Disclosure: I was invited to visit Claremont and received complimentary lodging, meals and entertainment. All opinion is my own.
Claremont has long been one of my favorite SoCal cities. I have family in the area and we sometimes meet in town for a meal. Yet, in all the years I’ve visited I’ve rarely stayed more than a couple of hours. I knew the area was ripe for exploring so when I was invited to visit for a couple of days I jumped at the chance.
Claremont is a quaint town nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Filled with historic structures and numerous trees it’s home to the Claremont Colleges – a group of seven small colleges within walking distance of each other. Since it’s a college town it’s also home to a lively downtown filled with restaurants and unique shops.
During my visit I stayed in the lovely Hotel Casa 425. Located within walking distance of several restaurants and attractions it’s a quiet retreat in the heart of the active downtown.
The well appointed rooms open onto a quaint courtyard filled with ample seating. When I arrived I was immediately impressed by the size of my room which contained a seating area, king size bed, large soaking tub and bathroom with ease.
Unfortunately, I never had the time to make use of the tub but was quite satisfied with the equally large shower.
The hotel offers several amenities including a continental breakfast, daily happy hour and bicycles. As I was so busy exploring the town I had little time to make use of much of them yet I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. The staff was very friendly and accommodating and, despite being near the train tracks, the hotel was very quiet. I slept like a baby on the comfortable mattress and never had to make use of the complimentary ear plugs.
Just across the street from Casa 425 is the Claremont Packing House.
Once home to a thriving citrus industry the packing house was one of the city’s largest employers. After closing in 1972 it fell into a period of decline before being restored in 2007. Today it’s a hub of activity and home to a number of small businesses. During my stay I frequented it meeting friends for dinner at the Whisper Lounge, getting morning coffee at Augie’s and enjoying a cool treat at 21 Choices (located just across the courtyard).
A few blocks from the Packing House is Claremont Village home to much of the area’s shops and restaurants and I spent much of my visit there. I met my family for lunch at Walters Restaurant, a Claremont institution. The menu is largely classic American fare with some Afghan specialties thrown in.
Intrigued by these we decided to order the Afghan fries, Bolawnies and Hummus. YUM. All three dishes were delicious and my entire family loved them.
Just down the street from Walters is another Claremont institution, the Folk Music Center.
Founded in 1958 it’s been supplying the town with instruments ever since. In addition there’s a large collection of international folk instruments on display. The store is a wonder to behold and I enjoyed my time looking around at all the unique pieces on display.
At the Cheese Cave I was assisted by the affable cheese-monger, Jamil, and stocked up on a variety of delicious meats and cheeses. As for Bert & Rocky’s – I’ve been going there for years and can’t resist stopping in when I’m in town. Nowhere else can I find such a delicious tin roof sundae.
While much of Claremont’s activity centers around the village there are a couple of true treasures just outside the center of town. Located on a high school campus is the small, yet impressive Raymond M. Alf Paleontology Museum.
The museum houses an impressive array of specimens and has one of the largest fossil trackway collections in the country. It’s also very kid friendly with several interactive exhibits and a dig pit. I have a little buddy who’s a budding paleontologist and I took him with me to the museum. He had a blast digging for fossils and when we left he asked I could bring him again.
A short drive from the museum is the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Encompassing 86 acres the garden is home to a large variety of native plants.
Unfortunately, on my visit temperatures hovered in the triple digits and I simply didn’t have the energy to trek the entire grounds. Still, I managed to view a large portion of the gardens and was impressed by the flora on display.
A definite highlight was the majestic oak which was simply beautiful and provided much needed shade on the hot day.
A large part of Claremont is its 7 college campuses and I couldn’t leave town without visiting them. One evening I headed to Pomona College to catch a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Performed by local theatre group Ophelia’s Jump it was an entertaining performance under the stars. My only prior experience with Shakespeare was having to read it in high school and let’s just say I wasn’t a fan. Seeing it performed live was a true treat and brought me a newfound appreciation for the bard.
During the day I made sure to stroll around nearby Scripps College. Founded in 1926 this women’s college has one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever seen.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places it’s a lovely place to wonder around. Plus, it houses a very unique campus feature.
Along one building is a series of murals painted by each year’s graduating class. Not only is it a timeline of the college but it’s a true insight into American history. From early murals detailing World War II to Mid-Century pieces touching on the turmoil of the 60’s to modern day’s mention of environmentalism it’s a fascinating piece to behold. I felt like I stumbled upon a true treasure and spent a good deal of time viewing the pieces.
Alas, my tour around Scripps Campus also signified the end of my weekend in Claremont. I had a wonderful time exploring the food, culture and beauty of the area. Claremont is a true treasure and remains one of my favorite spots in Southern California.