There’s something magical about the history of an old town, especially when its original character has been preserved and restored back to its original charm. Southern California has several of these charming old town districts that capture the flavor of the past while still being fully rooted in the present.
Here are nine old town districts we can’t help but adore. The perfect combination of vintage and modern is what you’ll find in each of these locations. Do you have a favorite on this list?
1. San Dimas
To experience the local flavor of this historic district, head to Bonita Avenue and take a peaceful stroll through this charming stretch of town between Cataract and Walnut. You'll pass local restaurants and shops housed in historic buildings dating back to the 1800s. For a real treat, make sure to stop by the newly restored Walker House which was originally a railroad hotel.
2. Old Town Monrovia
Along a charming stretch of Myrtle Avenue you'll find the historic area of Old Town Monrovia. You'll know you've arrived to this delightful pocket of town when you see this towering arch that marks the beginning of Old Town. This area is bustling, especially on Friday nights, when the locals come together for its weekly street fair. This area was once rather run down in the '70s, but the revitalization that has taken place since then has made this a must-see pocket of SoCal.
3. Old Towne Orange
Old Towne Orange is rather small, with only one square mile to explore, but every inch of this historic and picturesque destination is worth a visit. It's no wonder people flock here from all over the country to see this treasure. Whether you're shopping in a local boutique or having a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants, you'll find that every building has a story. The breakfast spot pictured here, for example, was once an old gas station. It has since been converted to a restaurant called the Filling Station. You never know what fun facts you'll discover when you're out exploring Old Towne Orange.
4. Old Town Temecula
There's so much to love about Old Town Temecula which has been thriving since 1882. This beautiful outdoor setting is the kind of visual treat you'll experience as you wander through this historic area. Romantic hidden corners, a bustling main street, and tons of shops and cozy restaurants will keep you busy from morning until night.
5. Old Pasadena
Lively and charming are two words you often hear when folks describe Old Pasadena or "Old Town" as many locals call it. Once the original commercial center of Pasadena, this area is now a designated historic district. A favorite destination for locals and out-of-state visitors, Old Pasadena is a perfect place to experience the local flavor of this area. You'll find over 22 blocks of restored historic structures and a unique mix of old and new establishments that add to the eclectic character of this downtown district.
6. Santa Ana
You'll want to head to 4th Street to experience the heart of this old town destination brimming with all sorts of local dining and retail shops that capture the unique vibe and local flavor of old Santa Ana. This local gem is also home to Orange County's first courthouse, which makes this town an ideal stop for anyone who loves history as it has since been turned into a museum.
7. Old Town San Diego
This special pocket of San Diego is known as the birthplace of California. Settlers originally came here in the late 1700s, but it wasn't until 1850 that this area was officially incorporated and became a city. The entire Old Town area is a treasure trove of history that will take you back in time. While visiting, you'll want to explore Old Town San Diego State Historic Park where you can tour some of the original structures first built in this area. You'll also want to devour some of the amazing Mexican food that can be found here; make sure to plan your day around a meal so you can enjoy a Mexican feast.
8. Olvera Street
Although it's not exactly a district, Olvera Street is deserving of a spot on this list as it's the oldest street in Los Angeles. A leisurely walk down Olvera Street will instantly transport you back in time and make you feel like you're exploring a tiny Mexican village. Enjoy the local festivities and the vibrant culture that will give you a taste of old Los Angeles in the good ol' days. Some people might say this spot is a tourist trap, but don't let them talk you out of visiting as everyone should experience Olvera Street at least once while in SoCal.
Montrose may only be three blocks long, but you'll find it's easy to spend an entire day here taking in the charm of Glendale's Historic Old Town district. If you want to be swept away to a previous decade when life was a whole lot simpler, you will definitely fall in love with this old town strip. Beautiful trees line the streets and they're wrapped with magical lights that sparkle at night. While you're in Montrose you'll find there is no need to rush; grab a seat on one of the quaint benches and sit for a while as you take in the charm of this old town atmosphere.