Question: Where is the happiest place in New York City?

Possible answers:

  1. Immediately adjacent to any hot dog stand.
  2. Madison Square Garden during moments of Linsanity.
  3. Tim Tebow’s new apartment building.

No really though, let’s measure some stuff.

Facts: (1) New York City is the most populous city in the US and (2) Manhattan streets are arranged on a rectangular grid. We have already seen how cities, airports, and even streets can be identified using geotagged tweets – here we use more than a half million messages from 2011 to investigate the happiness of NYC streets and avenues (clearly visible in the image below, as is Central Park).

Binning tweets by avenue and street, we use the labMT word list to measure happiness in tweets as a function of avenue and street number:

The results suggest that the west side is slightly happier than the east side, and that happiness actually declines as one moves further uptown. Next we bin by intersection and plot a heat map showing the distribution of happiness over all of the street corners in Manhattan:

The happiest “corner” is actually just inside the western edge of Central Park, where the intersection of 7th and 77th would be (this is just north of the lake and east of the Hayden Planetarium)*. This corner elicits tweets with a relatively high abundance of the positive words “loves” and “sky”, and proportionally less negative words like “not”, “fear” and “no”. Many of the happiest locations actually fall within Central Park!

* Please note that the results reported in this post have not been vetted through panels of experts, statistical tests of significance, or scientific peer review.  They are intended to be a fun and lighthearted exploration of our more formal research interests.

154 thoughts on “Question: Where is the happiest place in New York City?

    1. Azure James

      It beats me how people can be happy in NYC unless they are in three places. 1: Central park. Explains itself. 2: Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building 3: A store they REALLY like. Lol.
      Azure James

      Reply
  1. Mikalee Byerman

    Hysterical. Creative. Chock full o’ awesome.

    Now if you overlay a map of hot dog stands with your heat map, would this corroborate your non-vetted analysis? Just curious…
    ;)

    Reply
  2. PCC Advantage

    I’ve been to NYC a few times, and I have to say that, as much fun as I have when I’m there, my favourite, most peaceful, and happiest place is Central Park…so I’m not surprised by these results! :)

    Really interesting study!

    Reply
  3. Kathryn McCullough

    Totally fascinating. However, it doesn’t surprise me that Central Park would be the happiest place in the city.

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed. That should make you happy. Think you can map that?

    Hugs,
    Kathy

    Reply
  4. Posky

    Maybe downtown is so much happier because that’s where all the tourists tend to be. I always see smiling faces when I’m out for lunch but I can still identify the stone face of a real New Yorker.

    Reply
  5. Alex Rankin

    Interesting and topical stuff. Would like to see more research like this as not enough consideration is taken by the powers that be into how much our cities affect us. Its more than most people think.

    Reply
  6. Irene

    Actually, I can see that–now that I think of it, I always feel pretty happy and contented at that corner!

    But I also have to vote strongly for Hudson River Park. Especially in the nicer weather when you can sit on the grass and look at the water–well, that feeling is just indescribable…

    Reply
  7. Allen Chuks

    I find it interesting that that cluster area where people w/ Twitter accounts post “happy” terms [granting the obvious geo-positional displacement-inaccuracies] may correspond to where Belvedere Castle is. It is next to Turtle Pond which is a very relaxing place.
    I also find it even MORE interesting that your raw data shows that the entire lower Manhattan area may significantly make people “tweet” “happy” terms as compared to a uniformly “bleak” upper area.
    Lastly, I thought the northern zero-signal/zero-data area may reflect the Jackie-O reservoir; that area may correspond to the North Meadow Rec area – maybe people there are too busy playing rather than “twittering”! ;P

    Reply
  8. maui4456

    I have been back twice in the the last two years. After commuting for ten in the 80′s. My perspective is new and nostalgic all at once. I sat at the entrance to the Park, at 77th – with my 85 year old Dad on an early Spring Day. I was very happy. There is nothing better than revisiting the hot dog stands, and eating the patented “dirt water dog” that I did-”Thrice”. This made me very happy. This last trip I power walked from a hotel on 53rd and Ave. of the Americas, down to Grand Central via Park Ave. It was a brisk Fall day, after a freak snow storm on Halloween Eve., a chance street fair engulfed the entire walk; the sites, smells. I was very happy

    Reply
  9. Determining Progress

    Interesting idea. It is good to see innovation come from the many users of the internet. Good job.

