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Young adults, retirees, and families alike are drawn to The Golden State—and no wonder! With healthy economies, gorgeous natural features, and a wide variety of fun things to do, here are the eight best places to live in California!

Clovis

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  • Population: 112,663
  • Home Price: $341,800 median purchase price; $1,247 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 77% of California cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.1%

Situated in the San Joaquin Valley, the City of Clovis offers a bit of small town-charm in The Golden State, where small businesses like restaurants, boutiques, daycares, and nonprofits are the foundation of the community. Clovis also boasts a thriving economy with job opportunities in numerous industries like healthcare, education, retail, and various businesses. Other major employers in the area include Wawona Frozen Foods and Clovis Unified School District. You can also find a bundle of entertaining things to do in Clovis! Nicknamed the Gateway to the Sierras, Clovis is less than 45 minutes away from exciting natural recreation spots like Sierra National Forest and Millerton Lake State Recreation Area. Splash into one of California’s largest water parks in the Blue Wave Pool, slide down the Rampage, or play with little ones in Adventure Bay at Wild Water Adventure Park. Attend annual events like the Clovis Rodeo and Big Hat Days, shop boutiques and antique shops such as Bauble + Thread and Clovis Antique Mall, and dine at delicious restaurants like The Craft House, all in Old Town Clovis. Sample Shoyu Ramen and Chicken Gyoza, or create your own ramen with options including Vegetable Broth, Thick Noodles, and Fresh Sauteed Corn at Ramen Hayashi. Or fill up on Mexican food in Clovis with a Carnitas Burrito, Cocido, or Shrimp Fajitas from Carrillo’s Mexican Food.

Los Angeles

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  • Population: 3,973,278
  • Home Price: $670,700 median purchase price; $1,523 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 10% of California cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.6%

Looking for a city with a little bit of everything? Los Angeles is one of the top most diverse cities in the U.S., and with neighborhoods in LA including the entertainment capitol of Hollywood, diverse Koreatown, luxurious Beverly Hills, and more, you’re sure to find an area that fits your budget and personality! As the second biggest city in America, Los Angeles’ career opportunities are endless, spanning growing industries such as transportation, technology, manufacturing, and more. Of course, everyone knows you can have fun in LA, too! Be sure to embark on some of the best LA studio tours, like the Universal Studios Tour, Warner Bros. Studio Tour, and Paramount Pictures Studio Tour. Head to the iconic Sunset Strip to laugh the night away with famous comedians like Dave Chappelle and Taylor Tomlinson at The Comedy Store, catch concerts from popular bands like REO Speedwagon at the Whisky a Go Go, and shop at stylish stores like H. Lorenzo at Sunset Plaza. Order appetizing meals and snacks like Matzo Brei, Hot Potato Knish, and the Oven-Roasted Turkey Sandwich 24/7 at Canter’s Deli. Or seek out the oldest restaurant in Hollywood for Ribeye Steak, Broiled Lobster Tail, or Tagliatelle alla Bolognese at Musso & Frank Grill.

Sacramento

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  • Population: 503,482
  • Home Price: $361,300 median purchase price; $1,328 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 7% of California cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.3%

As the California state capital, Sacramento has so much to offer! If you’re considering getting a degree, Sactown is home to several popular higher education institutes, including sustainability-focused California State University, Sacramento, community colleges like American River College, and private schools like Sacramento City College. Sactown is also one of the most affordable cities in California, as Sacramento’s cost of living is 8% lower than the state average (and housing prices are 17% lower)! Additionally, its booming economy empowers residents to find top jobs in major Sacramento industries like technology, agriculture, healthcare, and higher education. Sacramento is also known for having all kinds of fun things to do! Get eye-level with giraffes, watch African lions, burrowing owls, and desert tortoises move around their habitats, and ride the carousel at the Sacramento Zoo. Discover one of the best art museums in California with collections of Asian Art, Native American Art, and Photography, along with rotating exhibitions like Penetrating Expressions at Crocker Art Museum. Head to the Farm-to-Fork Festival for local wine, beer, and food by top Sacramento chefs, or learn why California’s capital is also America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital by dining at restaurants such as Localis and Ella Dining Room & Bar. Try funky Japanese plates including Tori Karapon, Mini Nasu Don, and Awase Miso Shiru at Binchoyaki. And share a Beehive Cake, or order your own Sun and Moon Cookie or Rugalach from Freeport Bakery.

San Diego

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  • Population: 1,414,545
  • Home Price: $629,500 median purchase price; $1,770 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 41% of California cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.8%

If you’re looking for a city with beautiful weather and plenty of outdoor activities, look no further than San Diego. The temperatures in San Diego typically stay between 50 and 77 degrees throughout the year, and snow is almost unheard of in “America’s Finest City!” Largely due to this wonderful weather, San Diegans enjoy spending time outdoors visiting the city’s various beaches and parks, hiking, bicycling, and kayaking all year long. As one of the biggest cities in the U.S., San Diego offers an array of job opportunities—particularly in industries like manufacturing and tourism, as well as international trade and the U.S. military. When looking for fun things to do, this sunny city won’t let you down! Surf, swim, and catch some rays at San Diego’s best beaches such as Mission Beach, the Coronado Beaches, and the La Jolla Beaches. Visit one of the best zoos in the world to see more than 650 species, including axolotls, chimpanzees, and elephants, take a Botanical Tour, and ride the Skyfari Aerial Tram at the San Diego Zoo. Support the city’s pro teams and attend a San Diego Padres (MLB) baseball game at Petco Park, or catch the San Diego FC (MLS) play their debut season in 2025 at Snapdragon Stadium. Or take a seat inside or outside to dine on always-rotating menu items like Fanny Bay Oysters, Flat Iron Steak, and Japanese Sweet Potatoes at Juniper & Ivy.

