My Oh-So-Ambitious California Bucket List

So I live in California. {I know. I know. You know. And you are frustrated with how long it is taking for me to come to the realization.}

You probably know this too but I’m going to say it anyway. There are a lot of cool things to do in California. And about every day or so I hear myself saying, “I want to go there. I want to do that. I want to see that.” So I decided it was time to start what I’m calling “My Oh-S0-Ambitious California Bucket List.”

Here’s what I have got so far.

The amusement park list.

California Adventure
Knottsberry Farms
Universal Studios
Six Flags Magic Mountain

The night-out list. 

Watch Improv at Groundlings
See a Show at Hotel Cafe {preferably to see Joshua Radin and/or Cary Brothers}
Movie at El Capitan
Concert at the Hollywood Bowl
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

The museum list. 

Getty Museums

The daytrip list.

Beverly Hills
San Diego
Santa Monica

The weekend getaway list.

San Francisco
Santa Barbara
Palm Springs
Santa Ynez Valley with a meal at Cold Spring Tavern
Big Bear and/or Mammoth
Hurst Castle

And of course, the food list.

Organic Eats at Food Lab in Melrose
Italian Food at Girasole in Larchmont
Sausage at Wurstkuche
Noodles at Orochon Ramen
Waffles at Bruxi
French Dip at Philippe’s {because Jeremiah said I had to}

But I need your help.

What am I missing? What are the other California must-sees and must-dos? 

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Lindsey has a sincere love for her precious dogs Molly and Maisy, a good red wine and the Delta Sky Club.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Kymk99

    Yosemite is a definite must see destination!

  • Marijke

    Surfing?? All I know is, I would definitely tackle some of those with you.. Specifically, ANY live music, amusement park, beach trips, museums… Yes.

  • The Getty is amazing, but don’t pass up the Getty Villa. It’s smaller and has all of the Roman antiquities and a beautiful Roman garden. You have to get tickets (free, but necessary because of limited vistor counts) before you go, so make sure you plan ahead if you are going to see it. Another one we loved was the Huntington Gardens. They are stunning!! My favorite was the Japanese gardens. 

    Foodwise, what I’m missing after my recent move out of Cali is In-n-Out, Yardhouse, and Corner Bakery. I always wanted to find a Kogi BBQ truck and try out their tacos! I’ve heard fantastic things about Philippe’s french dip in LA, too. Try out Brooklyn Pizza Works in Placentia for some wonderful New York style pizza. Our favorite was the veggie with the deep fried eggplant — and I am not an eggplant fan.

    I’ll ditto the Hearst Castle idea! My husband and I went there on our honeymoon as we traveled down the coast from WA to CA. We’ve gone back a number of times, it’s amazing to me that one man owned all of it! If you go to San Diego, try out Hodadies for a great burger! It’s a tiny place though, so you should get there early or be prepared to have people sit in your lap. 🙂

    Can you tell I’m missing my home of the past five years a little bit? You have inspired me to make a Seattle Bucket List though. 🙂 Have fun!!

    • Love all your tips! Can’t wait to see your Seattle list. 

  • Jo

    Love your list, and I agree with the other commenters.

    Honestly, I don’t think Bruxie is that exciting, but it’s good for you to go to see for yourself.

    There’s this place called The Griddle ( in…West? Hollywood that has the best pancakes you’ll ever eat.

    Sprinkles Cupcakes ( started the cupcake craze, so you should put that on your LA list, too.

    • I hit up Sprinkles the other day. Had Crumbs last time I was in LA. So good…

  • James

    Palm Springs Ariel Tramway is a must, while there drive up to Joshua Tree park just outside of Yucca Valley to go “Bouldering.” Catalina Island is a quick boat ride but feels like a world away from LA/Orange County. You might even want to catch a 4 day Carnival cruise that spends one day at Catalina and one day in Ensenada, Mexico. Fashion Island if you like to shop and watch the ouber rich OC croud shop with their spoiled pooches… Then head down to Corona del Mar state beach which is gorgeous. Best ocean view for brunch is the restaurant Las Brisas in Laguna Beach. Best donuts: The Donut Man in Glendora. Since you are in Glendora hit up Flappy Jacks for the best breakfast menu around but I recommend doing that on a weekday as it’s a long wait otherwise. Enjoy it here!

    • I have been wondering about Catalina. Definitely need to add it to the list. And I’d been wondering where you can brunch with an ocean view…that sounds heavenly!

  • Rodney

    On your drive up to Santa Barbara north of LA, just enjoy the views. Stop along the way at Carpinteria. This is the surf town the rest of us wanted to see.
    In Montecito, visit Lotusland. It is a garden unlike any garden you can imagine. The plants and decorations are arranged like a surreal dream.
    I’ve never been, but Chez Panisse in Berkeley is one restaurant I really would love to go for a meal.

