Moving to the West Coast? California, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon have some of the best outdoor recreation, thriving job markets, amazing eateries, and beautiful weather. Whether you’re looking for a beach town or mountain city, check out these ten best West Coast cities!
- Anchorage, AK
- Eugene, OR
- Portland, OR
- San Clemente, CA
- San Diego, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- Santa Barbara, CA
- Seattle, WA
- Tacoma, WA
- Thousand Oaks, CA
- Population: 299,321
- Home Price: $298,000 median purchase price; $1,231 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 2% of U.S. cities
- Unemployment Rate: 4.2%
When you think about the West Coast, Alaska may not come to mind, but its most populous city is one of the best places to live on the West Coast: Anchorage. For starters, Anchorage is surrounded by national and state parks, like Chugach State Park, making it an outdoor lover’s dream. While Anchorage weather is generally cooler, the summers are beautiful and experience 24 hours of daylight, making it one of the best cities for summer vacations. You’ll find that diverse native heritages are celebrated here, with plenty of places to experience and learn about them. Plus, more opportunities for growth, education, music, and fun are offered by tons of festivals held in Anchorage every year, including the Fur Rendezvous, a winter festival celebrating the pioneering spirit of Alaskans.
Things to Do in Anchorage
Get up close with bears, bison, moose, and other Alaskan wildlife at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Visit the Anchorage Museum, the largest museum in Alaska, to learn about The Last Frontier’s exploration history, people, and local art. See breathtaking views of Downtown Anchorage, including the Chugach Mountains, Mt. McKinley, and more, while hiking or biking the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Take a flightseeing tour to see the gorgeous Alaskan landscape. Enjoy a Tundra Scramble, Nuevo Huevos, and a Snow City Latte for breakfast from Snow City Cafe. Order pizza from Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria and try the Pesto Supreme, Lu-Wow, or Amazing Apricot. Eat fresh Alaskan seafood dishes like Alaska Smoked Salmon Dip, Prawn Scampi, and Bering Sea King Crab Legs from Glacier Brewhouse. Sip on craft beer at 49th Street Brewing and try the 907 Lager or Solstice IPA.
HOW MUCH WILL MOVING COST?
- Population: 161,649
- Home Price: $246,400 median purchase price; $921 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 19% of U.S. cities
- Unemployment Rate: 5.0%
Home to the University of Oregon, Eugene is a charming West Coast college town with something for everyone! Art lovers can spend time discovering the vibrant arts and culture scene, foodies will love exploring the wide range of culinary options, and beer enthusiasts will have their pick at local Eugene craft breweries. Of course, Eugene provides other amenities, too—including a handful of top-rated K-12 public schools in the city, like Charlemagne French Immersion School and South Eugene High School. And, given its lush, green landscape, Eugene is often referred to as The Emerald City, boasting great outdoor recreation at nearby places like Willamette National Forrest, Fern Ridge Reservoir, and Spencer Butte. Plus, it’s only about an hour away from the coast if you want to spend a day at the beach!
Things to Do in Eugene
Visit the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art to see rotating art exhibitions, view the European Art Collection, or take an art class. Watch a show in the Planetarium or explore the Discovery Room at the Eugene Science Center. Spend your day at the Saturday Market and enjoy live music while shopping for local goods or eating from the international food court. Go disc golfing, walk along the paths, or teach the kids how to fish at Alton Baker Park. Try Revueltas Pupusas, Crispy Burritos, Guaraches and other Salvadoran food at Pupuseria Las Comrades. Go to Marche, a French bistro serving up Tonnato & Chips, Steak Frites, and more. Eat Chocolate Fondue, Spicy Chicken Paninis, or Drunken Clams at The Vintage. Or get a taste of Oregon craft beer at Gratitude Brewing and try the Getaway Plan Pale Ale.
- Population: 620,589
- Home Price: $319,400 median purchase price; $1,025 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 9% of U.S. cities
- Unemployment Rate: 5.2%
Not only is Portland one of the best West Coast cities—it’s also one of the best big cities in the U.S.! Thanks to its established tech industry, Portland has been coined the “Silicon Forest” and offers employment opportunities with companies like Airbnb, Xerox, Nike, and eBay. Oregon’s biggest city is making major efforts toward sustainability, too. A majority of the city’s power comes from renewable energy sources and a quarter of the Portland workforce gets around by bike. In fact, The City of Roses is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country with 385 miles of bikeways. Plus, the city offers plenty of places to explore, like Forest Park and Columbia River Gorge. Residents will find Portland offers affordable housing on the West Coast, with amazing live music venues, a huge art scene, and one-of-a-kind nightlife!
