In the flash of an eye, your baby goes from learning to walk to walking across the stage. So time to go shopping, College Shopping, with your teen. National Parks TravelingMom planned a 3-day trip to visit Claremont, California, to tour perspective colleges with her teen and shares her tips. Top tip: Start early and tour schools in bite-size spurts. Read on for more tips for touring colleges in California with kids.

Visit Harvey Mudd College when touring colleges in California with kids.

The Claremont Colleges offer some of the most highly ranked liberal arts colleges in the U.S., like Harvey Mudd College. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Touring Colleges in California with Kids

About 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, I found a quaint town with tree-lined streets and 100-year-old homes. With picket-fenced gardens and pastel-painted front porches, I explored the southern Californian college town, Claremont. I found five of the top liberal arts college in the U.S. along with amazing year-round weather and a ski resort just minutes away. This was only the beginning of college shopping 101 in Claremont, California.

First, I scheduled the Claremont College tours several weeks out and looked over the admission process. Then after talking with my daughter, we decided to concentrate on three of the five schools. Though we walked through all five of the Claremont Colleges.

Visit Pomona College while touring colleges in California with kids.

We head through the gates of Pomona College for the first time to learn about college admissions and take a tour. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

I scheduled one campus tour and one information session per day. I’m glad I did since my head was swimming with information overload. After the tours, my daughter and I explored around the campuses. To make the process a little more fun, we shopped and ate desserts.

Need more tips for touring colleges in California with kids – veteran college shopping TravelingMom, Kim Orlando, offers some more.

Best times to College Shop

Traditionally, colleges host fall weekends when high school students and their parents tour perspective schools. Though colleges offer tours and information sessions year-round including summer break.

Tour the Claremont College with your teen as you College Shop in Southern California, then check out all the fun in Claremont.

The Claremont Colleges

Forming a consortium of five undergraduate and two graduate liberal arts colleges, the Claremont Colleges campuses adjoin and cover approximately one square mile in central Claremont, an LA suburb. Students can easily walk in-between campuses and we did during our campus tours.

With 2,000 courses offered across all the campuses, students can take classes at any of the five campuses. In total, there are 7,700 undergraduate students and 3,600 faculty and staff.

Have fun while touring colleges in California with kids.

While touring the Claremont Colleges, I found beautiful campuses. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Most undergraduate students live on campus all four years with 2/3 of the students from outside of California. The students can also use any of the seven dining halls located across the five campuses and most do.

Several clubs are open to all Claremont College students, and the intermural teams enjoy a good-natured rivalry. The Claremont Colleges don’t offer Greek Life organizations though lots of other organizations and school-led outings.

The Claremont Colleges also pooled their resources for a central library and bookstore. The schedules for each college are aligned and their systems connected.

Pomona College

Walk through Pomona College while touring colleges in California with kids.

As the founding college of the Claremont Colleges, Pomona College’s campus features historic architecture alongside the modern. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

As the founding member of the Claremont Consortium, Pomona College was established in 1887. Modeled after the small colleges of New England, Pomona accepts about 1,600 students a year.

Pomona College tops the list of best liberal arts colleges according to several publications. Offering the largest range of courses of the Claremont Colleges, Pomona boasts a high student retention rate and professors teach all courses.

Pomona College features mature trees and landscaping throughout the campus along with Spanish Colonial architecture. Though the newest building, Studio Arts Hall is thoroughly modern.

Claremont-McKenna College

Visit Claremont-McKenna College while touring colleges in California with kids.

Claremont-McKenna College offers open spaces and a mix of modern and traditional architecture. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Adjacent to Pomona College, Claremont-McKenna College began as men’s college in 1946, later becoming co-ed in 1976. Claremont-McKenna specializes in economic, government and public affairs classes and also considered a top liberal arts college in the U.S.

Located just north of Pomona College, it’s the second largest school in the Claremont Colleges. It accepts about 1,300 students a year that live on campus. Most students spend a semester or summer abroad or at a school-sponsored internship.

Pitzer College

Explore Pitzer College while touring colleges in California with kids.

My college didn’t raise chickens, but Pitzer College does. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Just north of Claremont-McKenna College, Pitzer College began in 1963 as a women’s college and later became co-ed in 1970. Pitzer College specializes in environmental studies, social sciences, and media studies.

The contemporary architecture sets Pitzer College apart along with its xeriscaping and citrus trees. Pitzer College offers a community garden and even boasts a flock of chickens in the middle of campus.

Walk through the Pitzer Gates while touring colleges in California with kids.

Walk through the gates of Pitzer College in Claremont, California. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Pitzer College features the newest collection of dorms among the Claremont Colleges. This feature impressed my teen daughter the most.

Harvey Mudd College

Started in 1955, Harvey Mudd College specializes in engineering, science, and mathematics. Considered by most to be one of the top colleges for science and math. The campus sits at the northern boundary of the Claremont Colleges. It accepted just over 500 students for the 2016-2017 school year.

