The Nation’s Happiest Cities
By Simone Butler
What makes a happy city? Surely the answer would vary from person to person, but there are some recurring themes in certain cities with smiling faces. Locally, Oro Valley’s educational excellence, Scottsdale’s superior housing and shopping experiences, and Chandler’s growing economy are highlights that various surveys have considered when labeling these Arizona cities as some of the best places to live. However, this list of the Happiest Cities compiled through a variety of national polls and surveys showcases communities that reign superior. You might be surprised at some of the cities that have made the list!
According to the Gallup poll of 2012, Lincoln is America’s number one city on the well-being index. The index evaluates cities on a variety of topics including life evaluation, physical and mental health, health behaviors, work environment, safety and basic access to food and shelter. In Lincoln, housing prices are reasonable, and it’s said that Lincoln is a great place for individuals who are under 30 or above 60 to live. Bicycling is encouraged, and you won’t be stranded if you’re without a car due to the city’s good public transit system. As a university city, Lincoln offers a wide array of diversity, affordable entertainment and services for those who wish to maintain healthy, happy lifestyles.
Boulder’s 246 days of sunshine doesn’t beat Arizona’s annual average of almost 300, but it’s one of the main reasons people have been flocking to this Colorado city over the last thirty years. It is known to have a little something for everyone, with every activity in close proximity to everything else. If the 24 ski resorts, countless restaurants and overall open town atmosphere don’t sell you, the various other urban amenities will. Housing prices vary, but over the past years, prices have increased due to demand. In Boulder, majestic mountains and scenery are enjoyed in moderate temperatures year round.
Although living in Hawaii can be expensive, Honolulu has continuously ranked in the top 5 cities in America boasting inhabitants with remarkable mental health. A true melting pot, Honolulu boasts a casual and relaxed atmosphere fused with the natural Polynesian auras of humility, hospitality and family. There are art galleries and places to shop just like any other place, but Honolulu’s biggest ticket items are the magnificent waters, hiking opportunities, and other nature-oriented activities. Owning a home in Honolulu is rather expensive, but if you can get past the higher cost of living, then you’ll find yourself in one of the most relaxing cities in the United States.
What used to be a sawmill town has truly evolved into a wonderful place for people to live, work, and play. Over the next 20 years, it is estimated that more than $84 million will be spent on improving Bend’s trails and parks, making it a haven for nature lovers. Real estate in the area is quite reasonable, and the job market is diverse, placing strong emphasis on local businesses. Bend also boasts quite the landscape, with snow-capped mountain ranges, rivers, and high desert terrains.
Between the impressive air and water quality, and twice as many doctors per capita versus the national average, the smogless skies make Portland the healthiest urban center in the States. Portland has various landscapes such as the White Mountains that can be hiked and explored, and coastal waterways to be toured by boat. Portland’s obesity rate of 15 percent falls below the national average of 21 percent, which could be due, in part, to the widespread availability of organic food shops. If you like to indulge, it also has some of the best lobster available.
Legislation in Minneapolis promoting the usage of bike trails and a “no smoking in public places” policy has definitely helped in making Minneapolis another one of the healthiest cities in the country. There are ample walking spaces, parks and openness in general to enjoy a stroll, and if you’re more active, playgrounds, tennis courts, and other recreation centers are readily available at every turn. Statistics have shown that residents of the Twin Cities are less likely to have heart diseases, diabetes, asthma and similar health complications.
San Diego, California
Conveniently located San Diego has a charm that a lot of cities can’t replicate. Featuring abundant nightlife, activities for all ages, and fine outdoor dining spots, residing in San Diego is well worthwhile. San Diego, located on the Pacific Coast, offers a variety of amenities to satisfy those who want to relax as well as those seeking a more vivacious and exciting time.
So, what makes the people in these listed cities so happy? There’s greater (and easier) access to farm-fresh food, infrastructure that bends in favor of the multifaceted, modern commuter, and wholesome opportunities to keep people active and entertained. Perhaps in the years to come, Arizona cities will find themselves following in the footsteps of these cities, and perhaps top the charts as some of the nation’s happiest places to live.
Interested in how Arizona ranks? Check out areavibes.com and info.healthways.com/2012wellbeingindex to see where your community places!
Simone Butler is an editorial intern working towards a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on literature and environmental humanities. firstname.lastname@example.org