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35 Best Things to do in California

35 Best Things to do in California

Whether you’re a nature lover, adventurer, or foodie, you can surely find your place in the Golden State. You will never run out of places to go because there is a wide range of things to do in California. This includes fun beach escapades, adrenaline-inducing trips to amusement parks, relaxing nature trails, diverse food explorations, and more.

Most places in California will take your breath away with their mesmerizing road views and fantastic beaches. California is also home to remarkable landmarks, like the Hollywood Sign and the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re lucky enough, you can even meet Hollywood superstars while strolling the state! 

California is one of, if not the best, travel destinations for tourists from various cities and countries, which is why it isn’t surprising that millions of tourists visit the state yearly. If you haven’t been to California, this guide will tell you why you should add it to your travel bucket list. 

This 400,000-square-kilometer state is largely accessible by car, by train, by bike, and even by walking. Because California is a known tourist destination, it won’t be challenging for local and international tourists to find accommodations that suit their lifestyle, preferences, and budget.

Do you want to know the best of California, how to get around the state, and where to stay? Stay with us, and feel free to take note of your favorite points on the best things to do in California!

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Best and Fun Things to do in California

1. Do some California Sightseeing along the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Address: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA, United States

Prepare to have a mind-blowing adventure at the Golden Gate Bridge! This engineering masterpiece is California’s most significant landmark. In fact, it has been declared one of the wonders of the modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Golden Gate Bridge hangs above the strait that connects the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Tagged as the most photographed bridge in the world, this structure draws a large number of visitors yearly.

There are plenty of things to do in California, and specifically, several activities are available for tourists at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. But my personal favorites are cruising around the bay and exploring the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

PRO TIP: You can book paid tours in advance if you want a hassle-free trip!

If you’re looking for a place to stay near the Golden Gate Bridge, you should check out the Cavallo Point. This lodging resort offers a top-notch service from rooms to amenities.

See Related: 23 Fun & Best Things to do in Fresno, California

2. Indulge in some unique artistry at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Address: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, LA, CA 90036, United States

One of the best things to do in California is to indulge in some unique artistry at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an art person or not. At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it’s hard not to fancy arts.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, simply known as LACMA, is an art museum on Wilshire Boulevard. It is the largest of its kind in the western United States, holding more than 150,000 art displays. Nearly one million people visit the place yearly for its exclusive collections. 

LACMA has five buildings, each of which houses a separate collection of unconventional artwork. There is so much to see and do that you could easily spend a half-day here and not feel contented!

Of course, no visit to this museum is complete without a stop at its most well-known exhibit. A collection of antique street lights you’ve probably seen on Instagram is on display at Urban Light. Join the fun and have your picture taken at this lovely installation and more.

It’s also right next door to the fascinating (and slightly) stinky La Brea Tar Pits and museum!

See Related: Best Things to Do in Calabasas, California

3. Relive your favorite films at the Universal Studios

Universal Studios Hollywood

Address: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608, United States

Did you really go to California if you didn’t visit Universal Studios? This Hollywood-themed park is literally on everyone’s bucket list of things to see in California!

Universal Studios Hollywood began as a touring attraction in the 1910s before it was transformed into a full-fledged theme park destination. This amusement center offers behind the scenes of the films produced by Universal Pictures. Thus, you can relive your favorite blockbusters here!

But that’s not all. Apart from film set tours, this theme park also offers shows and rides. What a treat! If you’re going to ask me for a show worth seeing, I would recommend the WaterWorld. Secure a seat at the “Soak Zones” to get the full experience!

The ride attractions at the Universal Studios have different themes. The Simpsons, Jurassic Park, and Back To The Future are some of my favorites. For the Hogwarts fans, muster the courage and check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This attraction will whisk you away to a world of magic and thrills – and butter beer!

For a guaranteed hassle-free tour, skip the lines and book your ticket in advance!

See Related: 25 Fun & Best Things to do in Oakland, California

4. Ride the Ferris Wheel at Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica

Address: 200 Sta. Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States

The Ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier is a familiar sight for visitors and residents alike. Who wouldn’t be fascinated by its bright red and yellow color? Plus, the view from the top will leave you breathless! With that, it is included in the list of best things to do in California.

It is one of the most famous places in California. Its promise of endless entertainment activities has successfully attracted both locals and tourists. But things weren’t like that from the beginning. In fact, the pier was initially launched to pump cleansed sewage out to sea.

Today, this area is unrivaled for daytime trips and nighttime thrills. True to its promise, you’ll never run out of things to do here! It houses the Pacific Park, Heal the Bay Aquarium, and Santa Monica Beach.

You don’t have to pay anything to stroll down the pier. Hence, it’s easily one of the best free things to do in California. However, you may buy a wristband for unlimited access to the rides and games at the amusement park. And if you happen to be visiting during summertime, don’t leave without taking a quick dip in the ocean!

See Related: Best Things to do in Guerneville, California

5. Grab a sourdough at the Boudin Bakery

Boudin Bakery

Address: 2890 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA

The Boudin Bakery, located in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood in San Francisco, is renowned for its sourdough bread, which has made it a local delicacy. Since 1849, Boudin bakers in San Francisco have used the same recipe to create their bread.

