The Best Towns in California that Aren’t LA or SF

When people think of California, their minds generally jump to one of two cities—Los Angeles or San Francisco. While these two places definitely deserve their reputation, and do a good job providing a diverse cross-section of California, there are loads of other cities worth your time that don’t get near as much attention. For example…

San Diego

San Diego
San Diego

While definitely a major city, San Diego is often neglected when California is talked about. Home to some of the absolute best craft beer in the whole world, beautiful, relaxed beaches, and a great hipster food scene, San Diego is a clean, green city with something for everyone.

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo

Located in Central California, San Luis Obispo, or Slo, as the locals call it, feels like an oasis in the desert. With incredible hiking trails, surfing, fishing, and off-roading, Slo is a mellow, fun city with a great vibe. The city center itself has plenty to do in terms of nightlife and shopping, and exceptional state parks are located within only a few minutes of driving in any direction.

Monterey

Monterey
Monterey

Just south of San Francisco, Monterey is a former fishing town that was turned into a high-end art village. Home to some of the best boating in California, Monterey isn’t a cheap place, but it is stunningly beautiful. Author John Steinbeck used to live here, and the John Steinbeck museum is still a popular destination for his fans. If that’s not your cup of tea, take a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway and check out some of the surrounding coastal forests with their massive, imposing redwood trees.

Napa Valley

Napa Valley
Napa Valley

Napa Valley is technically a region, not an individual town, but it’s considered as a single location by the people who live and vacation there. It is a great getaway from some of the surrounding major cities, and for good reason. Between rolling hills, a comfortable climate, and an endless sea of secluded resorts, Napa lends itself kindly to those who can afford it. Oh, and the wine is some of the best in the world—comparable to the most-respected areas in France or Italy.

Temecula

Temecula
Temecula

Another great city for wine lovers, Temecula is quickly becoming a retreat for young families who can’t afford to live in San Diego or Los Angeles. Temecula is a city where it’s affordable to be a hipster, and is a great stop for anyone looking to do some shopping at family-owned, artisan stores, or to take in the colorful balloon festivals.

Arrowhead

Arrowhead
Arrowhead

A lake town only an hour and a half away from Los Angeles, Arrowhead is the preferred place for Angelinos to have a second home or a cabin, and for good reason. The location high in the mountains means the climate is always favorable, even during the hottest summers, and the town itself is home to some quaint bars and restaurants. The lake itself is privately owned by the residents, so crowds are never a problem, and if you can get your hands on a boat, the swimming and boating is nothing short of perfect.

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