Best Places to Live in California
The spectacular weather, the country’s largest economy and endless entertainment possibilities are just some of the reasons why more people live in California than in any other state. From sandy SoCal beaches to towering redwood forests and all the farmland in between, the west coast offers endless coast and sunshine. Whether pop culture or politics, the Golden State is a global pioneer. Are you dreaming of the west coast? Here is our list of the best places to live in California.
Celebrity sightings, eclectic neighborhoods, world-class food and beautiful weather are just a few of the many reasons to live in Los Angeles. Nearly four million people call this dynamic and diverse townhouse.
Traffic is notoriously terrible, so it’s best to find a job before finding a place so you can choose a neighborhood based on the route. West Hollywood offers great food, world-class comedy clubs, and LGBTQ nightlife, while Downtown (aka DTLA), the city’s central business district, is experiencing a residential renaissance. The revitalized neighborhood is experiencing a resurgence of young people, trendy restaurants, shops and entertainment options. Home to four of Los Angeles professional sports franchises: Lakers (NBA), Kings (NHL), Clippers (NBA) and Sparks (WNBA), the Staples Center anchors a convergence of cultural attractions, such as the LA Live complex, which includes the Microsoft Theater and the Grammy Museum.
No matter where you choose to live in this sprawling city, you are never too far from farmers’ markets, music and entertainment, hiking spots and world-renowned restaurants. From food trucks to Michelin-starred restaurants, bars and restaurants in Los Angeles are not only one of the best food scenes in the country, but in the world. Here you can have divorced huevos for breakfast, Korean barbecue for lunch, and ramen for dinner. Or, wrap it all up in one big meal and enjoy bottomless mimosa brunches to your heart’s taste. Plus, Los Angeles’s diverse music scene makes it one of the best cities for music lovers. Located between the Pacific Ocean coastline and Santa Monica, the Angeles National Forest and the San Bernardino Mountains, LA has incredible, sunny weather at 72 degrees year-round, making it an easy choice for our list of the best places to live in California.
Even though the City by the Bay is known for being hilly, cold and foggy, it is still one of the most wanted American cities to live in. Perhaps because of its proximity to the beach, the wine region, Lake Tahoe and SoCal; or, maybe it’s the city’s incredible restaurants, iconic landmarks, and proximity to the redwood forests of Muir Woods and the Marin Headlands. Either way, the seven by seven square mile area offers the most expensive rental rates in the country. With over 17,000 residents per square kilometer, San Francisco is one of the most densely populated cities in the country outside of New York and Los Angeles. Not only is SF the second most pedestrian city in the country behind NYC, but with BART, Caltrain, MUNI trains and buses, lots of Lyft drivers, electric scooters and bikes, it also has the best public transportation system of State. .
The further the city center is, the more affordable the neighborhoods become. SoMa, the country of startups and luxury condos, is one of the most popular areas for renters due to its easy route. Located in the heart of the city, Hayes Valley is another hot spot. This active area is thriving thanks to its easy access to the city center as well as its trendy shops, restaurants and night clubs. The bay area includes surrounding cities, such as Oakland in East Bay and San Jose in Silicon Valley, which attract residents for their comparative accessibility. Speaking of silicon, the bay is home to some of the biggest names in the tech world, including Tesla, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Google or Netflix, as well as countless startups and venture capital firms that fund them.
When it comes to sports, the Golden State Warriors play at the newly built Chase Center at Mission Bay in San Francisco, while the Giants are stationed at Oracle Park just up the road. The always mild weather allows locals to enjoy the city’s green spaces, such as Golden Gate Park and Dolores Park, as well as the neighboring coastline, notably Baker Beach and Half Moon Bay. Discover your culture at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, at one of the city’s many street festivals or concerts, or during “only SF” celebrations such as the optional Bay to Breakers Marathon for clothing and Naval Fleet Week.
In addition to wacky bars and neighborhood dives, “The City” also has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the country. Local cuisine includes world-renowned restaurants, serious sourdough bread, fresh seafood, mission-style burritos, Korean tacos, dim sum, poke bowls and ramen. Not only is it one of the best places to live in Northern California, it is also one of the best places to live in California.
Not only is the sun in San Diego one of the best beach destinations in the country, it is also the second largest city in California (behind LA) and the 8th largest city in the United States. In addition to surfing, sunbathing and swimming, the beaches of San Diego offer breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, walks with shops and restaurants, and plenty of water sports. Surrounded by 27 miles of sandy shoreline, 4,200-acre Mission Bay is the largest water park of its kind. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park offers breathtaking views of the ocean, cliffs and caves, a cool intertidal zone and, of course, stellar sunsets. On the other side of the bridge of Coronado Island, the naval base represents the majority of the population of the island.
Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo and Sea World are among the many attractions in San Diego. Areas of the city range from chic Jolla to laid-back Pacific Beach (PB), pride flag-clad Hillcrest and the downtown gas lamp district. Known for its nightlife, The Gaslamp is home to several of the city’s best beloved bars and restaurants. The fish tacos, the Californian burritos (fries inside) and the Mexican Baja cuisine make up regional cuisine alongside “rolled tacos” (taquitos) and fresh seafood. There are lots of lovely seaside areas to live in, you just have to find your vibe and look for apartments there.
You might be surprised to see Sacramento on our list of the best places to live in California, but the inland capital of Cali has many of the advantages of the big city at a lower price. The city is close to the wine region, Lake Tahoe and the coast, like San Francisco, but is located in a spacious and sprawling area. Sactown gets a bad rap because it’s smaller and flatter than its more glamorous beach counterparts. However, young families, millennials and artists flock to Sacramento for its reasonable cost of living, artistic scene, nightlife, healthy job market and diverse population.
This truly unique city is home to tree-lined streets, expansive waterways and a rich gold rush history. The capital is called the “city of trees” because it has more trees than any other city in the country! Located in the northern part of the state at the base of the Sierra Nevada, Sac sees hot, dry summers. Fortunately, there is the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, aka the Delta, an unpretentious waterway where locals can navigate and swim. The Raging Waters water park also offers many opportunities to cool off. Other attractions and activities include the Sacramento History Museum, the Crocker Art Museum and the Triple-A baseball team from Sacramento River Cats, a branch of the SF Giants.
Sacramento is surrounded by farms, so the city sports a pretty serious farm-to-fork scene – stars include Grange Restaurant & Bar and TableVine. In addition to its many dining options, Sac is also one of the best beer and coffee towns in the country. Enjoy a cold from Porchlight Brewing Co., Track Seven Brewing Co., or get on the Sacramento beer train!
Midtown is one of the most popular and expensive neighborhoods in the city. Located near the state capital building, a short walk from the shore of the Sacramento River and the booming downtown district, this hood offers a gastronomic and nightlife scene, as well as shopping and a variety of living places. Folsom is fabulous for families, while nearby Davis and Yuba City are also becoming popular places to live.
Ready to choose your west coast city? Find thousands of apartments for rent on Zumper in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento to find your new home.