What makes one place happier than another? Everyone has a different definition of happiness, but residents of some cities generally enjoy a higher overall quality of life, which leads to a more satisfied populace. This might be the product of more accessible green spaces, better climate, lower unemployment and higher wages, among other factors. Better opportunities lead to better well-being, naturally making some cities more conducive to having happy residents. Don’t just take our word for it — check out these locations for yourself! These 15 metro areas are home to some of the nation’s happiest citizens and they are all great destinations for your next vacation.
Austin is one of the happiest and most popular places to travel to in Texas. The area is home to many tech companies but remains an affordable place to live, with a number of job prospects and a high quality of life. Green spaces abound for residents and visitors to enjoy, like Zilker Park, Pease Park and Butler Metro Park.
There are plenty of fun things to do in Austin year-round, including taking a self-guided tour of the Texas Capitol, enjoying the sights along the Hike-and-Bike Trail on Lady Bird Lake and noshing on mouthwatering barbecue. There are a number of fun seasonal events in Austin, too. March welcomes South by Southwest, known as one of the nation’s most important conferences for the tech and creative communities. And in October, the Austin City Limits Music Festival takes over Zilker Park.
Georgia’s capital city is a hub of culture and entertainment where residents and visitors alike are never at a loss for things to do. Top family-friendly attractions include the Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta Zoo, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, Legoland Discovery Center and World of Coca-Cola. When residents want to escape to nature, it’s a quick 30-minute drive to Stone Mountain Park or Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
Charleston, South Carolina
This coastal city is known for having a laid-back community, slow boating on snaking waterways and charming cobblestone streets and historic buildings. The pace of life is a little more relaxed here than other large U.S. cities, contributing to a better quality of life and happier residents.
When you visit, be sure to take a carriage ride through Charleston’s historic downtown, stroll the manicured gardens of Middleton Place and take a boat to Fort Sumter National Monument to explore the historical park.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Certainly the city known as the pimento cheese capital of the world has to be among the happiest! And Charlotte certainly is. When you want thrills, the city offers the Carowinds amusement park, NASCAR Hall of Fame and professional sports teams like the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. For laid-back days, stroll the Market at 7th Street, circle the lake at Freedom Park and appreciate art from around the world at Mint Museum Uptown.
Quality of life in Dallas is above average, with residents enjoying a good job market, high purchasing power, quality outdoor recreational areas and plenty of cultural activities. Dallas’ food scene is as diverse as its community, with cuisines ranging from West African to Vietnamese to traditional Texas BBQ.
When you visit, be sure to stop into Dallas’ museums, like the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, the National Cowgirl Museum, the Dallas World Aquarium and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.
Colorado’s capital city has boomed in recent years, and it’s easy to see why its residents are among the happiest in the country. There’s a strong job market, low unemployment, a nice seasonal climate and year-round cultural and outdoor activities.
During your visit, make time to explore the Denver Botanic Gardens, see a live performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, catch a baseball game at Coors Field and take a day or weekend trip to the nearby Rocky Mountains for some outdoor time. These activities alone will make you see why Denver residents are happy people.
Another Texas city has made our list! Houston has a strong job market, with many Fortune 500 companies headquartered there, such as Phillips 66, Sysco, Hewlett Packard, NRG Energy and Kinder Morgan, among others. This draws international talent and makes the city a desirable place to live.
Visitors love it, too, as there are a number of affordable attractions for solo travelers and families alike. Spend a day visiting museums like the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural Science and Museum of African American Culture. Stroll Hermann Park, go running in Memorial Park or enjoy the sun and surf at El Jardin Beach, located less than an hour outside the city.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is such a popular tourist destination that it’s easy to forget that people do indeed live there year-round. Locals are able to snag resident-only discounts on and off The Strip on everything from hotel rooms to restaurants and performances to spa treatments.
Tourists are already well aware of Vegas’ popular casinos and nightlife options, but there is plenty to do within driving distance if you want more variety on your next visit. You can drive out to Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Lake Mead and even reach the West Rim of the Grand Canyon during a day trip.
Los Angeles, California
This cosmopolitan city is known for its year-round moderate climate, a dazzling array of international cuisine, luxurious lifestyles and a never-ending lineup of events and cultural activities.
All the things that make LA a great city to live in also make it fabulous for visitors. While you’re there, treat yourself to a Michelin-starred restaurant, gawk at multi-million-dollar properties during a celebrity home tour and don’t miss a colorful sunset on the beach.
Beaches, shopping, museums, international cuisine and nightlife are among the many things that make this south Florida destination a wonderful place to live. One night you can dine out at a Michelin-starred restaurant and the next settle in at a Cuban cafe for the best vaca frita you’ve ever had. Miami has these contrasts, but that’s one of the things residents and visitors love about the vibe.
Creatives of all types are drawn to Music City USA. This has given Nashville a unique, artistic culture that places a lot of value on local production over corporate imports. We’re not just talking about music, either. Get a tour and taste of locally made spirits at Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. Shop handmade crafts and locally grown produce at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. And pop into any number of small art galleries to see works by Nashville artists.
As the home of Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando is known as a premier destination for families. These popular theme parks employ locals, of course, but they aren’t the only major players in town. Orlando’s other large employers include JetBlue, Electronic Arts, AdventHealth and the University of Central Florida. A healthy job market is good for boosting residents’ happiness, and moderate year-round temperatures don’t hurt either.
As a visitor, there are a variety of activities you can enjoy around and outside of the city. These include airboat rides, beach days, art and history museums, top-rated golf courses and comedy clubs. Of course, this is in addition to world-famous theme parks that can keep you entertained for days.
Arizona’s residents enjoy a warm climate year-round, access to excellent outdoor recreation from hiking to golf, a vibrant nightlife and a low cost of living. It’s no wonder that locals love living in Phoenix.
When you visit, be sure to add these must-see destinations to your itinerary: the Desert Botanical Garden, Camelback Mountain, Papago Park and South Mountain Park and Preserve – the scenery at these locations is not to be missed!
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City is equally beautiful in the winter and summer months. Outdoor recreation options abound, from hiking, zip lining and rafting in the warmer months to skiing, ice climbing and bobsledding in the winter. Families enjoy visiting the Natural History Museum of Utah and Clark Planetarium, and watching professional sports teams play, like the Utah Jazz (NBA) and Utah Royals FC (women’s MLS).
Seattle’s tech scene is huge. It’s home to top players like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Expedia Group, Tableau Software and SAP Concur. Employment and salaries are strong in Seattle and residents balance work with play by thoroughly enjoying the many outdoor activities at their fingertips. Although you could fill your time kayaking, hiking, whale watching and getting a bird’s-eye view of Seattle from a hot air balloon, museums in the Emerald City will just as quickly draw you indoors. Don’t miss the entertaining Museum of Pop Culture or the colorful and fragile Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Get the most out of your trip
Visiting some of the happiest places in the country may just boost your mood, too, and leave you feeling like you made the most out of your vacation. To truly maximize your time and explore more freely, be sure you book a car before arriving. If you’re visiting Denver, Avail car sharing makes travel easier with low daily rates and no young driver or second driver fees. Plus, your trip is protected by Allstate insurance and includes 24/7 roadside assistance. This, coupled with express check-in, will help you hit the road with a smile on your face, which is exactly what’s expected in America’s happiest cities.