California is widely regarded as the coolest state in the United States. Not cool as in the weather (it’s mostly sizzling all year long, even in winter), but cool as in most fashionable place to stay San Diego, considered one of the best places to live in the world, is truly a melting pot of cultures. The Weather Channel rated it as having the most ideal climate in summer in America, while Wallet Hub ranked it seventh-happiest place to live in America. The nightlife in this global tourist centre is world-famous, especially in the Gaslamp Quarter Manhattan Beach is a small town in Southern California with a population of about 35,000. Despite the low numbers, the town has been in existence since 1912.
Year-round sunny weather, gorgeous beaches and an abundance of family-friendly attractions make Southern California one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. Encompassing the southern third of the Golden State, SoCal stretches west from the inland deserts and mountains to the temperate shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Many of region’s cities and communities have enough sights and activities to serve as a travel destination in their own right, but it would be shame to visit the Southland without hitting the highlights. Thanks to an extensive freeway system, getting around is relatively easy, despite the occasional traffic jam. It’s possible to spend the morning surfing the waves and the afternoon skiing or hiking in the mountains. From its beautiful beaches and national parks to its world-class cultural attractions and amusement parks, here are some of the best places to visit in Southern California.
flickr/ The eight islands that lie off the coast of Southern California offer visitors a wealth of island adventures. Five of the islands are uninhabited, preserved for the public to enjoy as part of the Channel Islands National Park. Half-day and full-day excursions to Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara are available through several park-appointed boat concessionaires. Visitors can camp overnight on the island of their choice as well. The sea caves and kelp forests around the island offer great opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Boating excursions that combine whale watching with non-landing tours around the islands are a popular option. flickr/ Best known as the setting for the television show “Baywatch,” Santa Monica offers everything travelers want from a Southern California beach town, including great surfing and swimming, wide stretches of sand and plenty of sunshine.
Developed as a seaside resort in the early 1900s, the city has grown into an upscale community filled with designer shops, tasty restaurants and unique art galleries. The old-fashioned amusement park at the Santa Monica Pier is home to the city’s most recognizable landmark, a solar-powered Ferris Wheel illuminated with LED lights. Visitors can rub elbows with the rich and famous at the Third Street Promenade, one of the region’s premier shopping destinations. flickr/ Located in the Southern California desert area 140 miles (225 km) east of , Joshua Tree National Park is a popular destination for hikers, rock climbers, photography buffs and nature lovers.
Named after the treelike genus of yucca that grows in the park’s northwestern section, Joshua Tree is an expansive park that includes multiple overnight camping areas, natural springs, man-made reservoirs and more than 4,500 established rock climbing routes. Places of interest include an old cattle rustler’s hideout, Native American rock art and Keys View, a sky-high natural overlook that offers views of the landlocked Salton Sea.
flickr/ Situated 120 miles (190 km) east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs has been a popular vacation destination since the 1920s when movie stars used the desert city as their winter playground.
With its mid-century architecture, the city’s Movie Colony District illustrates the lifestyle Hollywood’s elite enjoyed. More than a dozen beautifully maintained golf courses lie within the bounds of the 100-square-mile city, which makes Palm Springs a golfer’s dream, but the region’s natural attractions are worth exploring too.
A ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the 8,516-foot (2,596 meter) summit of Chino Canyon gives visitors a birds-eye view of the desert landscapes. flickr/ Home to one of the oldest still-operating film studios, Universal Studios Hollywood is a sprawling complex in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles best known for its family-friendly theme park. Many of the park’s rides and attractions are centered on blockbuster movies, offering an immersive experience for fans of films ranging from “King Kong” to “Waterworld.” Behind-the-scenes studio tours are available as well.
The complex also includes Universal CityWalk, an outdoor shopping center where visitors can catch live performances, see a movie or watch celebrities. Santa Barbara is a coastal city less than 100 miles (160 km) from Los Angeles but differs vastly in pace from its huge neighbor to the south.
Sometimes referred to as “Riviera of the West,” Santa Barbara is well known for its beautiful beaches, mild temperatures and for the California Mission-style architecture that is very common in this city. A long-standing local ordinance ensures that all commercial construction follows the Mission theme, which results in a plethora of red-tiled roofs and adobe supermarkets.
Santa Barbara’s most popular attractions are its Stearns Wharf and the Mission Santa Barbara, a Spanish outpost founded by the Franciscan order in 1786. flickr/ One of the most visited places in Southern California, Hollywood has been an international center for film and entertainment since the silent-movie days of the 1920s. Many television studios are still based in Tinseltown, and visitors can book ahead to reserve tickets for TV show taping during their stay in .
