Top Cities in California to Call Home

Which location in California is the best?

You could be one of many people thinking about relocating to California. While Los Angeles or San Francisco may come to mind as the ideal of living in the Golden State, there are many more metro regions to consider calling home. The top 10 Best Places to Live in California are drawn from the 150 most populous metro areas in the United States that comprise the Best Places to Live rankings, which take into account affordability, job market, access to great health care, and desirability, among other things.

Salinas

Salinas, located near the Pacific coast, is one of the smaller California metro areas on the list, with a population of fewer than 500,000 people. While Salinas is not immediately on the coast, other portions of the metro area, such as Monterey, are on the water and attract a large number of visitors and residents. Salinas ranks 27th out of the 150 most populated metro areas in the United States on the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index, which questions residents about their general satisfaction, community pride, and sense of security, among other things.

Fresno

Fresno, which ranks 136th on the overall Best Places to Live list, is located in the San Joaquin Valley, about a two-hour drive from the coast. Fresno, like many inland California cities, is best known for its agricultural roots, with fruits such as tomatoes and peaches among its most prevalent crops. This mostly agricultural focus also means that many residents do not have to drive far for work, as the typical morning commute in Fresno is only 23.1 minutes, approximately four minutes shorter than the national average. While the typical home price in Fresno is $368,850, which is higher than the national median of $315,743, it is still significantly lower than in many other parts of California.

Vallejo and Fairfield

The Vallejo and Fairfield metro area, northeast of San Francisco, receives high marks for its proximity to high-quality health care, according to data from the U.S. News Best Hospitals ranking, and for residents' satisfaction with living in the area, according to the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index. Nonetheless, residing here necessitates 26.94% of the area's median household income, and the typical morning commute in the Vallejo and Fairfield metro areas is 33.2 minutes, ranking seventh among the 150 most populous metro areas in the United States.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, the second-most populated metro area in the United States after New York City, offers a desirable location and a large number of contented citizens, but its popularity comes at a cost. Los Angeles inhabitants spend 29.66% of their median household income on housing, making this metro area out of reach for many. Others, however, are willing to pay the price in order to live there: Based on a SurveyMonkey study of more than 3,600 U.S. citizens, Los Angeles tied with San Francisco, Honolulu, and Colorado Springs, Colorado, as the No. 1 most attractive location to live out of the 150 metro areas on the list.

Santa Rosa

If you want to reside in the heart of California wine country, Santa Rosa is the place to be. Santa Rosa is ranked No. 121 on the overall Best Places to Live list for 2021-2022, with the highest scores for residents' general well-being, college preparation among high school students, and low crime rates. The Santa Rosa metro region ranks 12th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the United States in the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index. In terms of crime, Santa Rosa ranks 25th out of all metro areas on the Best Places to Live list, with low rates of property crime and homicide.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara dropped from No. 104 on the overall Best Places to Live list in 2020 to No. 115 in 2021-2022. While the area is known for its happy residents, according to the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index, and residents enjoy a short average commute of only 20.5 minutes, the ever-increasing cost of living in the Santa Barbara metro area makes it difficult for people to afford to live in this California location. The cost of living in Santa Barbara needs 29.26% of the area's median household income, ranking it fifth among the 150 metro areas on the list.

Sacramento

California's state capital obtains the highest marks for its employment market and population growth; the average yearly pay is about $5,000 higher than the national average, at $58,390. However, the labor market suffered in 2020, with the year's average monthly unemployment rate of 8.7%, which was higher than the national average monthly rate of 8.1%. Higher salaries assist to mitigate the burden of housing costs, though not significantly. To meet normal housing prices in the area, up to 26.01% of the median household income is necessary.

San Diego

San Diego, the eighth-most attractive metro area on the list, attracts many residents due to its sunny weather, mild environment, and closeness to the beach. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, San Diego's labor market suffered substantially, with an average monthly unemployment rate of 9.3%, which was a major contributor to the metro area's dip from No. 45 on the overall Best Places to Live list in 2020 to No. 97 in 2021. However, when compared to other sections of California, its desirability, resident well-being, and college preparation among high school students rank it third in the state.

San Jose

It's no surprise that the Silicon Valley capital rates high on the overall Best Places to Live list, at No. 36. San Jose is home to roughly 2 million people and has even higher property prices than San Francisco, with a median home price of more than $1.3 million. However, as in the Bay Area, a strong income compensates for the mile-high prices. With an average annual salary of more than $80,000, San Jose residents are in a better position to buy a home.

San Francisco

From its image as a fun city to live into a solid employment market, San Francisco has a lot going for it to attract new inhabitants. While the real estate market in San Francisco is notoriously costly, the area's higher average income of more than $75,000 more than balances those expenditures. San Francisco's strong appeal as a location to live among U.S. residents also contributes to its ranking No. 15 on the overall Best Places to Live list in 2021-2022, making it the best place to live in California.

You can also read more about California:

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$850,000 Homes in California

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