A singer/songwriter named Bethany Cosentino, the vocalist half of the duo Best Coast, writes in a song called The Only Place: “Why would you live anywhere else / We’ve got the ocean, got the babes / Got the sun, we’ve got the waves / This is the only place for me.” It’s a catchy song, and she echoes the sentiments of the Beach Boys and many other musicians and writers who sang and wrote about The Golden State.
While your reasons for why you’d actually live anywhere else might vary, we would pose a paraphrase of the question and ask you: “Why would you visit anywhere else?”
The number of syllables doesn’t fit the meter of the line, but for the purposes of this article, can’t we pretend?
Southern California is a top tourist destination for a reason. Yes, it’s the sun and the sand and the mountains in the background, but it’s so much more. The SoCal way of life is a culture you have to see firsthand. Ask a few San Diego tour guides, and they may not be able to tell you the exact average of sunny days there are in that city each year (the answer is 266 days, as compared to the nationwide average of only 205 days, according to Sperling’s Best Places), but they will be able to tell you: “It’s a lot, dude.”
Incidentally, do you know which months in San Diego are typically the sunniest? You might be surprised to learn that it isn’t May or June. In fact, “May gray” and “June gloom” are very real in this particular corner pocket of the American southwest. The sunniest months are November through February, followed by March and August.
The summer climate in Southern California may be a little different than you’re used to. Aside from June gloom, the warm days in summer generally cool down to a chilly evening. This explains the popularity of the board shorts/hooded sweatshirt combo you’ll frequently see. During heatwaves, however, it will still be plenty warm come nightfall, and since many places don’t have air conditioning, it can get a little sweaty! But if you’re on vacation, who cares?
Another thing about Southern California that may surprise visitors is that the water at the beach is really cold. While there is usually a span of time in late summer when you might be comfortable in the Pacific without a wetsuit, the rest of the year it is cold. This doesn’t seem to stop all manner of pale tourists from playing in the water year-round. The attitude must be: “I came all the way to see the ocean, so I’m going to make the most of it.”
Visitors from other states are often fascinated by the landscaping in Southern California. It’s not just the fabled palm trees and succulents that woo visitors - it’s the flowering bushes and shrubs and trees, as well. A stroll through just about any San Diego neighborhood, for example, can prove to be an exercise in mindfulness if you’re not used to the scenery. Every other yard is a revelation in beauty.
The small towns in Southern California can be a delight, either as a side trip or as the main focus of your excursion. The mountain towns outside of San Diego and Los Angeles generally welcome tourists. Julian, a community famous for its apples, is a cozy little place to visit out in the eastern reach of San Diego County. It’s amazing that such a country-style hideaway exists such a short drive from the beaches.
The desert towns can be beautiful to visit, as well. Palm Springs and the Joshua Tree area are popular for both locals and out-of-state visitors, and have been the playground of movie stars since the early days of the silver screen.
No matter what your focus, Southern California is sure to have something to offer. And so we ask you: “Why would you visit anywhere else?”