Befitting a town with seven renowned colleges, Claremont is rife with cultural treasures. The city houses a handful of unique museums, a thriving music scene, pervasive public art, and the world’s largest collection of native California flora.
You’ll find a bit of intrigue around every turn—such as fossils, not-so-secret gardens, and maybe even Ben Harper.
Let’s just say that if it’s culture you crave, you’ll surely get your fix in Claremont.
Dig dinosaurs? Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, the only nationally accredited museum located on a high school campus in the nation, has two circular exhibit areas totaling 4,000 square feet that showcase the ancient giants. The museum’s fossil track and trackway collection is among the nation’s largest of its kind.
If you adore art, you’ll want to visit the Claremont Museum of Art housed in the historic Claremont Depot, which features local artists, and the brand-new Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College, which showcases groundbreaking artists, and houses a growing permanent collection ranging from Native American art to Renaissance panel paintings to works by artists such as Karl Benjamin, Rico Lebrun, and Jose Clemente Orozco.
The Petterson Museum of Intercultural Art at Pilgrim Place offers rotating culturally-themed exhibits and an impressive collection of international artifacts. Plus, admission is free.
If it’s tranquil trails and fabulous flowers you’re after, you’ll want to visit the California Botanic Garden, the largest botanic garden dedicated exclusively to California native plants, and the 10th largest herbarium in the United States. The Garden displays about 2,000 taxa of California plants spread across 86 acres, including plants native to the California Floristic Province as a whole – from southern Oregon to Baja California.
Located on the Scripps College campus, the gorgeous Margaret Fowler Garden is just too spectacular to be a secret. Featured in Westways magazine, this small, walled medieval-style cloister garden contains olive and orange trees and interior arcades, one of which is covered by an enchanting wisteria vine.
Whether you’re at the colleges or strolling through the Village, you’ll find multiple galleries such as Square i Gallery, Bunny Gunner, Studio Claremont and Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, plus dozens of pieces of world-class public art, including a Venus statue by Flemish sculptor Giovanni da Bologna (1529-1608) at Harvey Mudd College, a fresco painted in 1946 by Mexican muralist Alfredo Ramos Martinez at the Margaret Fowler Garden at Scripps College, and The James Turrell Skyspace, “Dividing the Light,” at Pomona College, a free light show (10 minutes before sunset and one hour before sunrise) you’ll have to see to believe.
Art exhibitions are also showcased throughout the Claremont Village during the First Saturday Art Walk, which is held on the first Saturday of the month from 6 to 9 p.m.
Unique Cultural Offerings
Local bookstores that allow you to hold the pages in your hand are hard to come by these days. But at The Claremont Forum Bookshop & Gallery, run by the Claremont Forum, a non-profit community organization that donates books to prisoners, you can view local artwork and peruse an eclectic array of real, live books.
If you’re more into watching a story unfold on-screen, stop at the Laemmle 5 Claremont Theatre, which showcases the latest independent, foreign & art films. And if you’re visiting Claremont in May, you’ll definitely want to attend the L.A. Shorts International Film Festival hosted by the theater.
Claremont is also home to the Midsummer Shakespeare Festival at the beautiful outdoor Sontag Greek Theatre at Pomona College. Much like the Hollywood Bowl, picnicking—with wine—is encouraged.
In Claremont, you don’t have to endure terrible traffic and exorbitant parking prices to see a Broadway caliber show. The Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater, located on the historic Route 66, offers top-notch concerts and musical theater productions paired with fine-dining fare.
Prefer cleverly named cocktails and adult humor with your tunes? The Piano Piano Dueling Piano Show, is home to cheeky world-class performers, most of whom regularly appear in Vegas.
Who doesn’t love a free concert? At Bridges Hall of Music at Pomona College, you’ll find a broad spectrum of free concerts encompassing classical, jazz, folk, Western, and non-Western music. Some recent performers have included pianist Boris Berman, Kronos Quartet, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, soprano Lucy Shelton, and the Tyva Kyzy Tuvan Throat Singers.
If you’re feeling inspired to make your own beats, the Folk Music Center Museum and Store, which has been in Grammy-winner Ben Harper’s family since 1958, features hundreds of instruments from around the world that you can actually touch and play—without any dirty looks. The Folk Music Center also offers classes and workshops, a lineup of musical performances from local and international folk performers, and an Open Mic on the last Sunday of every month.