Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Claremont, CA

  • Published 2022/08/17

Claremont, California, is a hidden wonder often overshadowed by the more glamorous Los Angeles.

But those who are curious enough to venture a little further will find an idyllic city that offers many adventures for everyone.

Known as “The City of Trees and Ph.Ds.,” the city has seven academic institutions aptly called Claremont Colleges.

And of course, there are the iconic tree-lined streets that earned the town the Tree City USA designation for 22 consecutive years.

These features, combined with the sophisticated atmosphere and small-town appeal, made the city one of the best places to live anywhere in the US.

And it’s not an exaggeration: many publications and websites have ranked Claremont as one of the top suburbs in the region and the whole country.

So a visit here will give you a glimpse of what a utopia can look like.

Here are the 20 best things to do in Claremont, CA:

Learn about Dinosaurs at Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology

Front View of  Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology

Scottnichols, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology is an educational facility under the care of The Webb Schools.

It’s the only nationally accredited museum set on a secondary school campus, a prestigious recognition that’s a testament to the wonders inside.

As a paleontology museum, the attraction contains specimens of life forms from millions of years ago.

So if you’re a Ross Geller type who adores fearsome dinosaurs, then this place is the perfect destination.

Dinosaur at  Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology

Scottnichols, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Hall of Life is an engaging exhibit that tells a story of how life emerged on the Earth up to the beginnings of human civilization.

Here, you’d find the first multicellular organisms, fossilized invertebrates, skulls of dinosaurs and mammals, and many other preserved specimens.

Once you’re done touring this section, head to the Hall of Footprints, the largest collection in the facility.

As you might deduce from the name, this area has a collection of fossil footprints—the largest one in the US.

Artifacts at  Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology

Scottnichols, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Immerse in the Nightlife at Claremont Packing House

Front View of Claremont Packing House

TonelsonProductions /

You might confuse the bustling Claremont Packing House as a shopping mall—but it’s so much more.

This building is the largest historic structure in the city, and it has been around since 1922.

Originally, it was used as a warehouse used by the people of Claremont.

Front View of Claremont Packing House

TonelsonProductions /

A century later, it has turned into this landmark that doubles as a community gathering place.

You’ll find hip boutiques, fine dining establishments, wine tasting rooms, art galleries, and various shops.

The variety of things to do at the Claremont Packing House has made it a favorite place for date nights, friendly gatherings, and nights out with the family.

So if you’re looking for an attraction with the very best of the city, this is it!

Menu of Claremont Packing House

TonelsonProductions /

Smell the Flowers at California Botanic Garden

Flowers at California Botanic Garden

Eric Michael Teitelman /

A small slice of paradise wouldn’t be complete without gardens blooming with flowers of all kinds, so Claremont had to have one: the majestic California Botanic Garden.

This attraction was once called the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, but the management changed it to its current name to represent the collection better.

It has many native plants from all over the state, amounting to 2,000 species and 70,000 individual plants.

Cacti at California Botanic Garden

Eric Michael Teitelman /

Because of this diversity, the garden is used extensively by botanists and florists from the Claremont Colleges.

But you’re still welcome to check out the place and see the plants yourself.

You’ll find towering cacti and other desert flora, oak and pine trees from the highlands, palms from coastal habitats, and various wildflowers.

To learn more about these plants, visit the classrooms, nurseries, and other facilities used for public education about the gardens.

Flowers at California Botanic Garden

Eric Michael Teitelman /

Explore the Grounds of Padua Hills Theatre

View of Padua Hills Theatre

JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ, M.D., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most of California has Mexican heritage, and no other place was it celebrated more than at the Padua Hills Theatre.

This attraction was the longest-running theater for Mexican-themed musicals in the US until it ceased operations in the 1980s.

However, you can still feel the festive atmosphere while visiting the complex.

Exterior of Padua Hills Theatre

Einbierbitte, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This six-acre attraction has several buildings with Spanish Revival architecture and vast grounds dotted with olive trees.

Today, the area is used as a favorite wedding venue next to the San Gabriel foothills.

But you’re still welcome to explore the location and feel the rustic ambiance, see the sculpted landscaping, and walk on the terracotta pathways.

You’ll find it so appealing that you’ll feel compelled to book a special event after your visit!

Building at Padua Hills Theatre

Einbierbitte, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Listen to Traditional Tunes at Folk Music Center

Claremont’s Folk Music Center is a combination of a museum, events place, classroom, and store.

This beloved institution celebrates the musical heritage of California and the surrounding region, which combines elements of traditional Western and Mexican music.

So you’d find lots of guitars and similar instruments upon entering the store.

But these are just not ordinary instruments, as some of them date back to the 1800s.

Those are, of course, not for sale, but there are plenty of other acoustic guitars, banjos, and ukuleles you can purchase from their collection.

Make sure to check out their other items, such as wooden sculptures, novelty instruments, T-shirts, and books.

If you’re a beginner, you’re welcome to join one of their classes, where you can get to learn the basics of each instrument.

Trek the Trails of Claremont Hills Wilderness Park

 Trails of Claremont Hills Wilderness Park

Brian Altmeyer, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the base of the San Gabriel Mountains is the panoramic Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, a favorite hiking destination in the area.

