San Francisco, CA
San Francisco enters the list at 25, which is surprising given its large metropolitan area. Maybe it’s the huge stretches of the Pacific Ocean that frame the vistas. Perhaps it’s the more than 50 hills that make streetcars and driving so much fun. But, it turns out, it's much more than that. Locals say that it’s weird--and that’s exactly what they love about it.
Everyone embraces the weirdness and values the diversity of culture in S.F. There are plenty of microclimates--it may be warm on one street and cool on the next. The upright citizens of San Francisco even named their fog, Karl, who has his own Twitter. Geographically, San Francisco is only 7 miles by 7 miles, so everyone seems to know and love one another.
Charm City, as it’s known by locals, is home to various neighborhoods and cultural sites. Baltimore is a blend of cultures and a mishmash of grittiness, an amazing harbor, and a language all their own. Feel free to drop your g’s and skip your t's altogether. If you’re looking for some water, just say “wooder” and you’ll get your glass.
Famous for blue crabs, they’re also particular about how you eat them--with your hands and not a fork. Baltimore is comprised of tightly-woven communities that look out for one another and welcome strangers at the same time.
What makes Provo so very special is the community of faithful that live in this paradise. In a land of mountains, waterfalls, and deserts, it's easy to see that they have the best of all worlds. Provo has a non-existent crime rate and low unemployment. Everyone is just happy--maybe due in part to BYU, which hosts most of the jobs in the area.
Fitness is a huge thing in Provo, but if you’re not into fitness, there are spa treatments everywhere. The scenery and low tax rates keep the locals happy and excited to say “hello” on the street. And even though the city is largely a Mormon city, they are super polite.
If you think that the movie Bull Durham featured locals that were baseball nuts only, you’d be wrong. Durham has a huge community that is business-friendly with a thriving food scene and rich cultural community. You literally can never run out of things to do in Durham.
World-class Duke University strives to make the city a better place and puts it on the map each college basketball season. Its nickname “City of Medicine” is perfect--more than 300 health and medical businesses and organizations are headquartered here, providing thousands of good-paying jobs and shelling out more than $1.2b in payroll. Add that to the natural beauty surrounding the city, and you’ve got yourself a home run!
Colorado Springs, CO
Surrounded by mountains and home to the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs is a very proud military city. With Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base, the population enjoys a high employment rate and excellent job prospects. Colorado Springs is also home to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center, so keep your eyes peeled for some of the nation’s top athletes.
Dogs are very welcome at tons of bars and restaurants, which gives the city a fun vibe. You and your BFF are welcome to hike the 13-mile summit to Pike’s Peak and reward yourself with one of the most exclusive, world-famous, and super proprietary high-altitude donuts.
With such a large population, you may be wondering how Indianapolis made the list. But Indy is so much more than just a great sports town. The livability of Indy is great, especially since the median home prices stay low in the $140,000 range.
The locals are friendly, and the tourism industry is important to the city. Hotels and restaurants are filled with delightful folks to help you find your way. The city is walkable, which makes it a traveler’s haven--you can pop in and out of little boutiques and maybe discover an impromptu concert on any given weekend.
This city is so popular that Billy Joel wrote a song about it. Seriously though, give props to the city that hid the Liberty Bell during the Revolutionary War. Allentown has a wealth of cultural attractions, including a vibrant art scene. The homes are primarily Victorian and craftsman-style, and the mixture is delightful.
Allentown is also known for its beautiful green spaces and lovely homes--allowing you to feel everything from the big-city downtown to wide-open rural spaces. There are plenty of career opportunities and outdoor activities for active lifestyles. Its location offers the opportunity to be within a day’s drive of 40% of the entire U.S. population, meaning you’re never far from anywhere.
If I say Oxnard is a beautiful spot, you’re likely to scratch your head and say “huh?” But if I refer to it as Ventura County, California, then you know exactly where I’m talking about. Centered between strawberry fields (literally) and the Pacific Ocean, Oxnard has a vibe all its own.
With a thriving bio-tech scene, jobs are plentiful, and the city enjoys a laid-back energy. Weekend plans usually include surfing or beach time on one of the seven beaches--a key component to happiness in Ventura County. Known as dog-friendly, there are several off-leash parks for your beloved pooch to enjoy. And the city is the host to the California Strawberry Festival, an annual celebration of everyone’s favorite fruit.
