The capital of California, Sacramento is where lawmakers make decisions for the world’s 5th largest economy. Sacramento ranks as the third most diverse city in the US, according to niche.com. But it’s not just the residents who are diverse – the city is a center for think tanks, lobbying, higher education, and agriculture. Thanks to the many farms in the area, Sacramento has dubbed itself “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital” – music to the ears of local and tourist foodies alike. Farmers’ markets, local craft brewers, vibrant street murals, beautiful walks along the rivers, and fascinating history are some of the many things new residents will enjoy.
As a major educational hub with affordable housing, a healthy job market, and the ability to telecommute, Sacramento is in the midst of its largest population growth since the Gold Rush. Young professionals and middle-class families are moving to the city in droves. In addition to jobs and housing, new residents flock to Sacramento for its diversity, sunshine, and fantastic proximity to some of northern California’s treasures like San Francisco, Napa Valley, and Lake Tahoe.
Living in Sacramento, CA: What to Know Before Moving to Sacramento
Sacramento offers many urban delights of a big city but is close to farmland and the famous Sierra Nevada foothills and mountains to give residents plenty of lifestyle options. With a population of around 501,500 residents, Sacramento is the fastest growing city in California. It’s the sixth-largest city in the state and the ninth largest US capital city. The greater Sacramento metropolitan area has over 2,500,000 residents, and surprisingly, this big growing city has earned the reputation as “California’s Most Hipster City,” beating out San Francisco and San Diego.
Pros and Cons of Living in Sacramento
Sacramento may be the “Farm-to-Fork Capital” to some and the “Most Hipster City in California” to others, but is it the right city for you? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of living in Sacramento.
- Wide variety of neighborhoods types
- Mild winters
- For California, moderate cost of living
- Great employment opportunities: ranked 6th by Indeed when considering salary, job listings, unemployment rate, project job growth, and the reasonable cost of living
- History, outdoor activities, and access to culture
- Exceptionally hot summers
- Above-average crime rate and gang activity
- Higher than average rental costs
- High tax rates
- Traffic is becoming more of a problem due to population growth
- Property Tax: The median home value in Sacramento is $330,700. The average county tax rate is 0.949 percent. With that rate, you can expect to pay $3,140 in property taxes annually.
- Sales Tax: The combined sales tax rate for Sacramento is 8.75%.
- State Income Tax: California assesses income tax among ten brackets. If you earn anywhere between $56,085 – $286,492, you’ll pay 9.3 percent in income tax.
In Sacramento, renters account for 48.2 percent of the population, and the median rent price is $1,800, which is more expensive than the US average of $1,470. As of October 2019, the median home value is $330,700. Homes have appreciated 3.3% over the past year, and Zillow forecasts that home prices will increase 2.8% in 2020.
Sacramento offers many diverse neighborhoods. If you’re in search of the most affordable, the ten cheapest neighborhoods, as of fall 2019, include Packard Bell, Florin Fruitridge Industrial Park, American River Parkway, Creekside, Lawrence Park, Woodlake, Village 2, Gardenland, Noralto, and Gateway Center.
Cost of Living
Based on the US average cost of living index of 100, the cost of living index is Sacramento is 118.2. Costs that are lower than average include Health at 96.7 and Utilities at 98.4. Higher than average costs include Grocery at 104.8, Housing at 141.6, and Transportation at 121. Compared to California’s housing index of 239, Sacramento housing costs are relatively affordable.
The average income of a Sacramento resident is $26,000. The median household income is $50,013. According to the EPI’s Family Budget Calculator, a Sacramento family of four needs to earn $6,828 monthly, or $81,937 annually to live a moderate lifestyle in the metro area.
Weather & Natural Disasters
Sacramento’s hot-summer Mediterranean climate means you’ll have hot, dry summers and damp, mild winters. The hottest months are July and August, with average highs of 92° and 91° and average lows of 58°. The coolest months are December and January, with average highs of 54° for both months and averages lows in the high 30°s.
Sacramento has an average annual rainfall of 18.5 inches, with the rainiest months being January and February. You won’t see any measurable snowfall in Sacramento, thanks to the moderate winters. If you’re a fan of all four seasons, Sacramento dishes up mild seasonal changes with short lovely springs, long hot summers, short, colorful falls, and mild cool damp to wet winters.
