The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in California (2023)

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The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in California (1)

The Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, one of the star attractions in the European-style town of Carmel | © SiliconValleyStock / Alamy Stock Photo

The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in California (2)

Marcelina Morfin

27 May 2021

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Exploring California? Then follow our list of the best places to visit, from coastal charmers to mountain beauties or book yourself on one of our other exciting trips to the US.

When thinking of California, you may think of San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego, but the Golden State is also home to some smaller towns and villages that are equally picturesque, whether it’s the seaside town of Carmel or the epicenter of the Californian wine industry, Sonoma.

If you really want to see the best of the country, we’ve hand-picked a series of Local Insiders to show you around. Feed your soul on a four-day discovery of live music and creole cuisine in New Orleans or explore alpine landscapes and red-rock deserts in America’s thrilling backcountry across Utah and Colorado.

Avalon, Santa Catalina Island

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(Video) 12 Beautiful Small Town of California, United States - Travel Guide California 2022

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The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in California (3)

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Avalon, on Santa Catalina Island, just might remind you of the Mediterranean, thanks to the lush vegetation, hillside homes and beautifully clear waters. The only incorporated city on the island, it was first developed into a resort town by George Shatto. Droves visit Avalon each year for the outdoor activities, small shops, art galleries, restaurants with incredible views of the water, and more. Thanks to the temperate climate year-round, it’s a great place to explore whether it’s June or December.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey County

Architectural Landmark

The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in California (4)

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Carmel-by-the-Sea, also known simply as Carmel, is a European-style town on the Monterey Peninsula popular with tourists. At just 680 acres (275ha), it’s a great area to explore by foot, whether you’re hiking down to the white beach or strolling along the streets to marvel at the charming architecture. The village also hosts a number of annual festivals, including the Carmel Bach Festival. A must-visit is the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission: a compound that comprises a basilica church, several small museums and beautiful grounds.

Looking to make a full trip out of it? Check out the best hotels in Monterey.

Dunsmuir, Siskiyou County

Architectural Landmark

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The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in California (5)

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A historic railroad town in Northern California, Dunsmuir is a serene mountain retreat with a peaceful ambiance. The location makes it a prime destination for lovers of the outdoors; there are many adventures waiting for you, from fishing to hiking to mountain climbing. If you want a dose of history, the downtown district has buildings dating back to the early 20th century. It’s a lovely place to wander around, where you can discover boutiques and tasty treats. If you’re about during the summer, be sure to visit the Botanical Gardens for a colorful display of flora.

You won’t have to travel far if you want to sleep overnight – stay at the Travelodge.

(Video) Top 10 beautiful towns in the United States. Carmel California made the list

Ferndale, Humboldt County

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The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in California (6)

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Ferndale is an agricultural Victorian community that blossomed in the late 19th century and is as charming today as it was back then. Take a leisurely walk along Main Street, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, to absorb the beauty of the colorful buildings that now house a variety of art galleries and specialty shops. If you want to explore nature, visit the nearby Lost Coast, a stunning section of coastline that’s been left the way nature intended. There’s also Russ Park, a closed-canopy Sitka spruce forest that acts as a bird sanctuary.

Julian, San Diego County

Natural Feature

The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in California (7)

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Founded after the Civil War by fortune seekers, Julian is a historic mining town in the Cuyamaca Mountains of Southern California. Today, the town is known for historic sites and orchards; locals apples are made into mouthwatering pies, ciders and other delicacies. To learn more about the history of Julian, stop by the Chamber of Commerce to pick up a History Hunt card, which will guide you to various places, including the Pioneer Cemetery and Julian Jail.

Plan on staying? Find out the best places to stay in San Diego.

Nevada City, Nevada County

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(Video) TOP 15. Most Beautiful Small Towns in California

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A California gold-rush town, Nevada City is brimming with both charm and history. Locals have been careful to preserve the Victorian buildings for visitors and future generations. Park the car and walk along the narrow streets to see the beautiful architecture up close, then discover the art, handmade jewelry, clothes, books and tantalizing cuisine. Many events take place throughout the year, including the Nevada City Classic bike race, First Friday Art Walks and Victorian Christmas.

Ojai, Ventura County

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The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in California (9)

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Located 90mi (145km) north of Los Angeles, Ojai is the perfect spot to escape hectic city life and enjoy a relaxing retreat. Settled in the 1800s, the town features wonderful Spanish mission revival architecture, as seen in the Arcade Plaza, which is filled with shops, restaurants and art. Scenic backgrounds are provided by the Los Padres National Forest and Topatopa Mountains. An artsy town, Ojai is bursting with galleries and other arts and culture venues, including the Ojai Valley Museum and Ojai Art Center. Also, Libbey Park hosts the Ojai Music Festival each year, and stunning vineyards.

