. For a quick drink instead of a show, just head to Dallas’ hip Uptown for your pick of cool bars and nightclubs.
Total score: 40.81
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #16
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #29
‘Costs’ rank: #124
Fort Lauderdale is a coastal Florida town boasting a whopping 23 miles of beachfront. On the way there, residents and visitors can enjoy a stroll along Las Olas Boulevard, a shopping and dining mecca with more than 100 stores, galleries, and restaurants that leads right to the waves.
Total score: 40.82
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #20
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #33
‘Costs’ rank: #102
See everything Steel City has to offer from either of its two “inclines,” small railways that climb the side of Mount Washington. Cap that experience off by watching one of Pittsburgh’s many professional sports teams play—or set sail about the Gateway Clipper Fleet and cruise the three rivers that converge in the center of the city.
Total score: 40.82
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #25
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #18
‘Costs’ rank: #141
California's capital might not be as well-known as San Francisco or Los Angeles, but Sacramento is nevertheless full of state history. Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park takes visitors back in time to the days leading up the California Gold Rush, while the popular California State Railroad Museum shows how trains shaped the state—and the rest of the country.
Total score: 40.99
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #24
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #34
‘Costs’ rank: #77
Downtown Salt Lake City has long been the headquarters of the Mormon church—but the city feels anything but buttoned-up. If history’s your thing, stop by the city’s famous Temple Square to stroll through museums or catch a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Despite its religious roots, Salt Lake City has taken advantage of Utah’s recently relaxed liquor laws to establish a number of popular bars and clubs across the city.
Total score: 41.43
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #38
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #24
‘Costs’ rank: #6
While many come to San Antonio to remember the Alamo, San Antonio has much more than that to offer. The hottest spot by far is River Walk an urban waterway lined with shops, restaurants, river taxis, and several museums. You can also catch plenty of public art installations hidden beneath one of River Walk’s many bridges.
Total score: 44.15
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #17
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #28
‘Costs’ rank: #12
Cincinnati’s strong German heritage gives the city a well-earned reputation for amazing beer. Its many breweries can be explored via Cincy Brew Bus, by foot along the Brewing Heritage Trail, or by taking an underground tour for a full-view of Cincinnati’s storied history.
Total score: 45.56
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #12
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #23
‘Costs’ rank: #55
In Tampa, anyone can visit another country without so much as leaving the city limits. The U.S. government in 1956 donated a small piece of land to the Republic of Cuba; today, Friends of Jose Marti Park still belongs to the Cuban government and is maintained by the Cuban-American residents of the city.
Total score: 45.63
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #30
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #17
‘Costs’ rank: #11
The Gateway City is probably most famous for its arch of the same name, which provides a 630-foot ride and incredible city views. Less famous—but no less fun—is the St. Louis City Museum. An adult-sized ball pit and 10-story slide leading to an enchanted cave allow adult visitors to feel like a kid again all day long.
Total score: 45.72
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #31
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #14
‘Costs’ rank: #29
Why do astronauts always tell Houston they have a problem? Find out at Space Center Houston, where you can learn all about the history of American space travel. Round out your exploration of the skies at the Waugh Drive Bridge, where a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats makes its home year-round.
Total score: 45.79
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #18
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #15
‘Costs’ rank: #100
Philadelphia served as one of the nation’s first capitals, and its role in the history of America’s founding provides plenty to do around the city. Visitors can tour Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were born. Afterward, you’ll have no problem finding yourself a classic, Philadelphia cheesesteak to enjoy while wandering the rest of the city’s Historic District.
Total score: 47.13
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #9
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #11
‘Costs’ rank: #172
Seattle might owe its latest boom to Amazon’s nearby headquarters, but the city earned its credibility as one of the country’s coolest and most fun metropolises all on its own. Seattle is home to an assortment of quirky little attractions that give the city its character. Don’t miss the Museum of Pop Culture’s exhibits on everything from Marvel superheroes to Seattle’s grunge-rock roots, and be sure to stop in at the Seattle Metaphysical Library for a collection of more than 13,000 books covering UFOs to shamanism. Even Seattle’s public art is in a class by itself: How many cities have a wall of chewed gum that’s become an ongoing, collective installation?
Total score: 47.39
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #11
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #10
‘Costs’ rank: #165
It’s impossible to run out of things to do in the nation’s capital. The Smithsonian Institute alone offers a collection of 19 free museums, galleries, gardens, and a zoo—featuring some of the only pandas you can see in the U.S.—scattered around the city. If that’s not enough, a stroll around the National Mall takes visitors to some of the most famous monuments and memorials in the country.
Total score: 47.49
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #19
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #13
‘Costs’ rank: #54
The motto “Keep Austin Weird” is the guiding principle behind the city’s most unique attractions. Case in point: The Cathedral of Junk, crafted in the creator’s suburban backyard from nearly 60 tons of discarded items—and counting. Grabbing a drink can be equally unusual; just stop by Lala’s Little Nugget, where Christmas decorations are kept up year-round.
