The 15 Happiest Cities in America

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Happy family with parents and child daughter outdoors in a field of flowers overlooking the water enjoying nature
Nina Buday /

Happiness, of course, is relative. Health, financial comfort, career stability and secure relationships all help lift one’s happiness level. (Sorry, Bobby McFerrin, it’s not quite as easy as your song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” makes it sound.)

But your location can have a lot to do with your happiness — and that doesn’t necessarily mean that the sunniest weather makes for the sunniest people.

A recent WalletHub analysis drew upon positive-psychology research, examining more than 180 of the largest U.S. cities across three key categories: Emotional & Physical Well-Being, Income & Employment and Community & Environment. The analysis evaluated those categories by examining nearly 30 key happiness indicators, ranging from depression rate to average leisure time to income-growth rate.

While moving to a city high on this list may not instantly make you happy, it’s a fascinating look at how we might be able to quantify one of our most elusive emotions.

Here are the happiest cities in the U.S., according to the analysis.

15. San Diego

San Diego cityscape
Sean Pavone /

This city’s overall happiness score: 63.75

San Diego is, according to its residents, America’s Finest City. And while it’s not the happiest city on this list, it is famous for its sunny weather, smile-worthy beaches and its world-class zoo, so it seems a natural fit.

14. Garden Grove, California

Garden Grove, California
TonelsonProductions /

This city’s overall happiness score: 63.91

With a handful of Michelin-recommended restaurants, Garden Grove can certainly promise a happy meal. It’s also home to an annual strawberry festival and a famed “Crystal Cathedral” (pictured).

13. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota /

This city’s overall happiness score: 63.98

If shopping is your happy place, there’s the Mall of America. Sailing? Welcome to the City of Lakes.

You don’t even have to move here to find happiness — just pass through. Minneapolis’ airport is frequently recognized as one of the best in the country, in part for having Animal Ambassadors dedicated to your “pawsitive” airport experience.

12. Huntington Beach, California

Huntington Beach California
trekandshoot /

This city’s overall happiness score: 64.28

If the thought of a stereotypical California surfer lifestyle appeals to you, you might be able to see why Huntington Beach ranks so high on the happiness list. The seaside city boasts 8.5 miles of beautiful Pacific Ocean beaches, which helped earn it the nickname “Surf City.”

11. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Jacob Boomsma /

This city’s overall happiness score: 65.06

Sioux Falls is the most populous city in South Dakota, with a population of more than 202,000. Its namesake park is one of the best city parks in the country, with unique rock formations and actual waterfalls that drop 7,400 gallons of water per second.

10. Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale, Arizona
Ray Redstone /

This city’s overall happiness score: 65.26

Scottsdale is the Most Western Town in the West — not literally, of course, since it sits east of Phoenix. But with miles of scenic desert trails, it’s the perfect place to play cowboy. There’s plenty to do in the city, too: walkable streets with live music, art galleries, fashion and jewelry shopping and more. The Scottsdale Stadium also hosts the San Francisco Giants for spring training.

9. Columbia, Maryland

Columbia, Maryland
KhanIM /

This city’s overall happiness score: 65.77

Columbia, in the Baltimore metro area, has a lot going for it, including a safe and walkable city center and a beautiful lakefront. In the middle of the 27-acre man-made Lake Kittamaqundi is an island where summer festivals are held.

8. Pearl City, Hawaii

Homes in a residential community near Pearl City, Hawaii
ssguy /

This city’s overall happiness score: 66.90

The site of the Pearl Harbor attack might not seem like it would be a particularly happy place, but 80 years is a long time to heal and grow. Today, you can enjoy dolphin-watching, snorkeling, a sunset dinner cruise and much more.

7. San Francisco

Runners in San Francisco California
oneinchpunch /

This city’s overall happiness score: 67.01

Open up that Golden Gate. With its quaint cable cars, iconic Painted Ladies homes and year-round temperate weather, San Francisco is a dream city for many — even though it is famously expensive.

6. Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii
MNStudio /

This city’s overall happiness score: 68.03

The only royal palace in America is in Honolulu. Now a museum, the Iolani Palace was once home to Hawaii’s monarchs, and you can tour the throne room, royal bedrooms as well as the rest of the first and second floors. But there’s plenty else to do in this tropical paradise.

5. Irvine, California

Irvine, California
Matt Gush /

This city’s overall happiness score: 68.22

Sunny Irvine in the Los Angeles area is home to several colleges, including the University of California-Irvine and a graduate campus of Malibu’s Pepperdine University. The city can trace its history back at least 12,000 years, with some evidence of prehistoric campsites and shelters remaining today.

4. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin
Philip Arno Photography /

This city’s overall happiness score: 68.99

Midwestern Madison is not only Wisconsin’s capital city, but it is also a charming college town, home to the flagship University of Wisconsin campus. But those college-age Badgers aren’t the only generation enjoying Madison. The city is also considered one of the most beautiful places to retire in America.

3. San Jose, California

San Jose, California
mTaira /

This city’s overall happiness score: 69.54

Do you know the way to San Jose? Maybe you should. This technology haven, located on the southern shore of San Francisco Bay, is the third-largest city in California. Its residents have the highest median income in the country — no surprise with the likes of eBay and Cisco in their backyard, and bigger companies like Google, Facebook and NVIDIA not far.

2. Overland Park, Kansas

Overland Park, Kansas
EQRoy /

This city’s overall happiness score: 69.78

Envisioned as a “park-like” community in 1905 and incorporated as a city in 1960, Overland Park today lives up to founder William B. Strang Jr.’s dream. Visit the 300-acre arboretum and botanical gardens a historic farmstead, or one of the city’s 83 parks.

1. Fremont, California

Beautiful hills and landscape over Fremont, California
Uladzik Kryhin /

This city’s overall happiness score: 74.16

Fremont, located on the southeast side of San Francisco Bay, is not as well-known as some of the bigger cities on this list. But like San Jose, it’s just a stone’s throw from tech giants and home to some lesser-known companies of its own.

“Our growing list of marquee tech employers includes Meta, Tesla, Lam Research, Apple, Western Digital, Seagate, Boehringer Ingelheim, and ThermoFisher,” the city says. Many of those companies make use of the hundreds of advanced manufacturers based in the city.

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