Southern California includes the southernmost ten counties, including famous places like Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. Southern California is famous for its beaches, wineries, breweries and year-round pleasant climate which makes it a great place to visit. If you are planning a vacation with many different things to do, family fun, hiking, as well as diverse history and art to discover and appreciate, then Southern California is the place to visit. Next read: 25 Best Things to Do in Northern California.
1. Sunnylands Center & Gardens
© Sunnylands Center & Gardens
Wilderness enthusiasts can move through the landscape while hearing and feeling the gravel underfoot in Sunnylands Center & Gardens. The center is open to the public and provides tours and interactive educational kiosks, information panels, videos, and art selected from the Sunnylands Collection.
It is surrounded by 1¼ miles of garden paths winding through the gardens, which are carefully designed to look different in each season. Inside Sunnylands, there are various exhibitions such as Asian Artists in Crystal, 20th Century Sculpture as well as a theatre and interactive gallery and other treasures. Sunnylands always offers an ever-changing variety of events. Sunnylands Center & Gardens is one of the best things to do in SoCal. Next read: 10 Best Beaches in San Diego and Weekend Getaways in California
37977 Bob Hope Dr, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270, Phone: 760-202-2222
2. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
© Courtesy of Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the perfect way to enjoy the wilderness in the company of your loved ones. Not only can you ride in the world´s larger rotating tramcar, but there are also guided nature walks, hiking plans, and camping or skiing opportunities in the winter adventure center.
There is a wealth of family fun to be had in the winter season with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow camping. While you are out in the wild, you can make your reservation at a hotel or resort of your choice, or have a great dining experience at the Pines Café, the Lookout Lounge, or the Peaks Restaurant.
1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262, Phone: 888-515-8726
3. Hearst Castle
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Hearst Castle is a National Historic Landmark that became a state park in 1954, and is one of the best things to do in California. Inside this museum, visitors can take the Grand Rooms Tour to travel back in time and experience what it was like to be a guest in the Enchanted Hill, explore the Upstairs Suites Tour, see architectural wonders, and appreciate the Cottages and Kitchen Tours.
There are also Evening Tours allowing you to experience the castle at night. Inside the museum, you can plan your next coastal vacation and find the Hearst Castle Theater, where you can watch the movie “Building the Dream,” an account of the history of the castle.
750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452, Phone: 800-444-4445
4. Universal Studios Hollywood
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Universal Studios is a theme park offering an opportunity to enjoy the world of Hollywood movies at its best. This park provides guided tours of a real working movie studio and tourists from all over the world can explore where Hollywood movies are made, see top celebrities being interviewed, and have intense 3D experiences.
The history of Universal Studios Hollywood began back in 1915, when Carl Laemmle, its founder, opened the gates of Universal City, as it was called back then. Since then, Universal Studios has been the place to visit for loads of Hollywood fun, including movie tours, attractions, and lots more.
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608, Phone: 4800-864-8377
Disneyland Park is a more than just a theme park. It is America´s magical destination for the entire family where you can find several attractions for everyone, from young children to adults. Explore jungles, sail with pirates, dive under the ocean, meet beloved fairytale princesses, or have an outer space experience.
This Southern Californian destination opened in 1955 and has since welcomed many families who all come to experience the Disney magic. Disneyland is divided into eight lands: U.S.A., New Orleans, Square Mickey's Toontown, Adventureland, Main Street, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Frontierland. Things to Do in Anaheim
1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, Phone: 877-560-6477
6. The Gamble House
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The Gamble House, designed by the brothers Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene, was constructed in 1908-09 and is now known as a National Historic Landmark and museum in Pasadena, California. Inside the Gamble House, visitors can join guided tours like the neighborhood walking tour.
In addition, the museum showcases details on joinery, fire and light, and the brothers Greene and Greene at the Huntington and a variety of other delightful exhibitions. Guests can also book an event, appreciate the architecture in all its splendor, and be part of the many events the center offers. Things to Do in Pasadena
4 Westmoreland PI, Pasadena, CA 91103, Phone: 626-793-3334
7.Environmental Nature Center
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Environmental Nature Center is one of Newport Beach's top family-friendly tourist attractions, originally founded in 1972 as a nonprofit environmental sanctuary and research facility. The LEED Platinum-certified museum and facility, commonly referred to as The ENC, spans five acres, showcasing 15 native California ecosystems and plant communities ranging from oak woodlands and redwood forests to freshwater marsh and desert habitats. Walking trails allow for perusal of the facility's habitats, while a nature museum offers hands-on exhibits for visitors of all ages. Other attractions include a seasonal butterfly habitat and an annual nature camp for area students. A wide variety of educational programming is held at the center throughout the year, ranging from public special events to school outreach programming.
