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10 Iconic Places to Visit in Southern California That You Can't Miss

best places to visit in california

IN THIS ARTICLE

Looking for fun places to visit in Southern California? SoCal is packed full of coastal cities, hiking trails, theme parks, beautiful beaches, national parks, unique shopping, and glorious views. Fabulous weather makes the outdoor Southern California lifestyle accessible all year long.

No matter what you are looking to do, Southern California will deliver. Here are a few of the best places to visit when adventuring around the lower half of our marvelous golden state.

Santa Barbara

santa barbara california

They call Santa Barbara the "American Riviera" for a good reason. It offers a one-of-a-kind European ambiance with a secluded and sophisticated feel. Just ask the numerous A-list stars that call it home. Right now, Santa Barbara is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. Classic fine dining is taking a back seat to the millennial-inspired once industrial wine and restaurant district known as the "Funk Zone."

Dining and style aside, the classic bones of this charming vacation destination remain. You'll enjoy views of Channel Islands National Park, the beauty of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the fruits of the nearby Santa Ynez Valley wine country, and the timeless beauty of Mission Santa Barbara. If you are traveling with children, you cannot miss the MOXI children's discovery museum or the Sea Center on the pier. If you aren't quite ready for the Amalfi Coast or French Riviera, take a stab at Santa Barbara and you'll quickly realize you're right where you need to be.

PLAN YOUR TRIP

  • When to go: Spectacular year-round!
  • Entry cost: MOXI $16/adult, $12/ child 3-12, Sea Center $17/adult, $11/ child 2-12
  • Address: 500 E. Montecito Street Santa Barbara, CA 93103
  • Contact: (805) 966-9222 - https://santabarbaraca.com/
  • Santa Monica Pier

    santa monica pier california

    If you find yourself looking to escape the traffic jams of Downtown Los Angeles, head west towards the Pacific Ocean to Santa Monica. Start with a stroll down the infamous Third Street Promenade to watch the street performers. Grab a cocktail or appetizer at Elephante before walking towards the iconic Santa Monica Pier.

    You may not be able to see the famed Hollywood sign or Universal Studios Hollywood from this coastal city, but this West Coast version of Coney Island has fun things around every corner. Enjoy the Playland Arcade, carnival games of Pacific Park, and catch the Pacific Wheel at sunset for a birds-eye view of this coastal gem in Los Angeles County. If you are visiting Southern California with kids, check out the nearby Tongva Park, which doubles as a life-sized art gallery.

    PLAN YOUR TRIP

  • When to go: Open 6am-10pm and beautiful year-round. Summer has the warmest temps but it is also more expensive and crowded
  • Entry cost: $10/person for the Pacific Wheel
  • Address: Santa Monica, CA 90401
  • Contact: (310) 458-8900 - https://www.santamonicapier.org
  • Disneyland Resort

    disneyland theme park california

    Don't forget Disneyland (the world-famous amusement park) is also located in Southern California's Orange County. However, it is no longer your parents' Disneyland. The resort has evolved into a sprawling city of its own with Downtown Disney (a dining, shopping, and entertainment district) cutting between the two separate theme parks. Disneyland Park is filled with magic from your classic Walt Disney movies, while the new kid on the block, Disney's California Adventure offers more thrill rides centered around Pixar and Marvel themes.

    Don't miss the sunset in Radiator Springs as the neon lights begin to glow and the classic Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream) plays as the sun goes down. A perfect time for a short rest while enjoying one of California Adventure's craft beer offerings. The park hopper ticket is ideal and will let you enjoy the best of the two amusement parks in one day. It is sure to be a busy day, but nonetheless an experience that should not be missed and one of the best places to visit in Southern California!

    PLAN YOUR TRIP

  • When to go: Open year-round, holidays time is especially festive
  • Entry cost: $159-209/day for ages 3+, 3 and under free, daily rates drop if you purchase 2-5 day tickets
  • Address: Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802
  • Contact: (714) 781-4636 - https://disneyland.disney.go.com