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15 Weird Attractions in the Golden State

15 Weird Attractions in the Golden State

Creepy ghost towns, haunted forests, and quirky roadside attractions prove that California’s weirdest attractions can be spectacular.

Roubina Al Abashian


6 min read

December 27, 2023

The Golden State never ceases to amaze us when it comes to the strange and unusual. Ever wanted to see dinosaurs roaming the world? Just head to Cabazon. Dreaming of walking down the yellow brick road? Pay a visit to the Garden of Oz. Creepy ghost towns, haunted forests, and quirky roadside attractions prove that California’s weirdest attractions can be spectacular. Thought you’ve seen it all? We’re here to prove you wrong. 

Weird Landmarks in Northern California

1. Old Faithful Geyser

Location: 1299 Tubbs Lane, Calistoga

Old Faithful Geyser shoots steam and hot water into the Calistoga sky every five to fifty-five minutes, making it one of the world’s three faithful geysers. The eruptions rise 20 to 80 feet into the air, creating a magnificent view to admire. They say that when the geyser’s regular eruptions are delayed, it’s an indication that an earthquake will take place in the next few weeks. Next time you're in Calistoga, you know you’re heading to this weird tourist attraction

The rainbows that form in the predictable sprays of mist are a wonderful feature in this serene setting at Old Faithful Geyser of California.

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2. Hangman’s Tree

Location: 305 Main Street, Placerville

Back in the 1800s, Placerville was known as Hangtown. When gold was discovered here, the town increasingly became lawless, and soon, Hangtown became one of the first places to deliver justice hanging from a tree. Hangman’s Tree in present-day Placerville is where many executions took place. Today, a dummy hangs by a noose from a branch on the second floor, telling the story of all the bloodshed that took place in this town. A visit to this weird landmark is a must in Placerville.

3. Petrified Forest

Location: 4100 Petrified Forest Road, Calistoga

If the giant California redwood trees charm you, wait till you visit Calistoga’s Petrified Forest. Almost 3.5 million years ago, a volcanic eruption buried a forest filled with redwood trees. In time, the trees’ organic matter was replaced by silica, resulting in stone fossils retaining the detailed markings of the original trees. The short hike at this weird place in California is one you will not regret.

4. Toad’s Hollow

Location: Unnamed Road 95618, Davis

Here’s a weird roadside attraction in NorCal that’s actually cute. There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot in Davis near Pole Line Road called Toad’s Hollow. This spot used to be a dirt road, where—you guessed it—toads used to cross through to reach their natural habitat. After the city decided to build a six-lane highway where the dirt road was, residents united and demanded a safe crossing path for the toads. Today, the toads have a safe underground drain pipe to pass through, and humans have miniature houses to admire.

5. The Cypress Tree Tunnel

Location: Inverness

Anyone with an Instagram account has seen photos of the Cypress Tree Tunnel and dreamt of being proposed to under its shadows. The tunnel is a classic stop on any trip to Point Reyes—Monterey cypress trees line up and arch over the 0.25-mile driveway, giving it an ethereal tunnel effect. If we got you all excited about having a photoshoot here, make this weird landmark the backdrop of your next viral IG post.

The Cypress Tree Tunnel is a classic stopping point in Point Reyes National Seashore, where visitors take photos of the trees.

6. Rock City

Location: South Gate Road, Danville

For a fun and unique family adventure, Rock City awaits exploration. Located within the infamous Mount Diablo State Park, Rock City is a fascinating geological oddity. This weird place to visit in California got its current shape thanks to the sandstone rocks that were carved by water and wind over the years, creating unique shapes, caves, and tunnels to explore. Climb the massive boulders and explore the caves of Rock City on your next visit to Diablo. 

7. Monopoly in the Park

Location: 330 West San Carlos Street, San Jose

What’s better than fighting with your friends and family over a game of Monopoly? Challenging them to a larger-than-life version of the game at Monopoly in the Park. A 930-square-foot Monopoly board awaits daring players in San Jose. Go big or go home as you throw the jumbo-dice and move the gigantic token-shaped hats; we dare you to avoid jail time at this top California attraction for families

Experience Monopoly in Park, a larger-than-life-sized version of the world's most popular board game.

