9+ Things to Do in California: Unique Spots

Soar above Torrey Pines' cliffs, feel the rush, but the real secret? It's what you discover *after* the flight—will you?
Date Published
March 8, 2024

Table of Contents

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Ever wonder if California is just beaches and Hollywood? Spoiler alert: It's a treasure chest of adventures waiting to burst open! Imagine gliding through the sky like a hawk at Torrey Pines Gliderport, with nothing between you and the breathtaking views but the whisper of the wind. California is that kind of special where your soul can dance under a blanket of stars at Anza-Borrego, and your taste buds can go on a rollercoaster ride through North Park's craft beer scene.

It's a place where history rides the waves at Windansea Beach, and architecture tells tales at the Salk Institute. In a land known for its roaring highways, you can find peaceful serenity at Waterfront Park or get an adrenaline shot kayaking through the La Jolla sea caves. With local lingo that'll have you saying 'gnarly' and 'epic' in no time, this golden state offers everything from whispers of the past at the Whaley House to the engaging bustle of Liberty Station Markets. Still think California's all about tanning on the beach? Buckle up, buttercup, and let's dive into the things that make the Golden State truly shine.

Unwind at Torrey Pines Gliderport

Torrey Pines Gliderport is the place to soak up the sun and indulge in the thrill of gliding above the breathtaking California coast. Picture yourself, arms wide open, the sea breeze in your face, gliding effortlessly over the cliffs with a view that'll knock your socks off!

Located right next door to the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, this renowned gliderport offers not just outstanding gliding experiences, but also some fabulous hiking trails that range from easy breezy to you're-gonna-feel-that-tomorrow. So, whether you're lacing up those hiking boots or strapping into a glider, you're in for an adventure.

Here's why the Gliderport is a must-visit:

  • Paragliding and hang gliding — From beginners to pros, everyone's welcome! Get ready to float on cloud nine with expert instructors guiding you through every swoop and thermal.
  • Hiking the trails — With Torrey Pines only a stone's throw away, hit the trails early in the day, and you'll be rewarded with insane ocean vistas that'll fill up your Instagram feed faster than you can say "Look at that view!"
  • Chill vibes — This spot's perfect for solo thrill-seekers, romantic escapades, or the whole family (those over 18 for gliding, that is). It's not all adrenaline, though; it's also about the chill moments watching gliders dance in the sky.
  • Location, Location, Location — Spend just enough time here to feel rejuvenated. A couple of hours will have you maxin' that relaxin'. But hey, if you're mesmerized by the gliders or lost in the sea's horizon, who's to say you can't stay all day?

And let's not forget, it's a chill spot for anyone and everyone. You don't have to be a gliding enthusiast to enjoy the vibes here! In fact, just a short walk and you might find yourself amidst local flora and fauna, hacky-sacking away or enjoying a little oceanside meditation.

For those ready to take to the skies, you're in good hands. Torrey Pines Gliderport offers one of the most unforgettable gliding experiences in California that will literally elevate your trip.

So bring your sense of adventure, maybe a picnic, and definitely your camera. Because, trust me, this is one chapter of your California story you'll want to relive over and over.

Stargaze at Anza-Borrego Desert

Picture this: you, a cozy blanket, and a sky so flooded with stars it practically blinks back at you. Welcome to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, one of the primo stargazing spots in California. You didn't just trek out to the desert for ordinary night skies, did ya? No way! You came for a cosmic ballet, and this park's dark, clear heavens do not disappoint.

When it comes to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, you can bet your favorite constellation it's special. It's not only California's largest state park but also a designated International Dark Sky Park. That's right, it's like the VIP room of celestial viewing. And whether you're a seasoned astronomer or just someone who can't find the Big Dipper without some help (no judgement here), there's something truly magical about peering through a telescope here.

So what makes Anza-Borrego the cream of the crop for stargazing?

