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Downtown Old Town Temecula

Thursday, March 20, 2014 9:00 PM

Old Town Temecula continually improves and re-imagines itself in new, contemporary ways. Most authentic is the independent spirit that endures and thrives here. Like the historical Old Town facades, recent Old Town structures reflect different architectural styles. This almost eclectic variety of styles is one of the catalysts for Old Town bistros' and specialty stores' individual expression and creativity.

The burgeoning Old Town Temecula culinary scene includes a variety of independently owned, eateries with delicious, one-of-a-kind menus; and the Old Town Temecula Tasting Trail with its artisanal food emporiums and wine tasting rooms. Local, artisan food shops like Temecula Olive Oil Company garner an exceptional following for their sustainable practices and quality products. Old Town's wine tasting rooms are popular for swirling, sniffing, and sipping some of the many award-winning, premium varietal and proprietary blended, wines of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country.


Visitors find free and convenient parking in the Old Town Temecula Parking Garage at Third Street and Mercedes. Walking is a great way to get to know Old Town; the Old Town district is ideal for exploring on foot (wear comfortable shoes). Stop in at the Temecula Valley Visitors Center adjacent the Old Town Parking Garage for visitor information; answers to many Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country questions; and a free, self-guided, Old Town Temecula Historic Walking Tour map/brochure.


Gateway Arches at the northern and southern entrances to Downtown Old Town Temecula depict themes from Temecula Valley history. In 1859, the first U.S. post office was established in Temecula. Marking Temecula's permanence and importance, the year ‘1859' is boldly detailed and centered on each Gateway Arch. This was the era of the Butterfield Stage. In the more than 150 years since, Temecula has seen many influences and several incarnations.

Temecula town site was established with arrival of the railroad in 1882; those railroad days endured into the 1930s. Today, more than a dozen historical properties dating as far back as the 1890s still exist and have been repurposed and reopened in Downtown Old Town Temecula.

Just as the stagecoaches and railroad had done, new roads in the early 1900s helped to open up Temecula to the outside world. The Inland Highway (the first, paved, two-lane, county road and ancestor of Highway 395) was built through Temecula Valley in 1915. Until 1949 it ran down Front Street where restaurants, gas stations, and motels served those travelling through Temecula Valley.

Meanwhile, from the 1800s until the 1960s, cattle were the backbone of Temecula Valley economy with great cattle drives from the backcountry. In 1905, cattle baron Walter Vail began buying vast acreage surrounding the town of Temecula. By 1947, the Vail Ranch included more than 87,500 acres. Walter's son, Mahlon Vail managed the operation for many years and Temecula's Old West lifestyle flourished.

In 1964, the Vails announced the sale of their ranch to a consortium of developers who had plans for a semi-urban, pastoral, master-planned community to be known as Rancho California. When the City of Temecula was incorporated in 1989, residents voted to retain the name of the original Native American village and eventual railroad town site.


Downtown Old Town Temecula offers intriguing diversions, and wonderful, food and wine tasting, dining, and shopping. Looking east up Main Street from the bridge at Pujol, the new California mission-revival style Civic Center and Town Square are an impressive site. Meriting a closer view at the base of Temecula Town Square (and a popular scene for memorable photo opportunities) is the remarkable fountain inspired by the textural design of Luiseño basket artistry.

Also on Main Street near the bridge, families with children discover Pennypickle's Workshop Children's Museum with fun learning experiences, and science-based educational toys and experiments. Down the block is The Bank Mexican Restaurant, rich in history and culinary expertise. The 1914 First National Bank of Temecula building serves authentic, Mexican food and margaritas.

Across the street, in the 1905 Welty Building is Temecula Olive Oil Company. The family-owned-and-operated establishment is acclaimed for its sustainably grown, 100% California, 100% extra virgin olive oil. Complimentary olive oil tastings are offered daily.

Down the district's main thoroughfare (Old Town Front Street), near Old Town's southern Gateway Arch, Baily's fine dining and Front Street Bar & Grill share a handsome building. Baily's features fine, California/Continental cuisine and a weekly prix fixe menu. Front Street Bar & Grill is upscale, casual with patio dining and a menu that showcases Cajun, barbecue, and gourmet burgers. Late nights, the upstairs becomes the popular club, Eleven After Dark.

Uphill bordering Mercedes Street and across from the Civic Center is Third Street Smokehouse (formerly Sweet Lumpy's BBQ.) Specialties include ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, and tri-tip. Up Mercedes Street at Fifth Street, Parea and Robin's Nest share the first floor of the corner building. Parea Old Town Temecula is the district's Greek-Mediterranean tapas-wine bar. Robin's Nest is gracious with a specialty of baking memorable, southern-style desserts with innovative twists.

