The verdict is in: Americans love to have fun, often taking to the nearest urban hub, where all sorts of memorable experiences await. Whether you're seeking adventure, culture, a great meal, a great show, or a wild night of drinking and dancing, a trip to the city is sure to delight.
Not every city offers the same degree of fun or even the same type of fun, of course, so how do you figure out where to cut loose? Since “fun” can be an elusive variable, Stacker used WalletHub data, which applies science in its methodology.
The site compared 182 cities—including the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state—across three key dimensions: entertainment and recreation, nightlife and parties, and cost. Next, the cities were evaluated according to 65 key metrics, which ranged from fitness centers per capita to movie costs to average open hours of breweries. WalletHub then determined each city's weighted average across all metrics to assign it a “total score.”
Which city will you have fun in next?
Total score: 35.81
Entertainment and recreation rank: #62
Nightlife and parties rank: #63
Costs rank: #18
Kentucky's most populated city is a bourbon-lover's dream. The delectable spirit is ubiquitous in these parts, permeating virtually every aspect of the local culture. Louisville is also home to the world-famous Kentucky Derby horse race.
Total score: 36.05
Entertainment and recreation rank: #52
Nightlife and parties rank: #57
Costs rank: #67
Tempe is home to Arizona State University, consistently noted as one of America's best "party schools." For those who have put their wildest days behind them, the city offers a bevy of outdoor activities, like hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Just be sure to wait until the temperature drops below 100 degrees before climbing one of the area's many mountains.
Total score: 36.14
Entertainment and recreation rank: #65
Nightlife and parties rank: #47
Costs rank: #60
Located near the Smoky Mountains in the Great Appalachian Valley, Knoxville offers history, nature, food, and culture. You can find glorious 360-degree views of the local surroundings, free of charge from the observation deck of the famous Sunsphere. Every April, the city hosts the Dogwood Arts Festival, which draws 40,000 to 50,000 visitors over the course of a three-day weekend.
Total score: 36.19
Entertainment and recreation rank: #32
Nightlife and parties rank: #67
Costs rank: #58
While no trip to St. Petersburg is complete without a visit to the Dali Museum, what really makes this city stand out is its endless supply of water-based activities. Choose an adventure by way of water skiing, jet skiing, motorboating, snorkeling, parasailing, and so much more. The city is also a terrific destination for whale- and dolphin-watchers.
Total score: 36.71
Entertainment and recreation rank: #76
Nightlife and parties rank: #49
Costs rank: #2
Oklahoma's capital is known for its high quality of living and tremendous value. While the city has come a long way since its cowboy days, it still proudly offers the occasional slab of Old West flavor. Come nightfall, head over to the Bricktown District for hours of drinking, eating, and dancing.
Total score: 36.90
Entertainment and recreation rank: #78
Nightlife and parties rank: #42
Costs rank: #22
Birmingham is taking full advantage of America's craft beer boom. At one of the city's many breweries, patrons can chase down tasty food with cold, delicious suds. Once you're fueled up, hit up the nearest museum, art gallery, park, garden, or historical landmark.
Total score: 36.90
Entertainment and recreation rank: #55
Nightlife and parties rank: #53
Costs rank: #9
More than a mecca for college football fans, Columbus is known for eclectic events like the annual Doo Dah Parade. The city also hosts a multitude of music, arts, and food festivals. Hit the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens for a beautiful array of plant life across different eco-systems.
Total score: 36.97
Entertainment and recreation rank: #48
Nightlife and parties rank: #60
Costs rank: #5
Phoenix is bursting at the seams with adventure and possibility. Just beyond the city borders are an endless array of parks, springs, mountains, and rock formations. Embark on a hot air balloon ride by day, then partake in a party bike pub crawl at night.
Total score: 37.0
Entertainment and recreation rank: #34
Nightlife and parties rank: #51
Costs rank: #88
History buffs will find plenty to enjoy in Virginia's capital, where landmarks from both the American Revolution and the Civil War have been well-preserved. You'll also find a variety of museums, art galleries, parks, restaurants, and bars. Kings Dominion Amusement Park is just 20 miles away.
Total score: 37.29
Entertainment and recreation rank: #61
Nightlife and parties rank: #30
Costs rank: #68
Located just 16 miles outside of Las Vegas, Nevada's second-biggest city includes plenty for outdoor enthusiasts. You'll fin dgolf courses, bike paths, and the recently completed River Mountains Loop Trail. Those who prefer to stay indoors can check out the city's full spread of casinos, nightclubs, resorts, and spas.