The rooms and suites of the Valley Inn have the feel of a Spanish hacienda; find out our other favorite places to stay in Ojai.

St Helena, Napa County

Architectural Landmark

The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in California (10)

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(Video) 🇺🇸 SAN DIEGO NIGHTLIFE DOWNTOWN CALIFORNIA 2022 4K [VIRTUAL TOUR]

St Helena is surrounded by hilly vineyards. Not only is it a wine-lover’s paradise; it’s also the home of the Culinary Institute of America. There’s a historic, picturesque downtown with architectural gems housing a variety of boutiques, galleries and dining establishments. The terrain around St Helena also offers a plethora of activities, from hiking to biking, making it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts as well.

Fancy treating yourself with a boutique stay in Napa County? Check out our picks.

Solvang, Santa Ynez Valley

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The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in California (11)

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Solvang is a scenic Danish community in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country. With a name that translates to sunny field, this gem was founded in 1911 and hsa delightful architecture, including the Bethania Lutheran Church. Visit the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum for more insight into this quaint village, or search through more than 150 shops for unique gifts and authentic treats. Solvang is also home to several restaurants and wine-tasting rooms, as well as many great hotels.

Sonoma, Sonoma Valley

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The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages in California (12)

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The birthplace of the Californian wine industry, Sonoma is surrounded by rolling hills lined with vineyards. It’s another great place to discover the local past, since it’s home to the last Spanish mission built in California, Mission San Francisco Solano, which was founded in 1823. Other areas of interest include the central plaza, which is home to unique shops, fine-dining establishments and incredible art – not to mention the wineries.

Be sure to browse the best hotels in Sonoma.

These recommendations were updated on May 27, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel – and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way.That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories:Epic Trips,Mini TripsandSailing Trips.Our Trips are suitable for both solo travellers and friends who want to explore the world together.

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FAQs

Is there a charming town in California? ›

La Jolla, CA

One of the most upscale yet charming villages filled with galleries, shops and cafes along the Pacific Coast is located in San Diego County.

Where is the cheapest but nicest place to live in California? ›

Ventura in Los Angeles is an affordable California beach town to live in if you want to be somewhere with beautiful views and charming weather. Some other inexpensive coastal cities to live in California are Long Beach, San Pedro, and Eureka.

Where is the most tropical place in California? ›

Big Sur, California

🏝 Why you should visit: Big Sur, a coastal area on the west coast of Central California, is a picture-perfect tropical destination. This remote landscape stretches for 90 miles along the magical Highway 1.

What city in California looks like Italy? ›

Venice, California

The Venice Canal Historic District was built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney who wanted to recreate the look and feel of Venice, Italy. Another set of canals were built south of the original canals and they were known as the New Amsterdam Canals.

Where is the best place to retire in California? ›

The 10 Best Places to Retire in California
  • Palm Springs. ...
  • Sacramento. ...
  • Santa Rosa. ...
  • San Luis Obispo. ...
  • Oceanside. ...
  • Grass Valley. ...
  • Newport Beach. ...
  • Salinas.
11 Aug 2022

What is the least populated town in California? ›

Amador City is the smallest municipality by population with 200 people and the smallest by land area at 0.31 square miles (0.80 km2).

What is America's coolest small town? ›

Come see why. Less than two hours north of New York City up in the Hudson Valley, the charming town of Beacon has been repeatedly called the Coolest Small Town in America... and we're inclined to agree!

What is the safest place to live in California? ›

Here are the 10 Safest Cities in California for 2022
  • Danville.
  • Rancho Santa Margarita.
  • Moorpark.
  • Aliso Viejo.
  • Yorba Linda.
  • Laguna Niguel.
  • Poway.
  • Mission Viejo.

Where is the cheapest place to buy a house in California? ›

Cheapest Places to Live in California
  • Bakersfield. With a median home price of just $254,430, Bakersfield is a surprisingly cheap place to live in California. ...
  • Stockton. The notorious boom and bust town of Stockton, CA continues to offer cheaper house deals. ...
  • Fresno. ...
  • Clovis. ...
  • Sacramento. ...
  • Fontana. ...
  • Chico. ...
  • Eureka.
21 Sept 2022

What city has the most affordable housing in California? ›

If you're searching for one of the cheapest places to live in California, look no further than Clovis! Part of the Fresno metro, this Central California city is comfortably-sized, full of young families, and within three hours of both San Jose and Yosemite National Park.

