Moving to California: Discover the Golden State

We created this guide for moving to California to help those who are in their very early stages of researching where they’d like to move. So, what exactly do you need to know before moving to California? We complied some of the most important items you should consider when making this big decision. According to 2020 Census data, folks are heading to California at a slower pace, with a 6.1% increase in population in the last decade. While not the most popular state, California has a lot to offer. Let’s take a look at some essentials about the Golden State and see if moving to California is right for you!

Important Things to Know about California's Unique Geography

California is located on the western coast of the United States. Composed of 163,696 square miles, California is one of the most geographically diverse states in the US. From the Sierra Nevada, the fertile farmlands of the Central Valley, and the arid Mojave Desert, it’s easy to get lost in the diversity and wonder of this state. California is boasts some of the world’s most exceptional trees: the tallest tree, most massive tree and oldest tree. California also hosts both the highest (Mount Whitney) and lowest (Death Valley) points in the 48 contiguous states.

The state is typically divided into eleven provinces: the Klamath Mountains, the Cascade Range, the Modoc Plateau, the Basin and Range, the Coast Ranges, the Central Valley, the Sierra Nevada, the Transverse Ranges, the Mojave Desert, the Peninsular Ranges, and the Colorado Desert.

California has the third longest coastline in the US, after Alaska and Florida, stretching over 840 miles. The state’s southern beaches are mostly sandy and easily accessible, while the northern beaches are mostly rocky bluffs.

California is home to a variety of beautiful mountain ranges. The Sierra Nevada is one of California’s most impressive mountain range. Mount Whitney, the state’s highest point, stops out at over 14,500 feet! Near LA, you’ll find the San Bernadino Mountains, capping out at just over 11,500 feet.

The state has a variety of lakes and rivers. Lake Tahoe is the world’s largest lake by volume. At 22 miles long, you can’t see from one side to the other due to the curvature of the earth.

Moving to California's Guide on the Californian Climate

Most of California has a Mediterranean-like climate, featuring warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. However, this can vary widely depending on where you are at in California (looking at you Death Valley). Toward the northern part of the state, the climate is cooler, and the state’s legendary fog tends to frequent the northern coast in the morning and dusk.

California is famous for its earthquakes and wildfire threats. The state also is a high risk for tsunamis, flooding, and landslides. California is prone to quite a few natural disasters, which is definitely something to consider before you make your move!

Moving to California Guide on Finding a Job in the Golden State

If you’re looking for a new career, consider moving to California! California’s job growth continues to set records, tripling the national average in July! While the pace of new jobs has since slowed, the unemployment rate continues to decrease, down to 6.5% from 9.3% the previous year.  This is still significantly higher than the national average of 3.9%

What’s the situation on buying alcohol in California?

Who wouldn’t want to toast to moving to California? Beer, wine, and spirits can be purchased from grocery stores and licensed stores from 6AM to 2AM. It’s now legal to purchase alcohol online in California!

Most bars in California close at 2AM in accordance to the law. Back in 2018 California lawmakers attempted to pass a bill to extend last call to 4AM, but it was vetoed over concerns about increased drunk driving. This extension of last call continues to be something considered to this day.

What is there to do in California?

It may be easier to write what you CAN’T do in California. From the outdoors to incredible museums to enchanting cities, California has it all!

For those who love the outdoors, the fun never stops in California. California has absolutely epic hikes, so be sure to put on your hiking boots and take on a new adventure after moving to California. The John Muir Trail tops our list of one of the most amazing places in the United States.

Love wine? California has it! California’s famous Napa Valley and it’s cousin, the Sonoma Valley offer some of the best wines in the world. Take a tour of your favorite wineries and drink in the beautiful scenery. Don’t miss dining at the incredible restaurants available in this area as well!

