15 Best Places To Visit In California For All Types Of Vacationers

15 Best Places To Visit In California For All Types Of Vacationers
| 8 min read

Whether you’re a thrill seeking adrenaline junkie, a nature loving nomad, a beach lovin’ workout addict or even hipster cum film buff millennial, the Sunshine State, California, has a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy. Its expansive lands also holds some of Americas most beautiful scenic ocean drives, lush ancient forests, thrilling amusement parks and some breathtaking desert views.

First, let’s get you into a Californian state of mind, listen to Matt Simon’s song below while reading the rest:

Places to go for the sights

1. Venice Beach in Los Angeles

Venice beach is one of the most popular beaches in the world. Known for its manicured sands, public exercise parks and its famous mile and a half stretch of boardwalk, this beach attracts some of the hottest people along some of the most eccentric personalities on the planet. The beach offers plenty of activities for beachgoers to enjoy, like surfing to beach volleyball, and basketball to rollerskating on the boardwalk, but by far the most popular activity here is people gazing. With all that’s going on on the beach, it’s hard not to. You can see everything from musicians, jugglers, artists and even mimes! Along the beach, you would also see some of the fittest people in America as street workout facilities are readily available for people to show off their (body) skills. Expect some impressive calisthenic workouts like this.

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2. Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge
Source: Photo by user Tom Hilton used under CC BY 2.0

One of the most famous and most photographed bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge is on top of every travellers’ list when visiting San Francisco. You might think it’s overrated looking over thousand and thousands of tourist pictures of the bridge on the web, but the magnificent views and immense structure of the bridge itself would still manage to amaze you every time you come here. Around the area, you can visit the equally impressive town of San Francisco or take a boat cruise tour to Alcatraz Island. Which brings us to the next item on our list.

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California Tour Guide

Stephanie Eley

Stephanie Eley

I'm a graduate of ITMI, International Tour Management Institute and 17 years as a licensed Tour Director and Program Director. My expertise began in NYC and Washington, DC where I'm a licensed guide and has expanded to Europe, South America, Cuba and the Western / Southwestern National Parks of the US. I'd love to introduce you for a day or a week to Denver, Colorado and the 4 corners region of the US: Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona! Let's GO!! stepheley@gmail.com

Tours by Stephanie

3. Alcatraz Island in San Francisco

Off the coast of San Francisco, you could take a boat cruise to Alcatraz island and take part in the self-guided audio tour of the former federal penitentiary prison. The tour is very insightful with historical facts, and many parts of the tour are given by former guards or prisoners!

This place is amazing, well at least I think that way. Real good for pictures if you like taking photos and the history of everything that happen and went thru inside of the prison, plus so many famous criminals like Al Capone, Birdman and many others.

Still trying to think how those 3 guys escape and everything they did to accomplish and I really want to know if they still alive.

Definitely worth visiting if you come to San Francisco and I truly recommend booking it in advance, after visiting the city a few times, In finally able to see it because I booked about 3 weeks in advanced Angel Morales (Visited January 2017) , Taken from TripAdvisor.

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4. Napa Valley Wineries in San Pablo Bay

Rubicon Winery-St. Helena, CA
Source: Photo by user Terri Hodges used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Napa Valley is a place for all the wine connoisseurs and people in general, who like to drink a glass for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m kidding, or am I? This narrow stretch of land, situated between the foothills of the Mayacamas and Vaca Mountains, is the top wine-producing area in the United States.

Having about 400 wineries in the area, Napa is frequented by more than five million people annually, for its top quality varietals like cabernet, sauvignon, zinfandel, champagne and merlot and its other local produce of olive oils, tomatoes, cheeses and mustard.

Besides its culinary attraction, Napa Valley is also known for its visual arts scene and hosts an annual Napa Valley Film Festival. Other near attractions in Napa includes multitudes of spas and mud baths and the ever popular Old Faithful geyser in Calistoga.

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5. San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park

Covering a land of about 100-acres, San Diego Zoo is one of the largest and most famous zoos in the country. The Zoo houses over 3,700 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies. Exotic animals here, includes Pandas, Orangutans, Red Pandas, and Koalas living in comfortable enclosures, which are designed to recreate natural settings, a thing that San Diego Zoo pride themselves on. The zoo spreads out along a canyon and has a variety of trails visitors can try, which include Monkey trails, Forest Tales Walk & Tree Top Walks. But if you’re not looking forward to walking through this large mass of land, you could also opt for the Guided Bus Tours to enjoy the beauty of the vicinity and its inhabitants.

