16 Things to do in Southern California

Whatever you want, Southern California has got it. With dive bars, designer boutiques, and divine beaches, there is truly something for everyone here. San Diego, Santa Barbara, and beyond—there is so such much to see in So Cal.

From luxe city escapes to ultrachill beaches, you really can live the dream here. If you haven’t been to the Golden State yet, it is time to get over here!

Spend a week or a year exploring my favorite things to do in Southern California!

San Diego Balboa Park

Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo

San Diego’s urban cultural park is home to renowned museums, theaters, and, of course, the world-famous San Diego Zoo. It’s easy to see why the San Diego Zoo was voted the number one zoo on the planet—it has more than 3,700 different animals and 650 unique species!

San Diego Beach

Camp Out On the Beach

This is the ultimate California beauty activity. Swim, fish, surf, and camp at one of So Cal’s great beaches– Crystal Cove State Park and El Capitan State Beach!

You need to spend at least one day wandering the powdery sand beach, exploring the caves and beachside cliffs, and appreciating the natural wonders of the Crystal Cove State Park.

While El Capitan State Beach is an amazing place 365 days a year, you absolutely have to visit the beach during fall when Monarch butterflies come here to breed. After a long day out, watching the sun set over the crystal clear water is the best past time!

Read More: The Top 10 Campsites in California

Santa Barbara Lighthouse

Explore State Street in Santa Barbara

Indulge in fresh California cuisine, browse the indie boutiques, admire the stunning architecture of State Street in Santa Barbara. It’s the perfect place for a leisure stroll–find out why everyone adores this city at the heart of the American Riviera!

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Santa Barbara in a Weekend

Griffith Observatory

There is no better place than Hollywood to admire the stars! Head to the Griffith Observatory to check out the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, get an up close and personal view of the Hollywood Sign, and look beyond this world to see some of the universe’s brightest stars.

In N Out Burger

Eat at In-N-Out Burger

Anyone who follows my Instagram, knows I’m a frequent visitor to this heavenly place. Founded in So Cal in 1948, In-N-Out gave us the world’s first drive-through hamburger restaurant, and they have been giving back to the world ever since.

Seriously, the best burgers ever.

Be sure to check out the “secret” menu, featuring greats like the grilled cheese sandwich or the famous animal-style burger.

Read More: In-N-Out Inspired Travel Nails

Hollywood Sign

Hit the Trails

Home to amazing hikes ranging from easy to advanced difficulties, Southern California has something for everyone. Some of my favorites hikes are The Slot in Anza Borrego, Bridge to Nowhere, Devil’s Punch Bowl and of course, the Hollywood Sign.

If you want something a bit easier, take a stroll through Torrey Pines Reserve–ocean views and sea breezes!

Palm Springs Weekend

Escape to Palm Springs

The Californian desert city of Palm Springs has been one of the hottest getaway destinations for those looking for a little break from the big cities for over half a century.

The city is within easy reach of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino, and is surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. The desert climate makes Palm Springs an ideal vacation destination year-round, and is the perfect spot for a weekend escape with your girlfriends.

Read More: Girlfriend Getaway Guide to Palm Springs


Kayaking La Jolla

Kayak La Jolla Cove

One of San Diego’s best spots for diving, snorkeling, and kayaking, this calm oasis is the perfect place to splash around all day. There are secret sea caves around the cove that you can only access from the water, so kayaking is a must!

When you’re done, grab an ice cream cone and people watch or enjoy browsing the shops around the cove.

Spend a Day at California Adventure

As a girl born and raised in So Cal, I believe that Disneyland really is worth the hype. The newer park, California Adventure, shows off the Golden State’s style and combines the magic of Disney with the best that California has to offer.

A Park-Hopper ticket will get you into both parks, and you’ll get the best of both worlds!

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is probably one of the busiest piers on the West coast, but you’ll find restaurants, food carts, specialty shops, and amusements galore!

Hit the boardwalk, enjoy an ice cream cone and take a spin on the roller coaster.

See a Concert at Hollywood Bowl

Carved into the Hollywood Hills, this iconic amphiteather hosts hundreds of concert each year. It is the ideal outdoor venue, perfect for the warm summer nights!

Drive Pacific Coast Highway

Take Route 1 starting in the sleepy beach town of Dana Point, through the luxe Laguna Beach, the glittering lights of Los Angeles, and up through glam Santa Barbara and into the lush wine country. The more time you have to appreciate the Pacific Coast Highway, the better.

My tip: Keep going up toward San Francisco for the ultimate Californian road trip.

Paragliding in Torrey Pines San Diego

Paraglide Torrey Pines

Ever wonder what So Cal looked like when the first settlers came? You can explore the lush 2,000 acres of Torrey Pines and see exactly what the first Californians saw. I highly suggest planning some time for tandem paragliding at Torrey Pines. It’s one of the coolest things you can do in San Diego!

Read More: Paragliding at Torrey Pines Gliderport in La Jolla

Wine Tasting in Temecula

Welcome to my hometown of Temecula! Did you know that the illustrious Temecula Valley grows grapes for more than 50 different types of wine?

I didn’t appreciate my hometown much growing up, but now I’d highly recommend that you come thirsty, book a bed and breakfast, and see why American wine really is something to rave about.

Joshua Tree

Chill Out in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park straddles the cactus-dotted Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert, and overlooks the Coachella Valley. It is home to a handful of eclectic towns in the middle of a vast wilderness.

Named after the native yucca brevifolia, the beautiful desert will amaze you with its serene beauty!

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Joshua Tree in a Weekend

LACMA

Visit LACMA

Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the western US and attracts nearly a million visitors annually. It holds more than 150,000 works spanning the history of art from ancient times to the present–it’s the perfect spot to hit to feel the creative vibes of Los Angeles.

In addition to art exhibits, the museum features film and concert series.

READ NEXT: The Best Time to Go to Southern California

 

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Kiersten Rich
Kiersten Rich is the bikini-obsessed author of award-winning solo female travel and lifestyle blog, The Blonde Abroad, featuring travel tips, fashion, food, festivals and photography from around the world.