Credit: San Diego County Fair - Del Mar Fairgrounds

24 Epic Experiences in Southern California to Add to Your 2024 Bucket List

From Night Markets to Pride Festivals and More

Adventure can mean different things to different people, and for those of us who are lucky to live in Southern California, adventure is easy to find. From extravagant and over-the-top experiences to the sweetest of simple pleasures, there are endless ways to switch up life from the norm and add some fun to your year. So pull up that calendar app and get your invites ready: we’ve assembled your 2024 bucket list. Whether you’re a foodie, a sun-chaser, a music lover or simply looking for a good time, here are 24 incredible experiences in Southern California that’ll make this year one to remember.

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📍LOS ANGELES

Luna Luna

When: Until Spring 2024
Where: 1601 E. 6th St, Los Angeles

Credit: Charles White + Joshua White

About 36 years back, Luna Luna touched down in Hamburg, Germany. It was the world’s first-ever art amusement park, full of rides, games, and attractions made by artistic legends like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and David Hockney. On Aug. 31, 1987, the park closed, and its treasures were locked away in 44 shipping containers, forgotten in Texas—until now. Come see what this “Forgotten Fantasy” is all about!

 

Pizza City Fest

When: April 27-28, 1 p.m.
Where: L.A. LIVE’s Event Deck

Credit: Klara Kulikova

If an afternoon spent sampling pies from SoCal’s greatest pizza makers sounds like a dream come true, then this is your cue to get tickets to Pizza City Fest’s upcoming event. Single-day tickets are available for both Saturday and Sunday, and a portion of ticket proceeds benefit C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program), which provides food, jobs, and life skills to over 25,000 middle school and high school students.

 

SOAR

When: Begins May 1
Where: South Coast Botanic Garden, Palos Verdes

Southern California Experiences
Credit: South Coast Botanic Garden

There’s no better way to ring in spring and summer than by being surrounded by butterflies! This May, SOAR returns to the South Coast Botanic Garden, offering plenty of opportunities to see brilliant rare butterflies not typical of the area., You’ll also get the chance to see them hatch out of their pupas, and relish plenty of photo ops (especially from 10-11 a.m. with a photo pass). For an extra $6, you can feed the butterflies for an even closer look.

 

Just Like Heaven

When: May 18
Where: Brookside at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena

Credit: Bobak Ha’Eri / Wikimedia

Do you miss the songs you grew up with? Grab passes to Just Like Heaven to watch era-defining indie artists perform on stage. The lineup includes Postal Service, Phoenix, Death Cab for Cutie, Two Door Cinema Club, Passion Pit and more. Just Like Heaven is offering three tiers of passes: General, VIP and Clubhouse.

 

atSiam Night Market

When: Friday through Sunday, 5-11 p.m.
Where: 1711 N. Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles

Credit: adul doheng

atSiam Night Market, LA’s first Thai night market invites visitors to experience the bold flavors of Thai culture and cuisine under the stars. Currently, atSiam features 29 food stands, each celebrating the market’s inclusive mission. This Los Angeles market is the perfect place to try something new this weekend!

 

Chinatown First Fridays

When: First Friday of every month, 5-9 p.m.
Where: Chinatown, Los Angeles

Credit: Catalina Johnson

Explore Los Angeles’ enchanting Chinatown neighborhood during the First Fridays night market, where you’ll enjoy extended hours at various restaurants, galleries and shops. The galleries are mainly located along Chung King Road, while other cool spots can be found in Chinatown Central Plaza and Far East Plaza. Visiting this market is one of our favorite things to do in Los Angeles!

 

Adventure Sea Caves Kayaking

When: Daily at 10:30 a.m., select days at 9:30 a.m.
Where: Channel Islands National Park (meet at Santa Cruz Island)

Credit: Jeremy Bishop

Channel Islands National Park is best explored at sea level—literally! Kick the morning off with a short ferry ride, a quick orientation and then around three hours of kayaking and exploring the gorgeous sea caves at Scorpion Anchorage—a small harbor on the northeast end of Santa Cruz Island. While the tour attracts plenty of experienced kayakers, it’s absolutely beginner-friendly as well.