Down the block is Palumbo's Ristorante with a menu of Southern Italian Cuisine and a variety of local Temecula Valley wines. The bread, raviolis, sausage, meatballs, soups, and sauces are all freshly house-made; and meals are made-to-order. Next-door is Old Town Spice & Tea Merchants where recycled 100-year-old barn beams support shelves of fine spice and herb blends, sea salts, and loose teas.

Down Fifth Street are The Gambling Cowboy and Nitza's Pizza. The Gambling Cowboy features an elegant, late-19th-century setting, and classic steak-and-seafood menu. Nitza's Pizza serves specialty cowboy-themed pizzas, spaghetti, hot wings, and stromboli.

Back on Old Town Front Street, the uber-casual Rosa's Cantina features flame-grilled carné asada and a fun salsa bar. Old Town Pub and Grub is popular for its namesake food and beverage, and for watching sports on big screen TVs. Down the block, Old Town Sweet Shop has fresh fudge, truffles, and a spectacular selection of Jelly Bellys® and retro candy. At Old Town Root Beer, the family-recipe namesake beverage, 200 other root beers, and a crazy variety of 300 other classic and nostalgic sodas are sold.

A short stroll north is Texas Lil's Mesquite Grill. Temecula Valley's original ranch-style steakhouse has a reputation for portions and service that please. Nearby is Mad Madeline's Grill. Patrons enjoy this  popular eatery for its hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and fries. With porch seating, diners can watch the hustle-and-bustle along Old Town Front Street.

The northern section of Old Town is ideal for imaginative shopping with a collection of novelty, special stores and boutiques. Just beyond Old Town Temecula's northern Gateway Arch, is Sam Hicks Park, with the "They Passed This Way" monument, a testament to the brave explorers and pioneers who traveled through Temecula in the years as the West was being settled. In honor of their pioneering spirit, dozens of names are etched in the locally quarried, 150-ton, granite memorial.

Across the way, the Temecula Valley History Museum is an excellent place to explore Temecula's reverence for the past. Exhibits depict key stories in local history. The museum also provides docent-led walking tours of historic Old Town Temecula for groups of 10 people and more, by advance reservation.

Nearby is the 1917 Chapel of Memories, a wedding venue nestled by rose gardens. Across from the chapel is the newest addition to the Old Town Temecula culinary scene. An eternal champion of Slow Food, and a local advocate for local farmers, ranchers, and food artisans for more than a dozen years, is E.A.T.-Extraordinary Artisan Table and E.A.T. Marketplace. The casual, friendly, locally foraged eatery and marketplace is popular for breakfast, lunch, and dinner-to-go. 

The Downtown Old Town Temecula district includes 60+ individually owned, specialty stores. A favorite destination is charming Temecula Lavender Company featuring locally grown, pure, small-batch, signature products for bath, body, and home. The Gardener's Cottage features a wide variety of fanciful gifts including namesake garden-related items like fairies, frogs, rabbits, gnomes, and dragonflies. With a modern rustic vibe, Five Blooms is an inspiring home décor and vintage store, and one of Old Town's most recently added emporiums. Just across the river from Old Town is Granny's Attic with a great variety of collectibles, antiques, vintage clothing, and one-of-a-kind American furniture dating to the 1800s.


Of interest to visual art enthusiasts are Old Town Temecula's Gallery at The MERC and Art Gallery at Temecula Civic Center. Both galleries feature exhibits showcasing the works of local artists on a rotating basis.

Central to Old Town's entertainment offerings is the 361-seat, Old Town Temecula Community Theater with excellent sightlines and exquisite sound from every seat. The Theater's quality arts and entertainment include local theatrical productions (Little Shop of Horrors, Tom Sawyer, Hello Dolly). Concerts feature a variety of genres (Sock Hops and Soda Shoppes starring The Wonderelles to Creedence Relived - A Tribute to Creedence Clearwater Revival). Dance productions span contemporary to classic, ballet companies. The Old Town Theater also presents excellent holiday performances like Tchaikovsky's beautiful, beloved ballet The Nutcracker; and A Christmas Carol: The Musical telling the uplifting tale of Scrooge's transformation and goodwill.

Adjacent to the Theater, is the historic 1891 Mercantile Building - now The MERC. The club-style performance space has tall nineteenth-century brick walls that make for excellent acoustics. Sunday afternoons showcase classical chamber performances; Thursday evenings notable jazz artists take to the stage; first and third Saturdays of each month feature Country Music ala Temecula Opry style; and the last Sunday evening of each month, Broadway-style Cabaret acts entertain the intimate club's 50 guests.

