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California Travel Guide: Travel Tips for Visiting

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 are options to suit various interests in the 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

Sunrise on Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California
Stephen / Adobe Stock

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

San Diego

San Diego, California cityscape at the Gaslamp Quarter.
Sean Pavone / Shutter Stock

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.

See Related: Is San Diego Safe To Visit?

Big Sur

Big Sur Monterey California Pacific Coast One Day Tour

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

Redwood National and State Parks sign
Karin Hildebrand Lau / Shutterstock.com

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. I think it’s the best thing to do there as the serenity is unlike any other place on earth.

Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay State Park, Lake Tahoe, California
Zechal / Adobe Stock

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 Trees at Joshua Tree National Park, California
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

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 exercise, enjoy nature, and see beautiful views. Camping is another popular activity at Joshua Tree National Park.

The park offers many campsites and cabins for visitors to stay at. Many restaurants are 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 when visiting the park.

See Related: Where to Stay in Joshua Tree National Park: Best Accommodation Options

Laguna Beach

Aerial view of Laguna Beach in California
lulejt / Shutterstock

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 drive to the beach’s backside 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

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California
Stuart Jameson / ViaTravelers

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, 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.

Balboa Park

Balboa Park's Casa de Balboa
Dancestrokes / Shutterstock

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 buildings’ architecture and the park’s design.

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, including many free museums and other attractions.

Palm Springs

Cars and Mountains in Palm Springs Main Strip
Tomasz Zajda / Adobe Stock

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 with its excellent places to stay and perpetual sunshine.

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, and is consistently one of the best music festivals in the world. Ensure you read our full guide to our favorite things to do in California.

See Related: Best Tours in Palm Springs

Where to stay in California

Aerial View Los Anges City, California
Newport Coast Media / Adobe Stock

California is a wonderful state to visit, and there are 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:

See Related: Places to Visit in Southern California

How to Get Around in California

Aerial view of Palm Desert, California
Matt Gush / Adobe Stock

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.

Public transportation is available in most major cities and towns if you don’t want to rent a car. 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.

Plan Ahead

Woman booking a plane tickets using a laptop
Goffkein / Adobe Stock

Planning a trip to California can be daunting, and having a good plan 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

Santa Monica State Beach Scenery
Hakan Ozturk / Adobe Stock

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

Packing Travel Essentials
Kittiphan / Adobe Stock

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, you can experience four seasons daily in California, so be prepared for anything!

See Related: The Ultimate Beach Packing List

Soak in the Sunsets

Sunset at the beach by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco California
SvetlanaSF / Adobe Stock

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

A chocolate dipped balboa bar at Sugar N Spice on Balboa Island
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

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

Sonoma, California aerial view
John / Adobe Stock

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: Beaches in the US to Visit

Experience their Diving Culture

Woman Scuba Diving in the Ocean
Adrien / Adobe Stock

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

Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles
logoboom – stock.adobe.com

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.

See Related: Must-Visit Flea Markets in Los Angeles

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

Related Resources

Overview and Travel Essentials
Overview
Location
California
Time Zone
PST (UTC-8)/PDT (UTC-7)
Driving Side
Right
Measurement System
Imperial
Internet TLD
.us
Travel Essentials
Currency
USD $
Electrical Standards
Type A & B, 120V, 60Hz
Emergency Numbers
911
Language Codes
EN
Mobile Country Code
1
UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Map

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