Welcome to California, the land of dreams and kale smoothies.
Where the sun shines brighter, the people are warmer, and the avocados are, well, extra. But before you start packing your bags and practicing your “dude” and “gnarly”, let’s dig into the heart of what makes the Golden State so damn irresistible in this ultimate guide on the best things to do in California.
In this article...
1. Catching Waves at Huntington Beach:
At Huntington Beach, the surf culture permeates every aspect of life. It’s not just a sport; it’s a lifestyle, a religion almost. With consistent swells throughout the year, this ‘Surf City USA’ is a playground for surfers.
But even if you don’t surf, the beach’s 8.5 miles of sandy shoreline is perfect for lounging, beach volleyball, or a classic beach bonfire.
Traveler’s Tip: Try the local seafood at nearby restaurants. Fresh from the ocean to your plate—it doesn’t get better than this.
2. Marveling at Yosemite National Park:
Yosemite is not just a park; it’s a spectacle. Imagine towering granite monoliths standing guard over vast wilderness, thundering waterfalls plummeting down cliffs, and tranquil meadows embroidered with wildflowers.
Whether you’re into hiking, rock climbing, camping, or just want to soak in the scenery, Yosemite has something for everyone.
Traveler’s Tip: Visit in Spring when the waterfalls are at their most magnificent and the park is less crowded.
3. Wine-Tasting in Napa Valley:
In Napa Valley, life moves at a slower pace. Days are spent meandering through over 400 wineries, each offering a unique blend of flavors. Sip on world-class wines, savor gourmet meals, and let the rolling vineyards and sun-dappled valleys work their charm on you.
Traveler’s Tip: Rent a bike. It’s a fun, eco-friendly way to hop between vineyards. Just remember to drink responsibly.
4. Living it Up in Hollywood:
Hollywood is the stuff of legends.
Wander along the Walk of Fame, hike up to the iconic Hollywood sign, or take a studio tour to catch a glimpse of movie magic in the making. And who knows? You might even bump into a celebrity at a local café.
Traveler’s Tip: Try the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It’s a unique glimpse into the city’s glamorous past.
5. Road Tripping Along the Pacific Coast Highway:
The Pacific Coast Highway is California in a nutshell—breathtaking, wild, and wonderfully unpredictable.
With the blue Pacific on one side and towering cliffs on the other, every bend in the road presents a new vista to gasp at.
This is not just a road; it’s a journey through California’s heart.
Traveler’s Tip: Plan for plenty of stops. The views demand it.
6. Sunset at Santa Monica Pier:
As the sun dips below the horizon, Santa Monica Pier lights up with the vibrant energy of street performers, the nostalgic charm of a solar-powered Ferris wheel, and the enticing smells of food stalls.
It’s a place where the carnival spirit comes alive every evening.
Traveler’s Tip: Stay for the night lights of the Ferris wheel—it’s magical.
7. Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park:
Joshua Tree National Park is where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet, creating a unique and fascinating ecosystem.
Hike through landscapes dotted with the park’s namesake Joshua Trees, explore the intriguing rock formations, and when the sun sets, enjoy some of the best stargazing opportunities.
Traveler’s Tip: Bring plenty of water—it gets hot out there.
8. Visiting the Iconic Hollywood Sign:
No trip to California would be complete without paying homage to its most iconic landmark, the Hollywood Sign.
This colossal symbol of dreams and glamour, perched on the southern side of Mount Lee, is a sight to behold.
While you can’t get super close to the sign, there are numerous viewing points such as the Griffith Observatory and Lake Hollywood Park that offer great vistas.
Traveler’s Tip: For the best view, take the hike from Griffith Observatory to Mount Hollywood. It’s a bit of a trek, but the panoramic views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign are worth it.
9. Exploring Death Valley National Park:
Death Valley is a landscape of extremes. It’s North America’s driest, hottest, and lowest National Park.
But don’t let the name fool you; life thrives here. From the vast salt flats of Badwater Basin to the multicolored rocks of Artist’s Palette, this park’s surreal landscapes will leave you in awe.
Traveler’s Tip: Visit in winter or early spring to avoid the extreme summer heat. And don’t forget to catch the sunrise or sunset for a truly breathtaking spectacle.
10. Strolling around Santa Barbara:
Santa Barbara is a coastal city that’s got it all – stunning Spanish-style architecture, a palm-lined waterfront, and a backdrop of the Santa Ynez mountains.
Wander around the city’s historic district with its white stucco buildings and red-tile roofs, relax on the sandy beaches, or enjoy the vibrant local food and wine scene.
Traveler’s Tip: Try the local olive oil. It’s some of the best in the world.
11. Enjoying Lake Tahoe:
Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or a nature lover, Lake Tahoe has something to offer.
This stunning lake, nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, is a playground for outdoor activities all year round.
In summer, enjoy water sports, hiking, and camping. In winter, the surrounding mountains become a paradise for skiing and snowboarding.
Traveler’s Tip: Don’t forget your camera. You’ll want to remember these views.
12. Visiting the Redwoods and Sequoias of California:
Prepare to feel small – really small. The Redwood and Sequoia trees of California are among the tallest and oldest living things on Earth.
Walking among these towering giants, some of which are over 2,000 years old, is a humbling and unforgettable experience.
Traveler’s Tip: Take a guided tour to learn about the incredible ecosystem of these ancient forests.
13. Experiencing the Magic of Disneyland:
No list of California attractions would be complete without Disneyland.
It’s not just a theme park; it’s a magical kingdom where childhood dreams come to life. With its thrilling rides, beloved characters, and stunning fireworks, Disneyland is a place where magic is real, and anything is possible.
Traveler’s Tip: Try to visit on a weekday to avoid the biggest crowds. And don’t miss the daily parade!