1601 E 16th St, Newport Beach, CA 92663, Phone: 949-645-8489
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8.San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is a 1,000-acre natural reserve and nonprofit land trust in San Diego's North County coastal area, originally founded in 1987 to protect more than 1,000 native species of plant and animal life. The reserve, which has been in operation for more than 30 years, is bounded by the cities of Solana Beach, Encinitas, and Rancho Santa Fe, striving to engage the Bay Area with its natural surroundings and preserve important ecosystems for generations to come. A visitor center at the reserve showcases interactive museum exhibits for all ages on the area's history and ecology, including several living animal experiences. A 5,600-square-foot LEED Platinum-certified nature center showcases ecological practices, constructed entirely from recycled materials. Within the reserve, visitors can hike along seven miles of lovely trails, which showcase wetland, salt marsh, riparian and coastal sage shrub, and mixed chaparral habitats.
92024, 2710 Manchester Ave, Cardiff, CA 9200, Phone: 760-436-3944
9. La Brea Tar Pits
© La Brea Tar Pits
In La Brea Tar Pits Park, you can follow one of the suggested itineraries, access the excavation 101, take a look at the observation pit, and visit the museum. Another part of the journey to La Brea Tar Tips includes exploring the fossil lab, viewing exhibits, and watching Ice Age Encounters and more in the 3D theater.
Visitors can also plan group visits or catch special events and filming activities. Schools are invited to the park for field trips to discover a different world, one that was once covered with ice and home to such species as sabre-tooth tigers and mammoths.
5801 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, Phone: 323-857-6300
10. Balboa Park
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Balboa Park is one of the many interesting historic places to visit in the United States. As a cultural park located in San Diego, it is surrounded by natural vegetation zones, open space areas, gardens, greenbelts and walking paths.
It is the perfect destination for people who enjoy visiting museums, theaters, and the San Diego Zoo. Apart from all the cultural activities on offer in the park, there are several recreational facilities, restaurants, and gift shops. Balboa Park was placed in reserve in 1835 and since then has served the sole purpose of public recreational use.
San Diego, CA, Phone: 619-239-0512
11.Pacific Marine Mammal Center
Pacific Marine Mammal Center is one of Laguna Beach's premiere marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation centers, originally known as Friends of the Sea Lion and established as the state's first marine mammal rehabilitation facility in 1971. Today, the center is one of six facilities of its kind along the Florida coast, staffed primarily by volunteers and operated as a nonprofit organization. The center is open to the public daily between 10:00am and 4:00pm, with free admission offered for visitors of all ages. Interactive displays showcase the area's habitats and marine life, with marine mammal artifacts on display throughout. A Treasure Trove gift shop also sells a variety of gifts and goods for families and nature lovers alike.
20612 Laguna Canyon Rd, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, Phone: 949-494-3050
12. Griffith Observatory
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The Griffith Observatory is a gateway to wonders of the Milky Way. Inside the observatory, visitors have the opportunity to get a glimpse of the cosmos using telescopes, while star lovers can explore exhibits and see live shows in the Oschin Planetarium. The observatory owes its name to Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who left funds for the building of the observatory in his will in 1896.
Today, the Griffith Observatory opens its doors to planet and star enthusiasts who come to enjoy the different activities the observatory offers. The observatory also welcomes anyone who simply wants to enjoy the spectacular views of Los Angeles City and the Hollywood sign.
2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027, Phone: 213-473-0800
13. Los Angeles County Museum of Art
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The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has more than 150,000 pieces of art spanning the history of art itself, from ancient to modern art. It also holds film and concert series. The museum opens its doors to art fans and all those interested in seeing the exhibits.
As part of the activities, there are regular programs for kids and families, art classes and camps, different types of artistic and cultural events, search programs, and a lot more exciting opportunities to enjoy. Visitors can select a creative presents in the gift shop or try one of the different food options, such as grab-and-go salads or gourmet farm food. 25 Best Things to Do in Los Angeles
5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, Phone: 323-857-6000
14.SeaWorld San Diego
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SeaWorld San Diego is a theme park that offers lots of fun for the entire family. SeaWorld is an animal theme park, oceanarium, outside aquarium, and marine mammal park. The park was founded in 1964 and since then has delighted thousands of people with aquatic attractions.
Among these are rides, exhibits, and premier experiences. Tourists can learn about marine animals and enjoy some of the incredible and permanent shows, including Killer Whales, Dolphin Days, Cirque de la Mer, Pets Rule, One Ocean, and Sea Lions Live. There are also seasonal shows such as Shamu´s Celebration: Light up the Night, Dolphin Island Christmas, and much more. Next read: 10 Best Beaches in San Diego
13 Sea World Dr, San Diego CA 92109, Phone: 800-257-4268
15. Legoland California Resort
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The Legoland California Resort is a themed hotel located at the main entrance of Legoland California. The resort has interactive Lego facilities in which visitors can choose between various themed rooms, such as Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure or Lego Friends.