What city has best weather in California? ›

Best weather: San Francisco, CA

Second place goes to San Diego, followed by Los Angeles. Both have an average yearly temperature of 60 degrees with sunny days 70% of the year. Los Angeles is third with 21 extreme heat days compared to San Diego's three.

What is the poorest town in California? ›

1. Huron. Unfortunately, Huron ranks as California's poorest city due to a combination of low salary and a scarcity of jobs. The city of 7,084 inhabitants has the second lowest median household income and the second highest poverty rate in California.

Where is the safest and cheapest place to live in California? ›

Sacramento: one of the safest places to live in California

As the state capital city, Sacramento is also surprisingly one of the cheapest places to live in California. Downtown Sacramento is not that cheap, however, there are lots of smaller surrounding suburbs that have affordable rent and real estate prices.

Where is the best place to move from California? ›

If you're planning to move out of California, then Texas, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon are some of the best states to move to. These states offer plenty of educational and employment opportunities and also have a lower cost of living in comparison to the Golden State.

Where in California do most celebrities live? ›

With the best-known ZIP code in the world, Beverly Hills is a famous tourist destination, and a top spot to reside for some of the most important people in show biz. Channing Tatum, Beyonce and Jay Z, and Slash all own property here.

Where is the best place to raise a family in California? ›

The Top 25 Cities for Families in California
RankCity% High School Graduate or Higher
1Fremont90.5%
2Santa Clara91.3%
3Thousand Oaks93.4%
4Torrance93.1%
21 more rows

Where is the clearest water in California? ›

If you want to experience the clearest water in California, where you can snorkel, kayak, swim, and have a crystal clear view of the marine life in the water, then you're going to fall in love La Jolla Cove Beach, the clearest beach in California.

What's the cleanest beach in California? ›

Which Beaches In California Have The Clearest Water?
  • Coronado Beach.
  • Russian Gulch State Park.
  • Picnic Beach.
  • McWay Falls.
  • El Matador Beach.
  • Gaviota Hot Springs.
  • Big Pine Lakes.
  • Pismo State Beach.
11 Mar 2022

What's the warmest beach in California? ›

The Balboa Peninsula provides shelter from the open Pacific to make Newport Beach waters the warmest in California year round.

What is the California of Europe? ›

Spain is the California of Europe – its official!

Where in the United States is most like Italy? ›

Big Sur, California is a tourist favorite thanks to its spectacular coastal views and cliffs that are so similar to those in Cinque Terre that you'll swear you're in Italy. The only thing you won't find in Big Sur is Cinque Terre's five Old World towns.

What is the number 1 place to retire in the world? ›

Panama. Not for the first time, Panama tops the list of the world's best places to retire. Located away from Central America's hurricane belt, its warm tropical climate is tempered by breezes from the Pacific Ocean on one coast and the Caribbean Sea on the other.

Where are retired Californians moving? ›

These were the top destinations for Californians leaving:

Texas (82,235 people in Texas had moved from California in the last year) Arizona (59,713) Nevada (47,322) Washington (46,791)

Where is best place for seniors live? ›

The reasons why these states were selected varies from the best places for health care to states with a high quality of life for seniors.
...
Best States to Retire
  • South Dakota.
  • Iowa.
  • Virginia.
  • Wyoming.
  • New Hampshire.
  • Idaho.
  • Utah.
  • Arizona.
13 Oct 2022

What state is similar to California? ›

Few states are very similar to California. The top 2, Oregon and Washington, are the only other states in the US mainland to border the Pacific Ocean, however these states also have some significant differences with California as well.

What town is in every state? ›

According to a common factoid, there's a community called Springfield in all 50 states, but the U.S. Board on Geographic Names says that's not true: only 34 states have a Springfield. The real champ is Riverside. Unless you live in Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, or Oklahoma, there's at least one Riverside in your state.

What is the friendliest small town? ›

You may have heard Murray, Kentucky is considered the Friendliest Small Town in America. Even if you agreed, you may not know how that title was given to the town.

What US city has the best downtown? ›

1: New York City, New York

And what a downtown it is! Even if you've never been to Times Square, you've certainly heard of many of its attractions.

What town is like Virgin River? ›

If you're really craving a legitimate Virgin River experience, head over to Snug Cove in Bowen Island, Burnaby, or Port Coquitlam (all small towns in British Columbia), where several scenes were shot.

What is the #1 Best place to Live in the US? ›

Its 2022 ranking for the best places to live looked at five metrics: job market, value, quality of life, desirability, and net migration. The best place to live in America is Huntsville, Alabama, followed by Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Which US city has the best quality of life? ›

The U.S. Cities With The Highest Quality of Life 2022
  • San Diego, California.
  • Hartford, Connecticut.
  • Portland, Maine.
  • Reno, Nevada.
  • Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Madison, Wisconsin.
  • Trenton, New Jersey.
10 Aug 2022

What is the most desired place to live in the US? ›

Atlanta, Georgia is the best place to live in the U.S. in 2022 because of its booming jobs market and eye on equality.

