My son has started the process of visiting colleges, and Harvey Mudd College is one of top three on his list. With a fall break on the horizon, it was the perfect time to hop in the car and drive to Claremont for a visit. One does not expect to drive along Interstate 10 toward Los Angeles, get off Exit 47, and find themselves in a quaint little New England college town, but that is exactly what I found in Claremont. At 13.4 square miles, Claremont is packed with everything one would want in a great college community: good transportation to, from, and within town; great lodging options; plenty of leisure activities; and an abundance of dining and shopping options.
The Ultimate College Town
Claremont is home to the five-college Claremont Consortium, including Harvey Mudd, Pomona, Scripps, Claremont-McKenna, and Pitzer Colleges. Three of these colleges (Pomona, Claremont-McKenna, and Harvey Mudd) top several lists for best liberal arts college in the US, including the US News and World Report. Nestled against the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, Claremont is a picturesque west coast community with an east coast look and feel. While other areas of Los Angeles favor Craftsman, Spanish Colonial, modern, or beach bungalow style architecture, many of the buildings in Claremont are decidedly New England-style. Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival homes dominate the town, and most have beautiful wrap-around porches, festively decorated for Autumn. Also known as the “city of trees”, Claremont boasts 22 years as winner of the National Arbor Day Tree City USA award.
Getting to Claremont
Claremont is a convenient city to get to by plane, train, automobile, or bike. Los Angeles is 30 minutes away, Ontario Airport is 7.5 miles east of the city, John Wayne (Orange County) Airport is 30 miles south, and Bob Hope (Burbank) Airport is 31 miles northwest. The historic Claremont train depot, in the center of town, offers both Amtrak and Metro Rail service to points east and west. Interstate 10 borders Claremont to the South, I-210 to the north, and Rt. 66 crosses through the center of town. Claremont is a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly community, with bike lanes on most Claremont surface streets, and additional bike paths at the Claremont Wilderness Center. Claremont also has great sidewalks and walking paths, so it is easy to get around by foot (which is what we did most of the time).
Places to Stay in Claremont
Travelers coming to Claremont will find several great lodging options, including the Doubletree by Hilton Claremont, where we stayed. The rooms at the Doubletree are clean and comfortable, with in-room refrigerators, flat-screen televisions, and balconies that look out over the lush hotel grounds. We received impeccable service from the front desk staff, who assisted us restaurant recommendations, gave us maps for the college campuses, and even printed parking passes for us, which we forgot to print at home. The Doubletree Claremont grounds are gorgeous, with a garden-setting outside each room. There is a large outdoor pool and outdoor patio seating at the on-site restaurant, The Orchard. The Orchard has a great breakfast buffet, as well as lunch and dinner dining options (we only ate breakfast at the hotel). The hotel was less than a mile from the Claremont Consortium schools, which made it quick and easy to get to Harvey Mudd. The warm oatmeal chocolate chip cookie we received upon arrival at the Doubletree was a nice surprise! Other hotels in the Claremont area include Hotel Casa 425, Claremont Lodge, Hotel Claremont & Tennis Club, and the Howard Johnson Express.
Arts and Culture in Claremont
Some college towns are sleepy little towns, but Claremont has a vibrant arts and culture community. With options such as the Candlelight Dinner theater, the Hip Kitty Jazz and Fondue, the Folk Music Center, The Pomona College Museum of Art, and the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens, both residents and visitors have plenty of choices. Claremont even has it’s own movie theater, with current box-office hits available. Claremont also has several community art studios, where visitors can get hands-on art experience. A college town would not be complete without a few great bookstores, and Claremont has several to get your “bibliophile on”, including the Claremont Forum, home of the nationwide Prisoner Library project.
A Variety of Gourmet Dining Choices
One of the most pleasant surprises was the abundance of great places to dine in Claremont. Visitors can find every type of cuisine imaginable including Organic, Vegetarian, Sushi, Salad, Thai, Pizza, Fine Dining, and Gastro Pub. We enjoyed Le Pain Quotidien for breakfast, with traditional french bistro dining, such as french toast with fresh berries. We liked Eureka Burger so much for dinner, we went both nights we were in Claremont! Eureka has a great gastropub menu including their gigantic burgers, with unique toppings such as arugula and fig. We also enjoyed sweet treats at I Like Pie for mini pies, and Bert & Rocky’s Cream Company for fresh pumpkin ice cream.
Great Boutique Shopping
Visitors will have no problem finding a place to shop in Claremont. Claremont is small town boutique shopping extraordinaire. Shopping options include clothing (including vintage), bath products, gourmet food, jewelry, and hardware. Each shop window was elegantly decorated for Fall; I can only imagine what it will be like at Christmas! Did you know that Claremont is California’s first Fair Trade USA town? This means that Claremont encourages area merchants to support companies that follow the fair trade environmental standards to protect the planet, fair pricing, and safe working conditions, including no forced child labor. Some Claremont shops that are Fair Trade Certified™ are Heirloom, The Bath Workshop, and Colors 91711.
Claremont is a great college town, but it is so much more than that; it is also a beautiful travel destination in Southern California. Whether you have college-age students, or are just looking for a weekend escape, travel to Exit 47 and find out what makes Claremont so special!