California is often considered the heaven on earth. So many people dream to live here! And so many travelers come to visit every year!
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Yosemite national park – this is not the full list of places, which attract tourists to this magical land. Here is our list of top things to do and see in California:
Golden Gate Bridge
The most photographed bridge in the world, the Golden Gate is 4200 feet high and stands since 1937. It took four years to build the bridge and it was meant to connect San Francisco with Marin County, as well as other districts in the north, and not to amuse tourists. However, if you want to get a great view of the bridge, you should head to Nob Hill, Marin Country, or Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The view is great from the ferry going to Alcatraz too.
Golden Gate Park
Situated on 1017 acres, the Golden Gate Park offers lakes, paths, gardens, recreation fields, museums, and a Japanese tea garden for a great day with your family or friends. Some of the most popular institutions in San Francisco, such as the de Young Fine Arts Museum, the Victorian-era glass-ensconced Conservatory of Flowers, and the Academy of Sciences, are situated here. There are also numerous spots with snacks, in case you get hungry. During Sundays, the main drive is banned for the cars and becomes filled with cyclists, rollerskaters, and just people having a pleasurable walk.
The residential area, along with the park, the Alamo Square is widely known for its Painted Ladies row of Victorian houses, situated on the east side, along Steiner Street. The park also includes a playground and a tennis court. The place is highly popular with both locals and travelers.
One of the city’s most popular attractions, Fisherman’s Wharf stretches all the way from Pier 39 to Municipal Pier at the end of Aquatic Park. For over 100 years, this waterfront was the hub for the fishing fleet of San Francisco. It still boasts some of the best seafood restaurants in the city. Also, multiple museums, souvenir shops, scenic vistas and historical buidings can be found at the wharf. And don’t miss the famous sea lion area at Pier 39.
Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest and the oldest Chinese neighborhood outside of China. Established in 1840’s, it was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquaqe in 1906 and rebuilt later in a traditional Chinese style. Temples, workshops, theaters, souvenir and antique shops, teahouses, and pharmacies are the places, which make San Francisco’s Chinatown one of the city’s major sites. And if you happen to come during one of the Chinese holidays, you are up for a great experience!
This rocky park, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, has been a tourist hotspot since the 20th century. Walk along the popular Coastal Trail and you will find the hidden Labyrinth at Eagle Point, or just enjoy the nice lunch and the view at the scenic Cliff House restaurant. Anyway, you won’t be disappointed. And when it’s foggy, you may truly think, you are stending at the edge of the world!
The first built fort and lighthouse in the USA, Alcatraz was banned for the visitors, as it was a prison from 1934 until 1963. These days, the island can be reached by ferry and the former prison territory is available for tours, even during the nighttime. Be aware, weather on the island is quite unpredictable.
The other iconic site of San Fransisco, apart from the Golden Gate Bridge, is the Transamerica Pyramid, located in the heart of the Financial District. The architect’s idea was that the pyramid is an ideal shape for skyscrapers, as it lets more air and more light inside. Finished in 1972, the Pyramid is 853 feet (260m) high and still remains the tallest building in San Francisco.
The Hollywood Sign
Constructed in 1923, the “Hollywoodland” sign was meant to stand for just a year and a half. Yet, it’s still there after almost 95 years. “How to get as close as possible to the sign?” is probably the biggest mystery for LA travelers these days. You can have a nice view of the sign from Beachwood Drive or from the hill near Lake Hollywood Park. You can also trek along the dirt road on Mt Lee Drive and you will find yourself just above the Hollywood sign. The choice is up to you!
Universal Studios is a theme park with a capital “T”. Here, you will find some mind-blowing rides and sets, based on famous movies, such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Simpsons, The Walking Dead, and Transformers. A tour around the studio is also a major tourist attraction. And when you get fed up with rides, go to CityWalk, an entertainment area, filled with shopping, dining facilities, and theaters.
The Walk of Fame
Another major Hollywood attraction, the Walk stretches from La Brea Gateway to Pantages Theater at Gower. Don’t forget to visit the Dolby Theater, the Academy Awards set. And don’t miss the movie palace, situated in the historic Hollywood Roosevelt.
A sailing ship from 1936 until 1967, nowadays, the Queen Mary is docked in Long Beach and offers a unique experience for travelers of the area. You can dine on board of the ship or even stay a couple of nights in one of its hotel rooms. Or take a guided tour and have a glimpse into the ship’s history.
The inhabitants of Santa Monica range from surfers to business people and from yoga enthusiasts to techies. The magnificent stretch of golden sand and the famous Santa Monica Pier are the features, which make the place so appealing to tourists. You can find any activity and any experience at Santa Monica Beach, including numerous street performers at the Third Street Promenade, as well as the great shopping facilities!
The stretch of golden send of Venice Beach, as well as the Venice Beach Boardwalk, are always filled with people walking, jogging, rollerskating, and cycling. This is a perfect place to enjoy an active afternoon, watch people, and show yourself. Street performers of all kinds add to the place’s strong appeal. It is not a typical family beach, but worth a visit if you are traveling with friends. Don’t worry if you get hungry. The walkway is spotted with food vendors of all kinds, from shaved ice to kettle corn and funnel cakes.
California’s largest park, situated in the eastern part of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Griffith Park covers an area of 4210 acres. The place is home to a planetarium, a Greek theater, Los Angeles Zoo, a riding center, numerous golf courses, tennis courts, hiking trails, and, of course, the famous Griffith Observatory. You will find various exhibits and telescopes on its grounds. The main appeal is a glimpse through the Zeiss telescope, which is used for watching the moon and planets. Solar telescopes are used to watch the sun. And what’s the most exciting, the place offers free entrance and using the telescopes is free as well.
