There is so much to do in SoCal that it would take many, many posts to list everything. I’ve brought together a bunch of hidden gems, so here are 5 SoCal cities to visit.
1. Santa Clarita
Santa Clarita is a small town located approximately 1 hour north of Los Angeles via the 101 Freeway. It is home to numerous small animal attractions, including Shambala Roar Foundation, Gibbon Conservation Center, The Gentle Barn, William S. Hart Park, Placerita Nature Center, Farm Sanctuary, Gilchrist Family Farm, and Newhall Aquarium.
Shambala Roar Foundation
Shambala Roar Foundation is located at 6867 Soledad Canyon Road in Acton, which is just outside of Santa Clarita. They do safari tours select weekends. And, they sell out quickly though, so you are going to want to watch their website if you are looking to go. Tours cost $50/person, and it is for adults only. Individuals under the age of 18 are not allowed in the park.
Gibbon Conservation Center
Gibbon Conservation Center is located in at 19100 Esguerra Road, Santa Clarita. It is a small facility where they house all four genera of gibbon and assist with rescue programs. The tour costs $18 per adult, $15 for teens and students, $12 for seniors, and $7 for children 3-12. And, children under the age of 3 are not allowed unfortunately.
The Gentle Barn
The Gentle Barn is located at 15825 Sierra Hwy in Santa Clarita. And, it is a farm sanctuary where you can interact with farm animals. They are open on Sundays, and tickets are $22 for individuals 13 years and older. And, Kids 2-12 cost $12, and children under 2 get in free. It is required to schedule an hour and a half time block in order to go. They also have sites in Tennessee and Missouri.
William S. Hart Park
William S. Hart Park is located at 24151 San Fernando Road in Newhall. And, what’s special about Hart Park is the animals. There is a petting zoo, as well as a herd of bison that are descendants of a gift from Walt Disney. Plus, there is a museum on the property. Everything is free, except if you want to feed the animals at the petting zoo. There is food for sale, and you will need change to purchase it.
Placerita Nature Center
Placerita Nature Center is located at 19152 Placerita Canyon Road in Newhall. The park features hiking trails, picnicking, animal shows twice a month (1st and third Saturdays at 10 am, starting in March), bird walks, and programs for children.
The Farm Sanctuary is located at 5200 Escondido Canyon Road in Acton and is a place of peace for rescued farm animals. Admission is $15 for adults, $8 for children 4-12, and Free for children younger than 4 years. They are open 11-3 on Saturdays and Sunday, and you must purchase your ticket online in advance and schedule a time for the tour.
Gilchrist Family Farm
Gilchrist Family Farm is located at 30116 Bouquet Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, about 5 minutes away from Gibbon Conservation Center. It is free to visit the farm. There is however, a separate fee to participate in any activities or to purchase food. Some of the activities include: archery, a petting zoo, goat yoga, and so much more. You can purchase tickets online or in person (they do accept credit cards), but you will need to redeem your paper tickets at the actual farm as the individual activities don’t have a way of counting your purchase from your online ticket.
Newhall Aquarium is a non-profit organization located at 24631 Arch Street, Santa Clarita. You must make a reservation to visit by calling (661) 220 -5512, emailing them at email@example.com, or messaging them on their Facebook page. A year’s membership can be obtained for a donation of $20 or more.
Alpine is located 30 miles North East of San Diego. Like Santa Clarita, Alpine has a few interesting animal interactions that I recommend, including: Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Sky Falconry, and Children’s Nature Retreat.
Lions, Tigers, and Bears
Lions, Tigers, and Bears is located at 24402 Martin Way in Alpine. They are a large animal rescue that can be visited by appointment only. You will also be required to sign a waiver that will be included in your confirmation email. You can sign up to be a member for a day, for $43/adult and $26/child Wed-Fri, and $46/adult and $26/child on Saturdays. Please note that the child price is for ages 12 and under. The second option is to upgrade to the Feed with a Keeper Experience, which is $143/person Wed-Fri, and $146 on Saturdays. The final purchase option is for the Exclusive Behind the Scenes Tour, which is $500 for two adults. Children are not admitted on this tour.
