Top 16 Cities in California: Where Do You Want to Live?

California Best Cities

Searching for the best place to live in California means sifting through a dizzying array of options, each promising a unique slice of the Golden State’s lifestyle. Moving to California may require choosing among dozens of great cities with varying living costs, amenities, and real estate. Whether you yearn for the innovation-rich streets of Silicon Valley or the soothing waves of SoCal’s beach towns, your choice will significantly impact your living experience here. Dive in to navigate the economic landscapes, community vibes, and living essentials that make or break California’s top living destinations.

Quick Highlights

  • California offers a diverse array of cities with unique charm, widely varying climates, and proximity to sprawling state and national parks.
  • The state boasts metropolitan hubs like Los Angeles and San Francisco alongside affordable, family-friendly, and nature-centric living options, such as Victorville, Irvine, and the Central Valley.
  • From the tech innovations of Silicon Valley to the soothing coastal communities of Southern California and the rustic elegance of Northern California, there is a perfect Californian locale for every dream lifestyle.

Discovering California's Top Residential Havens

Our journey kicks off on the iconic Highway 1. This scenic road weaves through some of the best cities to live in California, each unique in its charm and lifestyle. Travel north to the vibrant city of San Francisco, where old-world charm meets modern sophistication. Or head south to San Diego, where the laid-back atmosphere reflects its sunny climate and warm residents. 

But what if you crave a more budget-friendly lifestyle without compromising on the California experience? With its lower cost of living and abundant recreational opportunities, Victorville could be your answer. It’s located approximately 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles, and homes in Victorville are typically priced from $150,000 to $800,000. 

From the glamour of Beverly Hills to the artistic charm of Carmel-by-the-Sea, each Californian city emanates a unique aura. Whether you’re drawn to the magnificent landscapes of Northern California or the technological hub of Silicon Valley, there’s a place for you in the Golden State. Even the state's agricultural heart, the Central Valley, has hidden jewels awaiting discovery. So, buckle up for a journey through the best places to live in California, which promises to be as diverse and exciting as the state itself!

Los Angeles

Picture this: waking up to the sunlit skyline of Los Angeles, a sprawling metropolis lauded for its diverse culture, dynamic entertainment scene, and breathtaking beaches. As you sip your morning coffee, the best neighborhoods in Los Angeles come alive, buzzing with a contagious energy. Whether you’re a movie enthusiast drawn to the iconic Hollywood sign or a beach lover craving the sun-kissed sands of Santa Monica, Los Angeles has a place for you.

Homes for sale in Los Angeles cover a broad style and price spectrum, with most homes typically priced from the $400s to $5 million and ultra-luxury homes listing from $20 million or more. 

Los Angeles transcends the concept of a city; it embodies a lifestyle. With sunny weather year-round, residents have the luxury of enjoying outdoor activities at any time of the year. The economy in Los Angeles is full of opportunities in various fields, from entertainment to technology. And after a busy day, there’s nothing like watching the sunset over the Pacific coastline, painting the sky in hues of orange and pink. Truly, Los Angeles is a city where dreams come alive!

San Francisco

Heading north along the Pacific coastline, we reach San Francisco, California’s cultural mecca. Known for its iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Lombard Street, in addition to its dynamic cultural scene, San Francisco is a city that never fails to impress. With its blend of history, modernity, and natural beauty, it’s no wonder so many people dream of calling this city home.

Every day presents a fresh adventure in San Francisco. Be sure to explore some of San Francisco’s unique attractions, including:

With such a vibrant cultural scene and a strong sense of community, there’s no place quite like the San Francisco Bay Area. Many people struggle to choose between San Francisco and Los Angeles. They're the two best cities in the state for a reason!

Cities in Silicon Valley

Reasons to Live in San Jose, CA

Venturing south of San Francisco, we find ourselves in the heart of the tech world and a vital region to the economy of California: Silicon Valley. Known for its tech buzz, Silicon Valley is more than just the home of tech giants such as Google and Apple. It’s an area with some of California’s top cities, including San Jose, Sunnyvale, and much more.

San Jose

In the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose is a city that perfectly combines a tech haven with cultural depth. As we explore its vibrant economy and multiculturalism, we discover an active, green, and healthy lifestyle bolstered by over 300 days of sunshine annually. The city’s downtown acts as Silicon Valley’s urban hub, providing a variety of urban amenities like a multitude of dining options, cultural venues, and new high-rise residential spaces.

San Jose provides more than a globally recognized tech environment. It’s a place where you can enjoy the best of Northern California’s lifestyle, from biking along the city’s scenic trails to exploring the diverse culinary scene. Homes in San Jose are typically priced from the $300s to more than $3 million. In San Jose, every day is a new opportunity to embrace a lifestyle that’s as dynamic and diverse as the city itself.

