California is packed with desirable places to live. While other destinations might be more popular, moving to Sacramento is actually an ideal choice for folks looking to move out west. The city of Sacramento is home to approximately 500,000 residents. Although the city limits may be on the smaller side, there are an additional 1 million residents settled in the outlying suburbs of Sacramento County.
In recent years, there has been a notable population shift within the state of California. Many people are being priced out of coastal areas and moving inward to areas like Sacramento. Despite not being the first choice for some, this city has a lot more to offer than just a lower cost of living. Are you ready to make your move? Will you opt for city life or pick a nearby suburb? We’ve covered all the bases, like desirable Sacramento neighborhoods and a realistic look at the job market. We’re also exploring activities unique to the Sacramento area. Do you love history, agriculture, and water sports? Find out the top reasons why a move to Sacramento, California may be more rewarding than you initially imagined.
1. There Are Plenty of Picturesque Sacramento Neighborhoods
Some might consider Sacramento small by California city standards, but depending on where you’re moving from, Sacramento might actually seem large. Regardless of its size, this mid-sized metropolitan has plenty of quiet tree-lined streets right in the city’s center.
Like any city, Sacramento has an eclectic mix of neighborhoods, some safer and more desirable than others. You can opt to either live within the city limits after moving to Sacramento or choose an area just outside in one of the adjacent suburbs.
Neighborhoods in the City
- Midtown— If you want a fast-paced youthful environment, consider the Downtown or Midtown areas. Midtown has an eclectic mix of hippies and hipsters as well as young working professionals. The housing market is equally varied. You might find a single family house next to an apartment building next to a tattoo parlor. Looking for a highly walkable area? Midtown is your best bet.
- East Sacramento — East Sac is an upscale section of town that has one of the higher prices per sq ft in the city. This area is home to doctors, attorneys, lobbyists, and business owners. The area also houses McKinley Park, a 32-acre green space full of recreational places to gather.
- South Land Park — This neighborhood is composed primarily of 1950’s ranch style homes and is located just four miles south of the state capitol. Homes don’t turn over very often in this area because they tend to stay in the family for generations.
- College Greens — This neighborhood is home to Sac State, but it isn’t necessarily just a college town. College Greens offers its residents more home and yard space than you would find in Midtown or East Sac. It’s a relatively safe area in close proximity to freeways and located east of downtown.
Neighborhoods in the Suburbs
If you’re looking for a distinct suburban experience, there are various neighborhoods to choose from, each with quality public schools and quiet streets. Some more popular destinations include:
- Cameron Park
- Elk Grove
2. If You’re From the East, Winter Will Be a Breeze
How you view Sacramento’s weather will be relative to where you’re from originally. To some, Sacramento’s winters can be too cold. But, it rarely ever snows in Sacramento, which makes the winters mild and manageable for most.
Summers are generally hotter than other parts of California. If you’re open to temperatures above 100 degrees, this may not come as a bother. You’ll have to remember despite higher humidity here than other parts of California, the humidity is actually much less than other places. The summer in Sacramento is hot but it is also dry. Dry heat can be easier to tolerate than humid heat.
The greatest weather-related advantage to living in Sacramento is the ability to have changing seasons out west. People who move to places like Los Angeles might often miss the change of seasons. But people in Sacramento can enjoy subtle weather changes that make each season unique.
Sacramento is one of the few cities in California where you can experience the colorful changing of fall foliage. Most areas of the state have evergreen trees while Sacramento has a wide variety of color-changing trees including Maples and Ginkgo trees. Apple Hill is a one hour drive away and there’s plenty of beautiful fall foliage and u-pick apple orchards, a local fall favorite for sure! In the springtime, many trees have pink and white blossoms dispersing a sweet fragrance in the air.
Realtor and South Land Park Resident Stephanie Baker agrees that weather here is ideal. “There’s nothing like warm summer night with a cool drink on a patio in Sacramento,” she says. “It cools off at night, and it’s not humid like Buffalo or Portland.”