Total score: 47.88
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #8
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #16
‘Costs’ rank: #151
Everyone can walk in the footsteps of Hollywood stars on the Walk of Fame, or take a ride through classic movie sets and TV shows at Universal Studios Hollywood. But Los Angeles is more than movies; due to a variety of immigrant communities, this city has a diverse and delicious culinary scene. And don’t forget the sports—if you have time, grab tickets to a Los Angeles Lakers game to see LeBron James demonstrate his basketball skills.
Total score: 48.07
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #2
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #21
‘Costs’ rank: #163
A tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii’s capital offers breathtaking moments and view totally unique to the island of Oahu. Visitors to Diamond Head State Monument can climb the side of a dormant volcano for a view of the entire city. A trip to the beach might also include a traditional hula show or a sea turtle sighting.
Total score: 48.42
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #15
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #12
‘Costs’ rank: #87
Denver’s Larimer Square is the city’s most historic block. By day, visitors can enjoy tours of historic buildings and Victorian mansions. When the lights go down, Larimer Square is a hub of diverse nightlife that includes shows at the nationally prominent Comedy Works. For a venue even more in touch with Denver’s location in the Rockies, the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre combines live music and shopping with hiking huge rock formations.
Total score: 48.89
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #3
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #19
‘Costs’ rank: #144
San Diego’s placement near the California-Mexico border has made authentic Mexican cuisine an important part of the city’s culinary culture. San Diego also has a strong performing arts scene, and it’s two Tony award-winning theaters mark two of well over 100 stages across the city where audiences can catch a show.
Total score: 49.43
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #23
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #6
‘Costs’ rank: #120
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz; and as such, the city has a well-earned reputation for a buzzing nightlife saturated with great music. And it’s not just about Mardi Gras. New Orleans’ historic French Quarter lights up the night with jazz performances, piano lounges, or a quiet drink at a bar while the city’s Creole history has also led to a booming culinary scene full of traditional dishes like gumbo and king cake.
Total score: 50.44
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #5
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #8
‘Costs’ rank: #178
The most obvious must-do in San Francisco is to take a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Following that, head down to the famous Fisherman’s Wharf to meet some sea lions, do some shopping, and grab a bite of delicious seafood. For something slightly less touristy, visit the Exploratorium museum’s adult-only Thursday nights, when you can kick back over cocktails and enjoy 650 immersive exhibits.
Total score: 50.53
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #14
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #7
‘Costs’ rank: #128
Portland might be a rainy city, but there are plenty of places to get out of the house on a nice day. A visit to Mill Ends Park, the smallest park in the world, might be short—but there are plenty more to choose from. Portland is also home to an authentic Chinese garden and a Japanese garden stretched out across 12 acres with eight distinct garden styles—perfect for tranquil strolls. A more heart-racing experience awaits you at the World Naked Bike Ride, where cyclists wear as little clothing as they like in the name of sustainability.
Total score: 51.38
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #7
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #9
‘Costs’ rank: #147
Formerly known as Sears Tower, Willis Tower offers an unparalleled view of Chicago from a glass box 1,300 feet in the air. The famous Lyric Opera of Chicago is another city institution, renown for premiering new productions alongside classic ones.
Total score: 53.53
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #10
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #5
‘Costs’ rank: #123
Miami is a true melting pot of culture and cuisines, and nowhere is this more evident than in the neighborhood of Little Havana, full of authentic Caribbean food and music. For those who favor snow over the sand of Miami’s famous South Beach there’s Santa’s Enchanted Forest, the world’s largest holiday-themed amusement park and carnival.
Total score: 54.11
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #13
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #4
‘Costs’ rank: #91
Atlanta highlights its role in the civil rights movement as the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. with historical attractions that include tours of his birth home as well as monuments to leaders of the movement throughout the city. The other institution the city holds dear is college sports. The College Football Hall of Fame is conveniently located in downtown Atlanta; and fans offer year-round support to beloved teams Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, and Atlanta’s historically black colleges and universities.
Total score: 55.29
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #1
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #2
‘Costs’ rank: #182
New York has more than earned its “City that Never Sleeps” nickname. Visitors and residents flock to the steady stream of musicals and plays that come to Broadway every year, never mind the dozens of shows on off-Broadway stages across the city. Those looking to dance or drink can easily find countless options in each of the five boroughs, while music fans can expect their favorite artists to make repeated stops at the Big Apple’s many live music venues.
Total score: 61.31
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #4
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #3
‘Costs’ rank: #21
There’s a lot more to Orlando than its most obvious attractions, Disney World and Universal Studios. The city is also a mecca for golf lovers, with more than 150 courses and several professional competitions throughout the year. While not coastal, the city is located close to the Florida wetlands and offers airboat tours for those interested in the diversity of the Florida landscape.
Total score: 70.37
‘Entertainment and recreation’ rank: #6
‘Nightlife and parties’ rank: #1
‘Costs’ rank: #81
The Las Vegas Strip has some of the most famous nightlife in the world, for which this city more than deserves its suggestive “Sin City” title. Casinos are the obvious draw to the city, allowing everyone to try their luck against the house before heading out to a nightclub, pool club, or one of the wild weddings the city is famous for. But don’t overlook the many shows this city offers—particularly Cirque du Soleil’s gravity-defying stunts.