A stroll along the star-studded Walk of Fame leads past the historic Chinese Theater where footprints and handprints of famous movie stars are encased in cement on the sidewalk. The district’s iconic Hollywood sign is located in Griffith Park, home to the Art Deco-style Griffith Park Observatory, the outdoor Greek Theatre and the Los Angeles Zoo. flickr/ With miles of sandy beaches, a picturesque harbor and stellar luxury resorts, is the perfect destination for a fun-in-the-sun weekend getaway.
A host of cultural attractions, theme parks, historic sights and a world-famous zoo make the city near the border of Mexico ideal for extended family vacations too. Known as the Birthplace of California, San Diego offers opportunities to explore the Golden State’s long history as well. In the Old Town San Diego Historic District, visitors can tour the mission founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1769. The most popular attraction in San Diego is America’s premier zoo, which is located in Balboa Park with flowering gardens and Spanish architecture.
The city is home to other family attractions as well like SeaWorld San Diego and the Birch Aquarium. Read more: flickr/ Tobacco magnate Abbot Kinney gets the credit for transforming a marshy stretch of shoreline south of Santa Monica into the “Venice of America.” In 1904, Kinney turned a series of drainage channels into scenic canals and constructed a Venetian-inspired arcade on the beach. While the canals remain one of the community’s top attractions, most visitors head for the beach’s world-famous boardwalk where eccentric street performers compete with shops, stalls and food stands for attention.
The beach’s volleyball courts, skating plaza and body-building Muscle Beach area are crowd-pleasers as well. The pier at the southern end of Venice Beach is perfect for fishing. flickr/ Located in Anaheim, Disneyland is a world-famous amusement park where Walt Disney movies and characters all come to life in a magical, make-believe kingdom. The Disneyland Resort is divided into two separate theme parks, three hotels, and a shopping and entertainment district.
The first park is the original Disney theme park Disneyland, which opened in 1955. Its sister park Disney California Adventure, which opened in 2001, is located across the entry plaza on the former site of Disneyland’s parking lot. Both parks are divided into themes like Main Street USA, where visitors can step back into the early 1900s and Mickey’s Toontown where kids can meet their favorite Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
best date places in southern california - 20 Best Places To Vacation In California & Where To Stay
Balboa Island Fun Zone from a Duffy Boat in Newport Harbor. I spent the first 18 years of my life living in Orange County. Then I moved to Santa Barbara for college. Now I live on the east coast, returning home a couple of times a year. The travel advice I am asked for the most from my neighbors is how to plan their visit to my home state.
So, I decided to write about all the places that I love to visit when I come home. My family who still lives in Orange County also contributed their favorite place to see in California. I am sure that this will help you plan the best trip to southern California!
I will highlight my favorite things in purple text. Map of southern California including county names. As you can see below, you can spend a long time exploring the region as there is so much to do. It is usually cheapest to fly in and out of Los Angeles and San Diego airports, but we have many other smaller airports as well.
I especially love how small and convenient Long Beach Airport is. I suggest starting at Los Angeles and driving to San Diego or the reverse. A road trip is the best way to explore southern California. You can get around by train, but you would also need to take a large amount of taxis or Ubers.
Sadly, we do not yet have great public transport. Give yourself a lot of extra time for driving and try to drive off-peak. The traffic in southern California is epic, especially as you near Los Angeles. Not to miss places in San Diego County Spring at the. Also be sure to visit the new Basilica San Juan Capistrano- it is stunning! San Diego is one of my favorite California counties.
It has gorgeous beaches with cliffs and coves. There are interesting tide pools to explore. In the towns you can feel echoes of its Spanish past and present as a neighbor of Mexico. There are so many family friendly activities to choose from. • Visit Coronado Island– Visit this small peninsula to enjoy its bike trails, old town, California bungalows and beaches. • If you are up for a splurge, stay at the . • Take a boat cruise around Coronado Island.
• Peak over the border into Mexico. Explore estuaries at . Then you can say you have seen our wall. I don’t know if that is a positive or negative, but it is very close to San Diego! It is not safe to cross the border in this area. If you want to visit this beautiful country, visit some of the . • Because it is so interactive, Legoland is always one of my boys’ favorite California amusement parks. You can even stay at their ! • Visiting as a kid really made me want to be a marine biologist.
This is all of my adult family’s favorite. • Take a tram ride through animals in large fenced areas at the . • Visit the pandas at the , It is one of the best zoos in the country. • Do a bar crawl in the . • Explore tidal pools and a.
• My mom’s favorite place is downtown La Jolla, an artistic street with lots of great restaurants. Especially cool is the Marine Room which sits over the waves at high tide. • Go sea cave exploring at in La Jolla. • Explore one hour east of San Diego to go apple picking or antiquing. • Visit the . After you can have dinner or shop in the area. • Eat authentic Italian food in San Diego’s Little Italy. My dad and brother love this. • are stunningly beautiful, with fields full of flowers.
