A Newcomer’s Guide to Living in California

You’ve made up your mind and decided to take the leap: you’re moving to California. This expansive state is home to beaches, forests, mountains, and deserts, so Golden State has something for everyone —  if they know where to look. Read on for an overview of life in southern, central, or northern California, as well as the advantages and less wonderful realities of California living in general. 

Southern California

When most people imagine a California relocation, they typically picture moving to Southern California. Boasting warm weather, sunny days, and sandy beaches, SoCal can feel like a constant vacation. Some of the biggest cities in Southern California include Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Riverside, and there are plenty of charming and picturesque small towns, too. 

SoCal is home to some of the nation’s most beautiful beaches, including Santa Monica, La Jolla, Coronado, and Laguna Beach. Aside from the beaches, other things to do in Southern California include Joshua Tree National Park, Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, Santa Catalina Island, Sequoia National Park, and Palm Springs – just to name a few. In short, there is always something to do or someplace to explore in Southern California. 

For many high school seniors, college is the perfect time to get a taste of California living. Some of the best-known schools in Southern California include University of California – Los Angeles, University of California – San Diego, University of Southern California, San Diego State University, and California Institute of Technology. 

Southern California is often considered the entertainment capital of the U.S., if not the world. Many aspiring celebrities flock to Los Angeles – Hollywood specifically – in hopes of having their “big break.” If you’re looking for any job in the film or television industry, from lighting to makeup to costumes, this is the place to be.  And, if you aren’t interested in any aspect of this field, you’ll still enjoy the plentiful cultural and entertainment opportunities and electrifying atmosphere that Southern California offers.

Central California

While debating the pros and cons of Northern California vs. Southern California is a common pastime, not as many people discuss Central California’s unique pros, cons, and lifestyles. The middle third of the state’s largest and best-known cities are Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, Modesto, and Lodi. However, Central California has more of a “small-town feel,” and many residents live in quaint, smaller towns.

A major perk of living in Central California is its lower cost of living (relative to the rest of the state). Purchasing a home in SoCal or NorCal might be out of the picture for many California newbies, but homebuying is realistic in this central region. 

Maybe, however, you’re living in a dorm room instead. Central California is home to several colleges and universities, including the University of California – Merced, California Polytechnic State University, California State University – Monterey Bay, California State University – Stanislaus, and California State University – Fresno, and Fresno Pacific University.  

With the money you save on housing, you’ll have more disposable income for exciting day trips. Central California is home to some of the state’s best attractions. Take a scenic trip to Monterey, and make sure to visit the iconic Monterey Bay Aquarium and take a stroll down Cannery Row. For jaw-dropping sights, a visit to the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur is a must. If you’re a fan of good wine and a relaxed atmosphere, don’t delay a trip to San Luis Obispo wine country. Plus, you’re never too far away from the sights and attractions of Northern or Southern California.

Central California doesn’t always get the credit it deserves, but it won’t take long for you to appreciate its quieter beauty and scenic charm. 

Northern California

Last but certainly not least, we arrive in Northern California. Cooler, wetter, and much more mountainous, Northern California can often seem a world away from its southern counterpart. Ask any Californian which area of the state is best and you’ll likely get an impassioned earful; the takeaway is that there are so many advantages and perks of each one.

One of the most popular attractions in this region is Lake Tahoe, but there are infinite other things to do in Northern California. Visit the stunning coastline of Mendocino, spend a slow weekend at the Point Reyes National Seashore, or get lost in the awe-inspiring Yosemite National Park. Northern California is a mecca for the outdoorsy, with opportunities to hike, ski, camp, boat, or simply relax as you take it all in. 

If you feel more at home in the city, you may choose to live in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, or Sacramento. These larger cities attract many individuals in the technology sector, and San Francisco specifically is considered a hub for tech jobs. Schools in this area include Stanford University, University of California – Berkeley, University of California – Davis, and many, many more.

Advantages of California Living

As you can probably gather, there are plenty of advantages to living in the beautiful state of California. If you’re seeking great weather and endless outdoor activities, California is calling. It also offers top-notch educational opportunities, every culinary genre you can think of, rich diversity, fun and laidback culture, and, for the most part, whatever kind of work you want to do. There is always something new to try in your free time, whether that’s a hiking trail, festival, restaurant, beach, or getaway. 

Realities of California Living

So, what’s the catch? With an abundance of incredible professional, academic, and recreational opportunities comes a steep price tag. California has a high cost of living and was ranked as the 3rd most expensive state to reside in 2021. Taxes are higher than in most other states, and private schools cost a pretty penny. In 2019, the median home price in America was $226,800; in California, it the median price was $549,900. 

Additionally, California is a popular place to live, which means you’ll run into your fair share of crowds. Those idyllic beaches and tranquil forests aren’t quite as idyllic and tranquil when you’re sharing them with 50 other people, but that’s the reality on most weekends. 

Finally, it’s important to be aware of the various risks of living in California. If you plan to create a home in California, it’s important to understand that natural disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, flooding, and even mudslides are not uncommon. Many Golden State residents, however, argue that the plentiful sunshine, unlimited activities, and overall excitement of living in the state make these sacrifices and disadvantages worth it.

Make Your Move to California with CORT 

Whether you’ve decided SoCal speaks to your soul or you’re looking for a new adventure in the northern part of the state, CORT can help you settle into your new place quickly! Rather than moving your belongings across state lines, CORT makes it easy to get Furniture on Your Terms™. With CORT, you’ll find customizable and stylish furniture packages that suit your space and experience the freedom of owning less. Begin creating your customizable subscription online or stop by your nearest CORT showroom to speak with a professional designer.


Find your style