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Best things to do in Southern California

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Where in the world: USA  /  California  /  Southern California

Top 15 things to do in Southern California

1. Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles

For an ultimate Hollywood experience, visit Universal Studios Hollywood, a film studio, theme park, and a self-contained city all its own. One of the oldest Hollywood studios still in use, this show business complex considers itself "the entertainment capital of Los Angeles." Originally created to offer tours of real film studios, sets, and sound stages, the complex now offers live shows, thrill rides, and behind-the-scenes presentations about the movie-making process. To see the highlights, take a tram tour of the sound stages and sets designed specifically for some of the studio's biggest blockbusters. You can also choose from indoor and outdoor roller-coaster rides that provide you the chance to face King Kong, a shark attack, dinosaurs, and a powerful earthquake.
Suggested duration: 8 hours
Tours from $35 › Learn more about Universal Studios Hollywood

2. San Diego Zoo, San Diego

Providing a home for 3,700 of some of the world's rarest animals, San Diego Zoo features pandas, gorillas, antelopes, orangutans, koalas, and much more. Noted for pioneering the concept of cage-free exhibits that recreate natural animal habitats, this zoo covers an area of almost 40 hectares (100 acres). Take guided tours on a bus, or hop on an overhead gondola to see the diverse habitats from the air. See different animals often found side by side in the wild, along with native plant life from places such as African rainforests and Arctic taigas. To view the collection of rare plants, visit the arboretum. Begin your visit at the visitor center, where you can pick up a free map.
Suggested duration: 6 hours
Tours from $15 › Learn more about San Diego Zoo

3. USS Midway Museum, San Diego

An active naval aircraft carrier for nearly 50 years, USS Midway Museum now displays 29 restored planes and 60 interactive exhibits. You can see what the brig, engine room, pilots' ready rooms, and the crew's sleeping quarters looked like when the country's longest-serving carrier was on active duty. Explore the upper deck's bridge and the war room, or descend to the flight deck to discover the history behind some of the country's renowned military aircraft. Try out the flight simulators, or take a narrated audio tour. Be prepared to climb a lot of stairs.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
Tours from $31 › Learn more about USS Midway Museum

4. Full-Day Iconic Sights of LA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Beaches and More

FROM $99
This 7.5 hour guided tour - by LA-natives - is perfect for families, couples and all ages! Discover the area’s most iconic sights and landmarks including Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Dr., the Beverly Hills sign, iconic Farmer's Market at the Grove, The Griffith Park Observatory for a perfect selfie of the Hollywood Sign; the Hollywood walk of fame Grauman's Theatre, The Kodak Theatre, Sunset Strip and much more. Entertaining, friendly, informative and hilarious guides! Hotel pick-up and drop-off available for select tour options. We have private tour options as well!
Suggested duration: 7h 30min
Tours from $99 › More about this tour at viator.com ›
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5. The Getty Center, Los Angeles

Explore the impressive collection of pre-20th-century European art that fills the rooms of The Getty Center. Nestled in the hills overlooking Los Angeles, the six-building complex, notable for its new-age architecture and expanse of landscaped gardens, features exhibits of 19th- and 20th-century photographs, sculptures, and paintings. Take your time wandering through the museum’s sculpture garden, or have your picture taken with Van Gogh’s "Irises." Pack a picnic to have in the gardens while taking in a panoramic view of the city. While admission to the center is free, you must pay to park a car.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
Tours from $20 › Learn more about The Getty Center

6. Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

Explore the wonders of our solar system and the galaxy at Griffith Observatory. Donated to the city over a century ago, the observatory offers free admission to an array of space and science exhibits, including a nationally recognized planetarium and public telescopes. Situated high on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood, the complex offers views of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, and the Pacific Ocean. Secure a spot outside after visiting the observatory to enjoy views of the Hollywood sign or the dramatic coastline.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
Tours from $25 › Learn more about Griffith Observatory

7. SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego

Spreading over 77 hectares (190 acres), SeaWorld San Diego features 26 animal habitats and dozens of shows and interactive exhibits depicting sea life in its many forms. Make a splash on the water roller coaster Journey to Atlantis, with its 18 m (60 ft) drop, or venture through the underwater tunnels for an up-close look at the giant sea turtles and great white sharks. Swim with the dolphins or dine alongside Shamu the orca.
Suggested duration: 8 hours
Tours from $8 › Learn more about SeaWorld San Diego