Weird Places To Visit In Southern California

8. Swedish Coffee Pot Water Tower

Location: 1460 Marion Street, Kingsburg

Head to Kingsburg and you’ll spot one of the weirdest things in California—a gigantic water tower resembling a Swedish coffee pot. Originally built in 1911 and modified in 1985 to its current shape, the Swedish Coffee Pot Water Tower pays tribute to the town’s Swedish heritage. If it could tilt, the 60,000-gallon vessel would fill over a million cups of coffee. 

The water tower originally dates from 1911, and was modified in 1985 to resemble a giant coffee pot after a resident visited Stanton, Iowa.

9. Giant Chessboard 

Location: Front Street, Morro Bay

Nothing beats winning a game of chess except winning it on a giant board—Harry Potter swears by it. The Giant Chessboard in Morro Bay is one of two in the United States. Built with recycled redwood, the chess pieces range from 22 to 33 inches, with the lightest being 22 pounds. Book your place ahead of time for a game on your next trip to Morro Bay; this weird attraction will have you scratching your head.

10. Dublin Gulch Caves

Location: Dublin Gulch, Shoshone

Another weird place to visit in California is Dublin Gulch in Shoshone. These are a series of caves dug into solidified volcanic ash to create homes for miners. The history of the area remains unclear to this day—some claim the cave houses were built during the silver boom in the late 1870s, whereas others date them back to the early 1900s. Entrance to the houses is forbidden, but with a good flashlight, it’s possible to see the interior. If you’re into abandoned towns and houses, you know where your next destination is.

11. China Ranch Date Farm

Location: China Ranch Road, Tecopa

Sitting in the middle of the desert in Tecopa is a lush green oasis lined with palm trees and creeks that looks like a descriptive paragraph from Arabian Nights. China Ranch Date Farm’s history goes back to the year 1900 when a Chinese farmer was kicked out of his own farm at gunpoint by a shady character named Morrison. Whenever you’re on your way to Death Valley, dedicate enough time to hike the trails of this weird tourist attraction

12. Old Los Angeles Zoo

Location: 4801 Griffith Park Drive, Los Angeles

One of the most unforgettable things to do in L.A. is hiking the trails of the Old Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park. The abandoned zoo was left as it is—minus the animals. Later, picnic tables and shrubbery were added to the zoo, with walls covered in graffiti. This spot is considered one of the top Hollywood hikes, so make sure to check it out. 

Founded in 1912, this now-abandoned zoo in Los Angeles offers past enclosure ruins, picnic space, and hiking trails.

13. Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Location: 67616 Desert View Avenue, Desert Hot Springs

Love going to strange museums? You’re in for a treat in the Coachella Valley. Cabot’s Pueblo Museum is a historic place and a top attraction in the Inland Empire. Between 1913 and 1965, Cabot Yerxa constructed a pueblo made out of objects he found in the desert. Inside the four-story building, you can find windows and doors made of abandoned homesteads, old telephone poles, wagon parts, and other materials. This weird museum is the optimum of a man’s creativity and one you should visit ASAP. 

14. Pioneertown

Location: Pioneertown

Ever wondered what it feels like living on a Western movie set? The answer is located in San Bernadino’s High Desert, where a group of Hollywood investors created a town. This consisted of 1880s-style false-front facades with actual stuff on the inside for visitors to enjoy. Later on, saloons, stables, houses, and jails were erected, which you can see in many films and shows from the 40s and 50s. Now that’s a weird city you don’t want to miss.

Pioneertown was originally incorporated in 1946 and fell into the hands of San Bernardino County in the late 1960s.

15. Queen Califia’s Magical Circle Garden

Location: 3333 Bear Valley Parkway, Escondido

Queen Califa’s Magical Circle Garden is one of Southern California’s weird tourist attractions. Inspired by the mythical Queen Califia—after whom California is named—Niki de Saint Phalle created this unique sculpture paradise that’s tucked away behind Kit Carson Park. The colorful snake sculptures are a must-see Golden State attraction.

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