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One Week in Southern California: 5 Must-Try Experiences

August 4, 2023 By CityPASS

Southern California is full of surf, sand, and sun, where some of life’s greatest moments happen along the coastline. Yet, there’s more to California than stunning views of the Pacific coast. The region is also full of exciting experiences that create a memorable vacation and leaves you yearning to return.

5 Fun Things To Do in Southern California on a 1-Week Vacation

If you’re visiting the southern part of the Golden State, you’ll want to stop at all the best destinations. From family-friendly activities to solo or group events, there are plenty of unique experiences in Southern California.

Here are the top five experiences if you’re taking a California road trip or holidaying for one week in Southern California.

1. Take a Family Trip to LEGOLAND® California Resort

LEGOLAND® is for kids and those who are kids at heart. Located in Carlsbad, about 35 miles north of San Diego, LEGOLAND® California Resort is a large theme park comprising three attractions: LEGOLAND Park, LEGOLAND Water Park, and SEA LIFE® Aquarium. This resort also has two on-site hotels with incredible themed rooms and plenty of characters and models from the LEGO® world.

At 128 acres, LEGOLAND Park is the main attraction for families. Here, you can enjoy more than 60 rides and activities, plenty of thrilling shows, and 30,000+ LEGO models made from a staggering 60 million+ LEGO bricks. Some popular attractions include Lost Kingdom Adventure, Driving School, Knight’s Tournament, Miniland USA, and LEGO Technic Coaster. Another popular activity is Minifigure trading. If anyone in your group has Minifigures to trade in, head to a Minifigure Trading Station.

LEGOLAND Water Park is a seasonal attraction with water-themed rides. Spread across 10 acres, this park has seven slides, a Build-A-Raft station, and a wave pool for beating the summer heat.

SEA LIFE Aquarium blends learning about sea animals with plenty of LEGO models. There are 5,000+ living sea creatures, quiz areas, play zones, and a mesmerizing bioluminescent display for glow-in-the-dark fun.

2. Board and Tour the USS Midway Museum

Are you ready to step back into military history? Head to the USS Midway Museum, one of the most popular attractions along San Diego Bay. This former aircraft carrier had a 47-year role in the U.S. Navy, serving in several important deployments and exercises around the world. Today, it’s a dedicated museum that gives military and history buffs an interactive and educational experience. You can even take part in an overnight adventure!

The USS Midway has 60+ exhibits across three regions:

  • The Flight Deck has 25+ restored aircraft, the ship’s Bridge, captain’s quarters, and the pilot-ready rooms.
  • The Hangar Deck holds several restored aircraft, educational displays, sailors’ bunks, the Command Center, and interactive cockpit trainers.
  • Below Deck features the dining wardroom, cafeteria chow line, sick bay, engineering rooms, and additional sailors’ bunks.

You won’t want to miss the popular flight simulators. Air Combat 360 simulates flight missions while doing turns, rolls, and 360-degree loops. Joint Exercise Screaming Eagles is a virtual reality simulation that takes you on an incredible journey.

3. Spend a Day at Universal Studios Hollywood™

If you’re an entertainment lover, put Universal Studios Hollywood™ on your list of things to do in Southern California. This 400-acre attraction off the Hollywood Freeway north of Los Angeles has rides, shows, special events, and the ever-popular studio lot tour, which takes you through 13 blocks of film and television sets with buildings, props, and characters.

Universal Studios Hollywood is one of the quintessential Southern California experiences, giving you a close-up look at the wonder of Hollywood. If you’re visiting with young kids, family-friendly themed lands like Minions, Harry Potter™, and Super Nintendo World™ will provide hours of entertainment, whether riding Bowser’s Challenge or watching the magic unfold with an interactive wand at Ollivander’s™. Other popular lands include Jurassic World, Transformers™, and WaterWorld, where you can see thrilling simulations and daredevil stunts.

From roller coasters and interactive areas to immersive 3D and 4D rides and fun character sightings, this theme park tests your imagination and takes you on nonstop adventures with a variety of activities.

4. Experience San Diego on an Old Town Trolley Tour

An Old Town Trolley Tour is another must-do experience if you’re spending one week in Southern California. This one-day tour is unique, featuring hop-on and hop-off access to anywhere along the route. You’ll have your pick of 11 stops, with trolley drivers giving you lively narration about the points of interest you pass.

See a place you want to explore? Hop off and go for it. You can reboard as many times as you want during that day. These orange and green trolleys are easy to spot and let you explore at your own pace. Once you’ve enjoyed downtown destinations like the Star of India, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park and its museums, and Seaport Village, hop on the trolley for a ride over the soaring Coronado Bridge. Get your camera ready for aerial views of the city and San Diego Bay. Once on the other side, explore Orange Avenue, relax on the beach or at a park, or snap a photo of the iconic Hotel de Coronado.

5. Explore Over 60 Habitats at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps

What’s next on an essential California road trip itinerary? Take a day trip to Birch Aquarium at Scripps, just north of the coastal town of La Jolla. This expansive aquarium with 60 habitats is home to sea creatures from around the world, from kelp to sharks to tropical fish.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps is part immersive, hands-on learning, part mesmerizing displays, and part environmental research facility, giving guests of all ages a glimpse into marine biology at work.

From underwater exhibits like Seadragons & Seahorses or Shark Shores to displays like Oddities: Hidden Heroes, this coastal aquarium is one of the top fun things to do in Southern California while enjoying ocean views. You won’t want to miss the outdoor Tidepool Plaza that lets you touch these incredible creatures. For more marine animal fun, consider add-ons like the Tidepool Adventure and behind-the-scenes Seahorse and Octopus Tours.

Get Budget-Friendly Tickets to the Most Unique Experiences in Southern California

For the best experiences in Southern California, get your CityPASS® tickets and save money on admission to the region’s iconic theme parks and attractions. Pick up San Diego CityPASS® tickets for the best things to do in San Diego, or Southern California CityPASS® tickets for admission to the best theme parks in Southern California.

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