12 Best Unusual Things To Do In Southern California

If you’re looking for off the beaten path places to explore in Southern California, check out my list below! You’re off to quite an adventure here especially if you like graffiti. I have been to these places myself. Make sure to click on the name of those places to find out more information about them such as location, direction, and associated fees.

I love the Getty, but sometimes, I just want to be away from the crowd. Below are some unusual adventures in Southern California that you can do this weekend.

Here’s the quick list and more description with pictures below.

TOP UNUSUAL THINGS TO DO IN SOCAL

1. Salvation Mountain
2. Griffith Park Old Zoo
3. Lost Sunken City
4. Venice Canals
5. Sculptures of Anza Borrego
6. Salton Sea
7. Abandoned Water Tanks at Slab City
8. International Banana Museum 
9. East Jesus Desert Post Apocalyptic Art Project
10. Abandoned Nazi Camp
11. Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch
12. Watt’s Tower

Salvation Mountain

 

This is one of the largest outdoor art installment in California. Completely hand made by one person in 30 years, Salvation Mountain is one of the must visits whenever you’re in Southern California. This place is truly amazing, and I cannot believe all the commitment and passion that are put into making this. This has been featured in the film Into the Wild with Emile Hirsch; really great film!

salvation moutain

Griffith Park Old Zoo

This place was where all the animals of LA used to live before the current LA zoo. Now all the animals have been evacuated and the cages are empty for your adventurous souls to explore!

Lost Sunken City

**warning, entering is considered trespassing. A landslide caused a neighborhood in San Pedro to sink into the ocean several decades back, now the ruins are just here for explorers who are dare enough to enjoy.

Palm Tree

Venice Canals

Don’t need to go far across the globe. LA has its own canals and beautiful bridges as well. This free attraction will show you a completely different side of LA. Many people who dislike LA actually says that this would be the only place they consider living in the city. Well, if you want to see how beautiful and awesome Venice Canals actually is, I highly recommend that you visit the place. Now, it is a great place for all people to visit especially when it’s free. Parking is a bit tough, but that’s everywhere in LA.

Animals Sculptures of the Borrego Desert

If you don’t mind the heat or extreme cold in the winter, I suggest that you take a short (3 hours) drive from the OC or LA to Anza Borrego Desert Park. These animal sculptures are everywhere in the desert! They are free to visit and it’s super awesome to take pictures with. These are specific ones are located near the Borrego Spring town, so it’s not too far from civilization.

Salton Sea: California’s Largest Lake

If you really want to see thousands of dead tilapia washed up the shore, then this place is a must visit. Well, this large body of water was accidentally created. Considered one of the lowest places on Earth (maybe even lower than the Death Valley national park), this place is truly fascinating. Not only the view is great, but there are also ruins of houses and buildings awaiting for you to explore!

Abandoned Water Tank Behind Salvation Mountain

This old water treatment stations became a popular stop for visitors at Slab City and Salvation Mountain. If you want up to the top of the Salvation Mountain, you will see these two water tanks from a distance.

Looking at the water storage from distance

 

International Banana Museum

Now, this is a place that I literally stumbled upon and did not know about before. I was on my way to Salton Sea and I just saw this right off the 111 hwy. Obviously, I had to stop, and I recommend that you do as well. Over 17,000 banana items and it has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Record!

East Jesus

This inspiring art scene has been developing in Slab City for several years now. A place where people used to come to dumb their trash turned into a garden filled with amazing post apocalyptic arts that put many museums to shame.

Metal elephant

 

Abandoned Nazi Camp

Who would have thought that there’s an abandoned Nazi Camp in the Santa Monica Mountain? Well, it actually exists. This short 4 miles hike and some flights of stairs will take you to see some of the most unusual sites. It’s both creepy and cool at the same time. This was the location where Hitler was supposed to use to plan plot to take over the U.S…. what!!!

Nazi house  in santa monica

Elmer’s Bottle Trees Ranch

So you grow trees on your front lawn? How about hundreds of trees made of bottles and glass? This fascinating site is located on the historic route 66. It can be a great detour from your Las Vegas or Mojave Desert Trip. 

Sunset at the bottle tree ranch

Sunset at the bottle tree ranch

 

Watt’s Towers

Simon Rodia, an Italian-American, spent a big portion of his later years building these tall structures in his backyard. The tallest tower is 99 1/2 feet tall, right below the city height limit. He created them all by himself out of clay, bottles, and broken dishes he bought from his neighbors.

Watts Tower

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30 responses to “12 Best Unusual Things To Do In Southern California

  1. Snook, I LOVE what your doing here and your overall outlook on life. I have grown up in southern california my whole life and I have not done half of the things you have done. You are taking advantage of exploring beautiful socal and you have truly inspired me to explore my own backyard, instead of seeking travel in other states or countries. Thank you for that. (And i’m not even sure if this is your blog for IntCom, but nevertheless I follow this blog!)

  2. I gotta explore your travels! I’m seeing me in this pictures in the future. And it looks like I have plenty of exploring to do on your blog as well. Thanks for the share.

    • Thank you so so much! I really appreciate your comment. I have so many places that I want to write about and will definitely be posting more! I love all of your photos and travels as well. and your pictures are so inspiring. Let me know if you have any questions about these places :)

  3. Great article! FYI in the summer there are free plays on the old LA Zoo grounds. Exploring the ruins then settling down for a picnic and some Shakespeare makes for a great night.

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  7. Snook, thank you for the likes on my blog. I see that you had a post on So Cal and I had to check it … I now have some more items to add to my list!! I have only been to two (Venice Canals – my old back yard) and the Watts Towers (been visiting here since I was a kid). Would love to check out ‘the Lost Sunken City’ first- but since I have the kids I better save that for later!

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  9. I am so appreciative to you for sharing this. I am so sick of the “attractions”. I love to explore and want to experience this state in all of its rawness an history. I want to see geological formations and abandoned buildings, scenic points of interest and charming towns. Not Disneyland and Hollywood! When I search te internet for the best places to explore or where to visit in California, results just turn up resort spas and theme parks. So again, thank you so very much, this is so refreshing!

    • Thank you so much Timarie! I totally understand what you mean. People tend to recommend the same places. While they are worth visiting and cool, i personally like these less visited places. let me know if you have questions!

  10. This is such a rad website! I just re-watched one of my favorite movies last night “Into the Wild” and I remembered I had bookmarked this page a while back. I have just spent the last hour or two reading your other posts and all of them look like incredible places to visit. Hopefully, I can make it out to salvation mt in the coming weeks, thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Lisa,

      So sorry for the late respond! I love into the wild and i was inspired by that movie to go out to Salvation Mountain. I hope that you find the time to go and explore! please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you so much for reading my blog. it means a lot :)

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  12. I absolutely love this! I live along the Salton Sea, and have friends coming out to visit from the other side of the country. While making an attempt to find things to do that are somewhat nearby, I googled, and found this. Not sure why I didn’t realize that adventure, is literally in my back yard! Thank you so much!

    • thank you Kati! Hope you had fun on this adventure. It’s sometimes easy to miss incredible things at home. You live in an incredible place!

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