The 23 Happiest Cities In The United States

Which American city has the happiest inhabitants? This question has sparked numerous hypotheses and heated debates, with many cities claiming the coveted number one spot. But what should be evaluated when measuring such a subjective thing as happiness? Well, a thorough analysis from a recent study took into account diverse factors – such as economic security, healthy diet, and vacations – and it successfully evaluated hundreds of metropolitan areas across the country. The winner will definitely surprise you!

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#23. Austin, Texas.

Where do Americans live a fulfilling life? Where do they feel the most motivated, cheerful and purposeful? Many of the cities which showed the best results in the study will definitely surprise you, and the top ranking starts here, with Austin. Which are its special qualities exactly?

Photo: Courtesy of Daniel R Westergren, NatGeo Image Collection.

Well, the answer is right in front of your eyes! The picture shows the spectacular three-acre pool filled with deliciously warm water taken from underground springs. The massive pool is called Barton Springs, and it can be found in Austin’s Zilker Park. Locals can enjoy a casual swim or some moments to chill in the water with friends at any moment of the year.

#22. Portland, Maine.

Indeed, the crucial role of Austin’s Zilker Park indicates a relevant finding of the study: access to nature, a pleasant climate, and other close related metrics result in a favorable context that undermines sedentarism, and are therefore essential for a happy life. This is exactly what explains Portland’s appearance on the list.

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If you cherish walking your way through a new city, like me, you’ll instantly fall in love with Portland. The low insecurity rates, nice illumination and beautiful streets full of blossoming trees make it an ideal place for a long, serene stroll. Besides, locals show greater signs of civic engagement than in most of the other American cities. Nothing better than people addressing important issues!

#21. San Diego-Carlsbad, California.

Spoiler: California doesn’t have the number one spot! Yes, though many people think of this state’s cities as the most joyful and care-free of the country (in fact, they will definitely appear more than once on the list), the winner is more of a surprise. However, Californian cities did rank well, with one of them being San Diego.

Photo: Courtesy of Sean Pavone, Alamy Stock Photo.

One of San Diego’s most notable attractions which improve the locals’ life-quality is the awe-inspiring Balboa Park. Even foreign travelers coming from every continent are constantly hypnotized by this massive 1200-acre oasis, where the San Diego Zoo can be found. But don’t miss slides #19, #16 and #8 to discover the other Californian cities!

#20. Minneapolis-St.Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota/Wisconsin.

If asked, not a lot of people would associate a snowy city with sky-high levels of happiness. However, they’d be wrong. Minnesota’s twin cities are a great example of this. Their hundreds of miles of ski trails attract the extreme sports lovers of the continent, offering courses full of adrenaline for both amateurs and professionals.

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If you have always been hesitant to practice snowboarding or skying, these cities may be the little push that’s needed to start. Just look at the woman that appears in the picture: she sure looks ecstatic! Even her adorable dog seems to be enjoying the snow. Don’t worry though, if winter’s not your thing, these cities also have some of the best summer festivals!

#19. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California.

Thrill and adventure await this man as he contemplates California’s sunny and mountainous beaches. Just imagine yourself enjoying your weekend resting in the warm sand while reading a fun novel. After one hour or two, when the sweat drops are already falling on the book’s pages, you can dive into the cool marine waters.

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Hanson, Aurora Photos.

Don’t know about you, but it sure sounds tempting to me! Indeed, California’s traditional pleasant weather and nearby national forests make the city of Oxnard one of America’s happiest places to live in. Additionally, its inhabitants earn well above the country’s average income generally, providing for crucial economic stability.

#18. Manchester-Nashua, New Hampshire.

Now here’s a tricky question: is income the most important factor for individual well-being? Well, a vast amount of job opportunities and above average salaries are essential for buying high-quality food, a cozy house, and other desired products, or paying for your cherished vacation. If someone is economically stable, he or she will probably feel less stressed and insecure, and more successful.

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But answering the first question is hard since these aren’t the only factors worth mentioning. Happiness is an extremely difficult feeling to analyze or predict, and it results from the interaction of many things: a diverse range of cultural activities, accessible natural areas, a healthy diet, social interactions, enjoyable weather, among other things. And the truth is that this city meets most the things mentioned above: on the one hand, it has almost full employment and decent wages; on the other hand, it offers several cultural and natural activities, especially considering that it’s just an hour’s drive from Boston, the Atlantic Coast, and the White Mountains.

#17. Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The paths that split between the colossal red rock formations in Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods are an ideal place for adventurers and nature lovers. If you’re visiting from another country, a couple of days of chilling out are recommended before going for a long hike. This is due to the fact that the city sits about a mile and a half above sea level.

Photo: Courtesy of Keith Ladzinski, Nat Geo Image Collection.

Yes, you better take it easy and take your time to get acclimatized, or else you’ll run out of breath after a short jog! The Garden of God is worth the effort, though. This natural paradise is visited by approximately two million tourists every year… that’s quite impressive! Just picture yourself contemplating a sunset like the one seen in the picture. Who can say no to that!

#16. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California.

