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.
2. Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
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.
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.
4. Napa Valley Wineries in San Pablo Bay
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.
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
Places to go for entertainment
6. Disneyland in Anaheim
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
7. Universal Studios in San Fernando Valley
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
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
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!
10. Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles
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.
Places to go for mother nature
11. Redwood National Park
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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!
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