The 50 Happiest Communities in America

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Whether you’re planning a move and considering the best areas for raising children or you’re curious about how your own sense of well-being stacks up against other Americans’, the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being series is a good place to start. The latest report ranked 186 U.S. communities by the Well-Being Index score of their residents.

The rankings are based on scores for five factors, considered by this study to be the elements of well-being:

  • Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals.
  • Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life.
  • Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security.
  • Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community.
  • Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.

The idea is to provide data that can help individuals and community leaders make meaningful and positive changes to attract new residents and to encourage existing residents to make choices resulting in the best quality of life. Here are the 50 happiest U.S. communities, ranked from lowest to highest Well-Being Index scores.

50. Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers, Arkansas-Missouri

Fayetteville on a map, close up.
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Well-being score: 62.7

This region, tied for the 49th and 50th spots on the list, scored well in Community and Purpose. The area spans the Arkansas-Missouri border, but most of it is in northwest Arkansas, where the economy as been booming in recent years. Fayetteville is home to the University of Arkansas, the state’s largest university. Also in that area of the Arkansas, Bentonville is the headquarters of Walmart and Springdale is home to Tyson Foods, the world’s leading producer of poultry and beef.

49. Austin–Round Rock, Texas

Mural of Austin, Texas
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Well-being score: 62.7

Austin, which has become one of the country’s favored destinations for technology companies, is also one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation. The city scored well on Purpose, Community and Physical factors. Besides being the capital of Texas, Austin is the state’s fourth most-populous city and the 11th largest in the nation.

The Austin-Round Rock metro area is tied with Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers, an area that spans the Arkansas-Missouri border.

48. Phoenix–Mesa–Scottsdale, Arizona

Aerial view of Scottsdale Arizona
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Well-being score: 62.8

This metro area, at the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert, has an average of 299 days of sun per year and is a popular retirement destination, among other draws. It scored well in Purpose.

47. Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington, Texas

Longhorns on parade in Dallas-Fort Worth
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Well-being score: 62.8

They love their Tex-Mex, barbecue and cars in this metropolitan area. And while real estate prices may be soaring in other metro areas in the nation, property remains somewhat of a bargain in the Dallas area. The region scored well in Purpose.

46. Nashville–Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, Tennessee

Nashville at night.
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Well-being score: 62.8

Nashville is the capital of Tennessee and its second-largest city. Known worldwide as the center of country music, Nashville is a magnet for music-loving tourists. It scored well in Purpose and Community.

45. Denver–Aurora–Lakewood, Colorado

Festival in Denver, Colorado
Arina P Habich /

Well-being score: 62.8

The Mile-High City is exactly one mile above sea level, just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Denver has the largest city park system in the nation, with 205 parks in the city and 14,000 acres in the Denver Mountain Parks system west and south of the city. Not surprisingly, it scored well in Physical. Denver also brews more beer than any other city in the nation.

44. San Antonio–New Braunfels, Texas

San Antonio at night.
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Well-being score: 62.8

A city steeped in history, San Antonio is home to the Alamo. That site of a pivotal battle in the Texas Revolution is the most popular tourist attraction in Texas with more than 2.5 million visitors a year. The city also claims the largest Mexican market in the United States. San Antonio scored well in Purpose and Community.

43. Oxnard–Thousand Oaks–Ventura, California

Surfer on a wave, against a golden sky
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Well-being score: 62.9

Ventura is considered to be among the top 10 surf towns in the country. On shore, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is nearby in Simi Valley. The area scored well in Community and Physical.

42. Bridgeport–Stamford–Norwalk, Connecticut

Connecticut marina.

Well-being score: 62.9

Bridgeport is known as the “Park City” for its 1,300 acres of public park space. This area scored well in Social and in the top 10 in Physical. The seaport’s skyline is dominated by the red-and-white-striped smokestack of the Bridgeport Harbor Station, the last coal-fired power plant in Connecticut.

