Our country’s largest state by population, and third largest by area, is home to a wonderful diversity in cultures, climate and landscapes. Here are the top sites to see and things to do in California by region:
The Bay Area
The Bay Area is best known as a free-spirited locale that is home to the biggest tech giants in Silicon Valley, including Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft. It’s anchored by two major cities - San Jose to the south and hilly San Francisco, a major tourist destination on the north end. Here are the top things to do while you’re in the Bay Area:
- Visit the sites in San Francisco. You can’t miss the iconic Golden Gate Bridge - bike across it, walk or take an open-air tour bus to experience the massive bridge in all its glory. Visitors can also take a ferry and tour spooky Alcatraz Island. Other attractions include shopping on Fisherman’s Wharf, checking out the sea lions on Pier 39 and immersing yourself in science at The Exploratorium and California Academy of Sciences. If you’re traveling here in the summer, bring a jacket! SF can be blazing hot and then overcast and chilly within the same day as the famed fog rolls in.
- Head north across the Golden Gate to see the giant redwoods in Muir Woods and check out some excellent wineries in the charming Sonoma and Napa valleys.
- Visit the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium and nearby beaches San Carlos Beach Park and Pebble Beach.
- Be one with nature at Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevadas or climb the famous Half Dome and El Capitan mountains.
- Go skiing or participate in other adventure sports in Lake Tahoe, just north of Yosemite.
SoCal, as it’s sometimes called, is one of the sunniest and most celeb-studded places in the country. There’s plenty to do and see in and around Los Angeles and San Diego, the two major cities in the area. Here are the top spots:
- If you’re traveling with kids around L.A., head to Disneyland in Anaheim - the only Disney Park built under the direction of The Man Behind the Magic himself. Or, check out Knotts Berry Farm, a perennial childhood favorite that first opened in 1940. There are roller coasters, kids’ rides, games and plenty of fun for everyone. Don’t miss dining at Mrs. Knott’s California Marketplace for the renowned fried chicken, biscuits and boysenberry pie.
- L.A. is also the epicenter of the entertainment industry. Check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame, take a tour of Universal Studios and hike in the area surrounding the Hollywood Sign.
- Catch a Lakers game or popular concert at the Staples Center
- Take a hike in the Joshua Tree National Park in the beautiful Mojave Desert.
- Southern California is also home to some excellent festivals: Coachella Music Fest in Coachella Valley, the annual L.A. County Fair and the Newport Beach Film Festival, not to mention the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. If you want to see some major celebrities, hang out in one of the cafes or restaurants on Rodeo Drive.
- If you’re traveling with kids in San Diego, Seaworld or the esteemed San Diego Zoo are excellent options, and Legoland in nearby Carlsbad will provide hours of fun.
- The valleys in central California are less-populated than the coastal areas, but one must-see is the Hearst Castle. It’s an ornate, palatial, 165-room home built for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and set among 127 acres of gardens in San Simeon, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.