San Diego Zoo

Address: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

Contact: +1 619 231 1515

Website: San Diego Zoo

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Places to go for entertainment

6. Disneyland in Anaheim

California Adventure / Disneyland
Source: Photo by user Nani Leilani used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Being the most famous amusement park in the world, Disneyland California has entertained its fans well over 50 years, with its hotels, restaurants, themed parks like Adventureland and Mainstreet USA, multiple thrilling roller coasters, all kinds of Disney-themed rides and famous Disney characters wandering and entertaining fans of all ages in and around the Magical Kingdom. Disneyland provides wholesome family fun and has definitely earned its self-title of being the happiest place on earth. However, early planning is definitely required for this park as it can get crowed during the Summertime, Christmas & Spring break.


Address: 1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802

Customer service: +1 714-781-4565

Sales : +1 877-560-6477

Website: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/

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7. Universal Studios in San Fernando Valley

Universal Studios Hollywood
Source: Photo by user Jeremy Thompson used under CC BY 2.0

The Universal Studios is split up into several sections that include a working live set, a theme park and also their City Walk that has about 5 nightclubs, 30 restaurants and souvenir shops. Visitors can walk around their theme parks, like the popular Jurassic Park and the newer Harry Potter World, where roller coasters and rides are designed to fit the theme of the respective worlds in the movie.

Besides its innovative parks and rides, Universal Studios also provide studio tours, where guests would tour the back-lots and old movie sets from pop-culture movies like Back to the Future and Bates Motel to TV show sets like Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives.

Universal Studios Hollywood

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

Opening Hours: Friday: 9am–7pm. Saturday: 9am–10pm. Sunday: 9am–9pm Monday To Thursday: 10am–6pm.

Duration: around 3 hours required.

Contact: +1 800 864 8377

Website: Universal Studios

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8. Six Flags and Hurricane Harbour in Santa Clara

Having the most concentrated number of Roller Coasters in a single amusement park, a whopping 18 Roller Coasters, it’s no wonder Six Flag’s Magic Mountain is known as the Thrill Capital of America. Some of the roller coaster highlights would be New Revolution, Twisted Colossus, Full Throttle, Goliath and also Colossus, billed as “the tallest and fastest wooden coaster in the West”. Patrons would actually find the best views of the park from the top of these steeply inclined Roller Coasters, like on the Viper that soars a great 188ft (56m) in the air! But that is only if you can keep your eyes open of course! Families would be happy to note that the park has a designated area for a cartoon themed kiddie rides and also 4 kiddie coasters for you to start training little adrenaline junkies!

Lastly, a water themed park, the aptly named Hurricane Harbor, is available on the opposite side of the park. There are 23 great water-themed rides, slides and activities to cool off in the hot weather! So bring an extra change of clothes or two.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Address: 26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy, Valencia, CA 91355

Contact: +1 661-255-4100

Website: https://www.sixflags.com/magicmountain

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9. Santa Monica Pier

If you’re looking for a great weekend getaway with the family, Santa Monica Pier is the place to go. This 100-year-old amusement park sits on a pier at Santa Monica beach and offers plenty of bars, restaurants and a full arcade with more than 200 games, ranging from classics to the more contemporary. The Pier is also lined with loads of Carnival food, vendors selling carnival staples like funnel cakes to cotton candy. One of the best ways to view the park would be to board its red and yellow Ferris Wheel, which happens to be the city’s Icon. An alternative would be to ride the Roller Coaster, which travels mostly at cruise speed, above and around the park giving the riders a scenic view of the entire pier. A highlight of the park, however, would be its antique, hand-painted 1897 indoor carousel by the entrance of the park. Do note that you are not allowed to Roller Skate on there. Yes, it was such a huge problem that they made it rule #11 on the board!

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10. Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles

Griffith Observatory
Source: Photo by user Zen Skillicorn used under CC BY-ND 2.0

A must do when you’re visiting Los Angeles, Griffith Observatory is renowned as a national leader in public astronomy. It offers some great interactive astronomical displays like popular Hall of the Sky and Hall of the Eye, a pair of complementary displays that explore the connections between space and people.

Besides that, it also offers a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean to Downtown L.A and a closer look at the Hollywood sign from its perched location on Mt. Hollywood in Griffith Park.

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Places to go for mother nature

11. Redwood National Park

Redwood Forest in CA
Source: Photo by user Jeff Hollett used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

The Redwood National and State Parks are old-growth temperate rain forests of giant ancient Redwood trees. It has some of the tallest Redwood trees in the world, the pictures don’t do them any justice. You’ll have to come here yourself to witness the immense size of some of these trees! It runs along the Pacific Coast of northern California. The park has a lot of great trails ranging for hikers of all experience. But besides hiking, a great way to admire the beauty of the park is to drive through its enchanted woods.

