Summer is here again — which means Utah Valley residents will flock to Southern California in droves to visit Disneyland. Wondering what else there is to do in the area? Here are eight favorite destinations to add to your next California trip:
Hit the waves at Huntington City Beach
There’s a reason Huntington Beach’s nickname is Surf City USA. Its municipal beach hosts the US Open of Surfing every summer, thanks to its world-class waves. Dive into the surf, stretch out on the sand or join in a pickup game of beach volleyball at one of the many courts by the pier. Local vendors make it easy to rent any beach-day needs, from volleyballs and surfboards to umbrellas and beach chairs. For a break from the sand, pedal along the beachfront in a family-sized surrey or go fishing from the pier — no permit needed. Wrap up an idyllic beach day with s’mores and hot dogs at one of the beach’s many fire rings.
Ride the ferry to Balboa Island
Nestled in Newport Bay is Balboa Island, a quaint island that’s perfect for a sunny seafront stroll. After a scenic — and affordable — ferry ride from Newport Beach’s Balboa Peninsula, head east and check out the charming beach houses that line Bay Front. Turn left at Marine Avenue and browse the island’s main drag or walk along the Grand Canal one block past Marine. Be sure to get a Balboa bar — vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and coated with your choice of topping — or a frozen banana from Dad’s or Sugar and Spice, the inspirations for “Arrested Development’s” famed banana stand. When back at the peninsula, take in beautiful ocean views from the Ferris wheel and play arcade games at the Balboa Fun Zone, or spend time on the water with paddleboats, paddleboards, kayaks or a Duffy boat from one of the Fun Zone’s many rental companies.
Catch an Angels game
Summer and baseball go hand in hand, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim always offer fun outdoor sports activity regardless of the score. Grab a short rib grilled cheese sandwich from The Big Cheese and enjoy pre-game live music in the Music Garden on Friday nights. If you catch a Saturday game, be sure to stick around afterward for the fireworks show. Be ready to fall in love with Rally Monkey, the white-haired capuchin monkey who’s the team’s unofficial mascot — and to grab your own stuffed animal Rally Monkey to wave when it’s rally time.
Bring history alive at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site
While Brigham Young led Mormon pioneers to Utah, a group of Latter-day Saints answered the call to volunteer for the Mexican-American War. Known as the Mormon Battalion, these men and women traveled through the Southwest and helped develop infrastructure throughout Southern California before rejoining the Saints in Utah. Their story lives on at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site in Old Town San Diego, where you can get a hands-on look at Battalion life. Pan for gold, make bricks, learn Battalion members’ stories — and see if you’re related to any of them. While in Old Town San Diego, dine on delicious Mexican food at one of the many nearby restaurants.
Build memories at LEGOLAND California
Everything is awesome at LEGOLAND California, a theme park, waterpark and aquarium in Carlsbad that’s made out of more than 60 million LEGO bricks. The resort has more than 60 rides, shows and attractions. Unleash your creativity in one of the Imagination Zone’s many free-play building opportunities. Tour America’s most iconic landmarks on a 1:20 scale in Miniland USA, and beat the heat in the resort’s two water parks. LEGOLAND is best for children aged 10 and under. Older children and teens may prefer seeking thrills at rollercoaster-heavy Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park or Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia.
Explore tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park
Discover the wonders of marine biology at Crystal Cove State Park, a designated underwater park in Newport Beach with four top-notch tide pool areas. Park at the Los Trancos entrance and take the trail to Pelican Point, a unique rock-and-boulder field filled with mussels, barnacles, sea anemones and limpets. End your exploration with a walk along the beach to the south and a shake at Ruby’s Shake Shack, located on Pacific Coast Highway up the hill from Crystal Cove’s cottages. The date shake is surprisingly delicious. Before you go, be sure to check out information on tide pools from the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Get hands on with science at the Discovery Cube
Combine education and vacation at the Discovery Cube, a hands-on science museum with more than 100 interactive exhibits in Santa Ana. Experience a simulation rocket launch from inside the Boeing Rocket Lab. Explore the earth like never before in the Planetary Research Station. Indulge your paleontologist dreams with Dino Quest, the world’s first interactive dinosaur adventure. Dive into the Victorian-era world of forensic science with the summer 2015 special International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes, which details the science and culture behind Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed detective stories and how the Sherlock craze carries into the 21st Century.
