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Where to Feed Your Wanderlust as SoCal Reopens for Exploration

An illustration of a car driving away on the road
An illustration of a car driving away on the road | Henry Cram
No matter what your comfort level is right now, there are plenty of ways to explore what Southern California has to offer — on the road, at the beach and even up in the air. Not sure where to start? We put our best ideas together in this one handy guide
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More and more Southern Californians are ready to resume their "normal" ways of life — and for many that means exploring some of SoCal's best hidden gems.

No matter what your comfort level is right now, there are plenty of ways to explore what Southern California has to offer — on the road, at the beach and even up in the air.

You could spend as little as an hour or two — or make an entire weekend (or week!) out of it.

Not sure where to start? We've tracked down what's open right now — and what's reopening soon — and put our best ideas together in this one handy guide.

So whether you're just dipping your toe into the sea of adventure or you're ready to dive right in headfirst, here are 10 of the best ways to get started.

1. Five Lesser-Known Roadside Attractions Along Route 66

An illustration of some eye-catching signs  on Route 66 establishments, which include those Formosa Cafe, Globe Theater and China Cafe.

If getting behind the wheel on a road trip is your ideal way to "get out of dodge," why not take the "mother" of all roads, Route 66? If you start your journey in Santa Monica, there's plenty to explore within the L.A. area alone — but why not extend your trip to the Pomona Valley, the Inland Empire or beyond?

Here are five not-to-miss places along the way — including some you might not realize are actually located on this historic highway because of the many realignments it was subjected to since its establishment in 1926. Read the article.

2. Five SoCal Road Trip Pit Stops That Will Rival Your Destination

An illustration of Peggy Sue’s "Diner-Saur" Park.

While you're getting your kicks out on the open road, at some point you'll need to take a break to fill your tank, empty your bladder and wet your whistle. Fortunately, the journey can be just as intriguing and memorable as your destination — no matter where you're going.

When you're ready to stretch your legs, make sure you've routed your trip past one of these five pit stops — all of which can be found along common long-distance routes in SoCal. Read the article.

3. Griffith Park's Lesser-Known Wonders

An illustration with the words that would spell out California.

During pandemic closures, Griffith Park's trails offered a welcome respite for hikers who couldn't stand being cooped up anymore. But now, some of its lesser-known wonders — including the Merry-Go-Round that Walt Disney made famous — are ready to welcome back visitors, too.

What's more, Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn is ready to celebrate its grand reopening on July 18, 2021 — with its first free public day since early last year. Follow the barn on Facebook for the latest updates. Read the article.

4. Off the Beaten Path: Six Lesser-Known Gardens

An illustration of a patch of succulents.

You may think of summer in SoCal as a season of plants in hibernation — when everything from the grass to the native buckwheat plants turn brown to conserve water. But there's always something blooming at L.A.'s gardens — and now is the perfect time to explore some of our horticultural hidden gems like Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks.

You may have never heard of some of these botanical beauties — whose locations range from the San Fernando Valley to the San Gabriel Valley — but their out-of-the-way locations make them some of the best-kept secrets in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. Read the article.

5. Beat the L.A. Heat With These Night Hikes

An illustration of a man's feet with the light of a flashlight shining above.

Sometimes, the only way to beat the heat in SoCal is to become a night owl. So, if you want to continue to enjoy the outdoors when daytime temperatures are reaching triple digits, just wait for the sun to do down — and enjoy some of our best trails at night.

Here's where you can enjoy views of city lights and maybe even some slow croaks and hushed hoots of the local nightlife-loving wildlife. Grab a friend or two — or a trained naturalist — and a colored flashlight to help guide your way. Or, even better, schedule your hike to coincide with a full moon. Read the article.

6. The Best Places to Enjoy Air Sports in Southern California

An illustration of hot air balloons flying in the air.

If you like to take a flying leap whenever the opportunity presents itself, the sky's the limit in Southern California — where you can take on a new hobby that'll take you higher than you've ever been before.

Whether you'd like to dangle from a wire, glide under a parachute or try out your piloting skills in the cockpit of a plane, get ready to get airborne with these five types of air sports in Southern California. Read the article.

7. Where to Spot SoCal's Coastal Wildlife

An illustration of a white bird found on the seashore

There are so many ocean and ocean-side dwellers to be spotted in our Southern California coastal areas. Even if you've already been whale watching, there are plenty of other denizens of the sea to behold while visiting our coastal lands.

Here are some of the places to look for all coastal creatures great and small — from pinnipeds, dolphins and other marine mammals to seabirds and even SoCal's infamous midnight mating fish. Read the article.

8. Where to Find SoCal's Most Fascinating Coastal Ruins

An illustration of the S.S. Dominator Shipwreck

When you're hitting the coast, you may encounter one of the many layers of history, hiding in plain view — like the remains of an old military site, resort, hotel or even a ship that got wrecked as it ran up on our rocky shores.

If you're curious about the history of recreation, coastal defense, and commercial shipping, here are five of the most captivating ruins that haven't yet been washed away by the outgoing tides. Read the article.

9. Five Playful SoCal Beach Escapes

An illustration of a crab

You don't necessarily have to "hang 10" in order to hang out for a while at SoCal's beaches. You don't even need to know how to swim or surf. In fact, you can become a "beach bum" of an entirely different sort — one who seeks out the many ways that our sandy shores offer more than meets the eye.

Whether you're on the trail of a pirate's lair far from the Caribbean, or your preferred forest is made from kelp and not pine trees, here are the five best SoCal beaches for rock-hopping, tidepooling, and tiptoeing through history. Read the article.

10. Explore Ventura, Gateway to the Channel Islands

An illustration of Ventura harbor boats.

The City of Ventura is just one of three gateways to the Channel Islands — but you'd be missing out if you merely considered it a means to an end. Because this seaside town in Ventura County is a worthy summertime destination all on its own!

Enjoy the "good fortune" of this coastal community with its many amusements, attractions, and distractions — as well as a nice slice of California mission history. Here are the five best ways to get started exploring Ventura, whose birth as a city dates all the way back to 1866. Read the article.

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