Are you looking for the best things to do in Southern California?
So you’re in So-Cal and you’re looking for cool stuff to do, are you? Especially in this part of the USA, it seems like there are so many awesome and fun things to do in Southern California, that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
- What should you choose?
- Which should you do first?
- Is this place worth the drive?
We totally get it. Because of that I’ve written this great list of things to do in Southern California so you can make like a local and look like you know what you’re doing.
Camp out on the beach
First up on my list of things to do in Southern California… Hit the beach! California has 240 miles of g o r g e o u s coastline. We would 100% recommend doing this somewhere like crystal cove state park, where you can fish, swim, cook out, sunbathe, and just be a so-cal native. Trust us, you won’t regret taking a night out to do this!
Hit the trails
This was this writer’s favourite bit about being in the whole of California. It’s absolutely beautiful on the hills by the Hollywood Sign in LA, and I recommend taking a guided hike up to the top, to make sure you see all the best views. No matter the weather it offers incredible views, gorgeous scenery, and loads of different kinds of wildlife.
We saw deer, lizards, loads of different kinds of birds! Make sure you take enough water with you, though, and a portable charger. Also, a word to the wise, the hike up to the Hollywood sign is longer than it looks (we walked around 15 miles that day) so make sure you’re prepared and wearing decent shoes.
Next on my list of things to do in Southern California, visit this iconic city landmark in LA. You have to go past this to get up to the trails around LA (so it’s a good idea if you plan on doing the hike above anyway). But even if you’re not big into hiking, I would still definitely recommend that you check this place out. There’s almost no better place to see the stars, and it’s super cool inside!
Go to the Joshua Tree National Park
We could write a list of things to do in Southern California without mentioning Joshua Tree National Park. The trees are cool as heck, but also they were named by mormons who thought they looked like Joshua from the bible flailing in prayer – weird (yes) but bear it in mind next time you see one! We thought they looked like those inflatable car dealership things (you know the ones). It’s also super scenic, and the sunsets in the park are heavenly so we definitely recommend checking it out!
Drive Pacific Coast Highway
If you don’t mind renting a car and hitting the road, then we think you’ll like the next suggestion on our list of things to do in Southern California. This road is EPIC and has some incredible views. Essentially, you want to take route 1, pack some twizzlers, and get ready for the most scenic drive of your life. Bonus points for an open top car, and a beach boys infused soundtrack.
Santa Monica Pier
Yes, I know Santa Monica Pier is gimmicky and touristy – but it’s also hella fun and we couldn’t write a list of things to do in Southern California without mentioning it. It’s like going back to your childhood, playing arcade games, eating rubbish food and winning ride tickets. It’s loads of fun, it’s colourful, it’s summery.
Balboa National Park
This space is huge – in addition to having gardens, walking paths, green belt, and spaces of vegetation it’s also home to a number of museums and attractions. The highlight is almost certainly the San Diego Zoo – with hundreds of species of animals. It’s been voted the number one zoo on the planet, so don’t just take our word for it!
Spend a weekend in Santa Barbara
Easily one of my favourite places in South California. It’s the epitome of Southern California living, with all the sunshine of LA but half the pace. Definitely a must-see on our things to do in Southern California list.
Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave
Next on my list of things to do in Southern California, it’s Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave. This is so cool: it’s a sea cave that you can explore and live out your Goonies fantasies. It’s in La Jolla, it’s got 145 steps, it’s kinda spooky but also kinda cool. It’s one for the insta stories for sure.
Do a day at Disney
Disney isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for things to do in Southern California… You can’t get more ‘LA’ than Disney. It’s touristy, it’s childish, but DAMN it’s fun. It’s the ultimate day out, and I challenge you find anyone who wouldn’t love this even a little bit!
Taking a helicopter along the Southern California coastline is an absolute must-do for anyone who loves seeing landscapes from the air. The coastline in this part of the USA is stunning, and to see it from a helicopter is even more perfect. It’s so beautiful to be able to see the little coves, cliffs and beach towns from above. You can book a helicopter tour by clicking here.
Relax in Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach is a little beach town, about 45 minutes from LA. It’s one of the sleepy beach towns that is equally trendy as it is cute. There are beautiful beaches spread along the coastline of Laguna beach, and a gorgeous little town centre with all kinds of restaurants and cafes to enjoy too.
There are a few places you can do whale watching from in Southern California. A couple of the most well known locations are Newport Beach and Huntington Beach. You’ll head out in a tour boat and your professional tour-guides will use their amazing sonar equipment to locate nearby whales (and sometimes dolphins too).
Harper’s Topiary Garden
We loved this! Right in the middle of San Diego there’s a manicured haven of sculpted bushes. Whilst you can only admire it from the road, we’d definitely recommend swinging by to have a look at this gorgeous garden.
Annie’s Canyon Trail
Next on my list of things to do in Southern California, it’s Annie’s Canyon Trail. If you wanna go hiking somewhere a bit different and quirky… This one’s for you. It’s a short hike through some tight spaces that’ll make you feel like you’re an intrepid explorer. The photos you’ll get are incredible, trust us.
Go ghost hunting on The Queen Mary
The Queen Mary is an old cruise ship liner that is permanently moored just south of Los Angeles. It’s huge, it’s kinda haunted (or is it?) and it’s really damn cool. If you don’t believe in ghosts, it’s just a cool place to go for the history and the decor too! There isn’t really anything else like this in Southern California, so it’s well worth a visit.
Santa Catalina Island
Santa Catalina is one of Southern California’s outlying islands, and it’s absolutely beautiful. You can take boat tours out there, and go wildlife watching, diving or even hiking. It’s popular with locals – because it’s such a beautiful escape from the bustling city, and it’s also pretty easy to get to.
Next on my list of things to do in Southern California, The Mojave Desert! This is a must-see in Southern California. It’s simply beautiful, a huge desert (the driest in North America actually) and it occupies 47,877 sq miles. If you want to go on a slightly challenging hike, or just explore a different kind of landscape – this is a great idea!
An honourable mention!
Last on my list of things to do in Southern California… an honourable mention for delicious food. Get burgers at In-n-Out. Your previous tumblr self will thank you. Your belly will thank you. Your taste buds will thank you. Once all those things have thanked you, you can finish your last mouthful and thank us for getting you to go.