No city is exempt from a natural disaster threat. Although many areas of California face the threat of earthquakes, Sacramento is at a lower risk than other areas of the state. Flooding, drought, and fires are other possible threats. It’s important always to be prepared. The City of Sacramento has a helpful disaster preparedness site to help you and your loved ones put a plan in place.
Economy & Job Market
The Sacramento job market increased by 1.4% over the past year. Over the next ten years, job growth is expected to increase by 34.8%, which is above the US average of 33.5%. The unemployment rate is currently equal to the US average of 3.9%. In general, the job market is considered healthy.
Sacramento is a west coast financial hub. Other major industries are education, healthcare, and state government. The top employers are the State of California, Sacramento County, UC Davis Health, Dignity Health/Catholic Healthcare West, Intel, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Elk Grove Unified School District, Sacramento City Unified School District, San Juan Unified School District, and the City of Sacramento. Sacramento Works has a list of job centers and other resources available to job seekers who are looking to find work in the city.
Traffic and Transportation
Sacramento is a sprawling city, and you’ll need a car to get around. The average one-way commute time for Sacramento drivers is 25.4 minutes, which happens to be a minute less than the US average of 26.4 minutes. Most commuters – 73.7% of Sacramento residents – drive themselves to work. 11.1% of the commuters carpool, 5.2% work from home, and 3.7% take mass transit. Amtrak provides train service throughout Sacramento, while Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT) offers bus, light-rail, and SmaRT Ride services around the city.
I-80 is a major east-west highway that passes through Sacramento and connects to San Francisco in the west and Lake Tahoe and Reno to the east. I-5 is the north-south major freeway. State Highway 160 is a major street that passes through downtown Sacramento.
Due to the sprawl, Sacramento isn’t a great city for walkers. The Walk Score is 47. The Transit Score is 34, and the Bike Score is 66.
What to Do
Thanks to Sacramento’s great weather and its proximity to rivers, lakes, and mountains, there are plenty of fun outdoor activities, even in the hot summer months. You can float down the Sacramento River or go fishing or splashing around in a lake. During the winter, you can head for the mountains for great skiing and snow sports. And you can wander through the city to investigate its history and visit the variety of museums. It’s also a foodie’s paradise – you can explore many farm-fresh restaurants, and farmers’ markets then wash it all down at several craft breweries. Whatever your interests are, Sacramento won’t disappoint.
Sacramento boasts more than 200 parks covering over 5,000 acres. William Land Park is home to the Sacramento Zoo, Fairytale Town, Pony Rides, Funderland, duck ponds, baseball fields, basketball courts, volleyball, soccer, and so much more. You can also go biking down the American River Bicycle Trail and enjoy the local wildlife you’ll see along the way. Or you can enjoy the rose gardens and Valencia Orange trees of Capitol Park, just across the river from Old Sacramento.
Sacramento has a complex and fascinating history that encompasses the Native American period, Spanish exploration and conquest, Mexican colonization, the Gold Rush, 1850 statehood, and the establishment of California’s capital. Sites around town document the various stages of Sacramento’s history, plus be sure to visit some truly amazing landmarks such as the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and the Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park. Tower Bridge gives visitors a great view of the American River and Old Sacramento which is full of historic buildings and Chinatown’s museum, dedicated to the contributions Chinese Americans made to the city.
If you’re looking for an educational and informative day at a museum, you’re in luck. The California State Railroad Museum, the California State Capitol Museum, the Crocker Art Museum, and the California Automobile Museum are all worth a visit. Major sports teams include the NBA’s Kings and the USL’s Sacramento Republic FC. The Sacramento River Cats are the AAA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
Schools and Universities
The school districts that serve the Sacramento area include Sacramento, Natomas, San Juan, Twin Rivers, and Elk Grove Unified School Districts. The top-rated elementary schools are Phoebe A Hearst Elementary School and Arnold Adreani Elementary School, both rated 10/10 by greatschools.org. Genevieve Didion School and Sutter Middle School are the top-rated middle schools with 8/10 ratings. West Campus is the top-rated high school with a 10/10 rating.
California State University Sacramento, the University of California Davis Graduate School of Management and UC Davis Medical Center, plus the University of the Pacific ‘s Sacramento campus are highly respected institutions of higher education. Sacramento City College, American River College, Cosumnes River College, Asher College, and Carrington College California Sacramento are two-year colleges in the city.
