The 16 Best Places to Live in Northern California in 2022 & Why

NorCal features some of the state’s best cities, so we updated our rankings of the best places to live in Northern California for 2022 to give you the latest reviews of the top communities in the Golden State.

A lot has changed since the global pandemic, so our list reflects the recent shifts that have occurred in our society. We placed a greater emphasis on places that offered more space and access to nature, such as the beachfront, the mountains, and state parks.

We also made sure to update this list of the best cities in Northern California with data from large online databases like, AreaVibes, and U.S. News and World Report.

We looked for cities that offered a good balance of life, which includes affordable housing, job opportunities, lots of leisure activities, good schools, and low crime.

Of course, California is not known for being the most affordable state, so keep in mind that our consideration of affordability is all relative to the rest of the state.

One other note is that we defined Northern California as generally the region from the Bay Area (which includes San Francisco) and up.

With these guidelines, we were able to find 16 of the best cities to live in Northern California, specifically considering the new way of life that is emerging as well.

We found that most of our choices were suburbs of places like San Francisco and Sacramento, but there were also a few, more isolated places that still offered a nice, balanced way of life.

So, let’s take a look at which cities made our final rankings of the best places to live in Northern California in 2022.

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Table of Contents

16 Best Places to Live in Northern California – 2022

16. Napa


Pros and Cons:
+ Perfect climate
+ Stunningly beautiful countryside
Wine tourists
High housing costs

The city of Napa just makes it onto our list of the best cities in Northern California. This iconic city sits in the heart of Napa Valley and is less than 1 hour north of San Francisco.

Its majestic valleys and rolling hills are home to some of the most well-known vineyards in the world, making it a prime destination for wine lovers.

Napa scored well in offering its almost 80,000 residents with many things to do, including gourmet restaurants and a lively entertainment and culture scene in its small downtown area.

But, this beautiful city does come at a price. The average home is valued at over $800,000 according to the latest figures from Zillow. Additionally, Napa’s famous wineries attract millions of visitors to a relatively small area each year.

15. Santa Rosa

Pros and Cons:
+ Relatively affordable in wine country
+ Foodie heaven
Traffic concerns
Rising housing costs

Santa Rosa is a gem of a city located in Sonoma County and is a close neighbor to Napa. San Francisco is also easily accessible at just an hour drive away. Many locals consider Santa Rosa as offering a more down-to-earth lifestyle compared to Napa.

This assessment is also reflected in its housing prices, which are almost 20% lower than in Napa.

Still, it offers many high quality amenities and activities. Santa Rosa (and Napa) were named the #1 best foodie city in all of America.

14. Cameron Park

Pros and Cons:
+ Unique town built for pilots
+ Great location between mountain and large cities
High cost of living
Sprawling suburban neighborhoods

Cameron Park is a small community of just over 30,000 people that sits about 30 minutes outside of Sacramento. It’s more of a town than a city and is highly residential, which is ideal for families.

But, it still offers many things to do, such as the Cameron Park Country Club that sits in the heart of town as well as its commercial district that houses numerous restaurants, supermarkets, and retail stores.

Perhaps Cameron Park is best known as being a town that was designed for pilots. Many of its residents own a private plane and have their own hangar built into their home.

That is all made possible since Cameron Park features a small airport and constructed a portion of the town with wide streets to accommodate planes. Be sure to check this city out if you are an aviation enthusiast.

13. Granite Bay

Pros and Cons:
+ Quiet, nature-filled suburb
+ Top location
High-priced homes
Rural atmosphere not suitable for all

Granite Bay is another Sacramento suburb that is rapidly rising up the ranks as one of the best places to live in Northern California. It sits right on Folsom Lake and offers tons of green space around the city, making it an ideal place for those seeking a closer connection to nature.

This community of over 20,000 residents is quite rural, but that doesn’t mean that it is lacking in refinement. In fact, Granite Bay is popular with many celebrities and athletes. Some past and current residents include Eddie Murphy and former Sacramento Kings player Chris Webber.

The consequence of this popularity is home prices that are quite high. The average house goes for about $1 million in Granite Bay.

12. Truckee


Pros and Cons:
+ Dream for outdoor lovers
+ Historic downtown offers many amenities
Attracts many tourists

Truckee is a small town just 15 minutes from Lake Tahoe. We think it is one of the best cities in Northern California primarily due to the endless outdoor activities that you can do in and around the area.

Truckee is the perfect base for skiing, hiking, biking, camping, and rafting nearby.

