The Best Places to Live in California

Ventura, Camino, and Creekside are some of the best places to live in California.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Quality schools, low living costs, and affordable housing prices make cities like Ventura, Desert Edge, and Camino some of the best places to live in
California’s natural beauty and its exciting cities make it a desirable place to live for just about anyone. That said, with some of the highest costs of living in the country, settling down in California may be hard on your wallet. That said, the state offers excitement and versatility for those willing to contend with the price tag—but it can be hard to choose the right spot! 
, the
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app, is here to make that a little easier! To help you get started on your search, we’ve picked out eight of the best places to live in California. 
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What makes a good place to live? 

The best place to live depends on what you’re looking for in a lifestyle. Factors like entertainment options, cost of living, climate, and the quality of local schools for families can have a big impact on your quality of life. 
When you’re trying to narrow down places to plant your roots, it can be hard to know where to start. To help you with that, we’ve picked eight of the best places, big and small, to live in California: Ventura, Las Positas Gardens, Desert Edge, Portola, Ridgecrest, Newcastle, Camino, and Creekside. These are the factors we looked at: 
  • Cost of living
  • Median household income
  • Median home price
  • Average commute times
  • Quality of schools 
  • Crime rates
  • Healthcare
  • FEMA risk index ratings 
Then, we sorted our picks of the best places to live in California into three categories: the best places for families, the most affordable places, and the best places to buy a house. Read on to learn why these towns made the list!

The best places for families to live in California

Many families consider factors like good schools, crime rates, and overall quality of life when choosing a place to call home. Looking at these factors, here are three of the best places for families to live in California. 

Ventura (Palo Alto)

Location: Santa Clara County
Population: 4,715
Median household income: $108,700
Median home price: $595,800
Ventura is a neighborhood in
Palo Alto
with a population of about 4,715, and it is located close to Stanford University. It’s one of Palo Alto’s smaller, more affordable neighborhoods, so it is an appealing option for families who want their children to attend Palo Alto’s highly-ranked public schools
The neighborhood offers an urban atmosphere and a variety of housing options—from apartments to townhouses to single-family homes—though most residents choose to rent. 
Ventura is in the middle of the booming tech industry of Silicon Valley and is in proximity to parks, cafes, shopping centers, and restaurants. Additionally, it is not too far from the hustle and bustle of
San Francisco
, making it an exciting place to live for those who want access to a big city. 

Las Positas Gardens (Pleasanton)

Location: Alameda County
Population: 4,039
Median household income: $116,458
Median home price: $595,800
Las Positas Gardens is a neighborhood found in
, which has a population of 4,039. As a suburb of the East Bay, close to Silicon Valley, this is another Northern California neighborhood that many young professionals and families call home. 
Families are drawn to the area because of the many highly-ranked public and private schools and the relative safety of the region. The natural beauty of the area, as well as its proximity to Wine Country, make it an enticing place to call home. 
All the benefits do come with a price, however. Pleasanton’s cost of living index is 228.9, which is more than twice the national average. 

The most affordable places to live in California

Cost of living has a huge impact on whether you decide to settle down in a city. While California’s cost of living is generally higher compared to other parts of the country, some places are still more affordable than others. 
Looking at overall cost of living and average commute times (which have an impact on fuel expenses), here are three of California’s most affordable places to live. 

Desert Edge

Location: Riverside County
Population: 4,180
Median household income: $32,459
Median home price: $291,300
Desert Edge lies in southern California, just west of Joshua Tree National Park, making this a potential destination for outdoors lovers who are also looking for a low cost of living.
The cost of living index for Desert Edge is 110.6, which is just slightly higher than the national average, but lower than California’s state average of 149.9. The average commute time to work is 27 minutes, just under the state average of about 30 minutes—so residents of the area may not save quite as much at the pump. 
While a small city in the desert, Desert Edge area has a mix of good to moderate ranking public and private schools, so it’s a good place for families looking to save some money. 


Location: Plumas County
Population: 1,913
Median household income: $50,956
Median home price: $160,600
Portola, population 1,913, lies south of Lake Davis in northern California, right on the fork of the Feather River—a truly beautiful part of the country. While surrounding areas are quite pricey, Portola remains a bit more accessible. 
With a cost of living index of 92.3, it’s one of the most affordable places in the state of California. That goes for housing costs, too: the median rent in Portola is $734 and the median home value is $160,000
The average commute time for residents is about 16 minutes, so residents can save money on California’s notoriously high gas prices. 


Location: Kern County
Population: 27,959
Median household income: $71,774
Median home price: $241,100
If you’re looking for a slightly larger city with a low cost of living, look to
. The city has a population of about 28,000 and a cost of living index of 96, as well as highly-rated public and private schools. The average commute time for Ridgecrest residents is just under 16 minutes.
However, Ridgecrest only gets a moderate rating for crime and safety, with reported cases of assault significantly higher than the national average. 
That said, it’s a great place for nature and history lovers looking to save a buck on housing. Ridgecrest is northwest of
Los Angeles
, between Sequoia National Forest and Death Valley National Park. Nearby is the historic Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons featuring petroglyphs of the Coso People, which lies within the boundaries of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. 

Best places to buy a house in California

If you’re considering buying a house in California, you should think about your long-term prospects, including the housing market and climate outlook in an area. We analyzed’s summaries of housing markets and the FEMA Risk Index to evaluate these factors to find some of the best places to buy a house in California.  


Location: Placer County
Population: 1,321
Median household income: $87,050
Median home price: $845,300
is northwest of
and is considered part of the metro area of the city. The cost of living is rising in the Sacramento area as more people flock here from the Bay Area and more expensive parts of the state, but the cost of living index of 163 still puts it significantly below San Francisco’s score of 244.
Placer County has a FEMA Risk Index score of 14.03, which is considered relatively moderate. The most significant risks are for drought (23.75), wildfires (21.49), and landslides (14.29), so look for insurance coverage against these disasters if you purchase a home in the area.
Newcastle’s generally been considered a good place to buy a house in California. It might be a little trickier to find the perfect place right now, though, as the area’s currently a seller’s market. If home prices in Newcastle are a little too steep, consider looking to the east of Sacramento, in nearby Camino.  


Location: El Dorado County
Population: 1,871
Median household income: $109,917
Median home price: $464,400
Camino’s a small rural town of nearly 2,000 east of Sacramento. It’s surrounded by wineries, breweries, and orchards. Plus, there are plenty of nearby hiking and biking trails in the area for outdoors enthusiasts.
Local schools have good ratings, too, and Camino’s ranked as one of the country’s
healthiest cities
El Dorado County has a FEMA risk index is a relatively moderate 14.53, with the most significant threat being the possibility of wildfires. That’s higher than the national average of 10.6 but lower than the California state average of 28.1.
Compared to other parts of the state, Camino’s housing market is at a more stable balance between buyers and sellers. According to, the median selling price of a home in Camino in March 2022 was about $482,000.


Location: Monterey County
Population: 7,715
Median household income: $104,268
Median home price: $351,488
Creekside is a neighborhood in the Sacramento area. The neighborhood has highly-ranking schools and is considered a good place for families. 
Creekside’s a popular place for homebuyers looking for a suburban feel. According to, Creekside was a seller’s market, and the median home selling price in March 2022 was at $449,000.
Monterey County’s FEMA Risk Index is something to consider if you’re looking at buying a house in Creekside. Its score is a relatively high 37.64. The highest natural hazard risks include drought (71.5), earthquakes (27.68), tornadoes (16.14), and wildfires (16.14).

How to find affordable homeowners and car insurance in California

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