Exchanging the long, blustery winters of New York for California’s nearly year-round sunny skies is one of best parts of moving from NY to CA. Though you’re probably already imagining weekend jaunts to Napa, frequent trips to the beach, and excursions through the Redwood Forest, there are a few, more practical things to think about as you make your transition to the Golden State. Here’s your guide to making this long, cross-country move go smoothly.
What to Know Before Moving to California
As you plan your East Coast to West Coast move, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Public Transportation is Lacking
If you’re moving to the West Coast from New York City, you might find that the public transportation on the other side of the country is a bit lacking. Depending on which city or part of the state you move to, you likely won’t utilize public transportation. Many Californians find themselves commuting from the suburbs outside of major cities into the city for work. While most metros are working to improve transportation infrastructure and expand metro-lines and buses, the existing systems often have limited hours and range. If you stay out too late, you may find yourself stuck downtown and in the unenviable position of having to use a car share service to get home. And, unlike in NYC, the metro rails in California are above ground and must contend with vehicle and pedestrian traffic. So, even if public transportation works for your daily commute, it means you can expect service to be much slower than breezing along underneath Manhattan. To ease transportation woes, you can utilize ride-sharing or informal carpools to help reduce costs and transit time.
2. The Weather is Wonderful
For all that California lacks in transportation options, it makes up for it in beautiful weather. Nicknamed the Golden State for a reason, California boasts more sunny days than most places in the U.S. While mountain cities, like Tahoe, get snowy winters, and Northern California boasts ample rain, much of the state is in a drought. Warm temperatures, dry climate, and lots of sunshine mean that you can spend much of the year enjoying outdoor activities. But, you will need to monitor for wildfires (clear brush around your home), ensure you have working air conditioning, and slather on the SPF to protect your skin.
3. Real Estate is Pricey
Much like New York, California real estate is high-priced. In fact, California cities claim nine of the top ten spots for most expensive real estate in the country. In popular areas (e.g., suburbs of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco) expect to pay $350,000 or more for a small condo or modest home. Due to prohibitive housing costs, many California residents opt to rent. Thanks to this high reliance on rental properties, you’ll find many places that accommodate pets and larger families, as well as several that most luxury amenities. To find affordable housing, you may need to be willing to commute from small cities or to live in areas that are “up and coming.”
4. Fun is Affordable
One of the many perks of living in California is the variety of budget-friendly entertainment. In Southern California, around San Diego and L.A., you can visit free public beaches (Santa Monica State Beach and La Jolla Shores are favorites), inexpensive museums (like those at the rambling Balboa Park), play at amusement parks (including Sea World and Disneyland), or spend time camping out at dozens of state parks. Festivals, farmers markets, and street fairs add to the list of fun, family-friendly activities. Northern California has its own share of low-cost fun that includes miles of coastline (check out the Point Reyes National Seashore), hiking trails, and parks with incredible views like Yosemite and the Sierra Nevadas.
5. The State Boasts a Healthy Job Market
California has booming job market, which makes it a great place to start your career or move up the corporate ladder. The Bay Area (including suburbs of Sunnyvale, San Jose, and Palo Alto) is a tech mecca, home to Google, Pixar, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, and other tech companies. Southern California is full of movie studios, marketing and advertising firms, and law offices. You can find healthcare jobs throughout the state. No matter what field you are in, it won’t be hard to find a job in your line of work. Acknowledging stress factors, like traffic and high housing costs, many employers are willing to consider flex schedules (working four ten-hour days) or permit working remotely.
No matter why you are looking to move from New York to California, there are lots of reasons you’ll enjoy living in the Golden State. Be ready to take advantage of transitioning to a sun-kissed, low-stress life!
Where Are The Best Places to Live in California?