At Christmastime it has the largest poinsettia field in the world. • You can still visit the original Spanish puebla in Old Town San Diego. • View dessert pup fish and wildflower fields in season in Anza Borrego.
Sea Lions at La Jolla by Varun Popuri on Flickr. Not to miss places in Orange County I may love Orange County so much because of my history with it! Orange County is where California’s surf culture began. Its southern beaches are set on stunning cliffs and in the north they are long and flat with white sand. Mickey fills the sky over the iconic Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
You can read my whole , but here are some highlights: • . • Body surf at the Wedge in Newport Beach. • There is also world-class surfing at Tressles by San Onofre and Huntington Beach. • While you are surfing at San Onofre, sent up a tent and enjoy a night on the beach. My grandfather and mother love this. • Enjoy the art culture and cliff-lined beaches of Laguna Beach. • – Explore California’s Spanish history with a visit to this mission founded in 1776. If you visit around March’s St.
Joseph’s Day you can see the migrating cliff swallows as they return to San Juan Capistrano. • Be sure to stop by and see the oldest neighborhood in California. Los Rios’ adobe houses date back to 1794 when it was first occupied by Acjachemen Indians and soldiers working at the nearby San Juan Capistrano Mission.
• Visit Catalina Island, which is just a short ferry ride away from the OC. Take a hike to see the buffalo and prickly pears or hang out in the small town of Avalon. • Get a shake and burger at the ’50s style Ruby’s Diner at the foot of the Balboa Pier, followed by a visit to the dated Fun Zone.
• Explore the unique biodiversity by hiking through Back Bay’s estuaries in Newport. • Try a Balboa Bar ice cream along Balboa Island Main Street after taking a ferry ride from Balboa Peninsula. • is now a large amusement park, but you can still can get the berry pies that first made it famous. • Explore Orange County’s or any of our other amazing, but less strenuous canyons, such as .
• Go back in time with a visit to the Queen Mary ship in Long Beach. • My dad and mom love walking around the Newport Pier. • Catch a sunrise at Newport Pier and have a chili omelette at the hole-in-the-wall Charlie’s Chili. • After visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific, grab a fish dinner at Shoreline Village in Long Beach.
• Visit the Nixon Library and Museum in Yorba Linda to learn about the US’ 37th president. • Salt flat on Zzyzx Road in the Mohave Dessert, Calfornia.
• When people think of Calfornia, they do not usually think of cacti. The beauty of Death Valley National Park is really unbelievable, but you may not want to visit in the middle of summer. The highest temperature in the world (134 degrees F) was recorded there! • Act like you are a member of the Rat Pack and play golf or visit the spa in . • Mojave Valley- I’m going with the beauty of the desert again. ‘Nuff said. • Visit the wineries in Temecula. • See California’s state flower at the from March through May.
Click to see what is in bloom now. • View the Joshua Trees at 29 Palms in Riverside. (Mom’s favorite) • At Christmastime, view the incredible decorations at the Mission Inn in Riverside.
It is pretty to eat or walk here any time of the year. • Go skiing in the winter or water skiing in the summer at Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead. • Go to a retreat at Murrietta Hot Spring. This is another of my mother’s favorites.
• You can’t miss Joshua Tree. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve by on Flickr. Not to miss places in Los Angeles county I am always honest with my readers. Living in Orange County you try to stay as far away from LA as possible. There is just too much smog, traffic and crowds. There are tons of things to do here, but I only every go rarely and for my favorite things. The rest of the state is just too nice.
Have a high tea at the Getty Villa in Malibu. The menu is made using ingredients in their garden and includes a special tour. • A free science museum with stunning views of Los Angeles, Griffith Park Observatory is one of my and my brother’s favorite California locales.
• Hike to the Hollywood sign or above Los Angeles on the trails from Griffith Park. • Stalk famous people with a . • Hollyweird Boulevard- Ok, it may really be called Hollywood Boulevard, but you will see what I mean. • While you are there check out Grauman’s Chinese Theater. • My kids also love the Ripley’s Believe it or Not and Wax Museums. • Window Shop on Rodeo Drive. • Eat dinner or hike at Malibu.
• People watch at Venice Beach. • Take pictures at the Venice Canal Historic District. • Take in the sulfurous smell of the La Brea Tar Pits. • Immerse yourself in the Mexican culture at historic Olvera Street. Be sure to go hungry. • Visit the J Paul or Getty Villa. • Get an overview of the city with a . • Explore the California Science Museum.
• The Santa Monica Pier has an over 100-year-old ferris wheel on the water. I must warn you that parking is ridiculously expensive, it is so crowded and a little rough. • Shop and eat at Third Street Promenade. • Drive or hike Mulholland Drive. • Have dinner in the bustling Koreatown. We love – inexpensive Korean fusion with not too long of a wait, a willingness to recommend food and convenient valet parking.
