Southern California has long been a magnet for people who want to spend their retirement in a mild, pleasant climate. But climate isn’t the only factor that goes into deciding where to live out the “golden years.” Cost of living, taxes, access to healthcare, shopping, entertainment, recreation, and transportation are some other considerations for retirees before settling on their ideal community.
We looked at data for each of the five counties we serve, and came up with a recommended community for each, from south to north. Every retiree’s situation is different, of course, and there are plenty of cities to check out within the region. But you can’t go wrong with these SoCal favorites.
San Diego County
With more than 350 physicians, over 325 amenities for seniors, and an exceptionally low crime rate, this beachside city offers homes ranging from chic modern condos to expansive Mediterranean-style villas. Boating, fishing, and swimming at the beach are daily activities, along with golf at the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course. The San Diego Botanical Garden features rare bamboo groves, desert gardens, a tropical rainforest, California native plants, Mediterranean climate landscapes, and more. Annual events include the outdoor Encinitas Arts Festival, a wonderful venue for meeting new people, enjoying local talent, and sampling scrumptious cuisine.
One of the largest master-planned developments in the U.S., Mission Viejo has won many “Safest City” awards thanks to its extremely low crime rate. The Irvine Company created a master plan that placed roads in the valleys and houses on the hills, contoured to the geography of the area. Houses and shopping centers in the city are almost all designed in a Spanish mission style, with adobe-like stucco walls and barrel-tile roofs. Many homes and condos are built around private Lake Mission Viejo, which offers boating, beaches, and fishing. An active public library and Saddleback College provide cultural opportunities. The Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center caters to older residents. There are about two parks per square mile and three golf courses: Mission Viejo Country Club, Casta del Sol Golf Course, and Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club.
Los Angeles County
The City of Roses, just northeast of Los Angeles is most famous as the home of the Rose Bowl and the Tournament of Roses Parade. It is the cultural center of the region, with several colleges, including the California Institute of Technology, and many leading museums such as the Norton Simon and the nearby Huntington Library and Gardens. Getting around the downtown area, with its many shops, antique stores, and restaurants, is easy. The city has a high walk score of 67.7 from walkscore.com. The city has many interesting neighborhoods to live in including Bungalow Heaven, a neighborhood of 800 small Craftsman homes built from 1900 to 1930. The Gamble House, an American Craftsman masterpiece, was built in 1908 by architects Charles and Henry Greene, is open to the public as an architectural conservancy and museum.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture named Ventura County the most desirable place to live in America. The reasons include mild, sunny winters, temperate summers, low humidity, topographic variety, and access to the ocean and lakes. The city of Ventura is the largest in the county, and is famed for its beaches, compact downtown with loads of antique shops, and great scenery, such as the sweeping 360-degrees from Serra Cross Park. The nearby Channel Islands are among the least-visited national parks, despite being one of the most stunning and ecologically diverse. The quiet city is just far enough from the attractions of Los Angeles to the south, and is a great jumping-off point to the scenic wonders to the north, such as Highway 1, Hearst Castle, and Carmel.
Santa Barbara County
Retirees like living in this coastal city because of its unusually beautiful setting and excellent climate. The downtown area is walkable and prosperous downtown, and the city’s strong economic base offers plenty of opportunities for work–paid or volunteer. Retired folks can live in a house or apartment near downtown, or an apartment or freestanding house farther out in a development. There also are many assisted living and continuing care facilities. Cultural life abounds, including the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, University Art Museum on the UC Santa Barbara Campus, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara Maritime Fiesta; Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Festival, Arlington Theatre, and Lobero Theater. Many musical groups and a symphony orchestra are on hand to entertain.