Van Nuys Airport (VNY) has all the elements of a blockbuster film—action, adventure, war, world records, movie stars, mystery, and suspense. It’s the story of success, defeat, and reinvention—the ultimate "little engine that could" —and yet it can be considered one of the largest "hidden gems" in Los Angeles because there is so much to learn and experience—and much of it is free. https://www.discoverlosangeles.com/things-to-do/van-nuys-airport-the-story-of-an-la-icon
Find a full day of action-packed entertainment all in one place: thrilling Theme Park rides and shows, a real working movie studio, and Los Angeles’ best shops, restaurants and cinemas at CityWalk. Universal Studios Hollywood is a unique experience that’s fun for the whole family.
Go behind the scenes of a real working movie studio! Visit 13 city blocks on four acres of historic studio lot in the largest set construction project in studio history, built with creative consultation from Steven Spielberg himself.
Or see what awaits you inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! From magical spells to magical creatures, from dark villains to daring heroes, it’s all here at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, now open at Universal Studios Hollywood. Explore the mysteries of Hogwarts castle, visit the shops of Hogsmeade, and sample fare from some of the wizarding world’s best-known establishments. Plus experience pulse-pounding rides and attractions that transport you into a world of magical thrills and excitement. https://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/park-highlights/
Looking for a picture-perfect view of the Sign? For many visitors to Los Angeles, there is no more coveted photo than a shot of the world famous Sign. Though it is visible from all over the city from its lofty perch on Mt. Lee, it can actually be surprisingly difficult to get a well-angled shot.
Stunning views of the Hollywood Sign unfold at your own pace on hiking trails that meander through the rolling chaparral of the Santa Monica Mountains. Trails originally blazed by paws, hooves, and yucca-thatched moccasins now connect us to cultural as well as natural wonders. The western frontier of Griffith Park offers hikers amazingly close encounters with the Sign, which is off-limits to human hands, just below the ridgeline at the 1,708-foot summit of Mt. Lee. On the longest hike, you can ascend above and behind the Sign’s 45-foot-tall aluminum letters, where you look out over a windswept vista encompassing the DOOWYLLOH sign, the dreamy towers of downtown Los Angeles, and, on a clear day, the ageless blue Pacific. https://hollywoodsign.org/seeing-the-sign/
Enter a magical kingdom where you can sail with pirates, explore exotic jungles, meet fairy-tale princesses, dive under the ocean and rocket through the stars! Disneyland Park is a beloved Southern California destination where generations of families have made their Disney dreams come true. Walt Disney’s original Disneyland theme park, which first opened on July 17, 1955, is now divided into 8 extravagantly themed lands: Main Street, U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown, Frontierland, Critter Country, New Orleans Square and Adventureland. https://disneyland.disney.go.com/
Located in La Cañada Flintridge, the 160-acre Descanso Gardens was originally developed in 1936 by newspaper magnate Elias Manchester Boddy, whose numerous interests included horticulture and politics. Descanso Gardens offers numerous areas for exploring, including a bird sanctuary, five-acre rosarium, Japanese tea garden, water-wise garden, Oak Woodland, California garden, and the world’s largest collection of camellia flowers. https://www.descansogardens.org/
he California Science Center is a dynamic destination where families, adults and children can explore the wonders of science through interactive exhibits, live demonstrations, innovative programs and awe-inspiring films.
The Science Center is open to the public seven days a week, 362 days per year, with free general admission to its permanent exhibit galleries. The facility, which opened in February 1998, spans more than 400,000 sq. feet and includes four major exhibit areas. World of Life probes the commonalities of the living world, from the single-celled bacterium to the 100-trillion-celled human being; Creative World examines the ways people employ technology to meet their needs for transportation, communication and structures; and Ecosystems, a major expansion opened in March of 2010, features an unprecedented blend of nearly 400 species of live plants and animals, and hands-on exhibits in 11 immersive environments. Ecosystems highlights include a 188,000 gallon kelp tank populated with live kelp, fish, and other marine life, a desert flash flood, and a special gallery dedicated to the urban ecology of Los Angeles. The Ecosystems experience empowers explorers with the science knowledge to become better stewards of the environment. https://californiasciencecenter.org/
Pasadena's only dedicated free public garden, Arlington Garden was built in 2005 on the former site of the historic Durand Mansion. The garden includes thousands of California-native plants such as poppies, sunflowers, cactus and succulents, orchards of orange and olive trees, and many more species. Arlington Garden also features a variety of benches and tables, birdbaths and statuary. A classical, seven-circuit Labyrinth was built at the garden in October 2010. In November 2008, 21 crepe myrtle trees were donated and permanently installed at Arlington as part of Yoko Ono's Wish Tree series.