    Reply
  10. stellabella8n8

    I agree, Central Park is awesomeness wrapped up in a neat little piece of land… any where and every where you go in the “park” you can find love, happiness and joy on display… pretty much any time of year. Love the lighthearted view point :)

    Reply
  11. braintomahawk

    It sounds like around the area of the park where rock formations you can climb on, take you close to the lake. There is a gazebo for weddings, and an inclined lawn that you can sit and watch the rowers, or listen to musicians who see it as a mini ampitheater.

    First thought was that it might be Strawberry Fields, but that is 72nd. Close enough ;)

    Great charts!!

    Reply
  12. Pingback: Question: Where is the happiest place in New York City? | onehappybird « Friends of Dieppe Park

  13. Lulu Simawati

    Some folks like to get away
    Take a holiday from the neighbourhood
    Hop a flight to Miami Beach
    Or to Hollywood
    But I’m taking a Greyhound
    On the Hudson River Line
    I’m in a New York state of mind

    Reply
  14. hhdramaturg

    I don’t know how you studied this, but the question you are raising about how to use Twitter to track emotional qualities (is it a word? a phrase? how can you determine irony?) is provocative. Bravo, loved the visuals.

    Reply
  15. scintillatebrightly

    Fun post. I’m curious to know how you defined “happy” posts. You mentioned sky and the word happy, and negative posts as well with not etc. but what about posts like “I’m happy because its not raining” or “Gee that guy that just ran over my foot really made me happy!!!”

    I’d love to see a genuine study done about it sometime. Would be so interesting.

    And does it really come as a surprise to anyone that being closer to nature and out of the concrete jungle makes people happy?

    Reply
  16. Vistirna

    I too guessed it to be Central Park, but, like someone has already mentioned, that’s the place to find all kinds of tourists. Given that they are on vacation, and given that the second biggest ‘industry’ in NYC is tourism, this result is in line with expectations.

    Reply
  17. Cultural Life

    I’m not surprised by that. Although I can enjoy the buzz and bustle of a city, enduring happiness for me is almost always influenced by natural surroundings.

    Very interesting though. And it’s a fun post. :)

    Reply
  18. Pingback: Question: Where is the happiest place in New York City? « echoculture

  19. Heidi Bayer

    I’m guessing you have know way of knowing the age, ethnicity, or gender of your tweepies….but I really like your unscientific blog post and charts. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  20. carolynsworld

    I’ve been to New York City twice, for overnighters, stayed at the youth hostel, and both times I spent my day in Central Park. So restful. I could actually hear myself think.

    Reply
  21. Ellen K

    Great post! I visited NY last September for the first time. I was happy the minute I arrived. Awesome city and loved the whole lot. How could you not be happy in a city that has MOMA, the Planetarium, the Highline, Madison Avenue, and Saks 5th Avenue shoe department! I especially loved Central Park and I spent some very happy days there just wandering :-) As a native Sydney-sider (Australia) I’d love to see a happiness comparison! Even though I probably shouldn’t say it, I think NY might win although Sydney is pretty awesome too!

    Reply
  22. blackshepherd

    I think I may have been in that “corner” a couple of years ago for the Simon and Garfunkel show…with them present and I was so “happy” that sang along on the chorus of “America” from the last row of the bleachers where I snuck in without paying and somehow did not get thrown out of have my bicycle stolen. If you listen to the recording of the song by Paula Cole and Shawn Colvin you will hear the third voice…and I was sober…completely…it was just the “happiness” factor…now I know what it was. I came in on a bus from Boston with my bike and ended up having to kill time till 6am so I hung out in the Village in that little Italian cafe that says they have the oldest espresso machine in NYC…it looks it. But the amount of trash on the street and the way street musicains were being harrassed by the Police put a big dampner on the experience and I couldn’t wait to get out of town. The cafe closed at 3am so I just wandered around and thank God I was able to find a little weed and smoked with two of the hassled musicians…still, there is much I love about NYC…the street scenes of course…but I prefer the pace of Boston and it is much cleaner here…and that matters to me…alot…it was a fun piece and a really creative way to put your observations to good use…the people of NYC…top shelf…of course! Peace!

    Reply
  23. timbutts

    Very interesting stuff. I work in NYC (around a fairly happy zone, according to your research – around 23rd and 5th). I would also be interested in seeing a heat map of just the number of tweets in different locations, and seeing if there is a correlation or not.