It also features a charming historic downtown that has excellent restaurants, cozy cafes, and lively bars, making it one of the best cities to live in Northern California around the Tahoe area.

However, Truckee is quite touristy and its cost of living is pretty high. It’s almost 50% more expensive than the rest of the US and average home values are close to $1 million.

11. El Dorado Hills

Pros and Cons:
+ Great school system
+ Strong sense of community
High home values
Extremely hot in the summer

El Dorado Hills is another suburb of Sacramento that is located on the other side of Folsom Lake from Granite Bay. It is routinely named as one of the best places to live in California for families as it boasts a top school system and low crime rates.

Many locals rave about the strong community ties that El Dorado Hills has developed, as well as its easy access to the lake and the mountains.

There is also the El Dorado Hills Town Center shopping mall, making it a bit more suburban in feel compared to Granite Bay.

10. Sacramento

Pros and Cons:
+ Affordability vs. rest of California
+ Great access to outdoor activities
Areas of crime within the city
Limited amenities vs. other big cities

Sacramento continues to rise on our list of best cities in Northern California as it represents a large city that is affordable (for California standards) and continues to grow and offer new job opportunities.

The cost of living is actually 20% lower than the rest of California, while the average home cost is just over $400,000. Sacramento’s large area also means that there are numerous neighborhoods to choose from to suit your needs.

Its prime location also makes it one of the most desirable places to be. It’s only 1.5 hours from San Francisco, while Lake Tahoe can be reached in 2 hours.

But, Sacramento does not offer as many things to do compared to other large, capital cities, but we think that will change as it continues its steady growth. The downtown riverfront area is poised to become one of the top spots in the region.

9. Walnut Creek

Pros and Cons:
+ Bustling, walkable downtown area
+ Strong community vibes
Very high cost of housing
Limited diversity

Walnut Creek is located in the East Bay region, just 30 minutes east of San Francisco and 45 minutes north of San Jose. Its central location makes it a top choice for commuters from both cities, while offering a more relaxed pace of life from the big city.

But, Walnut Creek still has plenty to offer. It features a downtown area that is pretty sizable for a mainly suburban community. There are historic buildings that house top-tier restaurants and upscale boutiques. It is all pretty walkable, too, which is quite rare and quite valuable in our post-pandemic lifestyle.

But, homes in Walnut Creek do not come cheap. The average home value is just under $1 million.

8. Palo Alto

Pros and Cons:
+ Extraordinary clean and safe
+ Lively downtown
Astronomical housing costs
Terrible traffic

Palo Alto is a suburb of San Francisco, just 30 minutes south, and is perfectly located near the headquarters of many tech companies in Silicon Valley like Facebook, Google, and Tesla.

It also features a thriving downtown area that is quite walkable and bikeable with many diverse restaurants, cozy cafes, and retail services lining its streets.

Additionally, education is a top priority in Palo Alto. It offers a strong school system and is also home to Stanford University.

However, all of these prime amenities come at a considerable cost. The average home value in Palo Alto is a staggering $3.2 million. It even made our list of the most expensive places to live in all of California.

7. San Jose


Pros and Cons:
+ Great job opportunities
+ Tons of things to do
Extremely high cost of living
Limited nightlife

Location: Check on Google Maps

San Jose is the biggest city in the Silicon Valley region on the south end of the Bay. It is home to over 1 million residents and is known for offering an ideal blend of big city amenities, great job opportunities, and a relaxed lifestyle.

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San Jose’s bustling downtown features many diverse restaurants and things to do and see. There are museums, parks, and even a professional hockey team, the San Jose Sharks.

However, it’s not the cheapest area to live in. The cost of living in San Jose is 80% higher than the rest of the US.

But, given its close proximity to many leading companies, comfortable weather, and things to do for the whole family, it is clear to see why San Jose is still one of the best places to live in Northern California in 2022.

6. Rocklin

Pros and Cons:
+ Relatively affordable
+ Low crime rates
Increase congestion due to growth
Extremely hot summers

Location: Check on Google Maps

Rocklin is a suburb of Sacramento that has just under 70,000 residents. Its well-kept streets and neighborhoods are known for being quite safe. In fact, its crime rate is almost 40% below the national average.

While its cost of living is still quite high compared to the rest of the US, it is actually 3% lower than the average for the rest of California.

This family friendly suburb is filled with parks, playgrounds, and things to do for the whole family. For example, there is Quarry Park Adventures, which is an outdoor activity sports center. There are also several golf courses around the town as well.