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12. Death Valley National Park

Located in the Mojave Desert, Death Valley makes up much of the Death Valley National Park. It is the driest and lowest place in North America, at 282 feet / 855 meters below sea level. It’s breathtaking view of California’s unique desert landscapes and colourful sand dunes make this picturesque landscape a worthwhile visit.

One of the highlights of the park is the overlook of the Badwater Basin from Dante’s Peak. Other places of interests include the scenic vista of Zabriskie Point and historic sites like Scotty’s Castle, the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns and ruins of ghost towns.

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13. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park takes up 1,200 square miles (1,930 sq km), and is best known for its impressive waterfalls, deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias and its vast wilderness area. 10 hiking trails can be found in the park for all levels of hikers. 13 campgrounds are available in the park; operating mostly on a first come, first served basis depending on the time of year. But usually, from April to October the campgrounds would often be filled up early each day. One of the most scenic parks in the United States, Mariposa Grove, is located in the southern part of the park and features the largest stand of giant sequoias in the park. The magnificent Upper Yosemite Falls, drops a staggering 1,430 feet at one point, one of the most amazing waterfalls you can behold your eyes on!

Check out the video below to see how beautiful hiking in the park can be:

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Big Sur

Big Sur stretches along 90 miles of California’s Central coast, from San Simeon all the way to Carmel. It’s one of the best road trips you can make in California as its scenic, rugged coastlines of pounding surfs as well as its redwood forest is regarded as the ’“greatest meeting of land and water in the world”. Bixby Bridge at Big Sur is the tallest single-span bridge in the world, while its breathtaking McWay Falls cascade 80 feet into the ocean. It is truly breathtaking.

Tip from Content Creator

Big Sur

California is famous for its beautiful coastline, but Big Sur offers unmatched scenic beauty you can't find anywhere else. Cell service is really limited here, so I would recommend downloading a map in advance. Please leave no trace behind and keep this place clean and beautiful.

When visiting Big Sur, discover its natural beauty by exploring its hiking trails like McWay Waterfall. Opt for off-peak times or weekdays to avoid heavy traffic.

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15. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is also one of the places you can expect to have a wholesome family retreat. It is one of the largest lakes in the world, nestled between California and Nevada. The activities at the lake differ in the seasons. In the winter months, this would be a great place to take your family skiing, snowboarding and even snowmobiling, where as in the summer you can enjoy the beauty of the surroundings with activities like kayaking, sailing, mountain biking or even just swimming in the lake!

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More than just Hollywood

For a state that’s mostly known for its glitz and glam, being home to some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, California offers more to visitors than the popular media is willing to admit. Whether it being a serene family vacation by the lake, or a thrilling adventure with your friends in the mountains or testing out some of the greatest adrenaline-pumping coasters, there’s always a little something for everyone here in California! There is absolutely no reason this sunshine state shouldn’t be at the top of your travel bucket list!

Big Pine Lakes

Contributed by Content Creator, Beatrice

Source: Beatrice

Big Pine Lakes hiking tips:

  • Big Pine Lakes are 7 beautiful glacial lakes on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

  • The trail around all 7 lakes is about 26 km (16.15 mi). You can do as little as 22 km (13.67 mi) by stopping at 5 lakes, as I did.

  • The trail starts at Big Pine Creek Campground, approximately the first 7 km (4.34 mi) uphill section (elevation gain of approximately 900 m or 2,952 f) will skirt a waterfall and lead to the first lake. A loop starts from the first lake to visit them all, but the descent back to the parking lot will be along the same trail as the outward journey.

  • I stopped at lake number 5, doing 22 km (13.67 mi). It took me almost 7 hours, going quite fast but I took breaks for photos, lunch, and a swim at 3,200 m (10,498.69 f). The most beautiful lake for me is the second one. If you want to do only 17 km (10.56 mi), you can stop there, depending on how much time you want to devote to trekking! On the other hand, if you have one night available, camping in this area is very popular.

  • For day trekking, you do not need any kind of permit. It is completely free. Camping, on the other hand, requires a permit and must be booked well in advance!

  • The closest town to sleep in is Bishop. We included it in our on-the-road as a base for the night before the walk. We left the hotel at 7, and by 7:40, we were already walking.

  • There are many places where you can fill your water bottle!

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Ihsan Ihsani is a Malaysian writer who loves to write about anything that sparks his curiosity. He travels to broaden his horizon on the many cultures and beauties of the world. When limited funds...Read more

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