We used to go to a place called the La Brea Tar Pits. It had these cool dinosaur statues stuck in tar and all kinds of neat fossilized exhibits. Not sure if it is as fun as I remember, but here's their website.
We also used to spend a lot of time at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and at Zuma beach. The boardwalk had a few rides (one wooden coaster I remember riding a lot), but mostly it was real close to the beach and admission to the park was free! Zuma beach was really clean and always seemed to be a lot less crowded than other beaches we would visit. Again, not sure how good they are today, but when I was a kid, they were both a lot of fun.
We used to go to Lion Country Safari as well, but sadly, only the Florida version of that park is still open today.
If you get a chance to go to Bakersfield, we used to go to a candy/ice cream shop called Dewar's. There are two of them listed still in Bakersfield. They had the best taffy (they call them Chews): vanilla outside with gooey peanut butter filling. Man, I used to eat those by the handful when I visited my cousins in Bakersfield. My Aunt still sends me boxes of their Chews for Christmas every year. Great stuff!
Finally, I remember taking several field trips to an old mission in San Luis Obispo, and based on a quick Google search, it appears to still be standing today! It made such an impression on me as a youth that I built a replica of the mission out of Legos for a school project years ago. I still have the picture somewhere around to prove my accomplishment!
Anyway, those are a few places I remember visiting often when I was a kid growing up in California. I haven't been back since the late 80's, so I am sure there are a lot more things to see and do, but if you get a chance to check out any of my old stomping grounds, let me know how they are today!
Other SoCal attractions:
as a resident, these are my favorite places to go on weekends or vacations:
- L.A. Arboretum: nice place to just walk around and enjoy the greenery. Also, peacocks are pretty spectacular to look at
- Griffith Park Observatory: if you want some of the best views of LA, you really gotta check this place out. Also if you can, try to get tickets to the Centered in the Universe show. It's truly marvelous
- Old Town Pasadena: It's sort of like Rodeo Dr, but with stores that actually have somewhat affordable things. The buildings have great character and the restaurants are really good.
- Bolsa Chica Beach: This is definately my favorite SoCal beach. The sand is soft, the water is clean, and the surf is pretty good. Plus it's much better than the overly crowded tourist destinations like Venice Beach (besides, why would you want to go to a beach filled with man-thongs? gross!)
well, so far that's the best advice I can offer and I sure hope it helps