10 Best Places to Visit in California

California beckons visitors with sunshine, stunning landscapes, and urban sophistication. A place of dreams, this alluring state has it all: a spectacular coastline, snow-capped mountains, expansive deserts, idyllic farmlands, and ancient redwood groves, along with vibrant multicultural cities. Tourists flock to San Francisco for sightseeing, shopping, museum hopping, and gourmet dining. Los Angeles dazzles visitors with quintessential Southern California scenery and Hollywood glamour. San Diego and Santa Barbara have perfect balmy weather and golden-sand beaches.

For nature lovers, California is a place to explore the great outdoors. At Yosemite National Park, visitors marvel at the magnificent granite cliffs draped with dramatic waterfalls. In the stunning alpine environment of the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Lake Tahoe, the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, and Mammoth Lakes are well-groomed trails and endless opportunities for outdoor sports. Closer to the Pacific Ocean in the lush Redwood National and State Parks, ravishing hiking trails are shaded by the world’s tallest trees.

  1. The San Francisco Bay Area

When the afternoon sun shines on the hillsides or the fog rolls in from the Pacific Ocean over the Golden Gate Bridge, this eclectic city has a mystical beauty. Visitors are awed by San Francisco’s picture-perfect scenery, from the curves of Lombard Street to the elegant Victorian houses. Today, San Francisco is California’s most sophisticated city, a place to enjoy world-class opera and ballet, a wide range of theater performances, and gourmet dining. The city has an impressive assortment of top-rated restaurants offering local, as well as global cuisine and trendsetting menus. The hip and edgy Mission district is the place to try up-and-coming 

  1. Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Pasadena

Los Angeles epitomizes the seductive image of sunny Southern California with its wide, palm-fringed boulevards; exclusive designer boutiques; and see-and-be-seen beaches. This sprawling urban center was founded in 1781 and built up during the film industry boom of the 1920s and 30s. The city is still synonymous with the glamour of Hollywood, the famous neighborhood that is full of iconic sights and tinged with Tinseltown glitz. Hollywood is also a go-to spot for people-watching and celebrity sightings.

  1. San Diego: Sunshine, Beaches, and Spanish Architecture

With its balmy year-round climate, San Diego is the place to experience California’s laid-back lifestyle of sun-drenched days at the beach and fun-loving outdoor adventures. Besides the expansive shoreline of beautiful sandy beaches, the main tourist attractions in San Diego proper are Balboa Park, a lovely green space with distinctive gardens and several museums; the historic Gaslamp Quarter, which is full of boutiques, art galleries, and good restaurants; and the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, where museums, retail shops, and restaurants occupy the old adobe buildings.

  1. Seaside Towns and Nature Sites of Marin County

Just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin County is one of the popular day trips from San Francisco. However, travelers should note that a car is required to get to most spots in Marin, except for Sausalito, which is accessible by ferry from San Francisco. The utterly picturesque (and very touristy) waterfront town of Sausalito has a quaint historic downtown, beautiful marinas, and sensational views of San Francisco.

  1. Rural Sonoma County, Napa Valley, and Calistoga

Sonoma County is one of the best places to visit in California for scenic hikes in the rolling hills and along the coast. Trione-Annadel State Park is a great place for hiking, mountain biking, spotting springtime wildflowers, and fishing at the park’s Lake Ilsanjo. The Foothill Regional Park offers seven miles of trails through a serene landscape of oak woodlands, flowering meadows, and gently rolling hillsides, plus three ponds for fishing. The Sonoma Coast State Park inspires nature lovers who appreciate the craggy coastline and secluded beaches.

  1. Mendocino Coastline

For spectacular scenery, few places compare to Mendocino’s dramatic coastline, where the deep blue waters of the Pacific crash up against sheer cliffs and lap into quiet, sheltered coves. Visitors are rejuvenated by the fresh air and inspired by the panoramic ocean views. Typical of Northern California, the weather is often cool and foggy, better suited to hiking than sunbathing. Nature lovers enjoy walks along the ocean bluffs and secluded beaches, as well as through shady redwood groves at Mendocino County’s many state parks

  1. Big Sur and Hearst Castle

Big Sur is a breathtaking 90-mile stretch of mountainous coastline, which feels a world apart because of its remoteness. One of the best West Coast road trips, the two-lane Highway One route through Big Sur winds along daunting hairpin turns overlooking the ocean. The route starts just south of Carmel and ends at San Simeon. Visitors are awestruck by the scenery of rugged ocean bluffs, shady redwood forests, and precipitous cliffs that drop off into the Pacific’s crashing waves. Hiking is a good way to admire the splendid landscape. There are also many viewpoints at luxury hotels and restaurants throughout Big Sur.

  1. Anaheim

Although the Disneyland Resort draws most visitors to Anaheim, this sunny Southern California city (about 30 miles from Los Angeles) offers plenty of other attractions. In addition to the Disney-theme amusement park, families with kids will also enjoy the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park and the playground at Yorba Regional Park, a landscaped 140-acre green space with picnic areas and walking/biking paths.

  1. Santa Barbara: Sandy Beaches and a Charming Downtown

Santa Barbara is a dreamy seaside city in Southern California, a place for relaxation and pampering. Visitors enjoy strolls along the waterfront, indulging in luxurious spa treatments, and savoring gourmet meals on outdoor patios. Often called “The American Riviera,” this upscale resort destination is a beach lover’s paradise with balmy weather, an expansive coastline of golden-sand shoreline, and spectacular sunsets.

  1. Palm Springs

With the towering San Jacinto Mountains and swaying palm trees as a backdrop, this desert oasis is synonymous with stylish poolside vacationing. In fact, Palm Springs has been a popular winter resort destination for Hollywood celebrities since the 1920s and continues to attract all kinds of tourists today. The serene scenery and warm weather give the place a relaxing holiday ambience, while golf courses, gourmet restaurants, and interesting museums give visitors plenty to do. Just outside of Palm Springs are fabulous hiking trails at Mount San Jacinto and Indian Canyons.

Written By: Lisa Alexander


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