Jefferson Street is the major thoroughfare in this San Francisco neighborhood, and you’ll find this enormous bakery there. It’s roughly midway between Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square.

A large retail shop (Baker Hall) is located next to the kitchen, where you can see the dough is made from scratch. Pick up some local delicacies like bread and cheese at this stand. For lunch, you can grab a sandwich from the counter and sit at one of the outdoor tables that are available. You can also purchase a cup of Peet’s Coffee here to get your day (or afternoon) started off right.

6. Take a selfie with the Hollywood Sign

Hollywood sign in Los Angeles

Address: LA, Southern California 90068, United States

What’s the most popular thing in California other than a collection of celebrities in one place? To say this sign is iconic is an understatement. What started as an advertisement is now among the most recognizable landmarks in the world.

The Hollywood Sign is an instantly recognizable cultural symbol and a beloved American monument sitting atop Mount Lee on the Hollywood hills. It was initially created as short-term advertising for a real estate development. However, as the sign gained more and more recognition, it was never taken down.

This gigantic icon has been featured in several movies, music videos, and advertising. For this reason, imitations of it can be seen in many different parts of the world.

The surveillance around the emblem is tight for its maintenance and protection. Thus, you won’t be able to get up close and personal with these magnificent letters. But there are plenty of ways to get a good look at them from a distance! 

You can catch the Hollywood sign clearly along Mulholland Highway and pass it during your California road trip. If you’re feeling athletic, you can hike the West Trail in Griffith Park to get a better view of it. And lastly, you can join a guided walking tour up to the sign for a more efficient experience.

See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in California to Visit

7. Get lost in the beauty of Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley - Yosemite National Park

Address: Tioga Rd Hwy 120 & Hwy 140 Yosemite National Park, CA 95389

Nature lover? Park enthusiast? Adventure seeker? You can never go wrong with visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of your priorities in things to do in California. 

Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular national parks in California. It has an area of 1,187 sq. mi. and is spread over four counties–Tuolomne, Mariposa, Mono, and Madera County.

The park provides something for everyone, regardless of age and camping ability. In fact, more than four million people visit the park every year to experience its beauty, with the bulk of these people setting up camp in Yosemite Valley.

Driving the Valley Floor Loop is a great way to enjoy Yosemite’s incredible sites. You may stop at Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Bridge, Valley View, and other pull-offs along the way. You may also explore the Valley on foot or by bike to avoid traffic.

Tioga Road also offers a breathtaking view of the park’s highland. This scenic drive allows tourists to travel to both sides of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Also, many vantage points are worth stopping at along Tioga Road. Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake Scenic Overlook, and Tuolomne Meadow are on the list.

Sounds fun, right? But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Because there is so much to see and do in Yosemite, it is strongly advised that you take part in a guided tour.

8. Immerse yourself in the eerie landscapes of Death Valley National Park

Death Valley  National Park

Address: 328 Greenland Blvd, Death Valley, CA 92328, California, United States

With a name like that and a reputation for being dry and barren, you wouldn’t think this place is worth visiting. And I am here to tell you why it is!

Extremes are the name of the game of this park. It is known for having the hottest temperature that has ever been recorded anywhere in the globe (a scorching 134 degrees in July 1936) and for being the driest area in North America.

But the park draws people with its strange and unearthly scenery. Contrary to its name, it is a vibrant place full of colorful flowers during spring. The park’s unique landscape also includes a fascinating crater, a devil’s golf course, moving rocks, and the galaxy!

In addition, the place is home to a variety of wildlife and activities. You can race down the Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells, take a scenic drive, or bike along the many mountain biking routes in the area.

The heat at the park can be dangerous. Thus, it’s essential to check the weather forecast, bring water, and a guided tour to help you get the best out of your visit.

See Related: Visiting Tahquitz Canyon in Palm Springs, California

9. Witness Mother Nature’s Talent at Sequoia National Park

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Address: Sierra Nevada, east-central California, U.S

Sequoia National Park is one of California’s most amazing national parks, yet it isn’t very well known for some reason. Often overshadowed by the one in Yosemite, this park is exceptionally breathtaking and should not be missed if you ever find yourself in the area.

There is something for everyone to enjoy in Sequoia National Park. From the towering sequoias, the world’s largest trees, to hiking trails (the Big Trees Trail and the Tokopah Falls Trail are great options) and the abundance of wildlife.

If you only have one day to spend in the park, wandering around the Giant Forest is the way to go. It houses the park’s most popular attractions, such as General Sherman, Moro Rock, and the Crescent Meadow.

Additionally, Sequoia connects to Kings Canyon. Thus, because of their proximity, you can visit both parks on the same day. To do this, you’ll have to start your adventure early and end your day late.

10. Climb up the trails in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Address: California, USA

If you’re looking for an oasis in the middle of nowhere, Joshua Tree National Park’s the place for you! Everyone, from photographers to thrill-seekers, flocks to this fascinating park.