• View from the deck of the Reel Inn in Malibu. Not to miss places north of Los Angeles Most southern California trips take place between San Diego and Los Angeles.
The area north of LA is so beautiful. I highly recommend continuing the exploration. • Santa Barbara is a fancy resort beach town with excellent food, beautiful beaches and cute Craftsman style houses. • Try to run into Oprah in the nearby town of Montecito. • Eat at fresh crab at the end of Stearn’s Wharf Pier.
• Shop on State Street in Santa Barbara. • Hike to and take a dip in nature. • When I was in school here, I saw massive bioluminescence at the beach after joining a drum circle.
It was definitely on of . Sadly, I have no idea how to advise you to show up on the right time. Check out my post about for some tips on when it is brightest. • Visit the Reagan Library in Simi Valley to see a retired Air Force One plane. • Visit the historic Dutch village of . • Get your chakras aligned in the arty oasis of Ojai. • Explore the opulent newspaper magnet’s mansion, Hearst Castle in San Simeon.
So, now I have convinced you that your trip to southern California deserves three months, right? When you leave, you will want to move here anyway…Well, except for the horrific traffic and high cost of living. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions or suggestions. Be sure to check out all my and to see new ones as I publish them. If you still need to plan your hotels to California, or the box in the sidebar.
It helps support this site at no cost to you. Kisses. A few of my So Cal favorites are not listed, which I am surprised about but also love. I am a hidden gem sort of person. The drive around Palos Verdes peninsula, especially around Portuguese Bend, is magnificent. Tacos and donuts in San Pedro are sublime and you can then see the Korean Friendship Bell (amazing views).
Old Town Torrance has amazing food at easy on the wallet prices (for Los Angeles). Hit any taco stand in Anaheim and you will be happy. Finally, no mention of Tommy’s? No worries! I believe in savoring the adventures in each day, place and moment.
So, in spite of running a dental practice and being the mom of three boys, I still get out for many adventures close to home or far away on a regular basis. I long for the novel and this world is full of such beauty. I hope this blog inspires you to experience your best adventures yet, without excuses.
Be sure to check out my Your Best Adventure Yet series for more inspiration on how to find your adventure. Where I am headed next • NYC This weekend • The Netherlands spring 2019 • Alaska July 2019 • Road Trip Italy’s boot Summer 2020 • Israel 2020 • To achieve my 50 by 50, I need to visit Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Wisconsin in the next 5 years!
Looking for tips on the best places to visit in Southern California? Are you ready for some SoCal adventure on a West Coast road trip?
We’ve got you covered! Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, San Diego In this 10 day Southern California road trip itinerary we’re talking about outdoor adventures, delicious food, gorgeous scenery, family fun and sunny weather. Just so you are clear, Southern California (SoCal) is typically the region from San Diego up to San Luis Obispo (just north of Santa Barbara). There are so many amazing places to visit in Southern California and it offers a different experience to Northern California.
Sunset at Pacific Beach in San Diego SoCal is the perfect destination for a short USA road trip. Los Angeles is about in the middle of Southern California with only a 3 hour drive to the northern border and two to the southern. When you think of Southern California attractions, of course Resort comes to mind.
We didn’t do theme parks on this trip, but are going to Disneyland in September – stay tuned! So this post focuses on things to do beyond Disney, and since so many international travelers fly into LA, it’s normal to want to explore this region more in-depth. Channel Islands National Park We visited San Diego County, then Orange County and Ventura County on a paid campaign with Visit California to share the amazing on offer in this Golden State.
We thought we’d share with you our Southern California road trip ideas, and all the fun things to do in Southern California in this 10 day itinerary post! For you locals, feel free to break this itinerary down and use it for day trips in Southern California, or weekend getaways in California. We had a fantastic time on this California road trip with kids. Our girls loved being back near the beach and the relaxed coastal vibe that California has. Huntington Beach, Orange County I loved how our Southern California road trip was also quite an educational trip for our kids.
They learned a lot about California history, AND are now curious and inspired to visit Mexico, due to experiencing the Mexican influence in the region.
We love how travel can open up their worlds and help them celebrate differences rather than fear them. Table of Contents: • • • • • • • • • Days 1, 2 and 3 in San Diego and pick up your rental car.
You can then drop the car off at Los Angeles Airport (LAX). Or, alternatively, fly into LA and drive to San Diego. You can then easily return your car to LAX and save yourself money. One way rental drop offs are always more expensive. () Of course, you can change the order of this itinerary. Perhaps it may be better for you to head north to Ventura first and then finish in Orange County. Day 1 – Mission Beach and Pacific Beach has to be one of the best places to visit in Southern California for families.