Among Old Town Temecula wine tasting rooms are Curry Vineyards, Fazeli Cellars, and Lorimar Loft. All are friendly, relaxed places to enjoy premium handcrafted, award-winning Temecula Valley wines and live music (weekends).

For additional arts and culture events, please see the complete, daily Temecula Valley Events Calendar on


Throughout the year, Old Town Temecula is host to variety of festive events including:

  • Temecula Rod Run (second Friday-Saturday in March) with hundreds of pre-1974 vehicles attracting 20,000 auto enthusiasts.
  • Old Town Temecula Bluegrass Festival (third full Friday-Sunday in March) with jubilant concerts and jam sessions throughout the streets of Downtown Old Town Temecula and at the Old Town Temecula Community Theater.
  • Old Town Temecula Western Days & Chili Cookoff (third full Saturday-Sunday in May) with Old West characters, music, trick ropers, bank robbery, and International Chili Society Cookoff.
  • Old Town Temecula Art Festival with Street Painting & Plein Air Festivals (Friday-Saturday-Sunday after Father's Day) with vibrant murals on asphalt, outdoor painting on canvas, and music.
  • Star-Spangled 4th of July Parade in Old Town Temecula (morning of July 4).
  • Hot Summer Nights in Downtown Old Town Temecula (Fridays, after 4th of July through Labor Day weekend) with live bands playing on stages and patios throughout the Downtown Old Town district.
  • Old Town Temecula Outdoor Quilt Show (first Saturday in October) with hundreds of quilts and thousands of yards of fabric turning Old Town into a colorful, patchwork display.
  • Snow Bell Rockin' Nights in Old Town Temecula (Friday after Thanksgiving, then every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, through the weekend of New Year's) with magical snow fall show celebrating seasonal menus featured in Downtown Old Town restaurants with premium Temecula Valley wines; and holiday performances at the Old Town Temecula Community Theater.
  • Winterfest Holidays in Downtown Old Town Temecula (Friday after Thanksgiving through New Year's Day) with tens of thousands of twinkling lights; visits with Santa Claus; and the popular, holiday ice skating rink on Town Square.
  • Santa's Electric Light Parade in Old Town Temecula (first Friday in December) with a festive, nighttime, illuminated procession.
  • Temecula on Ice: Outdoor Skating Rink at Town Square in Downtown Old Town Temecula (Friday of mid-December through weekend of New Year's) coolest place in the popular, arts-entertainment-shopping-and-dining district during the Winterfest season.
  • Winter Wonderland: Tons of Snow to Play In at Pennypickle's Workshop (second Friday night in December) at Pennypickle's Workshop Children's Museum.
  • Great Temecula Grape Drop and New Year's Eve Celebrations in Downtown Old Town Temecula (December 31) with live music, entertainment, and special dinner menus and celebrations at Old Town restaurants and venues; plus East Coast (9pm) and West Coast (midnight) countdowns and the descent of the great, illuminated grape bunch.

Every Saturday morning, is the popular Old Town Temecula California-Certified Farmers Market. Locals and visitors alike flock to enjoy the festive atmosphere and fill their shopping bags with a bounty of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and fresh-cut flowers, plus artisan foods, and fresh baked goods.

For a complete, daily Temecula Valley Events Calendar, please see

Information is believed accurate but may be subject to change.


Welcoming more than 2 million visitors each year, the casual, picturesque Temecula Valley is a year-round getaway and vacation destination located 60 minutes from San Diego, Orange County, and Palm Springs; 90 minutes from Los Angeles and Hollywood.

With natural gifts of climate and geography, bolstered by Pu'eska Mountain, the Rainbow Gap, and the Santa Margarita Gap, Temecula Valley is widely recognized for its scenic vineyards, award-winning wines, and gracious and friendly wineries as Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country. The popular boutique destination also includes Downtown Old Town Temecula, Pechanga Resort & Casino, and Temecula Wine Country Golf Trail, and is home to three-time, award-winning California State Winery of the Year, South Coast Winery. 

The Visit Temecula Valley (VTV), the region's official tourism marketing organization and resource for visitors, is online including a complete, daily Events Calendar at; "Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country" on Facebook; and @Visit_Temecula on Twitter. VTV also welcomes filmmakers, directors, writers, production companies, ad agencies, and location scouts online at Temecula Valley Visitors Center is located in Downtown Old Town Temecula (Third Street and Mercedes) adjacent the free Old Town Temecula Parking Garage. For visitor information and assistance, call 888/363-2852 or 951/491-6085.