Cultural activities are soaring in popularity now that a growing number of Americans are actively seeking more meaningful experiences when traveling within the United States.
However, with most historical destinations being concentrated on the East Coast, where some of the oldest settlements in America are, it's only natural that California wouldn't be your first choice for a cultural getaway – unless, of course, you're thinking Hollywood and the world of cinema.
It is, after all, best known for its nature, with a scenic coastline and massive snow-capped peaks being popular postcard shots, yet it is so much more than a mere beach or hiking hotspot or the glitz and glamor of LA.
Here are 3 incredible destinations to immerse yourself in Californian culture and experience a different side of the Golden State:
Old Town San Diego
San Diego is a bustling coastal metropolis straddling the Pacific, most commonly known for its golden-sand beaches, epic waves, which draw surfers and watersports enthusiasts from all over the world, and of course, its gateway into Tijuana, a shopping hub just over the border in Mexico.
Though these already make San Diego an attractive destination, very few tourists know it is one of California's most historically-charged cities; as a matter of fact, it is the oldest European settlement in the Western United States, established by Spaniards as early as 1769.
Its Old Town district is one of California's unsung gems, home to a plethora of colonial structures dating back to the Spanish period, including a Franciscan-founded church (Mission San Diego de Alcalá), and two major areas listed on the National Register of Historic Places:
The Old Town San Diego Historic Park, encompassing some of the oldest buildings still standing in the States, dates as far back as the early 19th century, and Presidio Park, where a defensive fort once stood, marking the founding of the Western settlements.
Dubbed California's prettiest village, Carmel-by-the-Sea was founded only in 1902, centuries after Spanish settlers first arrived on the scene, but what it lacks in historical weight, it makes up for in tradition and charm.
With houses that adhere strictly to European architecture revivalism, including neo-castles, English-style cottages, and half-timbered dwellings, and a population that seems fully devoted to the arts, and the embellishment of their place of residence, Carmel is truly a one-of-a-kind settlement.
Strolling the perfectly Instagrammable downtown, tourists will also come upon craft shops, family-owned restaurants where they can sample some amazing seafood – this is coastal California, after all – and of course, numerous local art galleries.
In a way, Carmel is a Californian Capital for the Arts, as the town has spawned a number of poets, such as writer and actor Perry Newberry and renowned writer Jack London, and at one point, it even had a living legend himself, actor-director Clinton Eastwood serve as mayor.
The third and final entry on our list is Solvang, the unofficial ‘Danish Capital of America‘.
Though its origins can be traced back to 1804, upon the Spanish colonization of the West Coast, it fell into abandonment until a group of Danes purchased and resettled the land in 1911.
Unsurprisingly, they rebuilt the town in the likeness of their homeland, with construction continuing well into the 1950s.
Today, the six thousand-people-strong town is an extension of Denmark on the West Coast, with its Scandi-inspired Tivoli Square, Lutheran churches, and landmark windmill.
More information can be found on the town's official website.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
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