the best things to do in southern california

We’ve lived in Los Angeles for over a year now, and though I’m hardly an expert (I’m still absolutely horrible with LA geography), I have found a great many things to do in this city that I absolutely love (and take every visiting guest to go do). So if you’re planning on making a trip (or moving here) and want to do more beyond the super touristy (and often not that great) activities, here is my running list:

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1. have a beach day (or several) : This one is a no brainer, and there are beaches a plenty to choose from. Whether you like to lounge on the sand reading a book, play a game of volleyball with a group of friends, walk along the water looking for sand dollars, or surf, there’s nothing quite like a sunny beach day. Sometimes we ride our bikes along the coast, and other times we pick up food from Trader Joe’s and have a picnic. Unless you want to hit the super crowded and touristy spots (i.e. Venice and Santa Monica), I’d suggest going north or south of the city, where it’s cleaner and more relaxing. Our favorite is Manhattan beach.

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2. see an improv/comedy show : Improv and comedy shows abound in Los Angeles…I mean, it is a city full of people looking to make it in the entertainment business. We have gone to several shows at the famous Upright Citizens Brigade (where I also took classes), and guess what? The tickets are only $5 ($10 for a couple of shows), and you get to watch a bunch of talented folks for at least an hour! Cheap, easy, hilarious fun. They also present stand-up and other comedy shows. Other notable improv schools are Improv Olympic, Groundlings, and Second City.

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3. take a hike : 98% of the time the weather is all sunshine and an ocean breeze, so tackling a hike in the great outdoors every once in a while is only necessary. There’s the famous Runyon Canyon, the hike to the Hollywood sign (is this legal?), Kenneth Hahn State Park, Baldwin Hills, and I’m sure numerous other hiking spots. I’ve also hiked in Laguna Canyon, which was beautiful. P.S. You do not need to be a hiking expert or super fit to enjoy these (because I’m definitely neither).

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4. scour a flea/farmer’s market : I never visited a flea market until we moved here, and now, I’m obsessed. You definitely have to be in the right mindset and prepared to search through a lot of junk. I’ve visited the Melrose Trading Post flea market quite often, but once a month a huge flea market is also held at the Rose Bowl. I’ve only been to that one once because it is huge and a bit overwhelming; it’s definitely a whole day affair (and it costs $8 to get in). Anyway, my tip for shopping at flea markets is to have things in mind that you’re searching for (that way you don’t come home with stuff you don’t need, and you have some direction when you’re searching), but don’t get discouraged if you can’t find what you’re looking for…that just means more trips to the flea market! As far as farmer’s markets go (which you can find every weekend and sometimes during the week)…obviously it’s not a one stop shop. They’ll be selling what’s in season, and you’ll still need to go to the grocery store for most things that aren’t produce. But it’s nice to be in the outdoors and support local farmers, while getting fresh produce.

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5. eat : I won’t lie and say we don’t eat at the same restaurants often…because we do. But one thing I want to do more of is to try new places to eat. We love brunching near the beach (specifically C & O Trattoria in Marina del Rey) and getting burgers at Umami Burger (I’ve only had their Earth and Ahi-Tuna, but both are amazing…and their truffle fries? Can’t be beat.). The Farmer’s Market (not an actual farmer’s market…though you can buy some produce) next to the Grove is great for groups of friends because everyone can find someplace different to eat. There are so many places that have menu options that are vegetarian/vegan friendly as well.

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6. visit an amusement park : Uhm, hello Disneyland and California Adventure and Knott’s Berry Farm and Magic Mountain and Universal Studios. We’ve only been to two, but if you’re into nostalgia and roller coasters and having fun, these are the places to be.

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7. go shopping : I’m not a huge shopper because a) it’s expensive and b) I really have to be in the mindset for it. But the awesome thing about shopping here? The OUTDOOR malls. They are everywhere. Because there is almost nothing I hate more than being in a stuffy mall with no windows and all florescent lighting, these outdoor shopping areas are a Godsend. And because the weather here is always so nice, you don’t have to worry about rain or sweltering heat getting in the way of your shopping. There are also plenty of thrift/second hand stores for those that love finding those unique pieces and giving recently loved items new homes.

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8. travel : Ok, so, the best thing about living in Southern California is everything is a short(ish) drive away, so you can always go on mini (and affordable) vacations. And it’s awesome. You can drive up the coast to go beach camping or up to the Sequoia National Forest (which is only about 4 1/2 hours from us) to sleep among the redwoods. If you keep going, you’ll run into San Francisco Bay area, where you can spend some time in the cute little city. Keep going north, and there’s Sonoma and Napa Valley (uhm, wine and cheese all day? yes please.). If you go just 2 hours south of Los Angeles, there is beautiful and relaxed San Diego. Plus, there are so many beach towns in between all of these places. We visited all of these places last year and can’t wait to make return visits, as well as explore the rest of the state.

There are also museums and sporting events and movie screenings and exercise classes and a million other things to do. And don’t get me wrong, going on a studio tour or to see the Walk of Fame, etc. are things you should probably do once. But the best parts of this city and state are beyond that.

-wonderland sam

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actress/texan kickin' it in los angeles. always searching for my next pizza. cia agent in another life.

5 thoughts on “the best things to do in southern california

  1. The picture of the stairs, is that baldwin hills? The Hollywood Sign hike is semi legal. The path to there is completely fine but they have a fence surrounding the sign, illegal to hop over it.

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