Santa Clarita is home to some fascinating historical sites. From the days of the gold rush to Western movies, Santa Clarita history holds a key place in some of California’s most important moments in history.
The Way Station, a local favorite that has been a Santa Clarita staple over the last 40 years is a great place to start your day of Santa Clarita history. Filled with old diner flare and home-style cooking, this Santa Clarita restaurant is truly one of a kind. Vintage license plates and signs add to the ambience, while fresh coffee is always brewing and bacon and hash browns are constantly on the grill.
After you have filled up from the hearty breakfast, visit the William S. Hart Park and Museum. William Hart, a silent film star, lived in Santa Clarita and upon his death donated his sprawling ranch to Los Angeles County. The 256-acre ranch is now William S. Hart Park and William S. Hart Museum, a member of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, and is open to the public at no charge. Hart’s former home, now a museum, exhibits an impressive collection of Western artwork, personal furnishings, and additional Hollywood mementos. Guided tours of the William S. Hart Museum’s mansion are offered year-round, and the Ranch House is open for unguided tours. After visiting both of those it is time to explore the park where you will find plenty of space to hike and visit the barn yard animals and natural surroundings. Pack a snack and enjoy it on one of the numerous picnic table and chairs.
Located within the park is Heritage Junction. It offers more buildings that were key in Santa Clarita history such as the Saugus Train Station which opened in 1887, the Edison House, and the Newhall Ranch House, all with interesting stories that explain the city’s past. For anyone looking to know more about Santa Clarita history, this will truly be a delight.
Located at the base of Pico Canyon and just a few minutes away from Hart Park is Mentryville. Historical 19th Century western structures give visitors an authentic look into the past of California’s “black gold” boom town era. Pioneer oil town Mentryville was home to over 100 families until the early 1930’s. It was the site of the first commercially successful oil well in the western United States. Pico No. 4 went on to become the longest continually operating oil well in the world, closing in 1990. Historic buildings still stand in this pioneer oil town including Charles Mentry’s grand thirteen-room mansion which was built in 1898, a one-room school house, and a period barn. Mentryville and Pico No. 4 are registered as California State Historical Landmarks.
End your day on the Walk of Western Stars as you make your way to El Trocadero for dinner. Throughout Downtown Newhall, stars are emblazoned on the ground, memorializing the stars of the Westerns that have filmed in Santa Clarita for centuries. There, you’ll see stars for Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, John Wayne, and William S. Hart, amongst many others.
Downtown Newhall is known for its plethora of authentic Mexican restaurants, and this one is no different. El Trocadero is a Northern Mexican steakhouse offering regional dishes that may be new to you, as well as traditional Mexican fare. Try one of their unique steak or lamb dishes and enjoy a margarita.
Get some history with your breakfast at the longest operating restaurant in Los Angeles County, Saugus Café. Opened in 1886, this well-known Santa Clarita café offers home-style cooking at great prices. Most commonly known for its film history and service to film stars, the Saugus Café has dished up meals for historical legends such as President Theodore Roosevelt, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin and more.
Next, head down Railroad Avenue towards Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio. This Hollywood Western backlot houses one of the world’s largest collections of one-of-a-kind movie memorabilia from the last nine decades. The Museum, located on a 22 acre movie studio lot, offers silver-screen fans an opportunity to experience movie sets in the old west, military camps, 1930s gangster settings, never-before-seen photos from movie and television shoots, vintage cars, military tanks and original props. The studio is home to some of the most famous westerns, like “The Lone Ranger”, “Gunsmoke” and “Hopalong Cassidy.” Be sure to call ahead to make your tour reservations to explore this working studio and museum, one of the most original Southern California attractions in the area.
As the journey continues you can head over to the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, a 350-acre wildlife sanctuary for some more natural history. One of the most popular spots at Placerita Canyon is the Oak of the Golden Dream, the site of the first gold discovery in California. Visit the live animals in the Nature Center’s museum and even go for a hike through the natural trails. The park features seven different trails, covering more than 12 miles. Guided nature hikes are available throughout the year with Family Nature Walks every Saturday.
For dinner, enjoy the delicious cuisine of Wolf Creek Restaurant and Brewing Co. With a family-friendly atmosphere, this Santa Clarita local favorite serves excellent sandwiches, pasta dishes and other American faire, and a microbrew list that will definitely impress. Save room for dessert as the pastry chef bakes up new treats every day!
Don’t want the day of Southern California fun to end? Catch a flick at Edwards Movie Theater at the Valencia Town Center. The theater boasts a state of the art IMAX theater where all 3-D movies come to life. Catch the most recent blockbuster!