  • AlisonH

    I lived in LA for 6 months and my favorite place to go was Westwood. It’s right next to Beverly Hills. Great shopping and great food. Diddy Reese is there too. It’s the place where you pick out 2 cookies and an ice cream flavor to make an ice cream sandwich. SO GOOD! I miss it.

    • Ice cream sandwiches are my favorite. I can’t wait to try Diddy Reese. Plus, I just like saying the name!

  • Flyfished

    Reagan Library in Simi Valley – no matter what your political persuasion – a historical must see!

    • I’ve heard it’s pretty…

    • Monica

      Yes! The Reagan Library for sure! I’m not much of a museum person, but a friend convinced me to go with her, and I loved it! It’s very motivating and inspiring.

  • Love San Francisco! That where Ken and I got engaged. Napa Valley is a must!!!

    • Awww, love San Fran. One of my closest friends lives up there so I can’t wait to go visit again. Such a wonderful town. 

  • Lindsey, when Molly gets there you can take her to the Dog Beach! I have friends in Long Beach who took me there, I think it was just south of the Long Beach area, north of Huntington Beach.  It is designated for people to bring dogs! Pretty cool, just watch where you sit, haha. 😉

    And food-wise, for fast food I loved In-And-Out and Tommy’s.


  • – rent a house boat on Lake Shasta for a week
    – camping at MacKerricher State Park (hit the CA Redwoods while there) 
    – Yosemite Valley in the dead of winter
    – Drive the entire PCH and fly back home from Vancover
    – Learn to surf at Santa Monica Beach
    oh the fun you’ll have living here! (Steve and I just moved back CA 4 weeks ago) Have fun on your adventures – BR Sheri

    • How long would it take to drive the entire PCH? That sounds so fun. And how fun to end in Vancouver, it is one of my favorite cities. 

  • Trip to Tijuana/Ensenada (let me know when you go I know the best taco place on the planet)

    LA Farmer’s Market

    Watch the carnage at Wedge in Newport during a big south swell

    • I will follow-up on the best taco place on the planet. And the news was reporting from The Wedge last weekend. I guess they had “epic” waves. 🙂

  • Jordan Chesbrough

    If you’re ever looking for a great breakfast spot in downtown LA check out Bottega Louie. It’s affordable but feels super fancy and has some great food. It’s a trip! They also have a huge bakery counter!

  • Liz

    Oooh, this is an awesome list! I just moved to Orange County early this year and I definitely need to get out more. I like taking the ferry to the Balboa Fun Zone and walking around with a frozen treat on a nice and sunny day. 🙂

  • You definitely need to go to Yosemite National Park.

  • Josaxton

    Get a beach cruiser and ride along a bike trail.
    Hang out with me!

  • I’ve got the FOOD and MUSEUM list covered!!! Let’s do this!


  • Wow girl, you’ve got a great list going on. I’ve lived in California for a long time and there are still things on your list that I have yet to do! There is just so much to do here. The museums are really great, but I think my favorite thing about California is the hiking and trails. If you enjoy hiking, I would really look into that. There are some amazing websites that show you where the best and safest trails are. We are definitely blessed with that here. I’ve never commented before but I love your blog and your sense of humor! Welcome to California!

    • Thanks Jo Ann. I do enjoy hiking and appreciate the tip on searching for trail tips online. 

  • I thought of one more thing. You really should go to a concert at the Greek Theatre. 🙂

  • Such a good list!  Here’s some personal faves from when I lived in LA (haven’t read all the comments so excuse the repeats! 🙂 )

    Silverlake/Griffith Observatory Day Trip (including a trip to Intelligentsia coffee – THE greatest hispter people walking you ever did see!)

    The Hammer Museum…a must along with the others.

    It might be totally cheesy but ride the ferris wheel at Santa Monica pier at least once – it’s worth it!

    Pasadena – greenest part of LA – so many trees!

    Flower/Fashion district for a cool photo walk (but take someone with you!)


    • I LOVE watching hipsters. I will definitely need to try Intelligentsia. 

  • TMZ

    Fantastic list so far. I’d highly recommend Laguna Beach if only for the drive through the canyon getting there. Just a really unique place where mountains and beach and ocean collide. I’ve also loved just driving along the Pacific Coast and soaking in all the amazing views. The possibilities are endless out here.

  • Simple and cheap Good eats: The Hat, Tommy Burgers, and In n out!! Now that’s a bucket list. Welcome to Cali!!

  • You should grab a show at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, the Getty Villa on PCH, grab some food at The Pantry in downtown LA and an Angels Game in Anaheim (if you haven’t already).  Welcome to Cali!