    Reply
  24. twotoned

    Sad to say… I’ve been to New York City 5 times in my life and I’ve never been to Central Park. But! I do plan to go there this summer or maybe near the end of summer ;)

    Reply
  25. goach

    Or perhaps those of us uptown or in the far west and far east avenues actually live in the city because we are so happily in love with it but as residents we don’t feel the need to tweet about it?

    Reply
  26. Bruce

    I was Google-ing Central Park yesterday (I live downunder). My Uncle lived in E 65th St many years ago (family tree stuff). Now, thanks to your post, I’ll Google the Happy Place (or as near as I can get); your topic is really interesting, good fun, and (but?) raises all sorts of questions. Bruce

    Reply
  27. transplantednorth

    as a native New Yorker, NYC is always where I am happiest. West side is always more down to earth and therefore happier than the up-tight upper east side, but my happiest NYC moments are when I’m at the Met. The art museum, that is.

    Reply
  28. khanyasi

    Been to newyork once and I really loved central park full of life I just loved it have very few places in the world lively

    Reply
  29. Beth Terrence

    As a native New Yorker, I confirm your research. That is one of the best feeling areas in the city. It’s where I’d head if I was feeling kind of blue or needed a dose of the natural world. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  30. laviera

    The disclaimer was hillarious! But very much needed. I often thougth people in new york where generally unhappy! But as it turns out… I just needed to hang out in central park! WHO KNEW!?

    Reply
  31. ahobbitabroad

    I’m curious – how is the avenues vs happiness graph arranged? Do lower numbers correspond to lower avenues, e.g. the east side, or does it go from west at 0 on the x-axis to east as x increases in a positive fashion? Because the statement is made “the west side is happier than the east” but if the avenue graph correlates low numbers to low avenues, e.g. 2 = 2nd avenue, this contradicts the aforementioned statement.

    otherwise, being an NYC resident, i love seeing this. And who wouldn’t have guessed: CP is such a great place!

    Reply
  32. AniToddSmith

    Central Park is a great place to be. As far as NYC is concerned, it’s just a great place to be and I am ALWAYS happy to be there when I come to visit.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    Reply
  33. WASIA J&L Simon

    New York City is such a great place to be, each borough, each neighborhood contributes it own “thing,” gives its own offering which is why no matter where you are there, it is the best place to be. This is why there are so many strong opinions about which borough/neighborhood is better. In staying with your fun and lighthearted topic, we find Central Park to be one of the best places in NYC because no matter which borough you’re from everyone goes to Central Park.

    Reply
  34. rebelsprite

    Oh goodness…I’m not a New Yorker, I only get to visit once in a while – but what a great city, I can think of too many happy spots I would love to occupy regularly. I’ve been to other major cities in the US and around the world, but for me, New York takes the cake!

    Reply
  35. Java Girl

    This is really cute! Perhaps the lower side is because of tourists stepping out of the buses and trains and being in awe at what they see. Or maybe the people coming out of a Broadway show. Either way, I can understand the peace and happiness from being in Central Park! :)

    Reply
  36. Pingback: New York City's Happiest Location Found By Twitter - icnt.mx

  37. LegosnEggos.com

    I’d bet you’re onto something worthwhile here! Seems to be psychologically based and simply the increased contentedness one feels when in close proximity to nature. It makes one want to happily tweet along with the birds being near all that lush greenery and seeing people in their leisure. :) Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  38. Henry Chamberlain

    The happiest spot that you’ve spotted is a nice spot to stop and enjoy. But you can also be too happy to Tweet and that won’t get documented. Or you can be fully engaged with something else in some other spot, not necessarily “happy,” but fully satisfied, maybe better than happy, and, again, not Tweeting. But I get what you’re saying.

    Reply
  39. Janet

    Central Park possesses some sort of magic that made even my shittiest days beautiful. No doubt there be truth in studying the tweets. Loved the charts.

    Reply
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  43. claritieyes

    Happiest place for us in NYC this past weekend was at our booth at the Javits Center.
    Happiest place for me personally in NYC is at my parents house where I grew up.
    NYC is a place that never ceases to fascinate, inspire and dazzle the senses.
    What a COOL post!

    Reply
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  45. sonofwalt

    This was extremely cool. Fun stuff. I was in NYC last week, in midtown visiting my friends who were in from Northern Ireland. Between the Affina and the Empire State Building it was very happy that day.

    Reply
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