San Francisco, Northern California's signature city, makes for a great day or week-long trip.

With a temperate climate, stunning natural scenery, and thriving cities, Northern California has become a top destination for those seeking to elevate their retirement years. This region of the state offers an unbeatable diversity of attractions, including world-class cities, miles of beautiful coastline, and towering mountain ranges. Below we’re taking a closer look at what Northern California has to offer.

Major Cities and Surrounding Area

Old Sacramento always makes for an entertaining day out.

The major cities of Northern California are mostly located in the Bay Area: San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. From Silicon Valley to California’s wine country, the Bay Area is home to well over 7 million people. Northern California is also home to the state’s capital city, Sacramento.

San Francisco offers all of the entertainment and culture you can expect from a big city, while also maintaining a more relaxed attitude compared to other major metropolitan areas. The city also has the most extensive public transit system in California, which is a huge advantage for those seeking reliable public transportation in an otherwise car-dependent state.

From world-class museums to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, there is no shortage of activities in San Francisco. The Ferry Building Marketplace hosts San Francisco’s largest farmer’s market, where visitors and locals can find artisan goods, locally sourced food, and live cooking demos.

Across the Bay Bridge, Oakland offers more open spaces and less population density. This diverse city also enjoys a thriving art and entertainment scene. In the South Bay area is where innovation and tech thrive. Home to global tech companies like eBay, PayPal, and Adobe Systems, San Jose is at the heart of the Silicon Valley. The bustling streets of downtown San Jose have fashion boutiques, top-notch restaurants, and plenty of options for local live music.

Located about 90 miles inland is Sacramento, which enjoys a warmer climate than northern coastal California. The state’s capital has a rapidly evolving contemporary culture, a charming historic district, and a thriving downtown core.  

Endless Outdoor Recreation and Activities

If you're a lover of wine, Napa Valley is a paradise.

From the coast to the inland valleys, Northern California covers a large area with diverse geography. For those who’d like to stay close to the city while enjoying the outdoors, the Presidio at Golden Gate Park offers urban hiking with unbeatable views. This U.S. National Park is rich with history, natural beauty, and outdoor activities. Visitors can hike through tranquil trails, stroll along the beach, and learn about marine wildlife at the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

Some of the best hiking in the country can be found just a few hours inland in the Sierra Nevada mountains. This mountain range is home to Yosemite National Park, which is famous for its dense forests, pristine lakes, and towering granite summits, such as Half Dome and El Capitan.

For those who are looking to relax and unwind, there’s no better place to do so than Napa Valley. California’s wine country, which is located just north of San Francisco, is a world-famous destination. The beautiful rolling hills of Napa Valley are home to over 400 wineries. Visitors can also enjoy summertime concerts, gourmet food, and hotels that range from elegant to quaint.

Wide Range of Active Adult Communities

Although the San Francisco Bay Area is known for its higher cost of living, the broader Northern California region still offers plenty of age-restricted communities fit for a range of different budgets.

Tuscany Villas

High $200s - Low $300s

Tuscany Villas in Redding, CA is a gated 55+ community that was designed to evoke the romantic charm of the Italian countryside. With just 79 homes, this community is a great option for active adults who prefer a more intimate atmosphere. The single-family homes at Tuscany Villas are reasonably priced between the high $200s and the low $300s. Amenities include a clubhouse, meeting room, outdoor pool and spa, and trails where residents can walk and bike. Located at the edge of the Cascade foothills in the Sacramento Valley, the area surrounding Tuscany Villas is quiet and rural, but it is only about five minutes from Interstate 5.

Chantarelle

High $400s - High $600s

For retirees looking to make California’s wine country their home, Chantarelle in Sonoma is a great option. This 55+ active adult community has 120 single-family homes available on a resale basis. Prices range from the high $400s to the high $600s.

The community is centered around a tight-knit atmosphere where residents can mingle at the clubhouse, catch up with one another on the community’s walking and biking trails, or take a dip in the outdoor pool. Its ideal location in wine country makes it the perfect option for those seeking a slower-paced lifestyle in a serene setting.  

Trilogy at the Vineyards

Low $600s - Low $1Ms

When it comes to resort-style living, Trilogy at the Vineyards is one of the top options in the East Bay Area. Located in Brentwood, CA, this gated 55+ community offers 1,100 modern single-family homes with luxurious touches. Prices range from the low $600s to the low $1Ms. The community’s rich amenities include a 38,000 square-foot clubhouse with a well-equipped fitness center, a full-service spa, a ballroom, and more. Residents can also enjoy California’s beautiful weather at the community’s outdoor pools and cabanas.