Best of all, its location makes it a top choice to consider. It is less than 30 minutes from downtown Sacramento and Folsom Lake is only 15 minutes away.

5. San Francisco

Pros and Cons:
+ Unlimited cultural and entertainment options
+ Excellent job options
Unbelievable cost of living
Uncertain future

Location: Check on Google Maps

No list of the best places to live in Northern California would be complete without including San Francisco. The city needs no introduction and is certainly a world-class option in this area. It is also the largest city on this list.

However, it has lost some of its luster recently, as its sky-high cost of living was less easy to justify during the pandemic. We think San Francisco will thrive again post-pandemic, but it will need to readjust and be more flexible, just like the rest of society.

If you are looking for a diverse, progressive city with endless job opportunities and can afford the astronomical housing costs, then there is really no city quite like San Francisco.

But, be ready to spend. The average home value across the whole city is a whopping $1.4 million, which is an unbelievable amount considering that the city has almost 900,000 residents.

4. Dublin, California

Pros and Cons:
+ Strong feeling of community
+ Good affordability for the Bay Area
Extra traffic to larger cities
Growth induced sprawl

Location: Check on Google Maps

Dublin, California has experienced tremendous growth in recent years as more and more people uncover this hidden gem that is in the East Bay region of NorCal.

It has grown over 40% since 2010 and residents enjoy its perfect location that is just steps away from numerous hiking trails in the mountains and only 30 minutes from San Jose and 45 minutes from San Francisco by car. You can even take the BART public transportation system to San Francisco in 1.5 hours.

The city itself offers a true feel of community, with many events like farmer’s markets and concert series that brings everyone together. Meanwhile, there is a nice downtown commercial area that offers virtually everything you need.

Although it is still quite expensive, Dublin is relatively affordable in this area, especially compared to its Silicon Valley neighbors. The cost of living here is less than 50% higher than the California state average.

When you consider that places like Palo Alto are about 160% higher than the state average, Dublin actually becomes quite a good deal.

3. Los Altos

Pros and Cons:
+ Great amenities and low crime
+ Perfect location near SF, San Jose, and tech companies
Impossibly high home prices
Growing traffic and congestion

Location: Check on Google Maps

Los Altos is home to just over 30,000 people on the west side of the Bay Area right between San Francisco and San Jose. The city contains many beautiful residential neighborhoods along with a small commercial district with a main street that is filled with boutiques, restaurants, and cafes.

Los Altos is highly regarded in virtually all aspects that make a city desirable and livable. In fact, it earned an A+ rating in almost every category by AreaVibes and was even named the most livable city in all of California, which makes it a perennial contender for being one of the best cities in Northern California.

We would have ranked it higher if not for its astonishing cost of living. It is over 240% higher than the national average, which is driven by housing costs that are over 740% higher than the rest of the US.

2. Clovis

Pros and Cons:
+ Affordable, well-rounded community
+ Perfect base for outdoor adventures
Fewer job opportunities vs. Bay Area
Extremely hot summer months

Location: Check on Google Maps

Clovis is a bit different than many other cities on this list as it’s not a suburb of San Francisco or Sacramento. It’s also a bit more Central California than NorCal, but we couldn’t leave it off this list due to its high standard of living and relative affordability.

In fact, it’s downright cheap compared to everywhere else on this list. The cost of living in Clovis is almost 30% lower than the rest of California. Meanwhile, home prices average around just $400,000.

So, what does Clovis have to offer? This city of 100,000 people is just 6 miles from Fresno and contains numerous affordable neighborhoods, many commercial areas (as well as a small downtown on Clovis Ave), and an excellent school system.

Locals also rave about the sense of community that is fostered within Clovis.

Its location also makes it ideal for outdoor lovers, as this self-proclaimed “Gateway to the Sierras” is just 30 minutes from the mountains and 2.5 hours from Yosemite National Park, making it one of the best cities to live in Northern California for families and for adventurers.

1. Folsom


Pros and Cons:
+ Ideal for families and outdoor lovers
+ Beautiful historic district
Traffic and congestion
Expensive housing options

Location: Check on Google Maps

The best place to live in Northern California in 2022 is Folsom. Its 70,000 residents are situated right on Folsom Lake and are just 30 minutes from Sacramento.

The city is filled with green areas and hiking trails, while its school districts are routinely named as some of the best in the state. Additionally, there is the quaint Folsom Historic District that offers many restaurants and bars along the picturesque, walkable streets of its downtown.