If you’ve been dreaming about California, but you know that a vacation to the West Coast doesn’t offer nearly enough time to enjoy it, then it may be time to relocate. In addition to a healthy economy, booming job market, gorgeous year-round weather, and ample entertainment, this state also offers lots of charming towns and culturally-rich cities in which to settle down. Consider these six when choosing where to live in the Golden State:
1. Palo Alto
Just outside San Francisco, Palo Alto sits in the heart of Silicon Valley, the hub of the tech world. The headquarters for tech giants like Tesla, Hewlett Packard, and Waze, it’s also home to Stanford University, which attracts some of the world’s brightest minds. Palo Alto is an incredibly diverse part of California, and on top of a highly successful population, it also has buzzing nightlife. There are a lot of clubs and bars here, attracting college students and younger professionals ready to let loose after a long day of classes and work. The area also has loads of daytime attractions, like The Foster gallery, the Stanford Memorial Church, and the Stanford Dish hiking trail. Additionally, Palo Alto boasts a low unemployment rate, a low crime rate, and an average of 261 sunny days each year.
2. San Francisco
So many movies and TV shows depict San Francisco that you may feel like you’ve been there even if you’ve never actually seen the cable cars, the rows of Victorian homes or Golden Gate Bridge in person. The city is relatively small, making it highly walkable and filled with energy and personality.
A city surrounded by the Bay, San Francisco’s coastal location invites ever-changing weather. The area is known for fresh breezes and lots of fog in the winters, balanced by sunshine and moderate temperatures during the summer season. The city boasts more than 200 parks, including Dolores Park and the famed Golden Gate Park, making it a fantastic place if you love nature or fitness. There are tons of hills here, too, which can make walking everywhere tricky, but it does wonders for toning your glutes. On weekends, you can pump those legs to landmarks like Lombard Street, historic Chinatown, or the Presidio, or walk to the ferry terminal to catch a ride to romantic Sausalito. In San Francisco, you’ll also be a short car ride from the expansive vineyards of Napa and Sonoma Valleys, when you need a booze-filled retreat from the woes of city life. Though you’ll find San Francisco an exciting and entertaining place to live, brace yourself for the extreme living costs and overcrowding. SF blows the average cost of living index out of the water, scoring a 273 (compared to the US average of 100). You might need to find roommates and work hard to keep your budget under control. See our complete San Francisco moving guide here.
Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, southeast of SF and north of San Jose, Fremont is a notably healthy area of California, home to friendly and affluent residents. There’s a low crime rate here, plenty of sunshine throughout the year, and a stable real estate market. In this less populated SF enclave, you’ll have more room to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Explore Fremont Central Park, a 450-acre park that encompasses Lake Elizabeth and offers scenic views of the Mission Peak Hills as well as opportunities to kayak, fish, play ball, picnic, and more. Other area highlights include the Niles Canyon Railway, the Ardenwood Historic Farm, and Old Mission San Jose. Like San Francisco, the cost of living in Fremont is high, though you’ll find that housing prices are relatively more affordable than other parts of the Bay Area. Hopefully, you can secure a high-paying job in one of the area’s lucrative industries. See our complete Fremont moving guide here.
4. San Diego
This major metro area has average temperatures ranging from 50 to 70 degrees, plus tons of sunny weather and a relaxed, youthful atmosphere. There are a lot of major attractions here, like the San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND, and SeaWorld. On weekends, crowds flock to Pacific Beach to layout, while others catch the ferry to Coronado for lunch at The Del. Younger residents love nights out in the Gaslamp District, which is a great place to go for a specialty craft beer. There are fantastic restaurants in San Diego, a thriving surf culture, and real estate rates that vary significantly based on the suburb you choose. With laidback vibes and a much lower cost of living than the Bay Area, San Diego might just be the place for you. See our complete San Diego moving guide here.
Set in Orange County, Irvine is another affluent city with a great job market, gorgeous weather, and a safe, family-friendly environment. This master-planned city sits on the coast, south of L.A., and enjoys warm summers and mild winters. Irvine is home to the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and Pepperdine University, along with several other excellent institutions of higher education. The Irvine Unified School District, which boasts a handful of the country’s top high schools, makes this an enticing area for families to settle down. With dozens of hiking trails and parks, Irvine also offers a lot of options for those who enjoy the outdoors. See our complete Irvine moving guide here.
