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To properly live the California dream, you need the perfect combination of beaches, high paying jobs, somewhat affordable housing (this is California we’re talking about), and, if you’ve got kids, highly rated public schools. Irvine (population: 226,000) scores extremely highly on all counts.

From its renowned University of California (Irvine) campus to office parks, housing technology and semi-conductor industries, and many head offices located here, Irvine is the economic backbone of Orange County. It also doesn’t hurt that Irvine has consistently been rated as America’s Safest City by the FBI and—despite those pesky housing prices— places highly in Money magazines Best Places to Live, either.

What separates Irvine from many sprawling California cities was its early adherence to building a community based on a master plan. Everything from house design to rules governing neighbourhood associations has been regulated in order to maintain the highest possible quality of life. Indeed, Irvine is environmentally progressive as well, with over 300 miles of bike paths (including 50 mountain bike trails) and a direct light rail transit station connecting Irvine with downtown Los Angeles. Irvine’s extensive park system is the seventh best in the country, according to The Trust for Public Land.  Other attractions include a bustling farmer’s market, a renowned art museum of California impressionism, as well as the fabulous San Joaquin Marsh, one of the state’s most renowned birding sanctuaries.