Money can’t buy you happiness, so they say. But it can enable you to pay rent in one of the 25 cities in the US where people are happiest.
The most recent data on “happy places” was compiled by National Geographic in collaboration with Gallup for The Blue Zones of Happiness by Dan Buettner.
So, what constitutes a happy city, exactly? It’s more nuanced than you might think:
“In the happiest places, residents have trust (in their police, neighbors, and local government); good walkability and people-friendly design (sidewalks and safe streets); access to nature (parks, open spaces, trees); civic engagement; clean environment; access to affordable dental care; access to healthy food; and high rates of healthy behaviors (restrictions on smoking, less drug abuse, less obesity),” Buettner writes on his website.
It’s no wonder that many of these cities are nestled in stunning landscapes, whether it’s a coastal cliff or at the foot of a big-ass mountain. But some of the smaller cities may surprise you, and it’s more interesting still, to contrast this list with the top 10 cities to which millennials are flocking.
Below, catch the happiest 25 cities in the country, as well as how much it’ll cost you on average to secure a one-bedroom apartment there, based on September 2017 data from Rainmaker Insights.
25. Austin and Round Rock, Texas
Average rent: $1,218 and $1,010
Music! Food trucks! BBQ! The reasons to love Austin are many, though the recent influx of tech has seen a pretty steep rise in rents.
24. Portland, Maine
Average rent: $1,091
Portland has long been a beacon of progressivism and civic engagement, and a third of Maine’s residents have put their stakes down there. It’s also the OG Portland—Portland, Washington, was named after the Maine city.
23. San Diego and Carlsbad, California
Average rent: $1,804 and $1,821
The eighth-largest city in the U.S. is so big and has so many different pockets that it feels like several cities rolled into one. Come for the gorgeous beaches, stay for the best burritos this side of the border.
22. Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington, Minnesota-Wisconsin
Average rent: $1,445, $1,174 and $1,189
The Twin Cities boast a robust arts scene, and if you’ve ever met someone from the region, chances are they’ve told you how awesome the summers are out there about 900 times.
21. Washington, D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia
Average rent: $2,035, $2,087 and $1,733
Apparently, the assumption that a metropolis full of politicians is automatically misery-making isn’t all the way true. Probably because D.C. has a boatload of free museums and awe-inducing historical landmarks. And also, Ben’s Chili Bowl.
20. Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Ventura, California
Average rent: $1,676, $2,027 and $1,750
This coastal California region represents an ideal for many—close to the bustle of LA, but not tooclose. Ventura has long been home to a robust surf cultures, and Thousand Oaks was named the fourth safest city with a population over 100,000 by a 2013 FBI crime report.
19. Manchester-Nashua, New Hampshire
Average rent: $1,134
The quaint, small-town vibe of this New England town offers a cozy sense of community to its residents, and it’s been twice named “Best Place to Live in America” by Money magazine.
18. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Average rent: $997
The city’s primary tourist draw, Garden of the Gods, isn’t hyperbolic in its name; the red rock formations and the natural landscape as a whole is breathtaking.
17. San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward, California
Average rent: $3,398, $2,390 and $2,029
The increase in rent due to the influx of tech companies into the City by the Bay is staggering, to be sure. But if you can afford it, the Bay Area is one of the most culture-rich regions in the country. Not to mention it’s lush coastal landscape and hilly cityscape makes for some pretty iconic views.
16. Ann Arbor, Michigan
Average rent: $1,225
Ann Arbor is one of the most quintessential college towns in the nation, home to the University of Michigan—a college known for its research programs as well as its football team and being one of the top creative writing graduate programs in the country. In other words: There are a whole bunch of smart, progressive-thinking people here.
15. Honolulu, Hawaii
Average rent: $1,826
Set amongst the super chill vibes of the island, Honolulu offers up a scene more bustling than ever with new restaurants and commerce—well, bustling by the rest of the island’s laid-back nature, anyway. The island’s beaches are constantly being named among the most beautiful in the world.
