The Absolute Best Places to Visit in California

There are so many amazing places to visit in California, it can be hard to know where to start. With such a diverse landscape, from the Redwoods and Yosemite National Park, to the beaches of San Diego and Los Angeles, there is something for everyone.

In this article, we will explore some of the best places to visit in California. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, read on for some ideas on what to see and do in the state.

The Outdoors

Yosemite National Park

California’s most famous national park is Yosemite, located in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its spectacular granite cliffs and domes, waterfalls, meadows, and wildlife.

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The main attractions are the nearly vertical drops on El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls.

You can explore much more than just this in Yosemite Park with various backpacking trips. If you are interested, plan ahead as permits are very hard to come by. Just remember that if you are backpacking, you’ll have to bring all your food and supplies in with you.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the U.S. and is nestled on the border of California and Nevada. It offers great outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, boating, and fishing. It’s also a great destination year-round as it turns into a great ski spot during the winter.

Lake Tahoe is also a great place to stay if you can afford one of the nearby resorts. It is located in the middle of pristine forests and offers some of the most stunning views you will ever see.

Mammoth Lakes

An awesome ski resort in the winter, Mammoth Lakes, is equally beautiful in the summer with its high alpine setting and various outdoor activities. The lakes’ Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is the highest ski resort in California. If you’re in town during summer, you can still go for an outdoor adventure. There are great places to go hiking, rock climbing, and paddleboarding.

Sequoia National Park

This national park is a must-see in California. This is the home to giant sequoia trees, some of the oldest living things on earth. You can explore the Giant Forest and surrounding meadows, rivers, and lakes via various hiking trails that range from easy to difficult.

The Giant Forest, the main attraction of the park, has more than 8,000 sequoias as tall as a 26-story building. You’ll also find the General Sherman Tree, which is the biggest tree by volume in the world.

Even if you’re not into hiking, there are other things you can do at this park, such as take a ride on one of their scenic drives or just go for a short walk to see some beautiful trees.

Kings Canyon National Park

Another of the United States’ national parks in California, Kings Canyon National Park is about a three-hour drive from Sequoia National Park. The park is also filled with towering sequoias but you can also do other activities like a hike or rock climb inside.

Notable features include the General Grant tree, the second biggest tree by volume in the world.

Cities

Napa Valley & Sonoma County

If wine tasting and tours are your things, you should definitely check out Napa Valley or Sonoma County. Both offer a large variety of wineries to visit and taste from as well as some great restaurants and other local attractions such as art galleries and shopping.

Getting there is easy too since both areas are close to San Francisco and Sacramento.

San Francisco

The city is so unique you have to see it for yourself. From the Golden Gate Bridge to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, there is something new around every corner. In addition, some of the great places you must check out while here are Chinatown, Lombard Street (the “crookedest” street), Alcatraz, Golden Gate Park, and more.

San Francisco is also a great city to use as a base to explore the rest of Northern California. It is one of the most diverse big cities in America so you are sure to find something that interests you here.

Santa Cruz & Monterey

These two cities are 1 to 3 hours south of San Francisco and offer a wide variety of attractions.

Santa Cruz is your postcard for the classic California beach experience. The ever-sunny Santa Cruz is complete with a boardwalk amusement park, surfers, and a hillside above the coastline.

Monterey is a seaside town that’s got that small-town charm with picturesque beaches. While here, head to Monterey Bay Aquarium – one of the best aquariums in the world. You can see from the hundreds of colorful fish, sharks, and other sea life up close.

Big Sur

Located about three hours south of San Francisco, Big Sur offers outstanding views and some great outdoor activities. This stretch of coastline covers 90 miles and has several towns and villages along with it. You can hike, fish, camp, or just sit back and take in the views.

The breathtaking cliffs here make this one of the most scenic places in the U.S. If you are looking for a peaceful getaway with amazing views, look no further!

Santa Barbara

Located about two hours north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is a small but wonderful coastal town. It’s a huge tourist spot because of its year-round perfect weather so you can enjoy the sun every day of the year!

The city’s pier is also very popular for both fishing and just admiring the beautiful views. Santa Barbara has plenty of art galleries, museums, shops and restaurants to keep you busy for days on end. It’s a popular destination for creatives, foodies, and even some celebrities.

Los Angeles & Santa Monica

Another large city in California, Los Angeles is one you must see at least once in your life. Hollywood Boulevard, the Walk of Fame, and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre are a few of the highlights here that bring people from all over the world to visit.

Don’t forget about Beverly Hills either as this small part of Los Angeles is world-famous for its shopping and fine dining. Plus, some of the best views in all of Los Angeles can be found here too.

Santa Monica is another part of Los Angeles that’s worth checking out since it has some great beaches, shopping, dining, and arts venues. This city offers a wide variety of attractions such as The Third Street Promenade with street performers, shops, and restaurants.

Venice Beach is also another popular area to visit as you can rent a bike or just stroll along the boardwalk admiring all of the great views.

Anaheim-Disneyland

One of the most visited attractions in California, Disneyland is a must for anyone with children or just if you are looking for an enjoyable time. This park holds a special place in many people’s hearts and it offers great rides, shows, and attractions.

For those who are less adventurous, just walking around Disney’s California Adventure Park will allow you to admire everything from Bugs Bunny to California’s rich history.

In addition, the area of Downtown Anaheim is very popular for unique restaurants and shops for both locals and visitors.

Laguna Beach

A small beach town on the southern tip of California, about an hour south of Los Angeles. Laguna Beach is world-famous for its vibrant art scene, amazing beaches, and outstanding environmental qualities. The famous Festival of Arts takes place here every summer along with Jazz on the Green concerts in October.

Even if you are not into either one of those, you will enjoy the downtown area filled with galleries and local shops.

Palm Springs & Joshua Tree National Park

Located about three hours east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs is a very popular getaway for those looking to escape the fast paced city life. With over 370 days of sunshine per year, it’s no wonder so many people flock here just to relax and enjoy the sun!

The climate is great for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, golfing, and even rock climbing. Many resorts are also located here including the famous Parker Hotel.

Located about an hour from Palm Springs, you’ll also find Joshua Tree National Park. This place offers a completely different experience than most parks and attractions.

There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy but just admiring the amazing rock formations will be enough for many. There are also some great camping spots so if you do plan on staying overnight, make sure you bring all of your supplies.

San Diego

Located close to the Mexican border, San Diego is just south of Orange County and offers some great attractions.

One of the most popular activities here is admiring the local sea life at Sea World. With multiple shows every day, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get up close with animals such as dolphins or sharks.

Another option is to take a Harbor Cruise and admire the beautiful skyline of both San Diego and Coronado.

The best part about visiting San Diego is that you can travel just a few minutes away to Mexico where you can enjoy your vacation in a completely different way. Take an hour’s drive south from the border and you will arrive at Tijuana.

California is a place that has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to get away from the fast-paced city life or just want some relaxation, it’s all here! California offers so many attractions and activities for all types of travelers. From Los Angeles’s Hollywood Boulevard to San Diego’s Sea World, there are so many things to see no matter what!

If you have any questions about visiting these areas, let us know. Which part of this state was you most interested in exploring?