It’s not cheap, with average home prices almost reaching $700,000, but it is still less than 5% above the average for all of California, making it a good value and therefore the best city in Northern California, especially for Sacramento commuters.

Summary – Best Places to Live in Northern California

The suburbs dominate this list of the best cities in Northern California as we see a distinct shift in the demand for more space and more reasonable living costs. NorCal’s big cities still offer an exciting lifestyle, but people are realizing that it may not be fully worth its price of admission, especially if their physical location is not as important going forward.

It seems that the best balance is a city or town that is close enough to a large metropolitan area, but far enough to offer direct access to parks, lakes, and mountains. It should also have amenities of its own, like a small downtown area to walk around.

Some of the best places to live in Northern California also made our list of the top cities to live in California since we think that these cities provide a great quality of life, sense of community, and offer things to do for people of all ages.

We think that this list provides great examples of those types of places, so now it’s up to you to decide which one is the best fit for you.

25 Best Places to Visit in Northern California

Pfeiffer Beach

Visit Santa Cruz, Oakland, Sacramento, Napa and other unique destinations. From the sophistication of San Francisco, CA and high tech advances of San Jose to ancient sequoia forests and the untamed wilderness of its many parks, Northern California is land of contrasts, breathtakingly beautiful, cherished and protected, visited by millions, and painted, described, and loved by artists for centuries.

We recommend that you call the attractions and restaurants ahead of your visit to confirm current opening times.

1. Northern California Coast: Big Sur

Northern California Coast: Big Sur

Big Sur is a spectacularly beautiful stretch of California’s central coast located between Carmel and San Simeon, snuggled between the steep slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Pacific. Most tourists see this scenic area from the narrow State Route 1, which winds and turns beside steep seaside cliffs, offering lookout points every now and then.

The whole wild and misty area is very sparsely populated and offers great opportunities for hiking, beach combing, exploring, whale watching, and camping. Artists and writers discovered the area in the 1950s and ‘60s, finding inspiration in the rugged beauty and untamed wilderness. You can visit the house of Henry Miller, today a memorial library, McWay Falls and Cove, Bixby Creek Bridge, many small, quaint inns and restaurants, small picturesque beaches that are not easy to access but well worth it, and a richness of rare plants and animals. Things to Do in Big Sur

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2. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

The most famous, and the oldest, national park in the world, Yosemite National Park in north California is 1,200 square miles of some of nature’s most beautiful creations, from deep valleys, wildflower-covered meadows, and 3,000-year-old giant sequoias to the vast High Sierra Mountains wilderness and thundering waterfalls that dry up in August, and so much more. Start your exploration in the valley, a one-mile-wide and seven-mile-long canyon created by a river and shaped by glaciers.

It is surrounded by enormous walls of towering domes and pinnacles, with El Capitan, the world’s largest exposed granite monolith, towering above the valley. From here, you can take one of the many marked trails that offer 800 miles of hiking through the park, from easy walks through forests to week-long endurance tests up the High Sierras. Along the way, you can spot the chipmunks, mule deer, brush rabbits, marmots, and warblers. Take a walk through towering red fir and pine forests, flowering dogwood and dwarf willows, enormous ancient sequoias, pass spectacular waterfalls and cool brooks. And once you leave the valley, you will not have to worry about the four million people that come to the park each year, you can be as alone as you wish, just you and nature.

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3. Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Located on the northern end of Monterey Bay about 32 miles from San Jose, Santa Cruz is a quintessential small coastal town with beautiful sandy beaches, world-famous surf, spectacular mountains covered with ancient redwood forests, serene organic farms, and a thriving wine and beer scene.

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Students from the University of California Santa Cruz add to the lively atmosphere and tourists love the combination of natural beauty and the old-town charm of historic Santa Cruz as well as the fantastic entertainment options at the oceanfront amusement park and the beautiful Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Santa Cruz is a great place to learn to surf, watch experienced surfers, and get into the surfing spirit at Steamer Lane or at Pleasure Point. Things to Do in Santa Cruz

Our experts’ top picks for a long weekend getaway: CO, From San Diego, VA, OH, WI, MI, IL, IL Places, VA, San Diego, TX — You are reading “25 Best Places to Visit in Northern California” Back to Top

Best 29 Places To Visit In Northern California – Updated 2022

Also called NorCal by the people of America, the northern region of California boasts of natural beauty beyond compare. Parts of the region are home to lush redwood forests while some other parts feature a breathtaking Pacific coastline with gorgeously pristine beaches. Because of its topography with diverse landscapes and picturesque sceneries, this side of California is popular with tourists who long for a quick break from the concrete jungle and reconnection with mother nature. Here, you’ll find some of the most-visited US cities and captivating towns, including the hilly San Francisco, the enchanting Lake Tahoe, the charming Monterey, and a lot more. If you are planning a quick adventure, alone or with your loved ones, in this region of the United States of America, here is a list of places to visit in Northern California that is definitely worth exploring.

