Exploring Small Towns in California
Updated: Jun 27
I grew up in the country, and going to Tomah, a small town in Wisconsin, was always a special event in the Hellmich household. Dad would check us out to see what we were wearing, for he was aware we would most certainly run into someone we knew.
I'd save my allowance for something special, like a 50-yard crinoline or still another ring. It was a family affair and always a Friday night event. In any case, I now have an affinity for smaller towns.
As I continue developing my writing career, I realize I even chose to move nine years to a small town, Palm Springs, California. Did you know there is Palm Springs, Florida? Plus, my last four media trips have been to smaller towns. A coincidence, I think not.
Over-Tourism and Over-Writing
The word over-tourism keeps popping up. Travelers have toured the major cities, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, Chicago, and New York City, to name a few. Now even newbies traveling to large cities complain about the crowds, the skyrocketing cost of hotels, and the frustration of not being able to get reservations at restaurants recommended by colleagues or friends.
As a travel writer, one must pitch an article to a publication. Coming up with a new angle to write about Paris is not an easy task. I'm even noticing writers coming to Palm Springs are seemingly writing about the same thing over and over again. The 5 Best Palm Springs Restaurants, just change the number, and an article is written again.
As a person living here knowing many restaurant owners, I certainly wouldn't go out on a limb and name the 5 Best Restaurants and write an article.
Articles like "Things to Do in Palm Springs" regurgitate attractions like the Palm Spring Aerial Tramway, Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, and Palm Springs Village Fest. Don't get me wrong, these are great things to see and visit at least once in your lifetime, but there is so much more to our community. Take time to talk with locals, walk our streets, shop in our locally-owned shops, and keep asking questions. Let me share what I mean.
Small Towns the Palm Springs Insider Recently Spent Time Exploring
Mammoth Lakes California
A summer visit exploring the small town of Mammoth Lakes had me taking my first fly-fishing lessons, exploring hotel accommodations, and, yes, even a spa. A journey to the top of Mammoth Mountain on the Aerial Gondola was a spectacular experience, and the Forest Rangers at the top are a wealth of information.
What fun to visit the oldest log cabin in the area and meet the proprietors of a unique art gallery tucked away in the forest. We have become friends and met for cocktails in Palm Springs in March.
Santa Ynez Valley California
While it is not a small town, Santa Ynez Valley is comprised of five small towns: Ballard, Buellton, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Solvang. Wineries flourish in this area, and I can tell you from my experience every town has its own personality. During a three-day stay journey, I repeatedly heard, "We call ourselves Napa Valley without all the people."
When I accepted an invitation to Buellton, little did I know I could spend three days exploring a town 2 miles by 2 miles, living in the shadows of Solvang, 3.5 miles away. I had a wonderful time.
I talked to the locals and could hear their pride in their city. Discoveries such as the Mendenhall Gasoline Museum, Ostrich Land, and Santa Ynez Botanical Gardens features made me smile on my four-hour drive back to Palm Springs as I relived the experience.
Half Moon Bay California
I am not a sports person or enjoy lying on the beach, spoiled by living in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, for four years with a crystal-clear turquoise color-ocean and an average balmy 80 degrees. Thought how terrific it was to walk the streets of Half Moon Bay, try their famous artichoke bread, and learn about the community's history and local preservation efforts to maintain the quaintness of this thriving oceanside town.
Exploring the Small Town of Concord, California Next
On Thursday, I am heading to Concord, California, living in the shadows of Napa Valley. This community, 25 miles NE of San Francisco, just raised its profile when it won California State Tourism Award for its marketing of the Taco Trail. I understand it is a foodie's heaven, the arts are thriving there, and the town is attracting events such as the Maker's Mart. As I presently understand, the Mart is a place for inventors/creators to show their creations and talk to attendees. You can be sure I will update you on that event and let you know if my assumptions are correct.
I am completing an 11-day in-home dog-sitting gig in Palm Springs. Then go home, do laundry, pack, and head out exploring small towns in our wonderful state. Follow my adventures on Instagram and sign up at the bottom of this blog to be alerted when I add new articles published worldwide.
Kathy Condon is a freelance journalist and travel writer. She is the Founder of the Palm Springs Insider Guide. Her book It Doesn't Hurt to Ask: It's All About Communication was named Best Book Finalist By USA Book News