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The Oldest Cities in Southern California

The Oldest Cities in Southern California

Take a trip through the pages of the Golden State’s history and discover the oldest cities in Southern California.

Natasha Kouyoumjian


5 min read

February 13, 2024

If there’s one thing that all cities in southern California have in common, it’s diversity. From friendly Santa Monica beaches to the unfiltered movie culture of Hollywood, cities in SoCal attract visitors from all over the world for their unique charm and culture. Though these destinations offer fluffy take-away experiences, they can be spun into fun historic affairs as well. Even with so much history lying under the foundations, California’s oldest towns don’t look a day over the 21st century.

If it isn’t already, the LA County Fair, held in Pomona, must be added to your bucket list!

1. Pomona

The namesake of the Roman goddess of fruit, the city of Pomona welcomes you to its delightful town. Pomona became a part of the United States in the 1830s, making it one of the oldest cities in southern California, but its contemporary vibrance leaves you feeling refreshed and raving with energy. Pomona is also well-known as the gracious host of the annual LA County Fair, which was first held in 1922 and has been a long-standing tradition since.

You know what they say about cities – a great city, a great solitude. And Pomona is nothing less than a harmonious city, uniting citizens with merging cultural appeals. With the swiftness of the 21st century comes fast pace interests. When visiting the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona you’ll get to enjoy a thrilling show of racing cars and a bonding time with the community. To get a deeper peek into the city feels, the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is full of memorabilia dedicated to the national sport of hot rodding. 

Looking for a more calming experience in town? The American Museum of Ceramic Arts is one of the city's landmarks. Shower your eyes in the visual serenity, calming ambiance, and palette of vigorous colors. Bearing in mind the cultural richness, the museum is also a lovely place to take a stroll, unwind, and unblock your senses with some inspiration.

From the Chumash villages to the Spanish terracotta architecture, Santa Barbara has tangible history at your fingertips.

2. Santa Barbara

Tracing back history, the evidence of human habitation is well evident in this old town which was founded in 1786. At the time of the first European explorations, it is said that five Chumash villages occupied the south of this coastal city. Santa Barbara is rich with culture, history, beautiful architecture, and the county's gem - the Danish village of Solvang. When you visit Solvang you’ll be transported straight into bygone Danish lands where the buildings - and pastry shops - will make you feel like you’ve suddenly traveled to Europe.

Along with the beachside vacation, give your trip a more captivating twist while trekking the before and after of the Chumash townlets and their present standings in modern-day Santa Barbara. You’ll be shocked to discover so many glimmers of the past sitting in random areas, such as the Santa Barbara City College – formerly known as the old Mispu town.

An immense array of unique things to do await in this old town of California. Though the guide to Santa Barbara carries a long list, one of the things to keep in mind is the Old Mission Santa Barbara. Get ready to be transported back to the time of the Spanish influence through the Queen of Missions. With the stucco walls and the terracotta roof rails, open your eyes to the reality of the boundless cultural diversities the town has genuinely gone through.  

The annual festivals never end in this pocket of San Diego.

3. Old Town San Diego

Whether it’s San Dieguito or San Diego’s pocket, they’re all talking about the oldest city in California. Though once inhabited by the Kumeyaay, the original inhabitants of the region are known to be the La Jolla people. Famed for being the birthplace of California, the area wasn’t incorporated until the 1850s.

With its aging buildings and old town architecture, one of the most historic cities in southern California invites you into its treasure cove. One thing to keep on your radar while visiting this city is the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Take a long stroll in this pedestrian area that will carry you through time with its charming aura. 

Art and architecture, what’s next? One thing that can wrap up this cultural experience is – drumroll – food! With its national recognition for its amazing restaurants, curiosity will want to drive its way to the belly! It's recommended to leave some room for a mouthwatering Mexican fiesta.

The City Hall in Pasadena is a materialized daydream.

4. Old Pasadena

Craving some flavor in your trips to the olden cities of southern California? Appointed as an official historic district, Old Town Pasadena is the perfect ingredient to add to your travel itinerary when visiting small towns in southern California. Located in Pasadena, this area is nesting eccentric and unconventional museums such as USC Pacific Asia and Kidspace Children's Museum. With its high-spirited energy and harmonious atmosphere, Old Pasadena’s downtown district is a sheer amalgamation of the old and the new. 

Of the cities in southern CA, Old Pasadena is the one to have staged a Rose Tournament in the 1930s, which has now turned into the most famous parade in the United States. The annual Rose Parade, followed by the famous Rose Bowl Game, runs through Colorado boulevard and draws a crowd of up to 1.5 million people every year! If you’re in town on New Year’s Day, you can catch the event in person in Pasadena, or watch the magic on TV from the comfort of your home.

The Town Hall clock tower can be found in the Old Town neighborhood.

5. Temecula Old Town

Your trip to Temecula will instantly gain a touch of flavor when you stop to check out one of the oldest towns in southern California. This town is a wanderlust with its lighthearted history and cheerful attractions. Along with a vast variety of greens, home to vineyards and a rich harvest, this town is a nonchalant movie setting welcoming tourists for a designated vacation. If you are a lavender lover, you’ll reach Nirvana with one step into the Temecula Lavender Company. And that’s not merely the coolest thing to do in Temecula

Taking a stroll in the painted garden will start your day nice and soft before you embark on the rich appeals of the old town. Make time to savor some of the city’s harvest at the Sweet Shoppe. Known for its antique fairs, and peculiarly reserved architecture, the old-time vibes are alive and well at all hours of the day. Catching a show at the Old Town Blues Club will reverse your clock to the days of the glorious B.B. King. 

It’s no wonder why the oldest cities in southern California are not just noted as old historical lands but are still thriving and popular tourist destinations today. Packed with history, culture, and beautiful sites, these towns have aged like fine wine. 

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