10 Unique Southern California Road Trip Stops

This article was first published in print in SoCal Life Magazine, June 2022

A southern California road trip is the perfect escape because road trips are often more than the destinations. Hop in the car, hit the open road, and holler the lyrics to California Dreamin’. Satiate your curiosity with a stop at one of these Golden State wonders on your next automotive adventure. 

Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary 

This unusual haven in Summerland rescues unwanted and displaced birds. Learn about the recovery stories of over 30 abused, abandoned, injured, and orphaned birds with a 45-minute tour from a caring docent. It’s impossible to not want to donate to these feathered friends who might even talk back or sing to you. 

Ojai Olive Oil Ranch

Sample olive oil at the oldest and largest extra virgin olive oil producer in the Ojai valley. The farm boasts 150-year old olive trees, including French, Italian, and Spanish varieties with some trees over 200 years old. Today 2,500 trees plus neighboring olive groves are handpicked. After learning about the growing, harvest, and production, taste infused varieties such as basil, garlic, Ojai Pixie, lemon, rosemary, and Tuscan herbs. Bring home gifts of Ojai Olive Oil known for its polyphenols and brain health ingredients. 

Oxnard’s Gondola Paradiso 

Cruise around the Channel Islands Harbor in a Venetian gondola as a gondolier guide paddles you under bridges and through canals. Step up the romance in your own private gondola or bring along five friends for this hourlong experience where showing up with wine or your favorite beverage is totally acceptable.  

Malibu’s Getty Villa 

Built by the famous philanthropist and oil tycoon J. Paul Getty,admire Getty’s personal collection of antiquities housed in a replica mansion you might find in Pompeii. The setting alone is worth a visit as this modern-day Mediterranean style villa sits on a hillside and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Walk around the gardens, fountains, and inner courtyards all within a gaze of the sparkling sea. Transport yourself to the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome by viewing mosaics, sculptures, and priceless artifacts. Docents are available to answer your burning questions. 

Torrance Farmer’s Market

Get to know LA’s culinary diversity by walking around the largest year-round market in the Los Angeles South Bay that takes place every Tuesday and Saturday at Charles Wilson Park. Find local vendors selling fruits and veggies, Asian produce, flowers, and baked goods. Take home items from specialty vendors like Organic Bone Broth, Granola Garden, Zen’s Tea House, and Cali Dumpling Delivery. It’s easy to create your own exciting food tour by sampling from the many vendors such as Korean food, Gumbo, tacos, gourmet sausages, guava malasadas, mini Dutch pancakes, and more. 

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

In ten minutes zoom one and a half miles up to a pristine wilderness in the largest rotating aerial tram. As you elevate to 8,516 feet, you ascend past forest and steep mountain cliffs with sweeping views of Palm Springs while snow may greet you during certain times of the year. Extend your time by grabbing a bite atop Mt. San Jacinto State Park or immerse yourself in nature with one of the 50 miles of hiking trails – but not before gawking at the views from the observation decks. Pro-tip: Book tickets in advance. 

Joshua Tree’s Integratron

Release the driving kinks by rejuvenating your body and soul with a sound bath in this energy vortex north of Joshua Tree in Landers. Book a session in the domed sound chamber in the middle of the desert where quartz crystal singing bowls are played and the various frequencies wash over guests lulling even the most stressed into deep relaxation. This meditative practice may be the positive healing you need. In 2019 this unique geometric structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. 

Laguna Beach’s 1000 Steps Beach

Park in the residential area off the Pacific Coast Highway and head down the long stairway, that is more like 258 steps. This stunning beach with creamy sand is bordered to the north and south by sandstone cliffs that jut into the water and can be accessed at 9th Street. One of the most beautiful beaches in Southern California, explore a sea cave and tide pools, watch for dolphins, and ogle lavish homes hanging off the cliffs. Bring sunscreen, water, and a sandwich and lounge away an afternoon on this secluded beach. 

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s metal sculptures 

California’s largest state park was awarded the first International Dark Sky Community in CA, but the stars are not the only thing that shines in this lunar landscape. Over 130 massive metal sculptures are scattered across the desert – from prehistoric animals to mythical creatures thanks to “accidental artist” Ricardo Breceda. Admire shadows cast from these large-scale creatures or pose with the 350-foot serpent that stretches across the highway. Ponder your place in the universe in Borrego Springs, a wild land that feels at times like a primeval safari adventure.  

Carlsbad Aquafarm

A one-hour farm tour educates guests on growing and harvesting mussels and oysters at this lagoon. Become enlightened about the lifespan of the local Carlsbad Blond oyster sold to restaurants and Whole Foods each week. End with a lesson on properly shucking your own oysters and slurp down as many of these homegrown briny meat mollusks as you can. 

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