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Culture

The Happiest Cities in the U.S. for 2024

By Jersey Griggs
Read time: 5 minutes

Want to know where all the happy people are? A recent report by WalletHub looked at more than 180 cities across the country and ranked them based on three general indicators of happiness: “emotional and physical well-being,” “income and employment,” and “community and environment.” Whether you’re planning a big move or are just looking for a carefree vacation, check out the following cities that rank as the top 10 happiest U.S. cities for 2024. 

10. Scottsdale, Arizona

Restaurants and shops in downtown Scottsdale, Arizona, seen during the evening hours
Credit: DenisTangneyJr/ iStock via Getty Images 

With only around 10 annual inches of rainfall and an average year-round high of 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the weather in Scottsdale is a major contributor to the happiness of its residents. The warm, sunny climate — along with the beautiful desert scenery — encourages residents to be active year-round, and an extensive trail system allows them to take full advantage of their surroundings. All that time outdoors contributes significantly to the population’s overall health and wellness, with Scottsdale ranking fourth in the nation for the “community and environment” indicator. The Phoenix suburb also attracts golfers with its plethora of public and private courses that are open year-round.

9. Columbia, Maryland

Buildings along lake in Columbia, Maryland
Credit: DenisTangneyJr/ iStock via Getty Images 

Conveniently situated between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., this Maryland suburb ranks ninth overall for the happiest cities in the country — and fifth when it comes to the specific “emotional and physical well-being” category. Home to top-notch public amenities, Columbia offers its residents and visitors plentiful bicycle and walking paths, with trails that circumnavigate local bodies of water such as Lake Elkhorn and Wilde Lake. Columbia is also popular with families, thanks to its high safety rating, excellent school district, and many facilities geared toward children, such as pools, ice rinks, and an equestrian center.

8. Pearl City, Hawaii

Marina and high-rise buildings in Pearl City, Hawaii
Credit: Leamus/ iStock via Getty Images 

A picturesque coastal suburb of Honolulu, Pearl City ranked second for “community and environment,” and it’s easy to see why. The wonders of Hawaii’s natural landscape appeal to almost everyone who visits and lives there. Thanks to its convenient location west of Honolulu, Pearl City has easy access to swimmable beaches in all directions, like the majestic lagoons at Ko Olina, the beautiful sands at Ala Moana Regional Park, and the iconic Waikiki Beach. The town also boasts a diverse population, great shopping centers, and several local parks.

7. San Francisco, California

Colorful Victorian row homes seen across park, with San Francisco skyline in the distance
Credit: Alexander Spatari/ Moment via Getty Images 

San Francisco has been consistently rated as one of the happiest cities in the country for over a decade. The “Golden City” is a hub of creativity, open-mindedness, and acceptance, with a lively arts scene and remarkable cultural diversity. It also offers a temperate climate, allowing ample opportunity to get outside and enjoy the city’s many public parks and urban bike paths, both of which contribute to San Francisco’s overall health and happiness.

6. Honolulu, Oahu

Lush mountains along the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii, seen from above
Credit: Warren Ishii / 500px/ 500px via Getty Images 

As the capital of Hawaii, Honolulu offers the best of both worlds — a lively urban environment coupled with stunning natural scenery. Ranked number one in the “community and environment” category, Honolulu leaves little doubt that its residents are satisfied. From the white sands of Waikiki Beach to the rugged Diamond Head State Monument and the lush rainforest in nearby Manoa Valley, Honolulu’s enchanting blend of urban and nature is a major draw. When you add in the laid-back vibe of Hawaii’s “aloha culture,” the city’s community ranking can’t be beaten.

5. Irvine, California

Row of palm trees in front of high-rise buildings in Irvine, California
Credit: MCCAIG/ E+ via Getty Images 

About an hour south of Los Angeles, Irvine ranks fifth overall on the list of America’s happiest cities, but it does one better in the “emotional and physical well-being” ranking in particular. As one of the greenest cities in the country, Irvine is committed to sustainable practices that equate to healthy living, including organic lawns in public parks and an extensive park and trail system, which features the award-winning Open Space Preserve. For residents and visitors looking to get out into nature, both Limestone Canyon and Bommer Canyon are easy to reach and sought after for activities such as hiking and mountain biking.

4. Madison, Wisconsin

Skyline of Madison with Wisconsin State Capitol seen across lake
Credit: Sean Pavone/ iStock via Getty Images 

The mid-sized city of Madison — about an hour and a half west of Milwaukee — is home to about 270,000 people, but its friendly residents will tell you it feels more like a small community. The university town is home to a vibrant downtown, with breweries, live music, and a thriving art scene. Lake access and an abundance of farmers’ markets keep citizens healthy and happy, while ample outdoor recreational activities — from biking to skiing, ice skating, and kayaking — help locals get outside year-round, despite the notorious Midwest winters.

3. San Jose, California

Shops and restaurants with outdoor patios in downtown San Jose, California
Credit: MasaoTaira/ iStock via Getty Images 

Living in a city with an average of 300 days of sunshine certainly has its benefits when it comes to overall happiness. San Jose ranks second in the “emotional and physical well-being” category, and its residents certainly have no excuse for staying indoors. Outdoor attractions include beautiful gardens like the Rose Garden, home to 3,500 rose bushes, and the tranquil Japanese Friendship Garden. San Jose — located about an hour south of San Francisco — also boasts gorgeous parks, including the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve and Castle Rock State Park, which encourage residents to enjoy the plentiful sunshine.

2. Overland Park, Kansas

Bridge over river in Overland Park, Kansas
Credit: TriggerPhoto/ iStock via Getty Images 

Families in particular love Overland Park, a small suburb 20 minutes south of Kansas City, Missouri. The city is known for its welcoming community and excellent school system. There are also plenty of family-friendly activities, such as feeding baby goats at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, learning about the natural world at the kid-centric Museum at Prairiefire, or romping around at the Overland Arboretum and its 300-acre playground. 

1. Fremont, California

Flowers along sidewalk and street in downtown Fremont, California
Credit: Zeiss4Me/ iStock via Getty Images 

Fremont has landed at the top spot of the list of America’s happiest cities for the third consecutive year. Not only does the Silicon Valley municipality rank first in “emotional and physical well-being” and third in “community and environment,” but it also has the lowest divorce rate in the country. Some people surmise that these factors are thanks to Fremont’s economic prosperity — nearby tech industry giants like Apple and Tesla provide job opportunities, while the city’s 3,600 small businesses help foster a deep sense of community.

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