AAA Magazines

Out & About in Southern California - Summer 2023

123 Farm in Cherry Valley hosts 5 annual festivals, including the Lavender Festival from May 5 through July 23. Photo by Joyce Park/123 Farm

Get the most out of life in Southern California and beyond with this curated collection of places to go and things to see.

Field trip

By Elisa Parhad

SoCal’s largest certified organic lavender farm (90 varieties!), 123 Farm hosts 5 festivals throughout the year. Next up is the Lavender Festival (May 5–July 23), which celebrates the farm’s primary crop.

Visitors to the Riverside County property can tour the grounds (including a 1,100-year-old live oak tree) on a wagon ride and stroll through 20 acres of blossoming lavender fields before browsing the lavender-themed gifts and lavender-infused foods for sale.

While the flowers are the main attraction, the Cherry Valley farm itself has a storied past: In the 1930s, the former 1880s stagecoach-stop-turned-health-resort attracted the likes of Albert Einstein and Ernest Hemingway. Free admission until May 22; after May 22, adult tickets start at $12 (peak lavender bloom is usually around mid-June to mid-July).

Desert digs

Joshua Tree Retreat Center

Stay in the renovated Bungalows on the campus of the Joshua Tree Retreat Center. Photo by Yoshihiro Makino

By Ashley Burnett

Located on the 130-acre Joshua Tree Retreat Center campus, The Bungalows by Homestead Modern is a welcome newcomer for park visitors seeking a place to stay.

Built in 1941 as the Mentalphysics Spiritual Teaching and Retreat Center, the property features the largest collection of buildings designed by Lloyd Wright (Frank Lloyd Wright’s son). First intended to accommodate center visitors, the 14 hotel units are now open to the public and include kitchenettes and private patios.

Hotel guests can enjoy the center’s yoga and meditation classes, outdoor pool, and vegetarian café. The Bungalows is the perfect retreat after a day of hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, just 3 miles away. Rates start at $250.

You may also like: 7 awesome hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

World of wonder

Illuminated garden house, an installation at WNDR Museum

San Diego's WNDR Museum includes a translucent garden house that simulates a thunderstorm with video, light, and sound. Photo by Tyler Curtis/Tyliner

By Meghan O’Dell

Become part of the art at San Diego’s newest museum. The Gaslamp Quarter’s WNDR Museum (pronounced “wonder”) offers multisensory, immersive exhibits that showcase how art and technology intersect.

Step into a translucent garden house for a 360-degree experience that simulates a thunderstorm with video, light, and sound; dance across the Light Floor, which reacts to your movements; and discover a virtual-reality installation inspired by the spotted, colorful works of Yayoi Kusama. 

“WNDR Museum is unlike any museum you’ve seen before,” says Creative Director David Allen. “We’re always pursuing new and exciting ways to engage with our audience and remind everyone who steps through our doors that we are all artists. WNDR Museum truly must be experienced to be understood.” Adult tickets start at $32.

Love your layover

Spending time at airports is more bearable these days thanks to the addition of some stress-relieving amenities and “airportunities.”


By Jen Warren

Clear your mind and relax before your flight by using one of San Francisco International’s yoga rooms, which provide mats, a mirror, and mood lighting. Doing a few downward dogs or sun salutations can loosen your joints and energize your body.

New to yoga? Use the space to simply breathe deeply and see if you notice a difference. Silence your phone, turn inward, and embrace the stillness.

Pet therapy

By Heather Mundt

Therapy animals and their handlers roam terminal gates at about 40 U.S. airports, providing comfort to passengers. The largest program is Denver’s Canine Airport Therapy Squad, with more than 80 dogs and a cat.

At San Francisco International, de-stress with help from the Wag Brigade: Indiana Jones, a golden retriever; Alex, a Flemish giant rabbit; and LiLou, a hypoallergenic Juliana pig. Some airports have even employed miniature horses and baby alligators.


By Meghan O’Dell

Expend some anxious energy at a Gameway, the first airport video game lounge that includes next-gen games, high-quality headphones and chairs, charging stations, and snacks and beverages for purchase.

