Though it’s more of a household name than the city it’s a part of, Valencia is just one municipality that lies within the borders of Santa Clarita.
Together they’re located in LA County, about 30 minutes northwest of the downtown area, depending on traffic.
Though many visitors to Valencia opt for day trips to Southern California’s premier show business attractions, for those who’d rather not fight the notorious traffic, there are abundant sites worth checking out within just a few miles.
Area highlights include a world-class theme park, impressive natural areas, and a variety of shopping, historic, and outdoor recreational options.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Valencia, California:
1. Six Flags Magic Mountain
Located on Magic Mountain Parkway just minutes from Valencia, Six Flags Magic Mountain is the area’s most well-known attraction. It draws year-round visitors from all over the state.
Though it’s primarily an amusement park, it also features tons of dining and live entertainment options, a variety of rides and activities for children and adults of all ages, and a number of shopping options.
In short, it’s the kind of place that many families choose to spend an entire day, and sometimes two or three.
There are plenty of affordable and convenient lodgings nearby for those who’d rather not waste valuable vacation time driving.
2. Vista Valencia Golf Course
Southern California usually enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine per year.
That makes it a perfect destination for golfers and all-around lovers of the great outdoors.
Vista Valencia Golf Course is one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s premier golf attractions. It features two distinct courses less than a kilometer from downtown Valencia.
The first is an 18-hole executive-style course that can usually be played in less than 2 ½ hours.
The second is a short, 9-hole par-3 that’s popular with retirees, those playing with kids, and travelers with limited vacation time.
Both offer stunning natural surroundings and tees for a variety of skill levels.
3. Urbane Café
Located just west of the Golden State Freeway, Valencia’s Urbane Café is a popular stopping point for travelers and locals alike.
Urbane is known for its comfy and contemporary décor, friendly staff, and an impressive menu that features lots of healthy and homemade items, running the gamut from salads and sandwiches to soup and freshly baked bread.
They also feature strictly veggie options for those with dietary restrictions, and protein-rich entrees and salads that are big hits with the fit and muscle-bound crowd.
Urbane can get busy during peak times, so if you’d rather get in and out quickly, consider dining before or after the typical lunch and dinner crowds.
4. St. Francis Dam
Most visitors are surprised to find a unique historical attraction like a concrete dam in an area known for its arid climate and sparse rainfall.
The St. Francis Dam was originally built to provide water to Southern California in the early 1920s, but just a few years after it was completed, it ruptured and leveled several small towns downstream.
Though much of the original dam is gone, its scenic setting is full of natural beauty and unique desert wildlife that make it a fun place to explore.
The dam is about 15 kilometers north of Valencia, and most guests choose to visit with a local guide.
5. Santa Clarita Central Park
Valencia’s relatively laidback pace is usually a welcome change for Southern California visitors who’ve tired of Los Angeles’ notorious congestion and overall urban chaos.
Located on an idyllic 125-acre spread a few kilometers northeast of town, Santa Clarita Central Park is a convenient escape destination for those interested in convening with Mother Nature.
Much of the park is undeveloped, and it features a disc golf course, a designated dog area, and a number of trails open to runners, hikers, and mountain bikers.
Located on Bouquet Creed Road just a few minutes from Valencia, it has an impressive community garden as well.
6. Westfield Valencia Town Center
For many travelers, retail therapy is a legitimate use of limited vacation time.
Southern California is home to some of the country’s ritziest shopping areas, but there are more reasonably priced options for those traveling on budgets.
Westfield Valencia Town Center does sport its fair share of high-end shops and eateries, but savvy shoppers don’t need to spend an arm and a leg.
In addition to clothes and food, the center’s retailers sell everything from jewelry, appliances, and toys to books, sporting goods, and housewares.
The mall is located in Valencia and often hosts special events in the common area, especially during the holiday season.
7. William S. Hart Museum
Though he’s not as well-known as other entertainment moguls of the silent era, William S. Hart was one of the most acclaimed actors, directors, and producers of his day.
The museum that bears his name is about two kilometers southeast of Valencia and features one of the most unique and eclectic collections of historically significant odds-and-ends in Southern California.
Many of the items on display relate to the budding film industry of the early 1900s. There are also artifacts of Native American origin and western memorabilia such as artwork and equestrian equipment.
There are hiking trails and a picnic area onsite for those who’d like to make a day of it.
8. Santa Clarita Philharmonic Orchestra
Despite their relatively small sizes, Valencia and Santa Clarita are home to an amazingly well-rounded group of attractions.