3. The Cost of Living is Lower Than Most Parts of California
Sacramento has been through some rough economic times in the past couple decades. The recession of 2007 has attributed to lower housing costs and a lower cost of living. If you’re able to solidify a job prior to moving to Sacramento, you’ll benefit from having a steady income in an affordable place to live by California standards. Move quickly though, because housing prices are on a steady incline.
The housing market varies between neighborhoods. A basic entry level single family home starts around $300,000. This asking price is significantly higher per sq ft than other parts of the country. However, it’s low for the state of California.
To compare, the total cost of living for Sacramento is 5% above the national average. Before you think that is high, consider moving to Los Angeles, which has a cost of living 21.5% above the national average.
4. You’ll Be Close to Freshwater Rivers and Lakes
When most people think of California, they think of the Pacific Ocean. Besides that, California is generally considered dry with little in the way of fresh water. Not in Sacramento because there are large rivers and lakes to enjoy. This is especially appealing to people who prefer activities on smaller bodies of water.
A favorite summertime activity for Sacramento residents is floating around in the rivers and local watering holes. It’s a cost-effective way for the whole family to cool off and take in some nature outdoors.
An added bonus: you’ll also be close to the mountains after moving to Sacramento. If you are an avid skier or hiker, Sacramento may be a good landing place for you.
Outdoor Waterways to Explore
- American River Parkway — Known as the “jewel of Sacramento,” this stretch of land and river is home to more than a dozen different parks. Outdoor activities include boating, fishing, rafting, hiking, and more.
- Folsom Lake — Travel 25 miles east of Sacramento, and you’ll reach Folsom Lake. Despite droughts in 2014, the lake is still an ideal spot for boating and watersport enthusiasts.
- Sacramento River — Despite having two rivers and a lake, Sacramento, like the rest of California, has been experiencing a drought of record proportions. However, 2017 brought heaping amounts of rain and precipitation to the region, offering hope to residents. Experts warn though that California and Sacramento’s water problems are far from over.
5. There are Numerous Employment Opportunities
Even though the unemployment rate is higher than other parts of California, Sacramento isn’t without a fair job market. Since it is the state capital, state jobs are more abundant than other parts of California. Because of the recession in 2007, it’s important to know what type of job you’re looking for in advance and explore that market specifically.
Although the economy is still recovering, Sacramento is largely on the up and up. According to resident and realtor Debbie Towne, the future is bright. “It took several years to shake off the doldrums of the recession, but the state of California is hiring again,” Debbie explains. “People have been feeling more secure in their jobs, housing prices have gone up. Some house prices have climbed higher than before the recession.”
Need a place to start your job hunt? Sacramento is home to the following large employers: State of California, Sutter Health, Blue Diamond, and United Service Automobile Association. Prominent industries include technology, healthcare, and the government.
6. Sacramento is Packed with History
The discovery of gold in Sacramento in 1848 shaped American history in unimaginable ways. More than 750,000 pounds of gold valued at nearly $2 billion was extracted during the few year gold rush span. Sacramento and the gold found there serve as the vessel for California becoming the 31st state in 1849. In keeping with this history, Sacramento is rich with places you can visit to experience life as it would have been over 150 years ago.
- Sutter’s Fort — Prior to the Gold Rush, Sacramento first began at the hands of Swiss immigrant John Sutter in 1839. Sutter then built a fort near the Sacramento and American Rivers. It was at Sutter’s Mill where gold was first discovered nearly a decade later. You can now visit Sutter’s Fort in the heart of Midtown Sacramento.
- Gold Rush Days — Watch as Old Sacramento gets transformed into a scene straight out of the 1850’s. Every year around Labor Day weekend, residents can learn firsthand about their city for free by observing hundreds of performers. You can even pan for some “fools” gold.
- California State Library — Learn about Sacramento and the entire state of California at the Library and Courts Building. This piece of history was added to the National Register of Historic Places and underwent a renovation completed in 2014.
- World’s Oldest Triathalon — Who says history has to be boring and stagnant? Take part in Eppie’s Great Race, one of the few long running “no swim” triathlons. Instead of swimming, athletes kayak, making it the largest paddling race in the country.
