The Most Fun Cities in America, Ranked

iStock
iStock

You can argue all you want about how great your favorite city is, but the data doesn’t lie: If you want to have fun, head to Vegas. WalletHub compared 182 different cities across the U.S.—the country’s overall most populous cities, plus at least two of the biggest cities in every state—to come up with a list of the most fun cities in the entire country, and Sin City took the cake.

The scores are based on 56 different metrics in three different categories: entertainment and recreation; nightlife and parties; and cost. The metrics included appearances on lists like the TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards for top destinations; the number of beaches, movie theaters, casinos, hiking trails, festivals, bars, and clubs; how accessible bars are (both in number and geographical proximity); and the average cost of food, wine, hotels, and movie theater trips. Some of these metrics were adjusted to account for differences in city size, since, for instance, New York City would obviously have more restaurants than a smaller city like Lincoln, Nebraska.

Accounting for all these factors, these are the most fun cities in America, according to this particular dataset.

1. Las Vegas, Nevada
2. Orlando, Florida
3. New York City, New York
4. Atlanta, Georgia
5. Miami, Florida
6. Chicago, Illinois
7. Portland, Oregon
8. San Francisco, California
9. New Orleans, Louisiana
10. San Diego, California

Though the order of the rankings might be a little surprising, many of the cities are well-known as vacation destinations. Vegas, obviously, is a legendary destination for partying. Orlando is home to not just Disney World, but Universal Studios Florida (where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located) and SeaWorld Orlando, among others. New York City hosts the most tourists of any city in America each year. New Orleans is renowned for its food, bar scene, and music, in addition to the two weeks of parades and celebrations the city hosts during Mardi Gras—and yet it barely managed to break into the top 10, at No. 9.

Indeed, while the top 10 list isn’t necessarily surprising on its face, the order may be. Atlanta managed to beat out Miami, though the latter is more famous for its party atmosphere and picturesque beaches. Disney World apparently beats out the Statue of Liberty and 30 Rock, because Orlando is ranked as more fun than the Big Apple. And New Orleans was surpassed by less-popular destination cities like Portland and San Francisco. (Not to mention the fact that poor Los Angeles, the country’s second-biggest city and a major tourist destination in its own right, didn’t even crack the top 10, coming in at No. 13.)

As for the least-fun major cities included on the list— which you can dive into below—you may not have ever heard of them. Aside from perhaps Juneau and Pearl City (on the north shore of Pearl Harbor near Honolulu), most aren’t tourist destinations. Perhaps they’re better for residents than they are for tourists, though. Both Oxnard and Bridgeport appeared on National Geographic's list of the happiest cities in the U.S. in 2017.

1. Pearl City, Hawaii
2. Oxnard, California
3. Bridgeport, Connecticut
4. Santa Rosa, California
5. Fontana, California
6. Yonkers, New York
7. Rancho Cucamonga, California
8. South Burlington, Vermont
9. Juneau, Alaska
10. Moreno Valley, California

Disagree with the list? See where your favorite city ended up and the breakdown of scores of on WalletHub, or explore the map below.

Source: WalletHub

Hard Sell: A History of the Pet Rock

Amazon
Amazon

You may have heard the story of the Pet Rock, the Mexican beach stone that could be purchased in bulk for less than a penny, retailed for $3.95, and made inventor Gary Dahl a millionaire during a kind of novelty gift hysteria in late 1975. But Dahl didn’t really get rich off of the rock.

He got rich off of a cardboard box.

Dahl was working as a freelance advertising copywriter in California that year when, while having drinks at a bar with friends, the conversation turned to the destructive nature of pets. Dogs and cats ruined furniture. Worse, they required constant attention, from being walked to being fed to cleaning up after them. Dahl said that he didn’t have to worry about any of that because he had a “pet rock.”

It was, of course, a joke. And it got a laugh. But Dahl decided there could be more to it than that. He went home and began writing an owner’s manual for this hypothetical pet rock, which detailed how best to handle it, the tricks it could perform (“play dead” being the most popular), and how it could remain a faithful companion due to its “long life span.” The gag was not so much the rock itself but the way it was presented. In addition to the manual, Dahl conceived of a cardboard box with air holes that resembled the kind used by pet shops. It also bore a passing resemblance to a McDonald's Happy Meal container.

 

Dahl's motivation in making a serious effort to monetize his pet rock idea was due in large part to his precarious financial situation at the time—he was struggling to keep up with his bills. He recruited George Coakley and John Heagerty, two colleagues, to come on as investors. They both signed on, with Coakley investing $10,000—a not-inconsiderable sum in 1975, especially when the intention was to sell virtually worthless rocks.

