While the premiere destination in Southern California may be Disneyland, there are tons of things to do on your next Southern California trip. Swearsies. It is one of the most popular tourist areas in the country and even though it may feel like errrrybody is at Disneyland, they aren’t. Smart travelers know to branch out from the Mouse and see what else LA has to offer. I mean, go- by all means- go to Disneyland! But keep in mind that the area is rich in non-Disney experiences that even the most die-hard Disneyphile can love. Here are 6 Los Angeles destinations for the Disney Lover.
This might be the weakest confession ever but here it goes:
I am one of those adults obsessed with all things Disney.
GASP! WHAAATTT??? NO WAY!
Yeah, yeah, I know.
This is obvious if you’ve spent even 2 minutes looking at my blog, reading my social media feeds, or followed me on the road.
I do not hide my Disney geek flag, nope, not at all!
I love it all so much I became a travel agent who specializes in Disney destinations (with a side hustle for Universal because, heeeeyyy Harry!).
Despite my husbands best efforts and pleading, most of our holidays are spent with the Mouse in one way or the other.
Some might find it shocking that such a Disney fan as myself would even suggest this course of action, but I’m here to tell you: the Los Angeles area has more – oh, so much more!– to offer outside of those Disneyland gates.
Here are 6 non-Disney Los Angeles destinations that the biggest Disney fans will agree is worth the drive.
Drive Around Los Angeles
Oh that’s right, I said drive.
I know, I know…
Let’s just address the elephant in the room here. Yes, you will need a car in LA if you want to explore.
I vote to go ahead and get a car for your trip. It’s worth it if you really want to explore the area.
Once you’ve decided on your mode of transportation, it’s time to start exploring non-Disney Los Angeles destinations.
6 Los Angeles Destinations for the Disney Lover
Check Out The Queen Mary
This is a bucket-list type item for me.
I’ve wanted to stay the night on the supposedly haunted RMS Queen Mary since I was a kid!
The ship docks in Long Beach making it easy to visit during a Disneyland trip.
(ps- Look how easy I’m making this on you! You can take a side trip to Long Beach and be back to Disney in time for Fantasmic!)
If paranormal history interests you, be sure to stay a night on the Queen Mary.
And of course, if you have any ghostly encounters, I want to hear all the details!
Warner Bros. Studio
LA is known for making magic come to life at their working studios.
Warner Bros. Studio is a must-see for any TV and movie enthusiast.
Pretty much everything was filmed here, or at least that’s how it feels after you’ve spent 3 hours on the lot!
Our guide was well-versed in the history of the studio and sound stages.
I couldn’t believe how many times the same facade or town square has been used in movies over the years.
If you are like me and have a huge crush on Harry Potter, then this is the studio tour you don’t want to miss.
There is a huge section of movie memorabilia and costumes to check out — and you can even get sorted into your Hogwarts House!
Hang 10 At The Los Angeles Area Beaches
If the idea of cheating on Walt with another theme park or studio is too much for you, check out non-Disney Los Angeles destinations like a beach or two. There are plenty to choose from within driving distance of Anaheim.
Huntington Beach is a great option that’s also fairly close to Anaheim.
You can also head down to Santa Monica and visit the world-famous Santa Monica Pier.
Kids will love the rides and parents will love the sunrise and sunset views.
Get a beach twofer by visiting the beach next door, Venice Beach.
I walked from Santa Monica to Venice one morning and enjoyed the changing scenery and vibe from one beach community to the other.
Venice certainly marches to its own beat.
The Hollywood Sign
You gotta get out and see the iconic Hollywood sign when you are in Los Angeles.
Look, it’s taken me a lifetime of trips to Southern California to make it happen, but it was so worth it.
Next time we’re hiking for a closer look!
Dun Dun Dun… Universal Studios Hollywood
So, yes, I’m going to say it. GO TO UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD.
This is actually my number one on my list of non-Disney Los Angeles destinations but I figured if I lead with it, you guys would close the blog.
Look, I know you people!
The “other” big theme park in Los Angeles is Universal Studios Hollywood.
Disney fans, swallow those preconceived notions and head on over!
I’m not pulling any punches: if you are a theme park lover, you really need to take the time to visit Universal Studios Hollywood.
I’ve even been as bold to proclaim that Hollywood Studios is better than Disneyland.
My family had an absolutely wonderful day there and particularly loved the fact that we toured a working Hollywood studio, something that Disney does not offer.
Griffith Observatory & Griffith Park
Who remembers the scenes from the Griffith Observatory in Rebel Without a Cause? Who doesn’t right?
Errr… I know, it is a super old film, but really worth the time to find and watch! You can grab it from Amazon here (affiliate link).
The classic James Dean movie highlighted and showcased a fantastic location in the Hollywood hills.
While we were there too early to tour the inside, we did take in the fabulous views & James Dean statue while remembering our favorite parts from the movie.
Inside you will find telescopes for star gazing (the ones in the sky!) and a planetarium with live shows. Entrance to the grounds and building is free.
Griffith Park, a large parcel of land that is sometimes called the Central Park of LA, offers a ton of things for families to do. Including visiting a zoo and a merry-go-round.
Ahem. THE merry-go-round, my observant Disney friends!
Busted: you can take the Disnerd out of Disneyland, but you can’t take the Disney out of me completely!
I’ve longed to make the pilgrimage to this site. I dreamed of sitting on the bench like Walt Disney, hoping to feel the inspiration of this creative genius.
So that’s exactly what we did.
So I cheated a little.
But my fellow Disney fans can understand and forgive me, right?
Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed wife, and mother of four. She’s a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)