Words & Deeds

Boise is a top 10 Best City for Recreation. Nice! Uh, wait. THESE cities beat us?

When WalletHub releases its annual report on the Best & Worst Cities for Recreation, I get this strange urge to take up cliff diving.

Water optional.

Boiseans adore being reminded how special our city is. (Just don't move here!) We also know that metrics-based lists are unsound at best, embarrassing at worst. But this particular WalletHub exercise feels like a slap to the suntanned face of Boise lifestyle — even if it is from a personal-finance website that's probably never hopped a ski lift 45 minutes from the office, let alone field dressed an elk near city limits.

First, the good news: After a humiliating, unforgivable 13th-place ranking last year, Boise moved up four spots in the 2018 report. We're No. 9 among the 100 largest American cities. Be proud. Then again, we finished No. 8 in 2016. And No. 5 in 2015. What has Boise done recently to become a lousier recreation city? (Yo, added Californians! It's always on them, right?)

Now, the bad news: Recreation spots that supposedly kick our Gem State butts include Cincinnati, Atlanta (Georgia, not Idaho), Las Vegas and both Scottsdale and Tucson, Arizona. Um, no. The majority of cities outranking Boise are not superior places for recreation. Not by any Idaho definition of the word, which inherently includes an active outdoors element.

Overall Rank



Total Score

‘Entertainment & Recreational Facilities’ Rank

‘Costs’ Rank

‘Quality of Parks’ Rank

‘Weather’ Rank

1Orlando, FL60.031184828
2Las Vegas, NV57.477313518
3San Diego, CA55.154801434
4Cincinnati, OH53.681631758
5Tampa, FL53.0215477913
6Atlanta, GA52.329632841
7Scottsdale, AZ51.752751293
8Tucson, AZ51.1128126716
9Boise, ID50.104626226
10Philadelphia, PA49.6213672752

Source: WalletHub

According to WalletHub's "Main Findings" map of the United States, the Pacific Northwest is essentially a recreation wasteland. No Oregon cities are in the top 10. No Washington cities.

And, look, the entire state of Colorado missed the top 20.

The nation's No. 1 city for recreation is Orlando freakin' Florida? Welcome to Walt Disney World, Grandma.

Too many WalletHub recreation metrics are what most Boiseans consider entertainment criteria: Movies, bowling and food costs. Coffee and tea shops per capita. (Nothing about breweries, by the way.) Music venues per capita?

Sure, there are nods to hiking trails and parks. But Idaho's capital city doesn't receive unique bonuses because of its proximity to Bogus Basin ski resort, our cool Boise Whitewater Park, the ease of rafting the Boise River, or the long Greenbelt and expansive Foothills.

After examining WalletHub's metrics each year, I wind up backing away from the edge of that cliff. This list ain't worth it. No jumping for me.

I might rope swing into the Boise River, though. Already floated it once this summer.

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