America's happiest cities ranked: How much does weather factor in?

WalletHub ranked the 150 largest cities across the U.S. plus the two largest cities in each state according to how happy the residents were in 2023. They looked at 29 different criteria.

The results are in, and Fremont, California, is the happiest city in America again. The Golden State was well-represented at the top of the list. But, the South and Northeast scored shockingly low.

Happiest cities

  1. Fremont, California – Earned top scores for emotional and physical well-being rank and community and environment. WalletHub said that the city has the highest share of people with incomes above $75,000. The city also has the lowest separation and divorce rate in the country.
  2. Overland Park, Kansas – Earned good scores for emotional and physical well-being rank and community and environment. The newcomer to the top three has the lowest poverty rate and is near the top of the lowest food insecurity and unemployment rates.
  3. San Jose, California – San Jose boasts the longest average life expectancy and has a low separation and divorce rate. The city also has low depression and suicide rates.
  4. Madison, Wisconsin – Earned good scores for emotional and physical well-being rank and community and environment and O.K. scores for income and employment rank.
  5. Irvine, California – Got top score for emotional and physical well-being.

The full list can be found at the bottom of the story.


Don't blame hurricanes, nor'easters and the polar vortex for making these areas challenging to enjoy. WalletHub looked at 29 scientifically significant key happiness factors across the 150 largest cities in the U.S. to see if they fit into three main baskets:

  • Emotional and physical well-being – highest weighted were depression rate, adequate sleep rate, physical health index, sports participation rate, share of adults rating their mental health as "not good," and food insecurity rate. Each counted for almost 6.5% of the final score.
  • Income and employment – highest weighted were income-growth rate, unemployment rate, underemployment rate, bankruptcy rate and weekly work hours. These only accounted for about 3% of the score each.
  • Community and environment – The highest weighted was average leisure time spent per day, accounting for about 7% of the score.


Location, location, location is not everything

Where is the weather, you ask? "Ideal weather" only accounted for less than 2% of the final score. Sports participation only loosely fits into outdoor weather.

"Some research suggests where you live, in and of itself, can directly influence your happiness. For example, people who live in places where they have access to nature and green spaces are, on average, happier," WalletHub Expert and associate professor of the Dunesque University School of Education, Matthew Joseph, said in a statement.

"However, location is likely more of an indirect and relatively small contributor to happiness; other factors such as positive relationships (in particular, being in a satisfying long-term partnership and/or having at least a few trusted friends) and both physical and mental health play more important roles," he continued.


Columbia, Maryland, was the highest-ranked East Coast city at  No. 9, and Portland, Maine, was the highest-ranked Northeast city at No. 17. The South doesn't appear until No. 22 with Charleston, South Carolina.

"Location can influence happiness once basic safety, security, and shelter needs are met. Only then can individuals focus on attitude and match their actions to achieving happiness," WalletHub Expert and Career Center Director of Snow College, Lisa Jane Laird, said in a statement. "Of course, research shows that quality of life factors such as city services, parks, recreation, and a sense of community all influence happiness, but so does attitude once basic needs are met."

Notably absent are cities from Utah, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho and Nebraska, which all came in the top 10 for WalletHub's Happiest States of 2023. Lincoln, Nebraska was the best finisher at No. 19. Connecticut didn't make the list until 105 with Bridgeport. The highest performer in the Happiest State came in at 78 with Salt Lake City.

Least happy cities

  1. Detroit, Michigan
  2. Cleveland, Ohio
  3. Montgomery, Alabama
  4. Birmingham, Alabama
  5. Shreveport, Louisiana

The least happy cities were more in line with the least happy states. Louisiana came in at No. 49 out of 50, while Alabama placed 45.

Can weather make us happy?

One study published in a journal of the American Meteorological Society looked at weather and individual happiness. Researchers found that "happiness is maximized" at 57 degrees, and males are more sensitive to temperature than females.

"The effects of other meteorological variables – humidity, wind speed, precipitation, and sunshine – are not significant," the authors wrote.

Houston Methodist Hospital, though, reported that temperature, sunshine and humidity had the greatest effect on mood, according to a 1984 study. Humidity actually lowers concentration and increases sleepiness. 

The hospital also cited another study from 2005, which found that people who spent time outdoors in pleasant weather had higher moods and better memory, as well as a 2008 study that suggested wind, temperature and sunlight can impact negative moods, not positive moods. 

What is the best and worst weather, according to WalletHub?

Source: WalletHub

WalletHub returned to its 2014 analysis of Cities with the Best and Worst Weather to award states points for ideal weather. It ranked 600 cities by season and for year-round mild weather:

  • For mild weather, the company looked at climatological averages versus what they considered optimal, which was a high temperature of 72 degrees, less than 1 inch of rain per day and a 0% chance of snow and fog.
  • The ideal winter temperature was 45 degrees, 0.07 inches of liquid equivalent precipitation per day, a 7% chance of snow and a 5% chance of fog.
  • The ideal spring was 65 degrees with no chance of precipitation, fog or snow.
  • The ideal summer was 80 degrees with no chance of precipitation, fog or snow.
  • The ideal fall was 65 degrees with 0.08 inches of precipitation per day, a 0% chance of snow and a 5% chance of fog.
  • The ideal sky condition was a 70% chance of a sunny day and a 30% chance of a partly cloudy day.
  • Analysts also looked at the chances of hail and a tornado in a day and the chance of a windy day.

Happiest to least happy cities in America