Joshua Tree National Park is situated at the convergence of the Mojave and Colorado deserts. It is mainly recognized for its namesake trees, often found in the Mojave Desert. In protected settings, Joshua Trees may live for over 150 years.

However, the Joshua trees aren’t the only thing to see in the park. Large, lava-formed boulders have piled up several feet above the ground. These rocks may be found in the area where the trees are packed closely together. Climbers from all over the globe come to take advantage of these one-of-a-kind granite formations.

Joshua Tree offers a weekly and annual park pass, which cost $30 and $55, respectively. But if you’re a huge fan of national parks, I suggest you opt for America the Beautiful annual pass. This pass will get you into every protected park and historical site in America. Unfortunately, though, it’s currently unavailable. 

See Related: Joshua Tree Itinerary You’ll Want to Copy

11. Be humbled by the elegance of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Skyline
image by Dougtone is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: 17119 Avenue of the Giants, Weott, CA 95571, United States

It’s no secret that California is home to all things parks. National parks, cultural parks, neighborhood parks–you name it, California has it. But when it comes to size and old-growth treasures, no other park can compete with Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park is home to some of the world’s oldest and tallest trees. As a matter of fact, a number of these natural creatures have been there for more than 3,000 years and are more than 300 feet tall.

Obviously, people visit Humboldt Redwoods State Park to witness the beauty of the world’s longest stretch of old-growth redwoods. The Avenue of the Giants is the perfect spot to get a clear view of the towering trees.

Plus, most of the trailheads that lead to the most enjoyable walks in the park are in this area, too! Hence this is easily one of the most famous drives in the park.

The park is open all year round and does not charge an entrance fee! So, when in California, this state park is a must-see attraction.

12. Pretend to be a Volcanologist in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Address: Northern California, United States

Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the few places holding all types of volcanoes in the same area. So, this park in Northern California is for you if you’re into volcanoes. In addition, the park is home to stunning lakes, waterfalls, and cliffs.

The summit of Lassen Peak is one of the highlights of the park. It measures about 10,457 feet above the ground, making it the world’s tallest plug dome volcano. Climbing to the top of the peak is safe but undeniably challenging. Thus, it’s not recommended for first-time hikers.

There are many other lovely sites to visit at the park. The Bumpass Hell is one of its popular trails and also my favorite. In this park, you’ll also find a plethora of stunning alpine lakes. The ones that took my breath away were Lake Helen, Emerald Lake, and Reflection Lake.

Just an FYI: during winter, many routes that run through the park are closed because of the snow. Hence, it’s essential to check its website for up-to-date information on road conditions at the time of your visit to Northern California.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Long Beach, California

13. Have a fun family day at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Address: 400 Beach St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, United States

For families, one of the best things to do in California is to visit Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This is one of California’s oldest amusement parks!

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is home to a plethora of traditional California attractions. To name a few, there are bumper cars, a log flume, a swinging pirate ship, and a sky glider. The sky glider is a personal favorite! It carries passengers up and above the scene to witness the breathtaking views.

There is also a bowling alley, a mini-golf course with a pirate motif called Buccaneer’s Bay, and a casino arcade with more than 300 different games.

The Giant Dipper roller coaster and the Looff Carousel are the can’t-be-missed rides at the amusement park. The Dipper is the country’s fourth-oldest roller coaster and treats visitors to stunning views of the surrounding region.

The Looff Carousel is a hand-carved merry-go-round that was constructed in 1911. It has 73 one-of-a-kind horses as well as three vintage band organs.

While you’re at it, you can also make some time for the beach. The beach is situated near the San Lorenzo River and Monterey Bay. Due to the limited availability of changing facilities, I would advise you to have your bathing suits worn underneath clothing.

In summary, having fairground fun with your loved ones is definitely one of the best things to do in California!

14. Pose with your favorite celebrity’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Stars at Hollywood Walk of Fame

Address: Hollywood Boulevard, Vine St, LA, CA 90028, United States

When going on a California vacation, visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame is like a rite of passage for every tourist. It’s also one of the best free activities to do in California, so you cannot miss it! Thus, include this in your itinerary on your first days in the state.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a popular tourist attraction along Hollywood Boulevard, covering a distance of 1.3 miles. It is home to more than 2,700 stars bearing the names of some of the legendary figures in the entertainment industry.

Take a walk, or better yet, a picture, down this well-known stretch and spot your favorite artists! Some of the legends you’ll catch here are the late King of Pop–Michael Jackson, Jennifer Aniston, Marilyn Monroe, Lady Gaga, Walt Disney, Ozzy Osbourne, Bruce Lee, Britney Spears, Snoop Dogg, and over 2,500 more!

To locate a certain star, there’s an online tool that you can use called Star Searcher.

See Related: Most Exotic Places in California to Visit

15. Experience Magic at Disneyland

Disneyland Park

Address: 1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, United States

Of course, we are not leaving out Disneyland as one of the best things to do in California.

Where else can you experience magic other than the happiest place on earth? If you’re traveling with kids, bring them to Disneyland; they will love you forever!

