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8 Things to Know Before Moving to Ridgecrest, CA

Written by Leigh Cooper

Encircled by stunning mountain ranges on every side, Ridgecrest, situated in Kern County, stands as a small urban area amidst the scorching desert heat. People who value privacy and independence will feel at home in Ridgecrest, California, a city best known for the nearby Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake complex, the city’s single largest employment. 

The first settlement in the area, now known as Ridgecrest was called Crumville, after a local dairyman. When the Navy created the NAWS nearby during World War 2, the village evolved into a metropolis, with the base providing a continuous supply of employment as it does now. 

While NAWS is still the economic engine that drives the city of Ridgecrest today, the area’s affordable housing and infinite supply of undeveloped space have attracted an increasing number of residents, as have the city’s distinct cultural institutions.

Here are eight things to know before moving to Ridgecrest, CA.

1. Living costs are 3% lower than the national average

The cost of living in Ridgecrest is 3% cheaper than the national average, according to Payscale, although this may be countered by the higher-than-average utility costs. Ridgecrest is a great spot to buy a home because the average price is only $263,470, which is about a third less than the rest of California. Similar to the low prices of Ridgecrest’s homes, the average monthly rent there is only $1010. However, because of its remote location, Ridgecrest has higher-than-average costs for essentials like groceries, gas, and electricity.

When compared to other major California communities, Ridgecrest has a remarkably low cost of living. Your dollar will take you surprisingly far here.

2. It never snows in Ridgecrest

This place won’t see any snowfall; that much is certain. Ridgecrest sits in the Mojave Desert, and you’ll quickly realize that when summer arrives—it gets rather hot! 

Summers bring intense heat, with temperatures reaching highs of 103°F, while winters see lows of 32°F. Rainfall is notably scarce, averaging only 5 inches annually compared to the US average of 38 inches. Seeing snow in Ridgecrest is highly unlikely, as rare as pigs flying.

3. NAWS, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, the City of Ridgecrest, and Altaone Federal Credit Union are the city’s major employers

According to Payscale, while the cost of living in Ridgecrest has been going down, salaries have been going down, too. Certified Nurses’ Aides, Graphic Designers, and Licensed Vocational Nurses are the most sought-after professions. Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, the City of Ridgecrest, and Altaone Federal Credit Union are the top three employers in the area. Annual salaries in Ridgecrest average $72k, with hourly rates averaging $20.41.

Ridgecrest’s principal industry is the NAWS, and a vocation in military sciences would be very lucrative here, but the civilian sector is equally well-to-do. 

4. There are limited but quality options for schooling

The Sierra Sands Unified School District, which serves the town of Ridgecrest, is very modest but adequate. Considering how far out of the way Ridgecrest is, there aren’t a ton of alternatives for parents, but those that are available are all high quality. 

To name a few, Faller Elementary School, Murray Middle School, and Burroughs High School stand out among the area’s educational options. Rest assured, your child will be in wonderful hands during your stay in Ridgecrest!

5. Live in China Lake or Ridgecrest Heights

You don’t have to feel lonely just because you’re in Ridgecrest.  There are different neighborhoods and communities to settle into in this city.

China Lake, which is adjacent to the NAWS, is one of numerous unincorporated villages on the outskirts of Ridgecrest that are separate from the city itself. Ridgecrest Heights is an example of a local neighborhood. The southern part of Ridgecrest, next to the Inyokern Airport, is the most costly in the city. The northeast part of Ridgecrest is where you’ll find the city’s cheapest homes.

6. Go to Leroy Jackson Park or The Maturango Museum with the family

Ridgecrest may not seem like it at first glance, but it hosts several enjoyable attractions perfect for family-friendly outings.

Leroy Jackson Park provides ample space for running, illuminated fields for sports like softball and soccer, and features six tennis courts catering to outdoor activities in Ridgecrest. Remember to stay well-hydrated, especially during the summer heat!

The Maturango Museum offers an engaging experience, particularly appealing to kids. It explores the history of Ridgecrest and the Mojave region through guided tours of the famous Amerindian petroglyphs, exhibits detailing the area’s settlement, and interactive wildlife encounters. Residents of Ridgecrest can truly enjoy the enriching experiences provided by the Maturango Museum!

7. Eat at Casa Corona or Kristy’s Family Restaurant

In addition to its abundance of attractions, Ridgecrest is also rich in delicious dining options. 

Put the “family” in “family restaurant”! Kristy’s Family Restaurant is a family-run, cozy cafe that serves a delicious American breakfast in an inconspicuous environment. There aren’t many better locations to grab some breakfast in the morning in Ridgecrest than Kristy’s!

We agree that the name could use some work, but don’t let that put you off trying the meal at Casa Corona! A Californian city isn’t complete without a Mexican restaurant, and Casa Corona serves up some of the best food from Central America. Casa Corona is the best Mexican restaurant in Ridgecrest.

8. The violent crime rate is higher than the national average

When compared to the rest of the country, the violent crime rate in Ridgecrest is higher than average, at 29.9. However, property crime is much lower in Ridgecrest than the national average of 35.4, at 29.1. 

Ridgecrest is a considerably safer area to live and work, but residents need to be on the alert due to the high rate of violent crime.

To Sum it All Up

In conclusion, Ridgecrest, CA, offers an affordable cost of living, a warm climate with no snow, and a thriving job market anchored by the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. The city provides quality educational options and diverse neighborhoods while boasting family-friendly attractions and a variety of dining experiences. 

Despite a higher-than-average violent crime rate, Ridgecrest remains a welcoming community where residents can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle amidst its unique desert charm.

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