Upgrade your browser - Unfortunately, this site has updated features that cannot run on this version of Internet Explorer. Download a free upgrade of Internet Explorer.
Whats Old and Still Going Strong mobile
Discover Story Ideas Details Back to Story Ideas

What's Old and Still Going Strong

There’s a saying that certain things get better with age – which is certainly true for the entire state of California. This state has always been a hub of entrepreneurship and innovation – and today, visitors and locals alike can learn about its history, architecture and culture at these standout historic sites across from San Diego up to Humboldt County and everywhere in between.

Historic Hotels

Casa Cody is the oldest operating hotel in Palm Springs and a designated Class 1 historic site first founded in the 1920s by Hollywood pioneer Harriet Cody, (cousin of the illustrious Buffalo Bill!). Casa Cody’s 30 rooms and suites are housed in historic structures – including the Olympic Cottage, which originally sheltered athletes during the Los Angeles 1932 Summer Olympics.

Another desert destination, The Inn at Death Valley is nestled within the vast, arid Death Valley National Park. This property first opened in 1927 offering just 10 rooms but hosting popular Hollywood celebrities like Clark Gable and later George Lucas (who filmed the original Star Wars movies in Death Valley!). The inn has since expanded to feature more guest rooms, a spring-fed pool, tennis courts and a legendary golf course.

In one of LA’s most historically elite neighborhoods, The Beverly Hills Hotel is a longstanding Tinseltown icon – and although this hotel truly doesn’t look a day over 25, the property is celebrating its 110th birthday in 2022. Today it remains a coveted A-list hideaway, where celebrities can be frequently seen dining on-site at Polo Lounge or soaking up sun by the pool.

In Gold Country, The Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley offers a modern experience while retaining the charm of Gold Rush Era heritage. This 28-room inn was first established in 1862, and celebrates the spirit of the rugged-yet-refined frontiersman. Nearby in Nevada City, the National Exchange Hotel dates back to 1856 and features 38 guest rooms, 400 pieces of art and an interior design that evokes the feminine elegance of the Victorian Era.

Retro Restaurants

This Historic Hiouchi Cafe has been serving the local communities within Del Norte County since the 1940s and is now renowned for its delicious food, friendly staff and a very rich history. The walls are adorned with decades of photos of local grinning fishermen with the huge fish caught from the turquoise waters of the Smith River.

A trip to grab a bite at the original Bob's Big Boy in Burbank feels like a trip back in time. This burger joint dates back to 1949, and is the oldest Big Boy in the U.S. The spot is well-known for its retro design, by renowned architect Wayne McAllister who incorporated the 1940s transitional design of streamline modern style while anticipating the free-form 50s coffee shop architecture.

In Sonoma County, travelers can visit the pioneers of winemaking in California at the state’s first premium winery, Buena Vista, and oldest continuously family-owned winery, Gundlach Bundschu. Here, guests can taste the famous zinfandels at Cline Family Cellars in Sonoma, grown on the estate of ancient vines that are 80 to 120 years old.

Long Lasting Landmarks

The Ventura Pier was first built in 1872, and has a colorful background as an original epicenter of Ventura commerce. It was formerly the longest wooden pier in California (until it was whittled away by storms), and today serves as a lovely bridge between past and present for visitors to feel the gentle ocean breeze (and ocean waves!) directly beneath their feet.

In the early 1900s, wealthy sugar magnate John D. Spreckels was developing San Diego with a main focus on the up-and-coming Mission Beach. He built the Mission Beach Entertainment Center, now an attraction known as Belmont Park, with its 2,600 foot long, historic Giant Dipper roller coaster for a price of $150,000 which is the equivalent of almost $500,000 today (but don’t worry, a modern day park pass will still only cost you $50).

Nearby, The Whaley House used to be a central pillar of San Diego’s 19th century Old Town community as a family home, San Diego’s first commercial theater, the county courthouse and a general store. A day exploring the family home of Thomas Whaley is to be transported back to San Diego life in the 1800s (plus, you might even see a ghost!).

Notable Neighborhoods

The City of Eureka is the heart of the U.S. Redwood Coast, offering numerous examples of stunning Victorian architecture. During the lumber boom of the 1800s, many elaborate homes and structures were built from original redwood, and still stand today. The entire Old Town district is part of the United States National Register of Historic Places but is still a place of bustling local business.

Santa Clarita has always been home to many interesting historic sites, including the walkable neighborhood Old Town Newhall and landmarks like the beautiful William S. Hart Museum & Park, Heritage Junction and the Walk of Western Stars which showcases the legacy of Western Film stars both past and present. 

Benicia is a bevy of charming vintage architecture and historic spots dating back to the Gold Rush, the Wild West, and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Every corner of town is filled with stories of the past, including grand mansions that hosted military dress balls and galas more than 150 years ago. Visitors should be sure to check out Benicia's iconic Clock Tower Fortress, a former military arsenal that still stands after a fiery explosion in 1912 blew up the building's top floor.