  • It's vast and remote: Far away from city lights, the park's darkness is a canvas for the stars.
  • Clear desert conditions: Minimal cloud cover means unobstructed views.
  • Community events: They often have stargazing parties. Piece of advice? Join in!

Spend a night under the stars and you'll understand why this place is a magnet for both families seeking a grand adventure and solo travelers looking to escape the noise. But remember, just like a good campground story, the best views come to those who wait. After sunset, give your eyes time to adjust to the dark—about 30 minutes should do the trick—and the universe will start to reveal its secrets.

Whether you're chasing shooting stars, pinpointing planets, or just soaking in the serenity of the desert night, there’s really no wrong way to do it. Well, except for forgetting your camera. Trust me, you'll want to capture this.

Before you pack up, check out the nearby hiking trails for a daytime adventure, because in Anza-Borrego, the fun doesn’t set with the sun! A couple of hours should give you a taste of the desert's beauty, but honestly, if you've got all day, why not use it?

This haven is perfect for anyone with a sense of wonder. Kiddos will gape at the sparkly display, and all you thrill-seekers and romantics? Get ready to fall starry-eyed in love with the night sky. Just come prepared with something warm, because desert nights are as chilly as they are enchanting. Now go on, get out there and claim your spot under the universe's most twinkling dome!

Savor Craft Beers in North Park

Picture this: You're strolling down vibrant streets underneath the glow of the San Diego sun, and suddenly you're hit with the hoppy scent of a fresh brew. You're in North Park, the heart of San Diego's brewing culture, and your taste buds are about to have the time of their life.

North Park is renowned for its artisanal brewpubs and craft beer tasting experiences. It's not just a spot; it's a journey through the finest flavors of hops and barley. This place is a mecca for beer-lovers and casual sippers alike, boasting an array of beer that could make a cicerone dizzy with excitement.

Did someone ask for unique? Each brewpub here has its own twist on the classics, and discovering your favorite is like a treasure hunt with a delicious prize. Whether you love a bold IPA, a rich stout, or a crisp ale, you'll find your beer soulmate right here.

  • Sip on a variety of award-winning craft beers.
  • Engage with the passionate brewers for insider scoops on beer-making.
  • Lounge in the casual, hip atmosphere perfect for friend groups and date nights alike.

Now, you're probably thinking, "But what makes North Park extra special?" Well, it's the vibe, my friend. Brewers here are artists, and every pint they serve tells a unique story of San Diego’s liquid gold. Plus, the area is dotted with street art, food trucks, and live music, making it a playground for all your senses.

Spend an afternoon or ease into the evening; there’s no rush. North Park's charm lies in its laid-back feel and the warmth of the community. Grab a flight of beers, make some new friends, and toast to the California sun. It's not just about the beer here—it's about creating memories that will fizz up every time you pop a bottle back home.

And hey, if you're curious about where to start, aim for a local favorite. Let me help you out with a guide to the best spots. All those high ratings and rave reviews can't be wrong, right? Cheers to that!

Discover Surf History at Windansea Beach

Imagine yourself with the sun on your face, the ocean breeze in your hair, and the sound of waves breaking as surfers carve up the sea. That's Windansea Beach for you, a stretch of coastline renowned for its surf history. This spot isn't just a beach; it's a living museum of surf culture in California.

You'll find Windansea in La Jolla, buzzing with surf legends and stories that can ride a wave all on their own. What makes Windansea Beach unique? Well, it's not just the perfect breaks for radical surfers; the beach has a cultural mojo you can't ignore. Ever heard of the Windansea Surf Shack? It's an iconic palm-covered shack that's been a surfer landmark since the '60s. Think of it as a symbol, a shrine, to the free-spirited surf culture that's enriched California's coastlines.

But hey, even if you're not about to grab a board and shout 'Cowabunga!' there's plenty to soak in here. Take a stroll, watch the pros, and feel the history beneath your feet. Legend has it that every grain of sand has a story to tell—from competitions that crowned kings and queens of the surf world to hush-hush gatherings of the surfing elite.

