15 Weird Places to Visit in California

15 Weird Places to Visit in California

By California.com
September 02, 2020

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe. 

Think you’ve seen it all in California? Sure, you may have been to the famous landmarks and tourist attractions—Yosemite National Park, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the ghostly Winchester Mystery House—but the Golden State has so much more to offer. Between its strange attractions and unique landmarks, California is full of surprises. So, if you're bored of the ordinary, check out our list of 15 weird places to visit now.

1. Mosaic Tile House

Location: 1116 Palms Boulevard, Venice

The Mosaic Tile House is one of Venice's hidden gems. Covered in recycled materials, it's unlike anywhere else. Photo courtesy of Atlas Obscura.

A 1940s home that's been completely transformed into an art piece, the Mosaic Tile House is a hidden gem in Venice. The jewel-covered building explodes with vibrancy; all the colors make it seem as though you’re inside a coral reef. Artist Cheri Pann and her husband Gonzalo Duran created this one-of-a-kind masterpiece using mainly recycled donations. With every detail colorfully crafted over a two-decade construction period, this eccentric house is one of California’s weird places to visit and is a must-see when in Los Angeles.

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2. Harper’s Topiary Garden 

Location: 3549 Union Street, San Diego

Filled with unusually shaped shrubs, Harper's Topiary Garden is a strange and stunning place. Photo courtesy of Atlas Obscura.

When art meets nature, the limits of creativity become endless. Inspired by their travels around the world, Edna Harper and her husband, Alex, shaped their shrubs into pyramids, dinosaurs, a Buddha, and a whale. Harper’s Topiary Garden looks like a scene from Edward Scissorhands. With new shapes regularly added to the whimsical garden, the grounds should definitely be on your list of weird places to visit. Admire Edna’s imaginative leafy creatures as you stroll the garden.  

3. Albany Bulb

Location: 1 Buchanan Street, Albany

A no man’s land in the San Francisco Bay, the Albany Bulb is a former landfill that was taken over by graffiti artists, dog walkers, and environmentalists. Geographically unorganized, the Bulb is one of California’s strange and anarchic places. As time passed by, nature took over and migrating birds became frequent visitors. The uncertainty of its future is what makes it an odd place. Now, the Albany Bulb is an art installation, music venue, dog park, and community. Distinctive art pieces include large driftwood sculptures, a concrete TV, and a dragon sculpture. Explore the Bulb and expand your horizons in the unruly abstract landfill.

4. The Queen Mary

Location: 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach

The Queen Mary is a SoCal staple. Step aboard and keep an eye out for seafaring spirits. Photo courtesy of the Queen Mary and @ucheezeoke.

One of the most haunted places in America, the historic Queen Mary lets you peek into an era when the most elegant way to travel was by ship. The Queen Mary is a strange place to visit due to its haunted encounters. Upon nightfall, spirits roaming the ship come out to play. Legend has it there is a ghost of an engineer who died in the engine room and a lady in white who frequently frightens visitors. But the scariest of them all? The children haunting the first-class pool. Take a ghost tour at this strange tourist attraction that will make your skin crawl.  

5. Bob’s Crystal Cave

Location: 7028 Theatre Road, Yucca Valley

Among California’s weirdest tourist attractions is Bob’s Crystal Cave—a magical oasis of love and meditation. Bob Carr transformed the space using foam and gemstones, converting it into a sanctum of bliss. The rainbow-hued cave blooms with crystals, and the sparkling waterfall is a pot of gold. With just one glance at the cave, prepare for a transcendental experience and revitalization of your soul.

6. Potato Chip Rock

Location: Lake Poway Park, 14644 Lake Poway Road, Poway

Named after its iconic shape, Potato Chip Rock is a sight to see when visiting San Diego.

Potato Chip Rock is a rock so thin that it looks like it’s about to break at any given moment. The iconic rock formation is named after its resemblance to, you guessed it, a potato chip. To reach the summit, go on a scenic hike via the Mount Woodson Trail. The unique rock is an obscure place to visit, but the view from the top makes it worthwhile. While you’re there, snap a pic for the 'Gram.

7. Bubblegum Alley

Location: 733 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo

Who would've thought that chewed bubblegum can be used to decorate a pathway? Bubblegum Alley is a weird tourist attraction in Downtown San Luis Obispo that encourages people to participate by creating bubblegum graffiti. Little is known about how it all began, but every time it’s cleaned up, the alley is quickly covered in bubblegum once again. The Instagrammable alley is a germaphobe’s nightmare. However, fascination with chewed bubblegum art is definitely a reason to visit this weird place.