Total score: 37.30
Entertainment and recreation rank: #63
Nightlife and parties rank: #31
Costs rank: #108
Come to Portland, Maine, where the lobsters are cheap, the views are spectacular, and the locals are friendly. Visit the Old Port district for a variety of interesting shops, restaurants, and bars. Don't forget to hit up the Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, where history and majesty collide.
Total score: 37.30
Entertainment and recreation rank: #35
Nightlife and parties rank: #54
Costs rank: #36
Home to four professional sports teams, Cleveland is the affordable city that just won't quit. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a sure bet for a fun afternoon, as is the Cleveland Museum of Art. If there's one landmark not to be missed, it's the house from “A Christmas Story.”
Total score: 37.78
Entertainment and recreation rank: #26
Nightlife and parties rank: #72
Costs rank: #62
This South Carolina port city may be chock full of history, but who needs history when there are so many terrific breweries and award-winning restaurants to choose from? Casual browsers and shopaholics alike will fall in love with Charleston City Market, where local vendors offer a range of artisanal goods. This is a city that gets more fun and popular with each passing year.
Total score: 38.21
Entertainment and recreation rank: #37
Nightlife and parties rank: #52
Costs rank: #13
Beyond the numerous craft breweries and farm-to-table restaurants, Omaha makes for a memorable extended stay. It's also home to one of the best zoos in the world, where guests can venture through North America's largest indoor rainforest.
Total score: 38.23
Entertainment and recreation rank: #56
Nightlife and parties rank: #39
Costs rank: #7
Known to locals as Indy, this capital city is home to the Indianapolis Colts and the Indianapolis 500. This vibrant city is about so much more than just sports, though. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail weaves through the districts, offering a direct route to quality entertainment, cuisine, art, and activities.
Total score: 38.47
Entertainment and recreation rank: #59
Nightlife and parties rank: #26
Costs rank: #49
Visitors to Raleigh, which has recently become a tech hub, will find historic hotels, scholarly institutions, killer cuisine, craft beer and exceptional art. There's never been a better time to get to know this area.
Total score: 38.72
Entertainment and recreation rank: #41
Nightlife and parties rank: #35
Costs rank: #41
Reno is just 22 miles from the epic ski resorts of Lake Tahoe. There's also plenty to do without skipping town. Visitors come from all over the world to check out the National Automobile Museum, where more than 200 rare and vintage cars are on display.
Total score: 38.72
Entertainment and recreation rank: #33
Nightlife and parties rank: #45
Costs rank: #30
Majestic beaches and legendary golf courses abound in Jacksonville, Florida. Speaking of beaches, the public ones here span for miles in either direction, and never close. Be sure to visit the city's historic Riverside and Avondale neighborhoods.
Total score: 38.91
Entertainment and recreation rank: #39
Nightlife and parties rank: #41
Costs rank: #19
Milwaukee is so synonymous with beer that its major league baseball team is the Brewers. Visitors and locals can expect a good time for this reason and many others, and when there's no room left for beer, cheese, or any of Wisconsin's other countless delicacies, the city offers a range of world-class museums and landmarks.
Total score: 39.17
Entertainment and recreation rank: #43
Nightlife and parties rank: #25
Costs rank: #70
Nashville remains a vibrant haven for aspiring musicians from all walks of life. You'll also encounter a tomato-based art festival, full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon, quality food, and all-around great vibes. “Music City” is as fun now as it ever was.
Total score: 39.39
Entertainment and recreation rank: #29
Nightlife and parties rank: #37
Costs rank: #65
Like the nearby cities of Phoenix and Tempe, Scottsdale offers a balance of daytime activity and nighttime indulgence. Architecture enthusiasts and casual tourists make it a point to visit Taliesin West, the former winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright. Over in Old Town Scottsdale, every block reveals a bounty of good eats, great stores, and fun entertainment venues.
Total score: 39.62
Entertainment and recreation rank: #21
Nightlife and parties rank: #48
Costs rank: #76
When not covered in snow, this Midwest metropolis offers a bevy of outdoor festivals and adventures. Regardless of weather conditions, no trip here is complete without a journey through the Chain of Lakes byway district. In nearby Bloomington, The Mall of America retains its status as the country's biggest shopping mall.
Total score: 39.78
Entertainment and recreation rank: #28
Nightlife and parties rank: #61
Costs rank: #3
Flanked by majestic mountain ranges and hot springs, Tucson is as beautiful as it is fun. There's a variety of golf clubs, resorts, parks, historic landmarks, museums, and outdoor adventures to choose from: the Arizona experience distilled to its very essence.
