Obviously, the concept of fun is subjective. What's fun to one person is not necessarily fun to the next (take skydiving, for example -- or being on stage in a play). 

Yet there are also certain similarities among fun things. Most people agree that going to a good restaurant is fun, as is seeing a well-made movie in a genre you like. It's also hard not to have fun eating ice cream, playing with puppies, or listening to great live music.

And certain places tend to be more fun than others.

When you're in a fun place, you tend to feel more alive. You get excited about doing things. You're lit up, happy, effervescent. 

Yet if fun is subjective, how could there be a ranking of how fun different cities are? 

Well, WalletHub took on the challenge of ranking American cities in terms of how fun they are, and to do it, they put together 66 specific criteria, then evaluated 180 cities around the U.S. and put them in order. 

The criteria included things like how many fitness centers a city had per capita; average number of hours breweries were open; and how much it cost to go to a movie. 

They paid particular attention to cost, since it's not very fun to be surrounded by lots of interesting things to do, yet lack the ability to take advantage of them. In fact, one could argue that's precisely the opposite of fun.

So if you take a look at the list, you notice, for example, that the cities you might expect to top the list, don't. New York City, with its free summer concerts, its Broadway shows, and its truly endless places to brunch, comes in a mere third. And San Diego, the bastion of beautiful people and bodacious beach-going activities, is in ninth place--close to the bottom of the top.

Why? Because the cost of living in those cities is so high that it limits the amount of fun one can have in them.

I, for one, appreciate the inclusion of costs as a major factor in how fun a metropolis can be. One of the cities I lived in where I had the most fun, for example, was Buenos Aires, Argentina. Why? Because with the exchange rate, I could go to an $80 dinner for $26. I could take a $12 taxi ride for $4. I could get a $90 spa package for $30.

I could do a lot more of what was fun for me.

The average American spends close to $3,000 on entertainment every year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But how much bang for your buck do you get where you live? How much fun are you really able to have?

I've been reflecting a lot lately on the lure of living in a big city versus a small one. I currently live in Los Angeles, but a friend of mine has recently moved to Kansas City, Missouri--and his cost of living is so much less, it's mind-boggling. A decent two-bedroom house in Kansas City is $250,000 or less. A decent two-bedroom in L.A. starts at $1.5 million. 

That's six times as much. Not double, not triple--it's six times as expensive.

My friend is going to rent a furnished one-bedroom apartment close to downtown for ... drumroll, please ... $900/month.

Gasoline is about twice as much in L.A., and things are a lot further way. Parking is challenging here. Groceries cost a lot more than they do in the Midwest.

Kansas City has progressive people, lively breweries, creative co-working spaces, cool coffee shops, and beautiful nature very close by. It also has acupuncture practitioners, live theater, and artisanal chocolate.

As cliche as it sounds, I think it's easy for big-city people to judge smaller cities as being lesser-than. Not as cool, or progressive, or smart.

I don't think that's true. How smart is it, really, to slave away in a big city, desperately making ends meet to scrape by in a hovel just to say you live in that city? 

So here's the ranking of the top ten cities that are the most fun in the U.S. But I'm not entirely sure it's accurate. I think perhaps those of us that live in the big cities are missing out on the fun to be had in smaller cities around the country.

Just a thought.

Published on: Sep 28, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.