Personal Finance

20 US cities with the biggest entertainment bang for your buck

Key Points
  • Americans spend more than $3,000 each year on entertainment.
  • WalletHub compares 66 metrics across entertainment, recreation and nightlife categories, as well as cost, to rank 182 U.S. cities according to their fun factor.
  • Las Vegas tops the list, New York is home to the most restaurants and San Francisco has the most dance clubs.

Personal finance website WalletHub has ranked 182 U.S. cities for their "fun" factor, weighing entertainment, recreation and nightlife options against local costs.

Fun is no joke when it comes to household budgets. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spent $3,226 on entertainment in 2018, a 0.07% rise over 2017. From 2016 to 2017, growth in entertainment spending skyrocketed, leaping 10% to $3,203 from $2,913.

WalletHub looked at 66 metrics to measure just how people have fun in an urban environment. The study took in the 150 largest U.S. cities plus at least two of the largest in each state.

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"This study incorporates cost of living and ticket prices to rank the most fun cities that are also budget-friendly," said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez. "A fun city is one determined by its options, accessibility and cost-effectiveness in terms of entertainment, recreation, parties and nightlife."

Some cities, like New York, are just so much fun that they ranked near the top of the list despite sky-high local prices. The Big Apple, for example, boasts the most restaurants and playgrounds "per square root of the population," according to WalletHub, at 7.5023 and 0.6241, respectively. (Click here to see the methodology.)

That's more than 30 times the number of eateries in Peoria, Arizona — the U.S. city with the fewest restaurants, at 0.2464 — and 19 times more playgrounds than Hialeah, Florida, which has the fewest playgrounds (0.0328). Results like those land New York in the No. 3 spot in the list of most fun cities despite its poor ranking — dead last, at 182 out of 182— for cost-effectiveness. (Santa Rosa, California; Juneau, Alaska; Boston; and Yonkers, New York, rank with the City That Never Sleeps as the nation's priciest places.)

Las Vegas tops WalletHub's latest list of the 20 most fun cities in the U.S.
JohnnyGreig | E+ | Getty Images

Other findings included:

  • Beer: Oklahoma City boasts the cheapest six pack of beer, at $7.24 on average, which is 1.6 times lower than the price in New York ($11.78).
  • Dance clubs: San Francisco has the most dance clubs, more than 84 times as many as Plano, Texas, which has the fewest.
  • Festivals: Honolulu, San Francisco, New Orleans and Tampa, Florida, are all tied for the most festivals per capita. Laredo, Texas, has the fewest.
  • Movie tickets: Port St. Lucie, Florida, enjoys the lowest movie ticket prices, at $6.63, which is 2.3 times cheaper than in Los Angeles, the nation's most expensive at $15.57 per person.
  • Park access: San Francisco and Boston boast the highest level of walkable park access, with 100% of people enjoying access to some green within walking distance. That's almost three times higher than in Jacksonville, Florida, where only 35% of people can walk to a park.

So where can you find the most fun for your funds? Here are the 20 cities that landed at the top of WalletHub's list, starting with first-place finisher Sin City:

The Top 20 Most Fun Cities in the U.S.

  1. Las Vegas
  2. Orlando
  3. New York
  4. Miami
  5. Chicago
  6. Atlanta
  7. San Francisco
  8. Portland, Oregon
  9. San Diego
  10. Los Angeles
  11. Austin, Texas
  12. New Orleans
  13. Honolulu
  14. Denver
  15. Washington, D.C.
  16. Tampa
  17. Seattle
  18. St. Louis
  19. Houston
  20. Philadelphia
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