Lonely Planet Writer

The happiest state in all of America? It might not be where you think

Dreaming of the US state where you’ll take your next vacation may conjure up images of relaxing on a beach in California, listening to country music in Nashville, Tennessee, or seeing nature’s extremes in Alaska, but the happiest place in the country may be somewhere you didn’t expect – Minnesota.

A kayak cruises across a lake in Minnesota.
Minnesota is the happiest state in the US. Image by Isaac Then / EyeEm / Getty Images

The northern state came out top in a recent ranking from WalletHub, a personal finance website. The study looked at happiness research from around the US, finding what environmental factors are linked to well-being and satisfaction with life – and potentially a great place to visit all the cheerful locals. The survey takes into account economic, emotional, physical and social health, based on metrics that range from depression rate to the rate of participation in sports.

A woman is horseback riding in Zion National Park.
Utah is the second happiest state in the US. Image by ©nickrlake/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Minnesota managed to take the top spot by ranking fifth in emotional and physical well-being and work environment, and third in community and environment. The rankings averaged out to bring it into the top spot. Utah, which came first in last year’s ranking, fell to second place this year. While it took the number one spot in both work environment and community and environment, its score was lowered by ranking 24th in emotional and physical well-being.

Father carrying baby son looking up at tall bamboo.
Hawaii, with its beautiful landscape, is the third happiest state in the US. Image by ©Jeremy Woodhouse/Holly Wilmeth/Getty Images

Overall, the top 10 happiest states are: Minnesota, Utah, Hawaii, California, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire. However, if you would like to cut down on the number of hours you spend working – and potentially free up some more time for travel – the state with the fewest work hours is Utah, meaning you will have more time to get out and explore incredible places like Arches National Park. It’s followed by Oregon, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Michigan and Vermont.