Redding, a medium-sized city in Northern California, is a bit underrated as a retirement destination. With Mouth Shasta as a backdrop and the Sacramento River running through town, Redding offers lots of outdoors opportunities and plenty of sunshine; a great climate for active retirees. The summers are hot and dry, while the winters can be cold and wet. Housing is affordable in Redding, with the median home price under $200,000.
If you are looking to be close to airports and train stations, Redding has an Amtrak station in town and shuttles to the large airports in Sacramento and San Francisco. Redding’s regional airport also offers daily flights to and from San Francisco. Located along Interstate 5, Redding is easily accessible by car; a two hour’s drive straight south lands you in Sacramento. A local van service for seniors makes getting around town easy as well.
As a retiree, you’ll find a strong community in Redding. Its very active senior center offers a full slate of activities, including computer classes, exercise classes, card games, bingo and dancing. If you don’t enjoy organized social activities, you may want to take in a show at the Cascade Theater or Riverfront Playhouse or listen to music by the Sacramento River. Other Redding highlights include Sundial Bridge, Lake Redding, Market Fest and the Redding Rodeo.
As the Shasta County seat, Redding is the hub for medical services in the region. Residents have access to top-notch care from two hospitals (one of which is the award-winning Mercy Hospital) and many clinics. Shasta County offers a wide range of helpful and cost-saving programs for seniors, including legal services, accessible housing, utilities assistance and a nutrition program.
If your ideal retirement locale is one without crowds, traffic and pollution, consider Eureka. Located in Humboldt County on the Northern California coast, Eureka boasts beautiful scenery and a mild climate. Offering both majestic beaches and towering redwood trees, Eureka is a haven for nature enthusiasts. Since the median home price is close to $200,000, Eureka is among the most affordable small cities in California. It also hosts one of the best stocks of Victorian homes and a historic downtown district, great for those who are looking to restore a beautiful old home or just like to walk down picturesque streets and look at architecture.
Eureka’s economy has become sluggish since the fall of the logging and mining industries that dominated the region. However, as a retiree who is not looking for full-time employment, the higher-than-average unemployment rate will not be a bother. Instead, retirees can spend their days taking hikes through the redwoods or strolling along Humboldt Bay, listening to live music at local venues, or getting involved in the myriad of volunteering and social opportunities through the Humboldt Senior Resource Center. However, because of the economic situation in Humboldt County, the area’s crime rate is higher than the national average.
Those looking for a lively art scene will find one in Eureka, which was voted seventh in John Villani’s, 100 Best Art Towns in America. Other cultural and entertainment attractions in the area include the Redwood Acres Fairgrounds,Redwood Coast Jazz Festival and Sequoia Park Zoo. Close to Humboldt State University, Eureka benefits from the nearby college town of Arcata, which brings additional cultural events to the area and places emphasis on ongoing education.
Eureka is the largest city between San Francisco and Portland, Ore. The San Francisco Bay Area is 270 miles south on Highway 101, and the Oregon border is 100 miles north. Eureka is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Pacific Coast Range to the east. However, being the county seat and most populous city in the area, Eureka provides access to many services, including ample dining, health care and transportation options. Regional bus services are available, as is Amtrak bus service and Greyhound bus service. A regional airport nine miles north in Arcata provides easy flights in and out of Humboldt County.
For those looking for an affordable small-town experience, Rio Vista, along the Sacramento River in eastern Solano County has a charming way of life. With a population of about 8,000, Rio Vista is an has easy access to the larger Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area regions. Rio Vista is known for its Bass Derby and Festival, held each year in October, which not only attracts plenty of sports fishermen, but brings in live music and artists.
Rio Vista home prices are well below the state’s average, with a median of $241,000, and the city is popular with outdoors enthusiasts. Residents enjoy fishing and hunting, hiking and exploring nearby areas.
Those who are civic minded might join the local Lions, Moose or Rotary clubs in this relatively safe, small town. A newly revamped senior center provides a social hub for retirees, and there are many other organizations and two museums that take volunteers, and provide an outlet for meeting others.
The climate is moderate, with warm summers and cool winters, and it is possible to be active outdoors year round. The Delta Breeze transportation system provides rides around town and between other cities in the county. Though shopping, medical care and entertainment options are limited in Rio Vista, the city is close to more bustling areas; Oakland and Sacramento are less than an hour’s drive in either direction, both of which have large airports. A 15 to 20-minute drive will get you to a larger city with more services.
If ever there was a place to retire in the desert, it is Palm Springs. Affordable, sunny and full of golf courses, Palm Springs has become a magnet for retirees. With a desert climate, picturesque landscape and art and culture, Palm Springs was listed as one of CNNMoney’s top 25 places to retire in the United States.
Housing here is relatively affordable; the median home price is about $250,000. Retirees enjoy an active lifestyle in Palm Springs, with plenty of outdoors activities and cultural events. Residents can carry on their education at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Cal State San Bernardino in adjacent Palm Desert or classes held at the Palm Springs Art Museum.
Getting around town and in and out of Palm Springs easy, with an international airport located close to downtown, a local bus service, access to Amtrak and Greyhound. The city of about 45,000 is less than a two hour drive, and San Diego is just two hours away. Smaller desert communities are a short drive away, as are the San Bernardino Mountains, the Salton Sea, Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead.
