From pristine beaches and scenic mountain ranges to arid deserts and lush forests, Southern California is home to some of the world’s most incredible landscapes. Many are surprised to learn how diverse the region is, home to both the lowest and highest altitudes in the entire continental United States. With so much to offer, there’s no better place to start exploring in 2019.
After moving to San Diego almost 2 years ago, we have spent the past few years exploring everything that Southern California has to offer. It can be intimidating with the sheer amount of things to do, so we wanted to put together a list with some of the best places to visit. And while this list isn’t all encompassing, it does contain many of our favorite places that we’ve visited.
So without further ado, here are 17 Places in Southern California You Should Visit in 2019:
1. Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is one of the most underrated national parks in the country. It’s home to some of the most stunning natural features, including Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the entire continent. We enjoyed our time in Death Valley National Park immensely, and recommend checking out our post on 16 Things To Do in Death Valley National Park.
2. Koreatown in Los Angeles
Many people might gravitate towards tourist attractions like the Hollywood sign when visiting L.A., but if you’re looking for a more authentic experience, check out Koreatown. It has some of the most incredible Korean food we’ve ever had–the spicy kimchi soup from Hamji Park is to die for. Check out our blog post on Where to Eat in Los Angeles for more details.
3. Salton Sea
Salton Sea is the largest lake in the entire state of California, yet many people have never even heard of it before. That’s because Salton Sea is an example of history gone wrong. A paradise in the 1950s, pervasive pollution ruined Salton Sea and turned it into the ghost town it is today. It’s open to the public so you can go and see this deserted lake yourself. Want more details? Check out our blog post: What’s it like to visit the Salton Sea?
4. Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Anza Borrego Desert State Park is one of the lesser explored parks in California. It’s a shame, because this incredible park has some amazing hikes to offer–just make sure that you go during the winer. Our favorite hike is through Slot Canyon, a narrow sandstone canyon barely wide enough to hike through.
5. Imperial Beach
If you’ve ever wondered what’s between San Diego and the Mexican border, the answer is Imperial Beach! It’s the southernmost city in the continental United States, known for its pristine beaches and pier that stretches out nearly a quarter of a mile in to the Pacific Ocean. Imperial Beach also has some great seafood restaurants–try Sea180 Coastal Tavern for a seaside meal.
6. Goat Canyon Trestle
This stunning wooden railroad trestle is part of an abandoned railroad track hike that’s more than a little spooky. The scenic hike will take you past abandoned railroad cars and through dark tunnels. While this hike is technically illegal and crackdown may begin in 2019 since the railroad is being rehabilitated, there is an alternate route that requires four wheel drive that will bring you to a shorter hike to Goat Canyon Trestle.
Coronado is an “island” (INO, actually a peninsula) off the coast of San Diego that has a charming downtown area and beautiful beaches. Famous for beautiful Hotel del Coronado, visit during the month of December to enjoy the ice skating rink on the beach.
8. Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is home to the famous Joshua Tree, a beautiful Dr. Seuss-like tree that is going extinct. It also has beautiful rock formations and great hiking trails. Overall, it’s a haven for anyone who loves being in the great outdoors like we do. They also allow overnight camping, so don’t forget your tent! Check out these 17 Things To Do in Joshua Tree National Park for more information.
What could be better than exploring a beautiful region of Southern California with a wine glass in your hand? Temecula is known for their stunning vineyards and delicious wine, so come ready to drink. Our favorite vineyards are Ponte and Lorimar–which you can read more about in our blog post Temecula Wine Tasting: Best Wineries and Vineyards.
10. San Andreas Faultline
The San Andreas Fault is a massive active faultline located in Southern California that experiences more than 100 (minor) earthquakes every day! You can experience this incredible natural phenomenon on a jeep tour through the fault line. We did the Red Jeep Adventures Tour that picks up in Palm Springs and had a great time and learned a ton.
Pioneertown was constructed in the 1940s as a real life movie set to film Western style movies. Today, it is open to the public for free so you can stroll around and check out the cool architecture and shops that look like part of a Wild West movie. For more information on Pioneertown, check out our guide: Pioneertown: Guide to California’s Old Western Oasis.
12. Palm Springs
We always visit Palm Springs at least once or twice every winter, because it’s the perfect paradise to escape the winter. It’s one of the most beautiful cities that you can visit, with lush palm trees everywhere and surrounded by mountains on all sides. Check out the downtown area for some great shopping and boutique restaurants.
13. Borrego Springs
Borrego Springs is a great place to visit when you feel like taking a break from city life and going somewhere quiet. This little desert town is home to incredible desert sculptures constructed along the roadside that are free for the public to check out. Borrego Springs is also a dark community, which means there are no lights on at night–perfect for stargazing.
14. Solana Beach
Just a half hour north of San Diego is Solana Beach, a sleepy beach town with surprisingly great restaurants and hiking. We love to drive up to Solana Beach and hike the San Elijo Lagoon trail to Annie’s Canyon, and then cool off at the beaches which are never crowded. Bonus points for trying the potato pancakes at the Hideaway Cafe!
15. Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake is where all the Southern California natives head during the winter to experience snow. Yeah, you heard right–snow! While Big Bear is located in sunny Southern California, it also sits at a chilly 6,700 feet in elevation, giving it just the conditions needed for snowy winters and beautiful summers. Head to Big Bear if you want to hit the slopes or hike the scenic hiking trails.
This charming little mountain town is famous for their delicious apple pie and beautiful wineries. Their tiny downtown area is great to walk around and explore the many cute shops and delicious restaurants. Visit during the fall to go apple picking, or even visit for the Grape Stomp Festa. For more info read our blog post on fun things to do in Julian.
17. San Diego, California
We’re very biased on this one, since we’ve called San Diego home for the past two years. Bias aside, San Diego is an incredible city with countless fun outdoor activities and beautiful beaches to enjoy. Head to North Park to try out the local craft beer scene, or visit Kearney Mesa to eat from San Diego’s mecca for Asian food.
There are so many incredible places to visit in Southern California that we couldn’t possibly list them all, but we hope you enjoyed this list that we put together. If you have any suggestions for other places that should make the list, let us know in the comments and we will try to visit!