Arrive and check into your accommodation. Our recommendation for family accommodation in San Diego is the . Bahia Resort Hotel It’s a couple of blocks back from Mission beach, but it is on Mission Bay with its own private beach and has lovely cabin style accommodation with delicious food in the restaurant. Afternoon – Bike ride along San Diego boardwalk You can rent bikes from at the resort and slip into San Diego style with a bike ride along Mission Bay to the Catamaran Resort before cutting back west to the Pacific Beach Pier.
Ride back to the resort along the beach boardwalk. Take your time to soak it all in. We recommend stopping for a local craft brew for you, a Squirt Mexican soda for the kids, and a plate of shredded beef nachos at for a snack.
It’s right on the beachfront near Belmont Park and at the turn off to go back to the resort. 6pm Dinner at Corvette Diner For a quirky and retro dinner, head to . It’s unlike any place I’ve been before. Or, if you want to stay at South Draft Mission, make it your main meal, watch the sun go down and then enjoy a few rides at Belmont Amusement park next door.
If you go to Corvette, you may not have time to get back to the beach before sunset. Sunsets in California are special and quite the nightly event. Day 2 – La Jolla & Balboa Park Lucky for you, Bahia Resort has a delicious buffet breakfast or ala carte.
We also discovered Better Buzz Coffee Roaster (thanks to a tip from our community), which was just down the road from Bahia which did great coffee, smoothies and acai bowls. Torrey Pines State National Reserve Put your walking shoes on and head into .
It’s one of the best places to visit in Southern California for coastal hiking. Happy to tick that off our bucket list.
Aim to arrive by 9am at the latest, and we recommend the Guy Fleming Trail for varying landscape, seeing the Torrey Pines, and coastal vistas with some of the best views in Southern California! If you have time for another trail, I would have loved the Razor Point Trail and climbing the Red Butte. 11am – Time to Explore La Jolla. La Jolla is one of the best places to go in Southern California to see seals.
Start at the La Jolla Caves and walk around to La Jolla Cove to see the resident seals. You could continue walking around to see more seals at the Children’s Pool. There is also great tide pooling here.
If you have more time, and want to have more of a relaxing beach day, La Jolla Shores is great for families. For coffee lovers, you can’t go past in the small town of Bird Rock. 1pm – Tacos at Oscar’s Mexican Seafood You can’t go past cheap and delicious fish or shrimp tacos at local institution . This hole in the wall with bright murals on its outside walls is on the border of LA Jolla and Pacific Beach.
2pm – Get Cultural at Balboa Park is America’s largest urban cultural park, and is ranked as one of the best parks in the world. It is one of the most unique things to do in Southern California. With 17 museums, a wide variety of gardens, and the San Diego Zoo you could easily spend a day in Balboa Park. Plan for an afternoon here. We recommend a visit to the Fleet Science Center, the Spanish Village Art Center and the Japanese Tea Gardens.
Dinner at Café Bahia The food at , which is situated in your resort is delicious. My recommendation is the sea scallops with grilled corn diced chorizo and chili oil on a bed of herb ricotta. It bursts with Southern California flavor and is one of the most innovative dishes I’ve ever had. Day 3 – Ocean Beach, San Diego Enjoy breakfast at the hotel. 9am – Water activities on Mission Bay Rent some kayaks and stand up paddle boards from Active Sports Rentals at the Bahia Resort and have a relaxing hour or so out on the water.
It’s calm and peaceful and a great way to connect to each other and Mother Earth. It was one of my most fun things to do in southern California (actually anywhere!) 11am – Old Town Historic Park If you have time, and want to experience a little history and culture then head to, which is San Diego’s first “downtown,” and represents San Diego’s Hispanic heritage from 1821 to 1872 through museums, live reenactments, and historical buildings.
It’s a pretty area with a cute fiesta market and plenty of Mexican restaurants. If you’d rather spend time at the beach then head straight to Ocean Beach and perhaps visit Cabrillo Monument and the tidepools. We ran out of time to fit this in but it came highly recommended by our community as a top ten thing to do in San Diego. 1pm – Ocean Beach Ocean Beach is a gritty, more local feel than the other San Diego beach towns.
It’s one of our favorite places to visit in San Diego. It has more of a cove beach than the wide sweeping Pacific. They have good waves near the pier, beach volleyball is popular and so is hanging out on the grassy strip hoola hooping, slacklining, and bongo jamming.
Join in! Lunch at Wonderland Ocean Pub Tacos and guacamole with a view is what you have at , an upstairs bar and restaurant across from Ocean Beach and the grassy strip. You won’t be bored watching the OB life go by. Explore Ocean Beach San Diego is known to be one of the best places in the US for craft beer and you’ll find a few breweries along the main street (Newport Ave).
If you are a craft brew lover then perhaps pop in for a sample as you wander the OB area. We went to . They have jenga, which kept our girls happy while we tried a local brew before going back out for market shopping.
