The last time we visited data which involved California, we analyzed the worst places to live there. What we found didn’t surprise anyone at the office: Southern California has, by far, the worst places to live in the state, if you’re looking at it scientifically.
Nothing against SoCal or anything, but we grew up in Cali, and we know it’s hella better up north.
So, with that aside, it’s time to visit the lighter side and take a look at the best places to live there. Because, after all, California has some really great places. You just have to know where to look. (Hint: Look up).
After analyzing all 624 cities with a population of over 5,000, we came up with this list as the 10 best places in California:
- Los Altos (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Los Altos Hills (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Aliso Viejo (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Piedmont (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Coronado (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Belmont (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Cupertino (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Atherton (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Hillsborough (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- San Ramon (Photos | Homes For Sale)
Well, it looks like you should check out Los Altos if you’re thinking of moving to California — it’s the best the Golden State has to offer according to the data.
Follow along as we provide more insight into how we reached our overall best places to live in California.
For more California reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In California
- These Are The 10 Best Counties To Live In California
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In California
Mapping The Best And Worst Places To Live in California
The Pressing Question: Size
Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Sacramento with a population of 484,530 against places with a population of 18?
We firmly decided no, that just isn’t fair.
So to create our ranking, we broke places to live into three tiers:
- Cities — Populations over 5,000
- Towns — Populations between 1,000 and 5,000
- Small Towns — Populations below 1,000
This left us with 410 cities, 381 towns, and 265 small towns.
We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best places have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 5,000 people to truly be ‘the best’.
You can see those two top tens at the bottom of the post.
How We Calculated The Best Place To Live In California
Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.
We ranked each place in California across a number of criteria from one to 410, with one being the best.
We then took the average rank across all criteria, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title “Best Place To Live In California”.
The criteria we looked at were:
- Median Home Values
- Median Income
- Population Density (Higher better)
- Unemployment Rate
- Commute Time
- Education Levels
- Health Insurance Coverage
- Poverty rates
If your city or town isn’t among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see a detailed chart of the best places in California.
Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Los Altos at the end of the cul-de-sac.
In Los Altos, everyone loves to call Los Altos home! The median home value is the 3rd highest in California.
Additionally, the unemployment rate is the 5th lowest in the state. and the crime rates are some of the lowest in Golden State.
At an unemployment rate of 3.5%, everyone who wants a job can get one in Los Altos Hills. And the residents command high salaries ($243,701 a year combined income), and live in big fancy homes ($2,000,000 each).
We’re not saying money is why these cities are the ‘best’ in California. What we’re implying is that money means safety and peace of mind. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Aliso Viejo is Mission Viejo’s twin sister. The unemployment rate here is the 84th lowest in the state of California, and almost everyone who lives here has a job. That’s almost unheard of. The only real difference between the two is that Aliso Viejo has slightly lower priced homes, meaning it’s not as popular here as it is in Mission.
But, come on. Both are the best enclaves in the O.C.
Piedmont gets to enjoy the best Oakland has to offer without dealing with all of the crime that plagues Oakland. Residents here earn a staggeringly high income, and get some of the warmer weather that the east bay gets without the hot, dry climate in the Sacramento Valley.
So, yes, in this case, life up in the hills is better.
Taking its place as the 5th best place in California is Coronado. Residents here earn a really high salary each year, and crime is fairly low, in comparison to the rest of California.
It’s considered a cultural community, as it boasts an arts scene, and many ethnic restaurants, too. Which means you can’t be bored here.
An unemployment rate of only 6.1% helps thing too.
We think the motto in Belmont should be “Everything is greater in Belmont,” and that seems to be pretty close to the truth.
Belmont has some of the highest home values in California, and they’re going up fast. Additionally, Belmont only has 470.0% of its residents living in poverty.
Crime is also well below the state average, making Belmont a solid option for people who value safety. At least those who can afford it.
Back to the Bay Area we go. There’s two types of people who live in Cupertino. Either the old hold outs who have lived there forever and are watching their home values skyrocket, or the tech elite who work in the Silicon Valley and who can afford to buy a home there.
Either way, you’re set. Your kids go to great schools, there’s a ton of things to do, and you earn a great salary. Cupertino is exactly what you hoped for when you played that board game, LIFE as a kid.
Well, I guess technically 6.1% of Atherton residents who want to have a job can’t find one, so not everyone has a job, but it’s the 98th closest of any city in California.
You can tell they take business seriously as they have by far the coolest Chamber of Commerce website we came across in our research.
In addition to its incredibly low unemployment rate, Atherton also ranked well for crime (48th) and median income ($250,000).
Hillsborough’s unemployment rates are some of the lowest in the state and the median income is the 4th highest, making Hillsborough a great place to work and settle down if you’re look for a stable job with a stable income.
Additionally, Hillsborough has above average education and low crime, making this place a safe place to live.
There’s two types of people who live in San Ramon. Either the old hold outs who have lived there forever and are watching their home values skyrocket, or those d who can afford to buy a $810,700 home there.
Either way, you’re set. Your kids go to great schools, there’s a ton of things to do, and you earn a great salary. San Ramon is exactly what you hoped for when you played that board game, LIFE as a kid.
Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living In California
If you’re looking at areas in California with the best economic situations, where there’s lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
Los Altos made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for 2018.
Best Towns To Live In California
- Shell Ridge (Pop. 1,123)
- Ladera (Pop. 1,514)
- Loyola (Pop. 3,425)
- West Menlo Park (Pop. 3,830)
- Acalanes Ridge (Pop. 1,000)
- Emerald Lake Hills (Pop. 4,716)
- Mission Canyon (Pop. 2,769)
- Monte Sereno (Pop. 3,514)
- Highlands-Baywood Park (Pop. 4,261)
- Los Ranchos (Pop. 1,630)
Best Small Towns To Live In California
- Blacklake (Pop. 895)
- Diablo (Pop. 807)
- Alto (Pop. 649)
- Tomales (Pop. 245)
- Spreckels (Pop. 745)
- Alhambra Valley (Pop. 501)
- Silverado Resort (Pop. 988)
- Los Olivos (Pop. 871)
- Rolling Hills (Pop. 832)
- Lake Almanor Country Club (Pop. 357)
If you’re curious enough, here are the worst places to live in California according to the data:
- Wasco (Pop. 26,061)
- Clearlake (Pop. 15,070)
- Desert Hot Springs (Pop. 28,092)
For more California reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Raise A Family In California
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In California For 2018
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In California
- 10 Safest Places In California
- 10 Worst Places To Live In California
Detailed List Of The Best Places To Live In California
|2||Los Altos Hills||8,376|
|15||Palos Verdes Estates||13,582|
|23||Rancho Santa Margarita||49,038|
|24||Rancho Palos Verdes||42,412|
|38||Rolling Hills Estates||8,206|
|73||La Habra Heights||5,406|
|77||South San Francisco||66,587|