Let's start with nature and other points of interest. Chico is home to Bidwell Park, one of the largest publicly owned parks in the country! Located in the beautiful and historic Mansion District, Bidwell Park is a great place for spending some of the numerous warm, clear days you'll have in your new city. Additionally, Chico is home to a free city museum, a small art museum and, perhaps most interestingly, a yo-yo museum.
Okay, now we can talk partying. Campus is notoriously loud, fun and party-friendly. Even if you're not interested in partying with the college crowd, there are a number of opportunities for more adult-oriented good times. The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is based in Chico, and throughout some of the neighborhoods away from campus there are vibrant and more low-key opportunities for nightlife.
Chico State undoubtedly contributes a lot to the city's culture, economy and well... nightlife. Because the large campus is located so close to downtown, parts of urban Chico can seem like nothing more than an extended frat party.
This does not mean that the campus area doesn't have some great rental options for people of all types. For instance, if you're a young student, or a young-at-heart student-of-life, look for an apartment on the southern edge of campus. If you're a bit more settled, try the east side of campus, closer to downtown, where there are plenty of apartments and less drunken revelry. Campus-area two bedrooms generally go for between $650-900.
Downtown and the East Side
Okay, if you want to avoid campus altogether, but still enjoy the small town feeling of Chico proper, consider looking for apartments in the downtown area, as well as to the east. The downtown has several different sizes of apartments and houses available, frequently in historic buildings at a highly affordable rate, generally between $750-900.
The farther east you go from downtown, the quieter the streets get. Bidwell Park and the Mansion District are located on the east side, so the houses here will be nicer and situated on tree-lined streets. This will be great for older, more established families relocating to Chico. Houses and apartments on the east side can be quite costly, generally ranging from $1600-1850.
Barber and Chapmantown
The jury is still out on Barber and Chapmantown. Located south of the city, these neighborhoods were historically home to Chico's working class. Recent renovations and a population shift have characteristically changed the vibe of the neighborhoods, but many long-term Chico residents still consider these areas run down and less desirable. Because of this, you can score a large, affordable two bedroom for between $650-850. Take a walk around the neighborhood and see how you feel about it before committing to a lease. These up-and-coming neighborhoods may just have a great deal for you!
New Urbanist Living
In addition to its established neighborhoods, Chico also has a number of newly developing neighborhoods designed based on the requirements of New Urbanism. These family-friendly and semi-suburban neighborhoods include mixed use real estate with commercial buildings, apartments and town houses all within walking distance to the development's center. For instance, the Doe Mill neighborhood on the east side of town near the Chico Mall, has two bedroom apartments and town homes for rent, as well as single-family homes varying in price from $1050-1200.
Like most college towns, you'll have the most success finding an apartment in Chico during the summer off-season, when students abandon their cushy rentals for their childhood bedrooms. Late August and early September sees a run on decent apartments, particularly around campus and the downtown area. If you have to relocate to Chico around this time, be prepared to fight for your dream apartment. You can, however, take advantage of flexible lease options offered to students during the fall semester.
Most apartments in Chico can be found without the assistance of a real estate agent, or through online apartment search websites (hint hint, nudge nudge). With larger developments such as Doe Mill, you'll have to go through management companies to secure your apartment, which means a higher fee and more rigorous application process. Deposits for Chico apartments generally cost one month's rent.
Perhaps its the college town crowd, but Chico is an incredibly walkable and bikable city. The city of Chico not only hosts large bicycle events, but has miles and miles of off-street bike paths and designated bike lanes, including several around downtown and campus. Unless you need to drive out to the Chico Mall, you'll have no real use for a car.
However, if you'll be commuting to nearby towns for work via car, good luck to you. Chico is located some distance from Interstate 5, and must be reached via the winding, dark State Route 99, where traffic can sometimes be unreasonable and downright dangerous.
Butte Regional Transit (adorably called the B-Line) provides bus service around Butte County out of campus and downtown Chico. True to Chico's bike-friendly reputation, the B-Line provides racks for transporting your bike. Chico is also home to an Amtrak station located on the Coast Starlight route, that offers service south into San Francisco and north into Redding.
And with that we'll say welcome to Chico! Whether you're a student, a nature-lover or just looking to settle in with your weird and wonderful northern California brethren, you'll be sure to find an affordable apartment that's right for you.
-By Kera Zacuto
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