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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

SantaCatalinaIsland

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

Yosemite

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

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

GoldenGateBridge

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

ChannelIslands

Photo source: Haijun Shen

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

Universal_Studios

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

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

SanDiegoZoo

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

VasquezRocks

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.

10. Hollywood Boulevard

HollywoodB

Photo source: Thomas Ormston

Hollywood Boulevard is one of the most well-known locations in the area and features plenty of attractions. You can take a guided tour of the Boulevard or set out on your own to view the numerous theaters and museums in the area. Check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the hand- and footprints in the Graman’s Chinese Theatre forecourt or Madame Tussauds Hollywood.

09. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia

Photo source: Andrew

For more natural beauty and giant trees don’t miss out on Sequoia and Kings National Park. Here you can drive through some epic tree tunnels, visit the beautiful crystal cave, and view some of the oldest, widest and tallest trees in the world. You’ll also find plenty of breathtaking hiking trails and some nice picnic spots in the park.

08. Legoland

LegolandC

Photo source: Will Gearhart

You don’t have to be a Lego fan to enjoy Legoland, but it certainly helps. The colorful bricks are definitely a big draw, but you’ll also find a water park and aquarium. The resort features more than 60 rides, shows and attractions, so set aside a full day to experience everything it has to offer.

07. La Jolla

LaJolla

Photo source: Nathan Rupert

The La Jolla coastline is long and varied, offering plenty of scenic spots. You are not restricted to watching either as kayaking, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding and scuba diving are all popular local pastimes. Out of the water, there are plenty of golf courses to frequent as well as upscale boutiques and cafes in La Jolla Village.

06. Seaworld

Seaworld

Photo source: Kev Purcell

SeaWorld San Diego is not just an oceanarium and outside aquarium, but also a marine mammal park and animal theme park with plenty of attractions. It features numerous animal habitats, rides, shows and play areas. With incredible live shows and the opportunity to up close to the marine life, SeaWorld San Diego offers plenty of family oriented fun.

05. Venice Beach

VeniceBeach

Photo source: Andy Carr

Venice Beach is the place to go for anyone looking to soak up the sunlight and experience the quirky local culture. Watch the graffiti art featured on the Venice Art Walls along the beach and check out the art studios as well as independent designers found in the area. It is a great place for those who like to keep active as well with easy access to miles of beaches, outdoor basketball courts and paddle tennis courts. If the hustle and bustle of the famous Boardwalk becomes too much, there are also the tranquil Venice Canals to explore.

04. Alcatraz

Alcatraz

Photo source: Todd Lappin

The former prison, known famously as “The Rock”, is now a popular tourist stop for anyone heading towards San Francisco. Catch a short ferry ride from Pier 33 to check out where notorious criminals such as Mickey Cohen and Al Capone were incarcerated. The tours offer a fascinating glimpse into what inside this prison facility was like and in addition to taking the cellhouse audio tour the historic exhibits on the rest of the island is also worth a look.

03. Napa Valley

NappaValley

Photo source: Tom Post

Napa Valley is known for its stunning views, but a trip to this area also guarantees access to great wines and fabulous foods. After all, the area is widely considered to be one of the premier wine regions not only in the United States, but in the world. Although a visit to all the wineries are a must, there is more to do in the area. There are seasonal guided tours for hiking as well as plenty of bicycle routes, while anyone who feels like a bit of pampering should visit the natural hot springs at the northern end of the valley.

02. Big Sur

Big_Sur

Photo source: Bobby C

To view some of the most breathtaking views in the United States take a trip along Highway 1 through Big Sur. There are numerous vista points placed along the road to stop, stretch your legs and snap photos of the beautiful landscape. There is plenty of sightseeing to be done in the area without ever leaving the highway, but outdoor enthusiasts can also go mountain climbing or hiking in the area. There are nine state parks in the area and plenty of interesting spots, such as McWay Falls, Jade Cove, Bixby Creek Bridge and Point Sur Lighthouse.

01. Death Valley

Death_Valley

Photo source: Roberta Barbero

It is one of the driest, lowest and hottest areas of North America, but there are still a couple of compelling reasons to visit Death Valley in Eastern California. Go for a scenic drive or take in the fabulous panoramas found in the Furnace Creek area. In the Stovepipe Wells area there is a ghost town to explore as well as Indian petroglyphs while Golden Canyon Trail, Badwater Salt Flats and Natural Bridge Canyon are all great hiking spots. Despite the name, Death Valley is not a lifeless wasteland, but actually home to thousands of plant species as well as plenty of mammals, birds and reptiles.


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