At Disneyland, there is something for everyone. From heart-pounding roller coaster rides like the Space Mountain to family-friendly attractions such as the classic ‘It’s a Small World’. There’s also a meet-and-greet opportunity with several Disney characters!

A tip on one of the best things to do in California with kids is to visit Fantasyland and Tomorrowland to start your day on the right foot. Then, embark on wild west experiences in Frontierland and Adventureland.

Also, don’t forget to make a stop at Disneyland’s two major streets, Main Street USA and Buena Vista Street, where you may shop, dine, buy souvenirs, and have a great time!

Lastly, you can’t leave this magical place without catching the Fantasmic fireworks show at night! This show is a visual extravaganza that captures the essence of the wonder and enchantment that Disney is all about.

16. Meet some of the rarest species at the San Diego Zoo

Panda in San Diego Zoo

Address: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, Southern California 92101, United States

Traveling with kids? Or just fond of extraordinary critters? The San Diego Zoo is easily one of the fun things to do in California! 

Commonly seen animals in zoos, such as lions, gorillas, and elephants are available in San Diego. In addition, it is also home to a number of rare and unusual species, like the pancake tortoise and the clouded leopard.

The San Diego Zoo is the only place in the world where you can catch these species, so this is an extremely unique chance to see and photograph them in their natural habitat.

Another fun thing about the San Diego Zoo is that when going from one enclosure to another, guests have the option of using the train or the gondola skylift! 

On the weekends, the zoo hosts special activities for families and couples. They have the “sunrise tours” that take place before the zoo opens and “wild evenings out” which include alcoholic beverages, live music, and the opportunity to touch various animals.

Book a ticket in advance and make friends with your favorite animal!

See Related: Best Breweries in San Diego, California

17. Befriend a sea creature at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Address: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940, United States

Monterey Bay is California’s second-largest bay. It is home to a rich variety of marine species, many of which may be seen here at this magnificent aquarium! Visiting this gigantic aquarium is one of my favorite things to do in California, and I’ll show you why.

Monterey Bay Aquarium holds more than 35,000 creatures of marine life representing more than 550 species, including jellyfish, octopi, sea otters, and more. It has been successfully drawing tourists with its Open Sea exhibit (which houses hammerhead sharks!) and the Splash Zone (a penguin paradise!).

Personally, my favorite exhibit at the aquarium is the Rocky Shore. There are a lot of chances to get your hands dirty here with sea stars, hermit crabs, and other marine critters.

Also, don’t miss out on the chance to see the strength of 600 gallons of water slamming against the glass every 30 seconds at the Wave Crash. You can take photos with it and pretend to be cool.

Just a note for when you visit the aquarium; the peak season is during summer. This means that there will be a significant amount of foot traffic at the aquarium. If this is the only time you will be able to visit, the best days to go are Tuesday and Wednesday!

18. Check out the Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island and Skyline

Address: San Francisco, CA 94133, United States

Alcatraz Island is one of the unique places to visit in California and one of its most popular tourist destinations, and it’s easy to see why. In its heyday, the island was home to notorious inmates such as Al Capone and a number of other infamous criminals.

An island in the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz tells the story of humanity and justice in the United States through its isolation.

Alcatraz Island has a long and eventful history. The United States government initially purchased the properties here in the middle of the 1800s as part of a military fortification program.

Consequently, the well-known federal prison on the island opened after it had been remodeled from its previous use as a military barracks.

More than 1.3 million people visit the facility every year to see what it was like to be incarcerated in a federal facility from the 1930s to the 1960s. Thanks to high-tech audio tours and well-maintained cell blocks, the facility can provide this rare experience to visitors today.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Palm Desert, California

19. Learn about California’s railroad history at the California State Railroad Museum

California State Railroad Museum Exhibit
image by Corvair Owner is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: 125 I St, Sacramento, CA 95814, United States

Not yet done crafting your itinerary? I have another one here for the railfans out there!

California State Railroad Museum is a museum within the state park system of California. It highlights one of the most significant aspects of America’s rise in the West, the railway, and its crucial role in connecting California to the rest of America.

But there’s more to this museum than its fancy display of railroads and trains!

California State Railroad Museum holds an event called the “Excursion Train Rides” every April to September.

This is an opportunity for visitors to hop on board and take a “relaxing 45-minute, 6-mile round trip ride along the levees of the Sacramento River.” FYI, a vintage diesel engine from the museum’s collection is used to haul the trains. What a great way to experience railroad life!

The California State Railroad Museum is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Tickets cost $6 only for teens, $12 for adults, and free for children under five. One of the cool things to do in California is to bring your family here and have fun at the exhibits!

20. Soak up some sun in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, California and Skyline

Address: northern Sierra Nevada, California, United States

Lake Tahoe is a popular vacation spot for Californians and tourists, especially during summer. If you’re looking for exciting things to do in California, this place will give you that and more!

Over 2.7 million people visit Lake Tahoe each year because of its pristine waters, stunning beaches, and world-class ski resorts. It has been named one of the five best places to visit in California and “America’s best lake” by USA Today. It is undoubtedly the place to be during the hot season.