You have to be brave to stand on the edge of the cable car like those kids seen in the picture! Seriously, don’t try this at home, guys. California’s steep hills, like the one which can be observed in the photograph, were the reason why Andrew Smith Hallidie decided to design a safer mode of transport around the city, hence the notorious cable car system.

Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Wakem, Aurora Photos.

An effective system of transport can be a key factor for people’s happiness, and especially for kids’. Since the younger inhabitants can’t have a drivers license, or may not have the opportunity of owning a car right after obtaining their driving license, an organized system of trains, buses, or cable cars is more important than what we usually give them credit for.

#15. Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ann Arbor may only be the sixth largest city in the state of Michigan, with a population of about 115 thousand, but many consider it the most important. This is because the famous University Of Michigan can be found in this city. The bewildering, fully-packed stadium from the picture belongs to the university, and it ranks among the largest from America.

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Just imagine yourself being the captain of the college’s football team and facing this frenzied crowd for the most important match of the season! Moreover, this city gained a lot of political recognition in the ’60s and ’70s for its growing activism, predominantly because of the anti-Vietnam protests. Check the following slide to discover one of the happiest cities!

#14. Honolulu, Hawaii.

Finally, Honolulu has made its appearance! Indeed, though many people suppose that it’s the happiest American city, it didn’t reach the top ten, according to the study. Don’t get pissed if you were rooting for Honolulu though, number 14 is a pretty remarkable achievement too!

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So, one might ask oneself why is this city held in such high regard in the collective consciousness. First of all, some movies which romanticize Hawaii may probably play their part here. But the gorgeous beaches with their mighty waves for young surfers, as well as the pleasant temperatures, do explain Honolulu’s attractiveness.

#13. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida.

North Port has several unique attractions that explain its citizens’ high levels of happiness. The city features from breathtaking rose gardens – which are a top-notch pick for professional photographers and nature lovers – to exotic circus exhibits and art galleries with works from skillful painters. Yes, North Port has it all!

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Moreover, its stupendous all-year-round climate is ideal for outdoor activities, such as planning a picnic at a park or playing an improvised basketball match with your friends. In fact, if you ask locals, they can guide you to a large state forest or to the Myakka River, which offers a great variety of wildlife. Be sure to keep sliding, you’re about to reach the top ten happiest cities!

#12. Salinas, California.

Salinas is yet another Californian city that made it to the ranking, but it has a particularity which is definitely worth mentioning. Salinas is easily one of the most cherished stops for literature lovers, but can you guess why? Ok, here’s a tip, analyze the picture in detail… If you still can’t figure it out, here’s the answer: Salinas was John Steinbeck’s hometown! 

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The notorious author won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1962, and his novels skillfully combined poignant social commentary with relatable characters and a great sense of humor. Some of his most successful books are Of Mice And Men, and The Grapes of Wrath, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize. Both The National Steinbeck Center and his childhood home can be visited in Salinas, so if you’re a fan of Steinbeck’s work you know where to go!

#11. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida.

Just put yourself in someone from this photo’s shoes for a second. The sun is going to sleep, casting a golden glow which transforms the sky into a graceful mixture of vibrant colors. After a pleasant, long walk in the sand with your couple or friend, you decide to wander through the dock, listening to the constant clash of waves.

Photo: Courtesy of Fraser Hall/Robert Harding Picture Library, Aurora Photos.

Finally, you sit down at the edge, ready to contemplate the last minutes of an epic sunset. Yeah, this scene might seem fictional, but it’s an evening like any other in Naples, Florida! The city’s tropical climate, palm trees, and mesmerizing beaches will make you fall in love with it instantly. Check the next slide to start with the country’s top ten happiest cities!

#10. Anchorage, Alaska.

Most people wouldn’t think of Alaskan cities when asked about the happiest zones, mainly because of the freezing cold weather. However, this is just a mere prejudice. We’ve already learned that numerous factors interact to produce happiness, and cities may compensate a disadvantage with other remarkable strengths, such as culturally iconic places to visit, and in the case of Alaska, its many natural marvels!

Photo: Courtesy of Hagephoto, Aurora Photos. 

So for those of you who dislike Alaska’s challenging weather, we must tell you: its national parks are worth it! This city has 5 stupendous nearby national parks, with mind-blowing lakes, surreal glaciers, mountains, and wildlife. Ideal for adventurers and explorers alike!

#9. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts.

Barnstable Town, Massachusetts, is composed of seven unique villages, each with its own history, traditions, and style. Hyannis, for instance, is the largest one, and it’s known as the business district. What a beautiful name for a village, right? It makes me want to visit it right away. Just think about a picture next to the “Welcome to Hyannis” sign, I’d upload it everywhere!

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Well, it’s not much of a surprise that it’s a tourist favorite destination, especially in the summer. And it’s not only because of its cool name: its spectacular beaches and attractive shops certainly contribute to the village’s success as well. If you’re a book lover, here’s a secret tip: the oldest library of the country is here, so make sure to ask for the address!

#8. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut.

The metro area of Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk offers a wide range of cultural activities, from some of the best cinemas to upbeat bars with live music. The people who live here have another great advantage, though. New York is only 40 miles away! Just imagine having some cool things to do in your hometown, but also having New York at a one-hour drive from you.

