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The Best Places to Live in Northern California
Real Estate

The Best Places to Live in Northern California

From small towns to large metropolises, these are the destinations that’ll have you planning your next big move to Northern California.

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5 min read

April 07, 2021

NorCal has a wealth of attractions for prospective movers. Whether you prioritize outdoor adventures or the job market, these destinations check all the boxes. Retirees and young professionals alike can find their ideal home in the best cities to live in Northern California.

From small towns to large metropolises, these are the locations that’ll have you planning your next big move. 

The Best Cities to Live in Northern California

Sacramento is becoming an ideal moving destination due to its low cost of living and easy access to freshwater rivers and lakes.

Sacramento

Median home price: $399,000

Median household income: $83,000

Leave your old life behind and head to Sacramento. The capital city has been a leading agricultural and transportation center for most of its history. As living costs escalated in NorCal’s coastal cities, thousands have migrated to the area over the past two decades. This surge was prompted by the reduced cost of living in Sacramento and its proximity to both San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. 

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While living here, you can expect city vibes without the accompanying chaos. The weather is temperate, the vibe is liberal, and your neighbors are likely families. Does moving to Sacramento sound tempting? If so, you’ve found the best place to live in Northern California.

San Mateo is a fantastic place to live; you're basically 30 minutes from any part of the San Francisco Bay Area.

San Mateo

Median home price: $1,460,000

Median household income: $115,000

San Mateo is a not-so-hidden gem in NorCal. While it’s undoubtedly one of the best cities to live in Northern California, it’s definitely not on the affordable end. You’ll be about a 30-minute drive from any part of the Bay Area (including downtown S.F.) and enjoy all the booming town amenities without the glitzy feel.

Located within the borders of Silicon Valley, San Mateo attracts people from all walks of life. From Central Park’s landscaped grounds to the grandeur of hiking Sugarloaf Hills, you’ll have plenty to explore in the city of San Mateo. 

The Cheapest Places to Live in Northern California

Clearlake gets its name from the largest natural freshwater lake in California of the same name.

Clearlake

Median home price: $182,000

Median household income: $31,00

With a population of just 15,000, Clearlake puts the ‘s’ in small town. Boasting friendly communities and a slower-paced life, the quaint town is the ideal place to raise families. Clearlake is a nature lover's paradise and one of the most affordable NorCal cities. Named after the largest freshwater lake in California, the city is surrounded by stunning vistas, which await you on your next outdoor adventure.

Life in one of the most affordable places to live in Northern California is comparably slower-paced. If you’re looking for a peaceful life surrounded by a serene scene, Clearlake is the spot for you. If you ever miss the busy city life, getaway to S.F.—it’s less than three hours away.

Crescent City is a North Coast town with no shortage of awe-inspiring forests, river rapids, and an ever-changing wildlife show.

Crescent City

Median home price: $263,200

Median household income: $32,000

Named after its crescent-shaped beach, Crescent City is one of the most affordable places to live in Northern California. Located in the northwest corner of the state, it’s the only incorporated city in Del Norte County. After suffering devastating losses from a tsunami in 1964, the city completely rebuilt itself—a testament to the resilience of Crescent City’s residents.

The nature lovers’ paradise is rich in beautiful scenery and outdoor recreation opportunities. As beautiful as it is, Crescent City is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Residents here enjoy life in the slow lane. For those looking for tranquility, Crescent City is the best Northern California town to live in.

The Best Places to Raise a Family in Northern California

Low crime rates and top-notch public safety departments make Rocklin one of the safest cities in the Golden State to raise families.

Rocklin

Median home price: $565,900

Median household income: $98,500

Many people have increasingly acknowledged Rocklin’s status as one of the best places to raise a family in Northern California. The population has been growing steadily and shows no signs of slowing down. With great job opportunities, superb schools, and low crime rates, why would it?

The safe and well-maintained neighborhoods make it a highly desirable destination for families. The wide range of outdoor recreation makes it an equally attractive destination for millennials. When moving here, you’ll meet plenty of young families and find your community in no time.

Clovis

Median home price: $394,300

Median household income: $77,900

Clovis is one of the best places to raise a family in Northern California for several reasons. By Californian standards, housing is relatively affordable and the school system is exemplary. Better yet, it’s less than three hours’ driving time from the coast and Yosemite National Park.

The community spirit is nurtured by a great number of regular events such as weekly farmers’ markets and a citywide annual rodeo. If you like the idea of national parks and lakes being your backyard, Clovis is the ideal town for your family. 

The Best Small Towns in Northern California to Live in

The coastal community of Half Moon Bay is renowned for its fresh local produce, historical buildings, golf courses, and surf spots.

Half Moon Bay

Median home price: $1,357,000

Median household income: $134,100

Half Moon Bay is a quaint oceanside community 45 minutes south of San Francisco, lined with coastal attractions. However, its proximity to major Bay Area cities doesn't represent the quiet and uncrowded nature of Half Moon Bay. As one of the best small towns in Northern California to live in, Half Moon Bay is as picturesque as it gets.

Stunning beaches invite residents to explore tide pools and take part in big wave surfing. Plus, the sunset views of Half Moon Bay are unlike any other. Inland activities include strolling around downtown, sightseeing, and golfing at the local courses. Besides being a can’t-miss NorCal small town, Half Moon Bay is also a prime spot to retire in the area.  

The suburban city of Dublin is located at the crossroads of two major highways: Interstate 580 and Interstate 680.

Dublin

Median home price: $1,005,800

Median household income: $146,200

Dublin doesn’t come close to California’s most affordable places, but for those who can afford it, it’s an excellent suburban city. While it has grown exponentially over the recent years, it still boasts a cozy, small-town atmosphere. Thanks to its location, residents of Dublin enjoy access to both S.F. and Silicon Valley (and the accompanying job opportunities).

The downtown is lined with plenty of shops and restaurants. For outdoorsy residents, Dublin Hills Regional Park offers all the activities you can dream of. All this and more make Dublin one of the best Northern California towns to live in.

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