California is where dreams come true for explorers and adventurers, art lovers and foodies, and heat-seeking beachgoers (it's not named the Golden State for nothing). World-famous theme parks — Orange Count's Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, Hollywood's Universal Studios, and San Diego's Sea World — and spectacular landscapes ranging from scorching deserts to towering Redwood forests and lush ocean-side National Parks, plus the foreboding Yosemite granite cliffs, shimmering Lake Tahoe, and everything in between — can be found throughout this slice of West Coast paradise.
Though most people associate California with the celebrities of Los Angeles (with San Francisco and its Golden Gate Bridge coming in a close second), the state is pretty dreamlike in terms of how diverse and exciting it is to explore. Route 66, trekking to the Hollywood sign, relaxing on Malibu beach, and skiing in Lake Tahoe are just a few of the many activities to do in California, the majority of which are entirely bucket list-worthy! Going about anyplace in the state, from northern to southern, will provide a pleasant activity or attraction for any sort of tourist. California can be a state you cannot get enough of visiting.
1. Carlsbad California
Carlsbad is undoubtedly one of California's most memorable and lovely getaways. With its sunny environment, natural paths, and 7 miles of beautiful beaches, this charming city provides limitless opportunities for outdoor activities. Even better, Carlsbad attracts families with its family-friendly attractions and magnificent resorts.
2. California for Kids
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of California's most popular tourist attractions. It is a monument that combines a breathtaking vista with a piece of state history. The bridge is called the Golden Gate, but it is a beautiful orange against the blue ocean. It is lovely to look at, but you can also go on a vacation, rent a bike, or take a three-mile walk around the bridge. You might also take the ferry beneath the bridge to get a low-angle view of the renowned tourist destination.
You may visit the San Diego Zoo, the world's largest zoo. Its focus is on conservation and has been named the best multiple times. If you visit California with children, find out what their favorite animal is, and you will almost certainly find it here. If they are farm animals, you might even be able to feed them yourself. There are also educational performances and an exploration trip here. It is a full-day activity where you may introduce your children to hands-on exhibitions.
And do not forget to visit Disneyland, one of California's best kid-friendly activities. Every child desires to see this at least once in their lives. There has also a sense of nostalgia if you have been here before. There are several fantastic rides for the kids. They may get autographs from their favorite characters and eat carnival fare. You should visit Toontown and Fantasyland while you are here. Tomorrowland and Critter Country are also available for enjoyment. Do not forget to pay a visit to The Sleeping Beauty Castle. At night, there is a spectacular firework displayed that the entire family will enjoy.
3. California for Couples
The liberal state is famed for its sun, beach, and surf, as well as its gorgeous population and liberal beliefs. It is also a stunning paradise with charming sun-kissed towns, breathtaking beaches, enormous areas of desert, and ancient old-growth woods. There is no shortage of romantic sites for honeymooners and couples in love to explore and experience in such a visually appealing environment. From sea kayaking across secluded islands to eating alfresco along the Malibu shore, there is something for everyone.
Positioned on arguably one of the most romantic spots in the Big Sur area is this much-adored inn. You will find the Tickle Pink Inn perched on a rocky cliff in the world's most affluent artists' colony – Carmel-on-Sea. It has one of those rare hotels that successfully combine subtle luxury with a romantic coziness – making it an ideal haven for couples.
4. Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is an alpine lake located on the California-Nevada border, and it's a popular tourist destination. It's also known as the “Jewel of the Sierras” and is home to one of the biggest ski resorts in America: Squaw Valley. The lake is clear blue, and there are many activities you can do at Lake Tahoe, like hiking and skiing!
Lake Tahoe is a large body of water with a depth over 1,645 feet below sea level—more profound than 22 football fields stacked on top of each other! It has an area of approximately 132 square miles with 72 miles of shoreline; that makes it more significant than all three islands in Hawaii combined! And finally, Lake Tahoe holds enough water volume to fill almost 10 trillion gallons—more than twice as much liquid as what exists inside all five Great Lakes combined!
5. Hollywood Tours
The Hollywood Tour is one of the most popular things to do in Los Angeles, and for a good reason. It's a great way to get acquainted with some of Hollywood's most iconic landmarks.
The tour runs from downtown L.A., Hollywood, and up into Beverly Hills. You'll see all sorts of celebrity homes along the way—and learn interesting tidbits about them! You'll also see:
- The Hollywood Walk of Fame
- Grauman's Chinese Theatre
- The Hollywood Sign (or sign replica) at Griffith Observatory (with some spectacular views)
6. Whale Watching
If you're looking for an educational and exciting experience, look no further than whale watching. This activity has become increasingly popular in California since the 1990s, with tourists flocking to see the majestic creatures as they migrate along the Pacific coast.
