Best Solo Trips in California

For those solo-traveling, you cannot beat my beloved Golden State. The Sierra Nevada mountain range hugs the state line to the east, and the Pacific Ocean crests on the west. California has been long known as the land of opportunity; from the gold rush to the tech boom. Life on the West (BEST) Coast continues to call wanderers, and there is an endless supply of epic solo trips to enjoy. Read below for the best places to solo travel in California!

Go Apple Picking in Julian

A best kept secret mountain town can be found in Julian! Founded during the gold rush, this historical town boomed after the civil war, and was actually a major haven of Black settlers and pioneers out West!

Nowadays, Julian is a perfect solo day trip. Situated about an hour outside of San Diego, the town is now best known for another kind of treasure: apple pie. Thanks to it’s high-mountain climate and relatively temperate weather, Julian has apple orchards all along the terrain. Visit in September and October to take advantage of apple season: you can visit the orchards directly and pick your own apples!

After your day on the farm, you can revive yourself with the best apple pie you’ve ever tried at the Julian Pie Company. The downtown here is truly quaint, with a small mercantile and a couple of eateries and boutiques.The bars here stay on-theme, as well with Julian Hard Cider Company serving traditional apple ciders and the Calico Cidery offering bone-dry and funky varietals.

There are also plenty of nature parks in the nearby mountains where you can go hiking. Another perk is that Julian is a dark-sky zone, so campers are sure to see a dazzling night sky if they choose to rough it. Not into the great outdoors? Don’t worry, there are plenty BnB options to choose from in and around town.

See the Sea Lions in San Diego

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America’s Finest City (their self-made claim) does have quite a bit to offer. Head down to see the seals and sea lions in the summer – they have beaches that are protected nurseries for their young. Careful you don’t get too close: They are extremely cute and still wild! On the coastline you can walk along the tide pools and see the mini-ecosystem and wildlife, too.

For a chance to see more marine life up close, grab a snorkel and fins (or scuba gear)! Point Loma and La Jolla both offer showcase giant kelp forests for underwater exploring. The Point Loma Kelp Beds are a prime location to see giant sea stars, sharks and other wildlife.

Want to see the wildlife from a safer distance? Head to the world renowned San Diego Zoo or Safari Park. Both of these parks have been awarded for their exceptional standards of keeping the animals. In addition, they attract researchers and conservationists alike to assist with efforts combatting species endangerment and extinction. (Sidenote and added : They have Pandas).
If you prefer seafood to sea-life, you’re still in luck. San Diego offers some of the best restaurants in the state for California fare. There are tons of traditional eateries that offer California style eats, as well as wonderful holes in the wall dishing up Mexican and Italian delectables as well. Nightlife in the Gaslamp district is great, since there’s no better way to finish off a San Diego day than a brewery or pub crawl.

Become a Wine Snob

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Bet you didn’t know that there is a “wine country” in Southern California! Yep, the Inland Empire offers it’s own winery way in Temecula. While the obvious wine regions in California are Napa and Sonoma, Temecula offers an increasingly competitive alternative for wine enthusiasts.

This is a perfect destination for a quick solo day trip or travel weekend from Los Angeles, as travelers can enjoy wine tours and flights along the vineyards. Enjoy some pampering at the various spas and nearby resorts, such as the (insert booking link for south coast winery/spa). Finally, head down to Old Town Temecula for a cute western themed corridor and try the numerous country bars and restaurants.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the world renowned wine regions of Napa and Sonoma. The wines here win awards every year, and the rolling hills of vines are as picturesque as it gets. Enjoy a wine tasting through the valley at the numerous acclaimed wineries, or take a tour of the different properties as you sip. While this may not be the most affordable solo trip in California, it is sure to be a rewarding and delicious time. The restaurants in the valley are also highly rated, with legendary Michelin star rated cuisine at Bouchon and the French Laundry. Book well in advance for touring this region, as this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip!

Chase the Stars in Hollywood

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All the stars align in Hollywood (literally), and a solo trip here might just get you famous. Hollywood offers endless fun activities, so a solo trip here will take a few days at least!

