The 15 Happiest Places to Live in the U.S.

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Cincinnati, Ohio

Population: 309,513
Median Home Price: $272,750
Median Rental Price: $1,116
Percentage Parkland: 17
Percentage of Residents Who Live Within a Ten-Minute Walk of a Park: 88
Walk Score: 49
Bike Score: 65
Municipal Equality Index Score: 100
Demographics: 49% white; 40% Black; 4% Latino; 2% Asian; 5% other

Geography has a lot to do with Cincinnati’s amicable vibe. “We’re cool because we’re part of the North, part of the South, on the edge of Appalachia, and very Midwest,” says Brandon Behymer, services manager of the Roads, Rivers, and Trails outdoor shop.

Historically, the Queen City’s strategic position along the Ohio River made it an important stop on the Underground Railroad. Today that route and others are used by hikers and cyclists traveling the 2,008-mile Underground Railroad Bicycle Route, in addition to the 4,800-mile North Country National Scenic Trail. Paddlers can kayak for miles on the Little Miami River, which at times parallels the 78-mile, paved and shady Little Miami Scenic Trail.

Cincinnati has a temperate climate, with an especially beautiful spring and fall conducive to enjoying its 8,057 acres of greenspace and 365 parks and recreation areas. By the end of the century, however, the average annual temperature is predicted to rise seven degrees globally, which could make summers here uncomfortable.

To combat climate change, the Green Cincinnati Plan, updated earlier this year, is committed to reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and reaching 100 percent carbon neutrality by 2050. Forty miles east of downtown is the New Market Solar Array, which began generating power for the city in 2022 and is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 158,000 tons annually. It’s one of the largest city-established solar-array projects in the nation.

There’s also a vibrant LGBTQ+ community, numerous gay bars and events, a lively arts scene, a strong job market, and a reasonable cost of living. Other perks include the Findlay Market, a food pavilion in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood where more than 50 merchants sell local meat, fish, poultry, and produce.

One other secret to Cincinnatians’ happiness? Beer. Its first breweries were established by German immigrants in the 1800s, and more than 80 are still going strong. Check out Esoteric Brewery, the first beer joint in the city owned by African and Asian Americans; it serves lagers, ales, and IPAs, with a side of Korean fried chicken.

Kari Meckey, who has lived in the Cincinnati metro area twice, returning with her family to the same neighborhood, has this to say about her city: “The people are lovely, and the winters are short.”

Room for Improvement: If climate change continues unabated, the intensity of heat, storms, and tornadoes in this region is expected to increase. But city officials cite abundant fresh water, a healthy tree canopy, and strong sustainability initiatives in place as the way forward. —Stephanie Pearson