If you live in SoCal, you’re going to love these insider secrets that highlight some of the most unexpected corners of Southern California that are simply wonderful. A few of the places we’ll explore include modern day ruins, a secret room tucked away in the basement of a hotel building, and sets of secret stairs that lead to unforgettable places. Some of these spots may be gems you’ve already discovered, but many of them are secret places you’ve most likely never heard of before.
1. The Redwood Grove at Carbon Canyon Regional Park -- Yorba Linda
Most people think they must head to Northern California to see the towering redwood trees. Want to know a secret? You can find beautiful redwoods here in SoCal in Orange County at Carbon Canyon Regional Park. Redwoods here aren't as mature as the trees in Norcal, but the grove is a stunning sight to see and an unexpected find in Southern California.
2. Knapp's Castle -- Santa Barbara
All that remains of this once sprawling mansion built in Santa Barbara in the early 1900s are these ruins that overlook the Santa Ynez Valley. Destroyed in a devastating forest fire in 1940, the former site of Knapp's Castle now looks like a discovery from ancient times.
3. Roar and Snore Safari -- Escondido
You can experience a thrilling safari without going far from home. The Roar and Snore Safari in Escondido includes an overnighter in a safari tent so you can experience local wildlife from morning 'til night.
4. Pageant of the Masters -- Laguna Beach
One of the most pleasant surprises in SoCal is the Pageant of the Masters Festival that takes place in Laguna Beach. Classic paintings come to life in this dazzling 90-minute show. Tickets are quite accessible for every budget with prices starting at $15. The festival runs through the end of August, so make sure to add it to your summer bucket list.
5. Secret Room -- San Diego
Hidden in the basement of the Marriott Courtyard in downtown San Diego you will find a secret meeting room/private dining room housed in the building's former bank vault. Ask for a tour to see this hidden gem; you will be transported back in time once you step inside.
6. Historic Olvera Street -- Los Angeles
Known as "the birthplace of Los Angeles," this historic district has been transformed into a Mexican marketplace that captures the flavor of Los Angeles back in its early days. Many of the original structures remain, which adds to the charm of this magical street.
7. Torrey Pines Natural Reserve -- La Jolla
Perhaps Torrey Pines Natural Reserve isn't a secret if you're local to the area, but for folks who are visiting this may be the most epic secret view of all. Take one of the many Torrey Pines trails and follow the dusty terrain to one of the most breathtaking spots in SoCal. The view sneaks up on you, so make sure to look up while hiking.
8. California Citrus State Historic Park -- Riverside
Most people have no idea there is a park in Riverside dedicated to preserving the history of the citrus industry that once ruled Southern California. The park offers tours of the citrus groves and gives out samples of the delicious fruit plucked right off the tree. If you go for no other reason, go for the heavenly smell of citrus that will awaken your senses.
9. Secret Stairs -- Los Angeles
In various parts of Los Angeles you can find secret stairs throughout the city that lead to wonderful walks and curious explorations. These sets of stairways date back to the days long before LA was a car-dependent city. The stairs were built in many hillside communities to provide easy access from the neighborhoods down to the main streets below. Pictured here: some super secret stairs in Highland Park. For exact location on where to find some of these hidden gems, check out www.secretstairs-la.com/walks.html for more information.
10. Ocean View Benches -- Laguna Beach
Below the luxurious Montage Resort at Laguna Beach you'll find these charming benches that provide a thrilling view of the ocean and the beach below. What's the secret? You don't have to be a guest at Montage Resort to enjoy this epic landscape. This area at Treasure Island Park is open to the public, so take some time to explore. After walking around you can relax on one of the benches for a refreshing break.