I love visiting unusual places. They are often the places that have earned their spot in California history simply because the owner is trying to do something new. Whether it is a hike, a restaurant, or just a collection of odd things, this list is dedicated specifically to the unique stuff I visit in Southern California (from Kern County down). It will be an ever-expanding and growing list that will hopefully help you to find many fun attractions right outside your door. Also, please feel free to suggest new spots in the comments as well. Browse the list by county and click the image to read about the the places you are interested in. Have fun exploring! You can browse spots in Northern California here. Last Updated January 2017 – Click the pictures to read the posts.
San Diego County
Sunny Jim’s Cave
Located directly in La Jolla, Sunny Jim’s Cave is a fun old historic sea cave that you can walk down to and explore.
Snorkeling with Leopard Sharks
During the month of August, the Leopard sharks traditionally come to give birth in the cove of La Jolla. They are docile creatures and you can actually grab some snorkel gear and go out and see them. It is a very unique experience.
San Diego Statues
Fun statures right next to the USS Midway in San Diego, the highlight being the 30 foot tall Unconditional Surrender statue.
Ever wanted to eat alligator, kangaroo or antelope? You can do that here.
Potato Chip Rock
Hike to the top of this mountain and see the famous rock with its potato chip wing that you can stand on.
A deep slot canyon in the heart of Anza Borrego that allows you access to a hike normally only possible in places like Arizona and Utah.
The Whaley House is consider by many sources one of the most haunted places in America. You can tour it during the day or chance a ghost encounter during a special night visit.
Creation and Earth History Museum
To learn all about the creation of the Earth from the traditional Biblical perspective then a visit to this museum is in order. It is pretty far outside of San Diego but you can see the Giant Lemon on the way!
Worlds Largest Lemon
Not much here but a stop for a photo at the World Largest Lemon (not proven, but honestly who is arguing?) in the city of Lemon Grove.
Border Field State Park
This place isn’t strange like the others on this list, but it certainly is unique. It is a state park right on the Southernmost part of California and right on the Mexican border. It is worth the trip to see the massive walls and cameras alone.
Churros El Tigre
Do I need to say more then the above picture? If I do then how about I mention that this small little shop outside the food court, near the Mexican border has an amazing sundae with six churros! Bring a friend and try it.
One mans journey to create a way to show the love of God, which turned into an awesome painted mountain.
A collection of artists that live together and create very unique art pieces in the middle of the desert.
Bubbling pools of mud in the middle of a big field. You can hear them pop as you walk around.
Ruins of Bombay Beach
This is exactly how it sounds, ruins of an old Salton Sea town on the beach. An amazing stop for urban grunge photographers.
International Banana Museum
Yep, it is exactly what it say, a small one room museum overrun with thousands of banana related items. Make sure to get a banana shake while you are there!
Center of the World
Who knew the “Official” Center of the World was in Southern California! This fun roadside stop has everything from a church on the hill to an original staircase from the Eiffel Tower. It is worth the stop.
Goat Canyon Trestle
One of the largest freestanding wooden trestles in the entire world is located outside of San Diego deep in the desert. I wouldn’t recommend that many people go find it but read this post to learn more about it.
Desert View Tower
On the main highway through Imperial County sits this historic old tower on a hillside. It is a great spot to walk up and see the views or to visit the boulder park right across the parking lot.
A taco shop that is 15% food and 85% crazy art. It is always expanding with new structures and you can walk around for hours and not see it all.
Shields Date Gardens
Grab yourself a date shake and watch a move on the romance and sex life of the polarizing yet beloved fruit.
On the 10 freeway near Cabazon are some of the biggest dinosaurs ever made. You can even go inside of them.
This pumpkin rock is overlooking the city of Norco and is kept up by some of its residents. If you go after it is repainted each year then you are in for a Halloween treat.
During the month of December, Palm Springs lights up with the fantastic creation that is Robolights. I visited for the first time last year but I think it will become a tradition.
Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum
Ruddy’s 1930’s General Store & Museum
In the downtown area of Palm Springs there is a small one room museum that is designed to look like how a 1930’s general store would have looked. All of the products are authentic and the price to enter is 95 cents.
