8 California Small Towns Retirees Must Visit

carmelmain-71aee936b0afe5de0a12ae9f9b4c86d6

While California’s major cities get all the attention, locals know that the state’s small towns provide the perfect weekend escape. Whether you’re seeking a charming mountain village or a coastal spot, we’re exploring the 8 small towns in California that should be next on your travel list.

Ojai

Ojai is a favorite destination for Californians looking to get away for weekend trips. Surrounded by rolling hills, this small town is about 45 minutes southeast of Santa Barbara. Ojai is known for its luxurious spas, boutique hotels, romantic eateries, strong art culture, and farmers market. Whether you’d like to sample local produce, admire the natural beauty while on a hike, or play a game of golf, Ojai offers a relaxing itinerary for any traveler.

Recommended Stops: Ojai Farmers Market, Shopping in Downtown Ojai, Ojai Valley Inn

Morro Bay

 /><figcaption><em>Scenic views are everywhere in Morro Bay.</em></figcaption></figure>
</div>
<p>Morro Bay is nestled along <a href=California’s Central Coast in San Luis Obispo County. Morro Rock, which is an ancient volcanic plug that towers up from the beach, is a famous local landmark. Those traveling to California’s Central Coast won’t want to miss this charming town. Its bustling waterfront is the perfect spot to dine with a view, or you can grab a cup of coffee and just explore. Visitors can also kayak, sail, fish, or play a game of golf at an ocean-view course. For nature lovers, the local area also offers opportunities for birding and viewing tide pools.

Recommended Stops: Main Street Market, Morro Beach, Blue Sky Bistro on the Bay

Idyllwild

While most think of the beach when it comes to California vacations, the state is home to charming mountain towns as well. Idyllwild is a favorite for Southern Californians who want to escape to the mountains for a weekend. This village is nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains among pine trees and surrounding forests. Idyllwild enjoys strong art and music culture, and for 25 years, the town has hosted its annual Jazz in the Pines Festival. This popular event draws music lovers from all over the country. With art exhibits, outdoor recreation, and charming inns, Idyllwild is the perfect way to recharge in the wilderness.

Recommended StopsMiddle Ridge Winery Tasting GalleryIdyllwild Brewpub, Rock Climbing

Avalon

 /><figcaption><em>Avalon’s quaint downtown is accessible by foot, but the water is where the real action happens.</em></figcaption></figure>
</div>
<p>Avalon is a tiny town located on Catalina Island, which is about 22 miles off the Pacific Coast. This picturesque village is less than three square miles in size, but it packs in enough charm and natural beauty to warrant a visit. This resort town is unique in that visitors can’t rent cars to explore the island. But traveling by foot, bicycle, or golf cart is the ideal way to embrace the casual, slow-paced lifestyle of Avalon. The downtown waterfront offers souvenir shops, art galleries, restaurants, and beautiful views of the Pacific.</p>
<p><strong> Recommended Stops</strong>: <a href=Historic Catalina Casino, Descanso Beach Club, Island Spa

Harmony

With an official population of 18, Harmony is truly a small town. Situated on the coast in San Luis Obispo County, Harmony is known for attracting artists, writers, and other creatives who all contribute to the town’s quirky charm. Development in Harmony was originally driven by local dairy ranches and a creamery. Today, visitors can view the historic creamery building, grab a pint of locally made ice cream, or even get married at the tiny chapel in town.

Recommended Stops: Harmony Glassworks, Harmony Cellars, Harmony Headlands State Park

Big Bear

 /><figcaption><em>Big Bear and its lake are a good spot to visit year round.</em></figcaption></figure>
</div>
<p>Big Bear is situated along the shore of Big Bear Lake in the scenic San Bernardino Mountains. During winter months, Big Bear is one of the top destinations for Southern Californians. This mountain town is home to popular ski resorts that draw locals and tourists alike. With excellent outdoor recreation, Big Bear is a popular spot any time of the year. Visitors can go fishing, boating, swimming, and more on Big Bear Lake. After a day of outdoor activities, you can wind down in Big Bear’s downtown village area, which offers shopping, dining, and entertainment.</p>
<p><strong>Recommended Stops</strong>: <a href=Big Bear Village, Snow Summit, Barrel33

Julian

Julian offers historic charm with an updated twist. This mountain town located about an hour east of San Diego was once a thriving gold mining community. Today, Julian is known for its picturesque downtown village, famous apple pies, and quaint wineries. The town hosts a number of events throughout the year, including a 4th of July Parade and an old-fashioned grape stomp. Whether you stay the night at a bed and breakfast or cozy lodge, Julian is the perfect retreat from city life. 

