The 30 Most Fun Places to Live in the U.S.

Take advantage of what these metro areas have to offer for your free time.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |July 6, 2018, at 9:44 a.m.

The 30 Most Fun Places to Live in the U.S.

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Where should you live to guarantee a good time?

The iconic "Big Dipper" roller coaster at Belmont Park featured in the center of this aerial photograph of Mission Beach in San Diego, California.  The downtown skyline is visible in the distance.  I shot this image nearing dusk after a storm had cleared from an altitude of about 300 feet during a helicopter photo flight.

(Getty Images)

When you think about moving to a new city, it’s not just the job opportunities and affordability that come into play – you also want to be sure you’ll enjoy living there. For that reason, we came up with a list of the Most Fun Places to Live in the U.S. We started with our Best Places to Live rankings, then considered factors such as access to parks and outdoor activities, cultural attractions, restaurants, professional sports teams, shopping venues, nightlife, concerts and the popularity of each location as a destination for flights. Finally, we ranked each place in these categories against the 100 most populous metro areas in the U.S. to come up with an overall score. Read on for the 30 Most Fun Places to Live.

30. Washington, District of Columbia

30. Washington, District of Columbia

National Mall with Washington Monument, Washington DC, USA

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 8
Metro Population: 6,011,752
Median Home Price: $368,642
Median Annual Salary: $68,000
Parks Ranking: 21
Restaurants Ranking: 64
Shopping Ranking: 64

The District of Columbia metro area boasts 558 attractions, including the Lincoln Memorial, 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries, and, of course, the White House. The city's expansive Rock Creek Park also helped the nation's capital earn the No. 21 spot for parks out of the 100 places ranked.

Visit U.S. News Travel to find things to do in the District of Columbia.

29. Madison, Wisconsin

29. Madison, Wisconsin

A vivid, photo taken from an airplane of downtown Madison, Wisconsin in spring.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 16
Metro Population: 634,269
Median Home Price: $238,375
Median Annual Salary: $50,830
Parks Ranking: 5
Restaurants Ranking: 27
Shopping Ranking: 10

Madison ranks No. 5 for its abundance of parks and No. 3 for concert venues. With more than 140 concert venues in a metro area with a population of just over half a million people, Madison residents are able to enjoy their favorite music just about any time they want.

28. Boise, Idaho

28. Boise, Idaho

Capitol Blvd, Boise, Idaho

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 23
Metro Population: 663,680
Median Home Price: $221,475
Median Annual Salary: $43,040
Parks Ranking: 12
Restaurants Ranking: 93
Shopping Ranking: 19

In considering the Most Fun Places to Live, Boise ranked 19th for its accessibility to shopping venues and 12th for its parks. That's no surprise given the more than 1,600 acres of parkland and almost 4,000 acres of open space in the city limits alone.

Visit U.S. News Travel to find things to do in Boise.

27. Columbus, Ohio

27. Columbus, Ohio

Downtown Columbus, Ohio On A Sunny Summer Day With Reflection In The River.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 36
Metro Population: 1,995,004
Median Home Price: $171,075
Median Annual Salary: $48,850
Parks Ranking: 26
Restaurants Ranking: 52
Shopping Ranking: 34

Columbus makes the list with solid scores for its parks, concert venues and shopping. Residents can shop at the popular Easton Town Center or enjoy nature at places like the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Columbus.

26. Fresno, California

26. Fresno, California

Central Valley, California

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 116
Metro Population: 963,160
Median Home Price: $245,058
Median Annual Salary: $45,270
Parks Ranking: 1
Restaurants Ranking: 67
Shopping Ranking: 20

Fresno ranks No. 1 out of the 100 metro areas we considered for its many parks that are easily accessible to residents. While the center of the San Joaquin Valley is surrounded by farms and agriculture, it also offers plenty of urban attractions: The Fresno area ranks No. 12 for concert venues and No. 8 for nightlife.

25. New York

25. New York

Empire State Building at sunrise in New York City.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 96
Metro Population: 20,973,061
Median Home Price: $374,814
Median Annual Salary: $61,925
Parks Ranking: 70
Restaurants Ranking: 16
Shopping Ranking: 90

The City That Never Sleeps scored high for its popularity as a destination, as well as its vast array of restaurants. New York also ranked third for accessibility and diversity of sports events. While the city is well-known for its high-end shopping and has more than 1,500 shopping venues throughout the metro area, the region’s massive population and few malls or shopping centers make it harder for people to easily access multiple stores at once.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in New York City.

