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The Definitive List of Best Cities to Raise a Family in California

Planning to have a family soon or relocating with one calls for finding an appropriate state and city. If you decided to move to the Golden State, a list of the best cities to raise a family in California is something that can come in quite handy. According to our research based on relevant criteria, nine places stood out as the most suitable for living and raising your children.

The land of both the sand and snow, the Golden State is known for its mesmerizing beaches, surfing, Hollywood, Disneyland, and Silicon Valley. From the coast of the North Pacific Ocean to the mountains of Sierra Nevada, from the world of high-tech to a show-business empire, this is a place of great contrasts where anyone can find his spot under the sun.

If it were a sovereign country, Cali would be the fifth largest economy in the world. It’s the most populated state in the country with almost 40 million residents, more than all but 34 nations in the entire world. The highest population density is in Los Angeles, the second-largest US city and its largest county, and the capital is Sacramento. It’s also a state with the most diverse population, with a significant proportion of residents of Hispanic and Asian backgrounds.

California is reasonably safe for US standards, but many places are standing out in this category on a state-level, as well. We’ll list them out for you to make it easier to decide where to throw your anchor and plan a family. But first, let’s take a look at the criteria we took into consideration when compiling our list.

Research Methodology and Findings

The most important criteria when looking for a home for your family would be:

  1. General safety and crime rates are paramount when moving to a particular neighborhood, especially with children.
  2. Quality of life, which means the standard of health, comfort, and happiness experienced by a particular population.
  3. Air pollution is vital since everyone wants to live or raise children in a healthy environment.
  4. It’s helpful to know the number and quality of schools in the place you want to move to ensure proper education for your offspring.
  5. Moving usually means changing the workplace, so you should consider moving to an area where you can find a new position easily, having in mind that you have to provide for the youngsters and offset the higher costs of living in Cali.
  6. If there is already a considerable number of families with young children in the area you’re moving to, that’s a good sign. They wouldn’t be there if the conditions weren’t right for them and their loved ones. It also means that you can count on some company for you and your children.
  7. Traffic – It means a lot for small children, and of course, you’d want to spend the day with your kids, not stuck in a traffic jam half the day.

The cost of living might or might not impact your decision, depending on your financial situation. So we’ll set it aside for now and deal with the best of the best regardless of the affordability.

Pick One of The Best Cities to Raise a Family in California

Based on the seven criteria above, we’ve gathered data from all of the relevant websites and cross-referenced them to find the most appropriate spot for your upcoming relocation. Having in mind that you wish to live there with your family, your chosen location should have good neighborhoods and high-quality housing. You should be able to have a good and stable income and access to employment, and the area should have the highest level of security and police response.

Irvine – Just the Right Community For You

Arguably the best spot to live in if you already have or plan to have kids is Irvine in the southern part of Cali. We’ll just mention that even the Irvine logo features a family, which should speak enough about what it has to offer.

This diverse Orange County community has an estimated population of nearly 280,000 people, and it’s mostly made up of married couples.

It ranks pretty high when it comes to safety, and it’s even known as being the safest city of its size for the 14th year in a row. It has the lowest rate of violent offenses per capita of any city in the nation with a population of 250,000 or more.

What Does This Southern Jewel Have To Offer to Families With Kids?

The general quality of life in this sunny community is pretty high, including the health care index. The air pollution is low, adding to Irvine’s reputation as a spotless place. The traffic commute time index is also rather low, which is another reason why a lot of families with children choose this spot. It also offers a lot of outdoor activities and events in a mix of an urban and suburban environment.

In 2019, Irvine High ranked better than 93.2% of high schools in California, and its schooling system has a great score. In addition, some of the most prestigious institutions of higher education, such as the University of California, Irvine, Concordia University, Irvine Valley College and many more.

The median income of an Irvine household is almost $94,000 a year, which is almost twice as much as the US average. This community is also good for job hunting and business since the economy is strong and the city is full of headquarters of major tech, IT and science companies, such as Broadcom, Western Digital, and Blizzard Entertainment.

Irvine is home to eight universities and colleges

Los Altos – A Paradise For Families

This Santa Clara County town has 30,500 people, and 75% of the population over 15 years of age are married. Many parents pick this San Jose suburb because of its meager crime rate (63% lower than the national average), excellent education opportunities, and good air quality index.

The City of Los Altos is an equal opportunity employer and values diversity, so you’ll have no trouble finding a job once you relocate there. A rural community up until the 1950s, Los Altos is now a part of the Silicon Valley. Some of the top employers are Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Coldwell Banker and Alain Pinel Realtors.

There are many things to do in Los Altos, so you and your kids will always have something fun to do together. From spending time in its many outdoor attractions to visiting the Los Altos History Museum or some of the numerous festivals and parades.

Los Altos is recognized as one of the premier apricot producing centers of the world

Thousand Oaks – the Place for Artistic Expression

Located approximately 40 miles from Downtown Los Angeles, this is the second-largest place in Ventura County with a population of nearly 130,000. Sixty percent of residents older than 15 are married, and almost half are households with kids under 18.

Thousand Oaks is ranked as one of the top 50 safest cities in California while public education is very highly rated. Access to a new job position is considered high since this area has an immense number of young professionals employed in some of the many high-tech and biotech companies.

