Best Places To Raise A Family In California For 2020

We used science and data to determine which cities in California have the best set up for children: a lot to do, good schools, and no crime.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the best cities for families in California.

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You likely had some very fond memories of childhood that you want to pass on to your children. You also likely have things you would change if you could. So what are some important factors to think about when you do start thinking about where to raise your children?

Crime levels, the quality of schools, and proximity to other children for your kids to make close friendships with are probably some of the key aspects to think about when deciding where to raise your family. The first decision to make is what state to raise your family in. Well, that is an easy one: California.

California is one of America's most famous states and for a good reason. Who wouldn't want to grow up under the palm trees, walking up and down the streets of San Francisco or San Diego, and hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail? California has something for everyone. You can be a surfer, a climber, a city-dweller, or even just a cafe-hopper. But within California, there are certain cities that stand out for families. These cities are both affordable and packed with family-friendliness. HomeSnacks has figured out the answer to those questions for you based on the most Census and FBI data.

So strap on your rollerblades, get your matcha, pull up the mini van, and read on to see which places in California offer the most for starting a family.

We analyzed 349 cities in California to determine which one was the best for families. This ranking was made by analyzing which cities were the most "family-friendly," or which states had the least crime, the best schools, and the most fun activities.

What's the best place for families in California? If you haven't heard of Imperial, California, then keep reading, because this is the best city for families in California for 2020.

Imperial is packed with everything families need and love. You can even travel to Mexico for an international dining experience if you want.

Want to see how your favorite city or hometown in California stacked up? Read on to learn more about our methodology and to see what makes each of our top ten cities for families so great.

Check out some more reading about California and the best places for families in the country:

The 10 Best Places To Raise A Family In California For 2020

Imperial, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 17,175
Family Friendly Amenities Score: 40
Closest Major City: Chula Vista
Households with kids: 52.0%
More on Imperial: PhotosHomes For Sale | Data

The most family friendly city in California for 2019 is Imperial. Kudos to Imperial!

One the fastest growing cities in the state, and located just North of Mexico, any family would be lucky to call this Imperial County city home.

This city scored off our charts with an 8.5/10 snackability rating with an emphasis on affordability, education, and family friendly amenities.

Not surprising considering they are a year round destination for family fun. Imperial boasts multiple golf courses, sand dunes for dune buggy enthusiasts and campers, and an abundance of creatures to hunt for sport.

Moorpark, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 36,274
Family Friendly Amenities Score: 40
Closest Major City: Oxnard
Households with kids: 36.7%
More on Moorpark: PhotosHomes For Sale | Data

You don't have to have a boatload of kids to keep your family entertained if you want to live in our second most family friendly city in California for 2019.

Why? Moorpark has one of the highest percentages of families with kids on our list, so there will be plenty of kids to play with when you move here.

And when you need a place to let your kids burn some energy, look no further than this Ventura County city: they have over 20 parks!

There are also plenty of high paying jobs, great schools, and it's crazy safe.

Located in slightly northwest of Los Angeles, Moorpark should be California's poster city for family friendly. #GoodWork

San Marino, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 13,285
Family Friendly Amenities Score: 44
Closest Major City: Glendale
Households with kids: 37.5%
More on San Marino: PhotosHomes For Sale | Data

Located at the base of the Angeles National Forest, just outside of Pasadena, is our ninth most family friendly city in California for 2019: San Marino.

San Marino scored a 9.5/10 on or snackability scale with an emphasis on low crime, education, and family friendly amenities.

This family friendly city comes with a price tag. You are going to have to get a job at one of their many companies. According to the job research site, Zippia, top employers in software, banking, and engineering have been keeping San Marino families employed, entertained, and happy.

Camarillo, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 67,543
Family Friendly Amenities Score: 50
Closest Major City: Oxnard
Households with kids: 28.9%
More on Camarillo: PhotosHomes For Sale | Data

Welcome to Camarillo. This city in Ventura County has one of the highest scores on our list for family amenities and it's our seventh most family friendly city in The Golden State for 2019.

Located slightly northwest of Los Angeles, and just a hop, skip, and a jump from the coast, Camarillo has something for everyone. Amazing food, 26 parks, and facilities like aquatic centers, BMX tracks, equestrian centers, and name a few, dot the city's landscape.

Camarillo is famous for sticking to tradition. So if you're looking for a city with quaint, quiet neighborhoods, idyllic community parades and gatherings, and residents who want to keep the city in the hands of its people, Camarillo is your city.

Sierra Madre, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 11,006
Family Friendly Amenities Score: 61
Closest Major City: Glendale
Households with kids: 25.5%
More on Sierra Madre: PhotosHomes For Sale | Data

Palo Alto, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 67,019
Family Friendly Amenities Score: 59
Closest Major City: Fremont
Households with kids: 35.1%
More on Palo Alto: PhotosHomes For Sale | Data

When your city is on 'the map' for tech companies like Facebook, Google, Pinterest, and Apple, you better make sure you bring it. And that's exactly what our third most family friendly city in California for 2019, Palo Alto, has done.

This city in Santa Clara County scored off the charts in housing, education, and family friendly amenities.

And for all of those parents who don't want their kids to fly the coop for college, Palo Alto University and Sofia University are located in this tech hub's backyard.

And speaking of tech hub, the median household income for Palo Alto is $152,000/year. That's a whole lot of opportunity for families to earn that vacation cheddar.

