When people think of places to retire in California, many of them picture big cities, a lot of traffic, and a high cost of living. Though there are cities in California that have all of those challenges, there is also a multitude of cities that are smaller, run at a slower pace, and have affordable housing.
One of California’s greatest draws is the year-round warm climate. And of course, the Sierra Nevada mountain range along the spine of the state and the 800+ miles of ocean coast add to California’s overall appeal to many retirees.
For wine-lovers, there are more than three thousand vineyards scattered throughout the state. Many of which are open to the public for tours and tastings, some even have package deals that include tastings at multiple wineries and transportation.
If your goal is to golf every day of retirement, California can help you achieve that goal. With well over 1,000 golf courses, you won’t be bored and will never be too far from a golf course green.
Beyond California’s natural and outdoor attractions, it is also full of vibrant urban cultures, including the arts, live performances, restaurants, and nightlife. And because California has multiple large metropolitan areas, it makes getting to the city very accessible.
When it comes to transportation, California is a very pedestrian and bicycle-friendly state, reducing the need to own a vehicle. And for the times you don’t feel like walking, California offers a large variety of public transportation options like:
- Light Rail
Adding to the desirability for retiring in California is its premium health care options and medical centers. It is home to some of the top hospitals in the US, including:
- UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles
- UCSF Medical Center Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
- Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital
- Keck Hospital of USC
The drawback of living in California is the overall cost of living and median home prices. California is higher than the national average for housing. However, there are still many affordable places, so you won’t have to worry about spending all of your savings just to live in California.
In fact, California has an abundance of retirement communities. So for those looking to for senior-specific condos or senior neighborhoods, California has everything from the bare bones to luxury resort-style communities.
Another attractive aspect of retiring to California are the tax exemptions available to seniors. Some of the tax exemptions seniors can expect to enjoy include sales tax on groceries and prescription medications, both of which are tax-free for seniors. Plus, seniors living in their own home can expect to see a $7,000 housing tax exemption.
Places to Retire in Californa
- Palm Springs
- Rio Vista
- Percent of Senior Population: 12.0%
- Overall Population: 521,769
Sacramento’s Golden State’s capital is conveniently located within easy access to Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Yosemite National Forest, and wine country, allowing retirees an abundance of options for day or weekend trips.
Sacramento has a lot to offer active retirees looking to settle down in a metropolitan area. One of the things Sacramento’s residents love about this city is the two rivers running through town. The rivers offer a multitude of ways to get outdoors and stay cool in the summer, such as:
- White Water Rafting
On the days you are looking for something not involving water, you can always grab your bicycle and check out the American River trail. The trail goes for 32 miles starting in Sacramento and winds east to the neighboring town of Folsom.
Sacramento isn’t the largest city in California, but it still ranks in the top ten. One of the many things Sacramento doesn’t share with its metropolitan counterparts is the price of housing, coming in at an average cost of $365,500. Though the median is higher than the national average, it is still lower than the state level of $552,800.
Plus, the city of Sacramento is home to the Hart Senior Center. The senior center offers a variety of classes like:
- Arts – Ceramics Lab, Craft ‘n Chat, and Weaving
- Dance – Line Dancing and Ballroom Dancing
- Fitness – Yoga, Strength and Balance, Tai Chi, and Zumba Toning for Seniors
- TechConnections – A technology literacy program
Some of the classes they offer do cost money, but many are free. In addition to classes, the senior center hosts various activities, events, and workshops.
One of the many benefits of Sacramento being a large city is that it has several top medical centers and hospitals to choose from, including Sutter Health and UC Davis Medical Center.
- Percent of Senior Population: 18.7%
- Overall Population: 92,562
Love water and the mountains? Then Redding might be your dream retirement spot. With a view of Mount Shasta and the Sacramento River running through town, plus a few sizeable lakes, it is an outdoor lover’s dream. Redding offers everything for the outdoor enthusiast:
- Scenic trails for hiking
- Horseback riding
- Road and mountain biking
- Cave exploration
- Skiing in the winter at Mount Shasta
Redding is a hidden gem for retirees. It not only offers excellent outdoor activities, but it also boasts:
- Cascade Theatre – A non-profit historic theater that you can enjoy live performances
- Riverfront Playhouse – A community theater that opened in 1981
- Outdoor festivals and concerts
- A farmer’s market
And if you enjoy planned group events, the Redding Senior Center has a wide range of activities to choose from:
- Exercise classes – Tai Chi, Yoga, Line Dancing
- Bird Watching Groups
- Wood Carving
- Pool / Billiards
- Games – Pinochle, Cribbage/Chess, Canasta, Mahjong, and Bingo
Redding also has several medical facilities to choose from, plus two major health care centers, Shasta Regional Medical Center and Mercy Medical Center, an award-winning hospital. And what’s even better about Redding is that the median housing prices are around $328,000, which is a lot less expensive than many other places in California.
