Of all of the places that I’ve been, nowhere can compete with Southern California. As soon as you set foot in the Golden State, you’ll see why it’s one of the most beloved travel hot spots in the world.
Whether you come for winter surfing, summer festivals, or spring stargazing, Southern California is a dream destination 365 days a year.
Check out my favorite highlights & the best time to go to Southern California!
Summer in Southern California
Months: June to September
Southern California is at its peak in the summer. The weather is perfect with overnight lows near the coast in the mid-60s and daytime highs in the mid-80s. Festival season is in full swing and you can find a celebration for everything under the sun.
Indulge your decadent side at the BBQ & Beer Festival in Santa Clarita then get your heart racing at the always exciting Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles. Want insight into the local culture of So Cal? Get to the San Diego Festival of the Arts in mid-June.
Of course, one of my favorite things to do in Southern California in the summer is to unwind at the beach. I absolutely adore the über chic Laguna Beach, the chill El Matador, the world famous Venice Beach, and the ultrafun Santa Monica Pier.
Fall in Southern California
Months: October & November
One of the things I love the most about Southern California is that you can travel the world without leaving city limits. Want to party it up for Oktoberfest? Places like the Standard Biergarten, Steingarten LA, Verdugo, or any one of the countless German-loving bars around LA can compete with the greatest parties in Deutschland.
Another great thing to do in Southern California in the fall is to check out the countless food festivals. Two of my top picks are the California Lemon Festival in Goleta in October and the Taste of Downtown in San Diego in early September.
If you are in California for Halloween, you’re in for a treat!
Whether you want a family-friendly festival or a heart-stopping haunted tour, there are countless options from San Diego up to Los Angeles. If you are ready for a truly hair-raising experience, check out the Queen Mary Dark Harbor.
Winter in Southern California
Months: December to February
California has the best weather in the United States so don’t let winter put you off visiting. Much of Southern California has temps ranging from the mid-50s to the mid-70s. Although it’s not bikini weather, it’s usually very mild and great for exploring.
While Northern California may have incredible skiing, the south is a surfing paradise. For beginners, head to Manhattan Beach or Malibu Beach. If you’ve got a bit of experience under your belt, check out La Jolla Shores or Rincon. For the true pros, you’ll be blown away by the waves at Trestles and Blacks Beach San Diego.
Before you head inland, be sure to go whale watching too! More than 25,000 California grey whales surround the shores of San Diego from mid-December to mid-March.
Of course, you can’t go to Southern California without indulging in your Hollywood dreams. Film festival season kicks off with the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January. It’s an insider favorite and a must-see for any film buff.
Spring in Southern California
Months: March to May
Spring is definitely one of the best times to visit Southern California. The tourists haven’t taken over yet and the prices are still lower than you’ll see them during the summer season.
Fellow culture vultures have got to get in on Smithsonian magazine’s Museum Day Live, which takes place across Los Angeles during mid-March and gives you free admission to countless museums.
Festival season starts early here with Coachella and Stagecoach Country Music Festival taking place inland of LA in April. Less famous, but equally amazing, is the Rooftop Cinema festival. Held throughout April, the festival screens classic movies on rooftops all over Hollywood.
Don’t miss Fiesta Old Town’s Cinco de Mayo either! This three-day celebration in San Diego is such a colorful, amazing experience.
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Great blog! Glad I discovered this. We called a whale conservancy in Long Beach to find out the best city to see whales during our stay. We were told Santa Barbara at that time in late June. We booked with Condor Express in Santa Barbara and saw the elusive blue whale,huge pods of dolphins, seals and caves. Spectacular. Surprisingly, we didn’t get sea sick probably due to the structure of the boat. It was my second-choice city for whales, my first being Dave’s in Dana Point but we opted for Santa Barbara instead and it didn’t disappoint. That was in 2009. In 2017, we went to Long Beach for the harbor Breeze whale cruise and it was mostly dolphins with a whale in the distance and nearly everyone on that boat got sick. Puking everywhere.