It’s no wonder that California’s often referred to as the Golden State; with sunshine and clear skies almost year round and bearable temperatures, California is not only an ideal place to live but popular among vacationers. If you’re planning a trip to the west coast, here are five must-see places when you visit California that will take you from north to south, from the Bay Area to the beaches and deserts. Just a heads up, you might as well rent a car and embark on a road trip; in California, the journey can be just as spectacular as the destination.
Golden Gate Bridge
If you’re in the Bay, this beautiful iconic bridge is definitely a must-see. It is one of the most widely photographed bridges and spans the Bay. Even from a far distance, the twin towers are immediately recognizable and make for great pictures. Take a hike from Land’s End through lush green trails and past small beaches while admiring the architectural wonder the whole time. Or, try to cross the bridge by foot; views from the bridge are just as stunning as views of it. Make sure you bring a camera to capture the memories. You might want to stay a day in San Francisco while you’re at it; the city boasts art museums, cozy eateries, and sweeping views of hillside homes.
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve
Fun fact: the California state flower is a poppy, and what better way to show you’re in the state by surrounding yourself with the petite orange flowers? Located in the western Mojave Desert, the gentle hills yield fields of poppies every year from mid-February through May. Trails through the reserve are wheelchair friendly and you’ll find photo opportunities wherever you turn. Even if the orange flowers aren’t in season, there’s plenty to see and hike in the rolling hills. If you want that windswept, flower-girl look among the poppies, this is the perfect place. Just be prepared for stronger winds in the spring!
Santa Monica Pier
California is home to many beaches, but Santa Monica is definitely one of the most iconic. As one of the oldest amusement parks in California, Santa Monica boasts roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, a historical carousel, and much more. If you’re tired of rides, the beach is only a walk away. Besides frolicking at the beach, you can opt to take tours, rent bicycles, enjoy live music, and learn about the history of Santa Monica. Because of southern California’s warm weather year round, the beach is a popular place for tourists at any time. Dress colorfully for artsy photo opportunities among the fairgrounds.
This iconic fast-food chain is native to California and the west coast, so it’s definitely a must for anyone visiting! The bright yellow and red logo is easy to spot, and the menu is simple: burgers, fries and shakes. If you’re feeling more hungry, try their secret menu animal fries. Each location follows the same layout and there are likely palm trees or seagulls nearby. Enjoy some burgers and the perfect California weather there!
A lesser known tourist attraction, Mystery Spot is a small area in the Santa Cruz mountains where the rules of physics don’t seem to apply. For example, water can flow up a board, an adult and child weigh the same, and much more. Although deep in the forest, the area is a tourist spot, so there will be many people around. Take a hike through the mountains as well; you will be amazed by the towering redwoods and lush plant life.
Of course, no visit to California will be complete without the famous Hollywood. There are tons to see and do in this neighborhood in Los Angeles. With the Hollywood sign looking over from the mountains, you’ll feel like a film star as you shop popular places such as Melrose Avenue. Hollywood Boulevard is a must-see for anyone who is a fan of film; just follow the stars laid in the ground. If you have time, spend a day at Universal Studios Hollywood for rides and attractions based on your favorite shows and movies.
Yosemite National Park
If you’re feeling up to challenge nature, Yosemite National Park is the place to go; it is an iconic location to spot waterfalls, wildlife, and more. Spend a few days in a village cabin or even go camping. Spanning the Sierra Nevadas and the area around it, there are countless sights to see in the nation’s first national park. However, be sure to check weather conditions; California has recently experienced several wildfires, so make sure visit only when it’s safe.
Disneyland and Universal Studios
Southern California is home to the famous Disney theme park and Universal Studios, which touched upon earlier. Enjoy themed rides at the Happiest Place on Earth and watch how your favorite movies and shows are made. You can easily spend an entire day at either of these locations. They’ll make you feel like a child all over again.
Only four hours from San Francisco and Los Angeles, Hearst Castle sits on a tall hill in San Luis Obispo. The castle includes 165 rooms and is surrounded by 123 acres of gardens, pools, and walkways all designed by George Hearst. There are many tour options available, and even without a tour, you’ll never get bored walking through the magnificent grounds and enjoying the grandiose architecture.
For the perfect scenic road trip, hit up 17-Mile Drive, a route through the beautiful Pebble Beach just north of San Francisco. Along the way, you’ll come across beaches, forests, and wildlife. You’ll be stopping constantly to admire the scenery and take photos. If you have time, biking down the drive will give you more time to enjoy the views of California’s Pacific coast.