A Favorite Hidden Gem with Angelenos: One of the Most Quintessentially California Places to Visit
Claremont: The Ultimate Weekend Getaway + Awesome Family Vacation Pt.2
October 13, 2021
A favorite hidden gem with Angelenos and one of the most quintessentially California places to visit, live or go to college. Claremont, California is the ultimate overnight or weekend getaway for an awesome family vacation. Notable as a college town with some of the nation's most highly respected educational institutions, Claremont, the city, is a distinctly, quaint suburb of Claremont full of idyllic tree-lined streets, a walkable downtown village, a relaxed, casual atmosphere, and authentically nostalgic architecture.
You can read Part ONE of Claremont: The Ultimate Weekend Getaway + Awesome Family Vacation in last week's newspaper or online!
There is literally so much to do and see in Claremont, that we're publishing our city guide in two parts. If you enjoyed reading about Claremont, where to stay, and what to eat, you'll really find Part 2 interesting. We've got loads of ideas for the best places to go in Claremont for family fun and unique experiences!
Whether you're spending a couple of hours in the village or a whole weekend exploring, here are some ideas for your Claremont bucket list:
Local Activities for Recreation
Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, The Webb Schools Open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the school year, the Alf Museum is a center of paleontological research for the international scientific community. This cool round building has two circular exhibit areas: the Hall of Footprints and the Hall of Life, totaling 4,000 square feet of space. The former showcases one of the museum's most important holdings, a unique fossil track and trackway collection that is among the largest of its kind in the United States. The latter showcases the Earth's 4.6 billion-year-old history. We loved the wall-size murals showing ancient environments and a timeline depicting important episodes in the history of life, highlighting life forms from four major eras of geologic time: Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic. Dinosaur lovers should definitely visit this museum!
Claremont Museum of Art - Located in the historic Claremont Depot, the Claremont celebrates the community's rich artistic legacy and promotes the cultural vitality of the region by showcasing paintings, sculptures, and other works by local artists. We had fun at this multimedia exhibit by Elizabeth Turk: a community of elders, "playing safely" and social distancing during the pandemic, created intimate moments and some beautiful aerial, birds-eye view art with umbrellas. A reflection question was asked of each participant, "What do you tell yourself when you face adversity?" Their answers, written on brightly colored post-it notes, provided words of strength and bravery.
California Botanic Garden – California's largest botanic garden dedicated to California native plants, promoting botany, conservation, and horticulture to inspire, inform and educate the public and scientific community about California's native flora. The Garden is a living museum with curated collections of more than 22,000 California native plants, some of which are rare or endangered. A post-breakfast walk through the 86 acre garden area in mid-morning, before the day heats up, is recommended. Allow 90+ minutes to 3 hours. Don't worry, you won't be walking the full acreage. Located 1 mile north of downtown. Take Indian Hill Blvd. to Foothill Blvd., Right on Foothill, Left on College Ave. into the parking lot. (Open Friday and Saturday. Please note that dogs are not allowed, so leave puppies at home.) The garden opens at 8:00 a.m. Take water, a hat, and some good walking shoes.
Claremont Hills Wilderness Park – Located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest, the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park offers nature lovers a five-mile walking loop, along with smaller trails. The loop is one of the most popular in the Inland Empire, offering moderate elevation and dramatic views stretching to Downtown L.A., Catalina Island, and the Inland Empire basin. The 2.8-mile Thompson Creek Trail that abuts the park's southern point is also popular with walkers, runners, bicyclists, and leashed dogs.
The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College - The newly opened (June 2021) Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College provides a space for some of Southern California's most compelling and experimental exhibitions. For decades, Pomona College has played a key part in shaping innovative artists, including Helen Pashgian, James Turrell, Peter Shelton, the late Marcia Hafif, and the late Chris Burden. Benton's collection includes pieces from these alumni, and future exhibitions will place emphasis on cutting-edge art in the Los Angeles region. We loved the sculptures in the surrounding courtyard. This museum offers contemporary, lively, and innovative exhibitions and programs to link the creative energy of experiencing art. Admission is free and open to the public.