Sunnyvale and Mountain View

Delving deeper into Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale and Mountain View emerge as additional residential gems. These cities offer suburban bliss, a healthy dose of innovation, and proximity to beautiful natural areas like the Foothills Nature Preserve. With its significant presence from tech giants like Lockheed Martin, Apple, and Google, Sunnyvale fosters a robust tech-centric culture. The city’s residential offerings vary from modest ranch-style homes to condos and apartments—typically ranging in price from $300,000 to around $2.5 million—accommodating a range of living preferences.

But life in Sunnyvale and Mountain View isn’t all about work. The cities offer comprehensive transportation options, from buses and light rails to bike lanes, making it easy for residents to explore their surroundings. The community spirit is bolstered through annual events like Jazz & Beyond and the Sunnyvale Halloween Pet Parade & Faire and outdoor amenities such as picnic areas, dog parks, and a public golf course. Here, suburban bliss meets innovation, providing a unique lifestyle experience.

Coastal Living in Southern California

Reasons to Live in Santa Monica, CA

Venturing further south, we are greeted by the tranquil elegance of coastal living in Southern California. Here, the Pacific Ocean kisses the shoreline, creating picturesque beach cities like Santa Monica and Newport Beach. From some of LA’s best suburbs to quaint seaside communities near San Diego, they offer a unique blend of the laid-back beach lifestyle with the buzz of an urban soul.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica, a beach city with an urban soul, never fails to impress. Home to the iconic Santa Monica Pier, expansive beaches, and high-end accommodations like the Shutters on the Beach hotel, the city offers diverse attractions that draw both residents and visitors. Homes in Santa Monica come at a premium that reflects the community’s appeal, typically ranging in price from $600,000 to more than $15 million. If you're looking for a great beach town near Los Angeles, look no further.

But Santa Monica isn’t just about the beach. Its strong job market is supported by sectors like:

  • Creative Industries and Technology (Silicon Beach)
  • Health Care
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Retail

With influential companies such as Snap Inc. and Providence St. John’s Health Center, Santa Monica isn’t just a commuter town. The city’s commitment to sustainability, as seen in its annual honors for businesses that lead in eco-friendly initiatives, solidifies its reputation as a forward-thinking urban center.

Newport Beach

Heading southeast of Downtown Los Angeles to beautiful Orange County, Newport Beach offers opulent living by the sea. Known for its beautiful harbor, upscale shops and restaurants, the city is a destination for luxury living. At Fashion Island, a premier shopping destination, you can indulge in high-end shopping experiences that rival those of Beverly Hills.

Newport Beach’s luxury homes are world-famous and highly sought-after, but the community is about much more than just luxury. It also offers a variety of top-tier golf experiences with spectacular ocean views. Golf clubs in Newport Beach include:

  • Strawberry Farms Golf Club
  • Pelican Hill Golf Club
  • Newport Beach Golf Course
  • Back Bay Golf Course
  • Monarch Beach Golf Links

These clubs provide diverse golfing experiences from local golf courses, including championship courses along with executive and beginner-friendly layouts, each with unique offerings like evening play and stunning oceanfront views.

Northern California

Reasons to Live in Sacramento, CA

Now, let’s steer our journey northwards to uncover the verdant retreats of Northern California. This region offers diverse communities and access to stunning natural attractions, from the rugged coastline to the towering redwoods.

Among these captivating landscapes, we find Marin County and Sacramento, each offering a unique lifestyle experience.

Marin County

The rustic elegance of Marin County is truly mesmerizing. Home to renowned natural attractions such as Muir Woods National Monument, Marin Headlands, and Point Reyes National Seashore, the county offers residents the chance to explore everything from old-growth redwoods to scenic coastal areas.

Homes in Marin County include sprawling farms, cost-effective condos, and magnificent coastal estates. Most homes are priced from the low $300s to around $10 million, though outliers can exceed $20 million.

But Marin County isn’t just about its significant share of the best things to do in California. Its trails traverse varied ecological zones, from Douglas fir and redwood forests to oak woodlands, reservoirs, and marsh areas, contributing to the county’s rich biodiversity. For outdoor enthusiasts, the county offers many activities, from mountain biking and bird watching to nature walks, with some trails offering breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean.


Sacramento, the capital city with a gold rush charm, offers a vibrant cultural scene and a dynamic economy. The city’s preserved historic Old Sacramento Waterfront stands as a testament to its rich history, where mid-1800s buildings echo the tales of the gold rush era. Complemented by a lively blend of government, technology, agriculture, and healthcare industries, the city offers a dynamic environment for its residents.

Sacramento’s prime location allows residents easy access to renowned destinations such as San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and Napa Valley. Whether you’re a culture vulture, a wine enthusiast, or an outdoor adventurer, Sacramento is the perfect base for a myriad of experiences.