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So if you visit Bridgeport, you can take a day-trip to New York and enjoy an abundant brunch in Central Park with friends, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art after delighting your stomach, and then take a walk along the Brooklyn Bridge. However, don’t let New York’s proximity overshadow Bridgeport’s rich history. In fact, in the old days, some English settlements took advantage of Bridgeport’s Harbor. This harbor actually played a crucial role in the Revolutionary War, since the Continental Army used it to dock many ships.

#7. Provo, Utah.

The number seven city with the happiest Americans, according to the study’s results, is Provo, Utah. Provo is the third largest city in Utah, with a population of about 115 thousand. The city’s main feature can be seen in this fantastic photograph: an impressive amount of outdoor activities. If you’re a nature lover like me, you’ll definitely enjoy this place: after all, rafting, fishing, and hiking are all just a couple of minutes away.

Photo: Courtesy of Wray Sinclair, Aurora Photos.

Still, if you’re a lazy type and recreational sports don’t attract you that much, Provo’s surroundings do offer some mesmerizing landscapes to take some awesome pictures, or to simply enjoy a romantic walk with your couple, what’s not to like about that! Check the following slide to discover one of California’s happiest cities.

#6. San Jose, California.

After admiring this mind-blowing panorama, it’s not much of a surprise to see San Jose so well positioned in this ranking. I mean, if I lived near this green paradise, with its delightful temperatures and perfect conditions for taking a couple of strolls outside per day, I’d definitely feel cheerful!

Photo: Courtesy of Frank Chen, Getty Images.

San Jose is located on San Francisco Bay’s southern shore, and weather specialists affirm that 300 beautiful sunny days occur each year, approximately. Pretty impressive, right? Moreover, this city is also known for being the capital of Silicon Valley, the renowned global center of technological and social media development and innovation. But to your surprise, this isn’t California’s happiest city: slide on to discover the western state’s winner!

#5. San Luis Obispo, California.

If San Luis Obispo was your guess, congratulations! Indeed, this is one of California’s two best-positioned cities in the happiness ranking. The bestselling author Dan Buettner teamed with social scientists to elaborate the complex investigations which led to these interesting results, and San Jose has the honor of starting off the top 5. Are you wondering what makes the people from these five radiant cities so happy?

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Well, according to the research, locals from these places tend to laugh, socialize, and smile more often. They also tend to feel that they’re achieving significant progress in order to achieve their aims, and they usually have access to green spaces. San Luis Obispo is no exception since its bike trails are ideal for exploring the nearby sand dunes and amusing mountains.

#4. Fort Collins, Colorado.

Yes, Colorado had only appeared once in this list, so this may be quite a surprise for any reader. But don’t underestimate this state. In fact, if you keep sliding you’ll see Colorado making another entry in the top three! But now we’re here to talk about Fort Collins, so we shouldn’t get distracted with what’s next.

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Want to learn something cool about this city? Its famous storefronts actually inspired Disney Main Street’s design. Isn’t that cool? I think so! Besides, if you ever visit Fort Collins, your view would also be enticed by the sublime Rocky Mountains, one of the world’s major mountain ranges and top touristic sites.

#3. Charlottesville, Virginia.

Finally, the top three has arrived! Initiating the cherished podium we have Charlottesville, Virginia. The University of Virginia, a World Heritage Site, can be found here. It was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, with the first class and first degree being given in 1825 and 1828, respectively.

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The University of Virginia is one of the country’s most distinguished colleges, and Jefferson played a crucial role in its curriculum planning. Besides, the design of the university’s Academical Village is perhaps one of its most remarkable features, containing beautiful gardens, numerous housing buildings, and several courts and sporting facilities. What an honor to play a part in the future education of dozens of generations, right? Additionally, Monticello, Jefferson’s past residence, is also a World Heritage Site, so be sure to visit this awesome place as well!

#2. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California.

With so many appearances on this list, everyone must’ve been asking themselves which is California’s happiest city, and here is the yearned answer! Indeed, Santa Cruz has many characteristics that make it an ideal location for enjoying a cheerful life full of motivation and energy.

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Not only does it boast California’s characteristic enchanting beaches and a stunning boardwalk ideal for a pleasant visit with kids, but it also has one of the oldest amusement parks of the country. Just look at the colorful roller-coasters in the picture, it sure looks like a lot of fun! But there’s an essential detail that shouldn’t be overlooked: all of these attractions offer an incredible view of the Monterrey Bay. But don’t miss the happiest city of all!

#1. Boulder, Colorado.

Ladies and gentlemen, finally our winner! Yes, according to the National Geographic Gallup Special Index, Boulder, Colorado is the happiest city in America. The interviews, with tons of different metrics evaluated and calculated, threw some interesting conclusions. One of these is that there’s a notorious correlation between a city’s happiness index and its “bikeabilty” and walkability.

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Thus, it’s no surprise that Boulder happens to be an ideal place to travel on two wheels. The well-protected green spaces and low insecurity rates make it a pleasant city for discovering new places every day. And if you add its clean air and a strong sense of community, you have a perfect combination for a happy life!

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