Southern California (SoCal) is one of the most beautiful places to live in the world. It has the 10 best cities in SoCal for newcomers who want to live in Southern California. The heat is manageable and the seasons rarely dipping below sixty-five degrees. SoCal and sunshine are practically interchangeable words.
In SoCal, the beach, the mountains, and the desert are all accessible with a short drive. SoCal living means escaping the heat on a whim to cool off in the mountains. Or embracing the heat to relax in the desert after a game of golf.
HOMEiA is here to help you explore ten of the best places to live in Southern California. Each place has its own charm and unique qualities. Let’s take a quick dive into what Southern California has to offer!
Here you’ll find our list, along with the highlights that are top 10 best places to live in Southern California in 2021.
Table of Contents:
1. Los Angeles
Los Angeles (L.A.) is the unofficial capital of South California. The city itself and the surrounding areas offer every kind of living space. The median home cost for L.A. is about $700K. The average two-bedroom apartment costs about $2,100 per month.
Sports fans love Los Angeles! Dodger Stadium is conveniently accessible from the 110 freeway to catch a game and have a Dodger Dog. For basketball lovers, The Staples Center has exciting Laker and Clippers games.
There is no shortage of culture and history to experience in the city. The historic Olvera Street is known as “the birthplace of Los Angeles.” The craft shops and kiosks offer a fun shopping experience and there are over a dozen restaurants to try.
Angelenos can use the rail line to Union Station to spend the day at Olvera Street. Chinatown is only a short walk away for dinner. Then you can catch an Uber to The Hollywood Bowl for a show.
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Walt Disney chose Anaheim to build Disneyland in the 1950s. Back then it was just orchards. Today, locals enjoy one of the nicest suburban experiences in California.
Access to L.A. is a perk of living in Anaheim. The Metro Line allows the residents of Anaheim to work in L.A. The 5 freeway connects the two cities with a thirty-minute drive.
The Honda Center is located across the street from ARTIC Station. The station allows for easy access to The Honda Center to catch a Ducks game. Angel Stadium is also accessible from the station with a short walk.
Many locals have annual passes to Disneyland. It is a great way to walk around, get exercise, and be a kid for a while. Downtown Disney also offers shopping and dining experiences.
Homes are larger and cheaper in Anaheim compared to L.A. Unlike L.A., restaurants, and nightlife are geared towards families because the majority of the tourism is Disney centric.
Anaheim’s placement in SoCal is nice for students. USC, UCLA, USC, URC, and CSUF are accessible from Anaheim. This allows students to attend college while saving money by living at home.
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3. San Diego
San Diego has over 70 miles of coastline. The coastal breeze is relaxing. The bright sun is always shining. All you need is a paddleboard and some free time to embrace San Diego.
The median home price in San Diego is $650,000. Renting in San Diego is going to run $2,700. The Mission Hills area of San Diego has older Victorian-style homes but Craftsman, Bungalow, Spanish, and Tudor styles.
The urban core of San Diego is thriving with high rise apartments. Both urban and suburban life is possible in the city. Apartment living is common downtown, surrounded by suburban homes, and manufactured homes.
Locals take to the historic Gaslamp quarter of San Diego for some of the best Mexican food, sandwich shops, and pizza places in California.
San Diego offers a lot for animal lovers. The San Diego Zoo is one of the largest zoos to visit in the world. The Safari Park tour lets visitors see animals in the “wild” uncaged.
Every summer San Diego is home to the San Diego Comic-Con. The event brings in droves of costumed fans to celebrate in the city. The con brings San Diego’s busiest tourist season each year.
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Irvine is one of the best places to raise a family in Southern California. Irvine is known for having low crime. The city has no shortages of parks and places for children to play.
Offering an urban-suburban living experience, the median home price is about $950,000. Rent in Irvine averages at $3,500 per month.
The Irvine Business Complex offers a wide array of white-collar business and tech work. Many of the best white-collar jobs in Orange County can be found in Irvine.
The Irvine Spectrum is one of the best malls in SoCal. In true Californian style, the mall is outdoor with a Ferris wheel. The Spectrum has over 150 shops. SoCal Cinephiles travel from all over to see films at the luxury theater.
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Riverside can be found by the Santa Ana River, nestled in the Inland Empire. SoCal residents love Riverside for its affordable suburban living experience. A home in Riverside is $427,000 whereas renters are looking at about $2,150 per month.
Riverside is a drier climate than a lot of SoCal. It is essentially on the cusp of the desert. This makes it hot in the Summer but cooler in the winter.
Downtown Riverside has the Historic Mission Inn which offers fine dining and luxury suites. Most of Downtown Riverside has beautiful Spanish style architecture.