Sky Falconry is located at 593 Anderson Truck Trail in Alpine and is open September through July from 8 am-5 PM. They offer four different classes, three times throughout the day. The Basic Falconry lesson is $70/participant and $35/observer and is for individuals 6 years and above. The Hawk Walk offers more up close interactions for $140/participant and $70/observer and is for individuals 9 years and above. The Private Hawk Walk is $550 for two participants and is for individuals 9 years and above. The Private Raptor Experience is their most intimate experience where they free fly both a hawk and a falcon. It is $595 for two people and for ages 6 years and older.
Children’s Nature Retreat
Children’s Nature Retreat is located at 5178 Japatul Spur in Alpine. A single day pass includes animal interaction from outside their enclosures and free parking. It costs $38 for adults, $20 for children, and $28 for seniors. Children under the age of 2 get free entry, and Military, first responders, veteran families, teachers and Alpine residents get a 10% discount, and groups of 12 get a 15% discount. For optional up close and personal interactions, there is an add on cost of $35/enclosure.
Malibu is a little over 30 miles Northwest of Los Angeles. The best activities in Malibu involve hiking. Whether it is to see waterfalls or caves, there is a lot to see.
Escondido Falls trailhead is located at 27807 Pacific Coast Hwy in Malibu. Street parking is free. It is a 3.8 mile round trip hike to a 50 foot lower tier fall and a 150 foot upper tier fall. The first .75 miles of the hike is up Winding Way through a wealthy neighborhood in Malibu which leads to Escondido Canyon Park. The lower falls are easy to reach, but the upper falls are more challenging.
Solstice Canyon is located at the intersection of Corral Canyon Road and Solstice Canyon Road in Malibu. Available activities in the canyon include: hiking, picnicking, mountain biking, dog walking, and wildlife viewing. There is limited parking, so carpooling is recommended, and pets are allowed, but must remain on-leash while in the park.
Leo Carillo State Beach
Leo Carillo State Beach is located at 35000 Pacific Coast Hwy in Malibu. It is a family and dog friendly beach with onsite parking. What is particularly special about this beach is what is located between the North and South beaches. There is an area with tide pools and sea caves that can be explored during low tide.
El Matador State Beach
El Matador State Beach is located at 32350 Pacific Coast Hwy in Malibu. There is a small parking lot for $8. It is a steep walk down to the beach, but that is where you will find the caves. The caves are a series of archways rather than full caves and are best accessed at low tide.
4. Dana Point
Dana Point is 59 miles south of Los Angeles in Orange County and 65 miles north of San Diego.
It borders the Pacific Ocean to the west, and there are three must do activities here: Kayaking, paddleboarding, and hiking to Dana Point Harbor Falls and the Dana Sea Caves.
Kayaking & Paddleboarding
There are numerous places to rent kayaks and paddle boards, such as Pure Watersports, Westwind Sailing, and SUP to You. Pure Watersports is located at 34512 Embarcadero Place in Dana Point, and their kayak and SUP rentals start at $20. Westwind Sailing is located at 34451 Ensenada Pl in Dana Point, and their rentals start at $25. SUP to You only provides paddle boards for stand up paddle boarding, and they will deliver the paddle board to you for no extra cost.
Dana Point Harbor Falls
Dana Point Harbor Falls is located at 24413-24469 Dana Point Harbor Dr, and it is best to visit just after it rains. There is street parking available, and it is about a one minute walk to the waterfall. The waterfall is manmade, and it can be a bit muddy and slippery after rain.
Dana Sea Caves
Dana Sea Caves are located at the Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center at 34558 Scenic Dr. The hike is along Headlands Beach and is 1.2 miles roundtrip, and the cave can only be accessed during low tide. The spot is also known as Pirate’s Cove.
5. Rancho Cucamonga
Rancho Cucamonga is located 42 miles east of Los Angeles near Mount Baldy. Given its remote location, it should be unsurprising that it is known for its hiking trails.
Etiwanda Falls Trail
The Etiwanda Falls Trail is a 3.4 mile out and back moderately challenging hike located at 4904 Etiwanda Ave. The trail is not dog friendly, so leave Fido at home for this one.
Bonita Falls Trail
Bonita Falls Trail is a 1.5 mile out and back moderately challenging hike in Lytle Creek. The best times to visit this trail is March-October, and dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash.
Have you been to any of these places? Comment below about your experiences!