If you visit on a Wednesday, be sure to check out the from 4 – 8pm in Main Street. With food stalls, live music, and local artisan goods its definitely a fun thing to do in Southern California. Grab some food here and then head to Sunset Cliffs for sunset. Sunset at Sunset Cliffs When you think about free things to do in Southern California, it’s hard to beat a famous California sunset. And Sunset Cliffs is one of the best places to visit in Southern California to watch the sunset.
If you have kids like us, there is a wide open space for them to play on the rocks safely back from the cliff face, while you relax and watch the day close out. Finish with an ice cream Grab an ice cream at in either Point Loma or back in Pacific Beach. It’s listed as one of the best places for ice cream in San Diego and we liked it a lot.
Can’t decide on a flavor? Sample a bunch with the waffle cone flight. More San Diego Tips: • Click for in-depth information about • For places to stay in San Diego check out . Or here are • If you plan on visiting several San Diego attractions, .
You can build your own pass based upon what you want to see and do. It will save you money! Days 4, 5, 6 in Orange County I know you are sad to leave such a cool place like San Diego. But don’t be. You are in for a treat in – sweet and refreshing, just like the fruit. Day 4 – Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano and Huntington Beach 10am – Tour the Ocean Institute If you, or your kids, are ocean lovers, you may wish to stop at on the way to Huntington Beach to learn more about ocean life on a behind the scenes tour at the Ocean Institute.
Dana Point Harbor sits at the bottom of the rugged cliff faces so is really pretty. You may want to arrive before 10am to walk around and explore a little. There’s a lovely calm swimming beach here as well. 11am – Mission San Juan Capistrano Not to be missed is the birthplace of Orange County, With its crumbling sandstone walls, it’s bell wall, bougainvillea draped pathways, and flowering gardens, it’s one of the most interesting places to visit in Southern California and a pretty place to wander for an hour.
While here walk around the Los Rios Historic district to get an inkling of life centuries ago. 12pm – Stop for lunch at Ellie’s Table You’ll love for a light lunch situated in the old 1883 Judge Egan House. My soup and quiche were filling and delicious.
Save room for a special bakery treat after it. 2pm – Head to Huntington Beach You’re now heading to our favorite place in Southern California, Huntington Beach. HB has the perfect beach lifestyle vibe for us Aussies – not too pretentious, or busy. It’s laid back with a touch of sophistication and has the surf and the beach as the focus of life! Check into the . You’ll want a bit of time to enjoy this hotel when you check in.
A room with an ocean view is a magic way to start the day. The Kimpton would be one of the best beach hotels in Southern California. Head down to the common courtyard area for 5pm wine social hour. You can play ping pong and foosball, and sit around the fire pit chatting to other guests.
Return later when the sun has gone down to roast s’mores with your kids over the fire before bed. 6pm – Dinner at Pacific Hideaway Not to be missed is dinner at the hotel restaurant, . It’s one of the best things to do in Southern California from a foodie perspective. The Southeast Asian or Latin American inspired food and wine was just as extraordinary as was the service and the funky décor.
P.S. Aussies, they have pavlova! Sunset at the beach Duck on over to the beach to catch the sunset after your dinner. You can buy some firewood and smore ingredients to roast smores on the communal beach firepits after, or go back to the Kimpton to do it in their courtyard.
Can you finish a Southern California day in any other better way? Day 5 – Huntington Beach Breakfast at Pacific Hideaway! Great news! The breakfast at Pacific Hideaway is just as delicious as the dinner. So stock up for your day exploring. Morning – Explore Downtown HB and the Beach Take the morning at leisure to explore what makes Huntington Beach so cool.
Main Street is where you’ll find great shopping, especially for surf brands. Along the Pacific Coast Highway is where you’ll find , a new modern shopping, dining and entertainment space overlooking the beach. On Fridays, at the bottom of the pier is a local artist’s market. And there is the small, but cool International Surfing Museum. You may even want to play on the beach, go for a swim, or rent bikes to cruise along the beach path.
Huntington State Beach is one of the cleanest in California one of the best Southern California beaches for surfing!
Top lunch options include Wahoo Fish Tacos, Sugar Shack Café and Duke’s. 2pm – Tanaka Farm Tour If you’re up for it, drive to Irvine (30 mins) for a tour of and some strawberry picking. California is not just about beautiful beaches and lively culture.
Some of the world’s best food trends are born from this state, which has a lot to do with the wonderful produce that is grown in its various regions, including many berry farms.
Explore a bit of that at Tanaka Farms. Not only will you get to eat strawberries straight form the vine but also other produce growing like onions, and sweet corn, which was the most delicious corn I’ve ever tasted.
All of it is grown organically and the kids will love touring around on the back of a farm truck. Our girls thought it was one of the most fun things to do in Southern California. 4pm – O.C Night Market If you here on a Friday night, for an interesting cultural experience, consider the huge .
