Buying a Home 4 MIN READ

2021 Best Places to Live In California

View of California neighborhood near the beach Written by Amanda Harney

If you’re considering a move to the Golden State, you aren’t alone. About 500,000 people pack up their belongings and move to the state each year. California is home to over 840 miles of beautiful coastline along the Pacific Ocean, giving residents easy access to world-class beaches, surfing, boating, fishing, and hiking. The state is also home to well-known ski resorts. 

The drawback of moving to California is the high cost of living. The state consistently ranks as one of the most expensive places to live in the nation. According to a 2020 cost-of-living index, the average California city has a 38% higher cost of living than the average U.S. city. But if you’re interested in taking the plunge, there are a variety of places that offer access to surfing, hiking, skiing, and more. Check out these five places as a starting point. 

San Diego 

Coastal view of San Diego

San Diego is an oceanside community situated along the Pacific coast, adjacent to the Mexican border, and about 120 miles from Los Angeles. It is the eighth-largest city in the United States, with a population of about 1.5 million. The average temperature is about 75 degrees with roughly 10 days of rainfall each year. 

Many of Southern California’s best activities can be found within a short drive, including a quick ferry ride to Catalina Island, a 90-minute drive to Disneyland, and a few short hours to the beautiful scenery of Big Bear Parks and Recreation District for camping and hiking. Also nearby are Palm Springs, Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, and Costa Mesa, each home to unique dining and shopping experiences. On the weekends, residents can take longer trips to Yosemite National Park or Las Vegas. 

The city is home to some of the best schools in the state. All five of the city’s schools consistently land on the California top 30 list. The median home price in the city is $725,000, with a median household income of $79,546

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Davis 

Davis is home to the University of California, Davis, and is a hot spot for young Americans. The town is small with a population of 69,288. About half of the city’s population comprises college students. 

The city is bike-friendly, and residents can enjoy a comfortable climate that receives 21 inches of rain each year, compared with the national average of 38 inches per year. Temperatures in the city most days range from the high 60s to the low 80s. 

Residents of Davis can enjoy the Arboretum located at the University, which features beautiful gardens and walking paths. The city also has a local farmers’ market that offers a variety of organic Central Valley produce and handcrafted items. 

Residents interested in the arts can enjoy year-round productions at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for Performing Arts, which showcases music, ballet, and theater performances. The median home price in Davis is $720,438, and the median household income is $66,162 annually. 

Lake Forest 

Lake Forest is a suburb of Irvine with a population of 82,000. The city is home to many young professionals, and the public schools are highly rated, scoring eight out of 10 on the Great Schools rating. Lake Forest is also ranked as one of the top 10 cities for job seekers in California. 

The city provides residents with a variety of outdoor recreational activities, access to historical sites, dining, and local wineries. Historical sites include the Heritage Hill Historic Park and the Arden Helena Modjeska Historic House. Situated in Orange County, Lake Forest enjoys easy access to the entertainment hubs of Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, and Beverly Hills. 

 Lake Forest is also home to a variety of parks, including the Serrano Creek Community Park, which has a creek lined with willows and eucalyptus. The median home price is $749,000, and the median household income is $84,785 annually. 

Sacramento 

View of Sacramento bridge over the water

Sacramento is the capital of the state and offers prospective residents a lower cost of living. Residents are within a couple of hours of popular beaches and close to local lakes and parks for outdoor recreation. Residents can swim, water ski, and enjoy the sunshine at the close by Folsom Lake. 

Additionally, the city is a short drive from Lake Tahoe, which provides outdoor water recreation in the summer and skiing and snowboarding during the winter months. The median home price in Sacramento is $378,368, and the median household income is $65,046

Murrieta 

Murrieta is another affordable housing option in the Golden State. The median home price in the city is $488,237, and the median household income is $84,817. The city is located about 100 miles from Los Angeles, and 24/7 Wall Street ranked it among the safest cities in America. 

Murrieta is within driving distance of San Diego, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and Orange County and is surrounded by beautiful hills, trees, beaches, deserts, and mountains. Situated near two major freeways, it’s easy to access airports and a variety of universities. Many of the residents commute to neighboring cities, such as Los Angeles, for employment. Murrieta is also home to excellent schools. 

Moving forward with greater confidence

If you enjoy the beach and the mountains, California may be a good choice for your move. Now that we’ve shown you five of the best places to live in California, focusing on your priorities can help you narrow your search. For example, do you want to live on the coast or close to the mountains? What is your threshold for cost of living, and what options fit the bill? Must you work in a large city and how long are you willing to spend commuting to a job? Answering these questions will help to further narrow your options and find the right choice for your circumstances. 


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