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11 Best U.S. Cities for Recreation

Las Vegas

A recent study finds that the 11 best U.S. cities for recreation are:


The personal-finance site WalletHub recently ranked the 100 most populated U.S. cities on their recreation-friendliness.  The study evaluated the cities on 48 metrics ranging from the weather to the number of food and wine tours per capita.

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I’ve spent time in each of the top 11:

Las Vegas, Nevada


Las Vegas is a playground for grown-ups at the southeastern corner of Nevada in the Mojave Desert.  When I lived in Newport Beach, I used to road trip to the Neon City with a friend; now I go back as often as I can.

WalletHub found Las Vegas tied with San Francisco, California; Nashville, Tennessee; Austin, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana, for the most music venues per capita.  I’ve seen lots of fabulous performers there, from Sinatra impersonators to the real Elton John.  Among the great shows I’ve seen still currently playing are:

History buffs will also enjoy the Mob Museum, which offers a unique and fascinating glimpse into the shadowy world of organized crime.

My favorite hotel in Las Vegas is the Encore.

Orlando, Florida


If Las Vegas is the place for grown-up fun, then Orlando is a playground for kids of all ages.  I’ve been many times to the central-Florida city, but my favorite trip was when my maternal grand-mother took 26 of us on a week-long family vacation to Disney World.

Not surprisingly, Orlando ranked first for “Entertainment and Recreational Facilities”, a category that counts “Presence on TripAdvisor’s ‘Top 25 Amusement & Water Parks’ List“, among other factors.  Orlando is home to more than a dozen theme parks, including:  Magic Kingdom Park and Universal Studios Florida.

History lovers might want to check out Titanic:  the Artifact Exhibition, which features an underwater replica of the ill-fated ocean liner, 300 items recovered from the wreck, and full-scale recreations of the Grand Staircase and a First-Class Parlor Suite.

Orlando boasts four Michelin-starred restaurants:  Capa, Kadence, Knife & Spoon, and Soseki.  WalletHub also found the city tied with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Cincinnati, Ohio, and Honolulu, Hawaii, for the most coffee shops per capita.  Excellent hotels in Orlando include:  Waldorf Astoria Orlando, Four Seasons Resort Orlando, and the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes.

Tampa, Florida

Tampa offers a sensational setting on the Gulf Coast, about 85 miles from Orlando.  I’ve spent several days with my family there.

Tampa’s Busch Gardens also scored a spot on the TripAdvisor Top-25 list.  Culture lovers might enjoy a stroll through Ybor City, Tampa’s historic Latin Quarter.

Tampa has three Michelin-starred restaurants:  LilacKoya, and Rocca.  Hotels in Tampa include:  JW Marriott Tampa Water Street, Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati sits at the southwest corner of the Buckeye State, just across the Ohio River from Kentucky.  My family spent several days during a road trip with friends in Cincinnati.  Culture lovers might enjoy the 19th-century architecture of the Over-the-Rhine district.  Hotels in Cincinnati include:  the Lytle Park Hotel, Hyatt Regency Cincinnati, and the Westin Cincinnati.

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta sits in northwest Georgia, about 470 miles due south of Cincinnati.  I’ve been to the Peach State’s capital city for work, and look forward to returning for play.  Culture buffs might enjoy the World of Coca-Cola and the Margaret Mitchell House.  Hotels in Atlanta include:  InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta, JW Marriott Atlanta Buckhead, and the Whitley.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale sprawls in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona, next to the Grand Canyon state’s capital of Phoenix.  I’ve been to Scottsdale for reasons ranging from a fabulous blog conference to a mileage run.  Culture buffs might enjoy strolling through its Old Town.  My favorite hotel in Scottsdale is the Scottsdale Plaza Resort.

San Diego, California

San Diego sits at the southwestern corner of California, just a few miles from the border with Mexico.  I have very dear family in San Diego, so I always want to go back.  History buffs would enjoy the U.S.S. Midway Museum, the Maritime Museum, and Old Town.  San Diego has one Michelin three-star restaurant:  Addison, which serves “Contemporary, Californian” cuisine.  My favorite hotel in San Diego is the U.S. Grant.


Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu offers a spectacular setting on the south shore of Oahu.  I visited Hawaii’s unique capital for several days as a break before starting a (terrible) new job.  WalletHub found Honolulu tied with Omaha, Nebraska; Chicago, Illinois, and Norfolk, Virginia, for the most tennis courts per capita.  History buffs would enjoy exploring downtown Honolulu.  I stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis sits on the west bank of the Mississippi River, across from Illinois.  I first visited the Gateway to the West some years ago.  The iconic thing to do is  ride up the Gateway Arch, the tallest monument in America.  Culture lovers would also enjoy a tour of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis; the city was named for Louis IX, the only king of France to be canonized.  Excellent hotels in St. Louis include the Four Seasons St. Louis and the Ritz-Carlton St. Louis.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago sits at the southern tip of Lake Michigan in northwest Illinois.  It is the third-most populated city in the country.  I’ve been several times to the Windy City and used to fly out to meet a friend there early in the Christmas season.  Culture lovers will enjoy an Architecture River Cruise or a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, which houses the world’s second-largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, surpassed by only the Louvre.  Chicago boasts one Michelin three-star restaurant:  Alinea, known for “Creative, Modern Cuisine”.  My favorite hotel in Chicago is The Drake.


Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles sprawls along the west coast of California, about 125 miles north of San Diego.  Los Angeles is now the second-most populated city in the country.  I’ve been visiting every few years for decades and still have more to explore.  Culture buffs will enjoy Universal, Paramount, and/or Warner Bros Studios tours, the Battleship U.S.S. Iowa Museum, and the iconic Hollywood sign.  Los Angeles boasts three Michelin two-star restaurants:  Hayato, n/naka, and Providence.  Excellent hotels include Conrad Los Angeles, the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles, and Fairmont Century Plaza.


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