Among the many things to do in the resort is the nightly children´s entertainment, the buffet breakfast in the Brick Family Restaurant, the heated pool, and interactive play for kids. The fun doesn´t stop there: visitors can also enjoy the VIP experience and other benefits of the hotel. In order to heighten the experience, visitors can take or buy a minifigure to trade in the park.
1 Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008, Phone: 877-376-5346
16.USS Midway Museum
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The USS Midway Museum opened as a museum on June 7, 2004, and today it is the most famous naval warship museum in the United States, hosting more than 700 events each year, including active-duty navy retirements.
Exhibits and activities for all ages include the aircraft gallery, flight simulators, an audio tour map, a Battle of Midway experience, a legacy week, the 4th of July Celebration, a celebration of Veterans’ day, summer movie nights, and much more. You can experience an unforgettable adventure for the whole family and access the different events, tour information, dining, and shopping. Next read: Best Lunch & Dessert Spots in San Diego.
910 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-544-9600
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17.Knott Berry Farm
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Knott Berry Farm was founded in 1920 by Walter and Cordelia Knott. Today, the farm is known as America's first theme park. The Knott Berry Farm has plenty of things to do, including family rides, live entertainment, shopping, and dining. In addition, the park offers the Knott´s Soak City Water park, a California marketplace, roller coasters, children´s rides, thrill rides, and even Berry Market online shopping.
Along with accommodation options, corporate events, and online fun, the park offers a variety of choices for visitors of all ages. The farm also hosts corporate events, student and youth programs, and celebrations.
8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620, Phone: 714-220-5200
18.Manzanar National Historic Site
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The Manzanar National Historic Site is the perfect place for a vacation filled with the history of before and after World War II. In 1942, Manzanar was one of the ten camps where over 110,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned.
Today, Manzanar is a national park where tourists can go to the visitor center, engage in outdoor activities, take guided tours, learn about the pilgrimage, and much more at nearby attractions such as the Eastern California Museum, Laws Railroad Museum and Historical Site, and Maturango Museum.
Manzanar Reward Rd, California, Phone: 760-878-2194
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19. San Diego Zoo
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The San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park and houses more than 3,700 animals. Animal lovers can try the botanical tours and other unique experiences such as the exhibits Animals in Action, Early Morning with Pandas, and Crazy about Cats. Visitors can also discover the cart tour, the sunrise surprise stroll as well as exclusive VIP experiences and dining events.
There are a number of different activities at the zoo, while children can take part in the zoo’s educational activities with various programs like the kinder program and wildlife sleepovers. The gift shop has a very nice collection of souvenirs and presents.
2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-231-1515
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20. The Getty Villa
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The Getty Vills is one of the locations in the Getty Museums at the southern end of the Malibu coast. You can learn all about Roman, Greek, and Etruscan arts inside the museum. The Getty Villa showcases arts, architecture and garden exhibits.
In total 7,000 years-worth of ancient art are on display, with some exhibitions changing over time. With its first-century Roman country influence and gardens inspired by the ancient cultures of the Mediterranean, the Getty Villa is a beautiful place to visit while the gift shop offers some unique items.
17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272, Phone: 310-440-7300
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21. California Science Center
© California Science Center
The California Science Center was founded in 1951 and was first known as the "California Museum of Science and Industry". The museum was remodeled and its name was changed to "California Science Center" in 1998. It offers informative and interactive permanent exhibits like the Science behind Pixar Exhibition, Earth in Concert: Protecting in Planet through Music, and Mission 26: The Big Endeavour.
There are also demonstrations, which include climbing a wall, a motion simulator, and a high-wire bicycle. Other information to help you plan your visit includes information for field trips and groups, and the science center map.
700 Exposition Park Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90037, Phone: 323-724-3623
22.Zimmer Children's Museum
© Zimmer Children's Museum
Located on Los Angeles’ Museum Row, The Zimmer Children's Museum is the only city museum specifically focused on kids under the age of eight. Spread over 10,000 square feet, the museum has a range of interactive, hands-on exhibits and family programs. The museum’s goal is to encourage big ideas along with creative and brave thinking. The kids play in an inspiring and creative setting and discover real activism, learn about injustice, and find out how they can change the world and create a better future. The Zimmer offers two main programs: a children’s museum for kids eight years old and younger and youTHink, a development program for high and middle school students. There are about 20 weekly public programs and classes in music, art, movement, school readiness, cross-cultural exchange, and five languages.