Review Of Palo Alto by HomeSnacks User

I live in Palo Alto, and I never doubted that we ranked high on snobbery. After all, not only do we have a community theater company and a community orchestra, but we have a community opera company as well.||I don't know where Palo Alto stands with this metric or how much it is weighted, but I take objection to your inclusion of private school density as a criterion.

Firstly, the number of private schools in a city relative to that city's population is not necessarily the best measure of how many eligible students in a city attend private school, as private schools may vary in size and often do not restrict enrollment to the residents of their host city.

Secondly, while private school enrollment is an understandable measure to be associated with snobbery, given that in most parts of the country elites seek out private schools for the usually superior quality of education they provide, Palo Alto may be an exception that proves the rule.

In Palo Alto, the quality of our public schools rivals that of many nearby private schools. Therefore, many Palo Alto parents proudly send their children to public school, deeming private school unnecessarily expensive for its relative value. Does this fact make us more or less s****y-

Torrance, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 146,392
Family Friendly Amenities Score: 51
Closest Major City: Long Beach
Households with kids: 31.9%
More on Torrance: PhotosHomes For Sale | Data

Head South from Camarillo, take a right at Los Angeles, towards the coast and you run into our eighth most family friendly California city for 2019: Torrance.

This little California gem is one of the fastest growing cities in The Golden State. Did we mention one of the safest too? So it was not a surprise to us that they scored a 9/10 on our snackability scale with an emphasis on safety, amenities, and jobs. Busy people don't have time to be naughty, right?

Torrance runs a tight ship in terms of education. They have to. They have over 30 schools to maintain in their district. So kudos to Torrance for scoring a 9/10 for education on our scale.

Mission Viejo, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 96,124
Family Friendly Amenities Score: 46
Closest Major City: Irvine
Households with kids: 30.9%
More on Mission Viejo: PhotosHomes For Sale | Data

They are on a mission in our sixth most family friendly city in California for 2019, Mission Viejo, to make their city safe, affordable, and fun for all families.

We think they are on the right track because they scored one of the highest snackability scores on our list: a whopping 10/10!

We believe that for a city to be truly family friendly, it needs to be safe, hip, diverse, and it has to have a ton of family friendly activities. They scored an 8.5/10 for safety, an 8.5/10 for diversity, and a 10/10 for amenities.

Mission Viejo's goal is to "Make Living Your Mission". We think you're doing just that.

Los Gatos, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 30,922
Family Friendly Amenities Score: 52
Closest Major City: San Jose
Households with kids: 32.3%
More on Los Gatos: PhotosHomes For Sale | Data

We're pretty sure if you asked your kids if they wanted to live in a city named for 'cats', they would give you a hard yes. Well, you're in luck because our fourth family friendly California city for 2019 is Los Gatos.

This city in Santa Clara County is a family friendly San Jose-burb with tons of family friendly things to do.

Surrounded by multiple state and county parks, this Northern California tech community has amazing shopping, art galleries, museums, and it's just a stone's throw away from the coast.

And if you're stressed about where to send your kids to school, you can stop now. Los Gatos has multiple blue ribbon elementary schools and golden apple secondary schools.

Review Of Los Gatos by HomeSnacks User

Lived in Los Gatos for 15 years, and yes it's a desired community but because of the exceptional school system level, the photo is the high school which is the most beautiful one I've ever seen and I've lived all over the states, with the best teaching staff in the country, and its facilities are like a university...

I grew up in Ann Arbor, Mi. Which is a university town and gorgeous. I now live and have for 28 years on Catalina island, in Avalon which is the most mellow in the state, and beautiful... Location, location.

Pleasanton, CA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 80,847
Family Friendly Amenities Score: 43
Closest Major City: Fremont
Households with kids: 41.5%
More on Pleasanton: PhotosHomes For Sale | Data

How do you determine which place is best for families in California anyways?

To give you the places in California which are best for families, we have to look at a handful of metrics. Of course, we want to measure the type of people who live in each city, and make some assumptions about what's family-friendly and what isn't.

So we researched the internet for a database that contains all that information.

How we crunched the family friendly numbers for the Golden State

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using U.S. Census data produced for the state of California, we looked at every single city in the state. We paid particular attention to:

  • Crime (Both violent and property)
  • Quality of local schools
  • Distance to a major city without necessarily being in it
  • % of households with children
  • Family-friendly amenities nearby (museums, libraries and colleges)

We then gave each city a Family Score.

The higher the score, the better the city is for families. We also limited our results to cities with populations over 10,000 people. For California, that meant a total of 349 cities. You can download the data here.

There You Have It - The Best Places To Raise A Family In California

If you're looking for a breakdown of cities in California ranked by criteria that most would agree make a place a great spot for families, this is an accurate list.

Here's a look at the best cities for singles California according to the data:

  1. Grass Valley
  2. Clearlake
  3. Anderson

For more california reading, check out:

Where Are The Best Places For Families In California?

Rank City Population Amenities Score
1 Imperial, CA 17,175 44
2 Moorpark, CA 36,274 65
3 San Marino, CA 13,285 39
4 Camarillo, CA 67,543 62
5 Sierra Madre, CA 11,006 50
6 Palo Alto, CA 67,019 58
7 Torrance, CA 146,392 63
8 Mission Viejo, CA 96,124 51
9 Los Gatos, CA 30,922 43
10 Pleasanton, CA 80,847 57

How Is The Area In ?

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.

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