This 1,693-acre attraction takes you to some of the most rugged wilderness on this side of the Los Angeles Metropolitan area.

It’s an ideal location for those who want a quick escape from busy lives and the noisy city.

You can take the five-mile looping trail that takes you to ridges, overlooks, and forested segments.

Along the way, keep an eye out for the blooming wildflowers, especially during spring.

It’s one of the spots where super blooms happen, with whole slopes covered in yellow and orange flowers.

There’s also plenty of other flora and fauna to spot and admire, such as deer, raptors, and prickly desert plants.

Check Out Stunning Pieces at Claremont Museum of Art

Thanks to the young and expressive demographic of Claremont, the city has a thriving art scene.

One of the places to see this culture in action is at the Claremont Museum of Art.

It’s located at the city’s heart, inside the historic Claremont Depot.

But some events are held in places as far as Padua Hills Theater.

At the small art museum, you’ll get a glimpse of the art history in this region of California, which once held the title “Art Mecca” until the 1960s.

The gallery showcases artworks from the era and even before that.

There are also more contemporary works created by this generation’s artists.

So if you want a glimpse of the rich art community in Claremont, make sure this spot is in your itinerary.

Play Sports at Memorial Park

Sign in Memorial Park

Deborah Kekone /

There are many green spaces within the Claremont city proper, and one of the most visited is the scenic Memorial Park.

This is the town’s primary community park, where most of the city-wide events are held.

So if you visit during a holiday, you can expect this place to be busy, especially during July 4th and Christmas.

On ordinary days, residents come to the seven-acre attraction to enjoy some peace and fresh air.

There are plenty of picnic areas, shady spots, and grassy grounds where you can lay back and forget about your worries.

If you want to try something more active, the park has basketball, tennis, and sand volleyball courts, the latter of which is lighted.

During summer, you can take cooling dips at a seasonally open wading pool, especially when the temperatures are hot.

Marvel at the Collection of the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery

Scripps College has another marker of the city’s vibrant art scene, the intriguing Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery.

The facility’s primary purpose is to serve as a teaching instrument and educational resource for the students of the school.

But the collection is open for public viewing, as it would be a shame to restrict audiences from the wondrous pieces in the gallery.

More than 15,000 items are housed in the facility, with works collected from Korea, Japan, Mexico, England, and other countries.

The sheer diversity of artworks is already a lot to take in, but there are still rotating exhibits to check out.

So take all the time you need to marvel at the paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other incredible creations.

Climb the Summit of Potato Mountain

Gorgeous view from the top of Potato Mountain

M.A.G_Photography90 /

If the scenic trails of Claremont Hills Wilderness Park prove too easy for you, then head to the more challenging Potato Mountain.

This is no place for a potato couch, as the trail to the summit spans nine miles of slopes and rugged terrain.

While it’s rated moderate, the route still presents challenges like hot temperatures, occasional weather disturbances, and a lack of modern amenities along the way.

Scenic view from Potato Mountain's trail

Jamie S Richards /

But these features are exactly why people climb the mountain—it’s a wild and thrilling adventure that’s not too far from the city.

Potato Mountain itself is 3,422 feet above sea level, so the views at the summit are incredible.

You’d see the surrounding cities gleaming underneath the hot California sun as well as the nearby mountains and forests of the Angeles National Forest.

Tour the Magnificent Russian Village District

A house at the Magnificent Russian Village District

Los Angeles, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

During the Great Depression, a group of untrained immigrants and laborers set out to create their homes with whatever scrap they could find.

They used chunks of concrete, telephone poles, pavement, and other materials that came by.

The result is 15 houses that all have a mishmashed look, unified by the folk architecture style that predominated the era.

Potted plants at the Magnificent Russian Village District

Harpokrates44, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Back in the day, the district was looked down on because of its status.

But as the decades went by, it became a source of pride—a testament to the townsfolk’s ingenuity.

The village was even listed under the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Today, you can tour the district and see these unique homes.

Take your time to appreciate their unusual construction and see how creative the mind can be during times of crisis.

Gated house at the Magnificent Russian Village District

Cbl62, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Buy Fresh Veggies at Claremont Farmers & Artisans Market

While there isn’t much of an agriculture scene in the city, there’s still a facility where you can purchase quality produce: the Claremont Farmers & Artisans Market.

This is a California Certified Farmers’ Market, which assures you that the products are sourced from the state’s local fields.

So visit their location in front of the city and peruse the displays.

There are around 100 vendors here, from local growers to artisans.

Take your pick from the fresh vegetables, seasonal fruits, and other produce from the rich farms of the region.

You’ll also find furniture, home decor, and other handmade products made by seasoned tradespeople.

It’s open every Sunday, so plan ahead if you want to visit.

Stay Awhile at Cahuilla Park

Cahuilla Park is another green space in Claremont, with plenty of space for various outdoor activities.

It covers 18.2 acres and is located in front of the California Botanic Garden, so you can visit it after you tour the gardens.

If you want to try sporty activities, the park has basketball and tennis courts as well as baseball and softball diamonds.