There are many places where you can go whale watching in California, but one of the most popular locations in Monterey Bay is because it offers some of the best conditions for whale sightings. When venturing out on a boat for this adventure, remember that there will be at least half an hour of driving before reaching your destination, and be prepared with snacks and drinks accordingly. Once you reach your destination, listen closely as guides point out various fin shapes before spotting them yourself!
When going on a boat trip with friends or family members who aren't familiar with whales (or are potentially terrified), make sure each person has access to binoculars or telescopes so they can get up close without feeling overwhelmed by their size when viewing from land instead (or even better: bring along someone who knows everything about these marine mammals!). If possible, try visiting during springtime since this will give visitors ample opportunity.
7. Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills is an affluent city in Los Angeles County, California, United States. It's home to many celebrities and some of the world's most famous tourist attractions.
8. Napa Valley Wine Tastings
Napa Valley is one of the most famous wine regions in the world. While it's known for its quality and variety, Napa Valley has a reputation for being pricey. However, there are ways to do wine tastings without breaking the bank.
The first thing you should do when planning your trip to Napa Valley is decided what type of tasting experience you want: full-service or self-guided? Both have pros and cons but can complement each other depending on your interests and budget.
The main difference between them is that with a full-service tasting, you will typically be guided through multiple wineries by an expert sommelier who knows everything about local wines—from where they come from to how they're made—, but this can get expensive if there are multiple people in your group. With self-guided tastings, there will usually be fewer options available (usually only one) but at much lower prices than those found at larger wineries like Robert Mondavi or Stag's Leap District Winery (which both charge over $100 per person).
9. Hearst Castle and San Simeon State Park Day Trip from San Francisco
Hearst Castle is a national historic landmark on the Central Coast of California. It's also one of the most popular day trips from San Francisco, and it's well-deserved: Hearst Castle is an incredible place to visit. The castle was built by William Randolph Hearst as a private estate for his family, but after his death in 1951, it became available for public tours. Today, you can tour the castle or participate in any special events held at the site throughout the year. You can even stay overnight at one of three hotel options within walking distance!
10. Alcatraz Night Tour in San Francisco
If you're looking for a romantic date or a family day trip, you must visit Alcatraz. Alcatraz is an island in the San Francisco Bay and was used as a federal prison from 1934 to 1963. It housed many famous criminals over its tenure, including gangsters Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Today, visitors can take night tours of the prison, during which guides tell stories about life on “The Rock.” These tours are very popular with tourists and locals alike, so get there early if you want to ensure you get on one!
As the sun sets behind San Francisco's skyline, it makes for some great photos while giving tourists access to areas not open during daytime hours (like cell blocks). The guided tour takes approximately two hours, with an additional hour spent at each end waiting in line, so plan accordingly!
11. Monterey Bay Aquarium
An aquarium is a must-see place in California. With more than 25 exhibits and galleries, over 100 different species of mammals, birds, and fish, and more than 12 million gallons of water, the Monterey Bay Aquarium covers nearly 2 acres of land.
There are plenty of animals to see here—including sharks (the most giant tank in North America), jellyfish, and sea lions—but there are also tons of interactive exhibits that let you get up close with some fantastic marine life:
- Touch pools where you can pet starfish or stingrays.
- A display where you can swim through a tunnel surrounded by sharks.
- An otter pool lets visitors get up close and personal with these adorable creatures (who will shower them with kisses).
Other highlights include daily presentations by staff divers who talk about what they've seen underwater during their dives and feedings at 11 am and 3 pm, when you'll see penguins chasing fish around their underwater habitat. You'll need two hours minimum if all you want to do is explore all 25 exhibits (and possibly even longer), but it's worth checking out this aquarium, even if only for a quick visit, as it's one of the best things about Monterey Bay!
12. Yosemite National Park Tour, including Giant Sequoias and Waterfalls from San Francisco
Tourists flock to Yosemite National Park each year to enjoy its breathtaking scenery, an abundance of wildlife, and various activities. It's no wonder this park is considered one of the most popular in the country! In fact, Yosemite National Park is so famous that it has been visited by more than 7 million people every year since 2012 (almost 3 million annually). With so many tourists visiting Yosemite each year, you can be sure that it'll provide you with a fantastic experience that won't disappoint you!
There are several tours available throughout California that offer travelers opportunities to visit both famous landmarks as well as lesser-known attractions located within national parks. If you're interested in experiencing all that California has to offer while on your trip eastward across America's Pacific coast, then consider taking one of these tours instead:
13. Muir Woods National Monument Half-Day Trip and Scenic Coastal Tour from San Francisco
Muir Woods National Monument is a great place to visit, and it's the perfect place to spend half a day on an excursion from San Francisco. The park boasts more than 500 acres of redwood groves, including three miles of hiking trails to explore the forest at your own pace. There are plenty of picnic spots if you want to bring along food and enjoy it in the shade.