Recommended Stops: Julian Pie Company, Julian Cider Mill, Pioneer Museum

Carmel

 /><figcaption><em>Carmel is another great coastal town with a quaint downtown. (Image via Shutterstock.com)</em></figcaption></figure>
</div>
<p>Few other towns do laidback coastal luxury better than Carmel. This idyllic coastal village in Monterey County is known for its stunning natural scenery, charming downtown village, and bohemian spirit. A trip to Carmel isn’t complete without exploring Ocean Avenue’s shops, boutiques, and eateries. Afterward, head down to Carmel Beach and enjoy the views of this iconic coastal town.</p>
<p><strong>Recommended Stops</strong>: <a href=Carmel Bakery & Coffee House, Carmel Beach, Carmel Art Walk

Can you spot the $207,744 difference between these identical homes?

Financing is the difference!

Get the details in The 62+ Loan Homebuyers Guide.

55places Mortgage is a joint venture between Mutual of Omaha Mortgage and 55places.com.
Details here.

Share this post:

We're here to help! (800) 928-2055

Call us to speak with a customer service representative.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get Weekly Updates

I agree that 55places and its affiliates, partner providers or agents may call, text, or email me about my inquiry, which may be made with automated means. I understand that my consent is not a prerequisite for buying a property. I may revoke my consent at any time by contacting [email protected] Message/data rates may apply. I also agree to 55places.com’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

The Best Places to Snowbird in 2021

We’ve gathered 25 of the best places for snowbirds, including cities in Florida, Arizona, California, Texas, South Carolina, and Nevada. For each entry, we’ve also provided a list of recommended 55+ communities in the area. If you’re ready to find your own winter retreat this season, here are some of the best places to consider.

A woman drinking her morning coffee on a balcony overlooking Downtown Miami.

Urban 55+ Communities: You Can Retire in These Cities

There are many benefits to living in a city, from having easy access to daily needs like grocery stores and pharmacies to having an assortment of cultural amenities and entertainment options nearby. Still not convinced? Here are some cities with urban 55 communities that just might pique your interest.

Happy mature couple dancing together in the kitchen at home in a 55+ community.

Top 10 Benefits of Living in a 55+ Community

Living in a 55+ communitiy is so much more than just convienent for active adult retirees. The right community will help them downsize, manage their finances, increase their activitiy, and meet new people. Check out all the benefits of living in a 55+ community.

View of Downtown Provo, Utah during autumn at dusk.

The Best Cities for Aging in Place

Deciding on where to retire is always a challenging question. What do you look for when searching for your ideal place to age in place? There are a variety of factors that come into play when looking for that perfect spot such as health care, wellness, general livability, transportation, or community engagement, just to name a few.

Closed up on a tiny wood home model on green grass with sunlight background.

This Month in Real Estate: A Housing Market Summary

The new year is showing that the predicted changes coming to the housing market were accurate and kept with the trend for 55+ homebuyers. If you’re just entering the housing market as a homebuyer, make sure you’re aware of the changes happening so you’re prepared to make the best purchasing decision. 

Aerial view of a picturesque olive plantation in Bakersfield, California.

The Cheapest Places to Live in California

With almost year-round sunshine, some of the world’s prettiest beaches, world-class shopping and dining, and a never-ending list of recreational and entertainment opportunities, it’s no wonder California is such as sought-after state to settle down in.

A sunset over Huntington Beach Pier in California.

The Active Adult Travel Guide to California

California is known for its diverse regions and cities. This means if you’re an active adult looking to vacation in the Golden State, you’ll have a lot of options. We breakdown the state into its three main regions and find everything you should do while on vacation.

About 55places

We’re changing the way people 55 and older are searching for their perfect next place. With a national network of hand-selected real estate experts, plus comprehensive information, unbiased content, and on-the-go insight about thousands of communities across the country, we’re a trusted resource paving the way from here to home. Whether you’re interested in a low-maintenance single-level residence, an active lifestyle or age-qualified community, an intimate enclave, or anything in between, we can help you make your next move the best one yet.

Scroll to Top