Ranked: The 25 Happiest Cities in America

We always hear about the happiest places in the world, with countries like Denmark topping the list. But what about happiness closer to home?

National Geographic, Gallup and New York Times best-selling author and National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner teamed up to rank the 25 happiest cities in the United States. The list is based on the National Geographic/Blue Zones Index, which measured a population’s happiness using 15 metrics, from healthy food options to civic engagement.

And the winner is…Boulder! This Colorado mountain city came in first, thanks to factors like walkability, access to nature and sense of community. And of course, it’s also a great place for women, both in terms of careers and daily life. “You can truly relax in Boulder because of the culture of wellness, the mountain air, the charming restaurants and shops and the laid-back people. And I love that you can challenge yourself here, whether it’s tackling a new hike or taking an art class,” says Annie Fitzsimmons, an editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Courtesy of National Geographic

A map of the happiest cities.

The list of the 25 happiest places in the United States includes cities across the country, from Charlottesville, Virginia to Ann Arbor, Michigan to San Diego.

According to Buettner, the author of the National Geographic book, “The Blue Zones of Happiness,” locals in the happiest cities tend to smile, laugh and socialize more often and have access to green spaces. Another key indicator — they feel they are making progress toward achieving their goals.

“Women dream big everywhere, but building the life we want is much easier in cities where creativity, new ideas, laughter and quality of life are within easy reach. If we’re happy where we live, we’re more likely to achieve bigger goals,” says Fitzsimmons. “Personally, I’m working very hard to achieve a lower stress work/life balance — and my neighborhood (a quiet, tree-lined oasis in Brooklyn) has helped immensely.”

Read on for the full list of the 25 happiest cities in America and what National Geographic had to say about each place.

Bicyclists riding towards Boulder, Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

1. Boulder, Colorado: “Best explored on two wheels, with over more than 300 miles of dedicated bikeways.”

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Stunell, Alamy Stock Photo

The Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, California.

2. Santa Cruz/Watsonville, California: “Beautiful beaches, a family-friendly boardwalk, and one of the state’s oldest amusement parks — all overlooking stunning Monterey Bay.”

Photo courtesy of JMichl/istockphoto/Getty Images

Strolling through downtown Charlottesville, Virginia.

3. Charlottesville, Virginia: “Ample opportunities for getting outdoors between visits to Monticello and the University of Virginia.”

Horsetooth Reservoir lake near Fort Collins, Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

4. Fort Collins, Colorado: “Historic storefronts [that] inspired the design of Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A. [and] views of the Rocky Mountains.”

A view of Cerro San Luis Peak in San Luis Obispo County, California. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

5. San Luis Obispo/Paso Robles/Arroyo Grande, California:“Relax at wineries, explore sand dunes, or take in coastal views along hiking and biking trails.”

Reflecting pool and fountain in Sunnyvale, California. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

6. San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, California: “About 300 days of sunshine each year.”

A golden morning at Utah’s Provo River. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

7. Provo/Orem, Utah: “An intoxicating blend of city culture and outdoor recreation, with fishing, hiking, and rafting all just a stone’s throw away.”

Bridgeport at sunset. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

8. Bridgeport/Stamford, Connecticut: “Endless cultural experiences nearby. But many locals stay put for work.”

Sandy Neck Lighthouse at Christmas time, Barnstable Harbor. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

9. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts: “Seven idyllic villages, including Hyannis.”

Photo courtesy of HagePhoto/ Aurora Photos

Backpacker hiking in Chugach State Park near Anchorage, Alaska.

10. Anchorage, Alaska: “Countless Alaskan adventures, with five national parks nearby and plenty of daylight during the summer.”

A pier in Naples, Florida at sun down. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

11. Naples/Immokalee/Marco Island, Florida: “With its tropical climate and Gulf Coast beaches, its draw is no mystery.”

The rooftops of Santa Barbara. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

12. Santa Maria/Santa Barbara, California: “Walkable streets, beach and mountain views, and a Mediterranean climate make this ‘American Riviera’ a Pacific Coast gem.”

Photo courtesy of jejim120 / Alamy Stock Photo

Salinas, California.

13. Salinas, California: “The hometown of Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, who based many of his novels here.”

Photo courtesy of UIG via Getty Images

Sarasota, Florida.

14. North Port/Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida: “Art galleries, rose gardens and circus exhibits.”

A skyline view of Waikiki, a neighborhood in Honolulu. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

15. Honolulu, Hawaii: “Round Top Drive, a road on the National Register of Historic Places, provides a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of downtown Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii.”

Photo courtesy of Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

Ann Arbor’s Big House, is the largest stadium in the United States.

16. Ann Arbor, Michigan: “More than 40,000 University of Michigan students flock to Ann Arbor, Michigan, every fall.”

Photo courtesy of Matthew Wakem/Aurora Photos

San Francisco cable car.

17. San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward, California: “San Francisco, California’s steep hills inspired its famous cable car system.”

Photo courtesy of Keith Ladzinski/National Geographic Creative

The stunning red rock formations of Colorado City’s Garden of the Gods.

18. Colorado Springs, Colorado: “The stunning red rock formations in the city’s Garden of the Gods draw some two million visitors every year.”

Photo courtesy of Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

Manchester, New Hampshire skyline on the Merrimack River.

19. Manchester/Nashua, New Hampshire: “Situated along the banks of the Merrimack River, Manchester, New Hampshire, is the largest city in the Granite State.”

Photo courtesy of Michael Hanson/Aurora Photos

Ventura, California.

20. Oxnard/Thousand Oaks/Ventura, California: “With its combination of great weather, beaches, and nearby national forests, adventure awaits around every corner.”

The United States Capitol building at night. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

21. Washington D.C./Arlington, Virginia/Alexandria, Virginia: “Most think of Washington, D.C., as the capital of the free world, but to locals, it’s simply a great place to live.” 

Photo courtesy of JMichl/istockphoto/Getty Images

Skiing in Minneapolis.

22. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota: “With more than a hundred miles of ski trails nearby, Minnesota’s Twin Cities have winter lovers covered.”

Photo courtesy of Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

San Diego skyline.

23. San Diego/Carlsbad, California: “Visitors come from all over the world to Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre oasis in San Diego, California.”

Portland Head Light. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

24. Portland/South Portland, Maine: “It ranks among the happiest cities in the United States, based on metrics like walkability, access to nature, and civic engagement.”

Photo courtesy of Daniel R Westergren/National Geographic Creative

Austin’s Barton Springs, a pool sourced from underground springs.

25. Austin/Round Rock, Texas: “Within Austin’s Zilker Park is Barton Springs, a three-acre pool with water sourced from underground springs.”