14. North Port, Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida
Average rent: $941, $964 and $988
This west-Florida region is pretty laden with those Jimmy Buffet vibes, but who can blame anyone for wanting to immerse themselves in tropical drinks, dolphins, and super extra architecture?
13. Salinas, California
Average rent: $1,405
Immortalized by the writings of John Steinbeck, this city with deep agricultural roots has maintained its close-knit, small-town community vibe. Eight miles from the coast, there’s easy access to the beautiful Monterey beaches as well.
12. Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, California
Average rent: $1,309 and $1,849
Oprah didn’t set this up as home base for no reason. The beach-meets-mountains setting is among the most stunning of the California coast. Plus there’s a boatload of good wineries and food.
11. Naples and Marco Island, Florida
Average rent: $1,301 and $1,916
Catch some serious party vibes in this vibrant region situated on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s home to a bunch of millionaires and billionaires, but also, dolphins!
10. Anchorage, Alaska
Average rent: $970
Surrounded by five national parks, Anchorage is a dream for outdoorsy types who can get down with the cold weather. Plus, if you stick it out for the long and low-lit winter, during the summertime, there are 80 days of uninterrupted daylight.
9. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
Average rent: $1,053
Situated on the famed Cape Cod, this picturesque beach town is essentially the definition of quaint. If the name itself didn’t clue you into its vibe, know that it’s made up of seven villages(in case you didn’t realize villages were still a thing).
8. Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk, Connecticut
Average rent: $1,297, $2,173 and $1,999
Not only is Stamford home of everyone’s favorite fictional paper company, Dunder Mifflin, but this region is a corporation hotspot with numerous companies that continually make the Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 lists (read: there are many jobs). Plus, it’s only 40 miles from Manhattan.
7. Provo and Orem, Utah
Average rent: $928 and $1,036
It’s a snow-lover’s paradise, what with the gigantic mountains of the Wasatch Range bringing some serious powder every winter. It’s also only 13 miles from the Sundance Resort, where the famed film festival takes place each year.
6. San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, California
Average rent: $2,495, $2,525 and $2,556
A.k.a Silicon Valley, it’s no secret that there’s an abundance of plush tech jobs in this region. It’s also verysunny, averaging about 300 days of sun a year—hence the name of the city Sunnyvale.
5. San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles Arroyo Grande, California
Average rent: $1,184 and $882
Proximity to the Madonna Inn is reason enough to make anyone super happy. Add to that the gorgeous hilly landscape, tons of wineries, and the famously indulgent clam chowder and Splash Cafe, and this region’s high ranking makes a lot of sense.
4. Fort Collins, Colorado
Average rent: $1,173
Add Fort Collins to the list of cities people love that has maintained its 19th century charms. The streets of Old Town were in fact the inspiration for Main Street in Disneyland, if that gives you any idea of how stinkin’ cute it is.
3. Charlottesville, Virginia
Average rent: $1,049
The picture-book-pretty city is steeped in symbols of American history—an aspect that became the centerpiece of protests earlier this year, when small groups of white supremacists and neo-Nazis rallied against the popular removal of Confederate statues. The majority of citizens stood against the protests (naturally) and remain proud of their community and what the city stands for.
“Charlottesville is such a diverse community. People here just love each other,” Dave Matthews Band violinist and Charlottesville native Boyd Tinsley told CNN.
2. Santa Cruz and Watsonville, California
Average rent: $2,077 and $1,146
Situated on some drop-dead gorgeous California coastline, Santa Cruz has long been a haven for counter-culture enthusiasts and nature lovers. It’s also home to the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which means endless access to corn dogs and cotton candy.
1. Boulder, Colorado
Average rent: $1,716
Set against the majestic AF Rocky Mountain foothills, this picturesque city is a mix of Old West charm and a progressive, artsy culture driven by its large University of Colorado student population. Buettner notes that its bike-friendly culture and nature-heavy setting plus walkability plays a huge part.
“There’s a high correlation between bikeability and happiness in a city. In Boulder, you’re more likely to hear the whoosh of a cyclist than the shrill of a siren compared to places like Dallas, Tallahassee or Los Angeles. Cities like Boulder question the unquestioned virtues of development,” he says.