This very ethnically and economically diverse city has a lot to offer to families, and many residents said the overall quality of life in Thousand Oaks was excellent. In contrast, only 4% said it is fair, poor, or very poor.

Ventura County has good air quality, and the traffic there is something you don’t need to worry about if you’d like to avoid rush hours.

Thousand Oaks is home to many regional and corporate headquarters

San Diego – “America’s Finest City”

If you like to spend your weekends at the beach sunbathing or playing volleyball, consider moving to San Diego! Despite being home to the world’s largest entertainment and comic book convention – San Diego Comic-Con, it also has a bit quieter northern part, ideal for young parents. The overall crime rate is 12% lower than the national average.

This area with more than 1.4 million residents offers a lot of entertainment options for kids of all ages, such as San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, the New Children’s Museum, La Jolla Cove, Legoland, SeaWorld, to name just a few of the things to do in San Diego.

The traffic is still among the most manageable of the nation’s largest metro areas, and the San Diego International Airport is conveniently located just north of downtown. If you were wondering about the best San Diego schools, you have nothing to worry about. It has 113 elementary, 23 middle, and 27 high schools of the highest quality.

The income per capita in America’s Finest City is more than $35,000, which is 18% higher than the national average, so making up for the high cost of living in San Diego shouldn’t be an issue if you land a well-paid job.

The top employer here is the United States Navy

San Jose – the Center of Innovation

A bit more than a million people live in the “capital of Silicon Valley,” which makes it the third-largest place in Cali with a median age of 35.6 years. This is a community that’s safer than 15% of US communities, so finding a safe neighborhood like Aborn Rd or English Town shouldn’t be a problem. The income per capita in San Jose is almost $38,000, which is 27% higher than the national average.

As for the traffic, it should take about half an hour to your workplace, and the air pollution index is good. The schools there have good reviews, and there are many family attractions, though it’s far from the cheapest place to live in. A lot of restaurants, coffee shops, parks, and a good educational system make it a good choice for raising kids.

This town was once the capital of the Golden State

Berkeley – Northern California’s Best

Home of UC Berkeley attracts a younger crowd, as the median age of 31 is far below the national average. With almost 80% of the married population and more than 60% with kids under the age of 18, Berkeley could be considered a good pick if you’re searching for a family-friendly spot. The number of crimes year over year has decreased, and this coastal town has a low air pollution index, a high health care index, and traffic jams shouldn’t be a problem.

Since it only has a bit more than 120,000 residents, people say that there’s a strong sense of community. Berkeley has more artists, designers, and people working in media than 90% of the communities in America. In case you’re an artist, Berkeley might be your best bet.

Sather Gate was originally intended to prevent vampires from entering the university

Santa Rosa – A Cool Vibe and a Vibrant Culture

This Sonoma County town, known for its wineries, has a little more than 175,000 residents. With hot summers and cold winters, Santa Rosa has a good air quality index, and it’s a choice of many young parents.

Public schools rank above the average, and public parks, swimming pools, museums, and cinemas are something this town is proud of. It’s the home of Snoopy, and your little ones will love it.

It won’t be hard to find a job there, and after work, you can hit the Sonoma Coast State Beach, which is only half an hour away. The traffic is regular, and you’ll have access to one of the top cycling destinations in the world, known for its bike-friendly paths and scenic routes. Santa Rosa is also home to many local shops, so you can even start your own business.

This town is the largest populated area on the north coast

Santa Maria – A Sunny Town With an Ocean Breeze

“The West’s Best BBQ Town” has a lot in store for you if you’re in search of a place to live with your loved ones. With an excellent quality of life, low air pollution index, and good traffic, Santa Maria is a great choice for housing. Your child can also get a good education here. Although the crime rate here is 3% higher than the average rate in the US, year after year, the rate has gone down by almost 25%. The unemployment rate is 4% lower than the US average, and the median age for Santa Maria (and all of Santa Barbara County) is just 28. There are also many employment opportunities in the area.

Snow in the lowest parts of the area is virtually unknown

Fremont – the Birthplace of Movies in the US

Last but not least, our pick for you would be Fremont. It’s in the top five cities to find a job, it’s great for parents and kids, has great diversity, quiet neighborhoods, top-notch public schools, and it also found its spot among the top 10 safest cities in America.

The average one-way commute time in Fremont takes less than 34 minutes, which is a bit longer than the US average. Health care and climate indexes are also very high.

To wrap it up, we would like to note that the above-mentioned communities are far from the only ones suitable for young families. There are many places in CA that didn’t make it to our list, but definitely deserve a spot on it.

Some Other California Cities Suitable for Families

If none of our picks seem like the right fit for you, you can consider relocating to Palo Alto, Los Altos, Long Beach, Salinas, Dublin, or even moving to San Francisco.  All of these places have a high level of safety, good quality of life, and a bright future for your kids. Some of them may not be as affordable, but they sure are places that matched our criteria while collecting data.

Fremont has its very own silent film theater and museum

Don’t Forget to Choose the Right Movers

Long-distance relocation can be made easier if you have a reputable California moving company to help you out. You can get professional moving and packing services, with one-month free storage. Moving cross-country would require having your vehicle with you, so if you can’t drive it to the new location, a moving company can offer you safe and affordable auto transport services as well. There are some tips if you’re moving with kids, and if you’re bringing your animal with you, there’s a guide to relocating with your pet, too.