6 Great Cities to Move to in California

Jon Fesmire | May 17, 2018 @ 8:00 AM

Whether you’re looking to get into a technology-related field, or just for a beautiful place to live in a progressive state, you’re bound to find a city you love in California. If you’re considering moving to the Golden State, we have some suggestions of where you might want to go.

You might be familiar with some of these cities, while others will be new to you. Here are six of the nicest places to live in California.


Do you want to live in a college town that has all sorts of entertainment and museums? Then let us suggest Berkeley. This beautiful city is home to UC Berkeley, which is good news if you’re looking to get an education, work in academia or have kids who may want to enroll at a great school.

While you’ll find plenty of specialty shops, cafes, and more, keep in mind that this is an expensive place to live. The median home value is about $1.3 million. However, the median household income is about $160,000. If you’re college educated, like 70% of the city’s population, and you have a good resume, you may just land a job that will allow you to live there.

Want to spend the day in San Francisco? You can, as it’s just about 40 minutes away (22 if you don’t mind taking the toll road).

Lake Forest

While many lists of great places to live in California include Irvine, we’ve opted for nearby Lake Forest instead. Lake Forest is just southeast of Irvine and is close to all the city has to offer, but it’s greener. You’ll find trees and forested areas all over as well as plenty of parks.

Lake Forest is a more expensive place to live than much of Orange County, though a bit cheaper than Irvine, with the median housing cost hovering around $545,000.

The high school graduation rate is about 96%, and the schools are excellent. They include excellent programs for kids with special needs, including autism-only classrooms. Plus, Lake Forest is close to UC Irvine, so if you want to enroll in the UC system, this is a great place to do that.

Mountain View

Between San Jose and San Francisco, you’ll find the comfortable city of Palo Alto. This city has charming shops, but also tech companies. This is where WebTV was in the late 1990s, when its technology was cutting edge. Being on that edge of what’s possible now is what many Palo Alto companies are all about. If you want to work in technology, this is a great place to be.

Jobs pay well, but keep in mind that Palo Alto is also an expensive place to live, with a median housing value of $3.3 million.

Palo Alto is the home of Stanford University, so you’ll find smart college kids hanging around the clean downtown area. Places to visit include the Museum of American Heritage, the Cantor Arts Center and Hanna House, both at Stanford, and recreational areas like Mitchell Park.

San Francisco

There is no other city like San Francisco. In fact, the City By the Bay has been unique for its entire existence, from its lawless beginnings during the California Gold Rush to its current status as a center for art, science, and culture.

If you want to live somewhere with great food, world-famous museums, beautiful parks, plus temperate weather and a bustling social scene, then San Francisco may be for you.

San Francisco is densely packed, with nearly a million residents in a 46.87 square mile area, and it can be tough to find parking, even around your own home. For that reason, even San Franciscans who own cars tend to travel around the city via public transit. And, the city is expensive, with the median housing price falling around $1.6 million. However, salaries are also higher, so look for work in San Francisco or nearby.

San Jose

San Jose is a big city surrounded by nice suburbs in the heart of Silicon Valley. The population is about one million. Want to work in tech, but want at least a decent chance of being able to avoid a commute? Then consider this beautiful city, with its strong job market and great schools. While housing prices in many areas can be unpredictable, the housing market in San Jose is generally stable. The median price of a home is about $790,000, but salaries are higher in the area than in most places. The city often has sunny weather, though the temperatures tend to remain comfortable.

Plus, there is so much to do in San Jose. Want to check out someplace strange and spooky? Then you’ll enjoy the historic Winchester Mystery House. Interested in exploring science and technology? Visit the The Tech Museum of Innovation.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is a sunny city of about 90,000 residents. It has beautiful, clean beaches and parks and is the home of UC Santa Barbara. Nearby attractions include the Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens and the Santa Barbara Zoo, which has 500 animals on 30 acres. Due to its beauty, some call Santa Barbara the “American Riviera.”

Rent is a bit high, with the median rent falling at about $1,400 a month, but that’s no worse than much of Southern California—plus you get to be right near the beach.

The median home value here is around $465,300, but it’s possible to find a lovely home for much less.

While no state or city is perfect, these California cities are great places to live. We hope you find the one that’s right for you.

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