8. Lake Berryessa Glory Hole

Location: Lake Berryessa, Napa

Officially named the "Morning Glory Spillway," Lake Berryessa's unique hole is designed to prevent the body of water from overfilling.

Thanks to its inverted fountain, the Lake Berryessa Glory Hole resembles a giant whirlpool and is genuinely a terrifying sight. The massive spillway is one of the largest of its kind and is a mesmerizing spectacle when the water is high. Come and watch Lake Berryessa being sucked into a black hole, and experience the phenomenon in action.   

9. Dapper Cadaver

Location: 7648 San Fernando Road, Sun Valley

When at Dapper Cadaver, you won’t be able to distinguish between the real and the fake. This is Hollywood's go-to horror movie prop shop—its lifelike severed arms, heads, and replica specimen jars will make you shudder. Halloween fanatics and horror-movie buffs visit this weird place to purchase grotesque merch year-round. Build a cabinet of curiosities this Halloween, and terrify your guests with your new twisted props.

10. Salvation Mountain

Location: Beal Road, Calipatria

Salvation Mountain is one of the most distinct pieces of desert art in Southern California, making it an ideal stop on a Golden State road trip.

A man-made mountain designed to spread a message of love, Salvation Mountain is a national treasure in California’s desertland. The combination of religion, art, and love resulted in the visionary environment created by Leonard Knight. Over the years, Knight has spilled over 100,000 gallons of paint to form this religious monument. The unique landmark is made of adobe bricks, discarded tires, windows, and automobile parts. The folk-art sight is a colorful testament of faith. Whether you visit for religious or aesthetic reasons, appreciating the marvel of Salvation Mountain is inevitable.

11. East Jesus

Location: 23 Sidewinder Road, Niland

East Jesus is a desert community of artists who thrive off of each other’s energy. The unusual landmark is a refuge for artists, musicians, scientists, and builders. Inhabitants of East Jesus continuously create art pieces and encourage guests to do the same. Mammoths made of worn-out tires, shrines created with colorful glass bottles, and blue mannequin legs sticking out of cars are a few of the attention-grabbing things you'll find here. Visit this art installation to experience what it feels like to be in California's “last free place.”

12. The Chemosphere House

Location: 7776 Torreyson Drive, Los Angeles

The Chemosphere House is a futuristic-style home you might mistake for a UFO at first glance. Photo courtesy of NPR.

The octagonal spaceship you’ve seen in the San Fernando Valley is the Chemosphere House, which was designed by John Lautner in 1960. The futuristic-modernist house is located on a 45-degree slope in an earthquake-prone region. Made of steel, timber, and laminated wood, the Chemosphere is a unique landmark dubbed “the most modern home built in the world” by Encyclopedia Britannica. So for an out-of-this-world experience, head here to see the closest thing you’ll find to a flying saucer.

13. Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze

Location: Pier 39, Building O-11, San Francisco

A weird place to go in San Francisco is Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze. Confusion and hilarity ensue the second you set foot inside. The neon-glowing maze is a trippy, kaleidoscopic labyrinth with columns and mirrors disorienting you from finding your way out. For the ultimate experience, complete the maze once more, but this time, start from the end.

14. The Center of the World

Location: 1 Center of the World Drive, Felicity

Located along California's southeastern border, near both Arizona and Mexico, the Center of the World is marked by a strange granite pyramid.

Who knew that the "center" of the world was in a small town called Felicity? With no scientific reasoning behind the name, the Center of the World was founded by Jacques-André Istel and marked by a pink granite pyramid. Istel continued to expand the unusual landmark by building an old-fashioned chapel and decorative stairs that lead to nowhere. Here, you can also find a series of triangular granite blocks where the history of the world is engraved. Make sure to add this to your list of weird places to visit to embark on a journey to the faux Center of the World.

15. The Flintstone House

Location: 45 Berryessa Way, Hillsborough

This whimsical, experimental house is bound to grab your attention thanks to its vivid orange hue and cartoon-like sculptures. Loved by tourists (yet disliked by its neighbors), the Flintstone House is certainly a weird place to visit. The prehistoric animal statues stand high and mighty in the backyard of this quirky home. Stroll around, and you’ll also find Fred Flinstone (yabba-dabba doo!) welcoming you to the estate. Stop by this unofficial unique landmark, and live out your childhood dream of being a cartoon character. 

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