Apart from bodies of water, there are also great hiking and biking trails around Lake Tahoe. A beginner-friendly hike I can recommend to you is the Tahoe Rim Trail to Picnic Rock Viewpoint. The trek runs for approximately 45-minutes and offers picturesque views at the summit.

Looking for a place to stay is not a difficult thing to do in Lake Tahoe. In fact, the area has tons of lodging and accommodation available. Personally, I like to stay at Carnelian Bay on the north shore. It’s a beautiful region, and I like having access to the lake and excellent dining options!

It’s impossible to cover everything about Lake Tahoe under one heading. So I’m just going to leave you with this advice: if you’re visiting California, you MUST go to Lake Tahoe. You’re going to miss out on one of the fun things to do in California.

See Related: Best Things to do in Big Bear, California

21. Unlock the secrets of San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House and Garden

Address: 525 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128, United States

It’s undeniable that there are so many fun things to do in California. The state is home to several beaches, parks, and museums. But besides the fun, you’ll also find some of the strangest things here. Are you a fan of all things bizarre? This one is for you.

Winchester Mystery House is a residence in San Jose, California. It was previously inhabited by Sarah Winchester, the widow of weapons mogul William Wirt Winchester. The Queen Anne Style Victorian home is notable for its architectural peculiarities and absence of a master plan.

The mansion holds the Guinness Book of World Records’ title for the longest home construction. This is thanks to Sarah Winchester, who worked on it nonstop for 38 years.

A tour inside the mansion will reveal why she did this and many other mysteries surrounding Sarah. So book a ticket to the mansion and prepare to be thrilled!

Two tours are available at the Winchester Mystery House: the Self-Guided Mansion Tour and the Sarah Winchester Garden Tour. Personally, I would recommend the former. It is a one-way tour trail that promotes social distancing. And with adequate time in each area, you may go around the mansion at your own speed.

Guided tours are also available if you want to be free from the hassle.

22. Join the fun chaos at Venice Beach Boardwalk

Venice Beach Boardwalk

Address: Ocean Front Walk, LA, California, United States

A trip to California is not complete without visiting the neighborhood of Venice especially as it is one of the top things to do in California for couples. It’s the tourism epicenter of California, holding hundreds of street vendors, performers, and shops.

The Boardwalk is the highlight of Venice Beach. And this is the only spot in the world like it! You’ll discover a wide range of unusual activities and lifestyles here. For instance, shows involving saws, snakes, and broken glass are very common here.

You’ll also see people dancing, acting, singing, and giving out kisses for a dollar. Performers on the Boardwalk deserve some appreciation for their hard work, so don’t forget to tip them!

The Venice Beach Skate Park is a new addition to the neighborhood. So apart from shopping and people-watching, you can also share this set of concrete bowls with other skateboarders.

You can book a segway tour to make the most of your trip. This is like hitting two birds with one stone! You’ll be able to experience two must-visit California beaches hassle-free.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Malibu, California

23. Wander around the Getty Center

Getty Center Building

Address: 1200 Getty Center Dr, LA, CA 90049, United States

Ever wondered why the Getty Center was built at a $1.3 billion cost? A visit to the place will make you stop wondering. So if you’re looking for more things to do in California, you should check the Center out. Everything about the place is amusing. Plus, the entrance fee is free!

The Center is home to one of the two Getty Museums. Paintings, manuscripts, sculptures, and photographs from the pre-20th century are what you’ll catch here. But I swear the Getty is not as boring as it sounds.

In fact, just wandering around this area in Los Angeles is one of the most exciting things to do in California.

Most of Getty’s art collection dates from the early 1900s in Europe, but there are also displays from other eras. In all, four pavilions house the main collection. There are also rotating special exhibits that are well worth seeing.

The highlight of the center is the Central Gardens. Couples and families can have a picnic in the area while admiring the maze of flowers surrounding it.

The Center is open every Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Two hours would be enough time for you to tour around the center. So, don’t skip this attraction on your visit to California!

24. Take in some Asian culture in Chinatown

Chinatown

Address: Chinatown, San Francisco, California, United States

One of the best things to do in California is to visit Chinatown. It is a tiny enclave consisting of only 15 city blocks. This makes it an ideal location for a leisurely stroll.

For more than a century, Chinatown has served as the heart of the Chinese-American community in California, and its alleyways and buildings are full of stories. There are no extraordinary activities to do in the area. You can just wander about and take in the atmosphere of the neighborhood.

Grant, Stockton, and the side streets provide the best opportunity outside Asia to learn about Chinese culture. There are several Chinese tourist bazaar shops in the area, a Chinese butcher, spice and herb shops, and several restaurants.

There are many attractions within Chinatown too that you shouldn’t miss on a walking tour. The Dragon’s Gate, the Fortune Cookie Factory, Taoist Temples, and the California Ave Cable Car are included in the list. Before leaving the place, purchase a Chinese ‘trinket’ as your travel memento!

