Lifestyle

15 Things You Don't Know About Santa Clarita Valley (Unless You’re From Here)

To the majority of people who don’t live here or weren’t born here, the Santa Clarita Valley can seem like nothing more than the home of Six Flags Magic Mountain, lots of chain restaurants with sizable parking lots, and rows of tract housing. On the other hand, if you rep the 661, then you probably know…

1. Valencia is Santa Clarita, but Santa Clarita is not necessarily Valencia

Most folks over the hill think Valencia = Santa Clarita. Wrong. The actual city of Santa Clarita includes Newhall (the OG part of town), Valencia, Saugus, and Canyon Country, and each has its own perceptions, demographics, and stereotypes (File under: Saugus = soccer moms). But wait, there’s more. There are also communities that sit outside city limits, including Stevenson Ranch (the Stepford-ish housing tract where Weeds was filmed), Westridge, Castaic, Val Verde, and even far-off Agua Dulce, in the rural middle ground on the way to Palmdale.

2. The best breakfast burritos are from Jimmy Dean’s

A breakfast burrito from Jimmy Dean’s is the kind of thing railway workers ate in the dark of early morning hours before swinging sledgehammers, or something like that. Picture a large tortilla stuffed with hot scrambled eggs, cheese, hash browns, bacon, and chili, with a dash of salsa verde. Every bite explodes with hearty, greasy flavor. Also, you probably won’t eat for the rest of your life/the day (the faint of heart and stomach are advised to order the junior size).

3. You know what the Four Corners are, and that it’s the worst intersection in town

With the exception of, oh I don’t know, midnight to 6am, the intersection of Valencia Blvd, Soledad Canyon Rd, Bouquet Canyon Rd, and Railroad Ave is a traffic nightmare dreamed up by the traffic devil himself likely when he was sitting at the Four Corners. It really is that bad.

4. We cut a train station into pieces

By 1980, the Saugus Train Station that had sat for decades near the intersection of Railroad Ave and Magic Mountain Pkwy had fallen out of use. When the threat of a wrecking ball was raised, history-lovin’ locals came up with the most logical plan they could: they SAWED THE BUILDING INTO THREE PIECES, threw it on flatbed trucks, and cruised it all the way across town. Today, the Saugus Train Station sits reassembled at the intersection of Railroad and Newhall Ave, where a Metrolink train whizzes past several times a day. It’s sort of the crown jewel of Heritage Junction, a collection of historic homes that were saved from demolition and relocated.

5. You know the Halfway House has nothing to do with rehab

Hook a left off Soledad Canyon Rd at Sierra Hwy and drive a few miles down the road, past the edge of Santa Clarita’s suburban sprawl, look for the giant red “EAT” sign, and pull off at a place you’ve probably spotted in more than a few movies, TV shows, and commercials. The Halfway House Cafe (named for being halfway between Los Angeles and Palmdale, obviously) is the stuff of which old-school diner dreams are made. Nothing fancy here, just hearty Americana on a plate, washed down with cup after cup of hot, black coffee.

6. Val Verde was the “Black Palm Springs”

Honestly, there are people that live here that don’t even know where Val Verde is (just FYI: it’s in the hills just west of the 5). It can be hard to imagine a time when even Los Angeles was segregated, but when this small community flourished in the 1920s and 1930s, it literally became a resort center known then as the “Black Palm Springs.” Today, it’s a small (about 2,500 people), tight-knit and primarily Hispanic community, with a vibrant youth program at its park.

7. Don’t ever call it “Awesometown”

A couple years back, Newhall Land, the developer that literally made Valencia what it is, came up with the idea to brand Valencia as “Awesometown” and slap posters and billboards all over the LA region. This might be a great community in which to live, but trust us, no local worth their salt is using “Awesometown” without tongue planted firmly in cheek.

8. CalArts has always been an oddball

What do creative people like Tim Burton, Pixar’s John Lasseter, and Ravi Coltrane have in common with Santa Clarita Valley? They all went to California Institute of the Arts, known simply as CalArts. Built on a Valencia hill above Interstate 5 in 1961, it’s one of the nation’s leading art schools, brimming with creative types who provide a stark contrast to the beige suburbanness that permeates much of the community. And -- oh yeah -- for actually arts-minded residents, they have an outdoor amphitheater called the Wild Beast that regularly hosts free performances and concerts.

9. House Roots has unquestionably the best coffee game in town

Over the last few years, coffee culture in LA has really heated up (see what we did there?), but the SCV is still pretty much a coffee desert, unless you count the Starbucks that’s on every other corner (you shouldn’t). There is, however, a beacon of hope brewing (we’re never going to stop) in Newhall at House Roots Coffee. Started by veterans of Los Angeles’ Cafe Dulce and ranked by CNN as one of the hottest new coffee spots in the country, these folks are bringing seriously well-done coffee to the masses of SCV. HRC is currently operating out of a space in the equally fantastic Newhall Refinery, but the rumor is they’re on the hunt for a brick-and-mortar location of their own in the coming months.

10. You’ve heard Jimmy at Dario’s cover “Hotel California”

Dario’s is easy to miss. Tucked at the back of a parking lot behind a gas station and a liquor store, this longtime Mexican joint with dim lighting, heavy wood, and dark booths serves up plates of south-of-the-border sustenance and pours a decent margarita. But the real treat is if you happen to be there at night when Jimmy Joyce has his keyboard set up and is crooning classic hits. Just don’t request “Freebird” unless you actually want to hear it.

11. There’s a reason it’s called “Hollywood North”

You know that NCIS show your grandparents love? Yeah, it’s filmed pretty much all over the SCV. Throw a rock in any given direction and you’ll probably hit the girl who plays sassy-talking Abby Sciuto. So actually maybe don’t throw any rocks.

12. The East Side Target is a gem hiding in plain sight

The Valencia Target can be an ordeal, especially on weekends. There’s no dashing in and out here; you need to commit to crowded aisles and long checkout lines. But wait, what’s that? Supposedly there’s a Target on the other side of town. Despite, you know, a quarter-million people living in this valley, it still seems no one has discovered the Target on Golden Valley Rd east of the 14. Go there on any given day and either dash in and out for those seasonal allergy meds, or take your time and browse wide-open aisles full of paisley elephant tank tops before the crowds come.

13. We first struck oil here

Way down at the end of Pico Canyon Rd west of Stevenson Ranch is Mentryville, a ghost town that’s a popular filming location and home to some hiking trails. Oh -- it was also the birthplace of California’s oil industry, and the site of the first successful commercial oil well in the Western US, and has been producing black gold for over 100 years.

14. Old Town Newhall is actually becoming a thing

Up until a few years ago, Main St in Newhall was looking pretty tired. After a few years of public investment and businesses taking a risk, it’s starting to turn into a really promising neighborhood, with a gastropub and wine bar, a soon-to-open BBQ joint, a new library, and regular streetfair events.

15. Yes, you can find craft beer here

Sure, bartenders at most spots ask if you’d prefer Budweiser or Bud Light, but nestled among auto repair shops along Soledad Canyon Rd, the unassuming Michael’s Liquor is a treasure trove of delicious and hard-to-find craft beers, and both Newhall Refinery and Wolf Creek Brewing Co. have a slew of non-macro selections.

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Josh Premako has lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for more than 15 years, working as a writer and photographer. He’s on Twitter and Instagram.