41. Minneapolis–St. Paul–Bloomington, Minnesota-Wisconsin

Minneapolis bridge with bikers, runners.
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Well-being score: 62.9

This metro area scored well in Financial. It includes an area that crosses over the Mississippi River from St. Paul, Minnesota, into Wisconsin. Residents in the other Twin City, Minneapolis, can stay warm during the region’s bitterly cold winters by using the Minneapolis Skyway, an indoor pedestrian walkway system that spans 69 blocks, comprising the longest skyway system in the world.

40. Clarksville, Tennessee-Kentucky

Close up of a map of Clarksville and Nashville.
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Well-being score: 62.9

The greater Clarksville area straddles the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. It scored well in Purpose, and in the top 10 in Social and Finance. The city is a neighbor of Fort Campbell, a U.S. Army base.

39. Boston–Cambridge–Newton, Massachusetts-New Hampshire

Boston skyline summer day.
Danica Chang /

Well-being score: 62.9

This metropolitan area scored well in Physical and Finance. Boston is steeped in American history and home to many firsts, including the first public park — the Boston Commons, which dates to 1634. Cambridge is home to two of the top schools in the world, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

38. Duluth-Superior, Minnesota–Wisconsin

Duluth, Minnesota
welcomia /

Well-being score: 63

This port city scored well in Financial. The greater Duluth area includes neighboring Superior, in Wisconsin. More than 1,000 ships visit the Port of Duluth each year.

37. Burlington–South Burlington, Vermont

Burlington, Vermont
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Well-being score: 63

This Vermont metropolitan area scored well in Physical. In 1978, Ben & Jerry’s opened its first ice cream parlor in Burlington. The city was the first in the U.S. to draw 100 percent of its residential energy from renewable resources.

36. Washington, D.C.–Arlington–Alexandria, Virginia-West Virginia-Maryland

Washington, D.C.
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Well-being score: 63

The nation’s capital — and the surrounding metropolitan area that stretches into the states of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia — ranks well in Financial and Physical, but low in Community.

35. Greeley, Colorado

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Well-being score: 63

Near Denver in northern Colorado on the banks of the South Platte River, you’ll find the picturesque city of Greeley, which scored well on Social and Physical. The city was named after Horace Greeley, a New York newspaper editor who popularized the phrase, “Go West, young man,” and later moved to Colorado.

34. San Francisco-Oakland–Hayward, California

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Well-being score: 63.1

This metropolitan area in Northern California is not only popular with tourists, it is also quite popular with the people who live there. Its mild weather and landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge likely contributed to strong marks in Financial and Physical.

33. Charleston-North Charleston, South Carolina

Sean Pavone /

Well-being score: 63.1

The historic port city of Charleston, South Carolina, founded in 1670, is known for the cobblestone streets in the French Quarter and Battery district. With an urban area also includes North Charleston, the city is also home to Fort Sumter, the target of the first shots of the Civil War. The area scored well in Purpose, Social and Community.

32. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California

San Jose, California
mTaira /

Well-being score: 63.1

This metropolitan area ranks high in Finance and Physical, but notably lower in Purpose, Social and Community. San Jose was founded in 1777 as a farming community and is believed to be California’s oldest settlement. Today, it’s known as a tech hub involved in the development of semiconductors and computer-related technology.

31. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida

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Well-being score: 63.1

This metropolitan area on the southeastern tip of Florida has long been known as a draw for retirees and tourists. But it’s also become a commercial and cultural gateway to the U.S. for nations and residents of Latin America. It scored strongly for Purpose, Social and Physical, but notably low in Finance.

30. Raleigh, North Carolina

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Well-being score: 63.2

This city, known for its prestigious universities and as a thriving research hub, scored well in Social and Community.

29. Provo-Orem, Utah

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Well-being score: 63.2

Utah’s tech hub, Provo scores well in Social, Financial and Community, but low in Purpose. The city is home to Brigham Young University.

28. Port St. Lucie, Florida

Port St Lucie Florida
Felix Mizioznikov /

Well-being score: 63.2

Port St. Lucie, a rapidly growing coastal community in southeast Florida, scores high in Physical, Financial, Social and Purpose. The city is in St. Lucie County, which has 21 miles of beaches and nearly 11,000 acres of parks and preserves.

27. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas

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Well-being score: 63.3

This metropolitan area next to the Rio Grande River and the Gulf Coast is near one of the best bird-watching destinations in the country. McAllen–Edinburg–Mission ranks second in the nation in Purpose, but very poor — 169 — in Finance.

26. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Michigan

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Well-being score: 63.3

Grand Rapids and its adjacent suburb of Wyoming are near the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, making the area a popular summer vacation destination. The area scored well in Social and Community.

25. Crestview–Fort Walton Beach–Destin, Florida

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Well-being score: 63.5

This area is known as Florida’s Emerald Coast for its beautiful waters and white, sandy beaches. Tourists are drawn year-round by its fishing, water sports and 300 annual festivals and events. The coastal area scored well in Community — and in the top 10 in Social and Finance.

24. Kennewick-Richland, Washington

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Well-being score: 63.6

Along with Pasco, Washington, this area is known as the Tri-Cities and sits on the Columbia River. In 1996, the remains of “Kennewick Man” were discovered on the banks of the river. The human skeleton is more than 9,000 years old, making it one of the oldest ever found in the Americas. Kennewick-Richland scored well in Purpose, Finance and Community.

23. Visalia-Porterville, California

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Well-being score: 63.6

This inland California metropolitan area located near Sequoia National Park scored well in Physical — and in the top 10 in Social and Purpose. Visalia is an agricultural area whose produce and crops include grapes, olives, citrus and cotton.

22. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida

Nadezda Murmakova /

Well-being score: 63.6

This metropolitan area on Florida’s west coast scored high across the board in Purpose, Social, Financial, Community and Physical. With more than 400 miles of canals in the area, boating is popular and waterfront living is the norm.

21. Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Sean Pavone /

Well-being score: 63.6

Chapel Hill and Durham make up two legs of this state’s Research Triangle, with neighboring Raleigh the third leg. They benefit from the presence of three prestigious universities and an extensive tech sector. The area scored high in four out of the study’s five categories: Purpose, Social, Financial and Physical.

20. San Diego–Carlsbad, California

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Well-being score: 63.8

Miles of beaches and warm, sunny weather make San Diego a top tourist destination. The area scored well in four out of five categories: Purpose, Social, Financial and Physical.

19. Asheville, North Carolina

Derek Olson Photography /

Well-being score: 63.8

Asheville, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is known for a vibrant arts scene and its historic architecture. The city scored fifth in Community. It also scored well in Purpose and Physical.

18. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii

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Well-being score: 63.9

People expect communities in Hawaii to have high well-being scores, but this was the only one in the state to make the top 50. The tourist destination ranked high except for Social, coming in 95th among the 186 cities ranked on that factor.

17. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Lancaster, Pennsylvania
George Sheldon /

Well-being score: 63.9

Located in the south-central part of Pennsylvania, Lancaster is one of the nation’s oldest inland cities. The Lancaster Central Market began operating in 1731, and today is the oldest continuously operating farmers market in the nation. The city ranked well across the board but especially in Finance, coming in at No. 6.

16. Portland-South Portland, Maine

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Well-being score: 63.9

Portland, Maine’s largest city, is heavily dependent on tourism and ranks among the top U.S. cities in restaurants, bars and microbreweries per capita. Portland scored high in Community, Social and Physical, but low — ranking 79th — in Purpose.

15. El Paso, Texas

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Well-being score: 64

El Paso sits on the Rio Grande, directly across the river from the Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It’s home to Fort Bliss, one of the Army’s largest military complexes. The city ranked fifth in Purpose and high in other categories, with the exception of Financial, where it ranked 119th.

14. Fort Collins, Colorado

Fort Collins, Colorado
marekuliasz /

Well-being score: 64

Fort Collins is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and alongside the banks of the Cache La Poudre River. The city averages 300 days a year of sunshine and has many outdoor activities. Fort Collins ranked sixth in Community and eighth in Physical, but its overall score was brought down by poor rankings in Social, Purpose and Financial.