This garden is not only friendly to people and pets, but also exists as a refuge for Pasadena’s native fauna. Birds, bees and butterflies are particularly abundant and can be seen throughout the year. http://www.arlingtongardenpasadena.com/
Malibu Pier isn’t one of the longest piers in California, but it is in one of the best locations. West of the pier you can walk for several miles when the tide isn’t high. In that direction you’ll cross Carbon Beach, La Costa Beach, and Las Flores Beach (the latter two are not easily visited from Pacific Coast Highway). East of Malibu Pier is Surfrider Beach where longboard surfers and stand-up paddleboarders play in the mild rolling break. Farther to the east, Malibu Lagoon State Beach offers a unique setting without million dollar mansions behind (although they are never far away in Malibu). The Adamson House and Garden (Tour) between the lagoon and the pier is cool to see when it’s open. Malibu Farm Cafe and Restaurant is at the end of the pier and has healthy food for hungry visitors. Nobu and other restaurants are nearby as well. Parking is available in the lot next to the pier and along PCH. https://www.californiabeaches.com/attraction/malibu-pier/
Point Dume State Beach features headlands, cliffs, rocky coves and vast beach access. The beach is presently operated by Los Angeles County, which also operates Zuma County Beach. These facilities are noted for swimming, surfing, scuba diving and fishing. Point Dume is a perfect place to watch for California gray whales during the December to mid April migration period.
At the end of Westward Beach Road, access to Point Dume Nature Preserve begins from the cul-de-sac. A gradual ascending trail leads to an ancient coastal bluff sand dune. Visitors are asked to stay on the trail in an effort to help reserve this unique sand accumulation. An incredible view encompassing the entire Santa Monica Bay, north Malibu Coast, inland Santa Monica Mountains and distant Catalina Island may be enjoyed from the top on a clear day. A boardwalk, just below the summit, leads to a viewing platform - it tends to be more sheltered on a windy day. A stairway from the east side of the bluff-top preserve allows access to a more isolated beach and fine tidepooling opportunities. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=623
Everything for an exciting day out whether you want to climb a rock, surf, swim or just relax in the sun. Check out the nearby restaurants for full sit-down meals with great views over the sea. Hike the ridge, or watch the Dolphins and Seals. It's all hear at your beach, Zuma Beach! http://www.zuma-beach.com/
Think there’s no wide-open countryside left in Los Angeles? Think again. The Santa Monica Mountains stretch for 80km across the northwestern boundary of the Los Angeles basin. Within the range lie more than 60,000 largely undeveloped hectares of grassy swales, rock-studded hillsides, tree-shaded glens, and windswept beaches. A mosaic of state, local, and federal preserves protects this land, all managed under the umbrella of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the nation’s largest urban national park.
One of the few mountain ranges in the United States to run east to west rather than north to south, the Santa Monicas can claim big nature bragging rights. Considered to be a “botanical island” in L.A.’s urban corridor, the slopes that run straight down to the Pacific are covered in chaparral, coastal sage, springtime wildflowers, and oak and sycamore forests. More than 20 species of endangered plants and animals thrive here. This is a place where you might see a bobcat stalk its prey, a coyote lope across the grasslands, or a golden eagle fly overhead. https://www.visitcalifornia.com/au/attraction/santa-monica-mountains-national-recreation-area
Lovers Cove is on Pebbly Beach Road just a short distance east from Avalon on Catalina Island. It is a short walk to this cove from town and even shorter from the Catalina Express ferry landing dock. Unfortunately there isn’t much of a beach between the road and the water at this location. This rocky shoreline is mostly a snorkeling destination. Inquire in town about nearby snorkeling spots and they might send you to this location. Snorkeling gear, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, bikes, golf carts, and more can be rented in town to explore the area. The Catalina Express operates boats daily to Catalina Island from the mainland in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Dana Point. https://www.californiabeaches.com/beach/lovers-cove-on-catalina-island/
The Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden is a thirty-minute stroll up Avalon Canyon from town center. The Botanic Garden is the primary gateway to access one of the Island's most popular hikes, the Garden to Sky Trail.
