10 Essential Southern California Experiences for APU Students

by Megan Wilhelm

Selecting a university to attend is similar to buying a home when considering the important factor of location. Although academics, campus atmosphere, and size are important components, the university’s location is essential to consider when deciding on a college.

Azusa Pacific University, located in LA County next to the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley has much to offer students. From unique local businesses to hiking trails to activities throughout Southern California, APU has all a college student could ask for and more.

Below are just a few of the many activities and experiences available within a quick drive from APU.

The Donut Man in Glendora

The Donut Man is a go-to for those who want a late-night sugar rush. Open 24/7 and located on the historic Route 66, Donut Man is a local classic for APU students. The shop is famous for its fresh strawberry donuts, which have been featured on The Food Network, The Cooking Channel, and the LA Times. According to their website, each “donut is made by hand, on site, and every day,” giving each pastry a unique shape. The Donut Man was also featured in season two of the popular Netflix series “You.”

If you want even more of an adventure than donuts at 3 a.m., check out Donut Man’s location in downtown LA’s Grand Central Market, open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. This location opened in March 2020. Given the shop’s rich history on Route 66 in Glendora, the company wanted to keep with tradition and open in another renowned location. As stated on their website, “Anyone can build a state of the art kitchen and put a name on it, but very few have the privilege to be a part of such a historical landmark that is Grand Central Market.”

Local Coffee Shops

No college town is complete without a few coffee shops. Thankfully, Azusa and its neighboring cities have plenty to offer. A favorite of students is Mantra Coffee Company. Not only is Mantra cozy and quaint, it’s open until 10 p.m., making it the perfect study spot for students.

Classic Coffee is another popular shop near APU’s campus. Located in charming downtown Glendora, it makes for the perfect spot to meet up with a friend and catch up on life.

Located in downtown Azusa, Pressed + Flower is another coffee shop that provides its guests with a variety of pastries, unique drinks, sandwiches, and even cereal. Floral, bright, and colorful, the shop also sells clothing, so students can thrift while sipping on their favorite latte!

Glendora Mountain Road & Hiking

Glendora Mountain Road (GMR) is only a 10-minute drive from APU’s campus, providing students with majestic views of the city and mountains. With several spots to pull over, it’s a great place to watch the sunset with friends. There are also a multitude of hikes available for students off of or near GMR.

One hike in particular that students enjoy and is close to campus is the Open Door Trail, more commonly referred to as the “cross hike.” Located on the foothill just north of APU’s campus with a large, white cross at the top, this hike is the perfect mix of accessible yet challenging. At the top, students can enjoy views of campus and neighboring cities all the way to downtown Los Angeles.


One of Southern California’s most prominent features are the spectacular beaches along the coast. Although APU is situated near the foothills, it’s also close to several beaches. A few popular spots include Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach, each of which are about a one-hour drive. World-famous Malibu is about an hour and 15 minutes away.

While there, students can swim, surf, read, shop local boutiques, or simply soak up the sun.

Old Town Pasadena

Old Town is a historic part of Pasadena full of clothing stores, coffee shops, and various restaurants. Whether students want a change of scenery to finish homework, a nice night out, or are in need of some new clothes, Old Town is sure to have something for everyone.

While getting to Old-Town Pasasdena is easy enough by car (a 25-minute drive from APU’s campus), students can also take the metro there! Located just north of east campus, the metro’s gold-line takes students all the way to Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. For Old Town Pasadena, however, students can get off at Memorial Park and walk from there to explore all Old Town has to offer.

LA Tourist Attractions — Hollywood, Santa Monica Pier, Griffith Observatory, & Hollywood Sign

Los Angeles is full of fun tourist spots for students to visit on weekends or holidays. The Hollywood neighborhood is home to the TCL Chinese Theatre, the star-studded Walk of Fame, and several historic music venues like the Dolby Theatre and Hollywood Bowl.

There’s also the Santa Monica Pier, which has numerous rides, including a ferris wheel, games, and plenty of food options. Access to the pier is free, with additional activities, such as the aquarium, charging an entrance fee.

Last but not least is the Griffith Observatory. Not only does this observatory provide wonderful views of LA and the iconic Hollywood Sign, it’s also a wonderful place to observe the stars, visit exhibits and the planetarium, and watch shows. While many activities at the observatory are free, some require the purchase of tickets.

Theme Parks

California is home to several top theme parks, including Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios, and Six Flags Magic Mountain. Each of these parks, with their distinct rides, themes, and locations, provide students with unique experiences. They are a fun, adventurous way for students to spend a holiday break or a day off.

Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm are both located in Anaheim, about 30 minutes away. Universal Studios, located north of Los Angeles, is the same distance, and Six Flags, located in Santa Clarita, is an hour away. While tourists come from all over the country to visit these theme parks, APU students have access to them all the time.

Arts & Culture

There are many arts and cultural experiences APU students can experience throughout Southern California. Notable museums include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty Center, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

The Huntington Library is a must see. Not to be confused with Huntington Beach, the Huntington Library is a three-in-one arts and culture experience with botanical gardens, a research library, and museums featuring American, British, European, and Asian art. Located in Pasadena, it’s about a 25-minute drive from APU’s campus with day passes for $21 on weekdays and $24 on weekends. Memberships and college cards are available for purchase as well.

Film Tapings (Jimmy Kimmel, America’s Got Talent)

As home to Hollywood and all things entertainment, Southern California is the perfect place to see live tapings of your favorite talk shows or talent competitions, such as Jimmy Kimmel Live!, America’s Got Talent, Conan, and more.

Tapings are a fun way to see celebrities in person while in tinsel town. Most tapings take place in Burbank or Los Angeles and are free to attend as long as you book tickets in advance.

MLB, NBA, NFL, & NHL Games

Southern California is the home of many notable sports teams, including the Rams, Dodgers, Kings, Lakers, Ducks, and Angels. If sports fans ever want to see their favorite teams in person, they can attend games at Dodger Stadium, Angels Stadium, the Staples Center, the Honda Center, and more.

Southern California has much to offer APU students. With its vast array of entertainment, sports, restaurants and cafes, arts and culture, natural beauty, and more, APU’s location has something for everyone.

Megan Wilhelm '23 is a public relations intern in the Division of Strategic Communication and Engagement.