James Turrell Skyspace, "Dividing the Light," in the Draper Courtyard, (corner of 6th Ave. & College Way). If you love art, pick up some of those pies from I Love Pie and head over to one of the lighting programs, which are keyed to sunset and sunrise. The evening program begins about 25 minutes before sunset and continues for approximately one hour. The sunrise lighting program begins 100 minutes before sunrise. Between the sunset and sunrise programs, the canopy of the Skyspace is illuminated. Every hour on the hour, there is a brief (3 minute) chime of light. This architectural installation heightens the viewer's awareness of light, sky, and the activity of perception. It's an incredible example of public art. Visitors sit on benches beneath a canopy that frames a window to the sky. The lighting program bathes the canopy in changing colors, from goldenrod to turquoise, altering the viewer's perception of the sky. A shallow pool centered beneath the opening to the sky mirrors the daytime sky and reflects a dark echo of the night sky. Absolutely mesmerizing and yet incredibly chill. See https://www.pomona.edu/museum/collections/james-turrell-skyspace
Happiness is... Shopping!
Spend the afternoon strolling through Claremont boutiques and other locally-owned shops in the Claremont Village, Packing House, and Claremont Village Square. Claremont is filled with locally owned stores that offer a stroll-and-shop experience second to none and give the downtown area its unique vibe. Did you know, Claremont was the first city in Southern California to declare itself a Fair Trade Town? There are a number of boutiques and restaurants that are leading the way, including the following:
• Buddhamouse Emporium – (134 Yale Ave.) is a peaceful haven that offers a wide range of ritual objects, spiritual statuary, inspirational books, artistic creations, and unique jewelry.
• Rio de Ojas – (250 Harvard Ave.) offers a unique blend of Mexican Folk Art, Home Decor, Day of the Dead, Frida, Mexican Chocolates, Hand Painted Mexican Dishes, Imported Spanish Foods, and so much more.
• Studio Claremont – 522 W. First St. (inside the historic Packing House) a children's art studio located offering art lessons in various mediums for school-aged kids.
Other local retailers putting a unique, Claremont spin on shopping include:
• Rhino Records – (235 Yale Ave.) in-store shopping and a full-service Record Store, offering new and used Vinyl Records, CD's and DVDs. We could've spent hours there. It was literally the first record story my daughter has ever set foot in, which I never would have imagined 20 years ago.
• Maple Boutique – (456 W. First St.) women's apparel and accessories ranging from casual chic to activewear that appeals to all ages. We represent a fun-loving and carefree fashion style, offering a mix of California name brands and private trendy labels to create a one-of-a-kind sense of style to call your own.
• Nectar – (319 W. First St.) specializes in fresh & fashionable women's clothing at a sweet price. In 2017, Nectar (@nectarclothing + all affiliated Nectar locations) and their women's shop For Good (@forgoodcommunity), became an official give-back brand. They donate 10% of all profits toward helping local kids in need by giving brand new, brand name clothing, to boost their self-confidence, which in turn helps lead to better success with education for underprivileged youth. We loved this shop!
• Grove Vintage & The Grove Home – Clothing, Accessories, & Home Goods - we had so much fun shopping in both of these stores and you earn points towards purchases if you shop in both. Needless to say, most of my holiday gift-giving will be from The Grove Home; it's awesome!
Visit the Folk Music Center & Museum – (220 Yale Ave. + only open Weds-Sat) This is one of the coolest shops we've been to and if you're an aspiring musician or just love music, definitely check it out. Owned by Grammy-winning, singer-songwriter Ben Harper's family, this features a collection of rare and antique musical instruments and artifacts from around the world. Ben's mother and recording partner, Ellen Harper ("Childhood Home"), can usually be found behind the counter. The Folk Music Center offers classes and workshops for budding musicians, a lineup of musical performances from local and international folk performers, and an Open Mic on the last Sunday of every month. Check out Ellen's new book. "Always A Song," on sale in the store. The kids will love all the cool musical instruments on display and to touch.
On Weekends head to the Sunday Farmer & Artisans Market at Harvard Ave. & Second St.
The Claremont Forum has hosted this open-air market since 1996, and it is among the region's
largest with more than 100 grower and artisan members regularly participating. Look for the weekly bookstall sponsored by the Claremont Forum's Prison Library Project featuring a fantastic selection of used books available at low prices - proceeds support the project.
We made sure to grab some fruit and other snacks for the hotel and car ride home.
With over 24,000 trees on public land and more than 10,000 residents with advanced degrees, it's no wonder that Claremont is called the "City of Trees and PhDs." Whether or not you have a child looking into colleges, the seven Claremont Colleges (five undergraduate, two graduate) cover roughly one square mile and are filled with beautiful lawns, gardens, public squares, and interesting architecture. The five colleges are regularly ranked among the top liberal arts schools in the nation, with Pomona College, Claremont McKenna College, and Harvey Mudd College among the top-14 in U.S. News and World Report's 2016 rankings, and Scripps College and Pitzer College also ranked in the top-40.