24. Sacramento, California

24. Sacramento, California

Clouds over cityscape of Downtown Sacramento at sunset.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 92
Metro Population: 2,242,542
Median Home Price: $362,858
Median Annual Salary: $54,690
Parks Ranking: 31
Restaurants Ranking: 31
Shopping Ranking: 38

California's capital city comes in at No. 23 with consistent scores in each category that makes up the Most Fun Places list. With 255 parks in the area and more than 300 attractions, it’s not hard for Sacramento residents to find activities to fill their free time. The metro region’s weakest score was in access to a variety of professional sports, where it still performs respectably at No. 40 with the Kings (NBA) and River Cats (Triple-A baseball).

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Sacramento.

23. Las Vegas

23. Las Vegas

The Las Vegas strip at sunset.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 80
Metro Population: 2,070,153
Median Home Price: $232,533
Median Annual Salary: $43,480
Parks Ranking: 14
Restaurants Ranking: 3
Shopping Ranking: 97

For people living outside the Las Vegas area, Sin City is a prime vacation spot for gambling, entertainment, clubs and bars. The appeal certainly isn’t lost on Las Vegas residents either, as the city ranks third for restaurants. But that’s not the only thing that makes this glitzy destination a fun place to live. Vegas ranks No. 14 for parks, with plenty of family facilities, dog parks and hiking trails throughout the area.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Las Vegas.

22. Pittsburgh

22. Pittsburgh

A view of Pittsburgh city skyline before sunrise from Duquesne Incline.

Pittsburgh, PA

(Getty Images).

Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 57
Metro Population: 2,354,926
Median Home Price: $137,550
Median Annual Salary: $47,360
Parks Ranking: 37
Restaurants Ranking: 10
Shopping Ranking: 56

Pittsburgh ranked 10th in restaurants for its wealth of well-reviewed eateries scattered throughout the metro area. Pittsburgh residents are also die-hard fans of their home teams – the area’s professional teams in baseball (Pirates), football (Steelers) and hockey (Penguins) draw large crowds for every home game, and all three stadiums are located near where the Allegheny and Ohio rivers meet in the city.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Pittsburgh.

21. Indianapolis

21. Indianapolis

Image of the Indianapolis skyline with busy traffic and dramatic sky.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 55
Metro Population: 1,968,768
Median Home Value: $150,800*
Median Annual Salary: $46,840
Parks Ranking: 3
Restaurants Ranking: 85
Shopping Ranking: 41

Indiana’s capital city earns a place on the Most Fun Places to Live list thanks in part to the abundance of quality parks throughout the area. Indianapolis is home to many public areas, including White River State Park, Eagle Creek Park & Marina and Fort Harrison State Park, which give residents ample opportunity to get out and enjoy walking and biking trails, water sports and the change of seasons. Indianapolis also ranks No. 42 for its attractions, which include the Indianapolis Zoo and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Indianapolis.

(*The median home price for Indianapolis was not available, so median home value is listed.)

20. Orlando, Florida

20. Orlando, Florida

Sunset on the Boardwalk - Disneyworld

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 78
Metro Population: 2,328,508
Median Home Price: $213,717
Median Annual Salary: $43,060
Parks Ranking: 18
Restaurants Ranking: 35
Shopping Ranking: 22

Of course the home of Disney World and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter makes the list of Most Fun Places to Live. Plenty of local parks and ample shopping venues help Orlando earn its spot. Decent scores for categories such as restaurants and concert venues also ensure residents can find viable entertainment options in Orlando.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Orlando.

19. Philadelphia

19. Philadelphia

Independence Hall National Historic Park Philadelphia at twilight

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 98
Metro Population: 6,047,721
Median Home Price: $200,858
Median Annual Salary: $53,450
Parks Ranking: 58
Restaurants Ranking: 23
Shopping Ranking: 59

The birthplace of the nation comes in at No. 19 on the list of Most Fun Places to Live. Philadelphia sees the 14th most arrivals to its airports (excluding connecting flights) out of the 100 metro areas ranked, and the city scores well for its eclectic restaurant scene, coming in at No. 23 in that category. Philadelphia’s 642 attractions – the third-most on the list after New York and Chicago – include Independence Hall and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Philadelphia.

