7 of the Best Places for Retiring in California

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Happy senior couple eating ice cream on a sunny day with sunglasses on the Santa Monica Pier in California
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It’s never too early to start thinking about your retirement. Even if it’s some time away, there’s plenty to do right now: Visit places that look promising, assess real estate prices and see if your favorite towns are affordable.

California has become prohibitively expensive for many people, and yet there still are plenty of reasons for California dreaming. The great climate, sophisticated cities, stunning landscapes and laidback living still make the state a great place to retire — if you can afford it.

Here’s a look at, in no special order, some of the best Golden State towns for retirees.

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo, California
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San Luis Obispo — on California’s rugged, stunning Central Coast — is a city of about 48,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Lifelong learners will appreciate the presence of famed California Polytechnic State University and its open classes, which can be enjoyed by community members.

California.com, which covers the state’s attractions, counts the city as a favorite retirement town: “SLO is a paradisal getaway with numerous places for shopping, plenty of outdoor recreation, and high-quality restaurants and wine bars.”

None of this comes cheap. SLO’s typical home price is around $1 million, according to Zillow.


Redding, California
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If San Luis Obispo is too rich for your taste, consider Redding where, Zillow says, the typical home value is around $400,000. Compared with the state’s median home value of around $750,000, that’s relatively affordable.

Its Northern California location makes Redding a good spot for outdoor-loving retirees whose idea of heaven includes golf, fishing and hiking.

More: See the most affordable locations for retirement in “15 Places Where Social Security Offers the Best Standard of Living.”

Palm Springs

Palm Springs, California
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Palm Springs — where roughly one-third of the population is age 65 or older — and other nearby Sonoran Desert towns are magnets for snowbirds, who swell local populations in wintertime.

Plenty of retirees make Palm Springs their year-round home despite summer heat that reaches well above 100 degrees. In January, temperatures average a comfortable 59 degrees Fahrenheit.

More: Find other nice places to warm your bones, check out “18 Great Warm and Sunny Places to Retire in the U.S.”


The Napa Valley Wine Train in California
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With wine, good weather and easy access to the bright lights of San Francisco, Napa may be the ideal retirement town.

Napa Valley is home to an estimated 400 wineries and 150 restaurants, according to VisitNapaValley.com. AARP, which includes Napa as one of 10 attractive small retirement towns, says there are 24 wine tasting rooms in downtown Napa alone.

Napa itself is home to about 78,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As you’d expect, real estate is expensive: Napa’s typical home value was around $900,000 when we recently checked.

More: For cheaper options, check out “America’s 15 Most Affordable Cities for Retirees” or the next California city on this list.


Bridge in Sacramento, California
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By now, you should be able to appreciate that Sacramento’s typical home value — about $470,000 — is affordable by California standards. Sacramento, the state’s capital, is home to more than 528,000 people, according to the Census Bureau.

It is a gateway to magnificent outdoor recreation, including skiing and summer recreation at Lake Tahoe and surrounding national forests, and California’s historic Gold Country.


Riverside, California
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Riverside, east of Los Angeles and situated along the Santa Ana River, is “among the most beautiful historical towns in California,” says California.com, which counts it among the 10 best places in California to retire.

Riverside has more than 320,000 residents, according to the Census Bureau. Zillow finds the typical home value at about $600,000.

Riverside has a friendly climate — summer high temperatures are in the 90s and winter lows stay above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to BestPlaces.net. It also has a rich and varied community spirit, as “one of the most culturally diverse places in the Inland Empire [metropolitan area], especially when it comes to arts and culture,” according to California.com.


Mulholland Ridge in Moraga, California
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Moraga is a town of under 17,000 residents in the San Francisco Bay area, according to the Census Bureau. About one-fifth of them are 65 or older.

Moraga’s mild climate, close-knit community, great schools and miles of parks and trails appeal to retirees as well as to families, according to California.com.

What’s the downside of this little paradise? Home prices. The typical home price is about $1.7 million, according to Zillow. That’s California for you.

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