Spend a couple of hours or a whole day; it's up to you. Windansea Beach is great for singles, families, and anyone who's young at heart or a soul surfer at heart. Just don't forget to snap a pic at the historic surf shack—it's practically an initiation into the cool California vibe.

And for the thrill-seekers among you, let's just say this beach is known for some gnarly swells that can give an adrenaline rush like no other. Just remember, the waves here can be as unforgiving as they are legendary, making it more suitable for experienced surfers.

Surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty and layers upon layers of surfing history, Windansea Beach offers an authentic slice of California's coastal soul. It’s a must-visit not just for surf enthusiasts but for anyone drawn to the places where nature and culture ride the same epic wave.

Explore the Salk Institute Architecture

Picture this: you're standing in a masterpiece of modern architecture so unique it makes you feel like you've walked straight into the future. I'm talking about the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Trust me, whether you've got a thing for science or you're all about that architecture eye-candy, this place ticks all the boxes.

Now, what makes it unique? It's not just a pretty face; it's a fusion of genius science and stunning design. The building's got symmetry that'll satisfy even the pickiest of perfectionists and views of the Pacific Ocean that'll make your Insta followers swoon.

So, grab your camera and prepare for an architecture tour that's unlike any other. You won't just be walking through a building; you'll be wandering through a work of art. Expect to spend a solid 1-2 hours soaking in the vibes here. And hey, its uniqueness isn't just recognized by laypeople like us; it's got the stamp of approval from architecture enthusiasts worldwide as one of the most unique buildings in California.

Who's this tour for? Well, if you're a fan of striking concrete and thoughtful design, you're in for a treat. It's perfect for the curious souls out there, whether you're flying solo or bringing the fam. It might not be a toddler's dream come true, but anyone with an appreciation for form and function is gonna be in heaven.

Been walking around all day? Take a breather on the teak benches. They're like little islands of relaxation in a sea of concrete. And don't even get me started on the courtyard – those geometric patterns will have you feeling all kinds of zen.

Bottom line: it's a bucket-list worthy spot that gives you a taste of scientific history while taking your breath away with its architectural beauty. So if you're someone who loves a place with a story and a view, congratulations – you've just found your happy place.

Picnic at Waterfront Park

Imagine a perfect, sunny day with the family, basking in the warmth while the kids zip around like tiny whirlwinds. Waterfront Park is the ultimate picnic spot for families and is one of the most picturesque open spaces in San Diego. Spread out your blanket, unpack your sandwiches, and get ready to create memories that are as delightful as the breeze off the bay.

Waterfront Park is not just a pretty face—it's the playground of your dreams with interactive water fountains where you can cool off from the glorious Californian heat. Let's not forget about the lush green gardens begging for a game of frisbee or flag football. Whether you're with your family, friends, or maybe just a good book, this place caters to anyone wanting to unwind and enjoy the outdoors.

Here's the layout: you've got huge expanses of well-maintained lawns, so finding the perfect picnic spot feels like being a kid in a candy store. The park vibe is family-friendly with tons of space for little ones to tire themselves out while the grown-ups chill. You're in San Diego, so expect a laid-back atmosphere where time seems to slow down—because here, life's about savoring moments, not counting them.

Plan on spending a good 1-2 hours here to soak up the sun and indulge in people-watching. Plus, with all the open areas available, it’s one of the best ways to savor the local ambience of San Diego.

So grab a basket, a blanket, some sunscreen, and head over to one of the city's beloved treasures. It's the perfect spot for savoring those sandwiches or enjoying San Diego's balmy weather. The only thing left to do? Deciding what filling goes best with that sunshine!

Uncover History at the Whaley House

Picture this: you're stepping into a time capsule, flanked by the stories of an age where California was in its vibrant youth. Let's talk Old Town San Diego history – you're on the grounds of the Whaley House, my friends! But, guess what? This isn't just any old historic building. Oh no, it's pegged as one of the top haunted sites in California. Spooky, right?