18. New Orleans

18. New Orleans

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 111
Metro Population: 1,250,247
Median Home Price: $183,775
Median Annual Salary: $43,410
Parks Ranking: 44
Restaurants Ranking: 11
Shopping Ranking: 4

New Orleans may be best known for its Mardi Gras celebration, but its numerous attractions, restaurants and shopping opportunities keep tourists and residents entertained year-round. New Orleans ranked No. 4 for shopping quality and accessibility, and it ranked No. 11 for restaurants. It's also no surprise that the area is considered a top spot for nightlife, taking the No. 14 spot for its plentiful bars and clubs that keep people enjoying New Orleans at all hours.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in New Orleans.

17. Denver

17. Denver

Denver Colorado downtown with City Park

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 3
Metro Population: 2,752,056
Median Home Price: $362,492
Median Annual Salary: $55,910
Parks Ranking: 40
Restaurants Ranking: 57
Shopping Ranking: 61

The city that took the No. 3 spot in the overall Best Places to Live list doesn’t disappoint when it comes to opportunities for fun. Denver is the fifth-best place for sports fans with all the major pro sports covered – the Colorado Rockies for baseball, Denver Broncos for football, Denver Nuggets for basketball, Colorado Avalanche for hockey and Colorado Rapids for soccer. Proximity to hiking, skiing and other outdoor activities in and near the Rocky Mountains also make Denver a popular destination for people flying in from throughout the country.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Denver.

16. Honolulu

16. Honolulu

Sunset in Honolulu

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 35
Metro Population: 986,999
Median Home Price: $581,658
Median Annual Salary: $51,080
Parks Ranking: 56
Restaurants Ranking: 17
Shopping Ranking: 27

As a prime vacation destination for people throughout the world, Honolulu scores high for its excellent attractions – ranking ninth in that category – and also for offering plenty of restaurants for tourists and locals alike to enjoy. While this hot spot is great for people looking to have fun in their hometown, it comes at a price: Honolulu is the 12th-most expensive place to live out of the 100 metros ranked on the overall Best Places to Live list.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Honolulu.

15. Fort Myers, Florida

15. Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers, Florida

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 41
Metro Population: 680,970
Median Home Price: $210,133
Median Annual Salary: $40,420
Parks Ranking: 64
Restaurants Ranking: 37
Shopping Ranking: 6

This popular retirement destination is well-known for its warm weather and gorgeous beaches, but Fort Myers also has many amenities to make free time enjoyable. Scoring sixth for its shopping options, Fort Myers also has plenty of concert venues throughout the area, ranking No. 8 in that category. Restaurants and attractions are also proportional to the metro area's relatively small population, with 2,100 restaurants for just under 650,000 people.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Fort Myers.

14. Chicago

14. Chicago

A general view of Wrigley Field as the Chicago Cubs take on the Philadelphia Phillies on July 26, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 87
Metro Population: 9,528,396
Median Home Price: $222,333
Median Annual Salary: $53,320
Parks Ranking: 57
Restaurants Ranking: 14
Shopping Ranking: 80

The Windy City is the No. 14 Most Fun Place to Live, receiving its highest score for sports, where it takes the second spot. Chicago boasts a number of professional sports teams, including two baseball teams (Cubs and White Sox) and teams for football (Bears), basketball (Bulls), hockey (Blackhawks) and soccer (Fire). Being the third-largest city in the country, Chicago and the surrounding area support a mind-boggling number of restaurants and eateries, landing it in the No. 14 spot in that category with more than 14,000 options in the metro region.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Chicago.

13. Phoenix

13. Phoenix

Phoenix Arizona with its downtown lit by the last rays of sun at the dusk.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 19
Metro Population: 4,486,153
Median Home Price: $235,333
Median Annual Salary: $47,540
Parks Ranking: 11
Restaurants Ranking: 26
Shopping Ranking: 72

Phoenix's location in the arid Southwestern U.S. makes for a big change of scenery compared with the majority of cities on the Most Fun Places to Live list. With its numerous parks, Phoenix offers many opportunities for enjoying the outdoors in places including the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Mountains Preserve and the Phoenix Zoo. The city is also a great place for sports fans, with teams for baseball (Diamondbacks), football (Cardinals), basketball (Suns) and hockey (Coyotes), ranking the area No. 12 in that category.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Phoenix.