1. Sacramento

Tower Bridge Sacramento edit

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user [Unknown] used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

If you are planning to explore the beautiful region of Northern California any time soon, you might want your adventure to start with the stunning city of Sacramento as it is the state’s capital. It is a breathtaking metropolis that is accented by two majestic rivers, the Sacramento River and the American River. Although it offers upscale attractions, such as luxurious retail stores, exquisite restaurants, and state-of-the-art recreational areas, you might want to discover its Gold Rush era in the Old Sacramento, where you will be captivated by its quintessential charm, wagon rides, and wooden sidewalks. Also, while in the area, you might want to swing by California State Railroad Museum and browse through its antique exhibits.

2. Oakland

OAKLAND, CA, USA - Skyline and Bridge

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Basil D Soufi used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Nestled on the eastern end of San Francisco Bay, Oakland is an upscale city that is characterized by its skyscraping buildings, upscale attractions, and its dramatic cityscape. Just like Sacramento, aside from its technologically-advanced facade, lies an area that holds the cities history – the Old Oakland. After trying out uptown Oakland’s’ luxurious offerings, you might want to explore the Old Oakland side of the city where you will be mesmerized by fascinating Victorian structures. Additionally, Oakland has a bustling Chinatown that is worth a visit if you have Chinese ancestry or someone who has developed an acquired taste for Chinese food. Oakland is definitely a city for everyone.

3. Mendocino

Mendocino Morning

Source: Photo by user Sheila Sund used under CC BY 2.0

If your main goal in Northern California is to reconnect with nature and have your much-deserved vacation away from the noise and pollution of the concrete jungle, Mendocino is a town that you should visit. Its breathtaking beaches and cliffside trails attract nature lovers and adventure-seekers all over the country. Imagine swimming in pristine beaches, basking in the warmth of the sun until you achieve your desired tan, and building sandcastles as you take in the freshest air in the US. These are life’s simple pleasures that await you in Mendocino. Plus, because of its coastal topography, here, you can gorge on the most sumptuous and fresh seafood dishes that will surely melt your heart.

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4. Sonoma

Sonoma City Hall 2016 (cropped)

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Cullen328 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Known for its thriving wine industry, Sonoma is a breathtaking city that is characterized by its stunning rolling plains, vast agricultural lands, and picturesque scenic views. It is like a setting for a romantic novel that took place in a charming countryside town. Not only that, but it has a rich cultural heritage and a vibrant art scene. Museums and art galleries across town are testaments to that. When you visit the plaza, you will be wowed by the 19th-century structures that nest in it. While there, you might want to shop for souvenir items, try local restaurants, have as many bottles or glasses of wine as you like, and make friends with locals.

5. San Francisco (from USD 60.0)

Show all photos

Those who plan to visit California should definitely add San Francisco in their travel itinerary. This hilly city is known for its iconic landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge that you see almost in every American’s Instagram feed. Also referred to simply as SF, this city will enchant you with its towering buildings, sparkling city lights, vibrant night scene, art that comes to life in its museums and galleries, and a lot of tourist attractions. Also, featuring upscale restaurants and chic cafes, San Francisco will take you on a palatable gastronomic adventure that you will never forget. For your guidance, you might want to check out this half-day city tour for a more convenient adventure.

San Francisco Grand City Tour

Duration: 4 hours

512 reviews


6. Napa Valley (from USD 124.0)

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Another side of California that will enchant you with its natural landscape is Napa Valley. Just like Sonoma, it has a thriving wine industry that is acknowledged throughout the country. Breezing through the city, you will catch sight of a multitude of scenic hillside vineyards that will make you feel every bit connected to nature and every bit relaxed. If its the gastronomic experience you’re into, breeze through the Oxbow Public Market and while in it, try to sample as many local delicacies as you can for a complete food crawl experience. Also, you might want to experience wining and dining in the famous Napa Valley Wine Train and experience gorging on sumptuous cuisine while marveling at the beauty of the picturesque views.

