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Are you planning a trip to California? Then you’ve come to the right place! This blog will be your guide on how to make the most out of your visit. From sandy beaches to towering mountains, there’s something for everyone in this Golden State.
We’ll tell you about some must-see attractions and advise where to stay and what activities are available. Whether you’re looking for an adventurous getaway or a relaxing vacation, our California travel guide will ensure your unforgettable trip.
- Best Things to Do in California
- Yosemite National Park
- San Diego
- Big Sur
- Redwood National Park
- Lake Tahoe
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Laguna Beach
- Golden Gate Bridge
- Balboa Park
- Palm Springs
- Where to stay in California
- How to Get Around in California
- Travel Tips for Visiting California
- Plan Ahead
- Embrace the “Cali” Lifestyle
- Pack Layers, Lots of Layers
- Soak in the Sunsets
- Embrace the Foodie Paradise
- Explore Beyond the Beaches
- Experience their Diving Culture
- Channel Your Inner Hollywood Star
- Download Our Free Travel Guide for California
Best Things to Do in California
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a natural wonder in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It is one of the most visited national parks in the United States, and for good reason. The park is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world, from majestic waterfalls to towering granite cliffs.
It also offers a variety of activities for visitors, from hiking and camping to rafting and rock climbing. Yosemite is also home to many rare species of plants and animals, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts.
See Related: Best Adventure Vacations Around The World
Enjoy the sandy beaches and energetic California culture while visiting sunny San Diego. Known for its consistently sunny weather, stunning landscapes, and thrilling outdoor activities, this city in Southern California accommodates diverse desires.
Highly recommended destinations within San Diego include the stunning Balboa Park, a sprawling green oasis adorned with stunning gardens and numerous museums.
The iconic Gaslamp Quarter is a must-visit featuring a historic district teeming with trendy boutiques, art galleries, and delectable dining options.
Also, visit the charming Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, where you can explore fascinating museums, browse unique shops, and savor delicious meals in restored adobe buildings.
Big Sur is a stunning stretch of the California coastline located between Carmel and San Simeon. It is known for its dramatic landscape, which consists of towering cliffs, rocky coves, and lush forests.
The scenic drive along Highway 1 is one of the most famous in the world and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains.
The area is also home to a variety of wildlife, including elephant seals, sea otters, and whales. In addition to its natural beauty, Big Sur is also home to a number of charming towns, including Carmel-by-the-Sea, Cambria, and Monterey.
Redwood National Park
The Redwoods of Northern California are one of the most amazing places on earth. They are the tallest trees on earth, growing for thousands of years. You can hike through the Redwoods, camp there, drive through them, and enjoy the amazing view.
If you don’t want to do that, you can listen to the birds chirping, the squirrels running around, and the wind blowing through the trees. In my opinion, it’s the best thing to do there as the serenity is unlike any other place on earth.
Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States and the tenth deepest in the world. It was created by a volcanic eruption approximately 2 million years ago.
It is a popular destination for swimming, boating, fishing, and other outdoor activities. The lake’s crystal clear waters provide an amazing view at any time of the year. There are also many trails to explore around the lake.
In the winter, Lake Tahoe becomes a ski and snowboarding haven, as the mountain ranges provide some of the best powder and terrain in the world. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, visitors can go ice skating or take a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride.
See Related: Best Beaches in Lake Tahoe to Visit
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular parks in the United States. The park has a lot to offer regarding natural attractions and history.
It is one of the most beautiful places in the world. This park is very popular with hikers and campers.
Many trails wind through this park and provide views of different landscapes. Hiking is also a great way to get exercise, enjoy nature, and see some beautiful views. Camping is another popular activity at Joshua Tree National Park.
The park offers many campsites and cabins for visitors to stay at. There are also many restaurants located within the park, so visitors don’t have to travel far to find food and supplies. Visitors should remember to bring their food and supplies with them when they visit the park.
Laguna Beach is an excellent place to visit if you are looking for relaxation, scenery, and sunshine. The beach is always clean and beautiful, designed that way. There are many activities, such as kayaking, hiking, paddleboarding, surfing, and more.
If you want to get away from the crowds, you can always take a drive to the backside of the beach and find a quiet spot where no one else will be. In addition, the waves in Laguna Beach are quite large, so if you’re looking to surf, this is definitely the place to go.
Golden Gate Bridge
Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic San Francisco experience. The nearly 2-mile bridge offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, Marin County, and San Francisco city, with the iconic “sausage” tower of the Transamerica Pyramid visible in the distance.
In addition to the stunning views, the pedestrian walkway on the bridge features a new sound system for music and stories about the bridge’s history, making this a fantastic spot for family photo ops.
It has been said that Balboa Park is the “city within a city” and the cultural hub of San Diego. Balboa Park was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1960, but its roots date back to 1835. The Spanish influence in the region is reflected in the architecture of the buildings and the design of the park itself.
Many of the buildings were built as part of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal. The park remains one of the nation’s largest urban cultural parks and includes many free museums and other attractions.
