9.0 out of 10


38.5485447575573 -121.735534099679
Great for
  • Childcare
  • Clean & Green
  • Gym & Fitness
  • Internet Access
  • Medical Facilities
Not great for
  • No ratings yet
Who lives here?
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • LGBT+
  • Students
  • Country Lovers


5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 5/5

"Toad Tunnels and Cow Windows"

Just about 10 miles to the west of Sacramento, Davis is a relatively small university town nestled in the middle of a sea of farm fields. One of the lesser known UC campuses, UC Davis is home to the best Vet School on the West Coast and arguably the best in the country—with Cornell’s program being it major nemesis. Once the ag extension of UC Berkeley, the Davis campus has made its name in the sciences and this is reflected throughout the campus.

Davis holds a special place in my heart because I did two tours of duty as a graduate student there. Teaching anything in the humanities to undergraduates majoring in science takes bit of work, but I found it quite an entertaining challenge.

Most of Davis really revolves around the campus, but the city itself is very pleasant and the schools are outstanding, making it a great place to raise kids.

Davis is a bike culture with most people who live in town opting for pedaling rather than burning fossil fuels. This is not just because Davis is so environmentally conscious, of course, but is also because parking in the downtown area is a bit of a pain and because the campus is spread out enough that biking makes it easier to get around.

Davis is notoriously environmentally conscious as well. They actually have entire departments devoted to eco-friendly studies. Even in the humanities, there is an emphasis on scientifically based environmental studies with a Literature of Nature studies field (I am getting that slightly off, but you get the idea). Nature writers like the famous Beat Gary Snyder have found homes here, and Davis professors are helping develop more environmentally friendly automobiles as well.

The most famous example of this focus on nature came almost 15 years ago when Davis created a special tunnel for the toads of a particular area when it was discovered that an overpass was going to disrupt the frogs’ natural migration patterns. The tunnel drew a great deal of attention and was even featured on an early episode of The Daily Show. If you want to see the actual clip, you can find it here (Stephen Colbert is the correspondent):


Davis’ bike culture also helps to explain the one area of crime where Davis has an eye popping 2000+ crime rate. To give that number some context, Oakland, California has close to 900 crime rate and is considered one of the most dangerous cities in California. (The average crime rate in the country is 312.) Overall Davis’ crime rate is pretty low, ranking only about 200 overall. There have only been two murders in Davis in the last decade. When you look at thefts, however, Davis’ crime rate jumps to 2000. This is because of bicycle theft. This problem is an epidemic in Davis, with a number of thefts occurring during Thanksgiving and Spring breaks when students head home leaving their bikes behind for the unscrupulous to snag.

The other thing that is a little unusual about Davis is the prevalence of surgical masks during the spring and summer. You will often see a number of people around town wearing these trademark masks. The reason for this has everything to do with geography. Because Davis is surrounded by so many farms, when spring comes and the wind blows over the plain, it blows pollen and insecticides of various kinds over the town. Many people who never knew they even had allergies soon find their eyes red and watering and their throats clenching up.

The summers in Davis are brutal in terms of heat, making it feel more like a desert than anything else. In winter, it is just the opposite. It is not uncommon for fog to roll in and cover the town for weeks on end.

Davis has a strong sense of community as you have no doubt already gathered and is just small enough that those who stay on beyond a few college years quickly get to know the local characters and have a sense of the town as a much smaller entity. Every year Davis has a bike race and Picnic Day—a kind of spring festival that ends with a Battle of the Bands but also involves as plethora of fun family friendly events. (The cow with a plastic window on its side from the Vet School is one of its most famous attractions.)

Davis has a really well supported farmer’s market weekly as well and in the summer it is a meeting ground for those that really call Davis home.

The city has undergone quite a bit of change with department stores moving in—including a controversial Borders’ books that is blamed for driving some of the smaller independent bookstores out of business. (It inspired the “Briefs not Borders” campaign that emphasized the fact that it is hard to buy underwear in Davis, but books are all over.)

There are a number of favorite restaurants there as well, the mainstays are Woodstock’s Pizza, Dos Coyotes and the Bistro. The local bar that is well attended is The Graduate.

Although I have a soft spot for Davis, I also think that it is a great place raise kids and wouldn’t mind one day returning. (It is however, a bit boring for students.)
  • Great Schools
  • Affordable Family Living
  • Great Feeling of Community
  • Blazing Summers
  • Allergens
  • Kind of Boring
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • LGBT+
  • Students
  • Country Lovers

Unranked Neighborhoods in Davis


38.5584037986649 -121.780797437006
38.5508392322858 -121.731089739071

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