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California’s Historic Entertainment Venues Return in 2021

Headlining the marquee in towns throughout California is the return of live music and theater after more than a year of closed curtains. A vibrant arts and cultural scene breathes life into a place, and these historic entertainment venues are bringing the soul of California back to life.

Art Deco Arts Venue in Redding
Built in 1935, the Cascade Theater in Redding is a beautifully restored Art Deco masterpiece welcoming Colt Ford, Chris Botti, Pat Metheny Side-Eye with James Frances and Joe Dyson, and the North State Symphony this season.

Vaudeville Reimagined in Mendocino
The Arena Theater, a 1928 Vaudeville film and entertainment venue, was restored by Mendocino community volunteers in the 1990s. Today it offers films and Third Monday Music, a night for local musicians to showcase their art, and the community a chance to listen to great music while dancing the night away. Proceeds from the monthly event help to keep the historic theater alive.

American Graffiti Classic in Petaluma
Since 1911 the beautiful Mystic Theater has been the centerpiece of nightlife in Petaluma. The theater’s classic marquee was featured in the iconic “American Graffiti” movie. Live music returns to the venue in September 2021 with a season featuring Wynonna Judge, Tyler Rich, Robert Cray and more.

Merced’s Century-Old Venue
While 2020 was a dark year for theaters, the historic Mainzer in Merced used the downtime to renovate the 100-year-old theater. Now reopened, theater lovers will enjoy the restored building and relit marquee. The venue features a cinema, live performance space and restaurant. Located at the gateway to Yosemite, the theater was originally built on the heels of the 1918 flu pandemic to serve guests and locals flocking to the area for access to wide-open spaces.

Live Entertainment Returns to Visalia
The Visalia Fox Theater finally reopens after a renovation and the pandemic has kept it dark for over a year. Built during Hollywood’s Golden Age, the theater boasts a Spanish-style exterior with a surprising East Indian interior that features elephants, pagodas, stars that light up the ceiling and a carved genie over the stage. Today the renovated theater is home to the Sequoia Symphony Orchestra. The grand opening is slated for Sept. 17, 2021 with comedian Felipe Esparza.

SLO Tunes at The Fremont Theater
Since the 1940s The Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo has entertained scores of entertainment seekers as a movie theater and live performance venue. Designed by famed architect S. Charles Lee, the iconic theater nearly didn’t survive the pandemic, but thankfully it has returned with a host of live events featuring top indie and country artists in 2021 and early 2022.

Downhome Fun in Pioneertown
In the 1940s Pioneertown was founded by Hollywood investors who envisioned it as a living Western film set. In the early 1980s, Pappy and Harriet’s came to town bringing with it a family-friendly venue for live music and great BBQ. After many lockdowns the great music and grub is back delighting locals and tourists alike.

Broadway is Back in Riverside
Since 1929 the Fox Riverside Theater has been the hub of arts and culture in the region hosting the likes of Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and the first public screening of “Gone With The Wind.” Today, the iconic theater reopens with a Broadway season featuring South Pacific, Waitress, Officer and a Gentleman, The Buddy Holly Story and Simon & Garfunkel. The venue also hosts an array of concerts throughout the year.

The Troubadour is a Hollywood Legend
The venerable Rolling Stone Magazine named The Troubadour the second best rock club in America, making it a must-stop destination for any music lover. The Los Angeles institution saw Richard Pryor, Neil Young, James Taylor and Elton John all make their Tinsel Town debuts. The club is still the “it” spot for today’s cutting edge acts.

Making History in Santa Ana
On the National Register of Historic Places, The Yost Theater in Santa Ana was a movie house during the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. Today it hosts a variety of events, including Baron Rojo, a Spanish heavy metal band headlining in October 2021.

Ready to Rock in San Diego
The historic Observatory of North Park in San Diego was a renowned spot for classic theater and opera, but today the incredible acoustics make it a favorite spot for touring rock and pop acts. The 2021 calendar is filled with a variety of musical acts from alternative rock to adult contemporary artists.

Note: As communities re-open after COVID-19-related closures, some parks, businesses and attractions may still be closed or have new protocols in place. Please verify local guidelines and regulations for all destinations and hours and availability of individual businesses before publishing. Check out Visit California’s Responsible Travel Hub for guidance on how visitors can travel within California safely.