10 Best Places to Live in California
Should I move to California?
Are you California dreamin'? Swept up by images of sandy beaches, sunny days and rolling Pacific waves? Eager to savor international cuisine, award-winning wines and majestic mountains? Maybe you like the idea of a bustling metropolitan area or endless outdoor adventures. If so, then moving to The Golden State might be for you.
But with nearly 500 cities to choose from, where is the best place to call home? Take a look at 10 of the best cities to live in California to help you decide.
10 best cities to live in California
California has something for everyone — from some of the largest cities in the United States, to small-town countrysides. A few cities stand out based on things like climate, things to do, cost of living, industries and more. Here are 10 of the best places to live in California:
Irvine is a beautiful mid-size city with around 278,000 residents. Its coastal location means mild winters and warm, sometimes humid, summers. It’s home to the University of California at Irvine and several public schools, making it a great place for families and college students. Major industries like pharma, biotech, computer tech, and automotive design are located in Irvine. It’s also an excellent place for entrepreneurs. The city is known for its “green” initiatives — working to sustain its 73,000 trees and 16,000 acres of naturally preserved habitat.
Los Angeles is the most populated city in California with nearly 4 million people. It’s referred to as the entertainment capital of the world, and it’s also a hub for fashion, business and manufacturing. This makes it a great city for creatives, fashionistas and dreamers. LA touts several professional sports teams — the Dodgers and Angels (MLB), Rams and Chargers (NFL), Lakers and Clippers (NBA) and Kings and Ducks (NHL). Los Angeles also has more museums per capita than any other city in the world, so history is everywhere. Other notable places are Universal Studios, Disneyland and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Fun fact: L.A. hosted the Summer Olympics in 1932 and 1984, and will host it again in 2028.
Consider yourself a wine connoisseur? Put it to the test in Napa — the second-largest city in California’s wine country (after Santa Rosa). With a population near 80,000, Napa residents enjoy warm, dry summers and wet, cool winters. Though smaller than neighboring San Francisco and Sacramento, it still has a lot to offer. Top employers are Napa Valley Unified School District, Queen of the Valley Medical Center and Napa County. Enjoy interactive street art events, delicious food trucks, the quiet river walk and fresh produce from the farmers market.
With a population of 141,000, Orange, California, is a family-friendly area. It’s known for being one of California’s safest cities. In fact, AreaVibes gives it an “A” in crime ratings and found that its overall crime rate is 33% lower than other Californian cities. Orange is known for pleasant year-round weather, affordable housing and a diverse economy. Drive 30 minutes south to Laguna Beach and enjoy a day of whale watching, dolphin cruises, art festivals, shopping and more!
About 68,000 Californians live in Palo Alto — located in the heart of Silicon Valley. Here you’ll experience warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. As you might expect, the city is a leader in innovative technology, and tech companies (like Tesla and Hewlett Packard) are headquartered here. For those looking for higher education opportunities, it’s also home to Stanford University. Though Palo Alto is one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. (median home prices average $1.7 million), its residents are among the highest educated in the country.
More than 500,000 people live in Sacramento. It’s an area with moderate temps — hot summers and wet winters. As the capital of California, it’s the center of politics. It’s also the home of Cal State University at Sacramento and the UC Davis Medical Center, so a lot of students and medical professionals live here. If you decide to move to the area, you can spend long weekends at nearby Lake Tahoe or catch a Kings game. Residents also enjoy fantastic cuisine at the city’s more than 1,200 restaurants. If you’d rather live near the city instead of within the actual limits, consider Folsom or Yuba City. In Folsom, you’ll find a good median income, top-rated schools and more affordable home values. Or move to Yuba City, where the cost of living is below the state average.
Prefer a more small-town feel? Join the other 30,000 people who call San Carlos home. There are many perks to living in San Carlos, including enjoying an average of 264 sunny days per year. Locals here are known for supporting local businesses and restaurants. It’s also a great place to raise a family and receive an A+ education. San Carlos public schools test scores are 89% higher than the national average. You can also seek higher-education opportunities at Notre Dame de Namur University. For fun, visit one of the city’s many parks, or drive about an hour away, to San Francisco or San Jose, for more options.
San Diego is the second-largest city in California with a population of nearly 1.5 million. It’s known for sunny weather (temps average in the mid-50s to mid-70s), its 70-mile stretch of coastline and major biotech companies. Explore attractions like SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo, watch the Padres play downtown at Petco Park, and walk the harbor at Embarcadero. It’s an all-around popular area for young families, college students and beachgoers.
San Francisco is another mid-size city with a population of around 885,000. Located on the bay, you’ll regularly experience fog and cool breezes mixed with mild weather. Some well-known tourist spots here are Alcatraz, Chinatown, Lombard Street, and the Golden Gate Bridge. And with more than 3,400 places to eat, there’s food for every taste bud. Tourism, technology and financial services are the top industries bringing revenue into the area.
Santa Monica is the coastal city west of downtown Los Angeles, and it’s home to more than 92,000 people. It offers ideal weather, a fun nightlife, and lots of outdoor activities. The area is also known for an excellent public school system. And, if the environment is important to you, you’ll be interested in the city’s “going green” program. For those who like to exercise, start each day at Muscle Beach — an outdoor gym located on the coast! Other things you can do in Santa Monica are surfing, biking and riding the Pacific Wheels (a five-story roller coaster on the Santa Monica pier).
Where do you think are the best places to live in California?
We’d love to know which cities appeals to you most! Share your thoughts in the comments below.
If you’re planning a move to The Golden State, consider U-Pack®. With more than 230 service centers across the U.S. and Canada, we can move you to California from almost anywhere in North America. Get a free online quote or call 800-413-4799 for more information.