On the northern border of San Diego County, the beach side city of Oceanside attracts retirees for its climate and easy lifestyle. As far as beach towns go in Southern California, real estate is comparatively affordable, with the median house price around $380,000, with the cheaper real estate a bit inland from the coast. There are several active retirement and 55-plus communities, as well as senior apartments.
Military retirees will enjoy the proximity to Camp Pendleton military base just to the north and the many military personnel who live in the city. However, the crime rate is just higher than average. Still, many enjoy enjoy strolls along the beach, walks on the famous Oceanside Pier or attending any of the myriad community events and festivals throughout the year. The city of about 170,000 also boasts a revamped senior center that offers many classes and events, as well as a fitness center and senior services.
Located just off Interstate 5, it’s an easy hour drive north to Los Angeles. The San Diego airport is 45 minutes south, and the train runs regularly through Oceanside. Being so close to major cities allows access to major cultural attractions and services. There are plenty of options for high-level health care in Oceanside, as well as in the nearby communities of Carlsbad and Vista.
A college town north of Sacramento with easy access to the Sierras and plentiful outdoor activities, Chico is a relatively safe oasis with an affordable cost of living. The older population in Chico is on the rise, with those 50 years and older making up more than one quarter of the total population of about 90,000.
Home to Chico State University, more than half of Chico’s residents have at least some college education. The university is the hub of most arts and culture in Chico, though there are a number of outside music venues, a symphony, museums and art galleries. However, possibly the most famous point of attraction in Chico is the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
The median price of a home in Chico is about $250,000, and there are many quaint neighborhoods, some with historic homes, others with new construction that cater to active adults. And, if being active is your thing, the Sacramento River runs just to the west of town, and the mountains are a quick drive away. And if you get sick, there is a large hospital and several clinics in town with plenty of specialists on board.
Getting in and out of Chico is easy by car. It is located about two hours north of Sacramento on Highway 99, which runs north and south nearly the length of California. Chico has a small, regional airport, and the Sacramento international airport is an hour and a half south. A shuttle service leaves from downtown Chico to that airport twice a day during the week.
An option for living in a larger city with many amenities is Riverside. Located east of Los Angeles County on the western edge of the Mojave Desert, Riverside has grown into a sprawling city that attracts retirees for its climate, affordability and access to services. With a growing population of more than 300,000, Riverside has come a long way from the days when it was the center of the citrus industry.
With many distinct neighborhoods and a median home price of $260,000, there are plenty of areas to find an affordable home and some active retirement communities. The crime rate, however, is slightly higher than the U.S. average, though statistics show it dropping. Also, the outer neighborhoods experience less crime than the city center.
The University of California at Riverside campus attracts many cultural events and brings an influx of educated people to town. Other attractions include the California Citrus State Museum, the Riverside Art Museum, the International Automotive Museum and the UC-Riverside Botanical Gardens.
Access to quality medical care is easy in Riverside, with three top-notch hospitals and many assisted living communities. Getting around Riverside can be a hassle, as with many larger cities, there is plenty of traffic. However, Riverside does have a well-established bus system and access to the Metrolink local commuter train that services the Riverside and San Bernardino areas. There are a few choices for getting on an airplane. Riverside has a small, regional airport for light aircraft. The Ontario airport is 15 miles away, which is small but easy to access and major carriers, such as Southwest Airlines fly in and out regularly. The Los Angeles International Airport is more than an hour away, but shuttle services from Riverside offer rides there and back.
If mountains is your thing, Grass Valley is in the Sierra Nevada foothills northwest of Lake Tahoe. This Gold Rush-era town of about 12,000 people has an outdoorsy vibe, and a quaint historic downtown with galleries, fine dining and local entertainment.
Grass Valley can feel remote, but the town thrives on tourism, and getting away is easy; Sacramento is an hour’s drive, and San Francisco is about three hours away. In Grass Valley, the air is fresh, natural beauty abounds and residents enjoy a mild four seasons. There is a state-of-the-art hospital with cardiac and cancer treatment centers. The city of Grass Valley caters to retirees, providing many options in housing, activities and adult education classes. The median price of a home in Grass Valley is about $270,000, however, the crime rate is higher than the national and state averages.
Located at the intersection of two state highways and north of Interstate 80, Grass Valley is easiest to access by car, though a bus service does connect other nearby communities to the city. Bus service in Grass Valley is limited to city limits, and getting around by car is easiest. There is a shuttle service for seniors. The Sacramento and Reno-Tahoe airports are closest, both about an hour away, and private shuttle services can provide transportation.
Not only does Grass Valley offer access to a small, historic town with plenty of natural beauty, it is close to the ski slopes of Lake Tahoe. During the summer, the downtown district hosts farmers’ markets, festivals and street fairs. The local Chamber of Commerce and downtown business association initiate many community events, such as a Harvest Festival, an art and wine walk and Cornish Christmas.
Affordable is Possible in California
While California’s cost of living is higher than average in the United States, there are plenty of options for an affordable retirement within the Golden State. Whether you plan an active retirement in the mountains or getting around in a golf cart in the desert or just want to watch sunsets on the beach, California is diverse enough that you will find the perfect spot to get all you want out of your retirement.