Central Valley

Reasons to Live in Fresno, CA

Moving inland, we uncover the hidden gems of the Central Valley, a region that embodies the state's agricultural heart. It's also home to some of the most affordable cities in California, balancing the California dream with a lower cost of living.


Fresno, the agricultural heart of California and part of the San Joaquin Valley, combines its agricultural roots with urban perks. The city is home to family-owned businesses like Simonian Farms, which produces an impressive range of 180 types of fruits and vegetables, and the Gibson Farm Market, offering a variety of local produce, including jams, nuts, and wine.

Fresno isn’t just about agriculture, though. The community has parks, zoos, and live sporting events for recreational enjoyment, and its affordable home prices help residents minimize their cost of living in California. And with its easy access to some of the best national parks in California, it’s a haven for nature lovers, offering families the opportunity to connect with nature and engage in outdoor activities.


Bakersfield, on the other hand, offers a unique blend of oil fields and country music vibes. With a diverse climate, affordable living, and a growing economy, it presents an attractive option for families and individuals alike. Key industries in the city include agriculture, oil production, and energy, providing ample employment opportunities for professionals in these fields.

But Bakersfield isn’t just about work. The city celebrates a rich cultural diversity, reflected in its food, festivals, and community events. And with proximity to natural attractions like the Kern River and Sequoia National Forest, Bakersfield is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering activities from hiking and camping to fishing and whitewater rafting.

Suburbs Near Major Cities

We now focus on the tranquil suburban retreats near major cities. These suburbs, like Irvine and Carlsbad, offer ample amenities. They maintain a suburban feel while being close to the major cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, providing residents with the best of both worlds.


Irvine, a master-planned community near Los Angeles County, is a testament to perfection. Known for its educational options, it’s a primary choice for anyone who prioritizes quality education. The city’s master-planned communities are meticulously designed to provide ample opportunities for recreational activities and fostering a strong sense of community.

In Irvine, every day is an opportunity to enjoy a balanced lifestyle. It’s close enough to Los Angeles to make it a viable commuter town, and with proximity to coastal cities like Long Beach and Huntington Beach, enjoying the Pacific Ocean is a breeze. The city’s well-planned neighborhoods offer easy access to parks, shopping centers, and schools. Irvine offers a lifestyle that’s as dynamic as it is comfortable.

Resort Cities in California

Reasons to Live in Lake Tahoe, CA

Leaving the suburban sanctuaries, let’s now venture into the enchanting world of resort cities in California. These cities, like Palm Springs and Lake Tahoe, offer residents and visitors an escape into relaxation and indulgence, providing a lifestyle marked by leisure and luxury.

Let’s delve into these resort cities to discover their unique offerings.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs, a desert oasis with a retro flair in Riverside County, is known for its iconic mid-century modern architecture. As we explore the city, we encounter architectural masterpieces designed by renowned architects like Albert Frey, John Lautner, and Richard Neutra. These designs, including public buildings and famous residences, reflect the unique desert modernism aesthetic.

Homes for sale in Palm Springs typically list from the high $100s to around $8 million, but Palm Springs is more than just a haven for architecture enthusiasts. The city also offers a vibrant atmosphere, with a host of attractions and activities to enjoy, including:

  • Golf courses and clubhouses that exhibit the unique desert modernism aesthetic
  • A variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking and biking in the nearby mountains
  • Art galleries and museums showcasing local and international artists
  • Shopping and dining options in the downtown area
  • Relaxing spas and wellness centers
  • Festivals and events throughout the year

Whether you’re a golf enthusiast or simply a lover of retro-chic design, Palm Springs is a place that will captivate your senses.

Lake Tahoe

On the other hand, Lake Tahoe offers alpine living at its finest. Known for its year-round outdoor activities, stunning natural attractions, and a variety of recreational options, it’s a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe is home to the Heavenly Mountain Resort, which provides activities throughout the year, and the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile hiking and horseback riding circuit offering panoramic lake views. This haven for adventure and hiking trails is truly a must-visit destination.

But Lake Tahoe isn’t just about outdoor activities. The region also offers a range of recreational options, from horseback riding at Camp Richardson Corral and kayaking at El Dorado Beach to challenging hikes on Mount Tallac that reward you with breathtaking views over Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Whether you’re an adventure junkie or a nature lover, Lake Tahoe is a place where you can truly live life to the fullest.

Living & Dreaming in California’s Best Cities

As our journey through California’s top residential havens comes to an end, we reflect on the diversity of living options this Golden State offers. From the bustling cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco to the serene beach towns of Santa Monica and Newport Beach, from the tech hubs of Silicon Valley to the nature-rich retreats of Northern California, from NorCal to SoCal, each place offers a unique lifestyle and myriad opportunities. So whether you’re a city dweller or a beach lover, a tech enthusiast or a nature buff, remember, in California, there’s a place just for you!

Want to live in California? Call The Brad Korb Real Estate Group with LA Homes at (818) 953-5300 to find your dream home.

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