 

📍ORANGE COUNTY

Community Table

When: Begins in March 
Where: The Ecology Center, San Juan Capistrano

If you have a foodie in your life, treat them to a seat at The Ecology Center’s Community Table. The event series returns this Spring with a new lineup of local talent who will lead a conversation between a farm, a chef and the community—all over expertly crafted food and drinks. The gatherings highlight sustainable practices and feature produce, herbs and flowers sourced from The Ecology Center’s 28-acre Regenerative Organic Certified™ farm.

 

626 Night Market

When: May 31-June 2, June 7-9, September 6-8, 4-11 p.m.
Where: OC Fair & Event Center, Costa Mesa

Inspired by the famous open-air, nighttime bazaars of Asia, 626 Night Market is a must for every Orange County local. Come for mouthwatering snacks and drinks and stay for artisanal vendors, games and musical performances. 626 Night Market is perfect for all ages—just be sure to bring your appetite!

 

US Open of Surfing

When: August 3-11
Where: Huntington Beach

Credit: Teddy Kelley

Known as the world’s largest surf competition, the US Open of Surfing features world-class surfing, product demos and plenty of samples from sport and surf brands. The event is free and open to the public and takes place just south of the Huntington Beach Pier—only minutes away from some great lunch options for when you get hungry.

 

Ohana Festival

When: September 27-29
Where: Doheny State Beach, Dana Point

Southern California Experiences
Credit: Ashley Osborn

For a festival that doesn’t require you to drive inland, look no further than Ohana Festival in Dana Point. Festival-goers can look forward to over 35 performances on three stages, storytelling from prominent environmentalists, surfers and researchers, plenty of local food and beverage vendors and more—all with a stunning view of the sparkling Pacific.

 

Pixar Place Hotel

When: Any time
Where: Disneyland, Anaheim

Do you have plans to visit the Happiest Place on Earth? Consider spending the night at the all-new Pixar Place Hotel. As the first and only hotel dedicated to celebrating all the films of Pixar Animation Studios, Pixar Place Hotel in Anaheim marries contemporary design with Pixar’s classic whimsy—everywhere from the lobby to the rooftop pool. 

 

📍SAN DIEGO

La Jolla Shores Snorkel Tour

When: Summer 2024, every day, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. (weather permitting)
Where: La Jolla Cove

Credit: Kayak La Jolla Sea Caves

Gain a new appreciation for our beautiful ocean with an introductory snorkel tour around La Jolla Shores’ rocky reef. Led by experienced guides, snorkelers of all experience levels will have the chance to encounter leopard sharks, garibaldi and other fun and exciting reef fish. Don’t worry—the leopard sharks are completely harmless!

 

Picnic & Flowers Pop-Up

When: Weekends, March 23-May 12
Where: The Flower Fields, Carlsbad

Credit: Bhadri Kubendran

A scenic picnic with a view of millions of blooming ranunculus flowers may sound like a daydream, but from late March to mid-May, that dream can become a reality at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad. Enjoy a prix fixe picnic with light bites, beverages and sweets arranged by Pop Up Picnic Co.—all of which pair perfectly with the gorgeous view of endless blooms.

 

The 18th La Jolla Concours d’Elegance

When: April 19-21
Where: La Jolla Cove

Credit: La Jolla Concours d_Elegance

Don’t miss one of Southern California’s most glamorous events: La Jolla Concours d’Elegance. Featuring over 170 rare and stunning vehicles—from classic and vintage cars to cutting-edge supercars—this is one of the world’s most prestigious automobile events, perfect for dedicated auto enthusiasts and admirers alike. You won’t want to skip this 18th edition!

 

San Diego County Fair

When: June 12-July 7 (closed Mondays and Tuesdays)
Where: Del Mar Fairgrounds

Southern California Experiences
Credit: San Diego County Fair – Del Mar Fairgrounds

With tons of games, live performances, rides, and of course, plenty of over-the-top fair food, there’s no better place to celebrate the start of summer than at the San Diego County Fair. This year’s theme is “Let’s Go Retro,” so wear your retro best and embrace the nostalgia. This is one of the biggest events in San Diego, and you won’t want to miss it!

