For many years, California has been a popular vacation destination for tourists. Not only for Americans but for people all over the world.
People have been drawn from far, and near, by the bright lights of Hollywood, the mystery of Alcatraz in San Francisco, and the majestic views of Yosemite and Joshua Tree National Park.
But while California has been known for its big cities, there are lots of beautiful, small towns to visit in the State too.
If you are interested in exploring California, then it is an excellent idea to visit some of these smaller towns.
They may not have the big city feel of LA or San Diego, but they are filled with vibrant small-town culture, friendly people, and hidden treasures that are far off the beaten track.
Visiting these small towns allows you to see California in its most authentic form, and will enable you to experience some of the hidden gems that this beautiful State has to offer.
In this guide, we’re taking a look at 10 of the best, and most beautiful, small towns in California. So, if you’re planning your Cali road trip, and don’t know where to start, keep on reading!
If you are kicking off your California trip in LA, then we would recommend paying a visit to Ojai. Ojai is a small town located Northwest of LA in Ventura County, and it has a population of around 7,600 people.
This town is located in the valley of the Topatopa mountains and it boasts beautiful views and excellent meandering trails for anyone wanting to explore the mountains on either side of this town.
Ojai is a very bustling town, and it very much matches the New Age era of LA and Hollywood.
With a huge variety of new-age stores mixed with art galleries and a yearly musical festival for classical artists, there really is so much to explore in Ojai. So be sure to squeeze it into your road trip!
2. Carmel By The Sea
Carmel-by-the-Sea is an even smaller town than Ojai. With a population of fewer than 4,000 people, Carmel-by-the-Sea really achieves that small-town feel.
But there is still so much for you to do in this little town.
As the name suggests, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a beach town. Located in Cali’s Monterey Peninsula, this is a great place to visit if you want to explore the sea.
It is a popular location for scuba divers and surfers alike, and it is an excellent location for watching some of the beautiful wildlife that resides in California in its natural habitat.
There are so many things to do in this little town – from exploring the fairytale cottages dotted around the town to viewing the historic Carmel mission library, and the galleries dotted around town.
One thing’s for certain, if you visit Carmel-by-the-Sea, you will never grow bored!
Technically speaking, Avalon is an incorporated city. But, with a tiny population of just 3,500 people, it really does have that small-town feel that you are searching for!
Avalon is one of the most unique small towns on this list, and that is because it is located on Santa Catalina island, which is one of the California Channel Islands.
This tiny city once had an incredibly small-town feel, but over the years it has become increasingly popular with tourists, and this has taken away from the feel a little.
However, there are still plenty of hidden gems to enjoy in this town.
If you are a thrill seeker or an adrenaline junky, then Avalon is perfect for you.
With excellent surfing opportunities and so much else to do in this tiny city, there really is no surprise that lots of people insist on visiting when they are in CA.
If you have dreamed of driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, then you should consider a trip to Sausalito. This tiny town is just a few short miles away from San Fran, and it has a huge amount of history.
This seaside town may only have a population of just over 7000 people, but it has plenty to do if you should visit.
You could visit the Richardson Bay Houseboat Enclaves, pay a trip to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model Visitor Center, or admire the views over the Golden Gate Bridge from high in the town.
If you are somebody who appreciates the good life, then a visit to Sausalito will be good for your soul! Especially after the hustle and bustle of all the other cities that California has to offer.
For any Danish people visiting California, Solvang really can be a home away from home.
This is a historic Danish village, with architecture, culture, and atmosphere to match. It is a real hidden gem in California, totally different from the other towns on this list.
Solvang is a great location for any tourists who have grown tired of the fresh and modern feel of the majority of other Californian locations.
This town may not be hip and happening, but it is rich in history and a testament to how different cultures can live alongside one another.
Squeeze in a trip to Solvang if you are eager to break up your California road trip by dipping your toes into one of California’s most historic tiny towns!
6. St. Helena
If you’ve visited California for the wine, you have to visit St Helena during your trip. This town has a population of fewer than 6,000 people and it is located in the renowned Napa Valley.
In the North bay region of San Francisco, you will find this beautiful town. But it isn’t the town itself that attracts tourists, instead, it is the vast amount of vineyards that surround the town.
There is no denying that Californian wine is some of the best in the world, and in St Helena, you can taste this wine at the source.
Pair this with some of the delicious food that is offered in this culinary town, and we’re sure you’ll be happy that you visited this town while you were in California.
7. Nevada City
To visit some of the best small towns in California, you will need to travel a little off the beaten track. This is the only way to visit the tiny town of Nevada City, and all the small-town vibes that it has to offer.
With a population of fewer than 4,000 people, there is no denying that this is a small town. It was founded in 1849 and has rich historic buildings dating all the way back to this year.
It was one of California’s mining towns, so it is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in the gold rush and the history of mining in the USA.
It boasts outstanding views and excellent vibes. So it is definitely worth a visit if you are in the States.
Of all the towns on this list, Ferndale is actually one of the smallest. With a declining population, this town is home to fewer than 1,500 people, and that is partly because it is a town stuck in the past.
If you want to leave behind the modern furnishings and bright lights of LA, Ferndale is a great place to visit.
The majority of the buildings have old-fashioned Victorian fronts, so driving through here really will take you back to an 80s movie.
Some people may call it dated, but we’d be more inclined to call it quirky and cool. This town is a great place to visit if you want to see California as it once was.
9. Los Olivos
Forget Los Angeles, now we’re talking about Los Olivos. This tiny town has a population of just over 1,000 people, but it is actually a fairly popular tourist destination.
Los Olivos is an agricultural town and it is closely linked with the production of wine. It is this that attracts most tourists to the town.
The number of wineries in this town has steadily declined over the years.
But some of the wineries in this area date back to the 1800s. So, if you love wine, you should definitely pay a visit to Los Olivos.
Finally, let’s wrap this up with Pioneertown. This is an extremely historic town, and as a result, very few people live there.
It has a population of fewer than 500 people and has been managed and maintained by San Bernardino County since the 1960s.
If you want to visit a town that is straight out of the Western movies, Pioneertown is the place to go.
This 1880s Western town was actually originally built as a movie set. But the skill with which it was built has allowed it to last for many years.
Pioneertown is a great place to call into if you want to see the California of old, and appreciate how much the State has grown and developed over the years.
In short, there are lots of beautiful small towns dotted around California. Visiting these towns is a great way to see a different side of California and appreciate the rich history of this State.
Thanks for reading!
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