The city still likes to brag that Budget Travel Magazine dubbed it one of the "Coolest Small Towns in America" in 2010. The reason? Not the fields of grapes, the picturesque surrounding hillsides, nor the Victorian houses. It was because of everyone who "picks up dinner at the Farmers Market, and gets wine from one of the vineyards stands" to party with in the streets and backyards.
If you fly about 80 miles northwest of San Francisco and descend into Sonoma County, you'll hit the 2.7 square miles of Cloverdale. You can tell because of the oak-covered hills, the walkable streets, the colorful Victorian homes and the vineyards. The 2010 U.S. Census says that 8,618 folks make their home here, which isn't bad for what was once just a stagecoach stop in the 1850s. Having the trains come in around 1872 probably didn't hurt the town's growth.
Moving to Cloverdale
You can almost pick any time of year to move to town because the winters are moderate and typically snow-free, although temperature lows can fall below freezing. Summer is the usual season for newcomers, if you're okay with lugging furniture under temps that max out over 100 degrees. Fall and winter bestow more moderate environments. Keep in mind that the only way to reach the city by land is through the sometimes twisted routes of Highway 101.
In terms of price, rents are more reasonable here than in the U.S., California and San Francisco. (But then again, what location isn't cheaper than the City by the Bay.) About a third of the residents rent their spaces, which is about average for the country. Although about 20 percent of the residences consist of rental apartments, they're hidden like wine in a barrel.
You can't just do a Google search to find a place to live. You'll need to get a real estate agent to do the legwork for you. (Don't worry about spending money. It's the landlord who pays your agent's commission.) She can also clue you in about single-family houses, townhouses and condos that may be up for lease.
Help her out by knowing in advance whether you want to be surrounded by trendy boutiques or foliage-filled mountains, need a small studio or a ranch house with room to roam, and your list of must-have features like a dishwasher and balcony. Then make sure you can afford it. You have to make at least four times the rent and be mostly free of debt. Otherwise, even if your agent locates your ideal, the landlord may reject your application because of all the money you owe other people.
Neighborhoods in Cloverdale
It's true that the city has two distinct neighborhoods. But it's also just as true that nine times out of 10, you'll confine your apartment search in Cloverdale to just the first choice.
City Center: This area is the city because this 'hood has nearly all the houses, restaurants, shops, apartments, wineries, the railroad depot and the airport. The 101 snakes through town and so does the Russian River, which you and the public can enjoy through adjoining roads, a trail and a campground.
Western Cloverdale: This neighborhood is three times bigger than the other but covers a ton of mountainous terrain, Lake Sonoma and several creeks. Most of the population here clusters on the eastern border, next to the City Center. Can you say outdoor adventure lifestyle? There's people in them thar hills but most likely, they want to be left alone. So please do if you do decided to search for rentals, most likely houses, among the few settlements located here. Aside from being close to nature, you might also score someplace new since one in three residences was built in this century.
Top Apartment Community
Oak Meadow Apartments: Living in this apartment complex is almost like owning your own place because of the vintage architecture and attached garages for some units. The one-bedroom apartments for rent make perfect starter properties, but you can go all the way up to three bedrooms and 2.5 baths. Air conditioning and washer-dryer hookups are part of your lease. However, beyond the views of the surrounding hills, you're not getting anything in the way of community amenities.
Living in Cloverdale
You gotta love it when a small city has enough attractions to fill a multi-linked website with things to do. That way you know you won't be bored after you settle in.
Sonoma equals wine, so it should come as no surprise that you can sample some of vintages in local tasting rooms like that of Valdez Family Winery. If you find something you like, you can buy it on the spot. But don't forget the food to go with your selection. Piacere Ristorante Italiano, for example, backs their steak, veal, chicken and pastas with over 40 years of cooking know-how.
The city may be out in the boonies but the culture isn't. First, there's the Performing Arts Center, a high-tech stage that showcases live theaters, speakers and musical diversions. Then there's the arts scene highlighted by galleries and the Annual Sculpture Exhibit. Finally, there's the History Center, which will tell you more then you want to know about the area's past.
Want to meet the locals? The many annual events are some of the best ways to do that. The Car and Motorcycle Show cruises down the boulevard to the sock hop. The Citrus Fair and Parade squeezes every last drop of fun from craft exhibits, carnival rides, a queen and a parade. And the Old Time Fiddle Festival fills the fairgrounds with the sounds of bluegrass and old-time jams.
Cloverdale boasts over half a dozen parks so you can catch some fun in the sun. City Park features the most organized activities with its basketball court, baseball field, volleyball court, horseshoe pits and scout cabin. At 10 acres, Porterfield Creek is the biggest and offers an open field. If you want to splash in the water, River Park gives you the opportunity and lets you picnic at the same time.