See Related: Best Family Hotels in San Francisco, California

25. Watch the sea lions dance at Pier 39

Pier 39

Address: The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133, United States

At the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 is a 45-acre waterfront marketplace and pier. It provides various attractions and activities that will keep you entertained. Street performances, seafood restaurants, souvenir stores, and boat tours–Pier 39 has it!

If you’re a fan of adventure and thrills, try Pier 39’s 7D Experience as one of the things to do in California once you visit! This interactive activity offers a movie, roller coaster ride, 7D dark ride, and video game in one. Meanwhile, if you’re traveling with kids, challenge them to find their way through Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze. 

Also, don’t miss the herds of sea lions who lounge about on the decks of the pier of San Francisco. These mammals are affectionately dubbed the “Sea Lebrities” of the Pier 39. Their number grows as many as 900 during the winter season. So, it’s best to visit during this time if you want to catch these “sea lebrities!”

26. Explore the Lands End & Sutro Baths

Lands End & Sutro Baths

Address: 1004 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA

Lands End, a coastal sanctuary in San Francisco’s northern extremity, awaits enthusiastic visitors and hikers alike. The Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific Ocean, and the Marin Headlands are all visible as soon as you step out of your car.

You’ll also see the USS San Francisco Memorial, the Sutro Baths, the Cliff House, and many more historic sites and themes! You can spend your time seeing the Sutro Baths ruins alone, or you can add a short hike along this stunning section of the Coastal Trail on a walking tour.

You can visit the Lands End Trail and the Sutro Baths at any time of year because they are open year-round. The heaviest traffic is expected to occur during the summer months. Beyond that, it’s all about personal taste and taste preferences.

See Related: Best Family-Friendly Hotels in Palm Springs, California

27. Enjoy the Stunning views at the Angel Island

Angel Island

Address: Belvedere Tiburon, San Francisco Bay, CA, United States

Angel Island occupies the middle of San Francisco Bay and is the second-largest island in terms of land area in the bay. On a clear day, Sonoma and Napa may be seen from the north side of the island, while San Jose can be viewed from the south side.

Angel Island is commonly referred to as the “least renowned” Alcatraz. However, this just means that it is less busy and less expensive than its Bay Island counterpart. It’s also a one-stop-shop for day trips.

History, nature, and a beautiful café by the sea are all available here. It’s possible to do most of the island’s activities in one day. To go about the island in San Francisco, you can either bring your own bike or hire one at the airport.

28. Tour the Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards

Address: 334 Ingalls St Suite A, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, United States

It’s a little-known fact that the Santa Cruz Mountains are home to an abundance of world-class vineyards. Wine tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains is a great alternative to Napa or Sonoma, which is why I’ve put up this complete guide to wine tasting in the area.

In addition to its beautiful vineyards, Santa Cruz is generally less congested than other “wine country” destinations. Tuscan architecture, hiking trails, and magnificent vistas of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean may be found at some of these wineries.

See Related: Best Breweries in Northern California

29. Catch a wave at the Malibu Surfrider Beach

Malibu Surfrider Beach

Address: 23050 & 23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

One of the most enjoyable activities that can be enjoyed in California is surfing, so grab your board and get into your wetsuit as soon as you can.

The advent of surfing as an all-weather, all-season outdoor sport in the 1950s and 1960s caused the once-famous point break to become a well-known destination for surfers to visit.

Although Malibu is most known for the wealthy and famous people that live there, the city is also becoming increasingly popular among surfers. Where the Malibu Creek drains into the Pacific Ocean is where you’ll find Surfrider Beach. This beach is about 30 miles west of Los Angeles in the Malibu Lagoon.

30. Take time to relax at the Beverly Hot Springs Spa

Beverly Hot Springs Spa

Address: 308 N Oxford Ave, LA, CA 90004, USA

There is nothing more enjoyable than relaxing in a natural hot spring with your friends in California while taking in the breathtaking scenery that surrounds you, especially if the spring is located in a scenic location.

The only location in Los Angeles where visitors can soak in hot springs made entirely of natural materials is Beverly Hot Springs. The spa provides a variety of services, including a dip in the natural springs, and is only a 10-minute drive from downtown.

When a local bought the land in 1910, he discovered the springs on the property for the first time. Following the discovery of the medicinal powers of this unique water, the concept of a spa was born.

Even though there is a handful that can be found in Southern California, the majority of the state’s most impressive hot springs are located in the state’s Northern California and Eastern regions, particularly in and around the Eastern Sierra region.

See Related: Free California Travel Guide: Printable Guide to Travel

31. Stroll around USS Midway Museum

USS Midway Museum

Address: 910 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

The USS Midway Museum is a popular destination in San Diego for anyone who is interested in nautical history and offers visitors the chance to walk aboard the Midway aircraft carrier itself.

With the help of the self-guided audio tour, you are able to independently investigate the Midway in San Diego as well as the other exhibits.

In any other case, you have the option of going on the Island Tour with one of the knowledgeable tour guides that this museum in San Diego provides, which is included in the price of entry.