Create a masterpiece at Laguna Beach’s art festivals
With its breathtaking natural beauty, Laguna Beach inspires artists and art-lovers alike. The tiny town boasts of three summer-long world-class art festivals located within walking distance of one another. See the one-of-a-kind “living pictures” at Festival of the Arts’ Pageant of the Masters. Create your own masterpiece at the Sawdust Art Festival’s free, family-friendly art workshops, which include everything from painting to pottery-making. Walk among the artists at work at Art-A-Fair. When you’ve worked up an appetite from all that creativity, stroll to adjacent downtown Laguna Beach, which is chock full of amazing restaurants to please any palate.
BONUS: 40+ More California Trip Ideas
Southern California has too many great attractions to cover them all. Here’s a quick list of more places to explore on your next trip to the Golden State:
Los Angeles County
- Enjoy quintessential L.A. culture at the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade, and at Venice Beach’s Muscle Beach
- Marvel at celestial beauty at Griffith Observatory
- Enjoy a leisurely picnic at Griffith Park, followed by stops at the merry-go-round, pony rides, Travel Town and the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Garden
- See a concert at the Hollywood Bowl
- Explore Downtown L.A., including Olvera Street, Chinatown and Union Station
- Enjoy Exposition Park’s famous rose garden and world-class museums, including California Science Center and Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
- Indulge your American Girl fan at American Girl Place in The Grove
- Samples flavors of the world at The Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax in Los Angeles
- Soak in the beauty of art at the Getty Villa in Malibu, the Getty Center in west L.A., or the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in L.A.’s Miracle Mile
- See the world’s most famous Ice Age fossil excavation site at La Brea Tar Pits
- See marine life up close at Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach Harbor
- Stroll the charming Belmont Shore neighborhood of Long Beach
- Visit the Queen Mary in Long Beach or the battleship USS Iowa in San Pedro
- Take a day trip to Catalina Island
- Hike to Eaton Canyon Falls (Altadena), Sturtevant Falls (Sierra Madre), or the Hollywood sign and Bat Cave (Hollywood)
- Delight in the natural and artistic beauty of The Huntington‘s gardens, art collection and library in San Marino
- Ride a bike, train, pony or paddleboat around Irvine Regional Park
- Splash in style at Fashion Island‘s splash pads in Newport Beach
- Shop ’til you drop at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, the largest mall on the West Coast
- Hike to Holy Jim Falls
- Race go-karts at K1 Speed in Irvine or Anaheim
- Experience a bird’s eye view from the helium balloon at Irvine’s Orange County Great Park
- Go whale watching in Dana Point and tour the Ocean Institute
- Go kayaking or paddleboarding in the wetlands of Newport Beach’s Back Bay
- Get close to animals at Zoomars Petting Zoo in San Juan Capistrano
- Engage in purposeful play at Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine
San Diego County
- Explore the luxurious turn-of-the-century Hotel del Coronado resort and stroll around Coronado Island
- Visit where the first European set foot on the United States West Coast at Cabrillo National Monument at Point Loma, including its nearby tide pools and the Old Point Loma Lighthouse
- Get up close to the wonders of the ocean at Birch Aquarium, part of the world-renown Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla
- Visit the San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds
- Go swimming, diving or snorkeling at La Jolla Cove
- See the animals at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
- Ride the rollercoaster and stroll the boardwalk at Belmont Park
- Visit museums, stroll the gardens, ride the carousel and railroad and more at Balboa Park