The skatepark is ideal for professionals and beginners, with ramps and rails for shredding.

But for those who want a few hours of peace and relaxation, the park has plenty of shady ground and picnic benches.

You can also let the kids play and socialize with other children on the well-equipped playground.

Chug a Cold Drink at Claremont Craft Ales

There’s no better way to cap your Claremont tour than a visit to some of their best pubs.

One of the local favorites is Claremont Craft Ales, a well-known destination frequented by residents and visitors.

With a mission to create fine drinks, the owners went on to source the best ingredients and equipment available.

The result is award-winning alcoholic beverages that have been recognized in events like the Los Angeles International Commercial Beer Competition and the California Craft Beer Cup.

So come over and sample their rye IPAs, red ales, gose, and pale ales.

Don’t forget to bring home a pack or two to open during special occasions or lazy weekends.

Go Swimming at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park

Night at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park

Kit Leong /

Less than 15 minutes away from Claremont is Frank G. Bonelli Regional Par, one of the premier green spaces in the heart of the Los Angeles Metro Area.

It covers 1,800 acres, with the gorgeous Puddingstone Reservoir occupying 250 acres.

The waters of Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park

Kit Leong /

The body of water is a favorite destination for swimming, fishing, kayaking, and other water-related activities.

And the rest of the park is used for picnics, camping, hiking, and events with family or friends.

So if you haven’t had your fill of outdoor adventures in Claremont, this regional park is a great stopover!

Daytime view of Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park

Robotics, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Experience Early Claremont Living at Garner House

The Garner House, a 1926 Spanish Colonial Revival home that once housed one of Claremont’s most prominent families, serves as the city’s cultural and history programming hub.

Before being the home of Claremont Heritage in 2001, it served as many other things, including the city’s Human Services department.

Many of the principal bedrooms, living rooms, guestrooms, and baths of this LA architect Arthur Munson-designed home are open to the public.

It also still has most of the original furnishings—some of the wings on the upper-level house offices, archives, and historical collections.

Tourists may learn much about Claremont’s past by seeing the Garner House and the nearby Memorial Park.

Catch Musical Performances at Mabel Shaw Bridges Hall of Music

Exterior of the Mabel Shaw Bridges Hall of Music

Deborah Kekone /

Pomona College’s Mabel Shaw Bridges Hall of Music, sometimes called “Little Bridges,” lies at the picturesque campus off Fourth Street.

It hosts roughly 45 performances between September and May, spanning various musical genres and styles, from Western classical to non-Western folk.

Community members and students can attend the shows at no cost.

Designed by architect Myron Hunt, the building was a donation from Mr. and Mrs. Bridges in honor of their child Mabel, a student who graduated in 1908.

This magnificent venue is perfect for college plays and other gatherings.

Join Art Classes at Studio Claremont

Gabrielle Heide is the owner and creative director of Studio Claremont.

She used her art and education training and enthusiasm for the visual arts.

She created Studio Claremont, where people of all ages and skill levels can come together to learn about and discuss their mutual appreciation of the arts.

Students of all ages are welcome, from pre-school and primary school to those in their golden years; this includes those who are home-schooled or have physical or developmental disabilities.

Various one-time, continuing, and special seminars and programs are available, many of which have exciting extras like field excursions and gallery exhibitions.

Studio Claremont is open to all art enthusiasts, whether in town for a day or a year, and encourages them to stop by and be inspired.

Explore the Exhibits at Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College

The Benton Museum of Art, or simply the Benton, is a museum of art located at Pomona College in Claremont.

The museum moved in at the end of 2020, replacing the Montgomery Art Gallery, operating since 1958.

The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College often hosts some of the region’s most exciting and cutting-edge displays.

Native American art and Renaissance panel paintings are just some highlights of the growing permanent collection at the Benton Museum of Art.

The museum continues the university’s long tradition of excellence and is home to the next generation of groundbreaking artists. See experimentative and thought-provoking performances.

It is situated “where the college meets the vibrant Claremont Village and the city’s civic center” and occupies a total area of 33,000 square feet.

At Pomona College’s Benton Museum of Art, visitors may visit for free, view any of the exhibitions, or attend any programs.

Catch a Movie at the Historic Laemmle’s Claremont 5

Over seventy years ago, Laemmle’s Claremont 5 opened to the public.

Claremont locals have been flocking to Laemmle Theater since 1938 to watch indie, art house, and foreign films.

Laemmle operates seven theaters around the country and has shown fantastic films to over a million people to showcase outstanding works of cinema regardless of their origin or genre.

The city of Claremont is home to five Laemmle theaters. Laemmle Theaters does more than show movies; they host premieres, special events, one-night-only showings, and Academy Award eligibility screenings.

It screens films that are excellent in artistic quality but aren’t getting the same marketing push as some of the more significant Hollywood productions.

Final Thoughts

Claremont’s reputation as one of the best places to live in in the US is not unfounded.

Aside from the excellent living conditions, the city has plenty of recreational facilities, natural attractions, museums, and green spaces that add to the residents’ quality of life.

So if you want to get a taste of the wonderful living in this vibrant city, make this your top destination for an upcoming vacation.

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