Bestplaces.net rates a city’s crime on a scale of 100. Sacramento’s violent crime rate is 35.6/100, well above the US average of 22.7/100. The property crime rate is 46.9/100, also above the national average of 35.4/100. Crime rates appear to be higher in Fruitridge, Lemon Hill, Parkway, North Highlands, and Florin.
- Gas and electric service:
- Water service: City of Sacramento Department of Utilities, 1395 35th Ave, Sacramento, CA. (916) 808-5454
- Trash Pickup and Recycling: Sacramento County Department of Waste Management & Recycling, 9700 Goethe Road, Suite C, Sacramento, CA 95827. (916)-875-5555
- Internet/Cable service: DIRECTV, AT&T U-verse, Dish, Spectrum, Frontier, Xfinity
Best Neighborhoods in Sacramento, CA
Here are some of the best places to call home in the Golden State’s capital city:
It may be called Village 2, but it’s actually the #1 rated neighborhood in Sacramento. About a 15-minute drive northwest of downtown, Village 2 borders Del Paseo Rd on the north, I-5 on the east, Arena Blvd on the south, and West Drainage Canal on the west.
The median sales price in Village 2 is $404,750, while the median rent price is $2,252. The neighborhood, with a population of 3,082, features the lakeside adult-living community, K Hovnanian’s Four Seasons Winter at Westshore. The rest of the neighborhood, built around Sundance Lake, is family-friendly and features larger, modern single-family homes with well-landscaped yards.
Residents enjoy the abundant walking trails and bike paths throughout the neighborhood, and there’s fun for the whole family at Blackbird Park, which features small and large dog parks, a community garden, playground, and a baseball field. Locals enjoy the Drunken Noodles at Thai Princess, which is rated 4-stars on Yelp.
Students attend Witter Ranch Elementary School and H Allen Hight Elementary School, both rated 3/10; Natomas Middle School, 3/10; and Inderkum High School, 5/10.
Alkali Flat, with 1,272 residents, is Sacramento’s oldest residential neighborhood and offers an urban vibe. A quick 5-minute drive north of downtown, Alkali Flat is roughly bound by Blues Alley and D Street on the north, 12th St on the east, Government Alley on the south, and 7th St on the west.
The median sales price is $631,000. Some historic homes date to the mid-1800s, but apartments and townhomes are also available. Just one mile from the Capital, even though this is an urban neighborhood, it has a quiet vibe.
Conveniently close to all kinds of amenities and activities, Alkali Flat has many great bars and coffee shops within walking and biking distance. WalkScore.com rates Alkali Flat as ‘Very Walkable’ with a score of 80, and a ‘Biker’s Paradise’ score of a whopping 99! Culinerdy Kitchen is a favorite with locals who enjoy the burgers and vegetarian delights. Hot Dog Lady is a popular food stand, perfect for a quick lunch if you work in the area.
The neighborhood is served by Phoebe A Hearst Elementary School, 10/10; Sutter Middle School, 8/10; and CK McClatchy High School, 7/10.
This neighborhood of 2,526 residents gets its name thanks to the nearby California State University Sacramento campus. It’s about a 15-minute drive east of downtown, bordered by the American River on the west and south, and Howe Avenue on the east and north.
Tucked in around the American River, the neighborhood offers a suburban feel and has the additional perk of the river nearby. The homes in the neighborhood have a median value of $421,500, and the median rent is $1,879.
Zocalo, rated 4.5 stars on Yelp, is a local favorite for Mexican food and some margaritas. Go with friends for happy hour or even on the weekend for breakfast and brunch. On a cheat day, go hit up Bruchi’s Cheesesteaks & Subs for some great sandwiches and crinkle-cut fries.
Students in the neighborhood attend Sierra Oaks K-8, 5/10, and Encina Preparatory High School, 1/10.
This neighborhood is a 15-minute drive north on the I-5 from downtown, between W Elkhorn Blvd on the north, National Blvd on the east, Club Center Dr on the south, and Northborough Dr on the west. The median sales price for homes is $436,000. The 5,170 residents enjoy modern large homes, with grass yards, and trees dotting the streets.