It’s held at the state fairgrounds, which are lined with food trucks, merchandise, arts and entertainment. Be sure to grab your giant baby bottle filled with boba milk tea. Alternatively, just head back to Huntington to eat at one of the restaurants and catch another Southern California sunset. Don’t forget those smore’s again! Day 6 – Newport and Laguna Beach Possibly the most famous places to visit in Orange County are Newport and Laguna Beach.
Newport is said to be California’s Riviera and Laguna Beach is the artistic community filled with beautiful cove beaches. They make for an easy day trip from Huntington Beach. 10am – Duffy Boat tour of Newport Harbor Lot where John Wayne used to have his home.
A is a wonderful way to get to know the relaxed life of Newport. You’ll cruise past many mansions on the different islands, including Shirley Temple’s childhood home, the beach where some of Gilligan’s Island was filmed, and John Wayne’s old lot. 12pm – Dine and Dock at the Lighthouse Café for lunch Don’t miss their fish tacos!
If you have time and have young kids, you may want to stop for a carousel ride at Fun Zone after your Duffy boat, or at least an ice cream from You may want to add extra time in Newport and visit Corona Del Mar Beach or Newport Beach “Back Bay,” which is a 135 acre park with hiking and biking trails.
2pm – Head to Laguna Beach The Laguna Beach area has seven miles of coves and canyons, offering you plenty of outdoor activities and Laguna Beach beaches to enjoy. Laguna has the main beach at the edge of downtown, or a plethora of beaches to choose from.
For tide pools head to Shaws Cove, Picnic Beach, and Treasure Island Beach. Other beaches to check out include Victoria Beach with the natural pirate tower, Treasure Island Beach and 1,000 Steps Beach. For art lovers, don’t miss the Laguna Art Museum, which only collects California art. Dinner at Las Brisas Las Brisas came highly recommended to us for extraordinary views over Laguna Beach and fantastic Mexican food. They were correct on both accounts!
It’s best to reserve a table if you want to sit inside. Otherwise, it’s first come first serve for the outside seats, which I think is better. Laguna Sunset Spots We had a cloudy sunset when we visited Laguna so we can’t offer any personal advice. But, we were told these beaches in Laguna are great for sunset: • Table Rock Beach • Treasure Island Park, • Crescent Bay Beach • Heisler Park, next to Montage Laguna Beach More Tips for Orange County: • Click for in-depth information about these .
• Where to stay in Orange County: . It’s one of our favorite hotels in America. Here are other places to stay in Orange County. • Orange County is also home to Disneyland. So if you have arranged for more time on your Southern California road trip to incorporate a visit to Disneyland, this may be when you want to do it.
Or, even at the end of this trip. Our readers love this roundup post we did finding the . Days 7, 8, 9 in Ventura County , California is about an hour north of LA and 30 minutes south of Santa Barbara. Be sure to leave your pretense and busyness on the highway out of LA, because it doesn’t belong in Ventura County.
Day 7 – Ventura Plan for about three hours for your drive from Orange County to Ventura. You can stop in at Oxnard Harbor for lunch on the water on your way into Ventura.
It’s about 15 minutes from downtown Ventura. 1pm – Check in to the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Ventura Beach is walking distance to downtown Ventura and right beside the Ventura Pier and a popular surfing break. Most rooms have ocean views. 2pm Explore Downtown Ventura We loved downtown Ventura. It has a fresh modern vintage vibe filled with local boutique stores, thrift stores, used book shops, and cool restaurants, breweries and wine bars.
Don’t miss , for the men, and for travel lovers! 4:30 pm Foot Golf Time for some family bonding with foot golf at We’d never played it before either, but soon discovered a fun family adventure. Foot golf is played on the golf course, you’re just kicking a soccer ball into a much larger hole. 6pm Dinner at The Annex Go local in this enclave of restaurants and specialty shops which can be found at the Collective, a modern and new retail, dining and entertainment space.
is a culinary focused, community minded marketplace, which has global cuisine ranging from burgers, Mexican, Italian, crepes, Vietnamese, Hawaiian Poke and Latin American Ceviche bowls, and even healthy smoothies.
You can’t beat a Vietnamese Pho and pineapple cider for dinner. You can do a bit of shopping after, or even catch a movie at the cinema. Alternatively, head back into Ventura for dinner and a sunset stroll along the boardwalk and pier. Day 8 – Oxnard, Ventura Harbor 9am – Head into Oxnard for breakfast Fresh & Fabulous is a lovely local breakfast spot with typical breaky fare.