The Lilac City or Hooptown USA, depending on whom you speak with, is another neighborly city. Just a breath from Idaho, Spokane has beautiful topography that creates a striking silhouette in the evening. Occupying a mere 60 square miles, the region is home to a huge ecosystem, making it an animal-forward area that is appreciated by outdoorsy people.
Low crime and nonexistent homicide rates create a safe environment, while a multitude of denominational affiliations welcome all. Tightly knit neighborhoods like Riverside, Hillyard, and West Central create a friendly environment with a notable park system in the city.
Salt Lake City, UT
Don’t kid yourself that the only thing to SLC is the Mormon church. You’d be selling Salt Lake short. While the Temple is the literal center of the city, SLC is alive with a happening foodie and bar culture that surprises the casual traveler. Bar culture--yes!
A low crime rate and high employment rate coupled with being a short drive from any kind of outdoorsy thing you can think of, SLC is a gorgeous mecca of friendly folks. Dogs are welcome, and they’ll love getting their walks around the area. SLC has low taxes and has become a “remote work” city due to the ease of getting around and the happiness that abounds.
If Bridgeport doesn’t strike you as a happening place, it’s because you’re not looking close enough. This colonial city is filled with cultural and art activities, as well as one of the most amazing coastlines in America. It’s also one of the healthiest cities in America, with a high doctor-to-resident ratio.
Bridgeport has a huge park scene, almost 1300 acres of it, located next to the Long Island Sound. Family life sounds idyllic in Bridgeport, with plenty of family activities to ponder every weekend. At just 19 square miles of area, it's no wonder that the people are so neighborly--they literally see each other all the time.
Grand Rapids, MI
Grand Rapids has a history of being the furniture capital of the world, thanks in part to large companies that settled here in the early 19th century--Berkey, Baker, Williams-Karp, and Widdicomb. At one time, over 1/3 of the city’s residents worked for a furniture maker; their skill knew no bounds.
But the secret is out about Grand Rapids, as the city is constantly on the best place to live lists, thanks to the affordable housing and green initiatives. People love this place and each other. Their public transportation makes it easy to get around and ranks high in the community’s heart. Over 70 parks contribute to the “happy factor” where you can sit, visit a festival or even just take the dog out for a stroll.
This city in the Keystone State has long been a “want to live” city, thanks in part to the amazing education system. It doesn’t hurt that one of the sweetest employers, The Hershey Company, is nearby, providing jobs to over 14,000 people.
Considered one of the most affordable cities in Pennsylvania, with low housing costs and taxes, Harrisburg checks a lot of boxes for the happiness factor. There’s substantial nightlife without being overbearing and plenty of neighboring farmland to satisfy the rural dweller. Folks are friendly here--so much so that you’ll think you’re in the south.
San Jose, CA
Do you know the way to San Jose? I sure hope so, because you’ll find one of the loveliest places to visit in the U.S., just north of the friendly city of San Francisco. The city has become the capital of Silicon Valley, with tech being the highest employer in the area.
With a moderate climate and standing in the shadow of the Santa Cruz Mountains, San Jose experiences the lightest rainfall in that part of California. Housing, believe it or not, is affordable with a coastline to swoon over. The city retains a large part of its Spanish and Mexican heritage and diversity is the key to happiness. San Jose loves newcomers and isn’t afraid to show it.
Raleigh has spent most of the 21st century being one of the most desirable places to live--a strong nod to the culture and vibe that the city has. The climate is cool in the winter but warm in the summer, and all four seasons are noticeable. Being on the fringe of the Appalachian Mountains, the fall colors are amazing.
Citizens enjoy a bevy of activities, helping them be one of the friendliest places on earth. A growing economy along with a huge variety of denominations allow everyone to feel welcome. In addition to being friendly, Raleigh is also considered one of the smartest cities in America, as health science companies are a driving force in employment.
With a median home value of $131,951, Milwaukee offers a lot to new families. In addition to being in the land of cheese and beer, Milwaukee also is the land of waterslides.
Milwaukee is known as the City of Festivals, hosting multiple every single weekend. With all that brew and cheese, it's hard to imagine anything but happiness. In addition, the Brewers and Bucks are building legacies and making the City of Suds a sports town.
Pittsburgh has long been thought of as the Steel City, so it comes as no surprise that that down-home atmosphere also lands it on the neighborly list. In what was once the manufacturing capital of the U.S., Pittsburgh is now a leader in health care as well as home to 68 colleges and universities and a huge tech industry.