Built in 1857, the Whaley House has been everything from a courthouse to a theater, but now? It's your gateway to the past. Walking through these rooms, you'll feel the weight of history – and maybe the gaze of some otherworldly residents. But don't fear, the ghastly inhabitants are just part of the charm.

Now, why should you, the vibrant explorer, the seeker of thrills, shimmy over to this spot? Because it's not everyday you get to giggle at goosebumps while uncovering the secrets of San Diego's beginnings. The Whaley House is nestled in the heart of Old Town, which means you are smack-dab in the epicenter of good ol' San Diego history.

For families, couples, or even the solo history-hunting hustler, this place is perfect. It's a rare blend of educational and eerily entertaining. Spend a couple of hours soaking in the antiques and architecture – it's like a live-action history book! And here's a cherry on top – the Old Town area is brimming with local eateries so you can debrief with some delicious grub after your spectral adventure.

Is it great for toddlers? Well, that depends on how early you want to introduce them to ghost stories. As for adrenaline? You bet! There's a unique buzz that only the look-over-your-shoulder feeling can provide.

So, step into the Whaley House and let every creaky floorboard tell you a story. You won't just be visiting, you'll be connecting with the stone-cold (maybe literally) heart of California's history. Don't forget to check out the official [Whaley House]() website to plan your otherworldly outing!

Kayak the La Jolla Sea Caves

Picture yourself gliding on the shimmering waters as the sun kisses your skin, the salty sea air playing with your hair—this is your moment kayaking in San Diego waters. The La Jolla Sea Caves are one such spectacle not just for the eyes, but for the soul. You'll be navigating your kayak through the serene waters, gazing at soaring cliffs, and you may just be lucky enough to spot a playful sea lion or two.

You don't need to be a kayaking pro to enjoy the La Jolla Cove activities; these waters are perfect for paddlers of all levels. The locals know it; the tourists love it—it's a hit with every crowd, families, singles, and adrenaline junkies alike. And just when you think it can't get any better, you find out the nearby area is sprinkled with opportunities to snorkel and witness a dazzling underwater world.

Spend about two hours here—you won't regret it. The caves demand your full attention with their majestic presence and stunning natural beauty, while nearby eateries await to satisfy your post-kayak cravings. Between the friendly waves and the whispering sea breeze, La Jolla is a unique spot that defines California coastline adventure.

Paddle your way to the famous La Jolla Sea Caves, where each stroke brings you closer to nature's impressive architecture. Whether it's the awe-inspiring size of the caves or the sheer joy of the watery journey, this experience epitomizes the California dream.

The La Jolla Sea Caves are a must-see for anyone who enjoys a splash of adventure with their sunshine. Solo adventurers, families with giggling kids, and couples looking for romance under the cave shadows—all are welcome here. Get ready for a day filled with laughter, paddle splashes, and memories to last a lifetime.

Browse the Liberty Station Markets

Get your taste buds ready and your shopping bags open, because you're about to dive into the vibrant scene at the Liberty Public Market. This isn't just any market—it's an artisan wonderland smack dab in the heart of San Diego, packing a delicious punch with every turn.

Imagine this: You're strolling through the bustling corridors lined with stalls, each one an invitation to savor the unique flavors of San Diego. This is the place to nibble on gourmet cheeses, sink your teeth into fresh, organic produce, and treat yourself to a mouthwatering array of prepared foods. From the ooey-gooey grilled cheese that'll make you feel like you've hit the jackpot to the pastries that basically scream 'Eat me!', the Liberty Public Market dining scene is a foodie's paradise.

It's not just about stuffing your face, though (although no judgment if that's your plan—we're all friends here). The artisan markets in San Diego bring craftspeople, artists, and designers under one historical roof, turning this spot into a colorful tapestry of San Diego's rich culture.

