California is undoubtedly one of the most desirable places in the U.S. with its pristine beaches, gorgeous mountains, fertile farmlands, and iconic cities. From the San Diego surf to the temperate weather of Silicon Valley, there are plenty of places to call home in California.
Here are some of the best.
Sacramento just might be the best place to live in California. It's one of the most affordable cities in the Golden State, with a median home price* of $385,000 -- a steal compared to the $1.8M median home price of nearby San Francisco.
The State Capital is a vibrant city full of historical, cultural, and recreational treasures. The self-proclaimed Farm to Fork Capital sits amidst 1.5 million acres of farmland and boasts over 40 regional farmers' markets and a food scene that’s garnering national attention. Sacramento is also home to the Golden 1 Center and Sacramento Kings, and the upcoming new MLS Stadium.
Sacramento's close proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area (1.5 hours) and Lake Tahoe ski resorts (1.5 hours) provide plenty of opportunities to get your toes in the sand or boots in the snow whenever the mood strikes.
Tucked away in the rolling hills west of Sacramento Valley, about halfway between Sacramento and San Francisco, is the charming city of Vacaville. Equal parts agricultural heartland and rich, vibrant culture, the community offers a historic downtown, premium outlets and shops, diverse restaurants, pretty parks, and bountiful farmland.
Vacaville’s median home price of $494,000 and close proximity to San Francisco (54 miles), Napa (28 miles), and Walnut Creek (37 miles) provides plenty of opportunities to experience the Bay Area, without paying Bay Area home prices.
Situated between L.A. and Santa Barbara, Oxnard is a coastal town boasting seven miles of white-sand beaches. One-third of California's strawberries are grown here, and you can get a taste of Oxnard during its Annual Strawberry Festival! Oxnard has been ranked as one of the Safest Cities in America due to its low crime rates and has a median home price of $605,000.
Oxnard offers plenty of Victorian-era architecture, renowned car museums, and downtown shops and eateries. To see the wilder side of Oxnard, take a trip to Channel Islands National Park and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, a 90-minute boat ride from the harbor. Oxnard is located about halfway between Santa Barbara (to the north) and Malibu (to the south).
Not all Californians want to live by the coast. If you’re more interested in skiing, mountain biking, and other outdoor recreational activities, then Truckee is the perfect destination for you. Although Truckee is the most expensive city on our list with median home prices of $724,000, it remains more affordable than many other CA cities, such as Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, San Luis Obispo, and Granite Bay.
Truckee is a Sierra Nevada mountain town located 15 minutes or so from Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl, and Northstar California ski resorts. Truckee offers easy access to hiking, biking, and snowsports. Truckee is just 12 short miles northwest of the pristine blue waters of Lake Tahoe. Even if you’re not an outdoor sports enthusiast, Truckee has plenty of artists and artisans, shopping and dining experiences, and of course, gorgeous mountain views.
Bakersfield tops the list of most affordable cities in California with a median home price of $275,000. It's located 2 hours away from Los Angeles in California's Central Valley and is the largest city in Kern County.
Known for its agriculture, visitors may be surprised to find a growing arts and culture scene amidst the Central Valley farmland. Bakersfield is home to museums such as the Lori Brock Children's Discovery Museum, the Kern County Museum, and the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History, not to mention outdoor experiences such as lakeside campgrounds and the Wind Wolves Preserve, the West Coast's largest nonprofit nature preserve.
From coastal to mountain cities, and those hidden gems situated right in the middle of both, these 5 cities are undoubtedly the best places to live in one of the most states in the country.
*Median home prices at time of publication. Home prices may have changed.