Main street of Sausalito, California. Image credit bluestork via

9 Most Inviting Towns in California

Also known as the “Golden State”, California is an essential part of the United States, whose culture, economy, and famed climate have made it a favorite destination to live and visit for over a century. Celebrated for its film industry, its amusement parks, and its unique historical setting, California is indeed one of the very best places to explore in the USA. Though such major cities as Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco still dominate much attention, the “Golden State” also has a number of smaller but equally fascinating towns that are worthy of a first-hand discovery. Here, all the natural beauty and cultural richness that are intrinsic to California can be found in quieter and more intimate settings, giving guests the opportunity to appreciate the state further outside the major urban centers. So come see California and visit these most inviting towns, perfect for the entire family to enjoy!


Back street in Mendocino, United States.
Back street in Mendocino, United States. Editorial credit: oliverdelahaye /

Situated in the same named county, the town of Mendocino is home to a modest population of just over 900 residents. A stunning locale right on Northern California’s coast, the town can trace its modern history to the 1850s, and indeed, today, much of the town is featured on the National Register of Historic Places. Walk through the charming streets of this seaside community and truly get a feeling of time travel, where a nice assortment of Victorian-style homes and buildings dot the landscape. Meanwhile, for nature lovers, an afternoon at the Mendocino Headlands State Park is something they cannot miss. Covering an area of some 347 acres, stunning bluffs, and small islands create a true sense of awe, while the nearby Big River and its associated beaches are absolutely splendid sights. With its mix of 19th-century character and beautiful ocean geography, Mendocino is indeed one of California’s most pretty and inviting destinations.

Carmel By The Sea

Carmel-By-The-Sea is a relaxing place to take in the sights
Carmel-By-The-Sea is a relaxing place to take in the sights. Image credit pbk-pg via Shutterstock

Looking for breathtaking Pacific Ocean views, rocky cliffsides, and rolling hills? Then, the coastal community of Carmel By The Sea is indeed the perfect place! A popular place with the touring public and local artists alike, Carmel is situated on the Pacific Coast Highway and is a definite place of creative inspiration. Browse through the many locally owned artist studios and galleries while inviting and charming antique houses and other small cottages beautifully fill the ambiance. And with its cool year-round climate, Carmel By The Sea is indeed a nice place to get away from some of California’s hotter places. Enjoy a special seaside meal, visit a boutique shop, take in the views, and see why Carmel By The Sea is one California town one will want to visit time and again!


Street view in Sausalito, California
Street view in Sausalito, California, via f11photo /

This means “Small Willow Grove” in Spanish. The beautiful town of Sausalito is one of Northern California’s prettiest places, and it is conveniently located just six miles from San Francisco. Established in the 1890s and now home to a population of just over 7,000 residents, this wonderful North Bay town offers moderate temperatures year round and is full of a great variety of restaurants, galleries, shopping outlets, and, of course, loads of stunning scenery. Spend time at any of Sausalito’s public parks or catch the breezes down by the town’s harbors. Indeed, one can even choose to rent a houseboat for a most unique experience. And, of course, as part of the greater San Francisco area, one cannot miss out on breathtaking views of the beloved Golden Gate Bridge. And driving or cycling across this American icon is certainly a memory that will not soon be forgotten!

Mineral King

Mineral King area Sequoia National Park, California.
Mineral King area Sequoia National Park, California.

A mining town that shares its name with a stunning glacial valley, Mineral King is breathtakingly surrounded by the Sequoia National Park. With a history dating to the 1870s, this absolutely beautiful valley and associated camp town sits at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet and is rich in majestic mountain views. It is indeed an ideal place to be immersed in nature and escape the busyness of the big city. Marvel at the imposing and dramatic canyons, get a workout on the challenging hiking and biking trails, or simply admire the alluring flora and fauna indigenous to the area for a most remarkable outdoor experience. And with a number of campgrounds all around and pretty lakes (including Monarch and Eagle Lakes), Mineral King really does serve as a nice way to enjoy another side of California outside of its usual cultural attractions.

Laguna Beach

Street view in Laguna Beach, California
Street view in Laguna Beach, California, via PICTOR PICTURES /

Laguna Beach is a most welcoming and beautiful Orange County locale, where stunning beaches and luxury hotels fill the landscape. Just a short one-hour drive south of Los Angeles, this town of just over 23,000 residents was founded in the 1880s and continues to be a veritable hot spot for awesome ocean views and cultural delight. Featuring a thriving arts community, guests to Laguna Beach will find plenty of galleries, murals, public sculptures, and other local works of art that create a sense of living in the Mediterranean. Even some of the town’s buildings can be considered a work of art, and a fine collection of cute cottages along the coastline make it a quintessential example of postcard perfect. Add in hot summers and warm winters, golden sandy beaches, and amazing cliff sides, and Laguna Beach really is an awesome place to be in. Do not forget to go swimming and sailing, while true adventurers will not want to miss out on the chance to go surfing and even scuba diving!


