From ziplining through the redwoods in Sonoma to spelunking through the caverns in Carlsbad, California is rife with places just bursting with exciting things to do, see, and eat. Not everywhere in the Golden State is so brilliant, however. Just like any other state, it has places where the excitement gauge never gets above empty, where the most thrilling things residents do is count the change in their jars marked “vacation fund.”
The Movoto Real Estate Blog has looked at plenty of exciting places—large, mid-sized, small, and suburban—but this time we’re slowing down to a snail’s pace in order to rank the most boring spots in the state of California. Using math and data (both of which we actually find to be quite stimulating) we discovered that the dubious title of most boring in the state goes to the city of Lakewood, a veritable dead zone of fun adrift in the alphabet soup of cities comprising the Los Angeles metro sprawl. Misery loves company though, so it wasn’t alone. These are the 10 most boring places in California:
1. City of Lakewood
2. City of Lancaster
3. City of West Covina
4. City of Victorville
5. City of Merced
6. City of Alhambra
7. City of Ontario
8. City of Modesto
9. City of Hesperia
10. City of Carson
There are some big places, and we’ve used some strong words to describe them, but we’ve got the data to back up our claims. So, if you want to know why Lakewood, Merced, and the rest are so boring, keep reading. Unlike the places, we can promise it will be at least mildly entertaining.
How We Measured Boredom (Without Falling Asleep)
If you’ve read any of our other Big Deal Lists, you’ll know the basics of how we produce ours rankings. If not, here’s how it works. We start by making a list of the largest places in a state, in this case the 100 biggest spots in California. Once we have them, we can find just the right mix of criteria to measure what we’re after. For boredom, we used the same six that have powered our “most exciting” rankings:
- Nightlife per capita (bars, clubs, comedy, etc.)
- Live music venues per capita
- Active life options per capita (parks, outdoor activities, etc.)
- Fast Food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better)
- Percentage of restaurants that are fast food (the lower the better)
- Percentage of young residents ages 20 to 34 (the higher the better)
Unlike those overviews of the most thrilling places in the country, this one required us to flip the table and give high marks for doing poorly in the criteria. We ranked each of the 100 places on our list from 1 to 100 across the criteria, where a one was the most boring number. Then, we averaged these individual rankings into one Big Deal Score, and the lower that was, the more boring as well.
You won’t find any streamers or fireworks (or even a balloon drop) at the end of this post, but you will see a chart down there containing the 50 most boring places in California along with their individual criteria rankings. Before that, though, we invite you to put on a pot of coffee, turn on some loud music, and join us as we dive into the dreariest spots on the lower West Coast.
1. Lakewood, CA
Source: Flickr user Steve & Michelle Gerdes
Lakewood is home to the first Denny’s, which should be reason enough for it to sit atop our list of California’s most boring locales (although we do always chuckle a little when we think about “Moons Over My Hammy”). Knowing this fact, it should really come as little surprise that Lakewood is also the absolute worst in the state for fast food per capita (which, despite its name, is terribly boring) and as a percentage of total restaurants (24 percent).
This city also ranked lowest for live music venues and youthful population (22.14 percent), plus it was nearly the worst in our top 10 for nightlife (it managed seventh worst overall). In fact, the only area Lakewood did somewhat well in was activities, where it placed 37th. We’re going to guess that the most popular of these is “getting out of Lakewood to somewhere more exciting.”
2. Lancaster, CA
Source: Flickr user Charlie Essers
We won’t go as far as Urban Dictionary did in its summation of the city, but suffice it to say that Lancaster is notoriously dull. Situated on a long, flat expanse of the Mojave Desert, it was the headquarters of the modern Flat Earth Society, a group that believes—as its name suggests—our planet is actually flat and not round. How boring is that?
This high desert city of more than 156,000 was third worst in terms of its fast food to original dining options ratio, with the former comprising 16 percent of all restaurants. It was also the eighth worst when it came to nightlife per capita.
3. West Covina
Source: Flickr user Droits
Like Lakewood, West Covina is a city that should really be more exciting, if just for its proximity to Los Angeles and the hustle and bustle of the urban sprawl. As you might expect from such a indistinct Southern Californian locale, there’s plenty of fast food to go around (it ranked 15th per capita).
