The Best Places to Have Your Southern California Reunion

Sunny weather, lots of things to do, and the Pacific Ocean is your playground. What’s not to love about a Southern California reunion?

Balboa Park

Planning a reunion is a lot of work, but the very thought of southern California—its beaches, endless sunshine, relaxed vibe and multitudinous attractions—lifts a weight from the reunion planner’s shoulders.  Because no matter what you’re looking for, it’s in or near this region.

Los Angeles:  A Whole World to Explore

If you’ve ever seen an aerial shot of Los Angeles, you know why it’s an ideal place for a reunion:  it’s huge.  Whatever you want to do, you’re sure to find it somewhere in the confines of this 4,083- square-mile mega-metropolis.

Chinatown

Chinatown can make for a fun reunion excursion. credit

But sometimes, when things get big, they also get small.  Los Angeles is a huge, multi-cultural city of small neighborhoods.  If your group likes to experiment with new cultures, Los Angeles is a wonderful place to visit. LA has its own Chinatown (which dates from the 1800s), but that’s just a start.  Koreatown is as famous for its innovative food and trendy clubs as it is for its markets and traditional restaurants. Little Armenia—formerly known as East Hollywood—brings a taste of Armenian life and culture nearer to home.  And Historic Filipinotown is the place to celebrate the area’s enduring Filipino culture and heritage.

But wait, there’s more: lots more.  Sports, entertainment, food, shopping, culture, history, music, miles upon miles of coastline—it’s all waiting for your group in Los Angeles.  To learn more, visit discoverlosangeles.com.

Good to Know:  Los Angeles’ LAX airport is one of the busiest in the world; getting a flight here presents no problem.

San Diego: Perfect for a Family Reunion

After LA, San Diego is the next-best-known of Southern California’s cities.  And for good reason:  you can’t beat the weather (sunny and warm most of the year), it has a well-developed tourism industry, and the lush scenery of rolling hills and canyons is incomparable.

New Children's Museum

New Children’s Museum, credit

Any kind of reunion would do well in San Diego, but the area seems to have been designed with family travel in mind.  San Diego is home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter is made for strolling (and for getting an ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli’s). And don’t forget the interactive New Children’s Museum.

Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre complex inside city limits, is the distilled essence of the city’s cultural and historical life.  Designed to be second only to New York’s Central Park, it is home not only to the San Diego Zoo but includes quiet walkways, peaceful green spaces and more museums than even the most dedicated devotee can see in a day. Add in Padres baseball and some of the best food you can find anywhere, and a reunion in San Diego is sure to be a big hit for all ages.  Learn more at sandiego.org.

Good to Know:  San Diego’s International Airport is just minutes from the city.

Palm Springs:  A Paradise in the Desert

Although human habitation in the Palm Springs area stretches back 2,000 years, the city of Palm Springs is synonymous with mid-century American glamor.  It was (and is) the place to go when you need some refined R & R.  Sumptuous desert-mod architecture, fine dining, elegant shopping, superb Sonoran Desert scenery—you won’t have to make do with less than the best in Palm Springs.

Naturally, you can’t visit Palm Springs without trying at least one of the mineral springs that gave the city its healing reputation.  More than a dozen hotels and spas cater to tourists in need of a relaxing and rejuvenating soak.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park . credit

But there’s another interesting and sometimes overlooked benefit to staying in Palm Springs:  it makes a great base to do some serious exploring.  Joshua Tree National Park is just an hour away by car; Big Bear Lake and San Bernardino National Forest is a 90-minute drive, as is the stunning desert scenery of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  Your group can literally have both:  the most sophisticated and stylish city life with the serene minimalism of the desert.  Learn more at visitpalmsprings.com.

Good to Know:  Driving to and from LA not how your group rolls?  Fly directly into the Palm Springs International Airport instead.  It’s been named one of the most stress-free airports in the US.

Ventura:  Sun, Sand and Something Special

Located north of Los Angeles, Ventura combines the ambiance of a small town with a selection of activities you might expect of a much larger place.

The town of Ventura contains a wealth of historic sites, complete with a wooden pier and an old-fashioned, eminently walkable Main Street.  But what really shines about Ventura is its natural wonders.  Downtown groups can admire the Ventura Botanical Gardens.  This relatively new space contains plantings ideal for the area’s Mediterranean climate, including a pine forest and a eucalyptus grove.  Hiking trails allow visitors to explore the beauty up close, and peaceful resting spots make an ideal place to admire a Pacific sunset.  (Note:  The Thomas Fire impacted these gardens; check the website before you go to see what’s available.)

Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary

Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary. credit

Just 14 miles away from Ventura is a real jewel for nature-loving groups:  the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary.  The islands of the Santa Barbara channel are famous for the sheer abundance of plant and animal life.  Because 150 of the 2,000 species of flora and fauna are found nowhere else in the world, these islands have earned themselves the moniker “North America’s Galapagos.” The Channel Islands are also home to important archeological sites, showing over 13,000 years of human history.  In addition, sports enthusiasts will love the chance of snorkeling, diving, kayaking and swimming.

To find out more, head to visitventura.com.

Whether you’re looking for a surf weekend at the shore or a gracious stay in a desert spa, Southern California has the ideal spot for your next reunion.