Things to Do in Portland
See animals in habitats like the African Savanna, Elephant Lands, and Black Bear Ridge at the Oregon Zoo. Get tickets to a show at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, a nationally recognized music venue, to see performances from artists like Tanya Tucker, Bleachers, and Walk the Moon. Find your new favorite book at Powell’s City of Books, the largest used and new bookstore in the world! Visit the Portland Japanese Garden and stroll through the Tea Garden, Sand & Stone Garden, or grab a snack at the Umami Cafe. Have a British-inspired brunch at Kingsland Kitchen and try the Full English Breakfast, Eton Mess Pancakes, or Holli’s Hashbrown Casserole. Eat Green Onion Pancakes, Mandarin Crispy Chicken, or Hot & Spicy Chow Mein from Duck House Chinese Restaurant. Enjoy dinner at Olympia Provisions and order the Alpine Charcuterie Flight, Toggi Schnitzel, or Carman Ranch Burger. Sip on tropical cocktails like the Rum Club Daiquiri, Castaway, or Peach Blendie at Rum Club.
San Clemente, CA
- Population: 65,082
- Home Price: $801,100 median purchase price; $1,696 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 61% of U.S. cities
- Unemployment Rate: 3.5%
San Clemente is a laidback beach town located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. This smaller West Coast city shares many advantages of the major cities—like amazing shopping and dining options along Avenida Del Mar and in the Outlets at San Clemente—but without the infamous LA traffic. Palm tree-lined Downtown San Clemente may be the heart of the city, but The San Clemente Pier City Beach is where all the action happens—people paddle board and go fishing and boating, but this beach is perfect for beginners learning to surf. And with an average of 281 sunny days per year, San Clemente’s turquoise beaches are enjoyed by surfers of all levels all the time. As a matter of fact, the sport is a major part of the community, and the city built The Surfing Heritage & Culture Center to preserve and promote the heritage of surfing.
Things to Do in San Clemente
Test your surfing skills or relax on the sand at San Clemente State Beach. Visit Courtney’s SandCastle Universal Playground so the kiddos can play on the pirate-themed playground, or build a sandcastle as a family. Practice your swing at the driving range, schedule a tee time, or have lunch at the Signature Grille at Talega Golf Club. Spend your Sunday at the San Clemente Farmers Market and shop for fresh flowers, local honey, fruits, and vegetables. Eat delicious pizza creations like Kansas City BBQ Chicken Pizza and Fig & Goat Cheese Pizza at Cosentino’s Pizza. Head to Asada Cantina & Kitchen for Mexican cuisine like Banana Wrapped Halibut, Short Rib Ranchero, and Filet Mignon Tacos. Order Sweet Corn Ravioli, Crispy Jidori Chicken Schnitzel with Maitake Mushrooms, and Bourbon Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee at Vine. Drink beer around the beach at Artifex Brewing Company and try the Artifexican Mexican Lager, Show Me Your Roots Blonde Ale, or Bog Trotter Irish Red Ale.
San Diego, CA
- Population: 1,374,812
- Home Price: $488,600 median purchase price; $1,427 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 32% of U.S. cities
- Unemployment Rate: 5.0%
If Southern California is on your radar for places to live on the West Coast, you’ll want to consider San Diego! With amazing beaches, fun attractions, and being one of the best cities for year-round weather, it’s easy to see why San Diego is called America’s Finest City. There are great options for higher education here, too, at institutions like University of San Diego and San Diego State University for anyone pursuing a degree or looking for a career in education. Also, if you love being outside, outdoor recreation in San Diego offers everything from surfing areas, hiking trails, fishing spots, and more.
Things to Do in San Diego
See kangaroos, cheetahs, pandas, and other amazing animals at the San Diego Zoo. Head to Petco Park to cheer on the San Diego Padres (MLB). Visit Mission Beach, San Diego’s classic boardwalk town, and shop along the two-mile boardwalk, ride the roller coaster at Belmont Park, or go boogie boarding. Enjoy a game of golf with views of the Pacific Ocean at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Get tickets to La Jolla Playhouse and see productions of new plays and musicals. Grab a pal for brunch at Madison and order Skirt Steak Benedict, Waffle Churro Sticks, and a Lavender Coconut Latte. Eat Birria Tortas and Cheese Flour Quesadillas at Tuetano Taqueria. Enjoy dinner with friends at The Presley and share a Pancetta Flatbread or try the Horseradish Crusted Salmon. Or sip on craft beers like the Hop on Board IPA or Tres Tres Mexican Lager on the rooftop at Ocean Beach Brewery.