General Patton Museum
Built on the site of Camp Young, this museum was made to honor General Patton. It has lots of history and loads of tanks.
Southern California Redwoods
See redwoods without leaving Southern California by visiting this park in Yorba Linda. The trees here are only 25 years old but they are still very cool to see.
For a 5 dollar fee you can see a crazy amount of reptiles from crocodiles to snakes. They used to have one of the biggest snakes in captivity named Twinkie before it sadly passed away.
Want a maple donut with eggs and bacon in the middle of it? Check out Surfin Donuts.
Los Angeles County
Bob Baker Marionette Theater
I love this place and I recommend you make it a family outing. They put on shows with their marionettes a few times a week. The shows are similar to entering a time machine and visiting what a theater was like before technology. They are especially popular during the Christmas season.
Indulge in specialty sausages in downtown Los Angeles, especially ones that are made of rattlesnake and rabbit (just a few of the available meats).
One man’s art installation in Echo Park. Located right outside his home, this is a great spot to drive by and check out. The way the light shines in the early morning sun makes this installation come to life in sparkling colors.
Clifton’s Cafeteria is one of the oldest still running cafeterias in the entire USA. It has all of the food you would expect at a cafeteria, but the surrounding building has a two store redwood, stuffed buffalos and all sorts of other attractions you can eat next to.
Check out the original In-N-Out in Baldwin Park, a super fun spot to stop by and learn about the history of this awesome CA staple.
This unique store is home to all sorts of creepy crawly things. It is one of the main prop producers for Hollywood horror movies but you can always tour / buy stuff from it as a consumer as well.
LA Observation Deck
Head up to the top of LA City Hall for a fantastic view of downtown Los Angeles from an angle you haven’t seen before.
Malibu Wine Safari
If you are looking for a fun way to spend a Saturday, why not take a wild animal safari at a Malibu Winery? Yes, you heard that correctly, you get shuttled around to see everything ranging from camels to water buffalo and you can even feed a zebra. You can also hike it and meet Stanley the Giraffe as well.
Go explore these famous rocks, featured in many Hollywood movies. It is also a great place to spend a day hiking outside the city.
This awesome old theater harkens to the old days of cinema when the movie was a cranked sequence of images or a panorama that you immerse yourself in. This is a very unique spot in LA.
Charlie Brown Farms
This roadside shop literally sells everything. They have the worlds largest beef jerky, chocolate dipped jalapenos, ostrich eggs. A great stop on any road trip.
Strange LA Shops List
This list of 5 strange and awesome LA shops should help you find the perfect gift for anyone on your list.
This glass cathedral is a beauty and unique place to explore. However, be aware it is often used for weddings so may be closed during popular times.
How often do you get to actually hike to an old shipwreck off the coast, especially one that is as preserved as well as this one? It is a relatively easy hike but you will be walking over a ton of rocks. It’s worth it to see the wreckage.
Time Travel Mart
Step back in time with this store that caters to many different time periods and time travelers. You can even buy a shade tree (a seed) and all you have to do is go back in time and plant it!
Great Wall of LA
At about a half mile long, this wall has the painted history of California on it and is a great place for a walk.
The couple that owns this “museum” has tens of thousands of bunnies and bunny related things. They are even the Guiness Book of World Records Holder for most bunnies. Call to set up an appointment to visit.
LA Coroner Shop
This small shop in the middle of the coroner’s office has a lot of death related items you can purchase. Everything from a pen to a chalk outline towel.
Museum of Jurassic Technology
A museum that you will not be able to explain when you leave. Trust me, I still cannot explain what I saw there.
Wacko Soap Shop
Another strange store in LA this one has a mind-blowing amount of stuff, everything from crocodile heads to books on steampunk. There is even a famous art area in the back.
An awesome piece of art in the heart of Watts. It is worth touring and hearing its unique history as it is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Old LA Zoo
Hang out and have a picnic in the left over old cages for what used to be the LA Zoo.
Visit a ranch that was created for when the Nazi’s took over the United States. That clearly did not happen but this unique structure still stands.