The Wrigley Memorial honors the memory of William Wrigley Jr., who lived from 1861 to 1932. Although best known as the founder of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, largest manufacturer of chewing gum in the world, he also played an instrumental role in the history of Santa Catalina Island. https://www.catalinaconservancy.org/index.php?p=wrigley_memorial_and_botanic_garden&s=visit
Maritime Museum features historic ships that display both permanent and temporary exhibits on board. You can see what it was like to live and work on these vessels at Maritime Museum of San Diego. Look into the cabins where ship crew mates would sleep, walk by the kitchen and dining areas to see where they had meals and satisfy your curiosity by seeing the very small bathrooms and showers. San Diego Maritime Museum offers daily public tours so that you and your friends or family can explore this place often - and learn plenty about ship life.
Maritime Museum San Diego has public events that make for great experiences and quality bonding time with family and friends. During the Family Overnight Adventure at San Diego Maritime Museum, you and your loved ones can spend a night on the Star of India. Maritime Museum will tell you all about how the immigrants and crew lived and worked on this ship. Guests can participate in ship chores. You might raise the sail or rig a bosun's chair at Maritime Museum of San Diego. Your kids will know how to hoist cargo and sing sea chanteys like they were the original passengers on this ship after a fun day at the Maritime Museum. https://www.sandiego.com/maritime-museum
An urban paradise for all ages, the San Diego Zoo is a must-see in Southern California, with more than 4,000 rare & fascinating animals. See giant pandas, Komodo dragons, orangutans, koalas, flamingos, polar bears, and more. With animal encounters, interactive experiences, and a lively atmosphere, it's a great place for family fun and gathering friends. http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/
Balboa Park, originally called City Park, used to be 1,400 acres of undeveloped land. Landscaping began in 1892, followed by the construction of water systems and roads through 1910. In 1915, San Diego was to be the host of the Panama-California Exposition.
Nature lovers have a lot to see in the gardens at Balboa Park in San Diego. The 1935 (Old) Cactus Garden at San Diego Balboa Park features massive cactus and succulent plants. Visitors will even find exotic African and Australian Protea plants at this area within Balboa Park San Diego. The Botanical Building and the lily pond in front of it are some of the most popular areas that are photographed in Balboa Park - and with good reason. There are over 2,100 permanent plants inside the building and a changing collection of cycads, ferns, orchids and palms. The California Native Plant Garden shows visitors thousands of plants that thrive here in their San Diego habitat.
Bring your kids to the Balboa Park Carousel. This fun destination is adjacent to the San Diego Zoo and features plenty of hand-carved animals so that your kid has lots of choices. All but two of the hand-carved animals on the Balboa Park San Diego Carousel are original from 1910! While you're on the merry-go-round, you can even play the brass ring game. Balboa Park's Carousel is one of a small number around the world that still have the brass ring game for riders to play. The Balboa Park Miniature Railroad takes families on a fun journey across four acres. https://www.sandiego.com/balboa-park
The Railroad Museum in San Diego in Balboa Park presents one of the largest indoor train models in the world, and it is also the only accredited railway-themed museum in the United States. San Diego Model Railroad Museum is educational, exciting and interesting for adults and children of all ages. Whether you grew up creating and playing with your own train models or you are a railway connoisseur, the Railroad Museum San Diego will provide you with entertainment as you admire the impressive designs and learn about the history of the railway systems in California. Guests will witness the transformation of trains and the railways through time and gain facts about the early railroad women in history.