6. San Jose
San Jose is one of the Bay Area’s biggest cities, and residents here enjoy more than 300 days of sunshine each year. It’s an integral part of Silicon Valley, so there are a lot of opportunities for employment if you’re in the tech industry. One of the nicest areas of San Jose is Mountain View, which is where Google is located. Overall, San Jose is an excellent place for families, as it has superb educational opportunities and a low crime rate. Since there’s such a booming job market here, there’s also a lot of focus on downtime, which is seen in the many outdoor parks and recreational spaces which include the Los Gatos Creek Trail and Japanese Friendship Garden. See our complete San Jose moving guide here.
Still not sure where you want to live? California is a huge state, and there are numerous cities and towns from which to choose. To start narrowing your list, consider everything from attractions to the cost of living. If possible, visit a few areas before making a final decision. Seeing the towns and cities in person will help you get a feel for living there.
Tips for a Successful Coast-to-Coast Move from NYC to CA
Since you’re already in the stages of moving from New York City to California, you know how different these two places can be. Even if you’re relocating to another urban area, like San Francisco or San Diego, then the weather alone will be a drastic change. To help you plan your cross-country move, we’ve rounded up the must-know tips for a smooth transition.
1. Downsize as much as possible.
True minimalists would sell or give away all their belongings and start fresh upon arriving in California. Assuming you want to keep most of your belongings, though, you can still trim down before you pack. Downsizing will cut the cost of hiring cross country movers and will make it easier to set up your new home when you reach California.
Start packing early so that you can take time to go through your belongings and decide what to keep, what to throw out, what to give to friends or family, what to sell, and what to donate. If you hold a garage sale, you may even be able to make a little bit of pocket change before your move. Focus on getting rid of items you won’t need in California, like winter clothing and gear.
2. Prepare for the cost of living change.
The good news here is that “preparing” means figuring out what to do with all your extra money! While that’s not true for every single part of California (San Francisco is extremely expensive, for instance), New York City is so pricey that you’re not going to be shocked by high prices in California. Depending on where you’re moving to, you may even have a lot of wiggle room in your budget now.
3. Figure out how you’ll get around.
In New York City, most people don’t even own a car. Having a vehicle in the city makes it more difficult to get around, and New Yorkers rely on public transportation or their feet to get them to their destination.
In California, expect the opposite. You’ll need a car in California, even in most of the major cities, so you’ll need to learn driving directions and look up information about rush hour traffic. Specific areas of California, like Los Angeles, are notorious for having bumper-to-bumper traffic.
4. Find a moving company that’s done this move before.
Moving such a long distance is scary. You must plan every detail, and you know that if something goes wrong back in New York once you’re in California, there’s a limited amount of control you’ll have over it. It’s best to hire a long distance moving company that has experience moving clients from New York City to your area of California. Relocating is stressful but having professional movers in charge of your belongings can alleviate some of the pressure. Search for movers through Great Guys Moving (greatguyslongdistancemovers.com).
5. Keep specific items packed separately.
Your belongings could take weeks to make the long trek to California, and you may not want to start unpacking as soon as everything arrives. Keep a box of essentials separate and pack it with necessities to get you through the first week or so after your move. Include toiletries, several days’ worth of clothing, a few pieces of kitchenware, and whatever you can’t live without, like your coffeemaker or tech gadgets. Instead of sending these boxes with the movers, take them with you.
7. Take a fun route on your trip across the country.
If you’re driving from New York to California, make the most out of the experience, whether you have a passenger or are going solo. There may not be another time in your life when you drive across the country, and you’ll regret it if you don’t take every opportunity available to you. By stopping along the way, you’ll see parts of the country you may have gone your whole life without experiencing.
Here’s an excellent tip for driving across the country: try only to fill your gas tank in small towns. Gas prices here are usually lower. Plus, you’ll avoid traffic jams in bigger towns and cities, because you’ll only have to get off the highway in less populated towns.
8. Register your new address.
Make sure the US Postal Service knows you are changing your address ahead of time, so you don’t still have mail going to your New York address after you’ve relocated. You can have your mail held for a week or so as you move, then forwarded to your new home in California.
Last but not least, enjoy this time in your life! It may be tedious and scary, but it’s also incredibly exciting to move to a brand-new city or town. Congratulate yourself on your move and try to enjoy this time of flux as much as possible.