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Southern California Bucket List: Best Things To Do In SoCal

Southern California is made up of ten of the Golden State’s 58 counties: Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura Counties. There is so much to explore here, with hidden gems and must-sees around every corner. If you’re looking for an adventure, here are a few ideas for checking off your Southern California Bucket List.

Southern California Bucket List

Los Angeles County

Los Angeles County really needs no introduction and there is no shortage of items to check off your bucket list here.

Art, Museums, & More

Theme Parks & Entertainment

Landmarks & Outdoors


Things To Do In Los Angeles

Orange County

Orange County, like LA County, is one of the most popular areas in Southern California. Here are a few of the bucketlist items you should check off here.

Art, Museums, & More

Theme Parks & Entertainment

Landmarks & Outdoors


San Diego County

San Diego County is packed full of things to do and is the gateway to our neighbor, Mexico. Here are some of the best things to do in San Diego County.

Riverside County

Riverside County is just east of LA and Orange Counties and actually ranks as the 10th most populous county in the nation. It is home to popular getaway town Palm Springs and SoCal wine country, Temecula. There is a lot to see and do here. Check some of these off your bucket list!

San Bernardino County

San Bernardino County extends from the edges of orange and Los Angeles Counties to the border of Arizona and is located in California’s Inland Empire. Here are some things to check of your SoCal Bucket list in San Bernardino County.

Santa Barbara County

This coastal county tucked between Ventura and San Luis Obispo has plenty to offer, including scenic ocean getaways, historic inland communities, and plenty of open space. Here are some of the things you’ll want to add to your bucket list from the Santa Barbara area.

San Luis Obispo County

The Northernmost county of what is considered Southern California, San Luis Obispo County extends along the coast from Santa Maria north to Ragged Point. There are many things to do in San Luis Obispo. Here are a few things to add to your bucket list.

Ventura County

Just north of Malibu and Los Angeles County, Ventura county is the point where SoCal shifts from the busy urban centers like LA to a bit of a slower pace and less densely populated areas. Here are some of the bucket list items in Ventura County.

Imperial County

Imperial County is the south easternmost county in California and borders Mexico and Arizona with the Colorado River running along the Eastern Border.

Blue Angels Annual Air Show

The Blue Angels have been training in the Imperial Valley for over 50 years. They spend winters here at NAF El Centro, and kick off their air show season every march with the Festival Of Flight.

California Mid-Winter Fair and Fiesta

A 10-day county fair with entertainment, livestock, carnival rides, and the ultimate fair food.

Cloud Museum

Stop in and see this amazing vintage collection. Includes old cars, trucks, tractors, engines, wheels, signs, hand tools, and the Old Bard Post Office.


Head to the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, aka Glamis, for off-roading and camping. It’s the largest OHV rec area for sand dunes in the country.

Salton Sea

The Salton Sea is one of the world’s largest inland seas and lowest spots on Earth, but its high salinity supports limited wildlife. Still a good spot for boating and camping, and you can visit the ghostly remains of Bombay Beach, a once popular lakeside getaway destination for the rich and famous.

Salvation Mountain

Located in Niland, this is one of the quirkiest roadside stops in the Country. Created by Leonard Knight over a number of years, this tribute to God and Love is a colorful and fascinating sight to see.

Fossil Canyon and Painted Gorge

Head to Ocotillo to check out these two locations for their geologic excellence. Painted Gorge is illuminated by the sun to display shapes and shades in a palette of colors. Fossil Canyon (also known as shell canyon), is a desert canyon with an abundance of shells and marine fossils embedded in the sandstone walls.

Museum of History in Granite

Located in Felicity, you’ll explore 20 monuments, over 700 engraved panels, 1000 hand-etched illustrations in granite, the Maze of Honor, a section of the original stairway of the Eiffel Tower, and the Official Center of the World.

Kern County

Set at the southern end of the central valley, Kern County contains portions of coastal mountain ranges, the Mojave Desert, and has a strong military presence with Edwards AFB, China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, and Mojave Air & Space Port.

Buck Owens Crystal Palace

Check out the Buck Owens music memorabilia, have dinner and drinks, and catch a show at this live country music venue.

Buena Vista Museum of Natural History & Science

Immerse yourself in astronomy, anatomy, archeology, anthropology, biology, geology, and paleontology at this museum of natural history and science. Peruse the exhibits, let the kids get hands on with interactive programs, and even participate in a paleo dig.

California Living Museum

This Zoo and wildlife rehab center in Bakersfield is primarily dedicated to plants and animals that are native to California and Kern County. Visit the animals, view the 10-foot aquatic touch tank and moon jelly aquarium, take a ride on the children’s railroad, and pet the goats at the Children’s Park.

Kern County Raceway

Buckle up for some oval-track fun at the Kern County raceway and see some of the best cars in the west. There is a dirt track and asphalt track here for double the fun.

Lake Isabella

Kern County’s own Lake Isabella offers camping, hiking, fishing, boating, watersports, and more. You can access 1,000 miles of hiking trails in the nearby Sequoia National Forest, and visit Cyrus Canyon for motorcross driving.

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Brilliant colors and formations abound here. There are areas here protecting paleontological sites and remains of old mining operations. The state park is open for camping, hiking, and general day use.

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Heidi Deal
Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights. When she's not writing you can find her solo hiking and going on new adventures with her kids and pup.