San Francisco

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  • Population: 874,784
  • Home Price: $1,152,300 median purchase price; $2,010 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 6% of California cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.3%

Though San Francisco is known to be expensive, Golden Gate City is a popular place to live in California partly because it’s a center of culture for the West Coast! Jobs in San Francisco are plentiful—especially in the technology, tourism, finance, and healthcare industries—as this city is a huge economic hub in Cali. While the real estate market in San Francisco can be costly, it’s also durable and demonstrates steady growth, with renowned neighborhoods in San Francisco varying widely by personality and price. Plus, there are a bunch of iconic attractions to explore, particularly if you take the famed San Francisco cable cars! Bike or take a guided tour along the one-mile bridge to explore interactive exhibits, and visit the Welcome Center for even more history and exhibitions at the Golden Gate Bridge. Travel just 1.25 miles by ferry to tour the abandoned prison, walk the gardens, and browse the bookstore on Alcatraz Island. Sit outside on a lovely evening to enjoy a seasonally-changing Japanese menu with dishes such as Kurobuta Tonkatsu, Negima, and Dashimaki Tamago at Rintaro. Or dine on Arabic classics including Lebna, Gazan Braised Lamb Shank, and Muhalabia either in the restaurant or as tasty takeout from Beit Rima, one of the best restaurants in San Francisco.

San Jose

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  • Population: 1,029,409
  • Home Price: $925,800 median purchase price; $2,232 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 23% of California cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.2%

As the Capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose is one of the best cities for jobs in the U.S., featuring a flourishing economy and a high volume of Fortune 500 tech companies, like Adobe, PayPal, eBay, and Cisco! Other major industries with an abundance of job opportunities in San Jose include manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and hospitality, making this innovative city a hot spot for young professionals. For families with kids, San Jose boasts excellent public schools, including highly-rated Hammer Montessori at Galarza Elementary, Steindorf STEAM Magnet School, and Lynbrook High School. But the abundant jobs and top-notch schools aren’t the only reasons San Jose is considered one of the top places to live in America—San Joseans also know how to enjoy themselves! Celebrate this city’s 250+ days of sunshine per year at San Jose parks like Almaden Lake Park and Kelley Park, and drive a little farther out to visit the Santa Cruz Mountains and Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Weave around the strange halls and rooms of an architectural marvel, take the Walk With Spirits tour, and even perfect your aim in Sarah’s Attic Shooting Gallery at the Winchester Mystery House. Shop trendy brands—including Brandy Melville and Kendra Scott—eat at enticing restaurants like Pizza Antica and Meso Modern Mediterranean, and attend regular events such as the Makers Market in the Park, all on Santana Row. Bring a date for a romantic French dinner of Quail or Lobster Tail with a cocktail or glass of wine at La Foret. Or order a Burnt Almond Cupcake, Strawberry Ring, or loaf of Potato Bread from Peters’ Bakery.

San Luis Obispo

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  • Population: 47,402
  • Home Price: $662,300 median purchase price; $1,611 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 16% of California cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.7%

The family-centered community, fantastic educational opportunities, and beautiful art and architecture around the city make San Luis Obispo a great place to live in California! Full of stylish cafes, farmers markets, wineries, and more, SLO is a charming small town with perks perfect for people of all ages. Considering higher education? Choose from California Polytechnic State University, Cuesta College, and Laurus College San Luis Obispo! Enjoy public art installations, including mosaics, stained glass, and sculptures, public murals like SLO Irresistible, and the many art galleries in San Luis Obispo. Catch events like the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, concerts from big names like Tegan and Sara, shows by comedians such as Kathy Griffin, and more at the historical Fremont Theater. Hike the Discovery Trail, stroll the Children’s Garden and Fire Safe Garden, and buy a plant from the nursery at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden. Start your day with a Sunshine Bun or Raspberry Jam Oat Bar with a Gibraltar or Chai Latte from Scout Coffee. Or eat Peruvian meals with farm-to-table ingredients, like Rupa Rupa, Chichero, and a glass of red or white at Mistura.

Santa Barbara

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  • Population: 90,911
  • Home Price: $1,082,300 median purchase price; $1,874 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 35% of California cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 2.4%

With the magnificent Santa Ynez Mountains in the background, a high quality of life, and Mediterranean climate, Santa Barbara is certainly one of the best places to live in California! Residents enjoy a comfortable standard of living with strong job opportunities in many industries—including tourism and technology, positions with highly rated public and private schools, and excellent healthcare facilities, such as Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital. Those looking for top-notch colleges have easy access to UC Santa Barbara, Westmont College, and Antioch University Santa Barbara. Nicknamed “The American Riviera” due to its nearly year-round sunshine, moderate rainfall, and low humidity, Santa Barbara is considered one of the best places to live for the weather in the U.S. with plenty of things to do! Brush cute goats, ascend the climbing wall, and see western gray kangaroos, fennec foxes, snow leopards, and more at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Admire rotating exhibitions like Highlights of East Asian Art, collections like 19th Century European Paintings, and events including musical performances at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Relish farm-to-table Southeast Asian eats like Naughty Nuri Spare Ribs, Chicken Satay, and Passionfruit Tart at Sama Sama Kitchen. Or taste Spanish favorites such as Perla Bocaditos or tapas like Pera and Tortilla Espanola from Michelin-starred Loquita Santa Barbara.

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