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5 Unique Places in California to Time Travel

5 Unique Places in California to Time Travel

From the Roaring Twenties to Hollywood's Golden Age, explore California's unique places that capture yesteryear's good times. Team


4 min read

April 07, 2023

California is a state filled with rich history and stunning scenery, and what better way to experience it than by time-traveling to a different era? From the glitz and glamour of the 1920s to the bustling commerce of the Gold Rush, California offers a variety of destinations that will transport you back in time. Here are two places to start your time-traveling adventure:

Catalina Island is a gem in California. If you haven't visited, make it a point to soon.

Step into the 1920s at Catalina Island

Catalina Island is a picturesque getaway that offers a glimpse into the glamorous era of the Roaring Twenties. Located just off the coast of Southern California, this island paradise has been a popular destination for Hollywood's elite since the early 1900s. The town of Avalon, the island's main hub, is home to art deco architecture and vintage storefronts that will make you feel like you've stepped back in time.

A must-visit on Catalina Island is the historic Catalina Casino, a grand venue that has been the centerpiece of the island's entertainment scene since 1929. While it's not a traditional casino, it does offer stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and hosts events like concerts, dances, and screenings of classic movies. The Casino's beautiful art deco design and vintage charm will make you feel like you're in a time machine, transported back to the heyday of Hollywood.

Another iconic spot on Catalina Island is the Hotel Atwater, which has been welcoming guests since 1920. Named after the wife of Philip Knight Wrigley, Helen Atwater Wrigley, the hotel has played host to many famous guests. The hotel's interior is decorated with vintage photographs and memorabilia, making it feel like a museum of the Roaring Twenties. A stay at the Hotel Atwater is the perfect way to fully immerse yourself in the history and glamour of the 1920s.

Taking a ride on The Delta King is an essential experience when visiting Old Sacramento.

Discover California's Gold Rush History in Old Sacramento

For a different kind of time-traveling experience, head to Old Sacramento, a historic district that transports you back to the days of the Gold Rush. This charming neighborhood, located in the heart of Sacramento, features preserved buildings, wooden sidewalks, and horse-drawn carriages that will make you feel like you've stepped back in time to the 1850s.

One of the must-visit destinations in Old Sacramento is the Sacramento History Museum, which offers an in-depth look at the area's rich history. Exhibits include artifacts from the Gold Rush era and displays of Sacramento's role in the Civil War and the Transcontinental Railroad. The museum also offers walking tours of Old Sacramento, led by knowledgeable guides who will take you on a journey through time.

Another must-see attraction in Old Sacramento is the California State Railroad Museum, which houses an impressive collection of vintage trains and railroad artifacts. The museum is located in a historic building that dates back to 1867 and is filled with interactive exhibits that will delight both children and adults. One of the highlights of the museum is the opportunity to ride a historic steam train through the Sacramento River Train Excursion.

For a truly unique experience in Old Sacramento, book a ride on a historic riverboat and float down the Sacramento River. The Delta King, a steamboat that was originally built in 1927, has been restored to its former glory and offers dining, entertainment, and overnight accommodations. As you glide down the river, you can imagine the bustling commerce of the Gold Rush era and get a sense of what life was like in California in the 1850s.

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Capitola is unmatched in beauty and will deliver those perfect Instagrammable views.

Escape to a 1950s Beach Town in Capitola

If you're looking for a retro beach getaway, head to Capitola, a charming beach town along the coast of Monterey Bay. Capitola's colorful rows of pastel-hued, vintage beachfront bungalows offer a nostalgic retreat to the 1950s. Take a stroll through the quaint streets and feel like you've stepped back in time to a simpler era.

One of the highlights of Capitola is the historic Capitola Wharf, which dates back to 1857. The wharf offers stunning views of Monterey Bay and is a great spot for fishing or simply taking in the sea breeze. You can also enjoy classic California beach vibes with a visit to the local surf shops and old-school ice cream parlors, like the famous Marianne's Ice Cream.

Capitola is a laid-back destination that offers a unique blend of vintage charm and coastal beauty, making it the perfect place to unwind and soak up the sun.

Experience Hollywood's Golden Age at the TCL Chinese Theatre

For a taste of Hollywood's Golden Age, head to the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. This historic movie palace, which opened in 1927, has hosted countless film premieres and star-studded events over the years. The theater's forecourt is adorned with the handprints and footprints of legendary stars, including Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, and Judy Garland, allowing you to walk in the footsteps of Hollywood icons.

The TCL Chinese Theatre offers a range of experiences that will transport you back in time. Catch a classic film screening and watch a movie the way it was meant to be seen, on the big screen. The theater also offers guided tours, which take you behind the scenes and offer a glimpse into the theater's storied past. You can learn about the intricate architecture, the hand-crafted dragon on the ceiling, and the many famous faces that have graced the stage over the years.

For those that love architecture, Palm Springs is a delight filled with fantastic buildings and homes.

Revel in Mid-Century Modernism in Palm Springs

Palm Springs is a mecca for mid-century modern architecture and design, with many iconic buildings and homes designed by famous architects like Richard Neutra, John Lautner, and Albert Frey. The city's unique desert landscape provides a stunning backdrop for the clean lines and bold shapes of mid-century modern design.

One of the must-do activities in Palm Springs is taking a tour of the city's iconic homes and buildings. Several tour companies offer guided tours, where you can see famous homes like the Kaufmann Desert House, the Tramway Gas Station, and the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway. The tours offer insight into the architects' design philosophies and how they incorporated the natural landscape into their designs.

Don't miss the Palm Springs Art Museum's Architecture and Design Center, which offers exhibitions and programs that explore the city's rich design history. The museum has a vast collection of mid-century modern design objects, including furniture, textiles, and ceramics, as well as temporary exhibitions that showcase contemporary design.

California offers many destinations that will take you on a journey through time. From the glamorous 1920s to the laid-back beach towns of the 1950s to the mid-century modernism of Palm Springs, there's something for everyone who wants to experience a different era. Whether you're a history buff or simply looking for a unique getaway, these time-traveling adventures are sure to transport you to a different time and offer a glimpse into California's rich past.

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