Looking for more adventure, but not into hiking, try driving the coast of California down the legendary Pacific Coast Highway, State Route 1. Feast your eyes on the changing typography as you make your way up or down the California coast. Stop by historic treats like the Hearst Castle and enjoy exploring charming towns like Carmel by the Sea.

Love water? Well, California offers an abundance of activities to enjoy off its coast. From surfing to sailing to snorkeling to kayaking, those who love the ocean will have no shortage of activities.

And of course, every city in California has its own treat to offer you, as well. From Disney to the Golden Gate Bridge, there are far too many amazing things to do in California – more than we can possibly list in a single blog post!

Important State Symbols in California

If you’ve ever seen the California Republic flag, then it should come as no surprise that the  state’s animal is the California grizzly bear. The state’s colors are blue – representing the sky and gold – which is commonly found in the state. The state’s fruit is the avocado and the flower is the California poppy! The state’s official sport is – you guessed it, surfing.

Lesser Known FAQ about moving to California

What is the capital of California?

The capital of California is Sacramento. California has changed its capital a few times: Monterey from 1774 – 1849, San Jose from 1849 – 1851, Benicia from 1853-1854, Sacramento from 1852-1869, San Francisco in 1862, and back to Sacramento from 1896 to the present.

How do California public schools rank nationally?

California ranks 41/50 in the public school rankings according to WalletHub. This is an overall ranking of all public schools. If you are planning on moving to California and have school-aged children, it would be wise to research your school districts carefully.

What kind of taxes can you expect to pay in California?

Yikes, taxes is where you’ll discover the beauty and fun of California life has its costs. California has an income tax between 1% and 12.30% of your income, depending on your household type and income. The average state and local sales tax rate sits at bout $8.68 and California is the most expensive in the nation for adding taxes on top of gasoline purchases at 60.6 cents! It should come as no surprise that the taxes and cost of living is higher in California than most places we’ve included on our moving guides.

What’s it like to vote in California?

Voting in California is fairly straightforward: you must be 18 year or older on Election Day and a US citizen who is a resident of California. Children under the age of 18 may preregister to vote when they are 16-17 and they will be automatically registered on their 18th birthday. All voters in California will receive vote-by-mail ballots, which may be returned in person at a polling place, mailed, or dropped off at an official ballot drop box.

What are the rules for switching your driver’s license in California?

New Californian residents have merely 10 days to transfer their out-of-state license to the state of California. In addition to completing paperwork and an online application, individuals transferring their license to California will need to pass a written knowledge test.
After preparing for the test, completing the paperwork, and proving residence, individuals may visit their local DMV with all materials in hand to switch their license, take the test, get thumbprint scanned, pass a vision test, and get their photo taken. Of all the moving guides we’ve written, California’s transfer is by far the most complicated.

When do you need to update your car plates in California?

Similar to driver’s licenses, new residents do not have much time to transfer their vehicle registration to the state to avoid late fees. All vehicles must be transferred within 20 days. To complete the transfer, you must have fill out an application, bring the title and registration from your old state, show proof of insurance, get a valid smog certificate, and pay oodles of fees. The state even offers a fee calculator to help you out.

What’s it like driving in California?

We’re not going to sugarcoat this – California was rated the WORST state for drivers in the US. Amid the high insurance costs, gas costs, vehicle repair costs, the state also ranks with the 7th worst drivers in the United States. The state also has more DIUs than any other state in 2019.

Does California have any walkable cities?

California has quite a few cities that are walkable! From West Hollywood to San Francisco to Culver City, most of the state’s major cities have strong walkability potential!

Is moving to California right for you?

There you have it! Beautiful scenery, lots of jobs, and plenty to do, there’s a lot of reasons to move to California. We know we sure love the idea of taking a gorgeous hike and then relaxing at a winery in Napa.  However, the high cost of living, taxes, and notable natural disasters are not something to take lightly.

We’re curious to hear your thoughts! Are you ready to pack your bags and head to California, or do you need to research other moving guides? Let us know by leaving a comment below?

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