I love my town. It has:
A good size, not too big, not too teeny. Lots of trees, and lovely old neighborhoods that I only wish I could afford but are nice to drive through. A real, live boulevard that is a joy to drive on. One of the best large parks ever, which has everything from wild trails to playgrounds to creek fun and swimming holes. The soil is some of the best you’ll ever find anywhere (so we’re building over it).
A wonderful community feeling, with friendly people and a weird mix of one third ultra-conservative farmer-type, one third hippie liberal-type, and another third of run-of-the-mill families. Oh, and all the evil retired folks moving in from the Bay Area, driving up the home prices. Anyway, there are lots of fun things to do, like farmers’ markets, and music in the park on Fridays in summer, and kite days and fishing days…and a nice sense of local history, too, that we take pride in.
A nice little downtown area that has survived the 20th century thanks largely to college students, with the perfect hardware store, funky little theaters, good eats, interesting shops, and old movie theaters. Play chess at a cafe, drop into a tiny bookstore, sit in the little park and enjoy the scenery, get a smoothie.
Great nature spots within a short drive of town. Go up the canyon, to a lake or two, to a creek, in a wildflower hike, tubing on the river, lots of fun stuff to do.
Very friendly to bicycles, there are decent bike trails and it’s possible for DangerDad to bike to work --when his bike isn’t being ornery. He needs a new bike.
A university, which is a big plus despite the obnoxious drunk students all over the place. It’s why we aren’t a complete cowtown with nothing to do. And it makes it possible to see a lot of cultural stuff you don’t normally get in a small town–we get lectures, plays, shows, concerts, and great things for kids and adults to see. There are even two small museums.
The downsides: we aren’t as diverse as I would wish. The public library is in sad shape. Drinking is a big problem at the college. The town is growing fast, mostly because of retirees, and housing prices are through the roof while wages aren’t going anywhere at all. Business needs some growth. And it’s seriously hot in the summer, though much more comfortable than the San Joaquin Valley. The trees help a lot.
But, overall, I feel hugely lucky to live here and think it’s one of the best cities in CA. I love, love, love it here and am constantly filled with well-being just driving through town–especially on a spring day when the trees are blooming all over the place. I hope we never have to move away (though I wouldn’t say no to a year or so in another country…).