What state has the most natural beauty? ›

Home to nine national parks (more parks than any other state in the country), California is undoubtedly the most beautiful state in America for natural wonders. From sandy beaches drenched in sunlight to majestic granite mountains, arid desert landscapes and the tallest trees in the world, California has it all.

What state has the most nature? ›

Hawaii is the top state for natural environment.

What is the safest place to live in California? ›

Here are the 10 Safest Cities in California for 2022
  • Danville.
  • Rancho Santa Margarita.
  • Moorpark.
  • Aliso Viejo.
  • Yorba Linda.
  • Laguna Niguel.
  • Poway.
  • Mission Viejo.

Where is the best place to retire in California? ›

The 10 Best Places to Retire in California
  • Palm Springs. ...
  • Sacramento. ...
  • Santa Rosa. ...
  • San Luis Obispo. ...
  • Oceanside. ...
  • Grass Valley. ...
  • Newport Beach. ...
  • Salinas.
11 Aug 2022

What city in California has the highest crime rate? ›

Stockton

With a population of 301,443 people, it's no wonder that Stockton has one of the worst crime rates in California. Violent crimes in Stockton are 268 percent more than the national average, but property crimes continue to be the most common. In California, this is not the finest area to live.

Where is the cheapest and safest place to live in California? ›

Sacramento: one of the safest places to live in California

As the state capital city, Sacramento is also surprisingly one of the cheapest places to live in California. Downtown Sacramento is not that cheap, however, there are lots of smaller surrounding suburbs that have affordable rent and real estate prices.

What town in California has the least crime? ›

1. Rancho Santa Margarita. Rancho Santa Margarita, a suburb of Irvines, is one of the top safest cities in California. It has a violent crime rate of 0.62 per 1000 population, which is 85% lower than the average violent crime rate in California.

What city is the cheapest to live in California? ›

Cheapest Places to Live in California
  • Bakersfield. With a median home price of just $254,430, Bakersfield is a surprisingly cheap place to live in California. ...
  • Stockton. The notorious boom and bust town of Stockton, CA continues to offer cheaper house deals. ...
  • Fresno. ...
  • Clovis. ...
  • Sacramento. ...
  • Fontana. ...
  • Chico. ...
  • Eureka.
21 Sept 2022

Where do most millionaires live in California? ›

With a total of 255,600 individuals with a net worth of at least $1 million, Los Angeles has the highest number of millionaires in California. It is also The Golden State's most populous city and the second-most populous in the entire country.

Which city has the best weather in California? ›

Best weather: San Francisco, CA

It's no surprise that the sun and comfortable temperatures of California place all three best cities of the West in the Golden State. First place goes to San Francisco, with only two days of extreme heat and a low temperature just below freezing at 27 degrees.

Where in California do most celebrities live? ›

With the best-known ZIP code in the world, Beverly Hills is a famous tourist destination, and a top spot to reside for some of the most important people in show biz. Channing Tatum, Beyonce and Jay Z, and Slash all own property here.

What is the number 1 place to retire in the world? ›

Panama. Not for the first time, Panama tops the list of the world's best places to retire. Located away from Central America's hurricane belt, its warm tropical climate is tempered by breezes from the Pacific Ocean on one coast and the Caribbean Sea on the other.

Where are retired Californians moving? ›

These were the top destinations for Californians leaving:

Texas (82,235 people in Texas had moved from California in the last year) Arizona (59,713) Nevada (47,322) Washington (46,791)

Where is best place for seniors live? ›

The reasons why these states were selected varies from the best places for health care to states with a high quality of life for seniors.
...
Best States to Retire
  • South Dakota.
  • Iowa.
  • Virginia.
  • Wyoming.
  • New Hampshire.
  • Idaho.
  • Utah.
  • Arizona.
13 Oct 2022

What state has the most crime? ›

Washington, DC had the highest property crime rate in 2020, at 3,493 crimes per 100,000 residents. This was 21% higher than Louisiana, the state with the next-highest property crime rate. Massachusetts had the lowest property crime rate, at 1,053 crimes per 100,000 residents.

Is Anaheim safe? ›

Prized for its safety, Anaheim has a crime rate of 15% lower than the California state average and has been named one of the safest cities in the country.

Is Bay Area Safe? ›

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Safety is a key factor for many people when it comes to choosing a place to live, and according to a new study from WalletHub, a city in the Bay Area is one of the safest in the nation.

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