 

SD Beer Weekend and SD Beer Week

When: Weekend: June 21-23, Week: November 1-10
Where: Breweries across San Diego

Credit: San Diego Brewers Guild

Supporting local, small and independent craft breweries has never been more fun! SD Beer Weekend invites brew lovers to visit San Diego breweries throughout the county and attend fun events that support local brewers, beer bars, retailers and neighborhoods that make up San Diego’s beer community. Then, in November, do it all again during SD Beer Week!

 

Breeder’s Cup World Championships

When: November 1-2
Where: Del Mar Racetrack

DEL MAR
Credit: Courtesy of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

Scheduled for early November, the 2024 Breeders’ Cup World Championships will feature 14 Grade 1 Championship horse races with a total of $31 million in purses and awards. It’s an unrivaled San Diego event that features talent from all over the world. Whether you’re an avid fan or simply want to experience a day at the races, this is one event not to miss.

 

📍GREATER PALM SPRINGS

Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week

When: May 31-June 9
Where: Throughout Greater Palm Springs

Credit: Visit Greater Palm Springs

Forks out foodies! For one week, participating restaurants throughout Greater Palm Springs’ nine cities will offer special events, prix fixe meals, fun cocktails and more. Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week is the perfect way to find your new go-to restaurant and to revisit your old faves.

 

Splash House

When: August 9-11 and 16-18
Where: Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs, Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel, The Saguaro Palm Springs and Palm Springs Air Museum

Making a splash across three participating hotel venues—Margaritaville, Renaissance and Saguaro—Splash House is a 21 and over pool party that is an end-of-summer must do. Purchase a pass for access to parties at all three hotels, or opt for a hotel package so you can stay and play in the same place. Splash House is where house and disco dreams come true!

 

Lavender Nights

When: August through October, 5-10 p.m.
Where: 123 Farm

Southern California Experiences
Credit: 123 Farm

Join 123 Farm in celebrating the harvest of their organic lavender with tours, musical performances and more—all while taking in the gorgeous sights of 20 acres of lavender. There will be plenty of lavender-infused food and drinks to enjoy, and there’s even a marketplace to peruse through artisanal items. 

 

Palm Springs Pride 2024

When: October 31-November 3

Where: Throughout Palm Springs

Credit: Angeles Pirion

Let your rainbow flags fly at this year’s Palm Springs Pride! This vibrant festival in Palm Springs celebrates the LGBTQ+ community through public education and awareness of individual rights. The weekend features a slew of exciting events, including block parties, a parade and performances from artists like Idina Menzel, Kylie Sonique Love, Lisa Lisa, 10,000 Maniacs and more.

 

The 32nd Indio International Tamale Festival

When: December 7-8
Where: Miles Avenue Park, Indio

Southern California Experiences
Credit: Indio International Tamale Festival

Every year, on the first weekend of December, families come together at Miles Avenue Park to enjoy delicious food, refreshing drinks and live music performances—not to mention folklórico and wrestling—at the Indio International Tamale Festival. For its 32nd year, visitors can expect 200 vendors, six stages, beer gardens, and over 50,000 fellow patrons.

 

Joshua Tree Music Festival

When: May 16-19
Where: Joshua Tree Lake Campground

Southern California Experiences
Credit: Jacob Avanzato

Taking place this May in the magical Mojave Desert, the Joshua Tree Music Festival is a family-friendly music affair with a diverse lineup of up-and-coming artists. The event also features several amazing activations and experiences, including a “positive vibration station” for sound healing, dance yoga and breathwork, a queer salon, a space for galactic tea ceremonies called The Astro Mojo Dojo, and more!

Writer | Website | + posts

Born and raised near the Pacific Coast, Jordan Nishkian is a California girl through and through. She graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a BA in Creative Writing and a BA in Anthropology, and her favorite place to be is curled up in a comfy chair with a book in her hand and a pen in her hair.

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