  • You’ve got a great list! Don’t forget shopping on Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena, and seeing Descanso Gardens while you’re there. Also, the Huntington Library (gardens) in Pasadena, too.

    We love Santa Barbara…Carpinteria is the best beach, and there’s a fabulous hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant called La Super-Rica Taqueria there that you must try. (It was Julia Child’s favorite Mexican place there, they say.)

    Holler when you come to Magic Mountain–that’s my town! We can meet for a midwest-girls-turn-California-girls lunch. 🙂

  • I’d have baseball on my list–Angels, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, A’s. If I had to choose one destination, I’d be torn between Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles) and AT&T Park (San Francisco). You have a pretty good list there but I tend toward the sports venues and the natural (San Diego Zoo, Monterrey Bay Aquarium). Both are absent from your choices.

    • I was saying last night that I want to go to a Baseball game. And I definitely want to go back to the San Diego zoo. I went when I was a kid and loved it. 

  • Aurora

    For your food list — Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles (several locations in the LA area), Yang Chow for Chinese, Chinatown in LA, and El Tepeyac in Boyle Heights (LA) for Mexican…someone in Lindsey’s SoCal network, hook her up!

  • I’m no help for LA, but I lived in San Diego for 8 years, and I could literally write a book on that place.

    For starters? I recommend the Hash House in Hillcrest (near Balboa Park) for a killer breakfast. Soak up Coronado for the afternoon. Touring the Hotel del is a must (and free!), but grabbing a cone from Mootown Creamery and sitting on the beach are just fine too. Sunset at Point Loma is amazing. The aircraft carrier park downtown (museum; can’t remember the name) is educational and fascinating.

    If you need more, shoot me an email. I would gladly be your San Diego Tour Guide from Afar.

    • Kelly, Wow. Need to do the San Diego trip sooner rather than later. Sounds fun!

  • Sol Eufracio

    Lindsey! I’m glad your heart finally caught up with your body. 🙂
    Additional places to eat/see: Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, it’s so delicious, you’ll thank me later.
    Olvera Street. It’s essentially, “Little Mexico”, great shops, great food, sometimes dancing…check it out!
    Let me know how you love L.A.! 🙂

    • I’ll check it out…and let you know!

  • You definitely need to see/visit/stay at the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego.

    Miss you in Nashville!

    • Miss you guys at Cross Point! So. Much.

  • turner_bethany

    Have you had any pinkberry yet? When I visited LA, my friend introduced me to it. At first it isn’t that good, but with each bite you get more addicted. 

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  • Lisa


    Our young family of six has lived in LA County for two years (from the East Coast).  Our favorites have been the   Huntington Library ( very relaxing, lots of nature study for my young naturalists, and meets my need for TREES!),  Carpinteria (very relaxed beach town/community, love the antiques, used book stores, succulent nurseries -Island Nursery? maybe where we love to visit each time and try a new variety- and the wide variety of weather here in the summer), Reagan Library (a family favorite, beautiful,  and wonderful Presidents Day Celebration and Colonial Day celebration),   and YOU definitely need to visit Seqouia National Park and Yosemite Valley.    We were astounded by the beauty of these national parks and learned so much about our history.  Watch Ken Burns National Parks dvds before going.   Really helped me to appreciate the history and sacrifices.    We have also really enjoyed San Diego, North Island and La Jolla.  (i think the SD Zoo and just watching the sea lions on the coast were our top favorites)

    And Happy Birthday!   Enjoy California~

  • I have three words for you: “The French Laundry”.

    The food there will change your life (but you will need to book 2 months in advance and fork out $250 for the privilege).

    Here’s a writeup of my lunch there (note, I’m from Australia, so I came a long way!):

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  • Linzeerin

    Catalina – Avalon Grill for sunset… Or go for buccaneer days! It’s such an experience. Basically the closing of summer… Everyone rides over and spends the weekend yacht hopping, dancing, eating and celebrating… All dressed in pirate costumes. It’s the biggest weekend if the year there.
    We share a lot f the same bucket list and I’m from Texas living in Newport Beach!
    Big Bear – I’m there every weekend in the winter (avid snowboarder) and summers are beautiful too.
    Mammoth – it’s still open! Live music this month!
    WurstKusche – soooo good… Took my German friends and they approved.
    Waffles at Bruxi – HOLY! You must experience. Everything is delish!
    Hotel Cafe – Joshua radin plays there a lot! Ive seen him a dozen times there, along with Meiko who used to bartender there. Get on their mail list of roast minute apperances! I was just there last week for justen furstenfeld form lue October.

    Safe travels and much aloha!