Total score: 40.81
Entertainment and recreation rank: #16
Nightlife and parties rank: #29
Costs rank: #124
Like so many of Florida's coastal cities, Fort Lauderdale has beaches, rivers, nightclubs, parks, golf courses, and shopping districts. Known as the “Venice of America,” Fort Lauderdale also features an intricate network of canals. Quality seafood and tasty cocktails are easy to come by in these parts.
Total score: 40.82
Entertainment and recreation rank: #20
Nightlife and parties rank: #33
Costs rank: #102
Pittsburgh lies at the junction of three rivers, and is an industrial city that continues to evolve. Try your luck at Rivers Casino or Meadows Racetrack & Casino. If your visit is a family affair, Kennywood Amusement Park and Sandcastle Water Park are guaranteed to please.
Total score: 40.82
Entertainment and recreation rank: #25
Nightlife and parties rank: #18
Costs rank: #141
With origins dating back to the gold rush era, this California city blends classic heritage and contemporary style to perfection. In Old Sacramento, the past springs to life through vintage architecture and at the California State Railroad Museum. Head downtown for a strictly modern range of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
Total score: 40.99
Entertainment and recreation rank: #24
Nightlife and parties rank: #34
Costs rank: #77
Despite several exclusive state laws regarding the purchase and consumption of alcohol, Salt Lake City has a respectable number of acclaimed breweries. Visitors also enjoy the local architecture and beautiful gardens. For unforgettable adventures in the outdoors, make the trip to Big Cottonwood Canyon or Utah Olympic Park.
Total score: 41.43
Entertainment and recreation rank: #38
Nightlife and parties rank: #24
Costs rank: #6
San Antonio certainly remembers The Alamo, but that's just one among many reasons to visit this fine Texan city. Don't miss the San Antonio River Walk, where indulgence and entertainment come in every conceivable form.
Total score: 44.15
Entertainment and recreation rank: #17
Nightlife and parties rank: #28
Costs rank: #12
This river-adjacent city is home to the Bengals and the Reds. Findlay Market is packed with local purveyors, brewers and artisans, and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is a must-visit destination.
Total score: 45.56
Entertainment and recreation rank: #12
Nightlife and parties rank: #23
Costs rank: #55
It may not be Disney World, but Tampa's Busch Gardens delivers equally thrilling escapism. For a different kind of fun, check out Ybor City just outside of the downtown area for delicious food, boutique shopping, and a number of popular nightclubs.
Total score: 45.63
Entertainment and recreation rank: #30
Nightlife and parties rank: #17
Costs rank: #11
The Gateway Arch is worth a visit, but St. Louis' nearby Soulard District is where the action is. Awash with old-school architecture and new-school vibes, the area is rich with restaurants, clubs, and music venues. St. Louis is also home to one of the country's best zoos, as well as gardens, parks, stadiums, and plenty of other attractions.
Total score: 45.72
Entertainment and recreation rank: #31
Nightlife and parties rank: #14
Costs rank: #29
Looking to the stars and beyond, Houston is where the Johnson Space Center calls home. America's fourth-largest city also includes its own museum district, which receives more than seven million visits a year. Food enthusiasts will also find a formidable selection of award-winning restaurants.
Total score: 45.79
Entertainment and recreation rank: #18
Nightlife and parties rank: #15
Costs rank: #100
History doesn't just survive in Philadelphia—it thrives. In addition to a range of historical landmarks, the City of Brotherly Love features a number of the country's best restaurants, shopping districts, and sports teams. If you've never tried a Philly cheesesteak, now's the time.
Total score: 47.13
Entertainment and recreation rank: #9
Nightlife and parties rank: #11
Costs rank: #172
Washington's city by the sea serves up some of the country's best seafood, which you can famously see "in action" at Pike Place Market. The Mariners, Sonics, and Seahawks all call this vibrant city home, as do monolithic tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft.
Total score: 47.39
Entertainment and recreation rank: #11
Nightlife and parties rank: #10
Costs rank: #165
America's capital offers a vital glimpse into the country's past and present. Along with historic monuments and renowned museums, the city features world-class restaurants and all the nightlife one could ever need. It's also home to several legendary music venues.
Total score: 47.49
Entertainment and recreation rank: #19
Nightlife and parties rank: #13
Costs rank: #54
The Texas state capital is also one of the hippest cities in the country. Every year, the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival rolls into town, bringing the latest in film, music, and tech. The rest of the year, Austin is well-known for its flourishing music scene, delicious food, and college life.
Total score: 47.88
Entertainment and recreation rank: #8
Nightlife and parties rank: #16
Costs rank: #151
The options are limitless Los Angeles, where entertainment is quite literally a way of life. Hit the beach in Santa Monica, head over to Universal Studios, stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, catch a sports game, watch a live taping, or reserve a seat at one of the country's best bars and restaurants. It all goes down against a backdrop of downright dreamy weather.
