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A Guide to Fresno, the Agricultural Capital of the United States

Tucked into California’s Central Valley, Fresno is the largest city in the region and produces so much of the food that feeds the United States. The city’s origins lie in the immediate aftermath of the California Gold Rush, and the railroad that connected the country’s east and west coasts. Agriculture still predominates, but science and technology-related jobs are leading to economic growth. With its low cost of living, Fresno welcomes newcomers.

What to Know Before Moving to Fresno, California

Over time, this city has grown into the state’s fifth largest. A million people live in the San Joaquin Valley region, and half of those are in the city of Fresno itself. The area is known for its hot summers, but the mild winters and nearby mountains offer a good balance. Some of the country’s most famous national parks are a few hours away from Fresno, and Los Angeles and San Francisco are reachable with a day trip. Before you move to Fresno, check out the following.

Is Fresno a Good Place to Live?

Fresno’s low cost of living, cool neighborhoods and relaxed atmosphere make this city a good place for newcomers. The first thing to know is that rent is cheaper compared to other cities in California or on the West Coast. Several hospitals and universities support a diversified economy. The region’s defining geographic feature – a valley – offers benefits but also presents challenges.

The Central Valley is prime agricultural land, providing vital nutrition for millions of people. Sandwiched between mountain ranges and the coast, the valley traps harmful pollutants, and this can result in poor air quality. Like anywhere, the city of Fresno has its disparities. Historically, West Fresno residents have had fewer educational and employment opportunities, but the city is prioritizing economic development, for instance in specific neighborhoods west of Highway 99.

Relaxed, Easygoing Vibe

Fresno has an easygoing vibe that creates a relaxed but lively arts scene. The Tower District, in the city’s core, hosts performing arts festivals. The city’s creative energy supports art galleries and locally owned restaurants. Its history as a railroad stop created neighborhoods full of historic buildings, and restoration of these has added to a prevailing cultural attitude that’s supportive of public art and related activities.

California State University – Fresno, more commonly known as Fresno State, is the dominant higher education institution in the San Joaquin Valley. The university plays NCAA Division 1 sports in the Mountain West conference. More than 25,000 students study at this public college, which has one of the country’s highest graduation rates. The university and related economic industries support other sports in the area, for example the Fresno Grizzlies are the Triple A baseball affiliate of the Washington Nationals, the 2019 World Series champions.

Outdoor Recreation

Yosemite National Park and the Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are some of the United States’ most famous open spaces. Yosemite is home to great hiking trails and well-known rock climbing destinations such as El Capitan and Half Dome. Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are less than two hours away. You can live in Fresno and take a day trip to see the famous sequoias – the world’s tallest trees.


The railroad created Fresno, but today, the city’s location at an important highway junction is critical to its economy. Highway 99 runs north and south, connecting Fresno and its agricultural produce to Los Angeles and Sacramento. Highway 41 leads to Yosemite in the mountains and to Paso Robles in the Central Coast wine region. Fresno has made several transportation changes recently in order to create streets that encourage people to enjoy being in the city rather than pass through. The city is investing millions of dollars to create Complete Streets – avenues that support people who like walking and biking, in addition to cars and buses.

What Are the “Specifics” of Fresno?

Fresno got its start as a station on the Central Pacific Railroad. The station and its surrounding community were named after the Spanish word for “ash tree,” many of which line the San Joaquin River, which runs through the valley of the same name. Fresno has grown rapidly since its founding less than 150 years ago, and today is part of the greater Central Valley. This area is referred to as the breadbasket of the United States and stretches from Redding to Bakersfield. This fertile area is responsible for $3 billion of economic activity annually in Fresno.

Why Move to Fresno, California?

Fresno is a growing city. It draws people leaving more expensive places and also entrepreneurs and workers interested in the new opportunities here. All this leads to a diverse population. About one in five residents are foreign-born, and this diversity is augmented by about 110 people moving to the city of Fresno each week.

The Central Valley regional economy is a mixed bag. The unemployment rate has generally been decreasing in recent years, which is evidence that the city is recovering from the impacts of the Great Recession. Education and Health Care jobs have been a growing sector, and this could lead to this area of employment opportunity becoming the biggest in the region.

What Does the Moving Process to Fresno, California Involve?

Let’s say you are interested in a change of scenery from the Bay Area. Fresno stands out for its affordability, nearness to the coast, and prospects of a job in healthcare. Rent averages about $1,110 a month, though it is rising quickly owing to Fresno’s positive economic outlook. About half the rental stock ranges from $1,001 to $1,500, with 40% being between $700 and $1,000. The neighborhoods near Cal State-Fresno and Kaiser Permanente are slightly more than the average rent, but their closeness to employment opportunities and good schools balance out the cost differential.

What Are the Costs of Moving to Fresno, California?

Renting a moving van to relocate from the Bay Area can be very affordable. If you want someone else to drive your belongings, a Upack or U-Haul box is about $700. This includes transport and fees. You can rent a 15’ moving truck or trailer for $350, excluding the cost of gas or any moving help. Hiring movers at either end of the journey adds approximately $500 in each place. That amount includes their minimum fees, an additional hour, and a 10% tip.

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