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:
- These Are The 10 Best Counties To Live In California
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In California
- 10 Best Places To Raise A Family 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.
Los Altos is unequivocally the best place to live in California. Not only do they have the highest student expenditure in the state, meaning they place a very high value on their students’ education, but they also have the 7th highest median income.
Additionally, they have the 25th lowest crime rate, making it one of the safest city in California. If that wasn’t enough, their unemployment rate is only 3.2%%.
Overall, Los Altos is the place to live in California.
If you don’t have a job in Los Altos Hills, you’re most likely not trying very hard. The unemployment rate here is almost as low as you can get — 3.5%. In fact, there are probably enough butler and landscaping jobs available here to put every single unemployed resident to work, what with a median income of $243,701.
That’s actually not a bad idea…
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.
Coronado has a really low crime rate (66th lowest) and only 6.1% of the people are unemployed. Additionally, residents here have high paying jobs ($92,413). And that goes a long way.
The population is growing at a steady clip, and the cost of living is lower than it should be. So people have an extra incentive to live in Coronado.
You might be surprised to see the Town of Belmont so high on the list. Unless you live in Belmont.
The unemployment rate here is really low, and at 5.0%, Belmont residents are some of the hardest working in the state of California. When you factor in high home prices, high incomes and low crime, Belmont is doing quite well.
Let’s be honest — Belmont is the kind of place you brag to your friends on Facebook about.
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.
Atherton has been called one of the best small towns in America. If you live here, you’re most likely already aware of how great it is to live there.
Just about everyone who wants a job in Atherton has one; the unemployment rate is hovering at about 6.1% and lowering. And the Atherton police department is doing a solid job, as crime is the 48th lowest in the state here.
Who wouldn’t want to live in a place like this?
Hillsborough has it made. In fact, according to science, it’s one of the best places to live in the state of California.
The unemployment rate is the 66th lowest in the state at 5.4%, and residents make a pretty penny. Median incomes are $216,292, and the average cost of a home is $2,000,000. Which is an indication that lots of people want to live here.
We wouldn’t be surprised if more and more publications call Hillsborough one of America’s gems.
San Ramon isn’t just the nicest place to live in California – it’s also the one of the fastest growing places in the state. And with good reason.
It’s got the 16th lowest unemployment rate, the 21st highest adjusted income, and rates above most places in education.
When you’re looking at science and data, San Ramon definitely deserves a spot on the list for 2018.
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:
- 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|