12. Boston

12. Boston

Aerial view of Boston Skyline and Boston Public Garden in early morning, Boston Massachusetts.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 25
Metro Population: 2,728,844
Median Home Price: $399,458
Median Annual Salary: $64,080
Parks Ranking: 63
Restaurants Ranking: 32
Shopping Ranking: 53

Boston has a team for each of the five major pro sports leagues in the country – the New England Patriots for football, Boston Red Sox for baseball, Boston Bruins for hockey, Boston Celtics in basketball and the New England Revolution for soccer. The city also has a long list of attractions, including Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Bunker Hill and Boston Children’s Museum, that keep residents out and about.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Boston.

11. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

11. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina, USA downtown city skyline.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 13
Metro Population: 1,786,119
Median Home Price: $227,814
Median Annual Salary: $52,669
Parks Ranking: 27
Restaurants Ranking: 4
Shopping Ranking: 55

Coming in at No. 11 among the Most Fun Places to Live, Raleigh and Durham also holds the 13th spot on the overall Best Places to Live ranking. Not only do residents enjoy high-quality and easily accessible heath care as well as a healthy job market, they also have an abundance of restaurants to enjoy (the city ranks fourth for restaurants). The area also ranks high (27th) for its many parks.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Raleigh and Durham.

10. Santa Rosa, California

10. Santa Rosa, California

Santa Rosa, vineyard

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 77
Metro Population: $497,776
Median Home Price: $499,513
Median Annual Salary: $52,670
Parks Ranking: 15
Restaurants Ranking: 2
Shopping Ranking: 1

It’s no surprise that the heart of California wine country is one of the Most Fun Places to Live – and one of best places to find a great restaurant. With more than 1,000 restaurants for a population of less than 500,000, Santa Rosa ranks No. 2 out of the 100 metro areas on the list. But, of course, that’s not the only reason Santa Rosa is a fun place to live. A bevy of shopping venues lands it at No. 1 in that category, and the city ranks 15th for its 120 parks spread throughout the area.

9. Portland, Maine

9. Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine, USA downtown skyline.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 27
Metro Population: 523,874
Median Home Price: $219,658
Median Annual Salary: $47,770
Parks Ranking: 53
Restaurants Ranking: 6
Shopping Ranking: 2

Maine’s largest city may not be the biggest place on the list – it has just over half a million people – but Portland offers a high concentration of shopping venues, restaurants and attractions for residents and tourists to enjoy. Ranking No. 2 for shopping opportunities, No. 6 for restaurants and No. 8 for attractions, Portland residents have plenty of fun options for their free time.

Visit U.S. News Travel to find things to do in Portland.

8. Cleveland

8. Cleveland

A general view of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as Chairlift performs on August 5, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 104
Metro Population: 2,764,798
Median Home Price: $130,267
Median Annual Salary: $47,787
Parks Ranking: 23
Restaurants Ranking: 12
Shopping Ranking: 25

With 478 concert venues in the metro area, Cleveland – home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – takes a top-10 spot on the Most Fun Places to Live list. With more than 2.5 million residents in its metro area, Cleveland is large enough to support plenty of cultural attractions but small enough to make shopping and restaurants accessible for residents. In addition, Cleveland ranks No. 10 for sports viewing – not to mention the Cavaliers are regulars in the NBA playoffs and have advanced to four consecutive NBA Finals.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Cleveland.

7. Los Angeles

7. Los Angeles

Los Angeles Sunrise

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 101
Metro Population: 18,463,122
Median Home Price: $526,442
Median Annual Salary: $53,379
Parks Ranking: 47
Restaurants Ranking: 8
Shopping Ranking: 60

The country’s second-largest metro area comes in at No. 7 on our Most Fun Places to Live list, welcoming more than 25 million people from flights alone each year. Los Angeles has more than 30,500 restaurants that help earn it the No. 8 spot in that category, and the city receives the top ranking for sports. With the Rams and Chargers football teams now in Los Angeles, sports fans have an abundance of teams to enjoy year-round with baseball (Dodgers and Angels), basketball (Lakers and Clippers), hockey (Kings) and soccer (Galaxy and Los Angeles FC) all having professional teams with large followings in the area.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Los Angeles.