Capitola Village Sunset Vibrancy. Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California
Capitola Village Sunset Vibrancy. Capitola, Santa Cruz County, California

With a modern history dating to the 1850s, Capitola is California’s oldest seaside resort town, and today, it is home to just under 10,000 inhabitants. Located on the shores of Monterey Bay, this Santa Cruz County town boasts moderate temperatures year round and visitors can expect to find loads of scenic beaches and a charming historic ambiance. Explore the Riverview Historic District and its pleasant views of Soquel Creek while the colorful and unique homes that make up the Venetian Court neighborhood definitely create the perfect photo opportunities. And, of course, fun opportunities to go sailing, swimming, and even fishing in the sparkling waters are never in short supply, meaning that a visit to Capitola is always a pleasure for all ages.


Arcata Plaza in California
Arcata Plaza in California, By Jss3255 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, File:Arcata McKinley Statue Wide.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Located near the picturesque Humboldt Bay, the town of Arcata was founded in the 1850s, where today, just under 19,000 inhabitants reside. With great scenic views and comfortably cool temperatures year round, Arcata is a most charming community where a nice variety of restaurants, bars, stores, galleries, and, of course, easy beach access fills the landscape. Admire the breathtaking panoramas of Humboldt Bay and the Pacific Ocean, where taking a stroll through the town’s assortment of restored Victorian-style buildings is always a delight. Spend an afternoon at Arcata Plaza, which has beautiful green space and inviting surrounding businesses. Do not forget about the variety of year-round events that are perfect for the entire family. These include the Spring Migration Bird Festival, the Oyster Festival, and exciting Fourth of July celebrations.

Oak Glen

Apple Annies Restaurant at Oak Tree Mountain, Oak Glen, California.
Apple Annies Restaurant at Oak Tree Mountain, Oak Glen, California.

Just under 400 inhabitants (according to 2022 census numbers) call the community of Oak Glen in Southern California home. Located at an elevation of some 4,700 feet, Oak Glen is nestled between the San Bernardino and Little San Bernardino Mountains and is a most welcoming and quaint place to enjoy the California sun in a small-town atmosphere. Established in the early 1900s, Oak Glen is well known for its extensive apple orchards (many of which are family-owned) and, by extension, delicious apple products. Enjoy such delights as apple cider, apple pies, apple butter, and, of course, sweet and crunchy red and green apples! Add in a cute assortment of rustic storefronts, shops, and little cafes, and Oak Glen is a definite snapshot of another time. Indeed, visiting this small town is a great way to step back from the busyness of modern life and enjoy the comforts of old-fashioned Americana in a most scenic landscape.


Mainstreet in the historic town of Placerville
Mainstreet in the historic town of Placerville, via Laurens Hoddenbagh /

The seat of El Dorado County, the town of Placerville, was founded as a gold mining center in the 1850s. Just some 44 miles from the California State Capital of Sacramento, today, just under 11,000 inhabitants call this charming and culturally attractive community home. Explore a number of well-preserved historic landmarks from the Gold Rush past (many of which are included on the National Register of Historic Places) and truly immerse yourself in the California of yesterday. Amongst the buildings of note include the Church of our Saviour (1865), Confidence Hall (1860), and the Placerville Soda Works building (1859). And do not forget about the Placerville Tower, Gold Bug Park, and the El Dorado County Historical Museum, amongst the other great attractions the whole family can enjoy. And with its hot summers and moderate winters, Placerville truly is delightful no matter what time of year, always ready to welcome guests to its most charming ambiance.

The rich cultural, historic, and natural beauty that is the “Golden State” of California has rightfully made it one of America’s most famed and beloved destinations. While, like any place, the major cities always attract much tourism, California also has a number of truly splendid smaller towns that are every bit as fascinating and beautiful as their larger counterparts. From the coastline views of Carmel By The Sea to the gold mining history of Placerville, these and other towns are perfect reflections of why California has earned its “Golden” moniker. So come and experience California across an exploration of these smaller towns that, although they may be less famous, contain all the magic and wonder that visitors have come to expect of that hot land called California.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 9 Most Inviting Towns in California

More in Places