11 Actually Affordable West Coast Cities You Can Move To
I’d never want to pick a side, but there’s a reason why the West Coast is often called the best coast. With its warmer temperatures, inspiring geography, and iconic cities, the West Coast has so much to offer. But the rising cost of living, along with skyrocketing home prices, can make California dreamin’ feel more like a nightmare. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable cities from Washington all the way to San Diego that have all the makings of a Western wonder without the Silicon Valley prices.
Here are 11 affordable West Coast cities based on median home values in the $350,000 range (and under!), and with populations between 50,000 and 550,000.
San Bernardino, California
Just an hour east of Los Angeles and an hour northwest of the Coachella Valley, San Bernardino is perfect for those who savor the finer things. The San Bernardino Mountains and National Forest provides outdoorsy folks with plenty of wilderness. With its own rich history and smattering of cultural opportunities, it’s a lively, affordable community that allows for quick access to LA, as well as the escape of the nearby desert.
Spokane’s motto is apt: “Near Nature, Near Perfect.” An ideal spot for families, Spokane has a vibrant recreational scene and a charming downtown with plenty of community activities year-round. Spokane Falls, a real waterfall located in the city’s business district, is a sight to behold, as is the city’s Riverfront Park, which is the perfect place to let your kids tire themselves out so you can enjoy a kid-free night at a nearby winery.
California’s state capital is growing and fast. Its hip Midtown neighborhood is a hub of culinary experiences, trendy shopping, and cultural events. The American River and Sacramento River wind through the city, offering unique recreational opportunities in a Mediterranean climate. In addition to plenty of parks and museums, Fairytale Town is the perfect place for families and a terrifying place for edibles.
In California’s San Joaquin Valley—right in the middle of the state—is Fresno. Hot, dry summers are typical of Fresno, which is known for its affordability. It also plays host to plenty of cultural opportunities, including the Forestiere Underground Gardens, an underground complex of grottos and gardens with which I am now completely obsessed. Fresno’s zoo, museums, and proximity to Yosemite National Park are great for families.
Just north of Portland, Vancouver boasts a similar climate and geography. The Cascade Range’s landscape inspires, and Vancouver’s wilderness is perfect for hikers. The workforce of freelancers and remote workers has grown significantly in Vancouver, where the work-life balance skews more life-work. And with just a 15-minute drive over the border to Portland, the nightlife is a short trip away (as is Oregon’s sales tax-free shopping).
Salem is a little quirkier than you’d expect a capital town to be. The Enchanted Forest Theme Park is a charming escape for families (or those desperate to snap some weird Insta pics). Gardens, orchards, and parks are plenty, and folks seeking a place to live that’s rich in history will enjoy the many historical sites and museums.
Just a couple hours north of Los Angeles, Bakersfield is best known for its country music influence. Dubbed “the Country Music Capital of the West Coast,” Bakersfield’s 1960s honky tonks inspired huge names like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. With the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance, the Bakersfield community offers SoCal landscapes and climate without the LA price tag.
If Hollywood is too pricey for movie buffs, Modesto serves as an unexpected alternative. The inspiration for “American Graffiti,” Modesto celebrates its film heritage each summer with “Graffiti Summer,” featuring parades, themed nights, and concerts. Aside from its mid-century vibes, its hot, dry summers appeal to those seeking a western refuge. And for nature lovers, day trips to nearby Yosemite National Park are a breeze.
Eugene is your ticket if you’re looking for all the classic features of a Pacific Northwest city without the Portland premium. Science and art museums abound, and the city is home to the University of Oregon. In addition to plentiful nature, its mild Mediterranean climate, and a slew of craft breweries, Eugene, AKA “TrackTown,” is crisscrossed by runners all hours of the day. Grab your sneakers (and maybe an umbrella) and cozy up in this friendly, laid-back college town.
Near the border of California, Medford is situated in the Rogue Valley between two mountain ranges. This positioning fosters Medford’s dryer, warmer climate—more Southern California than typical Pacific Northwest. With a small-town feel and great outdoors opportunities, this affordable town lets residents live out their West Coast dreams, complete with rolling vineyards and roaring waterfalls.
In many ways, Springfield is like a smaller, even more, affordable Eugene. Locals are obsessed with the possibility that their Springfield might be “The Simpsons” Springfield, which I find endearing. If you’ve ever fantasized about starting over in a small town surrounded by thriving wildlife and the occasional Homer Simpson sighting, this is your place.