6. Charleston, South Carolina

6. Charleston, South Carolina

Walkaway along Battery Park, Charleston, SC.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 38
Metro Population: 728,271
Median Home Price: $232,983
Median Annual Salary: $44,500
Parks Ranking: 33
Restaurants Ranking: 25
Shopping Ranking: 3

This coastal South Carolina city receives its highest score for shopping. With a metro population of slightly more than 700,000, the Charleston area boasts 129 shopping venues, with warm, sunny weather to encourage an outdoor stroll from shop to shop. Charleston also ranks No. 5 for the many concert venues in the area, lending to its overall No. 6 ranking in Most Fun Places to Live.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Charleston.

5. Nashville, Tennessee

5. Nashville, Tennessee

Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Lower Broadway is a renowned entertainment district for country music. Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee. Nashville is known as the country-music capital of the world. The city is also known for its culture and commerce and great bar scene

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 11
Metro Population: 1,794,570
Median Home Price: $236,267
Median Annual Salary: $45,780
Parks Ranking: 6
Restaurants Ranking: 58
Shopping Ranking: 24

Music City ranks fifth in our list of the Most Fun Places to Live in the U.S. Nashville also takes the No. 6 spot for its parks, which include Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park and Shelby Bottoms Nature Center. Residents can choose from a variety of activities, from boating to golf, and they have plenty of spaces to enjoy the outdoors. In addition, Nashville ranks high for both nightlife and concert venues – 12th and 27th, respectively.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Nashville.

4. Seattle

4. Seattle

Beautiful Sunny Morning in Seattle With Mt Rainier

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 10
Metro Population: 3,671,095
Median Home Price: $403,650
Median Annual Salary: $61,170
Parks Ranking: 29
Restaurants Ranking: 34
Shopping Ranking: 23

Seattle is the No. 4 Most Fun Place to Live as well as the No. 10 Best Place to Live. The Seattle metro area scores consistently well for its abundant parks, restaurants and shopping opportunities. And the city ranks No. 15 for its major league sports, with professional teams for football (Seahawks), soccer (Sounders FC) and baseball (Mariners).

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Seattle.

3. Portland, Oregon

3. Portland, Oregon

Last minute vacation in Portland, Oregon

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 6
Metro Population: 2,351,319
Median Home Price: $349,675
Median Annual Salary: $53,960
Parks Ranking: 13
Restaurants Ranking: 21
Shopping Ranking: 15

This Northwest metro area comes in near the top of the list with consistently high scores across the board, ranking in the top 25 for each individual category that makes up the Most Fun Places to Live list: popularity (23), restaurants (21), attractions (16), parks (13), nightlife (19), concerts (11) and shopping (15). Sports is the only area where this isn't the case, as Portland has just two major league professional teams: the Portland Trail Blazers basketball and Portland Timbers soccer teams. The well-rounded activities for residents combine with a healthy job market, steadily growing population and increasingly competitive housing market in and around the Rose City.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in Portland.

2. San Francisco

2. San Francisco

San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge at sunset.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 20
Metro Population: 4,577,530
Median Home Price: $790,233
Median Annual Salary: $69,110
Parks Ranking: 17
Restaurants Ranking: 5
Shopping Ranking: 32

San Francisco welcomes nearly 20 million people by plane each year, and residents are able to take advantage of the perks of the area's major tourism industry year-round. More than 9,600 restaurants, attractions like Alcatraz, three professional sports teams (and several more in the Bay Area) and spaces for outdoor adventures like Golden Gate National Recreation Area all help secure San Francisco’s spot as the No. 2 Most Fun Place to Live in the U.S.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in San Francisco.

1. San Diego

1. San Diego

Two women cyclists chatting on beach, Mission Bay, San Diego, California.

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Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 30
Metro Population: 3,253,356
Median Home Price: $521,067
Median Annual Salary: $55,480
Parks Ranking: 8
Restaurants Ranking: 1
Shopping Ranking: 28

San Diego is the Most Fun Place to Live in the U.S., taking the top spot for its restaurants and ranking No. 8 for its numerous parks that allow residents to soak up the sunny weather. The Southern California city is a frequently visited destination by people throughout the country, but its residents get to enjoy the San Diego Zoo, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park and Old Town San Diego State Historic Park any time they want.

Visit U.S. News Travel for things to do in San Diego.

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Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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