With places like San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles stealing the California spotlight, it’s easy to overlook the abundance of small cities and towns with plenty to offer. These gems are chocked full of charm, tasty food, and alluring attractions without the crowds. While there’s nothing wrong with the star-studded appeal of many places in California, it’s worth acknowledging the unsung heroes of the territory. The locations listed below prove there’s more to the sunshine state than the famous cities and national parks. Explore a different perspective in these behind-the-scenes cities and towns that are definitely worth a visit.
Step back in time and experience the historic appeal of Julian, situated in the Cuyamaca Mountains east of San Diego. With buildings dating back to the 1870’s gold rush and an old-west vibe, it’s a wonder that more people aren’t flocking here. When you’re here, old-fashioned apple pie is what’s on the menu. Julian is known for its abundance of orchards filled with delicious apples and scenic views. To make things even sweeter, cap off your stay with a horse-drawn carriage ride down the main street or take a hike amidst the splendor of oaks and pines.
SAN LUIS OBISPO
Historically a Spanish mission town, San Luis Obispo, or SLO town, is a refreshing escape from big cities with loads to see and do. Established about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, you’re in the right spot to get away from the masses without completely falling off the grid. While you’re here, don’t miss one of California’s best farmer’s markets held downtown every Thursday evening featuring live music, crafts, and food vendors. Also, make sure to check out the famous Bubblegum Alley, where people from all over have been plastering the surfaces with chewed gum since the early 1960’s.
Nestled in northern Sonoma County, Healdsburg boasts an impressive combination of modern appeal and historic charm. The town is dedicated to preserving its history while offering trendy shopping and local cuisine that celebrates authentic California culture. The town square is centered on the historic Healdsburg Plaza and extends outward to reveal a plethora of hotels, restaurants, and shops. We all know Napa has plenty of wine to go around, but if you’re seeking a unique vineyard experience, look no further than Healdsburg. Featuring wine-cycling loops and several renowned wineries nearby, there’s something to impress enthusiasts and amateurs alike.
A Victorian village snuggled in between two redwood forests and only minutes from the coast, what more could we ask for? With a population of 1,372, Ferndale is the perfect quintessential stop for those seeking local history blended with modern cuisine and quirky shops. It’s Main Street, lined with well-preserved Victorian architecture, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s likely you’ll stumble across unexpected art galleries, antique shops, and specialty stores when exploring the exuberant downtown. Whether you’re craving a taste of natural splendor or local culture, Ferndale has something for everyone. Make this quaint dairy and agriculture community part of your next California trip; you won’t be sorry.
This peaceful Gold Rush town is located north of Sacramento in the Sierra Nevada western foothills. Situated near the Tahoe National Forest and ski areas, this town has plenty of appeal for outdoorsy types from skiing to hiking and biking. Within the borders of Nevada City, artsy folks will find a wealth of culture from live theatre to local crafts and mouth-watering menus. Yearly events such as the Victorian Christmas, First Friday Art Walks, and Nevada City Bicycle Classic keep the town flourishing with life and history. Come to experience the true glory of this small town with everything to offer.