Visitors at the San Diego Railroad Museum will recognize the miniature version of famous San Diego sites and landmarks while trains zoom through the landscapes. The San Diego Railroad Museum features imaginary prototypes and the hypothetical design of the Pacific Desert Lines that were surveyed but constructed. The Railroad Museum San Diego also presents the real-life mountain scenes in the Tehachapi Loop and the Goat Canyon trestle on the San Diego and Arizona Eastern line, as train history and authenticity is preserved in each exhibit. The toy train gallery is also an exciting must-see attraction as it has four tracks and operating accessories. The kids will enjoy pressing the buttons to operate the coal trains, which blow horns, whistles and even smoke at the San Diego Railroad Museum. https://www.sandiego.com/san-diego-railroad-museum
The small surf community of Pleasure Point is located in an unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County, nestled between Moran Lagoon and 41st Avenue, adjacent to the Monterey Bay. Nearly a dozen famous surf breaks make this an ideal destination for skilled surfers. It’s a classic beachside town and the genesis of surf culture in Santa Cruz – home to wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill – where locals mix effortlessly with visitors eager to capture that authentic surf vibe. http://www.santacruz.org/pleasure-point-authentic-surf-vibe
Overlooking internationally renowned surfing hotspot Steamer Lane, this little gem of a museum has photographs, surfboards, and other interesting artefacts tracing over 100 years of surfing history in Santa Cruz. The museum shop specializes in great surfing books and surfing-related items. http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/government/city-departments/parks-recreation/facilities/surfing-museum
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a classic seaside amusement park located along a beautiful sandy beach in a friendly beach town.
The Boardwalk features more than 40 rides and attractions including two National Historic Landmarks: the world-famous 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster and the beautiful 1911 Looff Carousel, plus many scream-inducing thrill rides, gentle kiddie rides, casual restaurants, gift shops, games, indoor arcades, and miniature golf. https://beachboardwalk.com/FAQs
West Cliff Drive ridiculously, scenic pathway traverses one of the most inspiring settings along the California coast. Hugging the shoreline of the majestic Monterey Bay, the waterfront thoroughfare stretches from the sandy beach at Natural Bridges State Beach to the Santa Cruz Wharf. Along the way, you’ll pass vivid, succulent-covered cliffs, secluded beach coves, and some of the region’s most famous sights including big wave surfers at Steamer Lane, playful pups at Its Beach, and the Santa Cruz Surf Museum at Lighthouse Point. http://www.santacruz.org/blog/article/795/top-5-waterfront-walks
This park and beach is an excellent vantage point for viewing shore birds, migrating whales, as well as seals and otters playing offshore. Further along the beach, public access tidepools offer a glimpse of life beneath the sea. Low tides reveal sea stars, shore crabs, sea anemones, and other colorful ocean life. The park also includes a large area of coastal scrub and grasslands, with bright native wildflowers in the spring. Moore Creek flows through the park, forming freshwater wetlands and a salt marsh before it reaches the sea. https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=541
The Seymour Marine Discovery Center offers hands-on immersion into the world of ocean exploration and discovery. With a 20,000-square-foot visitor center, guests can touch a shark, explore the latest discoveries in ocean science, and take in the spectacular Monterey Bay, called the “Serengeti of the sea,” for its incredible diversity of marine life. Powered by the Long Marine Laboratory, a world-renowned university research facility, our exhibit hall offers a deeper dive into the fascinating and varied work of scientists studying the oceans here in Santa Cruz and around the world. https://seymourcenter.ucsc.edu/
At this 135-acre outdoor, living museum, you can also explore the Hummingbird Trail to seek out the rare, elusive white hummingbird, and sniff pleasing scents of lavender, jasmine, and oregano in the fun Aroma Garden.