Travel Tips for Exploring California
Before embarking on your Californian adventure, here are some travel tips to enhance your experience:
- Plan Ahead: California offers a vast array of activities, so plan your itinerary in advance. This will help you make the most of your time and ensure you don't miss out on must-see attractions.
- Weather Awareness: California's climate varies greatly depending on the region and time of year. Be prepared for sunny beaches, chilly mountains, and potentially rainy days. Pack accordingly.
- Transportation: Consider renting a car for flexibility, especially if you plan to explore various parts of the state. Alternatively, major cities have efficient public transportation systems.
- Accommodation: Book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons. California offers a wide range of lodging options, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels.
- Budgeting: California can be expensive, so set a budget and stick to it. Look for deals, discounts, and passes for popular attractions to save money.
- Safety: California is generally safe for tourists, but be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas. Keep your belongings secure and avoid leaving valuables in your car.
- Time Management: California is vast, and traffic congestion can be an issue in major cities. Plan your travel time wisely, especially if you have tight schedules.
- Local Cuisine: Don't miss the opportunity to sample California's diverse culinary scene. From seafood in coastal towns to farm-to-table dining in wine country, there's something for every palate.
Other Tourist Attractions in California
While the previous sections highlighted some of the top attractions, California has even more to offer:
14. San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Located near San Diego, this park offers a unique safari experience. Visitors can observe a wide variety of animals in a setting designed to mimic their natural habitats.
15. Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier is an iconic attraction featuring an amusement park, an aquarium, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. It's a fantastic spot for a leisurely day by the beach.
16. Death Valley National Park
This national park is known for its extreme heat and unique desert landscapes. It's a fascinating destination for those interested in geology and desert ecosystems.
17. Big Sur
A picturesque stretch of coastline along California's Highway 1, Big Sur offers breathtaking views of rugged cliffs, redwood forests, and the Pacific Ocean. It's a paradise for nature lovers and hikers.
18. Wine Tours in Sonoma County
In addition to Napa Valley, Sonoma County offers exceptional wine tours and tastings. Explore charming wineries and vineyards while savoring world-class wines.
19. Channel Islands National Park
Accessible by boat, this national park comprises five rugged islands off the coast of Southern California. It's a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, hikers, and campers.
20. Surfing in Huntington Beach
Known as “Surf City, USA,” Huntington Beach is a paradise for surfers. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a beginner, you can catch some waves and enjoy the vibrant surf culture.
21. Joshua Tree National Park
This unique park is famous for its otherworldly landscapes, including twisted Joshua trees and massive boulders. It's a favorite among rock climbers and stargazers.
22. San Francisco's Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is a sprawling urban oasis in San Francisco. It's home to museums, gardens, lakes, and cultural attractions, making it a great place for a leisurely day.
23. Lake Shasta Caverns
Explore the intricate limestone caverns of Lake Shasta in Northern California. Guided tours take you deep underground to witness stunning rock formations.
24. Redwood National and State Parks
These parks preserve some of the world's tallest trees, the giant redwoods. Hike among these ancient giants and be awe-struck by their towering presence.
California's diversity and natural beauty offer endless opportunities for exploration. Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast, a foodie, or an art lover, the Golden State has something remarkable to offer every traveler. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and create unforgettable memories in California!
California is a beautiful place, with so much things to do in California. The list above is just a tiny sampling of what's in store for you if you visit. No matter which location you choose to visit, it's sure to be a fantastic experience! Please let us know if there are any other locations you would like us to cover next time we make one of these lists of things to do in California!
- What is the best time to visit California?
- The best time to visit California depends on your preferences. Generally, spring and fall offer pleasant weather and fewer crowds.
- Are there any must-see attractions in California for nature lovers?
- Yes, California offers many natural wonders, including Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, and the Redwood forests.
- What are some kid-friendly activities in California?
- California has numerous kid-friendly activities, such as visiting Disneyland, exploring the San Diego Zoo, and enjoying the beaches.
- Is it worth taking a wine tasting tour in Napa Valley?
- Yes, Napa Valley is renowned for its wineries. Whether you choose a full-service or self-guided tasting, it's a worthwhile experience for wine enthusiasts.
- How can I book a tour to Alcatraz in San Francisco?
- You can book a tour to Alcatraz in advance online or purchase tickets at the Alcatraz Island ticket booth. It's advisable to book early, especially for night tours.