San Francisco, CA
- Population: 850,282
- Home Price: $858,800 median purchase price; $1,623 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 5% of U.S. cities
- Unemployment Rate: 4.3%
With some of the best-known attractions of California, including The Painted Ladies, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and much more, San Francisco is one of the best places to live on the West Coast. The Bay Area has a healthy job market and bursts with various job opportunities at major companies like Salesforce, Charles Schwab, PayPal, and more. And while foodies feel right at home in a city known for world-class restaurants, San Francisco’s reputation as the world’s gay Mecca is a huge draw for many residents. The most LGBT+ friendly city in the U.S. is home to a huge Pride festival and tons of gay-owned businesses. With iconic hilly streets and fun neighborhoods like Chinatown, the Castro, and Fisherman’s Wharf, and more, San Francisco is one of the best West Coast cities to live in!
Things to Do in San Francisco
Watch the San Francisco Giants (MLB) at Oracle Park, San Francisco 49ers (NFL) at Levi’s Stadium, or Golden State Warriors (NBA) at Chase Center. Hike the Muir Woods to see giant Redwood trees. Let the kids learn and play with hundreds of interactive exhibits at the Exploratorium science museum. Stroll through works of modern art or attend events like the Mini Mural Festival at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Check out the marine wildlife before shopping in the collection of stores at Pier 39. Chow down at Liholiho Yacht Club and try the Tuna Poke or LYC Spam Steak. Eat Crab Ceviche, Award Winning Clam Chowder, and Fish & Chips at Fog Harbor Fish House, one of the most popular seafood restaurants in SF! Make reservations at House of Prime Rib to enjoy fresh roast beef carved table-side. Or drink craft cocktails like Camping With Hipsters while snacking on Crispy Brussel Sprouts at Alchemist Bar & Lounge.
Santa Barbara, CA
- Population: 90,922
- Home Price: $888,000 median purchase price; $1,575 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 23% of U.S. cities
- Unemployment Rate: 3.7%
With stunning ocean views, a rich history, and laidback beach lifestyle, Santa Barbara is an ideal California city to call home. It’s also commonly called “The American Riviera” thanks to its amazing beaches and Mediterranean climate. Plus, Santa Barbara is surrounded by the Santa Ynez mountains so hikers and outdoor enthusiasts will be delighted with the variety of recreation! If you’re considering moving to one of the best places to live on the West Coast, don’t let Santa Barbara’s steeper housing prices turn you away from this beach town, as there are neighborhoods like Westside which offer more affordable housing options. And, if you’re pursuing higher education or looking for a career in education, University of California Santa Barbara brings in students and educators from all around the U.S. Other top employers in Santa Barbara include Raytheon Technologies and Sansum Clinic Healthcare.
Things to Do in Santa Barbara
Play sand volleyball, beach frisbee, or bask in the sun at East Beach. Schedule a tour with Condor Express and hop on a boat to go whale-watching, or enjoy other unique experiences like a Broadway Musical Cruise or Blues Cruise. Learn more about science at exhibits like the Tech Track and Fantastic Forces Courtyard at MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration & Innovation. Buy bait and tackle and cast your line at Stearns Wharf, or pick up some unique seashells at Nature’s Own. Wake up with a Nitro Cold Brew, Iced Tres Leches, or Shakerato from Dune Coffee Roasters. Have Spanish dishes like Croqueta de Jamon, Patatas Bravas, and Chorizo y Pollo Paella at Loquita Santa Barbara. Taste fresh seafood like Garlic Baked Clams, Lobster Rolls, and Steamed Local Clams from Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. Or relax on the weekend and enjoy a Charcuterie Plate while tasting craft beers like the Berry Patch Sour, Lindsay’s Lager, or Golden Bear IPA at Brass Bear Brewing & Bistro.
- Population: 668,849
- Home Price: $484,600 median purchase price; $1,266 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 9% of U.S. cities
- Unemployment Rate: 3.7%
Do you love the outdoors? Seattle is one of the best cities for outdoor recreation and one of the best cities to live on the West Coast! Whether it’s hiking, fishing, mountain climbing, or skiing, Seattle has it all. While you might think it’s always raining in Seattle, it only averages about 38 inches per year. The city also has a steady job market with salaries higher than the national average, and you’ll be able to find careers in industries like tech and manufacturing at companies like Microsoft and Boeing. Seattle also has a deep history in the coffee industry, with many popular coffee spots like Starbucks, Seattle’s Best Coffee, and Tully’s being founded here. Coffee isn’t the only thing Seattle is known for, either—it’s also one of the top foodie cities in the U.S., with one-of-a-kind food experiences at the renowned Pike Place Market.
