November 28, 2017

Charming Main Streets & Historic Downtowns in Southern California


When we say "Southern California" you probably think of big flashy theme parks, sun-soaked golden beaches, celebrities, surf boards, and crashing waves.

You're not wrong. Southern California has all of that, but there's MORE. When you visit Southern California you're also stepping into a diverse part of the United States full of local flavor, local history, and local artistry. One of the best ways to experience all that awesomeness is to visit our local main streets and historic downtowns. Here are just a few of our favorites, listed from north to south.

2nd Street Belmont Shore:
Bikes and strollers, locals walking dogs or carrying shopping bags - Belmont Shore's 2nd Street shopping district always seems to be bustling with friendly activity! Over 250 businesses line 2nd Street and it's surrounding side streets, filling this charming business district with a variety of offerings from pizzerias and cafes to couture boutiques and garden shops.Stop into Cheese Addiction to browse cheeses from all over the world and take home a hand-selected collection, or visit Laurenly where you'll find fun creative fashions with a California beach vibe!

Looking for more? 2nd Street crosses the bay and continues onto Naples Island , a charming neighborhood full of beautiful beach houses and small shops. Make sure to visit during the holiday season to see some impressive decorations, and watch the Christmas boat parade!

(P.S. 2nd Street is just a couple of blocks from our Belmont Shore vacation rental , so if you're staying with us at Belmont Shore, be sure to visit this charming shopping district!)

Seal Beach :
With Long Beach to the north and Huntington Beach a little further south it can be easy to overlook Seal Beach and to miss out on a small beach town gem! Small, casual, unique, and fun, Seal Beach has a small town vibe and is not as commercialized our touristy as some of our other local areas. In Seal Beach you'll find tiny boutiques and gift shops, scrumptious cinnamon rolls at the local bakery, and coffee with an ocean view at Bogart's Coffee Shop .

Make sure to take a walk on the pier and spend some time at the local beach (which is known for being clean and not crowded). And if you're looking for more small town adventure, take Pacific Coast Highway north to explore Naples Island and Belmont Shore!

Old Town Orange:
If you're truly a lover of small town shopping and historic downtowns, Old Town Orange is a must-visit! Located a little further inland, Old Town Orange is just southeast of Disneyland and the Outlets at Orange. The largest historic district in Southern California, Orange's Old Towne Historic District is one square mile in size and includes examples of over 50 architectural styles, hearkening back to the 1880's-1940's. Take a walk through southern California's history, and enjoy a day shopping at some of the best local antique shops, galleries, and specialty boutiques in SoCal! You'll also find plenty of quaint eateries and tearooms, with ample outdoor dining so you can keep soaking up the vintage vibes of this historic neighborhood.

Not sure where to start with Old Town Orange? Why not book a food tour? Local food tours get great reviews and are an awesome way to get a taste of the local cuisine!

Huntington Beach:
Don't visit Southern California without making a stop in Surf City! With almost 10 miles of sandy beaches, excellent surfing, picturesque wooden pier, and International Surfing Museum, Huntington Beach is a must-visit to experience the local surf culture of SoCal.

Huntington Beach's Main Street starts at Ruby's Diner out on the end of the pier and continues onto the coast lined with restaurants and eateries like Duke's Huntington Beach, Hurricanes Bar & Grill, Nekter Juice Bar, Perqs, and more, along with shops where you can find your next pair of sandals, swimwear, surf gear and other essential California attire. It's a thoroughly West Coast experience in one of California's most iconic beach towns.

Balboa Island:
If you're vacationing in or near Newport Beach, Balboa Island is a must-visit. This little man-made island packs so many wonderful experiences into its small space from creative local seafood to handcrafted jewelry and juices to beach fashions and more. Make sure to try a Balboa Bar or frozen banana on warm days, and take some time to stroll through the local neighborhood to look at the cute houses and gardens.

For an extra-special experience, get out on the water with a ride on the Balboa Island Ferry or a private gondola tour of Newport's residential canals!

Avalon Catalina Island:
If you're visiting us for a longer stay in Southern California, why not plan a day trip to Catalina Island? You can easily catch a ferry from Long Beach, Dana Point, or Newport Beach and spend the day exploring the town of Avalon, surrounding the beautiful Avalon Bay on Catalina Island.

The list of things to do on Catalina is long, so no matter what your group likes to do you'll have a great time. Glass bottom boat tours and whale watching and fishing tours offer an opportunity to see some local marine life, while rugged hikes and the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden allow you to take in all the local scenery and get some exercise too. Or you can simply explore Avalon! Visit the historic Catalina Island Casino , the Catalina Island Museum, take a food tour, browse the many local shops and restaurants , or spend a day at the spa!

Downtown San Clemente :
We have to admit, of all our quaint local towns, Downtown San Clemente is our personal favorite. Downtown San Clemente extends along Avenida Del Mar and El Camino Real, lined with a vast array of shops and restaurants. From the beautiful Spanish Style architecture to the scenic pier to the beloved local shops and cafes like Nicks, Bear Coast Coffee, Antoine's, and The Cellar, we just can't get enough of San Clemente! Stroll through the shops and boutiques, enjoy a leisurely brunch at Cafe Mimosa, take in the views at Casa Romantica, and make sure to visit our local farmer's Market on Sundays! If you're in town on the first Sunday of the month you're in for a special treat: on the first Sunday of the month the Village Art Faire joins the farmer's market showcasing the works of local artisans including blown glass, jewelry, ceramics, and more!

Los Rios District San Juan Capistrano :
The oldest continually occupied neighborhood in California, the Los Rios District of San Juan Capistrano has buildings dating back to 1794! To take a walk through this enchanting historic area is to take a step back in time as you stroll along streets lined with old houses, some of which have been converted into quaint local shops or cozy little restaurants. Make sure to visit Hummingbird Cottage, Hidden House Coffee, and Ramos House Cafe, and if you have the time stop over to Mission San Juan Capistrano as well for even more Southern California history! The old time atmosphere and architecture of Los Rios make it a great place to get a few vacation pictures, and if you're looking for something to entertain the kids, make sure to stop into Zoomars petting zoo!

Carlsbad Village :
Last but not least, if you're headed south toward San Diego, do not miss Carlsbad Village! A relaxing and family friendly downtown, Carlsbad Village is a great place for walking, window-shopping, people watching, and of course, dining! There are over 75 dining options to choose from in the Village from sandwiches at Board & Brew to creative seafood at The Land & Water Co to frosty delights at Gaia Gelato. You'll also find a wealth of salons and spas in Carlsbad Village, along with shops, galleries, and more. Sounds like a vacation!

Make sure to visit the farmer's market on Wednesday evening to find fresh produce, locally produced goods, and grab a casual dinner!

Looking for even more local flavor?
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