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20 Best Places to Visit in California

in Travel Nerd by

Located along the West Coast of America and home to eight of the most populated cities in the country, California is a state with diverse geography and many places of interest. From the natural beauty of the landscape to the man-made attractions found around every turn, California thrives on tourism. Experiencing everything that this state has to offer can take a long time, but here are 20 of the best places to visit.

20. Catalina Island


Photo source: Rick Warren

For beautiful weather, breathtaking scenery and plenty of activities a trip to Catalina Island comes highly recommended. Check out the shipwrecks and reefs around the island via glass bottom boats or go for a scuba dive in the clear waters. For indoor activities, visit the Catalina Island museum where thousands of items and photographs of the islands rich history can be viewed.

19. Yosemite National Park


Photo source: Jorge Molina

Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited parks in the country and with attractions like Glacier Point, Yosemite falls and the Half Dome it is no surprise. There are abundant opportunities for outdoor activities like biking, hiking and rafting while enjoying the great scenery. For a truly unique experience, try out the full-moon bike rides offered by the park.

18. Lake Tahoe


Photo source: Cap001 – Dan

Lake Tahoe not only offers plenty of beautiful scenery, but plenty of diverse activities as well. Hikers will love the Sierra Nevada Mountain trails, while snowboarders can head to the slopes of Squaw Valley. For a more sedate experience ride the Heavenly Gondola or soak up some sun at Kings Beach. Golf courses and casinos can also be found in the area surrounding the lake.

17. Golden Gate Bridge


Photo source: Dan Panaitescu

Connecting San Francisco to the northern counties of California, the Golden Gate Bridge is quite an impressive feat of engineering. It features 746-foot tall towers and an Art Deco styling that makes it a popular tourist hotspot. It’s not just a great location for taking photos, but can be traversed on foot or by bicycle before visiting the on-site center for more information about the history of the bridge.

16. Channel Islands National Park


Photo source: Haijun Shen

sushi donuts

For a glimpse of how California looked before becoming the bustling state that it is now, visit the Channel Islands National Park. It is home to rare flora and fauna, which can be enjoyed from the numerous hiking trails. You will find that the islands are untarnished by modern development and also offer some of the best diving destinations in the world. Camping and backpacking and kayaking through the Sea Caves are some of the other highlights of this popular destination.

15. Universal Studios Hollywood


Photo source: Slices of Light

Universal Studios Hollywood is not just a working movie studio, but also a theme park. Take part in iconic studio tours, experience the thrills of movie themed rides and marvel at stunt shows. After all the excitement there are also plenty of stores, nightclubs, outdoor entertainment and dining options to unwind with.

14. Redwood National Park

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Photo source: Jeremy Mineweaser

The biggest reason to visit Redwood National Park is to witness some of the tallest trees in the world, but this destination has much more to offer as well. The park is home to plenty of rare wildlife and hiking the Fern Canyon Trail with its giant ferns is like stepping back in history. Many of the hiking trails in the park also lead to the Coastal Trail with its stunning ocean views.

13. Disneyland


Photo source: JBD1020

Disneyland in California offers the same experience that can be found in Disney World, but without the crowds. The park consists of numerous themed areas, each with their own fantastic rides and scenery. It is also a family friendly destination with plenty to do for both young and old.

12. San Diego Zoo


Photo source: Felipe Robles

With its beautiful botanic gardens and numerous rare animals, the San Diego Zoo offers a memorable experience for all ages. Take a guided tour of the zoo or explore it on foot if you have enough time. Anyone looking for great photo opportunities should also try out the Skyfari aerial tram. Since many of the exhibits use moats and vegetation instead of cages there are some great views of the animals.

11. Vasquez Rocks


Photo source: Steve Nelson

Everything from commercials and television shows to movies have used Vasquez Rocks as a location, because of the interesting landscape. The unique rock formations in the area are the result of rapid erosion and the effects of the San Andreas Fault. Even if you are not a movie buff, the hiking trails and beautiful photo opportunities found in the area make it worth the trip.

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