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Duration: 5 to 6 hours

294 reviews


7. Gold Country

Bridgeport Covered Bridge, California Gold Countryl

Source: Photo by user moonjazz used under CC BY 2.0

An enchanting region in California that will take your breath away, Gold County is filled with gorgeous natural wonders and holds a fascinating history that is worth telling from generations to generations of Americans. Its beauty is beyond compare. Thriving on its mining industry, the region offers quality gold products that are exported throughout the country. If it’s an exciting adventure you’re after, Gold Country has astonishing lakes, lovely golden meadows, and lush forestry that is ideal for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

8. Central Valley

California's Central Valley

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Amadscientist used under CC0

A California region that is characterized by its vast agricultural lands, wine industry, and fascinating history, Central Valley is a place that is worth visiting if you’re a person who’s into cultures, gastronomic experience, and outdoor adventures. A place where food, art, and nature converge, Central Valley has a lot to offer to its guests. Here, you can go on safe hikes that will make you see the beauty of the countryside and indulge in its scenic wonders. Also, it has a number of museums and galleries where you can learn about the region’s heritage and appreciate art. Plus, before concluding your Central Valley adventure, be sure to bring home some bottles of premium locally produced wine.

9. Big Sur (from USD 875.0)

best places to visit in northern california | big sur


Be left in awe by the beauty of the northern California landscape by going on an adventure in Big Sur. Nesting between San Simone and Caramel, you will be captivated by the rugged cliffs and breathtaking beaches on this side of the state. Also, the mountain ranges of the Santa Lucia Mountains are a wonderful backdrop for your adventure in the area. Whether you are just passing by for a road trip or you pan a quick stop to swim in refreshing waters, Big Sur will not disappoint you. Plus, it’s not only the beach it offers, but there are also scenic routes and safe campgrounds for adventure seekers, as well.

San Fran: Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur Full-Day Private Tour

Duration: 10 hour

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10. Palo Alto

Ramona Street Architectural District, Palo Alto, CA 5-27-2012 2-48-37 PM

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sanfranman59 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Linked to the Silicon Valley, Palo Alto is a charming city that boasts an abundance of parklands and recreational areas. It showcases a city with a perfect balance of the 21st-century lifestyle and nature. An ideal place to build a family, Palo Alto has excellent schools, a number of fascinating museums, thriving businesses, and delightful local restaurants. If you’re into shopping and dining, downtown Palo Alto has everything you need from retail stores to eateries, salons, cinema, and other attractions. Also, if you like outdoor activities, you can go on a hike through the scenic routes in Bayland Nature Preserve.

11. Folsom

Sutter Street

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user The Oaked Ridge used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Located in Sacramento County, Folsom is another charming little city in Northern California. Home to the Folsom Lake, lots of people in California go to this side of the state for some quality bonding time with their loved ones. During the summer, the lake becomes really crowded, and lots of people set up a picnic, swim in the lake and bask in the warmth of the sun all day long. During the winter, the lake turns into a majestic ice skating rink that attracts families for a quick sliding and gliding adventure. If you are planning to visit Folsom with your family any time soon, be sure to take them to the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary and watch your kids have the best time of their lives.

12. Monterey

Fisherman's Wharf Monterey3

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Amadscientist used under CC BY-SA 3.0

A charmer all-year-round, Monterey is a captivating city in California. It features a rugged coastline where colorful wooden houses dwell in. Ideal for swimming, diving, and other water activities, Monterey is popular for beachgoers and tourists who want some relaxing time with nature. Also, because of its coastal topography, seafood is fresh and delicious on this side of California. You can find a plethora of local restaurants that serve various seafood dishes that will leave you piling plates and plates of finish dishes. For a complete Monterey vacation experience, stroll along the Cannery Row, where you can dine, try local pubs, and shop for souvenir items while enjoying the views, Also, swing by Monterey Bay Aquarium and be mesmerized by the underwater world.

13. Berkeley

Studio Building (Berkeley, CA)

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sanfranman59 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Nesting on the eastern edge of San Francisco Bay Berkeley is a stunning city with a dramatic cityscape. Here, you’ll find the prestigious Berkeley University that has produced prominent politicians and other successful people in different fields. Also, here is where the Free Speech Movement in 1960 originated. If you plan to visit the university, climb the Campanile and marvel at the panoramic views of the area. If its festivals, concerts, and other important events you’re after, these social celebrations are usually held in Hearst Greek Theatre. Also, Berkeley has a plethora of museums, art galleries, and science halls that everyone should visit.

