We are going to Southern California for three days, and we don't intend to see Universal or any of the theme parks in LA. We would like to go to beaches and good nature spots. We will be in Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Ventura, Orange County and LA. Can you please throw in a few recommendations?
Trip Plan Details
- Santa Barbara Botanic Garden1212 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105-2126recommended Santa Barbara Botanic GardenA lovely small botanic garden with some hiking/nature trails. Worth a visit if you like gardens.Recommended for:
- Vasquez Rocks10700 Escondido Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, CArecommended Vasquez RocksIn the high desert of Southern California, just off Highway 14 between the San Fernando and Antelope Valleys, a national park of ancient rock formations makes for a fascinating trip. Hike among the ... read moresagebrush, tumbleweeds, and miles of dirt and rock, admiring the prehistoric formations of eroded cliff-like boulders that served as the inspiration for Disney's Lion King's Pride Rock. It's also the famous hiding location of legendary California bandit Tiburcio Vasquez - the Robin Hood of the West.Becky Mahan
It's not a very far drive out of Los Angeles - only about 30 minutes from the San Fernando Valley. It could make a fun afternoon, but depending on when you go, be sure to prepare for the weather. In winter, the road that leads into the park can be extremely dangerous - ice/snow combined with whipping winds can be fatal. And in summer, it's the desert - you're gonna get hot! Spring and fall would be perfect to visit.
- Pacific Coast HwyPacific Coast Hwyrecommended Pacific Coast HwyA beautiful strip of main highway that runs along most of the California coast, from Orange County to Mendocino County. You can start along the coastline in San Diego, which is unofficially known as ... read morepart of the Pacific Coast Highway - though I don't think it's technically part of the actual national highway labeled California State Route One. The point is, the scenery along this coast-hugging highway is gorgeous, and you can drive for hours. The best part is that the terrain and coastline morphs and changes as you travel, as the northern parts are very different than the southern - think rugged cliffs changing to canyon-like drops and then eventually ocean-level sprawling beaches. It's a fascinating - and glorious - drive.Recommended for:
- Santa Monica Pier321 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA, United Statesrecommended Santa Monica PierTons of dining options, entertainment, rides, and novelty - this place is a carnival and a stip mall all in one. There's no shortage of things to do, and the only drawback is the crowds - worst in ... read moresummer and on weekends. It's a great outing for the whole family, despite the parking fee.
recommended Beverly HillsEveryone's rich, everyone has a designer label purse or wallet and sunglasses, and you'll see more Mercedes, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and toy dogs than practically anywhere else in the world. It's fun ... read morejust to meander through the residential streets and gawk at the mansions partially hidden behind trees...or of course, stroll down Rodeo Drive and dream about being able to afford shopping there.Recommended for:
- Farmers Market6333 West 3rd Street #175g, Los Angeles, CA, United Statesrecommended Farmers MarketA nice open market with tons of food stalls, fresh produce, and crafts and trinkets. It's often busy, though, and the food tent can be smelly and dirty - which is a little worrisome. But it's a nice ... read moreplace to check out at least once.
- The Grove189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90036-6221recommended The GroveIt's a great outdoor shopping mall, but I personally find it more exciting for Mario Lopez's Extra! show taping. Passerby can be part of the show - just join the gathering crowd before a segment ... read morestarts taping (or during, but you'll be at the very back) and get up close with the celebrity guests. I was 5 feet from Hilary Duff, and got to interview Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi guitarist) for the show! They'll always pick a handful of people in the crowd to ask the celebs questions, so definitely try to be a part of this. It's an unforgettable experience!
- Third Street PromenadeSanta Monica Pier, Santa Monica, Californiarecommended Third Street PromenadeVery quirky and funky - strange characters roam about, mingled with the rich and famous, average Joes window-shopping, and overexcited tourists snapping their cameras at everything. Parking is a pain, ... read morebut if you can get here without your own wheels, it's perfectly enjoyable. Stroll along and see the resident who owns an iguana (and walks him on a leash), the monkey performer, the fortune teller, and the palm reader, among others. Then hit up the 3-story Barnes and Noble, grab a Coffee Bean frappuccino, find a park bench, and enjoy a relaxed afternoon in the sunshine.Recommended for:Trendsters
- Malibu Pier23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265-4936recommended Malibu PierIt's a nice stroll at sunset, but it's really not too different from any other pier - except the Malibu's beaches are clean, and this pier is often quiet. Head on down the PCH for the action and ... read moreexcitement on Santa Monica Pier, but if you're looking for a quiet, romantic stroll, this is a good substitute.Recommended for:Family Travelers
recommended MalibuFamous, ritzy, gorgeous Malibu. The best approach into this wealthy beach town is through Malibu Canyon Road, which winds you along the face of rocky cliffs and hills until you turn one corner and - ... read morebam - there's the ocean. Then you descend into the multimillion-dollar neighborhood of the rich and famous...where you have a really good chance at seeing them, especially if you can afford to eat in the same restaurants they do. Otherwise, enjoy the scenic drives - not just down Pacific Coast Highway, but also through the little turnoffs and residential areas - the hiking trails, and the clean, bright beaches.Recommended for:
- The Getty Center1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049-1666recommended The Getty CenterIn my opinion, two of the best reasons to visit the Getty are the architecture and the physical setting. The buildings are beautiful and so is the landscaping and the views. There are often some great ... read moretemporary exhibitions, which is good because the permanent collection can be underwhelming. If you grab a bus or a hotel shuttle (some nearby hotels offer them for free), you will avoid the parking fee, which is the only charge for visiting. Have lunch in the cafe, where the food is good, or just grab a cookie (they're the best -- I used to work here and always had trouble staying away from them!).Recommended for:Becky M.
The Getty is really beautiful and there are amazing views.
- Malibu Lagoon State Beach23300 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265recommended Malibu Lagoon State BeachThis is the beach spot I always take my out of town guests to visit. It works at any time of the year, because it is not just a huge swath of sand, and the walk around the ponds to the ocean is nice. ... read moreIt's also close to food -- Malibu Frozen Yogurt is good, and the Ralph's supermarket has a good take-out deli. Much better than just going to the beach in Santa Monica, where it is dirty and crowded.Recommended for:Becky M.
Really nice beach spot in Malibu.
recommended Aliso Canyon, Los Padres National ForestCampground and hiking trails in the Los Padres National Forest, near the Santa Ynez River. We only hiked in the canyon, taking the canyon loop trail which is relatively challenging due to some steep ... read moreelevation gains and exposed position (very little shade!). The loop takes you up to the canyon's ridge, where the views are pretty awesome. From here, you drop down to meet the interpretive trail down in the canyon itself, which winds along a creek and has a lot of signs and interpretive stations -- I think the goal is to make it family-friendly.Recommended for:Family TravelersBecky M.
Los Padres National Forest would be a great place for some nature near Santa Barbara
- Surfers Point ParkVentura, CA
- Balboa IslandBalboa Island, Newport Beach, CA
- The Outlets at Orange20 City Boulevard West, Orange, CA 92868
- Palisades Park1301 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401-1019
- Channel Islands National ParkOxnard, CA
- State Street Shopping & DiningState Street, Santa Barbara, CA
- Huntington State Beach17851 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA 92649
- Santa Monica State BeachOff Ocean Front, Santa Monica, CA 90403
- 1,000 Steps BeachNinth Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651