10am – Gondola Ride in Oxnard Harbor Time to slow down your body and mind with a relaxing and peaceful ride around Oxnard Harbor on a Venetian Gondola with , minus the Venetian crowds. 12pm – Explore Ventura Harbor Village is a beautiful working fishing harbor, retail and dining space. We recommend spending a few hours exploring Ventura Harbor and can recommend the following: • Hire some pedal boats, kayaks or SUPs from to explore the harbor by water.
You have a great chance of seeing the resident seals resting on boats and the wharves. This is a wonderful thing to do in Ventura on a warm, sunny afternoon. • Go vintage at the Arcade, play a few games and win some prizes • Have a seafood lunch with a view at Brophy Bros.
Friday afternoon happy hour is a local’s favorite. • Browse the different shops like the quirky hat shop, socks shop and my favorite boutique • Grab a taiyaki fish ice cream cone from • Pop over the road to check out Surfer’s Knoll if you feel like a little beach time.
6pm – Dinner at Lure Fish House is more of an upscale seafood restaurant BUT you’re still welcome in your shorts and flip flops. Ventura at its best! This is the place for locally sourced, sustainable seafood and organic produce. Perfect for families as well. Day 9 – Channel Islands National Park You are going to be finishing your Southern California trip with one of the best things to do in Southern California – a sea cave kayaking adventure on Santa Cruz Island.
is one of the most beautiful and unique places to visit in Southern California for adventure travel. Read our in-depth post -> 6pm – Mexican dinner at La Coscha You and the kids may be a little tired after your epic adventures on the Channel Islands. We recommend sitting out the front of the Crowne Plaza Hotel around the fire pit with your last Southern California Mexican meal from , the restaurant inside the Crowne Plaza.
The views overlooking the Channel Islands you just returned from are special, as is the sky when it turns pink to red as the sun sets. There is plenty of space for the kids to run around along the beach path should they still have endless amount of energy. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the serenity of a cold glass of wine and casual conversation as you end what is no doubt a truly memorable Southern Carolina road trip with the kids.
More Tips for Ventura County: • Click for in-depth information about these . • Where to stay in Ventura: Check into the Crowne Plaza Hotel on the Ventura beachfront. . Here are Day 10: Back to Los Angeles Be warned that traffic can be hectic getting back to LA, so time your drive wisely with your .
You may choose to . Fuel up with a delicious and healthy breakfast before leaving Ventura at Drive back to LA at your leisure. We’ll be visiting Disneyland in September, but below are posts to help you if you intend to explore Los Angeles County: • • • • If you want to continue the SoCal beach vibe, we highly recommend spending the day at Manhattan and Hermosa Beach.
These two towns are our favorite places to visit in LA and is where we always go in LA. Manhattan Beach Pier Grab a Wolverine smoothie from (it’s one of my favorite smoothies ever) and lunch at in Manhattan Beach. of the U.S. so play a game, rent a bike to ride between the two beaches, or even walk it. The main beach street at Hermosa has a lot of cool bars and restaurants with happy hour deals for dinner.
Planning a Trip to California: Many thanks to Visit California, Visit San Diego, Visit Orange County and Ventura County Coast for helping us experience amazing destinations to share with you. on offer in Southern California and other places to visit in California. Accommodation in California: (affiliate partner) has over 15,000 . You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.
Flights to California (affiliate partner) is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).
Car Rental in California (affiliate partner) is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar. Tours of California (affiliate partner) is a Trip Advisor company and offers small group to the most popular places and attractions Pin To Save to Pinterest: Caroline Makepeace is the co-founder of yTravel Blog. She loves helping people unplug from the chaos, follow their bliss, travel more and create better memories.
She has a to help you do just that! Caz is the flighty Libran, bringing harmony to the family through crystals, meditation, and downward dogs (and the odd glass of wine at 5pm). It's all about the balance, right?
Follow her on California is amazing, but generally I like to visit some curious place and go out from the common pathways prepared for tourists. With your advices I can plan a visit as I like and also taste something delicious, considering your pictures. Your article is complete, but about to use the indicated websites to reserve an hotel and especially a flight I prefer to be a bit carefull, becuase not always it is possible to find good rates.
Hi Anasa, Yes there are many amazing places to visit in Southern California, and the whole state no doubt. We have just scratched the surface with this 10 day trip but planning for lots more travel in the state. And yes the food was also AMAZING, we didn’t have a bad meal, glad it has inspired you! Hope you find a deal on accommodation, and yes getting deals on flights can be challenging with lots of variables depending upon the time of year, day of the week, time of the day, departure airport, and airline of choice – so many factors 🙂 Located in the Southern California desert area 140 miles (225 km) east of Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park is a popular destination for hikers, rock climbers, photography buffs and nature lovers.
Places of interest include an old cattle rustler’s hideout, Native American rock art and Keys View, a sky-high natural overlook that offers views of the landlocked Salton Sea.
5 Things To Do in the O.C. Your First Visit