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14. Redding

Sacramento River - Redding, California

Source: Photo by user Tony Webster used under CC BY 2.0

Another breathtaking paradise found is Redding. Redding showcases a gorgeous natural landscape that enchants nature lovers and adventure-seekers everywhere. Its abundance of parkland is what makes it an ideal hideaway vacation destination for people who want to reconnect with nature and make lasting memories with their loved ones, in a tranquil setting with breathtaking views and the cool breeze of the countryside. While in Redding, be sure to drop by Turtle Bay Exploration Park and learn about natural history, and explore a stunning botanical garden. Also, ideal for road trips, drive through Sundial Bridge and see the beauty of this side of Redding.

15. Eureka

Eureka Old Town and Clock

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jan Kronsell used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

A gorgeous port city that is worth a visit, Eureka is home to breathtaking beaches, excellent seafood restaurants, scenic promenades, charming century architectures, and more. It has a quintessential charm that attracts tourists from all over the country. In the heart of the city, lies Old Town Eureka. Breeze through that district and marvel at the beauty of the historic Carson Mansion and other Victorian houses that are scattered across the area. Also, you’ll find the Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka – an attraction that is popular to tourists families, especially the kids.

16. Roseville

Roseville Amtrak station California

Source: Photo by user Loco Steve used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Make the most of your Northern California adventure by swinging by the stunning city of Roseville. Situated in Placer County and acknowledge as the biggest city in it, Roseville has a plethora of offerings for its visitors. Nature lovers and beachgoers can spend most of their time in the city swimming and basking in the warmth of the sun in Folsom Lake. There, they can also go on a fishing adventure, camp under the starry skies, and hike through scenic routes. For leisure activities, Roseville Golfland Sunsplash is an ideal place to go to for some golfing, dining, and relaxing.

17. Clovis

Building in Downtown Clovis California

Need more suggestions for your Northern California escapade? Why not swing by Clovis and discover its charm. Situated in Fresno County, Clovis is known for its rich agricultural lands and abundance of natural parks. Ideal for campers and hikers, its proximity to Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges gives tourists a paradise where they can do outdoor activities and nature adventures. In the heart of the city, you can find excellent restaurants, laid back bars, chic cafes, retail stores, souvenir shops, salons, and other recreational areas.

18. Chico

Chico City Plaza - Chico, California - DSC03022

Visit the captivating Bidwell Park and other top attractions in Chico when you drop by this lovely Northern California city. Known for its woodland trails with picturesque sceneries, Bidwell Park is a vast natural park where you can set up camp with your friends, take hiking routes with spectacular views, and even catch a glimpse of wildlife in its natural habitat. During autumn, the park turns into an enchanting wonderland that looks taken straight from a storybook. While in Chico, drop by the historic Bidwell Mansion, and browse through the displays of this Victorian property. For art and music, head over Downtown Chico business district.

19. Fresno

Fresno CA Van Ness portal

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user David Jordan used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Nesting in San Joaquin Valley, Fresno is a charming city with a lot to offer to people who plan to take refuge in this side of northern California. One of them is the historic Forestiere Underground Gardens where you will witness courtyards and subterranean passages. For families visiting the city, it would be a good idea to spend some quality bonding time in Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Adventure-seekers can explore Woodward Park and fall in love with nature. Also, let your breath be taken away by the allure of the enchanting waterfalls in Yosemite National Park.

20. Fremont

Washington Union High School (Fremont, CA)

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sanfranman59 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

After breezing through the gorgeous city of Fresno, take the North California adventure to Fremont. Nesting in the bay area of California, experience swimming in pristine beaches in Fremont. Aside from quality time in the water, gorge on delicious seafood dishes offered in various restaurants in the city. If you are a film-buff, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum will show you the development of the film industry. For pilgrims, visit Mission San José and stop by for a few prayers of thanks and well wishes in this 17th-century place of worship.

21. Sausalito

Sausalito May 2009

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Frank Schulenburg used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Sausalito will charm you with its rugged cliffside homes that face directly the stunning Richardson Beach. This city is popular for beachgoers and watersports lovers as it is an ideal hideaway spot for people who want a relaxing time away from the concrete jungle. Also, you will see houseboats in Sausalito that were built as far back as the WWII era. Once done with all the swimming and watersports, explore the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Bay Model Visitor Center and browse through its informative displays. Also, stroll along the Marin Headlands and take souvenir pictures with the views of the Golden Gate Bridge from there.