The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden’s rich and diverse collection contains representatives of more than 300 plant families of Mediterranean climates. The garden maintains collections of rare and threatened plants of unusual scientific interest. Particular specialties are world conifers, primitive angiosperms, and bulb-forming plant families. Large assemblages of plants from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and California natives are displayed on the grounds. Many of the species in these collections are not otherwise available for study in American botanical gardens and arboreta. https://arboretum.ucsc.edu/
Travel over trestles, through towering redwood groves and up a winding narrow-gauge grade to the summit of Bear Mountain as conductors narrate the history of Roaring Camp, the railroad and the forest. In the 1880s, narrow-gauge steam locomotives were used to haul giant redwood logs out of the mountains. Roaring Camp's steam engines date from 1890 and are among the oldest and most authentically preserved narrow-gauge steam engines providing regularly scheduled passenger service in America. https://www.roaringcamp.com/
Mount Hermon Adventures has grown immensely since it began and has become an internationally recognized provider of adventure experiences and team development programs. They now operate the world-famous Redwood Canopy Tours, multiple aerial adventure courses, intentional Team Building programs, and provide Mount Hermon overnight guests with mountain biking, surfing, sea kayaking, target sports, aquatic facilities, paint ball, skate park and more. Guests experience Mt. Hermon's core values of quality, authenticity and inspiration with the final goal of living a transformed life. https://mounthermonadventures.com/
At 68,000 square feet, Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park is the largest skate park in California. Featuring the the world's largest cradle, tallest vert wall, and largest full pipe, LCRSP offers a wide variety of terrain for all skill levels to learn and enjoy. http://www.sanjoseca.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/Lake-Cunningham-Regional-Skatepark-355
Located in Kelley Park in San Jose, Happy Hollow Park and Zoo has been providing affordable family entertainment, education and fun since 1961. The Park is a peaceful, creative and safe place for children of all ages, with the main focus on “little ones” between the ages of 2-10. There are creative play areas, children’s rides, hand puppet and marionette shows, special events, and birthday areas.
Learn about wildlife up close during daily meet-and-greets, leap like a lemur on the playground, brush and feed the goats, or take a peek inside Doc’s Critter Care building and the Ranch House. Double-H Ranch features a combination of animal exhibits, including giant anteaters and red ruffed lemurs, as well chickens and domesticated animals that are docile enough to touch. http://www.hhpz.org/
Fill your day with roller coasters, live shows, concerts, fireworks, amusement park food favorites and even a water park at the iconic California's Great America. Thrills for every age are ready to rock your world and run you ragged. New rides and attractions are introduced every year and special events like the nightmarish Halloween Haunt are looked forward to by the tens of thousands! Get your walking shoes ready and practice your screaming, there's a lot to cover on this adrenaline rush of an outing! https://www.sanjose.org/listings/californias-great-america
Want a spectacular 360 degree view of San Francisco? Head for the top of Twin Peaks, San Francisco. These two hills rise almost 1000 feet above the City and sit just about in its geographical center. https://www.inside-guide-to-san-francisco-tourism.com/twin-peaks-san-francisco.html
Another San Francisco beach located near an old fort. Fort Funston a rugged beach with crashing surf at the bottom of 200 foot cliffs, just south of Ocean Beach. Very popular with dogs, as well. When the winds are blowing, you'll see hang gliders soaring from the cliff tops. https://www.californiabeaches.com/beach/fort-funston-beach/
Cable cars are a historic symbol recognized around the globe and offer real working transportation up the steep hills of San Francisco. The cable cars begin their runs at 6 a.m. and continue until midnight.
From Union Square to the crest of Nob Hill, cable cars offer a thrilling way to move with the City. A ride on San Francisco’s cable cars may be the most iconic and memorable of your entire trip to California. Even people who might dismiss cable cars as a cheesy tourist attraction will admit that there is something incredibly romantic about these rides. http://www.sftodo.com/sanfrancisco/cable-car-san-francisco/
Pier 39 is located on the San Francisco waterfront near the Fisherman’s Wharf area of the city and is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to California. The pier is home to many great restaurants offering local seafood as well as other cuisines. If shopping is your thing you will find 90+ stores offering everything from souvenirs to sports memorabilia. Pier 39 is also where you can find fun and exciting attractions such as the Aquarium of the Bay and the 7D experience.
If you walk to the end of Pier 39 and visit K-Dock you will find the world famous sea lions who have made the pontoons their home. The sealions first appeared after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and began taking over the piers on the Pier 39 marina, much to the annoyance of the marina tenants. After numerous attempts to shoo them away they eventually had to give up and the numbers grew and grew reaching a peak of over 1500 in 2009. Today they have become one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco and have their own area of Pier 39. While there why not pay a visit to the Marine Mammal Center just upstairs from the viewing area where you can learn more about the sea lions and pick up some sea lion related souvenirs. https://www.city-sightseeing.us/en/pier-39