Cities Journal

Top 21 Small Cities In California


California’s big cities get plenty of love, but it’s a huge state with hundreds of miles of coastline; so, what about other, not world famous living areas? Coastal fishing villages pepper the state’s northernmost beaches, with quiet towns nestled into central mountains and valleys.

Communities close to major cities (such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego) tend toward the upscale or the impoverished, but the majority of California is made up of smaller, humbler towns that combine the beautiful outdoors with a friendly neighborhood feel. Learn about these 21 standouts that will wow you no matter when you come to visit them.

1. Arcata

Arcata is home to Humboldt State University; the college’s hilly, laid-back campus is technically part of California State University, but HSU feels like its own, mellow universe, and so does Arcata. It’s the rare college town that’s also very safe, family-friendly and wholesome. For instance, the whole town is known to gather together to watch the Humboldt Crabs, Arcata’s very own minor league baseball team.

Part of Arcata’s appeal lies in its diverse and scenic ecosystem, which includes a redwood forest and a marshland full of birds, as well as its mild-to-cool temperatures and quaint downtown square. Arcata even placed sixth on Hardie House’s annual list of America’s “Ten Most Enlightened Towns.

Arcata also more than makes up for its rainy, foggy weather. The town continues to stand out for its vintage charm, beautiful redwood forests, and easy-access beaches that are never crowded and always beautiful. The City of Arcata makes a special effort to preserve that native landscape. Other local efforts to protect the environment include HSU’s solar-paneled dormitories, as well as the work of a local recycled glassware company, Fire & Light Original.

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