An Alternative Guide To California: Unusual Activities To Do

Salvation Mountain
Salvation Mountain | © Jordana Meilleur / Alamy Stock Photo
Courtney Holcomb

California is filled with wonderful and weird activities to delight locals and tourists alike. If you want to explore the golden state behind the scenes, check out this curated list of our favorite adventures that will take you off the beaten path. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

Glass Beach

Colourful glass pebbles blanket this beach in Fort Bragg.

Fort Bragg, CA, is home to the unique and beautiful Glass Beach. This spot was once a dumping ground for local residents to throw various discarded objects. The space was later closed to the public for cleanup in 1967, and over time the waves smoothed out the discarded objects until they became the tiny, colorful knick knacks that they are today.

Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House

Located in San Jose, the Winchester Mystery House is a massive Victorian mansion that was inherited by Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester rifle fortune. A fortune teller told her that she should build onto the house continuously to alleviate her guilt over the many people killed by the Winchester Repeating Rifle. Sarah took the advice to heart, and, for years, she directed nonsensical building projects that have left the house filled with mysteries like windows that open onto walls, stairways and doors that lead to nowhere, and much more.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain, a folk art installation in the California desert

Salvation Mountain stands 150 feet wide and 50 feet tall, created by Leonard Knight with the intent to spread God’s love. The mound is built of a selection of oddities and decorated quite colorfully, with an estimated 100,000 gallons of paint contributing to its maintenance over the years.

Salvation Mountain, Beal Rd, Niland, CA, USA

Madonna Inn

You can opt for a “caveman”-like stay at the Madonna Inn

The Madonna Inn is a museum located in San Luis Obispo. It is lively and colorful, filled with more kitschy decorations than you can imagine. The Madonna Inn is also a hotel and restaurant, so you can stay the night surrounded by tacky knick-knacks, or just enjoy a meal surrounded by hot pink decor. There are 109 rooms on site, all with individual names and themes.

Devils Postpile National Monument

Devils Postpile

The Devils Postpile National Monument is a surprising creation of nature, consisting of more than 400 basalt columns that reach up to 600 feet high. This natural monument is located on the east of the sierras near Mammoth, and has been created due to the slow cooling of molten lava coming into contact with a moving glacier.

Devils Postpile National Monument, Devils Postpile Access Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA, USA +1 760 934 2289

Museum of Neon Art

Museum of Neon Art

In Glendale, you will find the bright Museum of Neon Art. This museum was founded in 1981 by a pair of artists who curated a group of bright neon signs to display. Since then, the collection has grown, displaying a rotating selection of the signs. In addition to visiting the museum, you can also take a museum-sponsored bus tour at night of the significant neon signs in the surround areas.

Forestiere Underground Gardens

Fresno offers a wealth of things to do and see, including the unique Forestiere Underground Gardens

Forestiere Underground Gardens is an underground dwelling place built by Baldassare Forestiere over 40 years. The space is the size of a mansion, modeled after catacombs and filled with passageways and tunnels. What truly makes this place exceptional, though, are the gardens Forestiere planted underground, filled with oranges, lemons, grapefruits, kumquats, strawberries, dates and more. You can visit on days when it isn’t raining and take a tour for $15.

Forestiere Underground Gardens, 5021 W Shaw Ave, Fresno, CA, USA +1 559 271 0734

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article