6505 Wilshire Blvd., #100, Los Angeles, CA 90048, Phone: 323-761-8984
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23. Living Desert Zoo & Gardens
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The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens is dedicated to preserving, conserving, and interpreting the desert and all its various plants and animal life. Since its foundation in 1970, the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens has achieved several conservation goals and there is a huge variety of things to do and see.
The permanent exhibits include Butterflies, Guardians of the Living Desert, North America, Africa, Village WaTuTu, the Gecko Gulch, the Eagle Canyon, Tennity Wildlife Hospital & Conservation, and the Endangered Species Carousel. Visitors can make use of different tours, specials, and promotions to be part of the wildlife conservation club.
47900 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260, Phone: 760-346-5694
24.Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood
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This studio tour is a public attraction inside Warner Bros. Studios where movie fans can experience the home of television and film favorites and experience a three-hour visit inside a real working Hollywood studio, outdoor sets, and soundstages for different movies or series such as Gilmore Girls, Big Bang Theory, and Argo.
In the tour experience, guests can choose the deluxe tour, a group tour, gift certificates, go to the gallery, and get gift certificates. Movie fans of all ages can go on the Studio History Tour and fall in love with the magic of Hollywood. Things to Do in Burbank
3400 Warner Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505, Phone: 877-492-8687
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25.Norton Simon Museum
© Norton Simon Museum
The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena houses European sculptures, paintings, and tapestries. There are also Asian sculptures, woodblock prints, paintings, and sculpture gardens displaying sculptors' works as part of the landscape.
Visitors can see regularly changing exhibitions, collections, and events that can be enjoyed with the entire family. The museum also provides adult education classes, talks, tours, and more culturally related events that offer a warm welcome to everyone who wants to do something more cultural and artistic on their vacation. As a visitor, you can even schedule a tour or be part of the family art night.
411 W Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105, Phone: 626-449-6840
25 Best Things to Do in California
- Sunnylands Center & Gardens, Photo: Sunnylands Center & Gardens
- Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Photo: Courtesy of Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism
- Hearst Castle, Photo: Courtesy of fannyes - Fotolia.com
- Universal Studios Hollywood, Photo: Courtesy of aharond - Fotolia.com
- Disneyland, Photo: Disneyland
- The Gamble House, Photo: Courtesy of sayanphayom - Fotolia.com
- Environmental Nature Center, Photo: Steve Byland/stock.adobe.com
- San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, Photo: Lance/stock.adobe.com
- La Brea Tar Pits, Photo: La Brea Tar Pits
- Balboa Park, Photo: Courtesy of f11 photo - Fotolia.com
- Pacific Marine Mammal Center, Photo: MISHELA/stock.adobe.com
- Griffith Observatory, Photo: Courtesy of weber foto - Fotolia.com
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Photo: Courtesy of Ed-Ni Photo - Fotolia.com
- SeaWorld San Diego, Photo: Courtesy of desertsolitaire - Fotolia.com
- Legoland California Resort, Photo: Courtesy of wolcan - Fotolia.com
- USS Midway Museum, Photo: Courtesy of f11 photo - Fotolia.com
- Knott Berry Farm, Photo: Courtesy of spiritofamerica - Fotolia.com
- Manzanar National Historic Site, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- San Diego Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of DAW - Fotolia.com
- The Getty Villa, Photo: Courtesy of blaccdynomite - Fotolia.com
- California Science Center, Photo: California Science Center
- Zimmer Children's Museum, Photo: Zimmer Children's Museum
- Living Desert Zoo & Gardens , Photo: Courtesy of Jillian - Fotolia.com
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood , Photo: Courtesy of ivandancom - Fotolia.com
- Norton Simon Museum, Photo: Norton Simon Museum
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of f11 photo - Fotolia.com
The Huntington Library holds more than just books; it is a cultural, research and educational center where visitors can explore a splendid art collection, an excellent library, botanical gardens from all over the world, and a lot more.
The library has some of the finest rare books and manuscripts of Anglo-American civilization on display, while the art collection hosts works by different artists, including Edward Hopper’s The Long Leg, Frederic Edwin Church’s Chimborazo, and Mary Cassatt’s Breakfast in Bed. The botanical gardens have more than a dozen specialized gardens that are open to the public.
1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108, Phone: 626-405-2100
Since it was first opened to the public in 1997, the Getty Center, a campus of the Getty Museums, receives many people annually, and it is well known for its gardens, art exhibitions, and architecture. Come here to access the center and its activities, plan visits, and get information about hours, group visits, parking and more.
At the Getty Center, you can find pre-20th-century art on display, including European paintings, illuminated manuscripts, drawings, decorative arts, sculpture, and 19th- and 20th-century American and European photographs. The center also has a wide variety of food made with local ingredients.
1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049, Phone: 310-440-7300