Things to Do in Seattle
Put on some blue and green and head to Lumen Field to cheer on the Seattle Seahawks (NFL). Hike over 35 miles of trails and take in views of Lake Sammamish or Seattle skyline at Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. Visit the Museum of Pop Culture and learn more about music icons, the movie industry, video games, and more. See aquatic life like sea otters, moon jellies, and eels up close at the Seattle Aquarium. Spend the day at iconic Pike Place Market and shop local crafts at the Crafts Market, visit the original Starbucks, and find fresh seafood at City Fish. Pick up Chorizo & Cheese or Sweet Corn Tamales from Frelard Tamales. Have some of the best barbecue in Seattle at Brileys BBQ & Grill, and try the Chopped Brisket Sandwich, Spare Ribs, and a side of Gumbo. Experience fine dining in Seattle and build your own four-course meal from dishes like Eggplant Zurita and Shaved Wagyu at Canlis. Or sip craft cocktails like the Nimbus 2000 and Black Walnut Old Fashioned at Liberty.
- Population: 205,602
- Home Price: $212,400 median purchase price; $980 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 3% of U.S. cities
- Unemployment Rate: 5.0%
Tacoma is a great city to call home if you want to be close to the Seattle metro without the high cost of living. While some residents commute into Seattle for work, there are actually plenty of jobs in Tacoma in the maritime, healthcare, and aerospace industries. Also known as Grit City, Tacoma has amazing outdoor recreation, thanks to its close proximity to Mount Rainer. The Washington landmark provides tons of places for hiking, biking, camping, rock climbing, and more. Plus, T-Town summers and winters are fairly mild, so you’ll be able to stay outside all year long. You’ll never get bored living in Tacoma with places like 6th Avenue District, a cool part of town with art studios, vintage stores, coffee shops, and more. There are also tons of events and festivals that take place in the city, including the Tacoma Film Festival and Taste of Tacoma.
Things to Do in Tacoma
Join people from around the world and attend the annual Tacoma Film Festival, or submit your own project. Take the kids to cool off in the sprayground or play a game of Lawn Bowling at Wright Park. Visit the Museum of Glass to see delicate art installations or take a glass blowing class. See the Asian Forest Sanctuary, Pacific Seas Aquarium, and other animal habitats at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Cheer on the Tacoma Rainiers (MiLB) and catch the Friday Night Fireworks at Cheney Stadium. Have Blistered Hungarian Peppers or Bacon Pesto Wood Fired Pizza at Wooden City. Enjoy a healthy and fresh meal from Happy Belly and try the Garden Delight Salad and Kombucha on tap. Give Argentinian dishes a try like Queso Frito, Espalda Asado, and Elote Gnocchi from Asado. Drink Washington craft beer at E9 Brewing Co. and order the Bramblestar Farmhouse Fruited Ale.
Thousand Oaks, CA
- Population: 128,623
- Home Price: $637,100 median purchase price; $1,896 median purchase price
- Crime Rate: Safer than 75% of U.S. cities
- Unemployment Rate: 5.2%
Looking for a safe city in the greater LA metro to settle down? Think about moving to Thousand Oaks! One of the best places to live on the West Coast, Thousand Oaks is the second-largest city in Ventura County and is one of the safest California cities to live in, making it an outstanding place for families. Not only that, but the city offers top-rated education at schools like Meadows Arts & Technology Elementary School and Westlake High School. Being about 40 miles from Los Angeles, you have access to the excitement of the big city, while enjoying a quieter lifestyle with plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. With the beach just 30 minutes away and 150 miles of trails, you can always find some space for outdoor fun!
Things to Do in Thousand Oaks
Go horseback riding or hiking at Wildwood Regional Park. Head to Gardens of the World and see botanicals from The Japanese Garden, The Mission Courtyard, The Italian Garden, and more. Check out the current art exhibitions or enroll in a workshop class at the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks. Become a member at Los Robles Greens and schedule a tee time, join a couples league, or compete in a golf tournament. Enjoy breakfast at CiCi’s and try the Berry Berry Souffle Pancakes, Huevos Tomatillos, or Chicken Curry Benedict. Try a Peruvian Skirt Steak Sandwich, Roasted Chicken Bowl, or Hail to the Kale Salad at Mouthful Eatery. Have dinner at Holdren’s Steak & Seafood and order Prime Rib Sliders, Beef Wellington, or Seafood Linguini. Or spend an afternoon wine-tasting at Alma Sol Winery and bring home a bottle of Old Vine Petite Sirah.
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City statistics from AreaVibes