San Luis Obispo, California – The Happiest City in the United States?

categories: Central Coast

Cerro San Luis, San Luis Obispo, California

A recent book from the National Geographic, Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way, has named the quiet California city of San Luis Obispo as the Happiest City in the United States. We don’t just take the word of National Geographic here at the Amateur Traveler but have done some independent research. Fortunately a former guest on the Amateur Traveler, Marcel Stieber, has been a student at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo for the last 4 years. (Marcel was a guest on Bike tour from Vancouver, B.C. to San Jose, CA – Episode 73). So I wrote Marcel about happiness and San Luis Obispo or SLO as it is known to the locals.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

You have been living for 4 years in America’s Happiest City. Are you happier?

Yes. SLO and Cal Poly has really made me a happier person. So much to do, so little time, but the relaxed, small-town feel of San Luis Obispo is really a sight for sore eyes and a smile in the making.

Seriously, what about SLO makes you personally happy?

The outdoor community in SLO makes me truly happy. Whether is rock climbing, surfing, hiking, or biking, there’s something for everyone. The biking community is one of the strongest in California (right up there with Davis) and it really shows. Pro teams come and practice here, the West Coast’s leading collegiate mountain bike team trains here, and the advocacy groups are among the strongest and most integrated in the nation. My personal favorite mountain bike ride is on a trail called Shooters that runs up Poly Canyon just off the University Campus and climbs up to Cuesta Ridge above SLO. Amazing views and amazing single track followed right by a great descent. SLO is biking and it sure is a great place to do so.

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Bishop's Peak

If someone were to travel to SLO, what should they do or see that will help them be happier?

Two things that you should really do when you visit SLO. One – Take a sunrise or sunset hike up the beautiful Bishop’s Peak and wonder at the view from the top and the amazing area we live in. Two – visit the Secret Garden in Downtown SLO. Tucked away in a little alley by the creek across from the San Luis Obispo Mission, the Secret Garden is a little paradise for all herb, spice, and tea lovers. With hundreds of jars lining the walls, you are guaranteed to find at leave one (dozen) teas you’ll want to enjoy by the creek side.


Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won numerous awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine. He move to California in 1964.

One Response to “San Luis Obispo, California – The Happiest City in the United States?”

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Wow, it’s pretty wild to hear that San Luis Obispo is dubbed the happiest city in the U.S.! Makes you wonder what they’ve got going on there, right? ? Reading about Marcel’s experience living there for 4 years, you can’t help but feel a little envious of the relaxed vibes and all the outdoor activities. I mean, biking, hiking, surfing, and rock climbing – sounds like paradise! And those sunrise or sunset hikes up Bishop’s Peak? Count me in! Plus, stumbling upon the Secret Garden downtown sounds like discovering a hidden gem. Makes you want to pack your bags and head there ASAP! ??

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