Southern California: the land of great weather, beautiful beaches, celebrity mansions, and palm trees. The southern end of the Golden State is truly golden.
If you’re looking to plan a comprehensive SoCal trip, you’ll want to check out the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, and maybe one of the cities in Orange County. There are a few great activities that you’ll find in any of the cities, and if you want to truly experience California culture, you have to do them.
Here’s how to make the most of your trip.
Take Public Transit
You’ll want to experience everything that California has to offer, except for one thing: traffic. SoCal is overly reliant on car culture and lacks some of the faster and more efficient public transit that you’ll find in New York City or Chicago. The result is some of the worst traffic in the United States. San Diego isn’t awful (unless you’re used to small-town America), but it gets horrendous in Los Angeles and Orange County.
That’s why you should take public transit as often as possible, wherever you can find it. While it might sound tempting to go cruising down the 101 Highway, you’ll immediately regret it as soon as you run into your first endless mile of bumper-to-bumper traffic.
If you’re in Los Angeles, get around using the LA Metro subway system. San Diego has a similar light rail system called the San Diego Trolley. Take the Amtrak railway to travel between Los Angeles and San Diego. Amtrak will transport you from LA to San Diego in 3 hours, with plenty of stops in Orange County and gorgeous coastal views of the Pacific Ocean.
Jump on the Weed Wagon
All right, now the fun stuff. California is one of 10 states to have legalized recreational marijuana. You can’t smoke in public places and you can’t smoke within 1,000 feet of a school. But there are a variety of cannabis bars and dive bars that allow guests to smoke. There are lots of San Diego dispensaries that sell a variety of different cannabis—it’s like walking into a candy store.
You might be rolling your eyes at this one, but if you’re from a state that hasn’t legalized weed, here’s your chance to do it shamelessly. And it’s undoubtedly one of the cultural joys of SoCal; just ask Snoop Dogg.
Enjoy Mexican Cuisine
There’s a large Mexican population that lives in Southern California, given its close proximity to Mexico and the fact that California was once a Mexican territory. You can find delicious Mexican food here. From fresh tortillas, to street tacos, to enchiladas, to churros, Southern California is a foodie’s paradise because of the vast amount of great Mexican food. You can’t leave the region without feasting on some.
Drink Craft Beer
The craft beer scene is flourishing across the United States, and Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Diego County collectively have hundreds of microbreweries that serve up SoCal-inspired brews. On top of that, San Diego and Los Angeles are known for having some of the best bars and breweries in all the US! If you’re looking for a good weekend to go for a celebration, St. Patrick’s Day, The 4th of July, and even Mardi Gras, are all largely celebrated in the city. If you tired of margaritas, be sure to head to one of these hop head hangouts and try some local brews.
A few of the more famous Southern California breweries include:
Visit Theme Parks
SoCal is a theme park-lover’s paradise, and you should definitely check out one of two of the parks before you leave. In the Los Angeles area, you’ll find:
- Six Flags Magic Mountain (currently holds the world record for most roller coasters in an amusement park)
- Universal Studios Hollywood
- Knott’s Berry Farm
In San Diego, you’ll find theme parks that are more animal-centric, like:
- SeaWorld San Diego
- Aquatica San Diego
- San Diego Zoo
- San Diego Zoo Safari Park
But the real behemoth of SoCal theme parks is Disneyland Resort, which comprises the theme Parks of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Disneyland isn’t nearly as large as the Magic Kingdom at Florida’s Disney World, but it’s the only Disney park that was personally overseen by Walt Disney himself. If you’re a die-hard Disney fan, you’ll appreciate all the historical spots within the park and the personal touches leftover by Walt.
Apart from the theme parks and craft beer scene, remember to enjoy SoCal’s beautiful weather. If you live in a part of the country with very cold weather, visit Southern California in winter and enjoy lounging on the beach in the middle of December. And, remember, avoid traffic.