So, how much time should you earmark for this sensory overload? Give yourself a juicy slice of the day to meander through the stalls, chat with the local vendors, and sit down for a craft beer or coffee. It's the perfect spot for everyone—singles ready to mingle, families on the hunt for fun, or pals looking for a chill day out. Because let's face it, who doesn't love a good market?

And the cherry on top? After you've soaked in the market vibes, there's still a whole neighborhood to explore. Art galleries, dance studios, and lush gardens are just a hop, skip, and a jump away, ready to continue your adventure in the Liberty Station area.

Hike to Black's Beach Overlook

Imagine yourself breathing in that salty sea air while your calf muscles sing the sweet song of someone who's going places—literally—because you're trekking along the Torrey Pines hiking trails. You're on a mission, my friend, to reach one of the most jaw-dropping vistas this side of California: the Black's Beach Overlook.

This isn't your stroll-in-the-park kind of hike. It's a good one to two-hour trot, but every step is worth it. Picture this: golden cliffs, the vast Pacific, and the thrill of discovery as you wind down less-trodden paths. Perfection, right?

Black's Beach—famed for surfing and, uh-hem, its occasional clothing-optional policy—is the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. So bring your camera, your best hiking boots, and maybe a swimsuit (or not).

This trek isn't just for solo adventurers. Couples, groups of friends, even families with energetic kiddos can make a day of it. Just keep in mind, the trail can be a bit rugged, so it might not be ideal for toddlers or your grandma unless she's one of those iron-pumping super-grannies.

Once you've conquered the trail and taken in the view, why not explore the adventures at Black's Beach itself? Go from being an overlooker to an all-in surfer, sunbather, or beachcomber.

Now, how about we make that picture in your head a reality? Lace up those hiking boots and let's hit the trail. Check out Torrey Pines hiking trails for a start to your picturesque adventure. Trust me, your Insta followers won’t even believe these views are real!

Taste Julian's Seasonal Apples

Picture this: a crisp autumn day, leaves crunching underfoot, and you're reaching up to pluck a rosy, sun-warmed apple straight from the tree. That's what you get in Julian, a quaint mountain town famous for its seasonal apple picking. Julian's orchards are where you'll experience local food experiences in California like no other. This isn't just grabbing a fruit off a supermarket shelf – it's the real deal!

Julian is not your average apple pit stop. The entire town gets in on the act during apple season, with festivals celebrating the harvest and local bakeries serving up the best apple pie you've laid eyes on. Oh, and let me tell you, these pies will ruin all other pies for you – they're that good.

What makes Julian's apples stand out? It's the combination of high elevation, clean mountain air, and that perfect mix of sunny days and chilly nights. These conditions aren't just for show – they produce apples with zesty flavors and the perfect snap when you take a bite.

And guess what? It's not just about the apples. Wandering around Julian feels like stepping back in time. Wooden sidewalks, historic buildings, and the warm smiles from local shopkeepers make you feel like you're in a Hallmark movie.

  • Julian's orchards offer a variety of apples, so whether you're into sweet Fujis or tart Granny Smiths, you'll find your match.
  • You can spend a leisurely afternoon roaming the orchards or go full country and take a hayride.
  • The town is perfect for families, couples, or solo adventurers looking for that charming small-town feel.

Before you head back home, make sure you've got a trunk full of fresh apples, apple cider, and, of course, a couple of those famous pies. Your taste buds will thank you! And hey, don't forget to grab a jug of fresh-pressed cider to reminisce once you're back to the grind. Julian is the place where your apple-licious dreams become reality. Seasonal apple picking in Julian isn't just a fun activity – it's a memory in the making.

Witness Whale Migration at Point Loma

Imagine feeling that brisk ocean breeze on your face as you watch one of nature's most majestic creatures embarking on a colossal journey. Yep, welcome to Point Loma, where whale watching isn't just an activity; it's an event that keeps you coming back for more!

