When you think of Southern California, you imagine sunny beaches, palm trees, clear skies, and surfers catching waves. It’s all that and even more!
In this region, you can explore extraordinary landscapes, encounter unique art, delve into gold mining history, visit stunning wineries, and so many other unique experiences.
We’ve curated a list of the top things to do in Southern California so get ready to embark on a journey filled with diverse attractions and unforgettable memories.
Discover 10 unique experiences in Southern California:
Table of Contents
1. Visit the Hollywood Sign… on horseback
Like the Walk of Fame or Rodeo Drive, the Hollywood Sign is a must during a stay in Los Angeles. Fun fact: originally installed to promote a real estate program, it has fallen into disrepair over the years. It was Hugh Hefner, boss of Playboy, who raised the necessary funds to renovate it in the late 1970s.
How to get there ? Head to Griffith Park, a 1,700-hectare natural park north of Los Angeles that is home to hiking trails, a zoo and the Griffith Observatory . Perched on Mount Lee, the famous letters are not accessible by car: you can climb there on foot or more fun, on horseback. Sunset Ranch offers guided walks along trails lined with prickly pears and evergreens. Escorted by Jason, the cowboy who knows the Hills – and celebrity gossip – like the back of his hand, you enjoy a 360° view of Los Angeles.
2. Visit the Academy of Oscars Museum
Signed Renzo Piano, this recent museum located in the Miracle Mile district just opposite LACMA, is a work in itself. The building combines the very best in museum scenography. On 4 floors, the history of cinema is told with immersive rooms dedicated to Blaxploitation, the Oscars of course, special effects… and fun activities like The Oscars Experience, where you are filmed during an awards speech at the Dolby Theatre. After the visit, take a gourmet break at the Fanny’s café, which serves excellent coffees and pastries.
3. Take a dip in a legendary pool
The Roosevelt Hotel has marked the history of cinema. It was in its majestic lobby that the very first Oscar ceremony was held in 1929. Marilyn Monroe lived there for two years. A veritable oasis in the heart of the City of Angels, the hotel swimming pool is famous for its fresco painted by the artist David Hockney. Palm trees, parasols and a pool bar, the decor boasts the purest Hollywood style of the 1960s. Nestled behind the pool, the Rosy Café and its shaded terrace with a tropical atmosphere is the ideal spot for a refreshing break in the heart of the tumult.
4. Eat a crab sandwich at the Original Farmers Market
At the corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue hides a well-known address for street food lovers: an indoor market welcoming the finest of California farmers and small producers. Since 1934, the place has remained in its original state with wooden buildings, tower topped with a clock, well-stocked stalls. A food court -like maze where you can bite into local specialities: the typical corned beef at Magee’s Kitchen, the historic market canteen, donuts from Bob’s Coffee & Donuts or grilled seafood and hearty lobster rolls accompanied by their Crispy fries at the Roxy & Jo’s marine counter.
5. Sip a cocktail in an iconic art deco hotel
Direction the district of Santa Monica, west of Los Angeles. On Ocean Avenue, it’s impossible not to fall under the charm of the Georgian with its superb blue facade looking out over the Pacific Ocean. Haunt of poets and artists in the 1930s, this legendary hotel has just reopened its doors, completely revamped. The wow decor embraces the Havanese style with art deco touches. On the terrace or at the bar, all in curves and velvet, you can taste delicious cocktails, revisited classics and modern explorations.
1415, Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, thegeorgian.com
6. Find out what your future holds at Santa Monica Pier
Famous for being the terminus of Route 66 from Chicago to the West Coast, Santa Monica’s pier looks like a carnival with its ice cream and hot dog vendors, souvenir shops and old-fashioned rides. The atmosphere is family and good-natured, less touristy at the end of the pier where it is not uncommon to come across a few fishermen. Among the curiosities to photograph: the famous Bubba Gump seafood restaurant, inspired by the film Forrest Gump. Another attraction: Zoltar the Mage, a vintage fairground machine seen in the film Big starring Tom Hanks. Slip in a dollar to find out what your future holds…
Santa Monica Pier
7. Pedal in the secret corners of Venice Beach
To the west of Los Angeles, this mythical beach owes its name to billionaire Abbot Kinney. In 1905, the American promoter returning from a trip to Italy decided to transform the port into a copy of the Serenissima. The legend was born. Far from the beaten track, Los Angeles Off Road founded by the French Elise Goujon offers to discover Venice Beach during a bike tour in VF to discover the murals, the painted frescoes that adorn the facades, secret alleys of Crescent Pl, Nowita Pl, Marco Place… A course within everyone’s reach, which ends in style on the mythical seafront to admire the skateboarders and body-builders in action.
8. Immerse yourself in the days of the American Wild West
On the way to Palm Springs , stop at Pioneertown. Built in 1946 by actor Dick Curtis, this unlikely town has served as the setting for numerous film shoots. Stroll down Mane Street, the main street, and dive back into the days of the conquest of the West. Everything is there: the saloon, the prison, the small church, the sheriff’s office and a few local craft shops where you can shop pottery and ceramics, checkered shirts, designer jewellery…On weekends, shows reproducing scenes from westerns are offered free of charge to visitors.
9. Gaze at the stars at Joshua Tree National Park
In the Mojave Desert, far from any light pollution, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the best places in the world to observe the cosmos. Star gazing is also one of the flagship activities. After a sunset hike with a ranger, it is recommended to book an evening with a private astronomer who will guide your exploration of the sky. The best viewing areas are located at Quail Springs, Hidden Valley, and Ryan Mountain. Another option is to go to Sky’s the Limit, an observatory located near the Twentynine Palms entrance that organizes observation sessions with experts.
Observatory and Nature Center,9697 Utah Trail,Twentynine Palms, California 92277
10. Sleep in an Airstream in the middle of the desert
Airstreams ,the vintage caravans designed in the 1930s, are on the rise. It must be said that with their rounded shapes and their aluminum bodywork, they embody the American way of life so well . Head to the Joshua Tree Autocamp for an unusual and unique overnight stay. Don’t be fooled by their highly photogenic look. These atypical cocoons offer all the modern comforts: queen-size bed, living room with sofa bed, equipped kitchenette, a terrace with a fireplace for a campfire. The hotel also has a swimming pool, a clubhouse and a restaurant.
Autocamp de Joshua Tree
62209 Verbena Rd, Joshua Tree