22. Walnut Creek

Broadway Plaza (Walnut Creek, California) 19 2017-04-29

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Your Northern California road trip will not be complete without exploring the beautiful city of Walnut Creek. Boasting of natural beauty, this city will enchant you with its natural parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and vast green spaces of recreational activities. If you’re thinking of going on a picnic adventure with your friends, Mount Diablo State Park is a paradise that you will fall in love with. Marvel at the beauty of nature in Briones Regional Park and catch a glimpse of wildlife in its natural habitat. Whether you have a green thumb or simply fascinated with plants, the Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery has a multitude of lovely cactus plants that will take your breathe away.

23. Livermore

Downtown Livermore California

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user LPS.1 used under CC0

Situated in Almeda County, Livermore is a lovely populous city that is worth visiting in Northern California. Just like the other cities in this list, Livermore has a plethora of upscale attractions, such as boutique stores, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and other well-visited businesses. More than those, it is home to breathtaking natural wonders that tourists should see, including Del Valle Regional Park and Shadowcliffs Regional Recreation Area.

24. San Ramon

San Ramon Waterfall Park 1 2016-05-15

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Discover the beauty and charm of Costa County by exploring the gorgeous city of San Ramon. For people who are taking refuge in this side of California with their family, be sure to bring your kids to Central Park and watch them have the time of their life, swinging, sliding, and making friends in this vast park with a fantastic playground. Adults can take on an adventure with nature in Las Trampas Regional Wilderness Park. If you like horseback riding, Iron Horse Regional Trail is an enchanting place to explore with your horse.

25. Vacaville

Will H. Buck House, 301 Buck Ave., Vacaville, CA 5-4-2013 8-02-08 PM

A stunning city with a tranquil countryside vibe and lovely attractions, Vacaville is a fabulous place to spend a vacation in. Away from the noise and pollution of the routine city life, Vacaville has a fair share of natural wonders that will provide you with the relaxing vacation experience that you long for. Swim in the Lagoon Valley Park or take your furry best friend there for an off-leash adventure. If you’re with kids, spend some quality time with them at Andrews Park or Peña Adobe Regional Park, and make lasting memories.

26. Davis

Downtown Davis1 2008

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Miles530 used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

If you want more suggestions for your North California escapade, add the beautiful City of Davis to your travel itinerary. Aside from excellent restaurants, bustling shopping districts, a number of museums, and recreation areas found in the city, Davis has undiscovered attractions that are worth a visit. Green thumbs will surely have a lovely time in UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery, while science enthusiasts can browse through the exhibits in Explorit Science Center Explorit Science Center. Also, artists can learn to hone their craft in the UC Davis Design Museum.

27. Concord


Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Geraoma used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

An ideal destination all-year-round, Concord will amaze you with its lovely attractions. Briones Regional Park is a paradise with breathtaking natural wonders, excellent hiking routes, and campgrounds that are ideal for adventure-seekers. Also, on this side of the city, you will catch a glimpse of wildlife in its natural habitat and a multitude of gorgeous flora. After some time in the park, move on to Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve for swimming and sunbathing activities.

28. Modesto

Modesto Arch

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Carl Skaggs used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Known as the largest city in the whole of Stanislaus County, Modesto features a combination of natural wonders, upscale attractions, a vibrant art scene, and a rich cultural heritage. It has diverse offerings that are ideal for all types of tourists. Watersports enthusiasts can go on a water rafting adventure in Tuolumne River while history buffs will surely have the best time exploring McHenry Museum. For tourists who are in the city with their families, Funworks Modesto is a fun-filled amusement park where they can try exciting rides and gorge on delicious comfort food.

29. Sunnyvale

Netapp Sunnyvale CA - panoramio

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user office used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The last but definitely not the least of places worth visiting in Northern California is Sunnyvale. A charming small city that is known as one of the best places to make a family in California, Sunnyville has thriving businesses, excellent schools, quiet neighborhoods, superb restaurants, recreational areas, and parks. Also, its proximity to Lake Tahoe and Sierra Nevada provides tourists of Sunnyvale with natural parks that are worth a visit.

Fall in love with Northern California

Northern California, which people are fond of calling Norcal, is a breathtaking region in California and the United States that boasts diverse breathtaking landscapes of rolling hills, lush forestry, and enchanting beaches and lakes. Lots of people travel all the way to this region to reconnect with nature and have a quick vacation with their loved ones. In this part of the US, you will never run out of things to do and places to visit. If you are planning to drive to Norcal any time soon, use this list as your guide in planning an itinerary. May you have a fabulous vacation ahead.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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