Bridge to Nowhere
Hike 5 miles to a bridge that literally was built in the middle of nowhere and connects nothing. As an added bonus you can bungee jump off of it.
Will Richards Studio in Catalina
Located on the island of Catalina this small art studio is a fun place to explore on a very touristy island.
Antelope Vally Poppy Reserve
During the spring the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve becomes a carpet of orange as far as the eye can see. It is a beautiful place that you much visit at least once.
Twisted Oaks Tavern
Twisted Oaks Tavern in Thousand Oaks is home to Hogzilla, which is a full braised pig head that you can order to share with 6-8 people.
On days when there is not a game, you can still visit Dodger Stadium and shop at the store. This also allows you to look down on the field from above, which is pretty cool.
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is home to rides, food and attractions. It is also the end point of the famous Route 66, which makes it a great place explore that is full of history.
San Bernardino County
Elmers Bottltree Ranch
Elmer’s ranch is a great place to take pictures and admire the dozens of metal trees made from poles and bottles. I for one love this place and it is one of the best spots on California’s portion of Route 66.
Desert Christ Park
A collection of many different scultures of Jesus‘ time on Earth, all made out of plaster. The main highlight being a massive “last supper” sculpture that you can add yourself into.
Original McDonalds Museum
Located on old Route 66 this museum is the home of the original McDonalds. It has since been torn down, but the museum collects the history of this iconic food shop.
That road everyone sees but no one stops at on the drive to Vegas. It has a unique history of once being a healing center.
Baker Thermometer and North Pole Discoverer Statue
I know you were wondering…yes, you can check both of these off your bucket list in one stop in the town of Baker!
Who doesn’t want to see how candy canes are made? During the Christmas season this is the place to be for their nightly demonstrations on the art of creating a candy cane, plus you get a warm one afterward.
Randsburg General Store
For a trip back in time, pull off Highway 395 and visit the Randsburg General Store. This small town has one main street, tons of abandoned mines and a general store that sells soda the old-fashioned way, with phosphates.
Lava Tube in Mojave National Preserve
One of my favorite places for photography, the lava tube in Mojave is a crazy place to explore. It is one you will tell your friends about.
This hike is right in the town of Amboy, which is fun to visit in its own right, and crosses a lava field up to an old dormant volcano. It is a great hike, but not in the summer.
Santa Barbara County
Cold Springs Tavern
This little restaurant in the mountains above Santa Barbara has been here for over a century and is an amazing spot to have a meal.
Who doesn’t want to feed ostriches? You can do it here and you can even take home ostrich jerky if you feel so inclined.
Gaviota Wind Caves
These caves overlooking Highway One, about 45 minutes North of Santa Barbara, are a pretty crazy place for a hike. The wind has carved them over thousands of years.
If you are getting hungry, why not bike up to this beach stand that sells fresh oysters? They are delicious and I was a huge fan.
San Luis Obispo County
With no two rooms the same, a urinal fountain and massive pieces of cake, there is a lot to love at this eclectic hotel.
For decades this alley in San Luis Obispo has been collecting bubblegum from passers-by. It is a unique place to leave your own chewed piece and to just marvel at the germs.
Monarch Butterfly Grove
From December to January, this Pismo Beach monarch butterfly grove turns into a home for a massive amount of Monarchs. When I was there it was estimated that 30,000 were there.
Sea Lions in Port San Luis
In Avila, right near Pismo Beach, you can get up close and personal with sea lions. This small stair case right at the end of the pier will get you as close as you want to be, but be careful they bite.
Nitt Witt Ridge
The Hearst Castle of trash is a fun jaunt off Pacific Coast Highway that you can tour multiple times a day. It is exceptionally eclectic — making it perfect for this list.
Learn about how this overlooked vegetable is grown and harvested on an actual luffa farm. You can even buy and take home one; a fun and unique spot.
Tule Elk Reserve
This gets added to the list just because I went to see the elk and simply saw nothing and no one, so I thought it was a pretty strange experience.
The Cat House
This rehabilitation center for cats is an amazing place to see these animals up close.
So there you have it, my massive list. I will be adding more often and would love to hear your suggestions in the comments. Browse Northern California spots here.