The largest lounge (in LAX’s Terminal 3) features craft beer and a retro game bar equipped with Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., and other classics. Rates start at $15.99 for 30 minutes.

Keys to the past

Typewriter keys

June 23 is National Typewriter Day. Photo by Stephan Karg/

By Amanda Felias

The Oxford Hotel—Denver’s first hotel, opened in 1891—is filled with nods to the past. But the antique typewriter on the second floor isn’t just for show: Guests can use it to write a letter, which hotel staff will then emboss and mail out.

As a digital native, I couldn’t pass up a chance to use a typewriter for the first time during my recent stay. I gleefully fumbled through a single-page letter—a simple souvenir that delighted my unsuspecting aunt when it showed up in her mailbox a few days later. Hotel rates start at $329.

L.A.’s original occupants

Kizh Nation Map

This map shows the domain of the Kizh Nation and is on display at the Kizh exhibit at the Santa Fe Dam Nature Center in Irwindale. Map by Gary Stickel

By Paul Gaita

For more than 3,000 years, greater Los Angeles was home to the Kizh (pronounced “keech”) Nation, whose domain stretched from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Channel Islands. They lost their lands to the Spanish, but their legacy is hinted at in L.A. locales such as Topanga and Cahuenga, which draw their names from Kizh villages. Known today as the Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians–Kizh Nation, the tribe is the focus of a new permanent exhibit at the Sante Fe Dam Nature Center in Irwindale.

Prepared by Kizh Nation tribal archaeologist Gary Stickel, the exhibit details Kizh culture and tells the story of Toypurina, a Kizh woman who led an armed revolt against the Spanish in 1785. But, Stickel explains, “Like Joan of Arc, she was betrayed: The Spanish had an ambush ready for her, and she likely died of smallpox after being sentenced.”

One of Stickel’s most remarkable findings discussed in the exhibit is the Big Rock site in the San Gabriel Mountains. Stickel discovered a strangely shaped hole there; when he inserted a special stone with a sundial-type needle into the hole before dawn, he found that the way the sun shone through the hole showed that “Big Rock served as a monument for Kizh winter and summer solstice ceremonies,” making it an important astrological site.

Vehicle entry, $12. The nature center is open 10 a.m.–1 p.m. on Saturdays.

Cars of Cleveland

1936 Ford Tudor Deluxe Sedan

See cars like this stainless-steel 1936 Ford Tudor Deluxe Sedan at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Al Bonowitz

By Al Bonowitz

Cleveland was once a hub of automotive manufacturing on par with Detroit. In the early 1960s, about 59 automobile assembly and equipment firms employed 13% of the city’s workforce. Some of this work continues, but at nowhere near the historic peak. The Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum at the Western Reserve Historical Society—in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood—is celebrating the 80th anniversary of its collection this year.

The 2-level museum includes cars from Cleveland and around the world, including a mint-green 1932 Cadillac 355 B Sport Phaeton and a trio of stainless-steel cars: a 1936 Ford Tudor Deluxe Sedan, a 1960 Ford Thunderbird, and a 1966 Lincoln Continental convertible.

When visiting, spend some time in the Cleveland History Center, which you’ll walk through on the way to the cars. Adults, $15 (includes admission to the Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel when weather permits).

Brand appeal

By Paul Zieke

If you can’t get enough of your favorite store, you may be in luck: Some of the world’s biggest brands offer the chance to spend the night with them. Here are 3 retailers with themed hotels in or near their shops.

Big Cypress Lodge

Big Cypress Lodge in Memphis, Tennesee, offers 103 rooms inside Bass Pro Shops' enormous interior, which brings the outdoors in. Photo courtesy Big Cypress Lodge

1. Big Cypress Lodge in Memphis, Tennessee, is Bass Pro Shops’ first hotel, located inside the retail shrine to hunting and fishing. Each of the 103 rooms has an electric fireplace, handcrafted furniture, and a jetted tub. Many also feature a screened-in porch with rocking chairs overlooking the 535,000-square-foot store’s interior, which brings the outdoors in with 100-foot-tall cypress trees and a lagoon.