8. Skip the Line: USS Midway Museum Admission Ticket in San Diego

FROM $31
Experience life at sea without leaving port by visiting the USS Midway Museum, San Diego's number 1 rated visitor attraction. A visit to this historic naval aircraft carrier museum is an essential experience for people of all ages. Hangar Deck and Flight Deck tour routes will showcase Midway’s exclusive collection of more than 30 restored Navy aircraft and the incredible views of San Diego Bay.
Suggested duration: 2h - 5h
Tours from $31 › More about this tour at viator.com ›

9. Balboa Park, San Diego

An urban park, Balboa Park is home to 490 hectares (1,200 acres) of landscaped gardens, the world-famous San Diego Zoo, recreational spaces, art studios, museums, and theaters. Stroll through the Desert Garden or Japanese Friendship Garden to admire the park's diverse plant and animal life, or tour the San Diego Museum of Art or the Natural History Museum. Take advantage of the park's free tram service to get around.
Suggested duration: 4h 30 min
Tours from $42 › Learn more about Balboa Park

10. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, San Diego

The 809 hectares (2,000 acres) of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve make up one of the wildest stretches of land on the southern Californian coast. The state park offers eight different trails so you can choose the length, difficulty, and scenery that suit you best. For the most diverse scenery, take the Guy Fleming trail, the easiest of the eight. Animal lovers can look for bobcats, foxes, rabbits, and even whales off the coast in some seasons. To enjoy a picnic, you need to head to the beach below via the beach trail because the park forbids food and drink other than water. Bring plenty of water with you; you cannot buy any here.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
Learn more about Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

11. Venice Beach and Boardwalk, Los Angeles

The southern Californian community of Venice has for decades been famous for its vibrant subcultures and offbeat way of living, and Venice Beach and Boardwalk is no exception. One of Los Angeles’ most legendary spots, the beach is packed with people from all walks of life. Stroll along the boardwalk to pass numerous street performers, food stalls, and artists selling their wares. You can also watch anglers on the fishing pier, surfers battling the swell, and some of LA’s fittest residents working out at Muscle Beach. Make sure you leave enough time to sunbathe on the soft sand and dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
Tours from $49 › Learn more about Venice Beach and Boardwalk

12. The Official Hollywood Sign Walking Tour in Los Angeles

FROM $25
Now offering tours in French! We are the only Official Hollywood Sign Walking Tour! Although, we are flattered, don't be fooled by copycats. The Original and Still the Best! We’ll take you to the front of and behind (TO THE TOP) the Hollywood sign for an unforgettable experience! With tons of opportunities for ELITE Instagram photos, insider Hollywood History, and a local guide who is actually works in Show Business, this hike brags some of the best views in LA. Snag a bird’s eye view of top film studios Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, Dreamworks, the Hollywood Walk of fame, and more! Your Guide will tell you story after story that will make you forget you're actually walking up a hill. HIGHLIGHTS --Hollywood Sign Panoramic 360° views of all of LA --The Best Photos by our Professional Photographer Tour Guides --Enjoy incredible storytelling from working actors, comedians, and musicians!
Suggested duration: 2h 30min
Tours from $25 › More about this tour at viator.com ›

13. La Jolla Cove, La Jolla

Famous for its tide pools and sea lions, La Jolla Cove features a tiny beach surrounded by sandstone cliffs. Part of a protected reserve known for its rich marine life, this stretch of coastline counts among one of the most photographed sites in San Diego. You can swim, snorkel, or scuba dive here, taking advantage of the calm waters that provide an ecologically safe home for orange Garibaldi fish and several species of marine invertebrates. In order to protect all animals inside this area, lifeguards strictly enforce the rules forbidding surfboards, kayaks, boogie boards, and inflatable mattresses within the cove.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
Tours from $45 › Learn more about La Jolla Cove

14. Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego

Cabrillo National Monument commemorates the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo’s expedition to San Diego Bay in 1524. It was the first time that a European expedition set foot on what became the west coast of the United States. You can learn about the age of exploration and Cabrillo at the park’s visitor center. From here, it is a short walk to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, restored to its 1880's appearance and now operating as a museum. The park also encompasses several former military installations, which you can see while exploring the area. Take time to appreciate the monument’s superb views of the harbor, city skyline, and Pacific Ocean. If it is a clear day, you might even see the Coronado Islands.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
Tours from $15 › Learn more about Cabrillo National Monument

15. San Diego Hop On Hop Off Trolley Tour

FROM $49
Discover San Diego at your leisure with a unique tour around "America's Finest City". Create your own itinerary to see the most popular sights of San Diego and Coronado at your own pace hopping on and off with the options that best suit your interests.
Suggested duration: 2h
Tours from $49 › More about this tour at viator.com ›