I am a full-time traveling registered nurse, fitness enthusiast, and nutrition expert. Every morning I wake up intending to bring awareness of the importance of health and spiritual wellness, especially to the traveling community. At Messy Bun Traveler, we promote travel that allows the traveler to either kick-start, maintain, or enhance a healthy lifestyle. So whether you're someone who travels for business, travels for pleasure, or new to travel and looking for health advice while on the road, this blog is for you!
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When most people think of California, they automatically think of the lavish and popular tourist destinations like Los Angeles and San Francisco. While these are definitely worth a visit, there are plenty of other amazing places to see in the Golden State that often get overlooked.
So where are the ‘secret’ places? The lesser-known spots, the hidden gems? That’s what we’re interested in, so I’ve put together a guide to some of the most unique places to visit on your next Californian getaway.
Being a travel nurse, I’ve run into my fair share of “unique” destinations here in California.
I am someone who is not always content with common, run-of-the-mill travel destinations. Instead, I sometimes would rather visit more intimate and untouched areas. And when it comes to California, there is something for everyone – even off-the-beaten-path locations for weirdos like me.
So, if you’re anything like me, and like to find unusual places to spark your sense of curiosity, then this list of unique places to visit in California is for you!
The cypress tree tunnel is in Point Reyes, California. Planted around 1930, these Monterey cypress trees grew into an awe-inspiring “tunnel” that continues to the Point Reyes Receiving Station. This spot is immensely beautiful! It’s best to visit during sunrise or sunset if you’re planning on taking some epic Instagram pictures.
This tunnel is not on a park map, but it did show up on the google maps app when Dustin and I were trying to find its location. If you go to the Point Reyes Visitor Center, they can give you a guide to its exact location as well.
If you’re coming from the south end, you’ll drive past the Visitor’s Center as if you’re heading towards the lighthouse on the cliff. About a mile before you get to the tunnel, you’ll start to see the massive trees off in the distance. The sign you need to watch out for is the “North District Operations Center.”
At the North District Operations Center sign, you’ll turn off and immediately see the trees and how it forms a tunnel to a beautiful white building.
Dustin and I got pretty lucky, as there was only one other person there taking pictures, and he was wrapping up and getting ready to leave. On any other given day; however, plan on being there with a bunch of other people.
The Pulgas Water Temple is a beautiful monument located in Redwood City. According to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the temple was part of the “Hetch Hetchy Project.” This project brought water more than 160 miles across California from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Bay Area and took 24 years to complete. I’m adding this to my list of odd destinations to visit in California because it’s literally in the middle of nowhere, not to mention totally out of place.
The Pulgas Water Temple is located about one-half mile south of the Canada Road trailhead and if you have the time, I recommend taking the two-mile hike up to the temple. It’s absolutely beautiful!
The temple’s visiting hours are Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 3:30 PM. When I visited, the temple was open to the public and didn’t require purchasing a ticket to visit. However, the parking lot is typically closed on weekends due to private, permitted events.
Believe it or not, a lot of people choose to have their wedding receptions here! Dustin and I visited on a weekday around midday and were very pleasantly surprised that there was not a lot of people there. We saw some people while on the hike, but we were fortunate enough to have the temple all to ourselves!
This peculiar and all too twisted house gave Dustin and me the heebie-jeebies when we visited back in 2018 during their Halloween “After Dark” and “Candlelight” tours.
The Winchester Mystery House is located in San Jose, California, and is home to some of the loneliest hallways, top-secret passages, and lavish bedrooms and dining halls.
The house was purchased by Sarah Winchester back in 1886—who continually renovated the home for 35+ years as she believed it to be haunted by ghosts and demons. When she was finally finished, the house contained over 160 rooms, 10,000 windows, and 2,000 doors (some doors leading to nothing, and some even opening to straight drops!)
The home offers tours year-round, but I recommend going during Halloween to get the true, haunted experience! The house also has a movie about it titled “Winchester” which was just released in 2018. Ticket prices for home tours range from 20 to 39 dollars.
La Jolla is located just north of San Diego and is home to some of the most interesting cove and rock formations, boisterous sea lions, and breathtaking sunsets. It’s a great place to visit if you’re looking for a low-key beach town. It has something for everyone to enjoy!
The Cove offers a lot of recreational activities as well including snorkeling, scuba diving, open water swimming, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, bicycling, and hiking trails.
While we were doing a bit of hiking and picture taking, Dustin and I came across a tree swing located under a white bridge. It was a pain to get to, but once we got there, it was breathtaking!
This swing was located right on a cliff overlooking the ocean. If you’re ever in the area, it’s definitely something you don’t want to pass up!
The Sutra Baths is located in the Outer Richmond District of San Francisco. Back in 1890, the Sutro Baths was once the largest indoor swimming pool and recreational area in the world. Today, it’s now just eerie ruins on the cliffs of San Francisco.
Back in its day, the Baths were extremely popular but unfortunately were never profitable. As the years went by, they became increasingly expensive to manage. With all the salt spray and wind, maintenance became too much to bear. It inevitably closed its doors in 1966. The entire building burned down in June of that same year, hauntingly under suspicious circumstances.
The Sutro Baths are now a collection of pools of ocean water, crumbling cement walls, and rusting pieces of iron. The setting at the end of Land’s End cliffs, looking out over Seal Rock and the Pacific Ocean, is gorgeous; and definitely worth a visit if you’re ever heading to San Francisco.
The Sutro Baths are right next to the Cliff House restaurant off Point Lobos Avenue in the Outer Richmond District.
Google’s corporate headquarters is located in Mountain View, California. It is the workplace of approximately 15 to 20 thousand Google employees! The Googleplex doesn’t look like your typical office building complex, but it does get five stars for total geek appeal!
The Googleplex has a visitor center that encompasses a mini-museum of the company and the company’s history. The campus also has Android lawn statues, where you can find the iconic green robot and some delicious-looking human-sized desserts.
You’ll come across a volleyball court, colorful bikes (used by the employees to get from building to building) and a giant T-Rex statue! Considering it’s one of the largest corporations in the world, it’s a very odd destination to visit in California because you will not feel like you’re at a place of work– more like a place for fun!
Inyo National Forest is on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is also home to the infamous Mount Whitney. I remember visiting this place and thinking to myself, “this isn’t really much of a forest- there are no trees!” But it was still beautiful, nonetheless.
Fun fact, the word “Inyo” comes from a Native American word meaning “a dwelling place of the great spirit.” If you’re an avid hiker, this place has some incredible hiking trails to check out and is also part of the John Muir Trail! When I visited a few years back, I and the friends I was with decided to sleep out in the wilderness in our car tent.
The views were spectacular and there was so much to explore! It felt like we were in an old, western town that was just surrounded by desert and mountains.
If you’re looking for unique places to visit in California, Salvation Mountain is definitely worth a visit. This unique monument is located in Calipatria, just a short drive from Palm Springs.
Salvation Mountain is an environmental art project created by Leonard Knight. It’s made entirely out of adobe, straw, and hundreds of gallons of paint. The result is a colorful, three-story high monument that’s unlike anything else you’ll see in California. Visiting Salvation Mountain is a truly unique experience, and it’s one that you won’t soon forget.
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