Visit Harvey Mudd College while touring colleges in California with kids.

Is your teen a future “Mudder”? Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Since Harvey Mudd specializes in engineering, science, and mathematics, its student population tends to stay on the Mudd campus. Most of the buildings on the Harvey Mudd College are interconnected via their basements.

Scripps College

In the center of the Claremont Colleges, Scripps College began in 1926 as a women’s college and remains that way today. The campus is on the list of registered National Register of Historic Places. It also features Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture.

Explore Scripps College while touring touring colleges in California with kids.

Scripps College campus is on the National Register of Historic Places featuring Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

The top majors at Scripps include art, biology and English. Students enjoy a beautifully landscaped campus boasting a rose garden, citrus and olive trees.

Claremont Village

To get a real feel for Claremont, we headed to Claremont Village, a charming shopping and dining district in the center of town. I found lots of parking along the streets so we strolled and browsed.

Walk through the Claremont Museum of Art while touring colleges in California with kids.

I found the Claremont Museum of Art in the Claremont Depot. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Located in the Claremont Depot, I found the Claremont Museum of Art. Located at 200 W. 1st St. It offers $5 admission for adults and free for kids under 18.

Near the intersection of W. First St. and N. College Ave, Claremont’s MetroLink station, southern California’s commuter rail system, provides service to downtown LA.

Shop downtown Claremont while touring colleges in California with kids.

The Claremont Chamber sells gift cards for the restaurants and shops. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Next my daughter and I window shopped in the Claremont Village. Finding lots of locally-owned shops, we browsed through The Hens’ Kitchen Shoppe and The Claremont Forum for used books.

Most of the year Claremont Village hosts a farmer’s market on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. And they feature lots of seasonal festivities, like Halloween fun and a Holiday tree lighting.

Claremont’s Chamber of Commerce even offers gift cards, honored at local restaurants and retail shops across Claremont Village.

Cruise down Route 66

Drive down Route 66 while touring colleges in California with kids.

Drive down historic Route 66 while in Claremont, California. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

After pulling into Claremont, I saw the familiar sign. Route 66, or the Main Street of America, runs through Claremont on its way to its terminus in Santa Monica. Since Route 66 is also known as Foothill Blvd., a major thoroughfare in Claremont, it’s hard not to cruise down Route 66 at least once.

The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Next to the San Gabriel foothills, I explored one of the best gardens in California. Known for their collection of California native plants, the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden offers 86 acres to stroll along with an events area and a gift shop.

Explore Rancho Sanata Ana Botanic Garden while touring colleges in California with kids.

To unwind spend a couple of hours walking around Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden while visiting Claremont. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is located at 1500 N. College Ave. and open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adults admission is $9, students and kids over 3 is $4.

Mt. Baldy

During one of the college tours, the student tour guide mentioned how students head up to Mt. Baldy during weekend breaks. As a bonus, it’s just 15 miles from the Claremont Colleges campuses.

Mt. Baldy, the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, offers year-round fun. With wintertime skiing and summertime camping and hiking, outdoor enthusiasts are minutes from the recreation area. Mt. Baldy is located at 8401 Mt. Baldy Rd.

Where to Eat in Claremont

While looking to sample some local restaurants, we tried several during our visit.

Grab a burger while touring colleges in California with kids.

For dinner, grab a burger at Eureka Burger while in Claremont Village. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Eureka Burger, located at 580 W. First St, features burgers, salads and craft cocktails. Eureka Burger boasts big burgers and lots of outdoor seating.

I like Pie Bake Shop, located at 175 N. Indian Hill Blvd, for pie lovers. After a tour, I needed a mini pie to pop into my mouth. Yum.

Saca’s Mediterranean Restaurant, located at 248 Second St, serves up massive salads and features outdoor seating.

Some Crust Bakery, located at 119 Yale Ave, is a must for cookie lovers. After walking for a while we stopped for an afternoon snack and a coffee to-go.

The Village Grille, located at 148 Yale Ave, serving up diner classics since 1949. It offers an original diner with friendly waitresses and counter service.

Where to Stay in Claremont

Book the lush Doubletree when staying in Claremont.

A lush property in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, the DoubleTree Claremont Hotel provides a home base to explore Claremont. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

For my stay in Claremont, I enjoyed a large room overlooking the pool at the DoubleTree Claremont Hotel. My room featured two double beds, a work desk, and an ergonomic chair. Then I found an upholstered chair with an ottoman and a reading lamp in the corner of the room.

During our stay, we dined at The Orchard each morning for the full breakfast buffet. With an omelet bar, Belgium waffle bar, and hot breakfast staples like French toast along with sausage and applewood bacon, I can’t imagine anyone leaving hungry.

Tips from a TravelingMom:

  • If touring the colleges during the school year, a parking pass will be required. During the summer, the colleges are empty.
  • I found the signage at all the colleges lacking. And the admissions buildings hard to find so give yourself extra time.
  • And don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • For college tours, leave the siblings at home.