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The Golden State is renowned for its diverse landscapes. Encompassing everything from undulating coastlines to rigid mountain peaks and dry deserts to dense forests, the state's beauty often lies off the beaten path. While populated cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles often receive all the attention, the small towns in California frequently go unnoticed. The hidden beauty of these tiny towns is left undiscovered as cars pass by on the way to another destination, making these some of the most underrated small towns in California.
The Best Small Towns in California
Nestled in Placer County and known for its Gold Rush history, Auburn is a sleepy town that deserves some recognition. Located west of the Sierra Nevada—on Highway 80 between Sacramento and Truckee—Auburn offers mom-and-pop boutiques, cafés, and miles of running and biking trails. This small town is an idyllic getaway with a little bit of everything.
Considered the oldest seaside resort along the West Coast, Capitola has been a unique destination for over a century. Good weather, decent surf conditions, and endless beauty are enough reasons to take a trip to this vibrant destination between Santa Cruz and Monterey, but add in the town’s quaint shops, tasty bites, and sandy beaches, and you’ll never want to leave.
Situated about an hour east of San Francisco, Danville is the family-friendly destination you’ve been dreaming about. Complete with dozens of incredible eateries, opportunities to explore the outdoors, and a refreshing lack of tourists, this East Bay town is a hidden gem.
Ferndale is easily one of the coolest small towns in Northern California. Best known for its dairy and artisanal cheesemongers, Ferndale is the ideal place to escape city life. Peruse the independently owned shops and enjoy the slow pace before wandering over to the nearby beaches, forests, and rivers that make the northern portion of the state so beautiful.
Known for its vineyards and picturesque location between Napa and the Pacific Ocean, Sonoma offers a low-key way to experience Wine Country. Wander around the art galleries, acclaimed eateries, and rolling hills to leave with a better appreciation of the small cities in California.
Out of all the small towns in Southern California, Ventura is absolutely one of my favorites. With chill vibes and an active lifestyle, there’s always beauty to see in Ventura. Walk along the pier, explore the San Buenaventura Mission, or spend the day on the beach to see why this coastal town is a great vacation destination.
What small towns do you think are underrated? Let us know in the comments below.