In October, there are tours of the underground catacombs which run one mile underground from the Mission Inn to the base of Mount Rubidoux. It makes for a spooky and educational annual tradition.
Mount Rubidoux itself makes for a great hiking experience. The trail up the mountain is a workout unto itself. However, inexperienced hikers will do fine here.
Just below Mount Rubidoux, Carlson Dog Park allows for leashless play with your dog. The park has a full obstacle course. There is also a water fountain for dogs when they get thirsty after playing.
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6. Lake Arrowhead
In the San Bernardino Mountains, Lake Arrowhead is one of the greenest and most beautiful locations in Southern California. The location is ideal for those who love forests, hot summers, snowy winters, with beautiful lakes.
The Lake Arrowhead Village is on the lake. The village is the main shopping stop. There is a grocery store, antique stores, and an art gallery. This is also where boats are kept and rented for lake strolls.
Located in the village, the Belgian Waffle Works is the best breakfast place in town. The waffles have ice cream on them. The traditional breakfasts are very good too.
White-collar residents of Lake Arrowhead work from home. Commuters will drive forty-five-minutes down the mountain and work in the Riverside and San Bernardino areas. Everyone in SoCal has a commute but this drive is pretty, scenic, and green.
The median cost for a home in Lake Arrowhead is about $385,000. Most of the homes have a modern cabin quality to them but most types of homes found in SoCal can be found here too.
For those that love the forest and nature, Lake Arrowhead is the best way to marry those qualities with quick access to the rest of Southern California.
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7. Palm Springs
Palm Springs is for lovers of hot summers and golf.
The temperature typically varies between 45°F and 106°F. This desert paradise in Southern California has soothing hot winds and warm beautiful evenings full of stars.
Palm Springs is located in the Coachella Valley. The valley is home to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Music fans in the desert look forward to the festival each year.
Palm Springs is the golf capital of the world. The city has over 100 golf courses. Whether you’re a pro, an amateur, or a novice, you will have enough variety to keep it fun and interesting.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway also takes you all the way to the San Jacinto Peak. The tour takes you up 8,516 feet to a rustic lodge. During the winter it snows up there and locals enjoy hot chocolate in the cold.
The median cost for a home in Palm Springs is $431,000. A large factor to consider before moving to the desert is heating and cooling costs. You are definitely going to need air-conditioning in Palm Springs.
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8. Long Beach
Long Beach is one of the most popular coastal cities in SoCal. Long Beach has many neighborhoods all with their own flair. There are craftsman homes and waterfront properties with access to the beach.
Long Beach has a vibrant downtown area. Down towards 2nd street, there is a vibrant theater scene. This is also where most of the nightlife can be found.
Avid readers will love the many bookstores that can be found downtown. In these stores, there are many out of print and hard to find editions of books. Planet Books and Once Read Books near the Parkview Village are a great way to spend an afternoon.
The Queen Mary permanently rests in The Long Beach Harbor. The location offers tours and dining. It can be a very nice walk when coupled with a bike ride along the coast.
For nature lovers, The Aquarium of the Pacific has amazing sea life to observe. The aquarium has indoor and outdoor exhibits. The sharks and penguins are a local treasure.
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9. Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is a very laid-back coastal city. The city has beautiful Mediterranean-style architecture. The breeze is cool and relaxing.
The cliffs in Santa Barbara are like something off a postcard. Beautiful rock formations poking out of the ocean to give breathtaking views. This coast is definitely for lovers of scenic environments.
The median home price is about $1,100,000. Renting in Santa Barbara averages about $4,500 per month. Single professionals are usually renters with roommates.
Stearns Wharf is a great place to have a drink and watch the sailboats on the ocean. The wharf offers gourmet burgers and fish dinners. It will easily become one of your favorite places to have dinner.
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10. City of Orange
The city of Orange in Orange County has one of the most beautiful Old Towne Districts in all of SoCal. Most of the homes in this area were built before 1920. Yet Orange feels modern.
Not all of Orange is historic. The further from The Old Towne District you get, the more suburban the city becomes. Orange allows for residents to live in an “old” city with new amenities. The median home price for a home in Orange is around $731,000 and rent fetches about $2,100 per month.
Old Towne Orange is a 1950 throwback. The street with an old town square has over 100 unique antique stores to explore fully. The Felix Continental Cafe also has the best Cuban sandwich in all of SoCal which is a great treat after a day of shopping.
The Discovery Cube is a children’s museum featuring full-sized NASA built rocket ships to see in person. With the museum’s revolving exhibits, it never ceases to entertain parents and children alike.
SoCal offers comfortable weather. Each city in this list has its own unique qualities and charm. The best part of SoCal is how close all of these beautiful places are to one another.
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