Total score: 48.07
Entertainment and recreation rank: #2
Nightlife and parties rank: #21
Costs rank: #163
Waikiki is the heart of this Hawaiian city, where hotels, bars, clubs, resorts, restaurants, and beaches converge to delightful effect. Honolulu is a place that dream vacations are made of. Hike a dormant volcano by day, and sip cocktails out of a coconut hours later.
Total score: 48.42
Entertainment and recreation rank: #15
Nightlife and parties rank: #12
Costs rank: #87
Putting the “high” in Mile High City, Denver is where America's recreational marijuana boom was born. Developing at a rapid pace, the city is home to multiple sports teams, a popular zoo, an acclaimed art museum, and the distinguished Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Rocky Mountain National Park is just an hour and a half drive away.
Total score: 48.89
Entertainment and recreation rank: #3
Nightlife and parties rank: #19
Costs rank: #144
Right on the Pacific coastline, sunny San Diego is a partygoer's paradise. Alcohol flows liberally in the Gaslamp Quarter, which consists of virtually nothing but bars, restaurants, and music venues. Spread across Balboa Park's 1200 acres are museums, gardens, art galleries, and one of the best zoos in the world.
Total score: 49.43
Entertainment and recreation rank: #23
Nightlife and parties rank: #6
Costs rank: #120
There are few festivals in the world more fun than Mardi Gras, celebrated each year in this popular city. The “Big Easy” delivers great food and thrilling live music no matter what the time of year, or time of day for that matter. Famous areas like Bourbon Street and the French Quarter offer copious amounts of vivacious local flavor.
Total score: 50.44
Entertainment and recreation rank: #5
Nightlife and parties rank: #8
Costs rank: #178
San Francisco is overflowing with geographic splendor and bustling activity. Visit a local landmark like Alcatraz or Fisherman's Wharf before snagging a seat at one of the country's best restaurants or bars. Don't forget to hit up a record store or vintage clothing shop over in the historic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.
Total score: 50.53
Entertainment and recreation rank: #14
Nightlife and parties rank: #7
Costs rank: #128
Spread across both sides of the Willamette River, Portland is the kind of place where the local barber shop has cold beer on tap, and there's a new vegan bakery springing up on every block. On the outskirts of the city lies Forest Park, which features a myriad of trails and beautiful natural destinations.
Total score: 51.38
Entertainment and recreation rank: #7
Nightlife and parties rank: #9
Costs rank: #147
The windy city may live up to its name during the cold season, but it's worth a visit any time of year. Staying indoors? Check out the Art Institute of Chicago, or one of the city's many acclaimed restaurants. When the sun finally comes out, take a long walk down Michigan Avenue, “The Magnificent Mile.”
Total score: 53.53
Entertainment and recreation rank: #10
Nightlife and parties rank: #5
Costs rank: #123
Miami is filled to the brim with famous nightclubs, Art Déco architecture, delicious food, white sand beaches, luxurious hotels, and a discernible Cuban influence. Each year, Art Basel descends on the city, putting some of the country's best contemporary art within reach.
Total score: 54.11
Entertainment and recreation rank: #13
Nightlife and parties rank: #4
Costs rank: #91
Atlanta is home to the Falcons, Braves, and Hawks. The city's dining options are abundant and varied, and the club scene is tough to beat. Visit the Georgia Aquarium, often named among the best in the country.
Total score: 55.29
Entertainment and recreation rank: #1
Nightlife and parties rank: #2
Costs rank: #182
It might cost an arm and a leg to take a bite out of The Big Apple these days, but after all these years, New York continues to offer some of the best museums, theaters, landmarks, stores, bars, and restaurants in the world. In the heart of the city is Central Park, where visitors can wander and sightsee for hours on end.
Total score: 61.31
Entertainment and recreation rank: #4
Nightlife and parties rank: #3
Costs rank: #21
Two words describe why Orlando places so high on this list of fun cities: “Disney World.” True to its name, the world-famous theme park is home to an endless supply of attractions and rides. When you're all done there, Universal Orlando Resort is more comprehensive and spectacular now than ever.
Total score: 70.37
Entertainment and recreation rank: #6
Nightlife and parties rank: #1
Costs rank: #81
Orlando may be a blast for the whole family, but Sin City is where adults can go to blow off steam. Whether that means dropping hard-earned cash at the nearest poker table, chilling poolside, dancing until dawn, eating at a world-class restaurant, or watching Cirque du Soleil acrobats fly through the air is up to you.