California is an experience like no other, with some of the best natural wonders in the country as well as some of the most cosmopolitan cities.
This “Golden State” along the Pacific begs to be explored, from towering redwood woods in gloomy Northern California to gloriously sun-kissed surf beaches in the south. Come for the scenery, stay for the delectable cuisine, and catch a glimpse of the future on America’s creative coast.
San Francisco’s Golden Gates
Strut out onto San Francisco’s historic bridge to watch cargo ships pass past “International Orange”-painted pylons. Take in the 360-degree vistas of the rocky Marin Headlands, downtown skyscrapers, and Alcatraz’s speck.
You may spend days in Golden Gate Park, not far away, getting lost and not discovering all of its wonders, such as the paddleboat pond and bison paddock, or completely visiting its unique science and art museums. Weekend traffic closures make the park even more pedestrian and bike-friendly.
Discover California’s Redwood Coast
California’s Redwood Coast has been named Lonely Planet’s number one destination to visit in the US in 2018. Here’s why.
From Big Sur to the Oregon border, California’s towering giants grow throughout most of the coast. It’s possible to drive right through these trees at old-fashioned tourist traps, but nothing compares to the sense of awe you’ll experience while walking beneath them. At Muir Woods National Monument, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, or Redwood National & State Parks, think about eternity.
Sun-dappled grapes are still bordered by rural ranchlands, even as winemaking in neighboring Napa Valley becomes increasingly affluent. In this down-to-earth wine country, where you may taste new vintages straight from the barrel inside a tin-roofed shack while playing with the winemaker’s pet dog, the distinctiveness of the terroir is appreciated. Relax with a glass of late-harvest zinfandel and a scoop of white chocolate ice cream drizzled in organic olive oil. Conventions aren’t necessary for Sonoma.
Take a magical road trip on California’s Highway 1
Find out why taking an epic road trip down California’s most panoramic highway should be on your bucket list.
Locals in Northern California refer to the 400-mile length from San Francisco to Crescent City as “Highway 1,” despite the fact that it is known as the Pacific Coast Highway further south. The highway alternates between hairpin switchbacks and straight expanses across pastoral farmland, punctuating the coast with little villages. Stop to appreciate the “glass beach” in Fort Bragg; view the lumber baron’s ancient Victorians in Eureka while taking in the city’s current artistic community, or pause to admire the lighthouses that stand as quiet guardians of the continent’s land-and-sea confluence.
Walt Disney created his fantasy where orange groves and walnut trees formerly thrived, opening the doors to his “Magic Kingdom” in 1955.
Today, Disneyland and its surrounding Disney California Adventure are the most popular tourist attractions in Southern California. Beloved cartoon characters waltz arm-in-arm along with Main Street USA inside Anaheim’s mega-popular theme parks, as fireworks explode over Sleeping Beauty’s castle. This truly is ‘The Happiest Place on Earth,’ at least for a day, whether you’re a kid or hopelessly young in heart.
Although the film studios have relocated, Hollywood and its pink-star Walk of Fame continue to draw millions of tourists each year.
This once-dingy LA neighborhood is experiencing a renaissance of cool, with chic hotels, gleaming restored movie theatres, and glamorous velvet-roped restaurants and nightclubs springing up. Take a souvenir shot with the Hollywood sign as a backdrop – we know you can’t help yourself.
Yosemite National Park
Welcome to John Muir’s “high pleasure-ground” and “big shrine,” as he described it. Everything seems greater in Yosemite National Park, whether you’re splashed by thunderous waterfalls cascading over sheer cliffs, peering up at granite domes, or trekking through ancient groves of huge sequoias, the world’s largest trees.
In valleys created by glaciers, avalanches, and earthquakes, meander through wildflower-strewn meadows. Perch at Glacier Point beneath a full moon or drive the high country’s Tioga Rd on a cloudless summer day for breathtaking sights. Yosemite, unsurprisingly, features some of California’s top treks.
