Sunshine. Coastline. Moviedom. Attractions galore. Southern California, which spans from just north of Los Angeles all the way down to San Diego at the border of Mexico, offers an array of sights, experiences, and activities for student groups. There are so many, we’d be hard pressed to name them all here, but we can give you some of our best recommendations to help you plan your itinerary.
Land in Los Angeles and start your trip off with Warner Bros. Studio Tour. Located in Hollywood, this nearly 100-year-old working studio is one of the busiest in LA. Follow your expert tour guide, who will take your group behind the big and small screens, including the main draw: a backlot tour. Here you’ll get an in-depth view of how the studio creates television shows and films, and have the opportunity to explore iconic sets, sound stages, and the production process overall. Visit wbstudiotour.com to learn more and reserve your visit.
Next, head over to The Getty Center to get your culture fix. This impressive architectural specimen features sculpted gardens and an ultra-modern structure that houses a vast collection of European art from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. It’s also an ideal spot to take in sweeping views of the city. Admission is free, but there is a charge for parking. Contact [email protected] to find out about group services, dining options, and booking information.
The GRAMMY Museum is also nearby, and is a must for the music lovers in your classroom. Take a 60- to 90-minute self-guided tour of this four-story interactive museum filled with exhibits, films, instruments, and artifacts. The museum offers discounts for groups of 10 or more, and there are a number of add-ons, including educational workshops, an exhibit overview, and a private, behind-the- scenes screening of the 50th GRAMMY performance. Get in touch with [email protected] for all the details.
Venture into Anaheim next, home to several student group favorites. Knotts Berry Farm tops the to-do list with its thrill rides, shows, games, attractions, and sweet treats. Youth programs are also available, from educational to field trips to performance opportunities—and more. Physics Day and Festival of Music are just a couple of options. Go to knotts.com/youth to see everything they have to offer.
Visit Anaheim also recommends several area attractions that run the gamut of student interests. Discovery Cube Orange County offers hands-on science education with interactive STEM-related exhibits, activities, and experiments, while The Bowers Museum takes a deep dive into pre-Columbian Mesoamerican, Native American, Asian, African, Oceanic, and Californian art and artifacts. There’s also second campus, Kidseum, nearby.
For a peep into politics, head over to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, which features 22 gallery spaces with multimedia and interactive technologies covering a range of historical topics, plus a garden and the former president’s helicopter and birthplace. Find more to do and see in the region at visitanaheim.org.
If you’re looking for centrally located accommodations, Anaheim Desert Palms Hotel & Suites can be your home base as you travel to different attractions. A heated pool, gift shop, free breakfast buffet, card-operated laundry, and several room styles, including kid suites with bunk beds, are just some of the amenities. They welcome student travel and offer complimentary bus parking for SYTA members. Contact [email protected] to book your stay.
On your way north to San Diego, make a stop at Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, with its 19 major habitats amid 100-plus exhibits. From coral reefs to sharks to otters—as well as the Ocean Science Center, Lorikeet Forest, and the Whales: Voices in the Sea production—plus films and shows, it’s a space filled with underwater wonder.
Continue your marine adventure as you arrive in America’s Finest City with a day at SeaWorld San Diego. Located at Mission Bay Park, this not-to-be-missed destination offers animal shows, rides and rollercoasters, presentations, aquariums, and exhibits that are ideal for the K-12 crowd. Self-guided tours provide an opportunity to engage with wildlife in a compelling way. There are also downloadable teacher guides with activities that provide added value to your visit. Full details are at seaworld.com/san-diego/educational-programs.
Next, climb aboard the USS Midway Museum, a historic aircraft carrier docked at San Diego’s Navy Pier. There are two-hour, grade-specific student programs offered on topics such as math, electricity and magnetism, weather, thermal energy, and more—with exhibits, hands-on activities, and an orientation to the Midway led by trained staff. School and youth groups receive discounted admission. Learn more at midway.org.
And, to round out your trip, head to the San Diego Zoo. Take a guided bus tour through the grounds, watch a movie in the 4D theater, take in presentations by wildlife ambassadors and wildlife care specialists, get from here to there on the hop-on; hop-off Kangaroo Bus, or see the Zoo from above on the Skyfari® Aerial Tram. Admission ticket discounts apply for student groups of 15 or more, and there are also specialty tours and experiences that can be added on. If you haven’t gotten your fill of creatures great and small, venture over to San Diego Zoo Safari Park which is about 45 minutes to an hour northeast in Escondido.
This story originally appeared in Teach & Travel’s January/February 2023 issue.