Rocker Joan Jett spent her teens in West Covina, which makes the fact that it ranked 16th worst for music venues all the more painful. She loves rock and roll, but apparently the city she called home during her formative years doesn’t.
Source: Flickr user InSapphoWeTrust
With a name like Victorville, you’d expect this city to be full of win, but the most exciting thing about it is that the church scenes from “Kill Bill” were filmed there. The high desert surrounding the city has also been used for filming music videos, although Victorville itself tied with Lakewood for worst in live music venues per capita.
Victorville also ranked poorly for fast food per capita at 24th worst and the 13 percent of all restaurants they make up earned 18th worst for original dining options.
Source: Flickr user Russell Mondy
Known as the “Gateway to Yosemite” (a beautiful exciting place, to be sure), Merced is home to the University of California Merced, which, in our research, was described as “in the middle of a corn field” and “insanely boring on the weekends.” Maybe that has something to do with the dearth of nightlife. There’s so little per capita that Merced ranked fifth worst overall for that criterion.
There’s a lake (Lake Yosemite; Lake Merced got bored and moved to San Francisco), but overall the city ranked 19th worst for activities that we looked at. In terms of future opportunities to become more exciting, Merced is due to be a stop on the California High Speed Rail line, but we imagine that most passengers will opt to just zip on through unless things there pick up.
Source: Flickr user Slices of Light
Alhambra is a Los Angeles suburb of about 83,000 that’s named after a book (“Tales Of The Alhambra” by Washington Irving, to be specific) and that’s about the most exciting thing is has going for it. The least exciting thing has to do with its activities ranking, which was 14th worst overall. That’s the worst performance in activities of any place in our top 10.
Hey, Alhambra, we know you’re probably pretty bummed about being one of the most boring places in California, but at least you’re home to the Los Angeles Department of Public Works. Okay, maybe that sounded more encouraging in our heads.
Source: Flickr user Joe Wolf
Ask anyone from Southern California what they known about Ontario and you’ll hear one response: factory outlets. Well, and maybe they’ll mention the airport. Otherwise, this sizeable city of 163,000 plus is just another of those places you pass through on the freeway and pay no further thought to.
If you were to exit the freeway, you’d be greeted by lots of fast food. In fact, Ontario was the third worst in terms of fast food per capita on our list. It was also third worst in terms of the percentage of total restaurants that are fast food chains (17 percent). As for activities to work off those empty calories, Ontario places 10th worst in terms of things such as gyms, parks, and outdoor fun.
Source: Flickr user Wayne Hsieh
Allow me to get personal here for a moment. I lived in Modesto for a few months in the late ‘90s and have been back a couple times a year since then. The most exciting thing in town is the Vintage Faire Mall and (for a “Star Wars” fan like myself) perhaps the statue of George Lucas (he was born there). Fun fact: Lucas’ film “American Graffiti” is based on his early years in Modesto, but wasn’t actually filmed there (it was shot in San Rafael). This is supposedly because Modesto had changed too much over the years, but I think George just wanted to move on.
In terms of our data, Modesto was the worst place in our top 10 for live music (it placed 47th) and also the worst for active life options (it placed 40th). It placed last for ninja parades, despite what The Onion would have you believe.
Source: Flickr user Dave Hill
Another Southern Californian city located in the Mojave Desert like Lancaster and Victorville, Hesperia isn’t quite as boring as those other two places. It is, however, absolutely packed with fast food restaurants (16 percent of the total eating places are chains) which landed it a score of fifth worst for that category.
Hesperia also made it into the top 25 worst places for two other criteria: live music (24th) and activities (23rd).
Source: Flickr user nikzane
Carson has appeared in more than a dozen movies, TV shows, and music videos. Not because it’s an exciting place, but primarily because it’s just so nondescript. It looks just like the rest of the L.A. basin. As for things to do, it’s home of… well, there’s a museum devoted to printing presses.
Caron was fifth worst for percentage of fast food restaurants and 18th worst for them per capita. It also had the second worst ranking for young population in our top 10, with only 22.8 percent of its residents falling between the 18 to 34 age range.
Roam And Bored
Like we said earlier, these places might be boring, but there’s still hope for the people who call them home and desire a more exciting way of life. For those in Southern California, the list of much more thrilling locales includes Irvine, San Diego, and Santa Monica, while those up north should be looking towards the likes of Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley. Be warned though: Once you get out, you might never want to go back.