The Santa Clarita Philharmonic Orchestra is a community-based organization that features musicians that range from professionals to students.
It’s dedicated to providing residents of the area with high-quality musical and cultural opportunities that they probably wouldn’t have access to otherwise. For visiting lovers of traditional music, it’s a great place to spend a few evening hours.
It’s located less than a kilometer from Valencia. The staff offer a number of outreach and instructional programs throughout the year as well.
9. Vasquez Rocks
Located in the hills just a few minutes outside Valencia, Vasquez Rocks are not only one of the area’s most impressive natural attractions, but they’ve also starred in several movies and television shows over the years.
The rocks are located in a public area that’s open to visitors year-round. Between late spring and fall, guided hikes led by professional park rangers are a big hit with those looking to stretch their legs and breathe the crisp desert air.
Don’t forget your camera or a fully-charged cellphone because the rocks are nothing short of stunning. There’s often unique wildlife around and desert plants in bloom depending on when you visit.
10. Gibbon Conservation Center
Traditional zoos tend to get a bad rap these days, but unlike its counterparts, the Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita is primarily focused on research, breeding, and conservation programs for the benefit of gibbons.
Gibbons are amazing primates native to Asia and Southeast Asia. They’re particularly well-known for their agility and loud calls that can carry over long distances.
The center is located about eight kilometers northeast of Valencia and has been open since the mid-‘70s.
The staff offer regularly scheduled tours, but it’s a good idea to give them a call or check out their website before making a special trip.
11. The Placerita Canyon Nature Center
Located just a few minutes south of Valencia between Interstate 5 and California Route 14, the quaint and historic town of Newhall is a favorite destination for visitors looking to experience the area as it was in years past.
The Placerita Canyon Nature Center sits in an idyllic depression between the foothills. It features a gurgling stream and large stands of oak and willow trees that provide ample shade when the sun is at its hottest.
Most visitors choose to take advantage of the abundant walking trails, but for those who’d just rather relax, there are designated picnic areas with covered seating.
12. Christmas in Santa Clarita
During the holiday season, when most of the country’s residents are wrapped in sweaters trying to distance themselves from the snow and ice, Californians are generally wearing shorts and Hawaiian shirts and enjoying temperatures in the 70s and 80s.
In early December, Santa Clarita’s neighborhood dwellers start getting into the spirit, and they tend to take their Christmas decorating to the extreme.
In fact, the spectacle has gotten so popular that self-guided tour maps are now provided at local businesses for those who’d like to see the show for themselves.
Due to its proximity to Valencia, many visitors choose to take advantage of the warm weather and check out the decorations on foot or by bike.
13. The Dudes’ Brewing
During the summer months, the blistering California sun has a way of sapping visitors’ energy and depleting them of vital fluids.
Thankfully, there’s a great place to replenish the aforementioned fluids; it’s called The Dudes’ Brewing.
Dude’s is a popular tap house boasting more than two dozen varieties of beer that come in an array of colors, flavors, and alcohol levels to appeal to a wide range of palates.
They also offer seasonal wine and hard cider, as well as traditional American fare ranging from light and healthy soup and salads to classics like pizza and burgers.
It’s especially fun on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights during football season and is just a few kilometers from Valencia.
14. Old Town Newhall
Located along Valencia Boulevard less than five minutes east of Valencia proper, Old Town Newhall is one of the area’s most authentic Old West towns.
It hosts an annual Cowboy Festival that draws would-be cowpokes and history buffs from all over the region. It also features a star-studded walk of fame that honors standouts of western television, radio, and movies from decades long past.
For those who’d like to show themselves around at their own pace, there’s a free downloadable app that lets visitors know which attractions shouldn’t be missed, and how to get to each.
Old Town has a number of restaurants, shops, and comfy bars popular with the happy hour crowd.
15. Santa Clarita’s Trails
By some estimates, the mountains and foothills surrounding Valencia and Santa Clarita are home to nearly 70 miles of nature trails.
Most of the trailheads are between five and ten kilometers from Valencia. With so many choices, there are appropriate options for everyone – from diehard outdoorsy types to families with children looking to spend a relaxing afternoon in nature.
The most popular trailheads include Iron Horse, Promenade, and Lost Canyon. Each has its own parking area and basic amenities like fountains and shaded seating.
Unless otherwise noted, dogs are okay, but owners are required to clean up after them if they make a mess on the trail.