Village 9 features four lovely parks, and there’s fun for the whole family at Burberry Community Park with soccer fields, tennis courts, a lighted half basketball court, and a butterfly garden.
Due to the suburban vibe of the neighborhood, you may have to wander outside for bars, restaurants, and stores, but they’re just a quick drive or bike ride away. The Sacramento International Airport is conveniently located across I-5, so Village 9 is a terrific neighborhood if you commute by air.
Students attend Regency Park Elementary School, 6/10; Heron School, K-8, 7/10; and Inderkum High School, 5/10.
The population of suburban Point West is 1,360, and the majority of residents rent, paying a median rent price of $1,134. This neighborhood is about a 15-minute drive northwest of downtown between Arden Way, Exposition Blvd, and Capital City Freeway, AKA Hwy 160.
The housing in Point West is diverse. Many homes are older and smaller than those in other neighborhoods, but some streets feature larger traditional and mid-century modern style homes on bigger lots.
The Cal Expo center is directly south of Point West. Erickson Industrial Park and Johnston Business Park are just west of the neighborhood.
When you’re craving sushi, be sure to stop by Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, rated four stars on Yelp. Their BBQ seared tuna is a favorite among locals. If you’re looking for something to soak up a hangover, grab a breakfast burrito at Nana’s Café and Bakery – the kind of place where they’ll remember your face and your favorite order. On hot summer days, you can cool off at nearby Raging Waters Sacramento.
Students attend Caleb Greenwood Elementary School, 8/10; Sutter Middle School, 8/10; and Rosemont High School, 4/10.
Tucked in just south of the fork of the Sacramento and American Rivers, Richards has a population of 909 residents. The neighborhood sits north of X Street and south of C street with West Side Highway on the west and 29th Street on the east. The cost of living is significantly less in Richards than in Sacramento.
Areavibes.com gives Richards an A+ for its amenities and low crime rate. You’ll be able to do all your shopping and run errands safely right in the neighborhood. You can jump on the 32-mile long American River Bike Trail at Tiscornia Park. The bike trail follows the banks of the American River between Discovery Park in Old Sacramento and Folsom Lake east of Sacramento. You can swim in the river or fish, then grill your catch right there in the park.
Locals love Masaya Yakiniku Don, a Japanese Barbeque and Asian Fusion spot with 4.5 stars on Yelp. For a Mexican food fix, stop by Nenas Mexican Cuisine and enjoy their fresh-made tortillas and salsas.
The schools that serve Richards students are Woodlake Elementary, 4/10; Sutter Middle School, 8/10; and CK McClatchy High School, 7/10.
This neighborhood of 3,282 residents is about a 20-minute drive west of downtown Sacramento, tucked in just south of an oxbow bend of the American River. River Park bounds the American River on the north and east, H Street on the south, Elvas Avenue on the west, and the Capital City Freeway on the north. The median home sales price is $555,000, and the median rent price is $2,321 – both above-average prices for Sacramento.
Three- and four-bedroom homes are spread out on large lots, giving the neighborhood a distinctly suburban feel. Areavibes.com awards River Park an A+ for amenities, low crime rate, and employment – all good reasons why this is a desirable neighborhood. The median household income is $100,793, indicating this is a somewhat affluent area of Sacramento where 74% of residents own their homes.
Locals get their Italian food fix at the Yelp 4 star rated Mamma Susanna’s Ristorante Italiano, where the lasagna is a favorite.
Students in the neighborhood attend Caleb Greenwood Elementary School, 8/10; Sutter Middle School, 8/10; and Rosemont High School, 4/10.
Village 12 is just over a 15-minute drive due north of downtown Sacramento and has a population of 3,293 residents. This suburban neighborhood is between Regency Park Circle, Danbrook Drive, and extensive open space on the east.
The median home list price is $404,950, and the median rent price is $1,919. The neighborhood mainly appeals to families and young professionals.
Lovely green space surrounds Village 12. California Lilac Park has native plant life and outdoor space to throw a frisbee or play catch. The large Regency Community Park is located directly northwest of Village 12, and equally extensive North Natomas Community Park is located directly southeast of the neighborhood. When it’s time for a bite, Willie J’s Burgers & More is a no-frills burger joint enjoyed by locals.
Students attend Regency Park Elementary School, 6/10; Norwood Junior High, 5/10; and Inderkum High School, 5/10.
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