During the peak whale watching season, you'll see gray whales – as many as 20,000 of them! They pass right by the Cabrillo National Monument, so you'll get history with a side of awe-inspiring whale action.

Quick Tips:

  • Best Time to Visit: Mid-December to March is prime time for whale watching.
  • What's Nearby: After you've had your fill of whale watching, the Cabrillo National Monument is a great place to learn about the area's history and enjoy panoramic views.
  • Visit Length: Set aside a couple of hours for whale watching and exploring the monument.
  • Crowd: It's a hit with families, nature enthusiasts, and photographers!

Now, picture yourself on the ocean's edge, binoculars in hand, witnessing these gentle giants glide through the water. That's what you get in San Diego, a front-row seat to one of the most extraordinary migrations – talk about a natural thrill! And if you're lucky, you might even spot a breaching whale or a new mom with her calf. It doesn't get much cuter or more Instagram-worthy than that!

Don't worry about being squished among crowds; there's plenty of space along the viewing spots for everyone to get that perfect view. So whether you're with your family, on a solo adventure, or cozying up with that special someone, there's a little slice of the coastline with your name on it.

To make the most out of your whale watch, why not pack a picnic? There's nothing quite like munching on your favorite snacks as you gaze out onto the endless blue, on the lookout for a tell-tale spout of water or a majestic tail fin bidding you farewell. Now, isn't that the kind of California dreamin' you signed up for?


What are some activities for young adults in California?

Hit up theme parks, explore trendy neighborhoods, or catch some waves surfing. California's got your thrills covered.

What can adults do in California?

Sip some fine wine in Napa Valley, hike through Yosemite, or indulge in San Francisco's food scene. You're in for a treat!

Where should I take my kids in California?

Meet Mickey at Disneyland, discover the San Diego Zoo, or have a blast at Legoland. Your kids won't stop thanking you!

What are the top 10 things to do in California?

Nab a selfie with the Hollywood sign, drive the scenic PCH, or stargaze in Death Valley. It's action-packed from start to finish!

What are romantic things to do in California for couples?

Enjoy a sunset on a Malibu beach, take a hot air balloon ride, or cuddle up by a cozy vineyard fire. Romance is in the air!

What's happening in California this weekend?

There's always a festival, concert, or farmer's market. Check local listings because California is non-stop fun!

What is the nicest place to visit in California?

It's a tie between the glam of Beverly Hills and the breathtaking views of Big Sur. Can you really choose just one?

Is there a lot to do in California?

Are there stars in the sky? Yes! From outdoor adventures to cultural hotspots, you'll need to prioritize your must-dos.

Why is California worth visiting?

Besides the celeb-spotting and sunsets, it's the variety that hooks you. Every day could be a whole new vacation!

What is worth seeing in Los Angeles?

Do the Walk of Fame, then hit the Griffith Observatory. Oh, and don't forget the Getty Museum. LA's full of gems!

Final Words

So, you're now armed with insider tips to soar through Torrey Pines, gaze at the starry skies of Anza-Borrego, and kick back with San Diego's finest brews. You've dipped into surf history, marveled at groundbreaking architecture, relaxed at Waterfront Park, and even felt the thrill of kayaking in the La Jolla Sea Caves. From the haunting whispers of Whaley House to the seasonal delights of Julian's apples, you've covered a lot!

Remember, whether you're a local or a traveler looking for things to do in California, there's always a new experience waiting around the corner here – ready to transform an ordinary day into a memory you'll chat about for years to come. Get out there and start exploring!

Meet the Author
Aria Ohlsson
Aria Ohlsson, the Instagram storyteller extraordinaire, takes you on adventures through her enchanting narratives. An avid hiker, she scales peaks and weaves tales of mountaintop triumphs. When she's not conquering trails, you'll find her immersed in classic novels, finding inspiration for her next tale.
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