One of the most significant drawbacks of Redding, and for some, it isn’t a drawback at all, is the heat. Redding is nowhere near the coast, so in the heart of the summer temperatures easily reach the high 90s.
And when family and friends come to visit, there is a small commuter airport that connects to the San Francisco airport. Also, I5, Highway 44, and Highway 299 all run through town, making it easily accessible when traveling by car.
- Percent of Senior Population: 30.0%
- Overall Population: 49,291
It is no surprise that Palm Springs is a popular retirement spot. It has dry desert heat, endless golf greens, affordable cost of living, and an established retirement community. Commonly referred to as an oasis, Palm Springs is a postcard community with vibrant green golf courses and palm trees set against the earth-tone colors of the foothills and mountains.
Not only is it s a golfer’s paradise, but Palm Springs is rich in culture, fine dining, beautiful scenery, and diverse community. The downtown area of Palm Springs overlooks Mount St. Jacinto and is full of shopping, restaurants, spas, and more.
And, art lovers will enjoy both the Palm Springs Art Museum and the Thursday night VillageFest, a street festival full of food, arts, and craft vendors. VillageFest also offers live entertainment and fun shopping booths, including ones with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Though the median price for homes in Palms Springs is higher than the national average, $420,000, it is still noticeably less than the state median. And if you are looking to rent instead of buying, you can find a lovely two-bedroom apartment for as low as $1,125.
Palm Springs also offers several medical care facility options, including Desert Regional Medical Center, a full-service hospital, as well as nearby hospitals like the Eisenhower Medical Center and John F Kennedy Memorial Hospital.
- Percent of Senior Population: 16.6%
- Overall Population: 26,938
Eureka, located in northern California along the coast, is one of the most affordable oceanside towns in California. This small town is without traffic, pollution, or the fast pace of the metropolitan areas so commonly associated with California.
Eureka is an outdoor adventurer’s dream retirement town. It has giant redwood trees, quiet scenic beaches, and nearby forests for hiking, camping, and watching the wildlife. And for the days you are looking for a nice leisurely walk in town, you can always check out the Humboldt Bay area.
Its neighborhoods are full of Victorian-style houses giving the town its unique historic character. And what is even better about these charming, picturesque homes is that the average cost is around $317,000, definitely less than the average house in other areas of California, or any oceanside town for that matter.
Though Eureka prides itself on the lack of crowds and the quiet lifestyle found in this city is far from boring. There are several things to keep you as busy as you want, such as:
- Morris Graves Museum of Art
- Live music venues
- Sequoia Park Zoo
- Sequoia Park Garden
- Clarke Historical Museum
- Lost Coast Brewery Taproom
- Old Growth Cellars
The one drawback to this quiet town is the crime rate; it is higher than one would expect from the average small town. But on the upside, there are several medical care facilities, including the VA medical center and St. Joseph’s hospital.
- Percent of Senior Population: 38.1%
- Overall Population: 9,949
Rio Vista is the smallest town on the list and is perfect for those who want to be close enough to reach the city, but far enough to enjoy clean air, blue skies, and small-town hospitality. Just shy of an hour’s drive to Sacramento and just over an hour to San Fransisco, Rio Vista is advantageously located near larger cities, making it easy to enjoy the urban culture.
Rio Vista, located on the beautiful Sacramento River, is home to the Bass Derby & Festival, which has been a Rio Vista tradition for over 70 years. This festival is far more than a fishing contest; there is also live music, a carnival, and a car show. The festival is held every October.
In addition to excellent fishing, Rio Vista offers golfing, swimming and camping at nearby Brannan Island state park, and wine tasting at Belle Vie Vineyard.
The Rio Vista Senior Center offers a variety of events and activities such as:
- Games – Canasta, Dominoes, Pinochle, and Bingo
- Quilting groups
- Exercise classes
- Health & wellness programs
The senior center is also an excellent resource for seniors looking for information about local services and other community programs.
Unfortunately, there are no hospitals in the town of Rio Vista, but just 15-20 miles away, there are three easily accessible hospitals.