Spend a day touring Universal Studios and learn about movie magic. Then, walk along Hollywood Boulevard to see the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame. If you have time, hop on a tour bus and check out the main highlights and mansions in the hills. If you aren’t into celebrities, you can still check out the Museum of the Academy of Motion Pictures.

Stretch your legs at Griffith Park and hike to the Hollywood Sign (both are free). You get sweeping views of the city below and on a clear day you can even see the ocean. Stay nearby until sunset for the ultimate (and yes, Instagrammable) setting.

If you want dinner and a show, Hollyweird does not disappoint. Stay nearby Hollywood and Sunset boulevards to glimpse of all kinds of characters. Literally, there are performers and characters from the most popular films and shows all along the boulevard. Still need more entertainment? See a movie at the historic Chinese Theater and then splurge for dinner at Yamashiro’s. For a more affordable but equally iconic experience, head to the Roosevelt or the W Hotel for more low-key vibes and views.

Need more recommendations? Check out the “Is LA Worth Visiting” article to further show you why the City of Angels needs to be on your travel bucket list!

Go for a Date in the Desert

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Just a couple hours east of Los Angeles is Palm Springs and Palm Desert. Rent a car or take a tour of the desert! On your way into Palm Springs, stop at Hadley Orchards for a famous date shake. I guarantee you this will be the best shake of your life! The sweet fruits are harvested straight from the date palm trees that are abundant in the desert. If you have a little bit more time, stop off at the various fruit stands that dot the road. There are all types of delicacies and snacks for your drive further into the desert!

Head into Joshua Tree National Park to see some of the most otherworldly rock formations and desolate desert landscapes. Although at first glance Joshua Tree looks stark and vastly empty, it’s actually home to complex ecosystems. The Joshua Trees themselves can be over a thousand years old! Stay until dusk and you can expect to see a gorgeous sunset over the rocky desert. Feeling braver? The night sky in Joshua Tree is truly out of this world since it is a protected dark sky zone. You’ll see constellations, galaxies and shooting stars – a perfect way to end your evening in the desert.

Stay in Palm Springs for a night of relaxation. Although it’s the only city for quite a while, it is a really fun place to stay for great food, art and nightlife. Known for it’s mid-century architecture, Palm Springs was the getaway for celebrities in the 50’s and 60’s. It’s retro vibes remain, although now you can walk the main street and find plenty of delicious coffee shops, restaurants and bars along with boutiques for retail therapy.

Hang Out in Hot Springs

white dome geyser in yellowstone national park
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California has long been associated with riches, and the wealth from the land is no different. Throughout the state travelers can find natural hot springs. Some of the properties are private, and others require hiking to find them on public grounds. Either way, you’re in for a treat of a natural oasis and spa.

For a true roadtrip, head to Northern California. Wilbur Hot Springs in Santa Rosa and more rustic Orr Hot Springs in Mendocino offer budgets ranging from upscale to affordable. The experiences differ as well, and if you’re into a more natural and untamed experience, head over to Wild Willy’s in the Mammoth Lakes area. It’s a remote drive (and subsequent hike) in, but worth the adventure!

Southern Californians can enjoy the hot springs too. For Angelenos looking for a quick weekend escape, they can enjoy the luxurious Ojai Ranch Inn for a gorgeous splurge. Head inland towards Fresno for a more woodsy adventure at Mercey Hot Springs – they offer campground and cabins, too!

Walk Among Giants in Sequoia

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A quintessential California roadtrip and a really great solo trip is a visit to Sequoia National Park. These Giant Sequoia Trees can live to 3,000 years old and can grow over 30 feet around – and they only live in this state! Guaranteed to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen, the towering tree canopy leads you to reevaluate your own significance. So, if you’re hoping to take a trip that will change your perspective (and remind you of just how small you are), this is the one.

Perfectly situated in inland central California, it’s easy to head to Sequoia National Park for a quick day or weekend trip. If you plan it just right, take in the neighboring state gems of Death Valley and Yosemite National Parks. They are truly the best of the varied and surreal natural beauty California has to offer. Bonus points if you bring along a Steinbeck novel to really keep the California solo adventure on-point.

Ready to embark on your own California adventure? Get started by planning and designing your dream getaway with these two articles:

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