6 Most Underrated Small Towns To Visit In California In 2023

6 Most Underrated Small Towns To Visit In California In 2023

California is home to three of the most visited cities in the U.S.–Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. Tourists from all over the world fly to these cities to see historic Hollywood in L.A., the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Balboa Park in San Diego.

The Golden State also harbors little-known, underrated places that offer exciting adventures and memorable times for single, couple, and family vacationers. Here are the top six towns to visit in California in 2023 that you should know about!

Fort Bragg

Located in Mendocino County, CA, Fort Bragg lies along the Pacific Coast about 175 miles north of San Francisco. With famously gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean and a fascinating historical background involving the Civil War, Fort Bragg is a California Historical Landmark that encompasses MacKerricher State Park and Russian Gulch State Park. Just outside of Fort Bragg is the notorious Glass Beach. During the early 1900s, residents of Fort Bragg threw all their garbage onto this beach because there was no other place to discard items. Forceful waves have completely eroded glass objects, leaving only tiny, smooth fragments of “sea glass”.


Carlsbad, a city about 90 miles south of Los Angeles in the northern part of San Diego County, is a “must-see” city for beach lovers! There’s North Carlsbad Beach, Terramar Beach, Tamarack State Beach (surfing, fishing, scuba diving, and kayaking available), and Frazee Beach. Don’t forget to visit Agua Hedionda Lagoon, a saltwater watershed and wetland providing skiing, sailing, fishing, and boating all year round. Of course, kids will absolutely love visiting Carlsbad’s newly opened LegoLand.


Far southern California is where you will find Temecula, a Riverside County city loved for its Temecula Valley wineries, Mediterranean climate, and resort accommodations in charming wine-valley towns. Step back into the past by browsing antique shops, pubs, and art galleries gracing the 12 blocks that comprise Old Town Temecula. If riding in a hot-air balloon is on your bucket list, Temecula will give you that opportunity to ride in a real hot-air balloon. Just book ahead at Magical Adventure Balloon Rides or California Dreamin’ Ballon Adventures.


The city of Capitola, nearby Esplanade Park, and Capitola Beach provide vacationers with a wonderful array of things to see, do, and explore. The Pacific waters at Capitola Beach are typically low-key enough to allow kids to swim and learn how to ride a surfboard. Teenagers can rent paddle boards and boogie boards while parents can rent sun umbrellas and beach chairs. Stroll the 850 ft. pier at sunset to gaze at spectacular views of the horizon and then grab a bite to eat at one of the beachside seafood restaurants.

Half Moon Bay

Called Half Moon Bay because of its crescent moon shape, this California coastal city lies 25 miles south of San Francisco. Half Moon Bay City has four extraordinary locations to explore that are in the National Register of Historic Places: the James Johnston House, the William Adam Simmons House, the Robert Mills Dairy Barn, and the Methodist Episcopal Church. In between sightseeing, you can hike on Devil’s Slide Trail, ride horses in McNee Ranch State Park, and picnic on warm, sandy beaches.


Riverside is considered the birthplace of California’s navel orange and citrus industry. A citizen planted several Brazilian naval orange trees in 1871 and the industry took off. Many of Riverside’s cultural museums and festivals focus on the historical success of the orange tree. Go hiking and horseback riding in Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park, or take a leisurely walk along Sycamore Canyon Park Trail notable for beautifully expansive views. Riverside is an art-oriented city with many museums such as the Culver Center of Arts, the Riverside Art Museum, and the UCR California Museum of Photography.