Claremont, California, is a humble city about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. I say ‘humble’ because it isn’t pretentious at all. In fact, you might just feel that its qualities and attractions are rather understated. But I assure you that the residents of Claremont have a good thing going. And while you might not find flashy billboards advertising Claremont, you are definitely welcome there!
My husband and I recently made the 2-hour drive from San Diego to enjoy a weekend getaway in Claremont. Why did we go? What caught my attention first was its Village Venture Craft Faire, held annually at the end of October. I personally like autumn festivals and shopping. And both my husband and I enjoy good food, exploring new areas, learning history, and taking lots of photos. Our passions and Claremont were a great match! Would it be a good match for you? Come along with me, and I’ll show you ten things to love about Claremont!
1. Claremont feels like a small town
Even though it’s not far from large cities, Claremont still feels like a small town. Its tree-lined streets and beautiful Craftsman-style homes, the downtown village, the historic train station and post office — they’re all so very charming. As you stroll down the streets, you feel like Claremont could have been your childhood home because it’s familiar and welcoming. Walking on the streets is safe day or night, and pretty little parks dot the neighborhoods.
2. Claremont’s downtown has a village atmosphere
In fact, that’s why it’s called Claremont Village. It’s about 12 blocks of boutique stores, restaurants, art and galleries, a village square, parks, antiques, salons, health services, City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce, a theater, and more. There’s a little bit of vintage, a little bit of eclectic, and a lot of vibe! Our first night in Claremont, we loved walking along surrounding neighborhood streets, checkingout the MetroLink station, window-browsing in the Village, and looking for restaurants we wanted to try (it’s hard to choose from so many!).
3. Claremont Colleges
The Claremont Colleges (5 undergraduate and 2 graduate) were founded between 1887 and 1997 and they share many of the same amenities, such as libraries and health centers. They are well-known for their quality and rank among the best colleges in the nation. They also sit on a beautiful campus with a mixture of traditional and modern architecture, landscaped green spaces, art installations, and fountains. In a few hours on campus, I discovered an art museum, ivy-covered buildings, comfortable study lounges, the glass “Living Room” in the ultra-modern Kravis Center, an old library with a stained glass window and hidden courtyards, fountains, gorgeous arches, and “Skyspace: Dividing the Sky” (another art installation). And I only covered a small portion of the campus! Can you tell that I like to take photos?
4. Friday Nights LIVE!
Claremont has a fun tradition of offering live music every Friday night, May through October. We were lucky enough to be there for their last Friday Nights LIVE! for 2017. There were four different bands playing in different locations throughout Claremont Village. Our favorite was one called FAB 8, and they played all Beatles music. They were very talented musicians, and the audience was very engaged, singing along and even dancing to the music. We happened upon this scene after eating dinner out and enjoying an evening walk:
5. Village Venture Craft Faire
As I already mentioned, this is what first got my attention — a huge craft fair that turns Claremont Village into a pedestrian-only venue with over 15,000 visitors and nearly 500 booths. It’s the largest autumn craft fair in southern California, and it’s been going on for 36 years! If you can imagine it, there’s probably a booth that sells it. I saw just about everything from clothing to jewelry, woodcrafts, home and yard decor, food, umbrellas, blown glass, pottery, quilts, pet supplies, stationery and paintings. And even birds of prey!
6. The Doubletree Hilton Claremont
This is where we stayed for two nights, and we’re very glad we did! It was a place we could call ‘home’. Our generously sized room with good wifi, a comfortable king bed, Crabtree & Evelyn bath amenities, and a tin of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies was wonderful. And when we looked out our window, the pine trees completed the feeling that we had truly escaped the city. There was a lovely, peaceful courtyard behind the reception area with a water wall, where you could sit and unwind or eat meals from the onsite Orchard restaurant.
At the end of the day we enjoyed a dip in the pool and soak in the jacuzzi. When I took a shower in our room, it felt like gentle rainfall, yet the water pressure would have quickly filled up the bathtub.
Our breakfast buffet included made-to-order omelets, hot breakfast meats, potatoes and eggs, fresh fruit, pastries, waffles and beverages. We ate like kings!
The Doubletree Hilton also provides a shuttle to take you to any business address within five miles of the hotel. While we did most of our exploring by foot, it might have been nice to use the shuttle at the end of the day to return.
The best part about our Doubletree stay? Definitely the DiscoverClaremont hotel package that included $100 in DiscoverClaremont gift cards! We put those gift cards to good use dining in some of Claremont’s best restaurants. If you want to take advantage of this deal, book soon, because it expires December 31, 2017.
7. Claremont Packing House
The Packing House is actually a historic landmark. Claremont used to be primarily agricultural, and the Packing House was the College Heights Lemon and Orange Association packing shed, built in 1922. It closed its doors in 1972 and after years of decline, the city purchased it to save it. Now it has been completely restored and houses artisan shops, boutiques, stand-up comedy, art classes, a chef school and a lot more! It seems to be very popular with the college students. It’s a place I really enjoyed, too!
8. Claremont does food right!
Choosing restaurants for dinner was a lot of fun, although as I mentioned before, it wasn’t easy to narrow down the options. Here’s where we ate dinner…
We both ate salads and my husband ordered Gnocchi and I had Gnudi. Both were amazing! The gnudi was served with flatbread, and was the perfect amount of food to satisfy without leaving me overstuffed.
We chose it for the open air eating court, the colorful umbrellas, the casual atmosphere, and the unique menu items. Loved the clean and bright atmosphere, plus the pretty lights on the tables, too. And the menus looked like vintage record covers…
Walter’s specializes in dishes from Afghanistan, and it is both comfortable and exotic at the same time. I ordered a Greek salad and my husband ordered a pilaf dish (which I somehow failed to get a picture of!). There were lots of scrumptious options on the menu, like shrimp tandoori, pasta, and kabobs, but because of the mini-dessert food tour we had indulged in during the afternoon, we weren’t very hungry!
I’m writing a separate post about our dessert food tour, so stay tuned. You’re going to love it!
9. The MetroLink Station
I was amazed at how convenient it was to have a MetroLink station in town. You could live in Claremont and commute to Los Angeles in less than an hour! (During rush hour, it can take 2 hours to drive only 30 miles to Los Angeles!) The train comes right through Claremont Village at the site of the historic train station. Claremont may be quaint and a little old-fashioned, but it sure has some nice modern amenities.
10. Historic Route 66
Foothill Boulevard, the main east-west thoroughfare through Claremont, used to be historic Route 66. Last year, Claremont celebrated the 85th anniversary of the historic drive that runs from Chicago to Santa Monica, CA. There are a few buildings and businesses remaining from that era, including Wolfe’s Marketplace, established in 1917…Annie’s Tugboat (now a Sushi restaurant)…and the Old Schoolhouse, built in 1911.
With all of these wonderful things to do and see, what’s not to love about Claremont? I hope you’ll take my advice and go see for yourself!
I would like to thank Claremont Chamber of Commerce for hosting my stay! My itinerary, experiences, and opinions are my own, and I provided my own transportation to Claremont.