Last week, WalletHub, a website that specializes in personal finance, used "26 weighted metrics related to entertainment, recreation and nightlife" to rank states as to how much fun they were for visitors.
My thoughts on why West Virginia was ranked the least "fun" of the 50 states are twofold. First, we are a small state which is not saturated with upscale and expensive activities. But the second is more important.
I believe our reputation for being a backwards, unhealthy, fossil fuel-dependent state means that people from far off areas learn about our negatives way before they ever see our fun or beauty. John Denver's "Almost Heaven" is positive but can't fully change how outsiders view us. Much work needs to be done for non-West Virginians to see that a variety of real fun exists here.
Coincidentally, the WalletHub's "fun ranking" was published the same week that our daughter, Pam, her husband Steve, and our grandchildren, 9 and 5, spent a long fun weekend with us here.
Upon leaving, the grandkids insisted that the West Virginia they experienced was wonderful, if not perfect. True we spent a full day at Camden Park, another day at Heritage Farm and Museum and also spent hours painting pottery at Pullman Square. We frequented some of the greater Huntington parks with quality equipment but ran out of time for more parks and Old Central City Days.
But the parents, suburban Chicago residents, were happy, too. No long lines for amusement park rides, safe and exciting playground equipment and a large choice of restaurants for all types of foods with reasonable prices. If ever a community had a large number of restaurants per capita it is Huntington and our downtown is alive and active, especially on nice summer evenings.
With more time, there was much more to do; we didn't have time for concerts, sport activities, the Huntington Museum of Art or visiting a state park or other areas of West Virginia. Yet, it is rare to hear someone say that Huntington or our state is a fine place to vacation. With the exception of the Greenbrier, few out-of-state people make that suggestion.
And the WalletHub survey backs that up. They report that we are the "least fun state." It seems that we are low on "number of restaurants and specific attractions per capita, the average cost for entertainment (such as movies and alcohol) along with personal and government spending on recreation."
We were also rated low on performing arts theaters and fitness centers. One would think white water rafting or jumping from the New River Bridge in the fall would be better than a fitness center.
California, known for its all-encompassing entertainment and varied scenery, is the fun winner. Florida, New York and Washington are ranked next for fun. Yet, South Carolina, Myrtle Beach's home, is only number 17 on the fun parade.
Besides West Virginia, the least fun states include Mississippi, Delaware, Rhode Island and Vermont. Small size seems to correlate well with the experts' "not much fun" ratings.
No matter how many craft beers or concerts we have here, our state will never be able to compete with Nevada, which is number six overall for fun and rated best for nightlife. But that's not what West Virginia is or needs.
We have real "fun" offerings in West Virginia, but unless we can educate those unfamiliar with the excellent opportunities for fun here, too many potential visitors may never experience it.
Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. Her email is email@example.com.