By Sarah Wengert
California is so large and geographically diverse that it can feel like several states in one. That means a travel nurse job in California can look a lot of different ways — and sometimes that can feel intimidating at first glance. But the truth is, that just means California has more to offer you on your career and personal journey! An assignment there can mean beautiful beaches or incredible skiing, quick trips to Mexico or adventures to Palm Springs, weekenders in wine country or rock climbing in Yosemite — and so much more.
Most travelers think of the big three when they think of Cali: Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. But wise travel nurses and travel allied health professionals know that The Golden State has so much more to offer, especially in more off-the-radar locations. Think higher take home pay through lower cost of living, cool communities of various sizes, incredible facilities and health systems to work for, and endless day trip opportunities of all varieties.
Without further ado and listed from north to south, these six California cities are hidden gems for travel nurses
This hidden, Northern California gem is the largest city north of Sacramento, but not too big with a population around 91,000. At the north end of the Sacramento Valley, Redding is the perfect spot for those who enjoy nature and getting outside. This sunny city has hundreds of miles of State and National Parks and Forests within a 30-mile radius, has incredible kayaking and fishing, great skiing and snowshoeing, and is known as the “Trails Capital of California” and the “Gem of the U.S. Trails System.” The wonderful natural beauty and great cost of living make this a perfect spot for travel nursing. Local icons include the Sundial Bridge (one of the world’s largest working sundials), Lake Shasta, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Turtle Bay Exploration Park, and so much more.
This hidden gem is the California state capitol, but it’s known for so much more than that! Located in north-central California about 93 miles northeast of San Francisco, Sacramento has a population of 500,000 and sits at the confluence of the Sacramento River and the American River. The city is home to many museums and Old Sacramento, which hearkens back to California’s gold rush days. Speaking of gold, cost of living here is low, so you can keep more of yours! Sacramento is a great place to slow down, sightsee, and have a great bite to eat — in fact, it’s known as the “Farm-to-Fork Capital”! Local icons include the State Capitol, Old Sacramento, Crocker Museum of Art, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, California Automobile Museum, and so much more.
This hidden gem sits on the San Joaquin River in California’s Central Valley, east of San Francisco and south of Sacramento. With a population of about 309,000, it’s a great spot to enjoy a slightly slower pace of life than in the state’s largest cities, but not too slow and with all the amenities you still want when you’re staying somewhere for 13 weeks. Plus, cost of living here is low, which is always a bonus when traveling. This is another former gold rush town and its seaport was essential for trade during that era. Local icons include Haggin Museum, Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple, The Historic Bob Hope Theatre, Louis Park/Pixie Woods, the downtown marina and promenade, and so much more.
This hidden gem is located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, east of San Jose and west of the Sierra National Forest, with a population around 82,000. The cost of living here is low and the quality of life is high! Surrounded by natural beauty, this a great jump-off location for visiting Sierra, Inyo National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and Stanislaus National Forest, among other destinations. In fact, Merced is often called the “Gateway to Yosemite”! The area is known for agriculture so there’s a bounty of fresh fruits, nuts, and many other crops — which means good eating all the time. Local icons include Merced National Wildlife Refuge, Merced Fruit Barn, Lake Yosemite, Castle Air Museum, Vista Ranch and Cellars, and so much more.
This hidden gem sits on the Kern River, north of Los Angeles. This town is a little bit country in an often rock and roll state. Bakersfield is the home of legendary country singers Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, and it’s known for the “Bakersfield Sound.” It even earned the nickname “Country Music Capital of the West Coast” at one point and many believe it’s because there was an influx of country musicians during the Dust Bowl. With a population of about 378,000, gorgeous natural beauty, an interesting history of fur trappers and troubadours, and a great cost of living, this a wonderful city for travelers to call home for 13 weeks. Local icons include the Bakersfield Museum of Art, Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, Hart Memorial Park, Fox Theater, Kern River Parkway Trail, California Living Museum, Sequoia National Forest, and so much more.
This hidden gem is often overshadowed by its neighbor just to the north — Los Angeles. But L.A. has nothing on the L.B.C.! Cost of living is lower here than in Los Angeles, but you still get all the urban excitement of the region and the beachy joys of living on the California coast. Population here is about 466,000 and Long Beach is adjacent to L.A. and other communities, so this is definitely a good spot for those who want to be in the middle of it all. Local icons include The Queen Mary, the Downtown Waterfront (including the Aquarium of the Pacific and Rainbow Harbor), Naples, Bluff Park, East Burns Miller Japanese Park, Catalina Island, and so much more.
We hope you’re ready to find a fun, well-paying new adventure in one of these incredible hidden gem locations for travel nurses. Other travelers are absolutely loving these cities, so NOW is the perfect time to pounce on these incredible, lucrative opportunities!