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Gainesville beats out Orlando as a fun, affordable city
Business Week rankings also have Athens, Georgia as No. 24
Gainesville was recently named as the No. 14 most affordable and fun city in America by Bloomberg Business Week. Angela Thompson, Main Street Gainesville program manager, feels the amount of free downtown events and other concerts, like the annual GSO Patriotic Pops Concert at Brenau University, may be a contributing factor. - photo by FILE

America’s 25 Most Fun and Affordable Cities

1. Ocean City, Maryland
2. Ala Moana-Kakaako, Hawaii
3. Tempe, Arizona
4. Scottsdale, Arizona
5. Greenville, South Carolina
6. Sacramento, California
7. Wilmington, North Carolina
8. Anchorage, Alaska
9. Makiki, Hawaii
10. Winston-Salem, North Carolina
11. St. Augustine, Florida
12. Wildwoods, New Jersey
13. Florence, South Carolina
14. Gainesville, Georgia
15. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
16. Lahaina, Hawaii
17. Kailua Kona, Hawaii
18. Memphis, Tennessee
19. Richmond, Virginia
20. Hattiesburg, Mississippi
21. Orlando, Florida
22. Daytona Beach, Florida
23. North Charleston, South Carolina
24. Athens, Georgia
25. Newark, Delaware

Ranking courtesy of Business Week

If you’re scouting fun places to visit that won’t break the bank, you may want to keep your search close to home.

According to a Bloomberg Business Week report, Gainesville — specifically the 30501 zip code — is one of “America’s 25 Most Affordable Fun Cities.”

The list was compiled from data gathered by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate’s Lifestyle Search. Ocean City, Md., was No. 1, Gainesville was selected as No. 14.

“We are honored to be ranked as one of the most fun and affordable cities in America,” said Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner.

“This report further validates what we have always known, that Gainesville is a great place to live.”

In several cities, including Gainesville, the downtown areas are the ones that helped the specific zip codes make the list.

“The (city of Gainesville) places a lot of attention on downtown because it is the heart of a community,” said Angela Thompson, Main Street Gainesville program manager.

Main Street is a nationwide program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation that is focused on preserving and improving the economic climate of downtown, business districts.

Based on the list, Gainesville is more affordable and fun than Orlando, Fla., at No. 21, and Athens, at No. 24.

If you’re surprised by those findings, you may be even more surprised to find out that Gainesville is less fun than Anchorage. That Alaskan city managed to break into the top 10. It is listed as the No. 8 most fun and affordable city.

“I’m really not that surprised that Gainesville made the list, but I am surprised that a city in Alaska got so high,” said Judy Martin, a Gainesville resident, with a laugh.

“Seems like they would be too cold to have fun.”

To create the list, more than 6,000 zip codes nationwide were analyzed. The data gatherers were looking for cities with median home prices within 20 percent of its state’s median price. From that list, the group looked for the zip codes with the most bars and restaurants.

The restaurant category was a broad one, ranging from national chains to local pubs, bars and lounges.

“We have 156, licensed restaurants in the city,” Thompson said.

Many residents say it’s more than Gainesville’s restaurant selections that make it a fun city.

“Location is good, but to me, a place being fun is more about the people,” said Jake Johnson, a Gainesville resident.

“I mean, I can go to a restaurant with my folks and have an OK time, but if I go to the same place with my friends, I’m gonna enjoy it a whole lot more.”

Johnson could be on to something. In 1996, when a portion of the Olympic Games were held at Lake Lanier, late NBC sportscaster Charlie Jones referred to Gainesville as “the hospitality capital of the world.”

Local officials also say there are other things besides modestly priced homes and dining opportunities that make Gainesville stand out from other places.

“We have almost 20 free events in downtown every year. A lot of cities don’t offer that,” Thompson said.

“Obviously (Lake Lanier) is a huge draw for people. Gainesville is one of the few cities where you can literally walk from downtown to the lake.

“And we have a great park system — a nationally acclaimed park system. You have the mountains, a thriving downtown, city life and the lake. I think those all speak well for us.

“Anything you’d like to do, you can do it in Gainesville.”