32. Take a road trip at the 17-mile Drive

17-mile Drive

Address: 17-mile Dr, California, USA

The 17-Mile Drive, which runs from Monterey to Carmel-by-the-Sea via the exclusive gated town of Pebble Beach, provides a wonderful introduction to the breathtaking scenery of Central California.

The Lone Cypress Tree, Bird Rock, and Del Monte Forest are just a few of the must-sees along the way.

The 17-Mile Drive, which begins in Monterey and ends in Carmel-by-the-Sea, is an excellent introduction to the best of Central California landscape through a road trip.

See Related: Best Waterfalls in California: SoCal & NorCal Spots

33. Visit The Hess Collection Winery and Art Museum

Hess Collection Winery and Art Museum

Address: 4511 Redwood Drive Napa, California 94458 (707) 251-2438

The Hess Collection Winery and Art Museum’s ethos of sustainability are known throughout California. This winery and museum in Napa Valley sits at the summit of Mount Veeder.

The Hess family’s private art collection is a must-see, as is a ride on high-performance ATVs through the stunning vineyards.

You can visit and have a taste of anything on their list of wines while looking at the displayed art within, as well as the scenic views of the valley.

34. Marvel at the colors of the Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain and Skyline

Address: Beal Rd, Calipatria, CA 92233, United States

It’s hard to believe that there’s a place called Salvation Mountain in the middle of a baking desert. You’ll have to head 84 miles south of Palm Springs to see it in person.

Slab City, a transitory and retiree commune in Southern California, is home to Salvation Mountain, which is known as the last free spot in the United States.

If you are familiar with Niland in the Colorado Desert, it is right outside of that area, located in Imperial County, California. It is also only a few miles east of the Salton Sea in the Colorado Desert.

On the mountain, there are several reminders of the love of God, with the most prominent one being “God is Love.” All over the mountain are biblical and religious passages and verses, but the Sinner’s Prayer is the one that stands out the most.

This place is a Mecca for hippies, hobos, folks who live off the grid, and shutterbugs!

See Related: Best Restaurants in Palm Springs, California

35. Enjoy outdoor activities at Mono Lake in Southern California

Mono Lake and Skyline

Address: Highway 395, 13 miles east of Yosemite National Park, near the town of Lee Vining, California

The ancient saline lake of Mono, California, sits on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Mono Lake is a dream destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. There is a unique environment in Mono Lake that will awe and inspire tourists from all over the world.

For nature lovers and photographers, Mono Lake is a haven with hiking, walking paths, and kayaking, as well as plenty of places to watch birds and take pictures.

The Mono Lake Committee also offers a variety of guided programs all year long. These range from one-hour walking tours to field lectures that last for several days.

Where to Stay in California

After knowing the best things to do in California, looking for a place to stay in California is a bit more challenging. Not because of the limited options, but the other way around.

The state of California is enormous, so it can get overwhelming choosing lodging! To make your life easier, I’ve curated several accommodation options that you can check out.

PRO TIP: While finding a place to stay in California should be no problem at all, it’s even easier to find accommodations in and around Los Angeles.

Budget Hotels

Full Moon Inn

Bedroom with two beds
Image by Booking.com

Address: 8803 South Figueroa Street, South Los Angeles, CA 90003, USA

If you’re looking for an affordable place to stay that will give you the value for money, check out Full Moon Inn. This motel will give you a taste of inexpensive luxury with its open tub, fully furnished private bathrooms, and well-equipped rooms.

Tranquil Valley Village

Hotel living room
Image by VRBO

Address: Valley Village, California, USA

If you’re a small family looking for a great place to stay for a cheap price, Tranquil Valley Village is your best bet. This apartment is fully furnished from the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.

It was recently redone to give its guests a chance at an aesthetically-pleasing place for a small price.

Midrange Hotels

Hotel Mariposa

Hotel Pool
Image by Booking.com

Address: 12828 West Riverside Drive, LA, CA 91607, United States of America

Hotel Mariposa is an excellent choice for tourists bound for the Universal Studios Hollywood as this hotel is located eight miles away.

This three-star hotel offers private parking, an in-house gym, well-equipped rooms, a lounging area, and more. This is a common favorite among traveling couples and families.

Luxury Private Studio

Luxury Private Studio
Image by VRBO

Address: Playa Del Rey, California, United States of America

This luxury studio apartment located in a safe and affluent neighborhood is spacious enough for groups of travelers. It’s suitable for families, friends, couples, and even individuals.

It’s equipped with kitchen equipment, toiletries, an 80-inch smart TV, free wifi, etc. This luxury private studio is a 10-minute drive from Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, Marina Del Rey, and Venice.

Luxury Hotels

The London West Hollywood

Luxury hotel room
Image by Booking.com

Address: 1020 N San Vicente Boulevard, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA 90069, USA

Get ready to experience the beauty and hospitality of California in The London West Hollywood hotel.

This luxury accommodation features an outdoor fireplace, a sun deck, fitness center, outdoor pool, beauty center, etc. It also offers daily housekeeping, so you can be worry-free while traveling.

