From the ruins of a once-thriving seaside resort to a museum that blurs the line between fact and fiction, California is home to a lot more than just movie stars. If you’re seeking a little California adventure, read on because we’re going to tell you where you can find it.
The Bombay Beach Ruins
If you’ve ever wondered what the world would look like post-apocalypse, visit the Bombay Beach Ruins, located along the Salton Sea in Imperial Valley. 70 years ago, Bombay Beach was considered a luxurious vacation spot, reserved only for the upper echelon of society. (Notable guests include Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.) However, due to a dramatic increase in the water’s salt levels, the sea’s bird and fish population rapidly died off. The sight (and smell) of their remains rendered Bombay Beach impossible to market as a high-class tourist destination.
The beach was abandoned by tourists and residents. Left behind was a dilapidated resort town, which adventurers across the world now love to explore. At the Bombay Beach Ruins, you truly can’t help but feel like you are the last person on Earth, traversing what’s left of a once-prosperous civilization. And if you get hungry, the Ski Inn (one of the few active businesses in the area) is right around the corner, ready to serve delicious cheeseburgers and cold beer.
About 30 minutes from Bombay Beach lies Salvation Mountain; it is a 150 foot-wide and 50 foot-tall art project created by local resident Leonard Knight. It took Knight 25 years, innumerable buckets of adobe clay, and over 100,000 gallons of paint to create the piece: a man-made mountain covered in colorful, almost psychedelic-looking Christian iconography. No matter their religious beliefs, visitors can’t help but marvel at the unwavering passion it took to create Salvation Mountain.
Salvation Mountain is the ultimate expression of one man’s spiritual awakening. While Knight had no prior training as an artist, he believed that God was guiding him throughout the creative process. Unfortunately, he passed in 2014, but his work will continue to inspire and intrigue for years to come.
If you plan on visiting Badwater Basin, be sure to bring sunscreen because it’s located in Death Valley. However, the gorgeous, surreal landscape makes seeing Badwater Basin a California adventure that’s worth the blistering heat.
At 282 feet below sea level, the basin is the lowest point in all of North America. In ancient times, it was nothing but an ordinary lake. But approximately 10,000 years ago, the water evaporated, leaving behind roughly 200 square miles of hexagon-shaped salt flats. It is the perfect destination for tourists with an adventurous edge, as it is known to make travelers feel as if they’ve been transported to an alien planet. We recommend visiting during the winter months to avoid potentially dangerous heat exposure.
Lake Dolores Waterpark
Operating intermittently for 42 years, Lake Dolores Waterpark officially closed in 2004, mainly due to poor attendance. Located in the barren Mojave Desert, you may be wondering why it’s on this list. Well, you can still explore the abandoned water park. In fact, it remains popular with skateboarders who find its empty pools to be the perfect environment for their videos.
Similar to Bombay Beach, the park gives visitors the feeling that they have just walked onto the set of a disaster movie. We advise travelers to use caution while exploring the park. Be mindful of where you’re stepping. You will be surrounded by empty pools, as well as the jagged remnants of buildings and waterslides. (I personally fell into a manhole there! Don’t be like me.) However, if you prioritize your safety, Lake Dolores Waterpark makes for an unforgettable California adventure.
The Museum of Death
Sure, the Natural History Museum is fun. But if you’re looking for a darker experience, the Museum of Death in Los Angeles is the place to be. Whether we like it or not, death is something we all will encounter sooner or later, and this museum puts its visitors face-to-face with what is ironically the most inevitable part of life. Fans of true crime will be especially enthralled by the museum’s huge collection of artifacts from some of the world’s most infamous cases. Be aware, however, that many of the museum’s contents are graphic and not recommended viewing for the squeamish.
Due to Covid mandates, the museum is currently closed. But the curators assure that they are in the process of securing a bigger and better location.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology
It’s hard to explain just what Los Angeles’s Museum of Jurassic Technology is. Part collection of cultural oddities, part absurdist art piece, it calls itself an “educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic.” If that made no sense to you, you’re not alone. In fact, museum employees will not answer questions like, “What is this?” The museum needs to be experienced to be understood.
As patrons trail through narrow, maze-like hallways, the contents of the museum gradually become more and more surreal, and the lines between reality and fantasy blur. Current exhibits include, “Dogs of the Soviet Space Program,” “Garden of EdenOn Wheels: Collections from Los Angeles Area Mobile Home Parks,” and “Athanasius Kircher: the World Is Bound With Secret Knots.” What does it all mean? The only way to find out is to visit the museum yourself. We guarantee an otherworldly California adventure.