Neighbors love each and their sports teams, so much that the city literally rises up to support them, no matter the sport. In addition to being a sports town, it's also a haven for first-time homebuyers that don’t have to sacrifice price for big-city amenities. There are over 24 miles of riverfront to traverse and 446 bridges to cross.
As one of the busiest seaports in the United States, Seattle has long been the center of happiness in Washington. Chalk that up to amazing neighborhoods and a huge, thriving food scene.
But ask any local, and they’ll give you the lowdown on what you should really do--like hailing a water taxi or eating from the city’s bustling food truck business. It’s also one of the most bike-friendly cities in America, delighting those who prefer 2 wheels to 4. Ask anyone living in Seattle if they’re happy, and they’ll respond, "Of course!"
Take a city filled with historic significance and throw in a unique accent, and you’ll wrap up Boston in a bow. Known for its happy residents and super smart academic institutions, Boston is not only a sports town but also a writer’s haven. Prominent neighborhoods include South, Back Bay, Financial district, and Newbury Street.
Bostonians are always up to help a stranger...unless you’re a Yankees fan! And even then, they might help you forget while charming you over a hot clam chowder or a famed lobster roll. They’re passionate about cannolis and Boston Cream Pies--which every good Beantowner will love to share.
With charming neighborhood names like Foggy Bottom, Penn Quarter, Embassy Row, and Logan Circle, it's hard to envision a neighborly town in what seems like the most antagonistic city on Earth. But don’t be fooled by C-Span. DC has a mix of culture and passion among its residents, and they embrace the weary traveler nicely.
The government accounts for over one-third of the city’s employment, and locals will give you real insight into the city besides the monuments. Locals will tell you to forgo the zoo because the National Zoo has an amazing host of webcams. DC has a huge walkability score of 98% which helps keep the city greener and traffic manageable.
Des Moines, IA
The Midwest provides plenty of opportunities for friendly people, including Des Moines, where the city is more about startups than just corn. Major employers like UPS, Drake University, and health care centers ensure the population stays employed and healthy.
Median home rates hover near the $130,000, making it easy and affordable, while minor league teams don’t cost a lot to attend. A huge industry in Des Moines that you may not know, magazines, are all published here through the Meredith Corporation. Des Moines even celebrates our four-legged friends with a special store--Bones-a-Patreat.
Half of the famed Twin Cities, Minneapolis is home to a booming health care industry, where jobs are plentiful for the population. In addition, Minnesotans are some of the friendliest people in the world. They want to encompass you in a hug and offer you a taste of their farmer market wares.
There are also festivals galore--you cannot run out of things to do, and you’ll do it in one of the cleanest and greenest cities in the U.S. Minneapolis isn’t just a thriving business community, it's beautiful on the outside as well--comprised of seven lakes and Minnehaha Creek, with trails and bike paths meticulously maintained.
You might associate Portland with rain, and you’d be right. So why is everyone so crazy about Portland? Perhaps it’s the style of life, which is laid back and weird. Best known for the hippy-dippy lifestyle, you can surf and hang ten with the best of them.
If you’re a fan of ghosts, Portland is your place with over 250 abandoned settlements to explore, although we can’t vouch for the neighborly vibes of the ghosts. But neighborhoods like Southeast Burnside, The Pearl District, Hawthorne Boulevard, and Mississippi Avenue offer different cultural vibes and even counterculture. The nightlife is slamming, and the city is the greenest in the country.
Great school districts and affordable housing keep residents happy in Rochester with a plethora of stuff to do. Like the outdoors? Rochester. Like big city living? Rochester. Tech valley? Rochester. The question is, what’s missing in Rochester? Nothing--the residents are happy to live here and happy to help.
A number of neighborhoods make Rochester unique, including 19th Ward, Beechwood, Cascade, Corn Hill, and Edgerton. Each has a recognized neighborhood association that helps keep the town friendly and neighbors invested in each other.
Long known as one of the best cities to live in, Madison has a wealth of opportunities for citizens and travelers. It’s a great place for recent graduates and retirees to live, making the culture very diverse and resilient. The economy is stellar, and the city boasts some of the best hiking and biking trails in the country.
Besides a plethora of cheese, you can also delight in other dairy products like the milkshake, thanks to the invention of the blender right here in Madison. In tight-knit communities like Atwood, Monroe Street, Willy Street, and Johnson, you’ll find an eclectic mix of architecture as well as diverse cultures colliding and welcoming everyone into their mix.