The 10 Happiest Cities in the U.S.
Happiness. We all want it, but how do we get it? Here’s a good place to start: Live in one of America’s happiest cities. To pinpoint where those cities are, National Geographic best-selling author Dan Buettner joined forces with social scientists from Gallup. Together they developed a scientific approach for measuring happiness by considering 15 metrics, including vacation time, walkability, civic engagement, healthy eating and a few less-obvious indicators like dentist visits. The researchers used findings from almost 250,000 interviews with people from 190 cities across the United States.
Here are what they found to be the happiest cities in America!
1. Boulder, Colorado
They say fit people have more fun, and this Colorado city of 100,000 residents is proof. Almost 70 percent of Boulderites exercise regularly, according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. They have access to first-rate hiking trails, mountain air and a community that values sustainability and preservation, all of which played a role in helping Boulder secure the No. 1 spot. What’s more, Boulderites have balance: The National Geographic article notes that many people who call Boulder home excel in four of the five measurements of well-being, especially in the areas of community engagement and financial health.
2. Santa Cruz/Watsonville, California
A happy-places list is bound to be chock-full of sunny California locales. The first Golden State city to make the list belongs to this central region that hugs Monterey Bay. A New York Times feature cites Santa Cruz’s “beaches, prosperity and intellectual zest” as reasons why the area is a hub for happy folks. It also secured the No. 3 spot in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index’s list of cities with the highest well-being overall.
3. Charlottesville, Virginia
Residents of the college town (it’s home to the University of Virginia) have a strong sense of social well-being — one of the highest in the country. The area offers residents historical attractions (Monticello) as well as plenty of reasons to get outside (the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park lie just west of the city).
4. Fort Collins, Colorado
Located just over an hour north of Denver, this midsize city (Colorado’s fourth largest) is packed with outdoor options because of its plum location in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and its more than 250 miles of biking trails within city limits. There's no doubt that the city’s booming craft beer scene gives happiness levels a boost too, which is particularly impressive considering Fort Collins was dry until 1969.
San Luis Obispo, California
Wine tasting in nearby Edna Valley, a bustling year-round farmers market, museums and many wide-open spaces in which to disconnect, San Luis Obispo has it all. And the 45,000 happy locals who call it home embrace the opportunity to stay active. Sixty-seven percent of the residents say they exercise at least three days a week, the third highest in the country, according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index.
6. San Jose, California
The median household income in this Silicon Valley city is a whopping $91,451, and the city has the world’s third-highest GDP per capita. But money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, so maybe it’s the access to tech jobs, Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, museums like the Tech Museum of Innovation and more than 250 days of sunshine each year that are the big contributing factors. The city also claims low stress levels, low divorce rates and one of the country’s lowest percentages of people with poor health, according to a 2017 WalletHub study.
7. Provo, Utah
Situated between Utah Lake and the Wasatch Range, Provo has a lot going for it in terms of geographical interest. (Anyone else sensing a trend here?) Residents have easy access to the great outdoors, pride in their community and many cultural opportunities. Most notably, Provo is home to Brigham Young University, which houses science, art and paleontology museums, among others.
8. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut
This trio of Connecticut towns is just 40 miles from New York City and its abundance of cultural and employment opportunities — but not everyone commits to the commuter life. The National Geographic story notes that the area “has one of the largest concentrations of corporations in the country,” and Data USA reports there’s an “unusually high number of residents working in business and financial operations, legal and arts and recreation.”
9. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
The picturesque New England area borders the Nantucket Sound on its south end and Cape Cod Bay to the north. In between, you’ll find seven communities filled with small seafood eateries, quaint downtowns and plenty of opportunities to get onto the soothing water. The residents tend to be educated, affluent and committed to healthy eating. According to the Gallup-ShareCare Well-Being Index, more than 75 percent of Barnstable Town residents reported eating healthfully the previous day.
10. Anchorage, Alaska
Sure, the winters are cold and dark, but Anchorage gets more than 19 hours of daylight in the summer and offers no shortage of ways to fill it, such as mountain biking and hiking through one of the five national parks in the vicinity. Locals get out in the winter too, with activities like skiing and ice fishing. Another reason Anchorage residents might be so happy? They claim the country’s ninth-highest household income.