Ask people where the happiest Americans live, and chances are Charlottesville, Virginia, would not be their immediate answer. In August, the college town became a crucible of ugly forces when hundreds of white supremacists clashed with counterprotesters in the streets, leaving 19 injured and killing one.

Yet the best-selling author of “The Blue Zones Solution” just named Charlottesville No. 3, behind Boulder, Colorado, and Santa Cruz -Watsonville, California, on his list of the 25 happiest cities in the country.

Dan Buettner, whose book detailed the lifestyle habits of the world’s longest-lived and healthiest people and who has now teamed up with researchers from National Geographic and Gallup to develop the national well-being index and rankings, explained happiness has to be measured holistically and over time.

In “The Blue Zone of Happiness,” author Dan Buettner says the ‘three strands of happiness” – joy, purpose and satisfaction – are woven together in different ways to make some of the world’s happiest places.

“If we took the happiness measurement the day after your city team lost the Super Bowl, people would be unhappy . . . it’s really only valid if you do it over a period of years,” Buettner said. “This whole index metabolizes one and a half million surveys done over a five-year period. It kind of averages out when good things happen, and when bad things happen.”

Drawing on interviews in 190 metropolitan areas across the country, they established 15 metrics – including civic engagement, financial security, vacation time, and availability of healthy food – to determine the 25 happiest places in the United States. Their research is detailed in the November National Geographic and in Buettner’s “The Blue Zones of Happiness.”

Here’s the complete list of the 25 Happiest Cities:


1. Boulder, Colorado

2. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California

3. Charlottesville, Virginia

4. Fort Collins, Colorado

5. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles Arroyo Grande, California

6. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California


7. Provo-Orem, Utah

8. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut

9. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts

10. Anchorage, Alaska

11. Naples-Imokalee-Marco Island, Florida

12. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, California


13. Salinas, California

14. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida

15. Honolulu, Hawaii

16. Ann Arbor, Michigan

17. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California

18. Colorado Springs, Colorado


19. Manchester-Nashua, New Hampshire

20. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California

21. Washington, D.C.- Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia

22. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota-Wisconsin

23. San Diego-Carlsbad, California

24. Portland-South Portland, Maine

25. Austin-Round Rock, Texas

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