America’s Happiest Seaside Town of 2016 is on Florida’s Treasure Coast, and that location could not be more appropriate. Often referred to as a hidden gem just 45 minutes north of Palm Beach, Stuart is an Old Florida–style treasure. Nestled between two rivers and situated on the Atlantic, the town shares its waters with sea turtles, dolphins, and, most famously, the sailfish—its abundant local presence has led to the town’s reputation as the “sailfish capital of the world.” Mayor Jeffrey Krauskopf, surveying his town of tidy, landscaped streets, vistas uninterrupted by high-rises, and waterfront in seemingly every direction, sums Stuart up in one appropriately old-fashioned adjective: “We’re quaint,” he says, adding that the town’s relaxed, flip-flop approach to life is that special secret at the core of its celebrated happiness.
Local hangout: The Riverwalk, Stuart’s waterfront boardwalk along the St. Lucie River, is not only a destination for strolling and picnics, but also the home of Rock’n Riverwalk, a year-round weekly outdoor (and free) concert.
Cool event: Dancin’ in the Street is an all-day street party and Stuart’s oldest and best-loved music festival. The event draws crowds in August to hear 20 local bands in the historic downtown and Riverwalk.
Best souvenir: Artist Geoffrey C. Smith’s statue of a leaping sailfish is a local landmark, and 12-, 24-, and even 60-inch replicas are available at his downtown gallery.