Hello, and welcome to my home! If you’re going to be visiting Southern California, you’ll probably want to take a little something home to remember your time here by. Sure, you could head into your nearest tourist shop and buy a shirt that says “Los Angeles” or “San Diego” on it, pick up a few postcards, and leave on your merry little way. Nothing wrong with that, and I’ve certainly done the same sorts of things when traveling to other places. That being said, if you’re looking for something a little more unique to the area, you might want to consider picking up one of these items.
Rainbows Sandals are a So Cal institution. Based out of San Clemente, California, these are THE choice brand of flip flops for So Cal natives everywhere. I myself have been wearing them since sometime in the mid-90’s. Walk around any beach town and take a look at people’s feet. Chances are, you’ll see lots and lots of flip flops with the little Rainbow tag on them. They are popular for good reason: Rainbows are really high quality sandals. If you want to snag a pair for yourself, you can head into pretty much any surf shop in town and snag a pair for yourself. If you’re staying in the South Orange County or North San Diego County areas, it would be worth it for you to make a little trip to their factory outlet store in San Clemente and get yourself a pair at a really, really good price. Plus, San Clemente is a classically cool little So Cal beach town, so your trip over there will be a fun one anyway.
Californians love hot sauce. Take a look in any of our refrigerators and you’ll likely see at least 4 or 5 varieties. We all have the classics such as Cholula and Tapatio, but you can get those in any grocery store. For something a little more uniquely Californian, try one of these: Pepper Plant Sauce, La Sriracha Macha or Gringo Bandito.
A tank top with the California flag design.
In general, nothing labels you as a tourist more than wearing a t-shirt with the name of the place you are visiting on it. However, get yourself a stylish tank top with the California flag design on it and you’ll be wearing the same thing many locals choose to wear. I’m pretty sure I have a few of them in my closet, even. We love our flag with the bear, the star, and ‘California Republic’ written on it. It’s just pride in the homeland, bro.
A little container of sand.
Why not get a little container with some of our sand in it? They sell things like this in the tourist shops, but you can easily make your own. Take a little of the beach home with you!
An In-N-Out Burger t-shirt.
Mmmmm….In-N-Out Burger. If you haven’t tried it yet, get yourself to the nearest In-N-Out. While you’re there sampling the tasty goodness, be sure to pick up a t-shirt to commemorate your visit. What could symbolize California more than it’s most beloved burger chain?
A bottle of California wine.
California has a lot of wineries, and we’re known as one of the world’s great wine regions. Why not bring a bottle home to enjoy? You can hit up the wineries, or you can head into your local grocery store, Bevmo, or Trader Joe’s, and pick your favorite bottle up for a good price.
Local craft beers.
If wine isn’t your thing, we’ve got plenty of craft beers as well! There are small breweries everywhere, or pick up some bottles or a growler from companies such as Stone, The Lost Abbey, Green Flash, or Pizza Port.
Forrest Gump always said that life is like a box of chocolates, and See’s Candies is a great place to live the life! Headquartered right here in California, this chocolate shop is an absolute institution since sometime before I was born. Christmastime in California always means a box (or 5) of See’s makes an appearance, but it doesn’t have to be reserved for the holidays…these babies are available year round! Stop into one of their many locations and try a free sample, pick up a few truffles, or do like I do and pick up a 1lb box of nuts and chews (to share…yeah, that’s it…).
If you’re looking for some chocolate that is a little more unique, you might want to stop into one of Chuao Chocolate’s many retail locations. Headquartered right here in Carlsbad, California (that’s North San Diego County for those of you who don’t know the area), Chuao makes innovative chocolate flavors such as coconut hibiscus, spicy maya, honeycomb, blueberry lavender and more.
Any local food products you happen to see.
One thing I love to get when I travel is a taste of my destination to take home with me. We have no shortage of fantastic local food products here! Head over to any farmer’s market or into independent shops selling things like olive oils, spices, etc. and you’ll find an array of interesting local food items, many of which you’ll be able to package up and take home with you.
Work from local artists.
Just like the local food products, if you’re looking for something truly unique and special to bring home from your trip, you may want to look for the work of local artists and craftsmen. Not all of these things need to be necessarily expensive…you can find artwork for sale at art and craft fairs, farmer’s markets, and often even on the walls of small independent cafes and coffee shops for fairly reasonable prices. Also look for hand made jewelry, prints of artist’s work and photography, and other unique keepsakes.
If you’re in L.A., you’re in L.A. Dodger’s territory. Why not pick up one of the iconic blue LA dodger’s hats to commemorate your visit and, you know, support my favorite baseball team.
Cactus Cooler soda.
I recently found out that Cactus Cooler is basically only available in So Cal. Huh. I never knew since it’s just always been around for me. I don’t drink a ton of soda myself, but if you’re a soda lover, this is a pretty good one, with a pineapple-orange flavor that I must admit is pretty tasty. You can pick some up in grocery stores.
An earthquake survival kit.
I’ll admit something to you: We Californians really aren’t worried about earthquakes. If you meet one who is, ask them where they lived before they moved here. CA natives tend to scoff at the danger. Honestly, though…I haven’t been in an earthquake that even made me get up out of my bed since 1994, and even that one only knocked a couple books off a shelf. Still, there’s always that looming threat of “the big one” that is always “coming…sometime.” It’s probably a good idea for Californians to have an earthquake survival kit, and if you’re just visiting, you may not need one back home, but it’s a cheeky and fun item to bring back as a souvenir and really useful in case of natural disasters of any kind, really, so why not pick one up? Most Californians who don’t completely ignore the need for one tend to just put theirs together themselves, but if you want a complete one, you can pick them up at places like Target or REI, or of course, online.
Sublime’s self-titled album.
It may have come out in 1996, but this album continues to be the hallmark of the childhoods of many 20 and 30-somethings all around So Cal. We all owned the album, we all knew all the words to every song, and we still sing along when it comes on the radio. If you’re looking for the music that defined a generation of Californians, this is it.
Thoughts? Any unique So Cal souvenirs you think I should have mentioned?