Featuring some of wildest, most pristine coastal beauty and untouched landscapes in the world, the West Coast of the United States is considered — by many — the “best coast,” what with its perpetual blue skies; temperate weather, particularly in the south; and breathtaking scenery all up and down the Western Seaboard.
Simply put, there’s something magical about the West Coast — it’s like “living the dream.” Plus, the sunsets are second to none.
Among the primary climate zones of the US West Coast are:
- Marine West Coast (Oceanic) – An arc that spans the northwest coast of North America from the Alaskan panhandle to northern California and includes the western parts of Oregon and Washington — including Seattle — producing relatively cool, mild temperatures and frequent precipitation year-round
- Steppe (Highland) – Encompassing the San Joaquin Valley, the region is hot like a desert, but it receives enough moisture to support grasslands and other desert flora
- Mediterranean – Existing mostly within the state of California, including San Diego, west of the Sierra Nevada and southern California mountain ranges and including the southwest Oregon Klamath Mountains and coastal peninsular ranges from southern California into Baja Norte, Mexico
- Mid-Latitude Desert – Consists of the arid interior Mojave Desert of southeastern California
Beyond the endless beaches, mountains, desert and redwoods, though, there are other lures. For one thing, there are top-tier entrepreneurial opportunities. Then there’s the fact that West Coast living enjoys a slower pace overall, with people who tend to be as easy-going as the climate and — at its best — a more active, happier and more nature-driven way of life.
Granted it all comes at a price — the cost of coastal U.S. living exceeds that of most other parts of the country. Fortunately, you do have options if that’s a concern — inland homes and apartments tend to be more affordable and still give easy access to the wonders of the west.
Want to give your move a gut check? Try this cost of living calculator.
Considering exploring the region or even making a move? Here are a few things to know.
Hitting the Great Outdoors
Among the greatest draws of West Coast living is the region’s exceptional natural beauty, which can be enjoyed on foot, by bicycle and on incredibly scenic drives up and down the coast. Then there’s the matter of the region’s 13 national parks, which are among the most iconic in the nation:
- Channel Islands National Park (CA)
- Crater Lake National Park (OR)
- Death Valley National Park (CA)
- Joshua Tree National Park (CA)
- Kings Canyon National Park (CA)
- Lassen Volcanic National Park (CA)
- Mount Rainier National Park (WA)
- North Cascades National Park (WA)
- Olympic National Park (WA)
- Pinnacles National Park (CA)
- Redwood National Park (CA)
- Sequoia National Park (CA)
- Yosemite National Park (CA)
Have kids between the ages of seven and 12? Sign them up for the NPS’ Junior Ranger program. Looking for romance? Take a flight to the Channel Islands or stand, hand-in-hand, at the pinnacle of Point Reyes National Seashore. Feel like skiing? There’s always Mammoth Mountain and North Tahoe’s Olympic Valley.
At the end of the day, the only questions are, how much time can you spare and is the sea — or are mountains — your jam?
Getting a Culture Fix
When it comes to cultural activities, the West Coast is rich with opportunities. From the Getty Center and Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the vineyards of Sonoma and Napa Valley, and Oregon’s High Desert Museum, there are so many diverse, immersive and enriching experiences to be had.
Art lovers will appreciate Palm Springs Art Museum, with its works from Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, while those fascinated by military history might explore San Diego’s USS Midway Museum.
Whether you catch a show at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Forever Cemetery or the Stern Grove Festival with its fragrant pine grove setting; see beat poets at Portland’s storied Crystal Ballroom; or attend a concert at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, options for most every persuasion abound.
mphasizing locally sourced, seasonal, sustainable ingredients, cuisine from the West Coast is multicultural, generally light and bright, and sea and veggie-centric. Oregonians and Washingtonians are big on seafood, too — salmon in particular — often grilling it over an open fire. Speaking of seafood, geoduck (pronounced “gooey-duck”) is a large mollusk celebrated by chefs worldwide and it’s plucked from waters off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.
Chef-driven California cuisine, meanwhile, melds American, French, Italian, Mexican and Asian influences, while defining a style all its own.
Of course, West Coasters love their animal-style In-N-Out burgers, too. Meanwhile, Red Vine licorice is headquartered in California; French fries are stuffed into burritos for a regional take; and street tacos and elotes (street corn) serve as a pitch-perfect showcase of authentic Mexican cuisine. Want to dig deeper? Be sure to check out Mayflower’s fascinating Finding Home survey, which reveals other top West Coast favorites, including burritos, fish tacos and tamales, and shares what helped newcomers feel at home post-move.
On top of all that, locals return from Giants’ baseball games reeking of garlic fries; clam chowder is served in sourdough bread bowls; and crackly Dutch Crunch bread makes sandwiches singular. Like ice cream? How about cheese? Tillamook in Oregon makes some of the tastiest around.
Careers on the West Coast
Despite its easygoing impression, people on the West Coast are ambitious and driven. Do West Coasters spend late nights hunched over screens? Plenty do. But while they apply themselves professionally, a holistic, balanced life outside of work is certainly key.
Northern California is home to many startups and global technology companies, from Apple to Oracle, Uber, Google and Facebook. Needless to say, Hollywood is equally cut-throat in its own way.
The State of California’s Employment Development Department shows a need for solar photovoltaic installers, occupational therapist assistants and physicians assistants. Forbes also notes that software developers and software quality assurance analysts and testers are in demand. Additionally, there’s a call for emergency management specialists, who plan and train teams on logistics — a necessity in a region prone to earthquakes, fires and other natural disasters. As for jobs in the healthcare industry, occupational therapists, nurses, health and personal care aides are among the overarching areas of expertise that are in demand.
Landmarks Worth Experiencing Firsthand
From its glitzy cities to its stunning national parks, narrowing down the West Coasts most iconic landmarks is no easy feat. However, a few spots do immediately come to mind.
Big Sur — a rugged stretch of California’s central coast between Carmel and San Simeon — is one of, if not the, most romantic drives. In San Franscisco, there’s Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, Haight Street, Lombard Street and the Golden Gate Bridge. And you can drive over the latter and head to Muir Woods National Monument to hike a redwood wonderland.
Not to be overlooked is Oregon’s Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, where “The Goonies’” was filmed; the fascinating Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California; Anaheim’s Disneyland; Seattle’s Space Needle; and so much more.
Considering a move to one of these West Coast states? Recently moved and in the process of settling in? Mayflower is here to help you Every Step of the Way®. Click here to get the ball rolling, and be sure to check out our blog for helpful moving tips — not to mention advice on making your house feel like a home.