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60 of SoCal’s Best Remote Experiences

 Mono Lake | Sandi Hemmerlein
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Please explore responsibly. While "SoCal Wanderer" continues to uncover the region’s local gems and not-to-miss destinations, public health guidelines and weather conditions are changing constantly. We encourage our readers to check the latest updates for each location. Stay curious and cautious.

For some Southern Californians, the wanderlust is real.

We may be perfectly happy where we’re hunkered down but wanderers of all walks of life have recently found that, at least for the time being, they can’t even be tourists in their own towns.

Fortunately, until we can hit the road again — and get our kicks at the beach, on a mountain, or in the desert — there are some ways to live vicariously and experience those destinations remotely.   

We can also indulge our passions for history, architecture, arts and crafts, and even science with unprecedented access to top experts from some of the most respected institutions out there. 

It’s a great time to learn a new skill, plan a future adventure or let your curiosity be piqued — all from the comfort of your own home. Because now, you can try a little taste of almost anything that interests you, without putting a single mile on your car or using even a drop of gas.

If you’ve got a connected device and a connection, the world — and particularly Southern California — is your oyster. Here are some of the best options for remote exploration and adventure, right at your fingertips.  

1. For Weekend Roadtrippers

Mono Lake | Sandi Hemmerlein
Mono Lake | Sandi Hemmerlein
Mono Lake | Sandi Hemmerlein
Mono Lake | Sandi Hemmerlein
Keys Ranch | Sandi Hemmerlein
Keys Ranch | Sandi Hemmerlein
Old Mission Santa Inés | Sandi Hemmerlein
Old Mission Santa Inés | Sandi Hemmerlein

If the winter ski season or the warming spring weather would’ve taken you to the Eastern Sierra, you can look west from Bishop, California toward Mt. Humphreys, Basin Mountain and Mt. Tom via webcam, which is refreshed every 30 seconds from sunrise to sunset. Views of Mono Lake and Mill Creek are available on the Mono Lake Committee website, and views of the top of June Mountain can be seen from the June Mountain Ski Area Chalet. Likewise, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s summit cam helps you (remotely) enjoy views of Mt Ritter, Banner Peak and the Minarets from over 11,000 feet of elevation. Finally, air quality cameras courtesy of the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District let you spy on many key areas of interest across Owens Lake, as well as the rest of the Owens Valley and Mono Lake. And Yosemite Conservancy hosts live webcams with views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan and more. 

One tourist town in SoCal that you can visit virtually is the “Danish Capital of America,” Solvang. Solvang Trolley is hosting live virtual tours on its Facebook page, taking viewers past Old Mission Santa Inés, windmills, bakeries and other local mom-and-pops. This Denmark-themed destination is widely considered a “fairytale town” and if you’ve never been before, catching a glimpse of its unique Nordic style (including some replicas of Copenhagen landmarks) is the perfect excuse to plan a future trip. 

If it’s “island life” that you’re missing, the Catalina Island Company offers live webcams from two locations: Descanso Beach Club in Avalon and Two Harbors

If you’re more the rugged type who leans toward more undeveloped explorations, Channel Islands National Park offers vicarious getaways with its webcam broadcasts from Anacapa Island, Mount Diablo on Santa Cruz Island, and more. And if you’re more of a desert rat, the Google virtual tour of Joshua Tree National Park offers your choice of nine starting points and is a perfect companion to the park’s online video tour of Keys Ranch and its YouTube channel.  

2. For History Buffs

Heritage Square Museum | Sandi Hemmerlein
Heritage Square Museum | Sandi Hemmerlein
Heritage Square Museum | Sandi Hemmerlein
Heritage Square Museum | Sandi Hemmerlein

The Autry in L.A.’s Griffith Park is bringing stories of the American West to you via Autry Online. All-ages digital tours, a weekly video series and other online exclusives are being offered via the Autry’s Distance Learning program. You can also find live Q&As on the museum’s Instagram profile. Meanwhile, Culver City’s The Wende Museum has launched #WENDEONLINE with digital access to its collections and virtual, interactive programs including panel discussions and a weekly lunchtime discussion series, Cold War Spaces (via Zoom, free with RSVP to receive the login link). If you missed the museum’s most recent exhibition, "The Medea Insurrection: Radical Women Artists Behind the Iron Curtain," you can view recorded tours of it on Vimeo.  

Heritage Square Museum in Northeast Los Angeles may not be able to host its regular tours or let visitors participate in the 2020 edition of Museums of the Arroyo Day, but its social media team has really ramped up its efforts to bring Instagram and Facebook posts about Victorian history and #caturday updates of the comings and goings of their local tom, Belle Boy. Not to be missed!

Old Mission Santa Barbara has posted a number of virtual resources on its website including a weekly video series in conjunction with Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library that’s also posted on the mission’s social media channels, like Facebook. It’s a unique way to get a behind-the-scenes look at its collections and brush up on your California Missions history from wherever you are.

3. For Architecture Aficionados

The Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites is one of many L.A. buildings from the '70s | Sandi Hemmerlein
The Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites is one of many L.A. buildings from the '70s | Sandi Hemmerlein
King Edward Hotel | Sandi Hemmerlein
King Edward Hotel  | Sandi Hemmerlein
Sowden House | Sandi Hemmerlein
Sowden House | Sandi Hemmerlein
Bembridge House | Sandi Hemmerlein
Bembridge House | Sandi Hemmerlein
Salk Institute | Sandi Hemmerlein
Salk Institute | Sandi Hemmerlein
Salk Institute | Sandi Hemmerlein
Salk Institute | Sandi Hemmerlein
William Pereira’s Geisel Library | Sandi Hemmerlein