The U.S. is a vast country with a variety of cities to live in. Each state can feel like a different country, and each city possesses its own unique culture. Needless to say, the options are overwhelming when it comes to picking a location to put down roots.
So, where does one go to live their happiest, most fulfilling life? National Geographic conducted a nation-wide survey, measuring happiness and life satisfaction with factors like vacation time, financial situation and how meaningful folks consider their lives to be.
We sifted through the list to bring you 5 of the happiest cities in the U.S.
California and Colorado dominate the spotlight in many of the happiness measurement categories. However, Provo, Utah, is one of the dynamic, up-and-coming places to live in the U.S. Residents here report living happy, well-rounded and comfortable lives.
Provo offers a creative and supportive outlet for entrepreneurs and start-ups, the prestigious Brigham Young University caters to both the brainy and the sports fanatics, and Lake Utah and the Wasatch Mountains promise an escape for the outdoorsy type.
Provo Canyon is a highlight of the city. Housing the 600-foot Bridal Veil Falls, a ski resort, rock climbing areas and miles of hiking and biking trails, this is where the folks of Provo come when they want to get lost in nature. The art culture is also strong in Provo. Art exhibitions, museums and galleries are frequently visited and savored by locals and visitors alike. A university town overflowing with culture and nature - what more could you want?
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California
Roughly 90-minutes south of San Francisco, Watsonville is millions of miles away from the traffic, congestion and bustling city life of San Fran. As a thriving agricultural region, Watsonville produces much of California’s organic fruits and vegetables. Residents enjoy shopping for fresh and delicious products on a daily basis at one of the many farmers’ markets. Alternatively, they can also go straight to the source at U-Pick farms. Residents here not only eat well; they drink well. A scattering of boutique wineries and local breweries are found in Santa Cruz County, and Watsonville residents are never far from either.
Enjoyable any time of year, the beach is just one of the places residents go to find their happy place. Sunset State Park and Manresa State Park are both less than a 15-minute drive from Watsonville and offer excellent surfing conditions, dramatic coastline views and sprawling sandy spaces. You can even pitch your tent at Sunset State Park and enjoy a night atop the sand and under the stars.
Residents also have the option to spend time away from the Pacific by partaking in wine or mountain bike tours. Red wine and physical exercise - two things we strongly believe impact one’s health and happiness levels.
Home to the University of Virginia, Charlottesville’s youthful energy is the perfect complement to the city’s abundant national history. Charlottesville residents can proudly say their city housed some of the nation’s leaders. The architectural masterpiece of Monticello (President Thomas Jefferson’s former residence) and Highland (the modest farmhouse President James Monroe once called home) are both located just a few miles east of downtown.
Speaking of downtown, the Historic Downtown Mall is more of a district with over 120 shops, 10 art galleries, 30 restaurants, performance venues, an ice-skating rink and a weekly farmers’ market. With all this entertainment packed into one convenient area, it’s undoubtedly a favorite place of all Charlottesville residents.
When residents tire of their unique history and famous shopping district, they can take off into the hills - literally. Just 40 miles northwest of town lies Shenandoah National Park and its famous Skyline Drive. Cruising the 105-mile stretch of road through the Blue Ridge Mountains helps folks refine their perspective and appreciate the simpler things in life.
San Luis Obispo, California
San Luis Obispo is also known as “SLO," an acronym that also reflects the town’s laid-back lifestyle. Residents in San Luis Obispo enjoy the things many people in the U.S. travel many miles for - coastal hiking and biking trails, charming wineries and incredible beaches. Wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountains, SLO offers its residents refuge from the rest of the world.
The charming downtown is the epicenter, with shops, restaurants, hotels and bars that create an easy-going environment by day and a lively nightlife hub when the sun goes down. Regarded as one of the best wine regions in the country, SLO boasts dozens of wineries easily accessed from town.
Then there are the beaches. With over 80 miles of coastline, SLO residents have their pick of sandy spots. The most popular is Pismo Beach, complete with pier, boardwalk, surfable waves, kayaking and fishing opportunities.
Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder snags the number one spot when it comes to happy residents. The town’s impossibly picturesque surroundings beckon folks outdoors - and that’s exactly what Boulderites do. Research conducted by National Geographic found a high correlation between bikeability and happiness in a city. With over 300 miles of bike trails, it’s no wonder people in Boulder are always beaming. And hiking trails? Some trailheads start right from town. Rolling fields, endless mountains and gushing waterfalls and rivers await the great outdoorsman mere steps from Boulder’s downtown.
Boulder residents report feeling productive and active every day. Gorgeous scenery and a plethora of outdoor recreation aside, Boulder is also known as a liberal and open-minded city. This mindset creates a strong sense of community and tight-knit small town feel - something else Boulder residents highly value.