Outdoorsy folk will also love the aquarium, interactive waterfowl museum, and archery and shooting ranges. Rates start at $139.

2. IKEA opened the IKEA Hotell in 1964 near its first store in Älmhult, Sweden, to give long-distance customers a place to grab a plate of meatballs and some shut-eye before heading home. Accommodations at the 254-room sustainable property, which sits across the street from an IKEA Museum, range from family rooms with bunk beds to a tiny 43-square-foot cabin.

Guests will enjoy the same modern designs found in IKEA products. The best part? No assembly required. Rates start at around $56.

3. The company formerly known as Restoration Hardware recently debuted its ultra-luxe RH Guesthouse in Manhattan, housed in a 19th-century triangular loft building with 6 rooms, 3 suites, a penthouse, and a rooftop pool. Not your everyday lodging, the rooms have soundproof windows, climate-controlled beds, and workout equipment.

While you won’t find any RH decor there, you can fulfill your need for retail therapy around the corner at the 90,000-square-foot RH New York store. Rates start at $2,400.

An open stance

Flagstick on a golf course

The Los Angeles Country Club is hosting its first U.S. Open in June. Photo by USGA/Bill Hornstein

By Judd Spicer

The Los Angeles Country Club (LACC) is bucking its reputation for secrecy to host its first U.S. Open this June.

Over its 125-year history, the club has denied membership to countless professional golfers, athletes, and celebrities—including Groucho Marx and Hugh Hefner—and had continually rejected offers to host the national championship. (This is the first time the Open is being held in L.A. since 1948, when it was hosted by the Riviera Country Club.)

“There was a sense that we should be more a part of the golf community,” says Dick Shortz, past president of LACC and co-chair of the 2023 U.S. Open.

From June 15 through 18, players will walk the club’s famed North Course, which, says Shortz, “will play differently than any other Open.” He adds that the location provides a distinct aesthetic: “Many of the Open venues are farther out in suburban or rural areas. We’re right in the middle of the city.” Spectator tickets start at $125.

You may also like: 17 things to see and do in Los Angeles' Griffith Park

It’s Mario time!

By Robert Goldberg

Find out what it’s like to be inside a video game at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Super Nintendo World, which opened in February. Enter one of the green Warp Pipes to be transported into Mushroom Kingdom, where you can vie with others by collecting digital coins, flinging fireballs from your fingertips, and racing against Bowser in a Mario Kart.

For the most immersive experience, buy a wearable (and reusable) Power-Up Band. The band pairs with the free Universal Studios Hollywood app on your device and lets you interact with the land on a deeper level and complete quests by collecting coins around the land.

The indoor dark ride—Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge—uses an augmented-reality visor to let you fire shells at Team Bowser and other targets to score points. Fans can also meet Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach; enjoy a meal at the Toadstool Café; and shop at the 1-UP Factory store.

For tips on making the most of your time at the new land, check out our article on Super Nintendo World.

100 years of Disney

This year, Disneyland Resort is celebrating the Walt Disney Company’s centennial. Look for these special additions when you visit:

  • The new Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway attraction in Mickey’s Toontown
  • Two new nighttime spectaculars (1 in each park)
  • An exhibit that spotlights park attractions inspired by Disney films (and vice versa)
  • The return of the “Magic Happens” parade at Disneyland Park

You may also like: 18 hacks to get the most of your Disneyland visit

For more places to go and things to see in Southern California, check out our editor-curated list of the best fairs, festivals, events, and more.

Follow us on Instagram

Follow @AAAAutoClubEnterprises for the latest on what to see and do.

Read more articles

You'll find more of the articles you love to read at AAA Insider.

Travel offers & deals

" "

Hot travel deals

Get the latest offers from AAA Travel’s preferred partners.

" "

Travel with AAA

See how we can help you plan, book, and save on your next vacation.

" "

Entertainment savings

Save big with AAA discounts on tickets to your next adventure.

" "

Travel with confidence

Purchase travel insurance with Allianz Global Assistance.

back to top icon