underrated places to visit in California

7 of the Most Underrated Places to Visit in California

When you think of California‘s must-visit spots, Yosemite, the Hollywood sign or the Golden Gate bridge probably spring to mind. But this great state has plenty of obscure attractions that can hold their own against the big guns. Netcredit has revealed the most underrated places to visit in California, and we’re adding them straight to our list.

There’s a castle built by an ‘outsider-architect,’ a graveyard of rusted war boats yet to be decommissioned and a store selling time-travel supplies. Yep, for real. So, how did they figure out which lesser-known spots are still worth the visit?

They trawled Atlas Obscura and found all the places in California that had fewer than 1,000 Google reviews but had earned a four-star rating or higher. The result is this new series of maps showing the most underrated places to visit in each region of California…

Most Underrated Places to Visit in California

1. China Flat Museum Bigfoot Collection

The museum itself may not be enormous, but its encased assortment of ape-man artifacts gives it the feeling of a Victorian cabinet of curiosities. Among other rarities, you can see preserved footprints of the mysterious creature and a giant wooden sculpture of its likeness. Afterward, why not head out on the trail and try to find the ‘real’ thing?

2. The Allosphere

The AlloSphere is a Fantastic Voyage-style take on the planetarium concept. Instead of looking up at the stars, scientists and visitors can gaze at the 360-degree, 24-million-pixel screen system and experience the inside of a brain scan, or any other microscopic event.

The facility can be found at the California Nanosystems Institute building at the University of California Santa Barbara. It is also one of the biggest anechoic chambers in the world (meaning it gets deadly silent when they switch off the awesome 512-channel sound system).

3. Folsom Prison Museum

This former penitentiary is famous for being the prison where Johnny Cash recorded his famous live album in 1968. Now that it is ‘closed for business,’ the prison retains a spooky sense of yesteryear. Animatronic ‘puppet prisoners’ populate the cells, and the museum is fully staffed by former prison guards.

Visiting Folsom Prison Museum
Image: Pechluck’s Food Adventures

4. Mojave Lava Tube

At the Mojave Lava Tube, you can follow a 10,000-year-old trail of molten lava through tar-black tunnels naturally lit by beams from the hole-peppered ceiling. You’re really touching ancient history as you run your hands along the walls of solidified lava.

5. Malibu Hindu Temple

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a piece of authentic Hollywood history that looks like it was beamed in from the other side of the world. The temple is cinematically cross-cultural, having appeared in both Hollywood’s Beverly Hills Ninja (1997) and ‘Kollywood’ (Tamil) film Jeans (1998). It is open every day of the year for services, recitals and puja.

underrated places to visit in California
Image: Raja Ramakrishnan

6. Hollywood Forever Cemetery

This may sound like a gloomy place for a visit, but it has all the pizzazz and glamor you’ve come to expect from Tinsel Town. Showbiz names including Cecil B. DeMille, Johnny Ramone and Estelle Getty are among the ‘kitsch-but-respectful’ headstones. Each summer, movies are projected onto the wall of Rudolph Valentino’s mausoleum.

underrated places to visit in California

7. The Glass Beach

Until 1967, Fort Brag residents would throw garbage such as appliances and vehicles over the cliff to the seafront. Occasionally they would throw a Molotov cocktail down to burn it up and make more space. Years later (and following a clean-up operation), all that remains is a landscape of glass pebbles, worn smooth by the ocean waves.

Editor’s note: some of these attractions are temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Please check in advance if planning any visits.

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Sarah Clayton-Lea
Sarah Clayton-Lea

Co-founder of Big 7 Travel, Sarah created the company through her passion for championing the world's best food and travel experiences. Before her career in digital media, where she previously held roles such as Editor of Food&Wine Ireland, Sarah worked in the hospitality industry in Dublin and New York.

Contact [email protected]

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