Just outside of the city, you will find the primary family destination in Los Angeles – Disneyland Resort. In addition to thrilling rides and Disney characters walking around, the place offers multiple hotels, restaurants, shops, and other entertainment facilities, known to make your weekend here just perfect.
Situated in Northern California, within the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite National Park is one of the most scenic areas in the United States. Mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and valleys are just a few of the attractions the place offers. Three of the ten world’s tallest waterfalls are situated here, as well as the single piece of exposed granite. The most popular activities in the park include hiking and rock climbing. Don’t worry, you won’t get trapped in the wild. The park is spotted with restaurants and hotels, for some fine dining and accommodation.
The highest fall in North America, the sixth highest in the world, Yosemite Falls is 2425 feet (740m) tall and is one of the park’s major attractions. It can be seen from many locations within the Yosemite Park. You can also climb to the top of the waterfall, to fully enjoy the view of the mountains below, but be prepared for a whole day of hiking. The best time to admire the splashing water is spring, when the snow melts most vigorously. During the dry season, on the other hand, the water flow can sometimes disappear completely.
In Mariposa Grove, you have a chance to look at one of the world’s oldest and largest living plants, a giant sequoia. There are, however, 500 other sequoias within the place, so you’re up for some unique experience. Some of them are over 3000 years old. Pay special attention to the Washington tree, the largest one, the California Tunnel tree, cut in the 1800’s, to let horse carriages pass through, and the Fallen Monarch. The best way to explore the grove is by taking an open-air tram, which you can hop on and hop off anytime, when you want to get a closer look.
Glacier Point is one of the best viewing points in Yosemite Park. The place is situated approximately 7214 feet above the ground and offers fabulous views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Vernal Fall, and Nevada Fall. The trek to the point is 4 miles long, steep, and arduous, so most visitors prefer to take a car or a bus tour. It takes around one hour to drive to the summit. On the other hand, it’s worth an effort, as you will be at the eye level with Half Dome.
Another viewing point, called Tunnel View, is situated just off State Route 41 and attracts around five or six thousands visitors every day during the high season. The place offers an incredible panorama of Yosemite Valley and its attractions: El Capitan, Half Dome, and the Bridalveil Fall.
Half Dome, the Yosemite’s most famous rock formation, is a granite crest, which rises over 4737 feet above the ground, and can only be accessible with the help of cables. The scientists insist, it’s 87 million years old and has a vertical grade of 93%, being the sheerest cliff in North America.
Another famous site in Yosemite Park, El Capitan is a granite monolith, which rises almost 3000 feet (910m) high and is one of the major challenges for rock climbers. It can be seen from the Western Yosemite Valley, Tunnel View, Bridaveil Fall, and El Capitan Meadow.
The region of Yosemite offers great natural diversity, including Tuolumne Meadows, with unique plants and tree species, such as Ross’s sedge, Lodgepole Pine, and dwarf bilberry. There are great hiking, fishing, swimming, and camping opportunities in the area, which make it a great destination for a family getaway.
Have fun at Disneyland
Located in Anaheim, California, Disneyland is the primary destination for family vacations. It offers various kinds of rides, roller coasters, shows, recreated worlds and cultures, games, and many other attractions, as well as numerous restaurants, shops, and accommodations. However, keep in mind, crowds can be huge during the kids’ vacation time.
Visit the SeaWorld
Another popular family destination, SeaWorld in San Diego attracts visitors from all over Western part of the United States. The main attractions of the place are dolphin shows, daring rides, and close encounters with marine life. The park inhabitants include dolphins, walruses, killer whales, Polar bears, and penguins.
Ride the Big Sur Coastline
90 miles long, the Big Sur is considered one of the world’s most scenic roads. Around 3 million drivers travel this route every year. If you are looking for a great nature escape, the Big Sur Coastline is a place to head to. The place offers vast forests, camping facilities, beaches, and great hiking opportunities.
The coastline begins approximately 4 miles to the south of Carmel and stretches to the Santa Lucia Mountains. On the way, you shouldn’t miss such key attractions of the route as the Bixby Bridge, the world’s tallest single-span bridge, Point Sur lighthouse, and the 80-foot-high McWay Falls, which cascades into the ocean below.
Visit San Diego Zoo
Home to over 3700 animals of 650 different species, San Diego Zoo is a non-profit zoo, which occupies around 100 acres of Balboa Park. Elephants, tigers, bears, monkeys, and apes are just a few of the zoo inhabitants, which you can say “hello” to.
Go Wine Tasting
First Californian wine was introduced to the world in 1976, during the Judgment of Paris, the world-famous wine-tasting event. However, wine making in Napa was born long before that, in the middle of the 19th century. Nowadays, Napa wineries offer multiple ways to taste wine, as well as numerous tours. So, you have a fine list to choose from.
Take a Cable Car
Still manually operated, San Francisco cable car system is the world’s last of its kind. There are three different routes you can take, two of them ending in Fisherman’s Wharf. And if you are curious to know more about this type of transportation, visit the Cable Car Museum, situated on Nob Hill.
Drive the Pacific Coast Highway
The most iconic road in California, the Pacific Coast Highway offers the magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean on every turn. We advice to go from Malibu to Los Angeles, admiring the stunning blue waters on one side and luxurious houses in the mountains on the other side. Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Hermosa are the points, worth a stop on the way. And don’t miss the Palos Verdes Peninsula, which offers some truly stunning views!