What makes a happy city? Is it the climate? Weather? Is it the people or the variety of things to do? How about the living wage? The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental right for us Americans, and if you’re living in a place that doesn’t make you happy, it’s easy to forget that. WalletHub recently conducted their annual study of the happiest cities in the US, and their results might actually be quite surprising.
North Carolina has six extremely happy cities, but its capital, Raleigh, came out on top. Established in 1792, Raleigh is the second-biggest city in the state and home to myriad local, historical attractions. Although it's primarily known as a university town, there's something for everyone to do there. Whether you're looking to move or just to visit, you can take the Raleigh Beer Trail or wander the grounds of the William B. Umstead state park.
A couple of hours drive from Columbia, and the capital of South Carolina is Charleston. The state's second biggest city has a population of more than 775,000 and is also a haven for tourism. You'll find some of the best beaches in the Carolinas in Charleston, all of which will explain why the city has won awards from Condé Nast Travel. Some of the beaches you should check out when you visit Charleston are the laidback Folly Beach and the stunning Isle of Palms.
It should come as no surprise that many Californian cities made the WalletHub list. Be it the sun, the sea, the sand, or the celebrities, California is one of the happiest states in the country. The 5th happiest, to be precise. San Diego is 120 miles from downtown Los Angeles and only 20 from Tijuana, Mexico. It's a lively city packed with things to do and known primarily for its beaches and parks. Balboa Park alone can take you days to cover in its entirety, and that's without a trip to the zoo. If you're planning a vacation to San Diego, definitely plan a long one. You might not want to go home.
Somewhere between Pierre, South Dakota and Mount Rushmore lies Sioux Falls. It's the state's largest city and is located on the Big Sioux River that runs throughout its heart. The 15th happiest city in the US according to WalletHub, Sioux Falls has a rich Native American history with nine local tribes that call the state home. You can learn about the Lakota and Dakota tribes, amongst others, walk the South Dakota sculpture trail, and experience Good Earth State Park. One look at any of these will make you happy.
Austin, Texas is the Live Music Capital of the World. It's also Texas's fourth-biggest city. With a focus on music and the arts, it's a city that attracts musicians, artists, and those who enjoy surrounding themselves with culture. It has long-since been theorized that creativity can make for happier people. Therefore, it sounds like Austin was made and is sustained by its thriving artistic community. For those who want to live in or visit such a wonderful music hub, Austin is the place for you.
Close your eyes and picture San Francisco. What do you see? Is it the Golden Gate Bridge? The painted houses and steep streets? Haight-Ashbury? For a while, San Francisco was the place to be for all free-spirited souls. It was the birthplace of 1960s counterculture and still hangs on to its happy, diverse, 'hippie' vibe to this day. San Francisco is ranked as being the 7th happiest city in the entire country. If you like sunshine and good vibes, it might even be your number one.
The heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose is home to most of the world's biggest tech headquarters. Everyone from Netflix to eBay has hubs there with others such as Apple and Google in nearby cities. Silicon Valley is very much the heart of the startup movement, making its capital, San Jose, an ideal location for all kinds of creative entrepreneurs. Not only is San Jose good for tech and work opportunities, but its mountainous backdrop is also a joy to see.
Most know Madison for its winter weather and the five nearby lakes that surround it. Located between Milwaukee and Chicago, Illinois, Madison is a great city for families. In fact, according to rental website Zumper, it's the best city in the country in which to do so. The City of Madison has a low unemployment rate, a low commute time, and a lot to offer families. From good schools to a low cost of living and low crime rate, your family can be extremely happy there.
Not only does the FBI consider Irvine the safest big city in the country, but it also has more than 16,000 acres of open land, parks, and incredible opportunities. This Orange County gem is the happiest city in California and second happiest in the nation. Be that because of the glorious sunshine or the open spaces offered to people, young and old, Irvine has definitely made a mark on all those who live or visit there.
Topping the whole list this year is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Plano. Ask any of Plano's residents, and they're likely to agree with the ranking, too. Whether down to its 'small town vibe' where everybody comes to the aid of their neighbors and friends or the warm Texan weather, the buzz about Plano only gets louder by the year. On top of this, there's plenty for visitors to do. Visit during the Plano Balloon Festival for some real treats.