GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – When you talk about fun states to visit, North Carolina ranks No. 15.

Seriously? There are 14 states that are more fun than the one with the Outer Banks and the Blue Ridge Mountains and top-line college and pro sports in between?

That was the evaluation of WalletHub, the personal-finance site that takes mounds of the data it collects and sorts it into evaluation issues and topics that affect our lives.

So here in vacation season, WalletHub went for fun states to visit. To do so the analysts compared two key topics: “Entertainment & Recreation” – the number of attractions, entertainment and recreation establishments, restaurants per capita beach quality and the like – and “Nightlife,” which includes the price of beer and wine and music festivals and casinos per capita (oops on that one).

Most fun states as ranked by WalletHub (WALLETHUB)

The list is much more detailed – based on 26 indicators – but you get the picture. Everything was weighted and given point values.

North Carolina ranked No. 12 for Entertainment and Recreation and No. 24 for Nightlife. Still shaking your head? That’s understandable.

So who ranked higher? Well, Nos. 1-6 we get: California (No. 1 in entertainment and recreation), Florida (No. 2 in entertainment and recreation), Nevada (No. 1 in nightlife), New York, Illinois and Colorado.

But after that, you may be OK with some of these, but you also may wonder. Nos. 7-14 were Washington (the state), Texas, Minnesota, Louisiana (No. 2 in nightlife), Oregon, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Pennsylvania and Maryland?

North Carolina beat out all of the state’s neighbors including South Carolina, which came in at 19, Tennessee, which came in at 21, and Virginia, which came in at 27.

If you dig down into the data, here is where North Carolina ranked in key categories (with 1 being the most fun and 25 being average):

  • 8th – Restaurants per capita.
  • 15th – Movie Theaters per capita.
  • 10th – Golf courses & country clubs per capita.
  • 17th – Amusement parks per capita.
  • 25th – Performing-arts theaters per capita.
  • 9th – Fitness centers per capita.

The full ranking

  • 1. California
  • 2. Florida
  • 3. Nevada
  • 4. New York
  • 5. Illinois
  • 6. Colorado
  • 7. Washington
  • 8. Texas
  • 9. Minnesota
  • 10. Louisiana
  • 11. Oregon
  • 12. Arizona
  • 13. Pennsylvania
  • 14. Maryland
  • 15. North Carolina
  • 16. Missouri
  • 17. Ohio
  • 18. Wisconsin
  • 19. South Carolina
  • 20. Georgia
  • 21. Tennessee
  • 22. Hawaii
  • 23. Oklahoma
  • 24. New Mexico
  • 25. Massachusetts
  • 26. Michigan
  • 27. Virginia
  • 28. Utah
  • 29. South Dakota
  • 30. Montana
  • 31. New Jersey
  • 32. Alaska
  • 33. Iowa
  • 34. Idaho
  • 35. Wyoming
  • 36. Nebraska
  • 37. Kansas
  • 38. North Dakota
  • 39. Maine
  • 40. Indiana
  • 41. Kentucky
  • 42. New Hampshire
  • 43. Connecticut
  • 44. Alabama
  • 45. Vermont
  • 46. Arkansas
  • 47. Rhode Island
  • 48. Delaware
  • 49. Mississippi
  • 50. West Virginia

Investing in fun

Keith Boeckelman of Western Illinois University (WALLETHUB)

North Carolina, like a lot of states, has invested quite a few dollars in expanding its public image and attracting industry that would enhance the quality of life.

But one of WalletHub’s experts, Keith Boeckelman, who chairs the Department of Political Science at Western Illinois University, said state spending on tourism doesn’t grow proportional to an expansion of dollars and that it’s dubious for states to provide tax incentives to attract professional sports teams – think Panthers, Hornets and Hurricanes – and other entertainment draws, such as casino gambling.

“Most economists are skeptical of such incentives,” he said. “Research by Andrew Zimbalist and others suggests that subsidizing new stadiums is a particularly bad investment. Jobs created by pro sports (other than the players, coaches, and a limited number of front office staff) often pay poorly.

“What typically happens is that entertainment dollars simply get shifted from other sources with a little net benefit to the state or local economy. There is some evidence that casino gambling and related attractions can increase tourism. This impact is diluted, however, as more and more jurisdictions legalize gambling. Similarly, the proliferation of more types of gambling (e.g. sports betting) can lead to a saturation point that limits further benefits.”

Other factors

If you want to know who ranked at the bottom: Nos. 50-45 were West Virginia, Mississippi, Delaware, Rhode Island, Arkansas and Vermont.

By the way – and maybe this contributed to North Carolina’s rank – you may recall that WalletHub previously ranked the most fun cities in America. You might think that after New York and Las Vegas wouldn’t this be a big tie for No. 3? But WalletHub found Vegas, Orlando, Atlanta, Miami and New Orleans at the top.

The highest-ranked city in North Carolina was Raleigh at No. 37. Charlotte came in at 55. Greensboro was No. 90, and Winston-Salem was No. 96.