7. Sacramento is Ideally Located for Weekend Getaways
One of the greatest advantages to living in Sacramento is its close proximity to some of California’s most visited destinations. While the ocean is just a couple hours away, Sacramento is also a short drive away from wine country and the mountains. Depending on the type of retreat you want, all you have to do is hop in the car and head in the right direction.
Gorgeous Places to Visit
- Lake Tahoe
- San Francisco
- Napa and Sonoma
- Santa Cruz
- Lassen National Park
- Muir Woods National Monument
- Apple Hill
Tips for a Weekend Getaway
- Leave early in the day to avoid traffic. What would be an hour and a half trip to San Francisco can quickly become over three hours stuck in traffic.
- The most inexpensive way to have a weekend getaway is to do a day trip. This way you don’t have to pay for lodging. Sometimes this could mean as much as six hours in a car in a day. Make the most of that time with some of our favorite Spotify Travel Playlists.
8. Tree Lined Streets are Common
As the city of trees, Sacramento doesn’t want you to underestimate the importance of tree-lined streets. Downtown Sacramento is full of trees, self-proclaimed as having one of the best urban forests in the nation. The city takes great care to ensure the continued sustainability of their trees, in part to offer natural shade from the scorching summer heat.
To learn more about the native trees in Sacramento, take part in a guided or self-guided tree tour. There are also hundreds of parks across the city, each with areas of shade to enjoy a quiet afternoon lunch–or even, perhaps, a nap?
9. There is No Shortage of Cultural Experiences
As one of the most diverse cities in the country, Sacramento offers many culturally rich things to do. Sure, getting away from Sacramento on a weekend is wonderful. But don’t discount the expanding art scene or the plethora of kids activities right within the city. There are also various cultural events depending on your interests and background. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Carnaval, or the Chinese New Year all without having to leave Sacramento.
Looking for sports in Sacramento? There might not be football or baseball within the city limits, but there is a large NBA presence with the Sacramento Kings. The King’s new stadium has been referenced as one of the most modern arenas in the NBA. If you want an NFL team to cheer on, the Oakland Raiders are less than 100 miles away (at least for the time being, as they will be moving to Las Vegas in the next year or so). If sports aren’t your thing, read on for more ways to enjoy the city.
Ways to Explore Sacramento
- Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera — Enjoy music and the arts from the Community Center Theatre. Popularity for the Philharmonic has been on the rise as they work to expand their demographic. The company beat a 16-year sellout record during their 2015-16 Resurrection Season by selling out two shows. They had not sold to capacity since 2000.
- Sacramento Theatre Company — From September to May, residents can enjoy up to eight performances a week, ranging from classical, musical, and contemporary plays. The company even partners with local schools to get the youth involved and was nominated this year for a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.
- Wide Open Walls — In most cities, art is mostly confined inside museum walls. Sacramento has a vibrant public art scene, spearheaded and curated by the mural festival known as Wide Open Walls. Celebrating the idea that art is for everyone, famous artists come from all over the world to paint public spaces donated to the festival. The murals are painted in a variety of styles and aesthetics, often times with a message commentating on relevant cultural events. For two weeks in August, Wide Open Walls takes over the city and colorful murals begin popping up all over Sacramento.
- Coffee — If you’re a fan of a morning (or afternoon) cup of caffeine, Sacramento has built a culture around coffee shops. Serving drinks handmade by skilled baristas, gourmet coffee shops have made great efforts to curate the perfect environment to meet up with friends and sip a cup of joe. Popular coffee joints like Temple are bustling with patrons every day of the week, the work crowd on weekdays and the leisurely brunchers on the weekends.
Activities for Kids
- Fairytale Town — This fantastical play space for kids is based on various nursery rhymes and fairy tales and houses over 25 different playsets. This outdoor park sits on over 3 acres of land and encourages kids to use their imaginations.
- California State Railroad Museum — Whether your child loves trains or not, there is plenty to keep them occupied at this railroad museum. From the train tour where you explore inside historic steam trains to the childrens’ activity center, the whole family will see and learn so much. The complex is located in Old Sacramento State Historic Park.
