Photo: Nick Fox/Shutterstock

This Nevada City Was Just Ranked the Happiest City to Live in the United States

by Eben Diskin Sep 25, 2023

We read all the time about the “happiest cities in the country,” but who’s to say what makes a place “happy”? If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, happiness, in this case, is in the eye of the list-making journalist who decides which criteria to consider and which to ignore. That said, it’s always fun when cities subvert expectations to emerge as a top destination.

Outside Magazine’s list of the “15 Happiest Places to Live in the US” is based on a specific set of criteria you might expect from an outdoors-centric magazine: prevalence of outdoor access, safety, diversity, inclusion, and affordability. The result is a list heavy on cities with green spaces, urban parks, bike trails, and other opportunities to get outside.

Given this criteria, it may come as a surprise that Reno, Nevada, tops the list. Reno is often thought of as a mini-Vegas, known for its gambling and nightlife. It is called “The Biggest Little City in the World,” after all. As this ranking shows, the city is much more. In addition to a ton of public land and surrounding mountainous landscape, it’s home to a whitewater park, several climbing gyms, a monthlong summer arts festival, a craft brewery scene, and urban art installations repurposed from Burning Man. The city also recently opened the new Sierra Vista Mountain Bike Park, and turned a run-down strip mall into the Reno Public Market with food vendors, live music, and workout classes.

But of course, it’s not just about outdoor space and repurposing old venues for new experiences. Reno’s affordable cost of living and zero state income tax have attracted companies to move to the area, creating jobs and employment opportunities. This combined with inclusive events like the annual Pride celebration, are certainly helping the city stand out.

Outside Magazine’s Top 15 Happiest Cities in the US

  1. Reno, Nevada
  2. Wilmington, Delaware
  3. New Orleans, Louisiana
  4. Cincinnati, Ohio
  5. Charlottesville, Virginia
  6. Hood RIver, Oregon
  7. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  8. Glenwood Springs, Colorado
  9. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  10. Plano, Texas
  11. Anchorage, Alaska
  12. Madison, Wisconsin
  13. Frederick, Mayland
  14. Saint Petersburg, Florida
  15. Tacoma, Washington

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