The Pet Rock packaging is pictured
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dahl, however, knew what he was marketing. Like chattering teeth, the Hula Hoop, and other fads, the Pet Rock was the beneficiary of good timing. Vietnam had ended but Watergate was still fresh; the country’s mood was slightly downcast, and Dahl believed people would see the inane nature of the Pet Rock and recognize the humor of it. He boxed the rocks with the manual and packed them in excelsior, which may be best known as comic book legend Stan Lee’s catchphrase but also means a softwood shaving pile meant for protecting fragile items. The rocks were purchased from a local sand and gravel company, which sourced them from Mexico’s Rosarita Beach. Dahl debuted the rock at a gift show in San Francisco in August of 1975, then waited for a reaction.

He got one. People understood the appeal right away and he began taking orders. Neiman Marcus wanted 1000 rocks. Bloomingdale’s later signed on. Newsweek did a story with a picture, which spread the word. Dahl had retail and media credibility for what was superficially a nonsense product. His bar joke was turning into a national phenomenon.

When the holiday season arrived, Dahl estimated he was selling up to 100,000 Pet Rocks a day. Ultimately, he would sell between 1.3 and 1.5 million of them within a period of just a few months. Coakley made $200,000 back on his initial $10,000 investment. Dahl gifted both Coakley and Heagerty with Mercedes. Making 95 cents in profit on each Pet Rock sold, Dahl earned over $1 million. He launched his own firm, Rock Bottom Productions, which was itself another joke. “You’ve reached Rock Bottom” is how the receptionist answered their phone.

 

The fad did not last—by definition, they’re not designed to—but Dahl was satisfied. His two investors were not; they "claimed they had received too small a share of the profits" and later sued Dahl for more revenue. After a judgment in the investors' favor, Dahl wrote them a six-figure check.

The Pet Rock is pictured
Amazon

There were attempts to prolong the life of the rock by offering a Bicentennial version in 1976—it had the American flag painted on it—and mail-order college degrees for them. Dahl sold Pet Rock T-shirts and Pet Rock shampoo. There were also copycat gifts, since Dahl could not really patent a rock. (He might have been able to obtain a utility patent because of the rock’s particular purpose as a companion, but he did not.) The humor was transient, however, and people had moved on.

Dahl had other ideas. There was the Official Sand Breeding Kit, which claimed to provide guidance on growing sand, and Canned Earthquake, which consisted of a coffee can that had a wind-up mechanism that caused it to jump around on a table. Neither was particularly successful. Dahl’s real passion, though, was buying and renovating a bar in Los Gatos, which he named Carrie Nation’s Saloon.

This was not without its problems, as people who believed they had the next Pet Rock would often stop by the bar to try and secure an audience with Dahl for his insight. Many times, their idea consisted of packaging bull or elephant excrement. There were also proposals to market a pet stick. Dahl had no patience for these inventors, believing the Pet Rock could not be duplicated. Later, he went back to advertising after taking what he described as an “eight-year vacation” following the success of his project.

The Pet Rock can still be found online, though it’s no longer Dahl’s business. He died in 2015. Of the unsold rocks he had left over at the end of the fad, he was indifferent. If they didn’t sell, he said, he would just use them to repave his driveway.

Costco Is Now Selling a $20 Cheese Flight

Costco
Costco

Whether or not you know why Costco employees check receipts at the exit or have a handle on all the perks the company offers, there's one thing about Costco you probably do know: In addition to getting awesome deals there, you can also get more unusual things like huge tubs of Nutella and mac and cheese—and now, you can add a cheese flight to that list.

Cosmopolitan recently reported that Costco Deals, an Instagram account “not associated with Costco Corp,” posted a photo of Kirkland Signature Cheese Flight, Variety Pack.

“Now a new summer cheese flight is available! Only $19.99! These sell out fast and seem to be in select stores! Grab it if you see it! This was found in NW Region,” the Instagram post reads.

That’s right—for less than $20, customers can buy a total of 1.8 pounds of fancy cheeses in one package: Yellow Door Creamery, Tuscan Hand-Rubbed Fontina, Jasper Hill Farm Cabot Clothbound Mature Bandage Cheddar, El Pastor Spanish Red Wine Soaked Goat, Busti Il Tartufo Pecorino Toscana (white truffles from Italy), and Yellow Door Creamery Monteau Alpine (aged for 150 days). Three of the cheeses are made from cow's milk, one from goat's milk, another from sheep’s milk, and four of them don’t contain the rBGH hormone.

Instead of paying a lot of money to get a wine-and-cheese flight or charcuterie board at a wine bar, you can now DIY a cheese-wine flight at home. The packaging even describes what kinds of wines and beers you should pair the cheeses with. For instance, the alpine goes well with pinot noir, champagne, and a hoppy or amber beer. (Luckily, Costco is also known for its affordable booze selection.)

The post has more than 3000 likes and almost 400 comments, so there’s a chance your local Costco might be out of this life-changing product. But while you’re looking for Costco deals, they have Eggo Waffles, boots, head boards, plants, and non-wine-soaked string cheese on sale, too.

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