Santa Monica Proper Hotel

luxury room with great view
Image by Booking.com

Address: 700 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, LA, CA 90401, United States of America

Santa Monica Proper Hotel is one of the highest-rated five-star hotels, thanks to its fine amenities, beautiful interior design, and excellent service. This luxury hotel is situated near some of California’s tourist destinations, like the Pacific Park and Getty Center.

A unique feature of this hotel is that it offers some fun activities, like cooking classes, walking tours, local tours, etc.

Hotel del Coronado

big luxury room
Image by Booking.com

Address: 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118, United States

Hotel del Coronado is a historic seaside hotel in Coronado, just across San Diego Bay. The hotel was dubbed the biggest in the world, accommodating several notable figures, including politicians, royalties, and celebrities. It has also appeared in a slew of films and literature throughout the years.

This luxurious hotel is known for the Del State of Mind. It’s a unique South Californian resort experience that will elevate your entire trip. You’ll never want to go home with its impressive Victorian architecture and cutting-edge amenities. Book a room in Hotel del Coronado and enjoy the best California vacation!

Rentals

Just like with hotel accommodations, lots of great options await you if you’re looking for rentals in California. In fact, you’ll be able to find a diverse range of rental units here—from plain and inexpensive homes to luxurious apartments.

  • Los Angeles: Oceana Los Angeles is a 5-minute drive from Petersen Automotive Museum and a 6-minute drive from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Culver City (McManus), California. It’s possible to park on-site, although it’s quite limited.
  • San Francisco Bay Area: Accommodations at Bayview Penthouse in San Francisco is located near Ghirardelli Square, Lombard Street, and Alcatraz, and provide garden views and a terrace. 
  • Fresno: Nearby restaurants include the Motel 6 Fresno – Blackstone South. Within 7 kilometers, you may go golfing or see the Forestiere Underground Gardens.
  • Sacramento: When visiting California, the best place to stay is a beautiful residence in the middle of Fair Oaks in California that has a patio with a relaxing view. Sacramento is 12 miles from the vacation property, while Roseville is 7 miles from it.

See Related: Best Things to do in San Diego, California

Camping & RVs

Camping is one of the favorite activities of tourists when traveling. Fortunately, California is home to several parks and campsites! Plus, its weather is good all year round. So it’s the perfect place to go camping and enjoy nature. Below I have listed the top three camping grounds I recommend you visit the following National Parks:

Getting around California

California is a big place! Hence, getting around and familiarizing yourself with the place can be a little tricky. Read on and learn about the different transportation options available when you visit California.

  • By bus

The majority of California’s counties each have their own local bus service. There are local bus transit agencies that serve only a particular county. The San Francisco Muni is an example of this. You can rely on this specific agency if you’re traveling around San Francisco.

There are also bus transit agencies that travel across county borders, like the San Diego Metropolitan Transit. Another way to travel across areas is by using the services of national bus service providers like Greyhound and Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach.

  • By train

California is home to a plethora of various subway and light rail systems. The Metro Rail system is the most extensive. It consists of six lines and provides service to 78 stops throughout LA County. Other popular rail systems in the state are the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the Sacramento Regional Transit District, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, the San Diego Trolley, and the Sprinter line.

For commuter rail lines, the Altamont Commuter Express, the Coaster, Caltrain, and Metrolink are among the options available.

For intercity rail travels, you can ride the Amtrak’s California, San Joaquin, Pacific Surfliner lines, or the Capitol Corridor.

Amtrak also operates a nationwide rail service that connects California to other states and cities around the country, including Chicago, Seattle, and New Orleans.

  • By car

In California, there are car rentals that you can avail of if you want a hassle-free trip. But if you do have your own personal car, then there shouldn’t be any problem. Traveling around California by car is made possible by the state’s extensive roadway systems. It is home to Route 66, Pacific Coast Highway, and several multilane interstate highways.

You won’t have to pay to use the vast majority of California’s highways and roads. But if you are going to be driving across the state, it is good to have a little cash on hand since there are toll highways and bridges located along the major routes.

FAQs

What is the best thing to do with kids in California?

Without a doubt, visiting Disneyland is the best thing to do in California if you’re traveling with kids. The “happiest place on Earth” are theme parks that offer rides, tours, experiences, and attractions that will capture the heart of every kid.

But if they are not fans of thrills, you can bring them to check out the marine life in Monterey Bay Aquarium. They will surely be delighted to meet rare sea creatures, like the sea stars and hermit crabs!

What are some fun things to do in California?

Still, wondering what to do in California? There is no shortage of fun things to do in California. You can go surfing, swimming, sunbathing, sightseeing, hiking, restaurant-hopping, and more in the Golden State. Whatever your preference or interest is, there is something for you to do in California.

What are some things to do in California when it’s raining?

There are lots of indoor activities to do in California, including visiting museums. You can find the National History Museum, California State Railroad Museum, and Hollywood Museum in the Golden State. You can also visit indoor aquariums, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

What are the best tourist attractions in California?

It’s hard to choose a few best tourist attractions in the state of California, but besides theme parks, lots of tourists will agree that the Golden Gate Bridge, state parks, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Disneyland Park, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame are the best tourist attractions in California. 

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