What's it like to live in Santa Rosa, CA?

Profile written by local expert:

Jessica Zimmer

Santa Rosa, the hub of economic activity in northern California's wine country, welcomes artists of all ages, as well as young people, retirees, professionals and those especially interested in wine and high-tech manufacturing. The metro area was an early hub of the farm-to-table movement, and local produce, livestock, beer and wine draw hungry tourists from around the world. Farms, orchards, hopyards and vineyards surrounding Santa Rosa proper are a vital source of employment and nourishment for residents.

Approximately 55 miles north of San Francisco, Santa Rosa has a warm climate, rolling golden hills and desirable real estate. It offers the most metropolitan of the wine country lifestyle experiences, with gourmet restaurants and high-end shops. The region is home to more than 500,000 residents, many of whom work in unincorporated rural areas or small towns north, east and west of the city. Several institutions of higher education draw college students both young and old. Santa Rosa's relaxed lifestyle and easy access to senior medical care attracts many retirees.

Sonoma County residents, including Santa Rosans, take their health very seriously. The city is home to numerous gyms. Those who enjoy the outdoors will find abundant parks perfect for hiking and relaxing. Santa Rosa is a haven for bicyclists, who train on its rural western roads and visit en masse for two major cycling events: the Amgen Tour of California and the Levi's GranFondo.

See all the best places to live in California.


U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Santa Rosa, California is ranked:

#74 in Best Places to Live

#79 in Best Places to Retire

#5 in Best Places to Live in California

#8 in Safest Places to Live

#9 in Most Expensive Places to Live

#10 in Best Places to Live for Quality of Life




Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
  • Value
  • Job Market
  • Quality of Life
  • Net Migration

Read how we rank places

Santa Rosa, CA Quick Stats

  • 500,943

    Metro Population

  • $53,890

    Average Annual Salary

  • 71.0° / 44.2°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 41.4

    Median Age

  • $629,917

    Median Home Price

  • 36.3 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 2.7%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $1,456

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 25.2 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What is there to do in Santa Rosa, CA?

When the weather is nice, residents enjoy traveling to the rugged beaches of Sonoma Coast State Park, the diverse wineries of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, and the mountains of Marin and Mendocino counties. Residents also have access to golf courses, as well as the playhouse and summer repertory theater.

The Santa Rosa community regularly comes together to enjoy music and the arts, from rock and folk band performances to art parades. There are murals, paintings and sculptures everywhere, thanks to art lovers and artists who exhibit works privately and through the Art in Public Places program.

Santa Rosa is also home to several museums, including the Charles M. Schulz Museum, which houses a huge collection of memorabilia and comic strips for "Peanuts" fans. 

What's the cost of living in Santa Rosa, CA?

Santa Rosa's median home sale price is nearly three times as much as the national median, and the area is currently short on affordable housing. However, the availability of local produce helps keep food prices low; many residents grow their own produce at home or in one of Santa Rosa's 20-plus community gardens.

Value Index

Index Score: 4.3 /10

How we calculate this.

Santa Rosa offer a lower value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs 2018

Santa Rosa


Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Santa Rosa, CA.

What's the weather like in Santa Rosa, CA?

Summers in Santa Rosa are hot and dry while winters are cool, gray, wet and either foggy or rainy. In the spring, wildflowers of all colors bloom along the roads, especially on the rural west side of the metro area.

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)









Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

7.1 in


5.0 in


0.2 in


4.7 in


Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around Santa Rosa, CA?

Most residents use cars, particularly if they work outside the city. The condition of Santa Rosa's roads is worse than that of many midsize metro areas, with residents paying an estimated $800 each year on maintenance and repairs caused by poor road upkeep. Traffic on Highway 101 (north and south) and California State Route 12 (east and west) can be very dense, especially during rush hour.

The bus lines that operate within the city proper are Santa Rosa CityBus, Sonoma County Transit and Golden Gate Transit. There are multiple taxi services, Uber and Lyft. Central Santa Rosa is pedestrian- and bike-friendly, though sidewalks are scarce in rural areas.

There is a small regional airport, the Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport. Amtrak and Greyhound bus services are also available in Santa Rosa. 

Commuting in Santa Rosa, CA

Means of Transportation
Equal to national average

Equal to national average

Equal to national average

Public Transit
Below national average
Average Commute Time

25.2 minutes

1.2 minutes less than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Santa Rosa, CA?

Santa Rosa contains several distinct populations, including college students, young couples with children, and adults 65 and older. Santa Rosa also has a relatively large LGBT population and is an extremely LGBT-friendly place.

Cultural festivals in the area bring multicultural communities together with the rest of the city. Santa Rosa's Mexican-American residents come together to celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a holiday dedicated to remembering ancestors. This holiday has become a popular public celebration that features dancers, bands and art activities for children and adults.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown

About the same number of single people in Santa Rosa as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.