Situated against the majestic San Jacinto Mountains and surrounded by swaying palm trees, this desert oasis is renowned for its trendy poolside getaways. Since the 1920s, Palm Springs has been a sought-after winter retreat for Hollywood celebrities, and it continues to captivate most travelers today.
The tranquil landscapes and balmy climate create a serene holiday atmosphere, while an array of golf courses, upscale dining establishments, and captivating museums offer endless entertainment options for visitors.
Just beyond Palm Springs lie breathtaking hiking trails at Mount San Jacinto and Indian Canyons. Palm Springs hosts numerous cultural events annually, including film festivals and live music concerts. And let’s not forget about the world-famous Coachella music festival, located a mere 23 miles from Palm Springs in April.
See Related: Best Tours in Palm Springs, California
Where to stay in California
California is a wonderful state to visit and many different places to stay depending on your needs and interests. Some popular areas to stay in include the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California, and Napa Valley. Here are some of the top-rated hotels and accommodations in California:
- The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
- Belmond El Encanto
- Aldersgate Retreat and Cultural Center
- Fairmont Grand Del Mar
- Ocean House
How to Get Around in California
The best way to get around California depends on your budget, what you plan to do, and how much time you have. For most tourists, renting a car is the easiest way to explore this vast state.
If you don’t want to rent a car, public transportation is available in most major cities and towns. Amtrak offers a number of scenic rail lines that can take you around the state. There are also several tour companies that offer guided bus tours throughout California.
Travel Tips for Visiting California
California has many diverse regions to explore. From the large cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco to the relaxed beach towns of Orange County, there is plenty to see and do in California. Here are some of our favorite travel tips to help you make the most of your trip.
Planning a trip to California can be a daunting task, and having a good plan in place is essential to making the most of your time there. Research ahead of time to get an idea of all the attractions and activities this huge state has to offer.
You’ll want to book accommodations and transportation early, particularly during peak season when prices increase. Make sure you give plenty of time for planning so that you know exactly what you’ll do when you arrive in California – it’s definitely a vacation worth planning for.
Embrace the “Cali” Lifestyle
California is all about laid-back vibes and embracing the “Cali” lifestyle. Pack your flip-flops, grab your sunglasses, and get ready to relax.
Leave your stress behind and immerse yourself in the carefree attitude that California is famous for. Whether wandering along the Venice Beach boardwalk or sipping wine in Napa Valley, let go of your worries and embrace the sunny state of mind.
Pack Layers, Lots of Layers
California’s weather can be unpredictable, especially if you plan on traveling to different regions. From the foggy mornings of San Francisco to the scorching desert heat of Palm Springs, it’s best to pack layers.
Bring a light jacket, a cozy sweater, and comfortable shoes for those unexpected adventures. Remember, California is where you can experience four seasons in a day, so be prepared for anything!
Soak in the Sunsets
California is famous for its stunning sunsets; witnessing one is an experience you shouldn’t miss. Whether standing on a sandy beach or enjoying a rooftop view in the city, find the perfect spot to soak in the kaleidoscope of colors as the sun dips below the horizon. Capture the moment with your camera or take a deep breath and let the beauty of the Golden State wash over you.
Embrace the Foodie Paradise
California is a foodie paradise, with culinary delights to satisfy every palate. Indulge in fresh seafood along the coast, feast on mouthwatering tacos in San Diego, and savor gourmet cuisine in the Michelin-starred restaurants of San Francisco. Don’t forget to try the famous California burritos and In-N-Out Burger, a fast-food chain that has reached cult status among locals.
Explore Beyond the Beaches
While California’s beaches are stunning, there’s more to explore beyond the sandy shores. Venture into the picturesque wine regions of Sonoma and Paso Robles, where you can sample award-winning vintages and soak in the scenic vineyards.
Take a road trip along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, winding through stunning cliffs and majestic redwood forests. Don’t forget to explore lively cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where you’ll find world-class museums, incredible food scenes, and diverse cultural experiences.
See Related: Best Beaches in the US to Visit
Experience their Diving Culture
California is not just famous for its stunning coastline but also for its thriving surf culture. Don’t miss the chance to ride the waves like a pro! Head to favorite surf spots like Huntington Beach, Santa Cruz, or Malibu, where you can take surf lessons from local experts. Remember, even if you wipe out, it’s all part of the fun!
Channel Your Inner Hollywood Star
Indulge in a bit of stardom by visiting Hollywood and exploring the glamorous world of Tinseltown. Saunter down the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame, snap a selfie with your favorite celebrity’s star, and tour the legendary TCL Chinese Theatre. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a movie premiere or spot a celebrity sipping a latte at a trendy café.
Download Our Free Travel Guide for California
Planning your California itinerary? Download our free guide and visitor information for all the best insider tips, such as the top attractions, hiking, shopping, small towns, and so much more.
Our free California travel guide walks you through everything you need to know before you travel. Get tips on what to pack, how to get around, and the best destinations in Northern and Southern California.
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.