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Southern California: Small-town vibe in city with beachfront and easy access to Hollywood

Often compared to the fictional Mayberry, Torrance features wide city streets, unique architecture and is often used as a location in TV and film.

“Downtown Torrance makes you feel like you’re walking down Mayberry,” Torrance Bakery owner Kirk Rossberg tells me at his popular, family-owned shop in the heart of the historic downtown district, known as Old Torrance.

Just 30 minutes from LAX Airport, Torrance is nothing you’d expect of a southern California city so near to the sprawling, bustling city of Los Angeles, and the fourth largest city in Los Angeles County.

I have to agree with Rossberg, Torrance and, in particular Old Torrance, has a small town aura like Mayberry from the 1960s sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. Like the fictional Mayberry, Old Torrance has wide city streets dotted with well-kept homes, many with American flags waving out front, and most of its downtown businesses are situated in old buildings, here since its founding in 1912.

There’s also buildings from the Art Deco era, including one housing The Torrance Historical Society Museum, which stood out with its sleek modern design and on the day I visited a vintage car, from the 1950s, parked out front.

Torrance Bakery is just around the corner from the museum, and as I sit outside of it eating one of the bakeries’s signature sandwiches for lunch, named after a beloved waitress, I learn it’s more than just architecture that justifies the Mayberry comparison. There’s an unspoiled authenticity and friendliness shown by passersby.

Granted, I’m sitting with Debbie Hays, a well-known local who has volunteered on many community organizations, including the Torrance Historical Society and works on Discover Torrance, to help promote the city. But it’s still surprising the number of people who stop by our outdoor table to say hello, including a few who also make reference to Mayberry when I asked them what they like about Torrance.

“The city in general is fairly large with 150,000 people,” says the Torrance-born Rossberg.

“It’s a great community. It’s freeway accessible but there’s no freeway that goes through it which is really important so it stays a nice community.”

Rossberg, who has worked in bakeries since high school, decided he loved cake decorating so much he wanted to make a career from it and opened his own bakery 40 years ago. Adding, there was nowhere better to open a bakery than his hometown, despite some initial challenges.

“When we first got the bakery, the oven broke down two weeks after we started and I had no money left over. The oven guy came in, fixed it and said pay me when you can. That’s the kind of place Torrance is,” he says.

Rossberg’s bakery has since expanded from its original 1,200 sq. ft. shop to now taking up 14,000 square feet over two locations, and employs 115 staff.

Being just outside of Hollywood and with its unique architecture, Torrance has also been the location for many television series and films.

The local high school is where 90210 was filmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s home is in Old Torrance as well.

More recently, other film crews have included Lonestar, 9-1-1, Insecure and Grey’s Anatomy, to name just a few. The latter television series, while set in Seattle, has shot many of their Pacific Ocean scenes at Torrance Beach, considered a hidden gem since its 2.4 km of coastline is often uncrowded. And with a concession stand, volleyball nets and 40 acres of soft sand, it’s a great place to have fun by the ocean.

Torrance Beach is also either the starting or end point, depending on which direction you are travelling, for The Strand, a 35-km coastal bike path between the city and Santa Monica. It connects many of the beaches in south California like neighbouring Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan beaches.

Torrance is also located approximately 48 km from Hollywood, Universal Studios and Disneyland Resorts, so is a good option for people who want to travel to and around Los Angeles.

Torrance is also less than half an hour by car from SoFi Stadium, home to the NFL’s Chargers and Rams. It will also be the site of eight matches in the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup and one of the 2028 summer Olympics venues.

While my first stop would be to Torrance Bakery for great pastries and to meet some of the locals, the following is a list of places I’d also recommend visiting while in “Mayberry,” USA:

The Madrona Marsh Preserve & Nature Centre is an urban oasis and free for the public to enjoy in the middle of the city. This beautiful, open space is a great place for a walk or birdwatching, with more than 275 native and 50 non-native species of birds, seen in the past 40 years here. It’s also one of the last vernal wetlands remaining in the South Bay area of southern California. The entrance is directly across the street from the Nature Center.

South Coast Botanic Garden while technically not in Torrance is very close by, in the neighbouring city of Palos Verdes. This 35-hectare property was the world’s first botanic garden built atop a garbage landfill. It was originally Los Angeles County’s sanitation landfill until it was dedicated as a garden in 1960 and now has a more than 2,500 different plant species, incluing a Desert Garden with cacti and succulents, a Rose Garden, Banyan Grove and California native plants garden among others. It also features a tropical butterfly exhibit called SOAR.

The Torrance Art Museum emphasis is on modern and contemporary artwork and showcases both local and international artworks in its two gallery spaces. When I visited, the museum was presenting a special exhibit called The Marvel of Old Masters: Rembrandt, Goya and Durer, with more than 60 engravings, etchings and woodcuts created by the three masters, including some self-portraits by Rembrandt.

American Honda Collection Hall almost seems like a secret museum when I visited recently since I was alone touring this amazing collection of Honda and Acura cars, motorcycles and other Honda innovations, dating from the company’s founding in 1959. Located at the main entrance of Honda’s U.S. headquarters in Torrance, the collection hall was opened to the public in September, 2023. A smaller version of the Honda Museum in Motegi, Japan, it has a lot on display in the 20,000-square-foot space dedicated to showcasing Honda’s history. Definitely worth the visit, especially for car enthusiasts interested in seeing some rare and special Hondas.


Where to stay: DoubleTree by Hilton is located in central Torrance, so a good base to explore the city. You can easily walk down to the beach from the hotel or go across the street for some retail therapy at the Del Amo Fashion Center, with over 250 stores. The recently renovated hotel has an outdoor pool, comfortable guest rooms, fitness room and complimentary breakfast, if you are in a suite. (All guests get a warm chocolate chip cookie at check-in.)

Where to Eat: Madre! Oaxaca Restaurant and Mezcaleria has one of the largest collections of mezcal in the United States and is also a great place for authentic Mexican cuisine. Be sure to order a dish that also includes its delicious mole sauce.

Local Kitchen is reasonably priced with large dishes, so be sure to go hungry. I ordered the blackened Mahi Tacos, which were some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten while in southern California (and I always order fish tacos there, so that’s saying something). It is a sports bar so obviously loud and not ideal if you are looking for a quiet restaurant setting.

Kim Pemberton was hosted by Discover Torrance, which did not review or approve this story. Follow her on Instagram at kimstravelogue.