The Santa Maria-Santa Barbara area is smiling. National Geographic, Gallup and New York Times best-selling author and National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner have announced the region The 25 Happiest Cities in the United States based on The National Geographic/Blue Zones® Index.

The Index was specifically developed to measure a population’s happiness based on 15 metrics including civic engagement, walkability and healthful food options. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara ranks as number 12 on the list.

“We are honored to be deemed a happy and extraordinary place to live, play, work in and visit,” said Glenn Morris, president and CEO of the Santa Maria Valley Visitor’s Bureau. “There’s so much to enjoy here and along the Central California Coast. We are proud of our Santa Maria Style — one that we call our own.”

In National Geographic’s November cover story and newly published The Blue Zones of Happiness, Buettner reveals the world’s happiest places, and explains environmental and lifestyle factors that contribute to the overall happiness in these geographic regions. Pulling from years of experience studying the world’s most-thriving populations, Buettner, National Geographic and Gallup developed a methodology for measuring where Americans are living their happiest lives. Eight of the 25 cities recognized are in California.

The Santa Maria Valley is a recognized American Viticultural Area (AVA) within Santa Barbara County; the AVA encompasses one of the top wine regions in the world. The Travel Channel named the Santa Maria Valley The New Top 10 Cities for Wine Snobs. Tour the welcoming vineyards and swirl your glass ‘til you spill. Indulge in the 150-year old Santa Maria Style Barbecue tradition, the area’s best hidden gem. Watch the sunset over the dunes, and let your hair fly around in the ocean breeze. With 35 wineries and 13 beaches within a 30-minute drive, the Santa Maria Valley is an ideal home base for travelers.