Santa Monica & Venice
How do you get around Los Angeles traffic? Instead, go to the beach. Learn to surf, ride a solar-powered Ferris wheel, dance under the stars on an old-fashioned pier, show kids the aquarium’s tidal touch pools, or simply dip your toes in the ocean and let your worries float away in sunny Santa Monica.
After enjoying the sights and sounds of Santa Monica, head to nearby Venice Beach to join the parade of New Agers, muscled bodybuilders, goth punks, and hippy drummers. Did we mention the breathtaking sunsets?
Anza-Borrego State Park
From afar, California’s largest state park appears to be a bleak expanse of 640,000 acres, but if you visit in the spring, wildflowers burst across the hillsides in enormous swaths of colour, bringing the area to life like nowhere else.
The rest of the year, it’s fantastic trekking – pack plenty of water because temps may become hot – over secluded paths and petroglyphs, which date back 10,000 years.
When San Diegans aren’t at the beach, they gather to play in beautiful Balboa Park. Across the park, you can take the whole family to over a dozen art, cultural, and science museums, relax while admiring the Spanish colonial and mission revival-style architecture along El Prado promenade, or buy tickets to a show at the Old Globe Theaters, which are modeled after the famous Shakespearean original.
There is no other pile of granite in California that stirs the imagination quite like Mt Shasta, which rises abruptly from the surrounding flatlands. It was thought by native Californians to be the abode of a sky-spirit chief. Its splendor, according to John Muir, caused his “blood turn to wine.”
A late-nineteenth-century explorer claimed to have discovered survivors of a lost continent living in tunnels beneath the surface. This mountain is extraordinary, whether it’s the “energy vortex” experienced by today’s New Age pilgrims or the spine-tingling chills experienced by hikers summiting its wind-blown peak.
You’ll be following in the footsteps of early Spanish conquistadors and Catholic missionaries if you drive down the coast between San Diego and Sonoma. The Franciscan priest Junpero Serra, who founded several of California’s 21 original missions in the late 18th century, was the most prominent of them.
San Juan Capistrano, for example, has been restored to its former glory, with flowery gardens, stone arches, fountains, and chapels filled with spiritual murals. Others are nothing more than the eerie remnants of a bygone period, where spirits still stalk the cloisters.
The East Bay
While most visitors to San Francisco head west, there’s plenty to see and do in the East Bay to make the BART or ferry ride worthwhile.
The East Bay provides a crucial counterbalance and contrast to the expanding tech in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, whether it’s exploring the street art on practically every block in fast-rising Oakland or appreciating Berkeley’s historic love affair with free speech and equality.
Death Valley National Park
The mere mention of the term conjures up images of broken-down pioneer waggon trains and thirsty wandering souls crawling through scorching sand dunes. The most startling aspect about Death Valley, however, is how alive it is. Spring wildflower blossoms on camel-colored slopes explode with a painter’s palette of hues.
Do you want to try something new? Explore tight gorges teeming with geological anomalies, stand atop volcano craters caused by catastrophic prehistoric eruptions, or meander through Wild West mining ghost towns where fortunes have been lost – and found.
The peninsular fishing village of Monterey, which is frequently foggy and wind-tossed, is reminiscent of John Steinbeck’s gritty American realism novels. Take a whale-watching cruise out into the bay’s national marine sanctuary, where some of the marine life may also be seen swimming in Cannery Row’s environmentally aware, family-friendly aquarium..
In Pacific Grove, visit the West Coast’s oldest lighthouse, and then stroll through downtown Monterey’s hidden gardens and historic adobe-walled buildings from California’s Spanish, Mexican, and early American eras.
That’s not the end though. California has even more beautiful destinations that you could enjoy visiting. We want to give you a glimpse of those too, so that you can add more scenic beauties to your must-visit list.
And to do so, stay tuned for the next part of this blog which would be live soon!