- Sacramento River Train — Step into another era and enjoy a nostalgic train ride through the Sacramento countryside. The River Train offers a variety of themed train excursions for both children and adults. Favorites include the pumpkin train, Christmas train and the gold rush excursion.
10. You’ll Be Encouraged to Eat Better
As America’s “Farm to Fork” Capital, Sacramento has gone through a bit of a rebranding. An area once primarily known as the city of trees was approached in 2012 with a new identity. Sacramento is at the heart of California, and Sacramento grows it all, from almonds to avocados. Restaurateurs and foodies alike can feel confident that they’re being offered the freshest produce available in Sacramento.
With Sacramento being the national Farm to Fork capital, there has been a complimentary restaurant renaissance movement with top chefs taking up residence in the capital city. Once a looked-over destination for fine dining, Sacramento has made big efforts to establish itself as a culinary destination. Top restaurants have menus filled with inventive and fresh entrees, much like you would see in San Francisco and Los Angeles. With so many surrounding farmlands, chefs are able to use the freshest ingredients and pride themselves on sourcing locally.
Take advantage of this rebranding by encouraging yourself to be more aware of your food choices. Here are a couple of ways you can make the most of your food when you move to Sacramento.
Local Eats in Sacramento
- Agricultural Festivals — There is a wide assortment of agricultural festivals most non-residents are unfamiliar with. These festivals highlight particular food for a day or a weekend. In the surrounding Sacramento area, you’ll find the Pear Festival, the Eggplant Festival, the Banana Festival, even the Berry Festival. All these agricultural festivals offer hundreds of different ways to use a piece of produce.
- Farmers’ Markets — Make sure you’re experiencing true California produce by visiting one of the certified farmers’ markets in the Sacramento area. You won’t be disappointed.
- Postmates — For new residents and busy families, using Postmates is a great way to get acquainted with a variety of local restaurants. The Downtown and Midtown areas are packed with restaurants that offer locally sourced food. To explore options in your area, a simple Yelp search will lead you in the right direction.
11. You’ll Learn First Hand How to Deal With Negativity
Just as there are pros and cons to anything, there are some reasons why moving to Sacramento may not be your first choice. For instance, the summers can be unbearably hot and dry. Sacramento’s economy was heavily damaged during the recession of 2007. Plus, some instances of urban blight have made previously thriving areas less desirable. Here are some tips to help you make the most of Sacramento.
- Every city has areas with higher levels of crime, drug addiction and slumlords. Make sure to spend time in an area you want to live to be sure you’re comfortable. Next, learn to embrace the diversity that makes the Sacramento area culturally rich and vibrant. Don’t immediately judge based on appearances. You might learn to love your neighborhood’s wacky, out of the norm characters, so long as they don’t infringe on your safety.
- Brace yourself for heat. Don’t settle for an apartment without properly working A/C knowing what you know about the summers here. If you can’t or haven’t tolerated heat, make sure you have A/C.
- Do what you can to be an active part of the community. Is urban blight a problem in your Sacramento neighborhood? Join a community group or church group to help fight the problem firsthand.
- Come to Sacramento with a job in hand. Regardless of the economy, it can be risky to make a move to a relatively expensive area without a job first. Find out what unique skills you have to offer and freshen up that resume to show off your experience. If in doubt, check for state or city jobs first.
2 Pieces of Advice if You’re Moving to Sacramento, CA
1. Watch Lady Bird.
For anyone considering a move to Sacramento, a must-watch film is Lady Bird. Almost the entire movie was filmed in Sacramento. It really gives you an inside look at the city from a local’s perspective. The film has been dubbed “a love letter to the city of Sacramento.” With beautiful cinematography and witty quips throughout the script, it’s no wonder Lady Bird won the Golden Globe for “Best Motion Picture” and was nominated for several Oscars.
2. We can help!
Whether you’re relocating across the country or across the state, moving can be stressful. Let us help lighten the load. Life Storage offers various self storage options in Sacramento to help with your relocation. Are there reasons why you love Sacramento that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Update: This post was originally published on April 7, 2017, and was revised on February 25, 2019, with new information from Sacramento expert, Gennifer Rose.