When checking out the colleges, as we did just for fun, be sure to include the following on your list of things to see on each campus:
• Bridges Auditorium, 450 N. College Way.
• Bridges Hall of Music (Little Bridges), 150 E. 4th St.
• James Turrell Skyspace, "Dividing the Light,"
• Margaret Fowler Garden, featured in Westways Magazine as a top reason to visit Claremont's
campuses, on Amherst Ave. north of 9th Street
• "Inscription Walk," a walk featuring inspirational quotes from famous women throughout
history, directly south of the President's house at Amherst Ave. & 9th Street
Claremont McKenna College
• Chris Burden's (1946-2015) "Meet in the Middle" sculpture of metal benches and
streetlamps – reminiscent of his "Urban Lights" installation at LACMA – is located in front of
the school's Roberts Pavilion athletic center (690 Mills Ave.).
• Kravis Center, 888 Columbia Ave. This LEED Silver Certified complex at the university's
western gateway opened in 2001. It features ascending cantilevered terraces, natural light,
green space, and an all-glass "living room" that is a central component of the college's
interior courtyard. From the courtyard enjoy an open view of the campus quad.
Harvey Mudd College
• Hixon Court, the Venus statue in the koi pond here is by the Flemish-Italian sculptor Giovanni
Bologna (1529-1608), on-campus just north of Columbia Ave. entrance
During the school year, galleries (including the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College) are open on weekends, making Sunday a good day to take a walking tour.
Nightlife - Events including Live Music, Theatre, Celebration
There are a number of adult choices for after-dinner and evening entertainment in Claremont which only means I'll have to return to this amazing gem of a city on a girl's weekend! For some awesome family-friendly amusement, we highly recommend the coolest retro arcade ever!
• Lost Levels (530 West 1st Street) is a retro arcade featuring a large collection of retro game
machines and video game consoles, located inside the historical Claremont Packing House.
Play their growing collection of original classic arcade games and modern pinball machines. All Games Are Set on Free-Play Just pay admission and enjoy unlimited play for the duration of your stay! No quarters needed. Their retail store sells novelty items and console gaming from all generations. You and the family can play every game and then buy video games from retro to modern to take with you. It's really quite the experience for all ages!
• The Claremont Colleges performing arts programs throughout the school year are also ticket-worthy. The Pomona College Department of Theatre and Dance serves as the theatre program for all five undergraduate Claremont Colleges, presenting four major productions and a dance concert each year in the modern Seaver Theatre Complex. Majors and non-majors alike, serve as performers and production personnel for a dynamic season of student-generated productions.
• Local musicians perform regularly at Lounge Casa 425 and other Claremont restaurants. Check age restrictions before you go.
• Laemmle 5 Movie Theater has 5 auditoriums with stadium seating, wall-to-wall screens, and a complete Covid-safety protocol. The houses range in size from 113 to 250 seats. They offer matinee, senior, and student special prices. You can also check out their Virtual Cinema and Anniversary Classics.
For adults only:
• The PianoPiano Dueling Piano Show (555 W. Foothill Blvd.) is adjacent to the DoubleTree Hotel and features performers who frequent the Las Vegas piano scene. Showtimes are 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends (dark Sundays).
• The famous Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater (455 W. Foothill Blvd.), also near the
DoubleTree features Broadway performances in a dinner theater setting.
• Local bands perform nightly at The Press Restaurant (129 Harvard Ave.).
The City of Claremont offers events year-round including a Halloween Spooktacular, a Holiday Promenade, a Spring Celebration, Friday Nights Live, Concerts and Movies in the Park. The Taste of Claremont is a great time to visit as well, when more than 40 local restaurants, wineries, and breweries proudly provide samples of their wares. There is live music, an art exhibition, and cool raffle prizes. The Village Venture is an annual event where family, friends & neighbors come together to enjoy music, food, and the arts. Get your holiday shopping done early as you walk the streets of the Claremont Village lined with over 450 booths selling unique art, original crafts, and apparel. Explore local businesses and non-profit organizations as you experience the beauty and architecture of the unique village of Claremont.
If you know someone who will be visiting Claremont soon, you might want to consider some Discover Claremont gift cards. These would make a great holiday "experience" gift. The cards are redeemable at more than 140 participating Chamber members, including 40+ restaurants and pubs.
We were hosted by Discover Claremont and all opinions are my own.