13. Salinas, California

Steinbeck house in Salinas
jejim /

Well-being score: 64.2

Just south of the greater Bay Area in Northern California is Salinas, a community nestled amid farm country in the rich Salinas Valley, nicknamed America’s Salad Bowl. Crops grown here include lettuce, broccoli, peppers, grapes, cauliflower and artichokes. Salinas generally scored well, with notably high rankings in Purpose (fourth), and Physical (11th).

12. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Jennifer Stone /

Well-being score: 64.4

Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, which is known for its research and is a key employer in the city. The city’s highest ranking was fourth in Financial. It scored relatively low at 76th in Social.

11. Santa Maria–Santa Barbara, California

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Well-being score: 64.5

Santa Maria, not too far from Los Angeles, is known for its wine industry and barbecue. Santa Barbara, an affluent beach town, has been voted a best city by several publications. The area received generally strong ratings, most notably sixth place in Physical.

10. San Luis Obispo–Paso Robles–Arroyo Grande, California

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Well-being score: 64.6

One of California’s oldest communities, San Luis Obispo, and its surrounding area ranked third in Community and 10th in Physical. Long before the region became part of the U.S., the Spanish founded San Luis Obispo as a mission in 1772. The mission still stands today and contains a museum, church and gardens.

9. Prescott, Arizona

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Well-being score: 64.6

Prescott, in north-central Arizona, is well-known for its outcroppings of granite. The city has more than 800 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, and its downtown, known as Whiskey Row, has a colorful history. Prescott scored in the top 10 in Social, Finance and Community, and the top 20 in Purpose and Physical.

8. Santa Rosa, California

Brandon Bourdages /

Well-being score: 64.6

Santa Rosa is in the heart of Sonoma County wine country north of San Francisco. It’s also known as one of the top cycling spots in the world for its scenic bike-friendly routes. The city scored seventh in Community and fourth in Physical.

7. North Port–Sarasota–Bradenton, Florida

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Well-being score: 64.6

This Florida region is one of the state’s fastest-growing. Sarasota is an affluent resort community with more than 30 golf courses. The area also has 35 miles of beachfront and draws 4 million tourists a year. It ranked eighth in Purpose, seventh in Social and third in Financial.

6. Lynchburg, Virginia

Sean Pavone /

Well-being score: 64.9

In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies Lynchburg, Virginia. The city was founded in 1757 and is known as the City of Seven Hills for the area’s geography. Lynchburg ranked third in Purpose, fourth in Social and eighth in Community.

5. Charlottesville, Virginia

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Well-being score: 65

The home of the University of Virginia and two presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, this historic community in Virginia scored fifth in Financial and seventh in Physical.

4. Santa Cruz–Watsonville, California

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Well-being score: 65.1

Santa Cruz sits on Monterey Bay, where surfing and whale watching are popular. It’s also home to the University of California, Santa Cruz, a leading employer and research institution. Santa Cruz scored third in Physical, seventh in Purpose and 10th in Community.

3. Boulder, Colorado

Jeff Zehnder /

Well-being score: 65.3
Boulder sits at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s known for its year-round outdoor recreation and vibrant downtown. It’s also home to the University of Colorado, Boulder, and numerous science institutes. No surprise that it ranked No. 1 in Physical, and ninth in Community.

2. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts

Gregory James Van Raalte /

Well-being score: 66.4

The largest community in the Cape Cod Bay region is Barnstable Town, a commercial fishing port. It’s a popular tourist destination, especially during summer, for recreational boating and other activities. As the second-happiest city on this list, it makes sense that it ranked No. 1 in Community, second in Social and Financial, Fifth in Physical and 10th in Purpose.

1. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida

Colleen D Williams /

Well-being score: 67.6.

Naples and Marco Island are affluent communities with white-sand beaches, golf courses, fishing, boating and water sports. Immokalee, in contrast, draws people with its casino and regional raceway. And how does the happiest community in America rank? First in Purpose, Social and Financial, and second in Community and Physical.

How do you think your community would rank on well-being? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Christina Majeski and Money Talks News staff contributed to this post.

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