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Top 11 Destinations to Visit in California


California offers visitors beautiful panoramas, great natural beauty, sunshine, snow, breathtaking cityscapes, and things to do. This beloved state is blessed by nature; whatever the nature of your fantasy idyllic escape, you’ll find that California can offer you something even better. Ancient redwood forests, some of the best fishing in the world, national parks, Hollywood, fabled cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, Sierra Nevada mountains, and world-class wines in Sonoma…these don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what awaits a traveler who arrives on the shores of this welcoming state. Here are eleven places totally worth visiting in “The Golden State.”

1.     The San Francisco Bay Area

There are cities, and then there is San Francisco, with its bay area – a place where you will never get bored drinking in the beauty of nature and marveling at the architectural delights erected by the hand of man. The sight of the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in fog that comes hurtling from the Pacific Ocean, only to be pierced by beams from a late afternoon sun, is one that stays in memory. Beautiful mansions from the Victorian era and hilltop properties on Pacific Heights are popular attractions. This area abounds in places worth checking out – spots that have gained enduring fame. These include North Beach, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf. The undulating paths, sometimes steep, add to the character of this place. A little intrepidity in exploring the area by foot can result in a very rewarding day’s outing in this neck of the San Franciscan woods. Diverse communities and myriad cultural activities at any time of the year are the hallmark of the Bay Area. A climb to Grizzly Peak, a concert at The Fillmore, checking out the murals at Clarion Alley, and taking in the hip vibes of the Mission District are some of the things that you can do here. Hayes Valley is where locals head to when in mood for some excellent upscale dining. Or, you can treat your taste buds at Divisadero Street, where the food is out of this world and yet within anybody’s budget. If you’ve got more time on your hand, then consider a few day trips in and around the city. On the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge lies the popular tourist town of Sausalito. Further north from this town, there are beautiful trails and treks in Tennessee Valley and Muir Woods. Berkeley, with its academic vibes and inspiring architecture, and Oakland, with its forests and historical sites, are two other cities within easy reach from the Bay Area. Santa Cruz epitomizes the spirit of the Californian beach town of yore. Step closer to nature and a little away from civilization with a visit to Half Moon Bay.

2 Los Angeles and Disneyland

Los Angeles may have come a long way from its humble, ecclesiastical beginnings in 1781. The ’20s and ’30s fueled the development of this city and gave birth to Hollywood. For those with an interest in history, you may want to pay a visit to the San Gabriel Mission, which houses a wonderful museum. Get a feel of what sunny Southern California was like back in the day when the city was known as El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles. If the sole purpose of your visit to Los Angeles is to catch a glimpse or two of a matinee idol, then visit Rodeo Drive. You may catch an actor coming out of or stepping into one of the very upper-crust boutiques here. Beverly Hills and Bel Air are where Hollywood stars and divas reside. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a must-do pilgrimage for all those with stardust in their eyes. Check out the palm prints of more than 2,400 artists. The iconic Chinese Theatre is popular with moviegoers and with those wishing to measure their palms against the prints of famous Hollywood legends. Venice Beach remains the best place in all of Los Angeles for people watching, especially from the boardwalk. Catch skateboarders, fellow tourists, and bodybuilders doing their thing. Culture vultures can have their day under the sun by visiting the Huntington Library, a repository of rare books. The J. Paul Getty Museum has one of the best collections of medieval art in North America. The Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A is the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and to catch them playing is an opportunity to experience the fantastic acoustics of this hall, matched by very few locations in the world. The Huntington Botanical Gardens, spread over 120 acres, present re-creations of gardens from different parts of the world. A visit to Los Angeles is incomplete without enjoying at Disneyland. The place has something for everybody – adults who are in touch with their younger selves, teens, pre-teens, and preschoolers. Disneyland, Anaheim is around 30 miles from L.A. If you wish to give crowds a slip, then arrive here on Super Bowl Sunday, you’ll have it  to yourself. Chase Mickey Mouse in Mickey’s Toontown. Find out what Winnie the Pooh is up to in Critter Country. Test your nerves with rides like the Matterhorn Bobsleds and Space Mountain. Pirates of the Caribbean is another popular ride in New Orleans Square.

3.     San Diego – Sunny Days and Beaches

San Diego experiences the kind of weather that can keep you in a holiday mood all year round. Apart from the weather, the city boasts a beautiful bay and many stunning beaches. San Diego epitomizes Southern California like no other place. Downtown San Diego is a great place to get a feel of the city. Balboa Park is spread over 1,200 acres and is home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. While here, you may admire the beauty of Spanish Renaissance architecture and take in the fragrance of hundreds of roses at the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden. Beach lovers will have a hard time choosing a beach to enjoy the sun n’ sand. La Jolla is a popular town that has retained its character and attracts tourists with its beaches, excellent eating options, art galleries, and curio shops. Mission Beach invites brave wave riders and bikini babes in thongs. The white powderpuff sands of the beach are clean and you can enjoy more than two miles of it. Coronado Beach attracts families and those looking for quieter waters and more scenic views. For those who have the time and inclination, a visit to Tijuana, Mexico will be well worth the effort. Excellent craft beer, a lively night scene, museums, and friendly people make Tijuana a cool place to visit. San Diego was founded in 1769 and is the oldest city in the state. The adobe structure known as the San Diego Mission served to spread Christianity in SoCal and is now a Registered National Historic Monument. The Old Town and Gaslamp Quarter are places in the city that transport visitors to San Diego of another age. Between them, these areas offer niche boutiques, excellent Mexican fare, quaint buildings, and art galleries.

4. Yosemite National Park

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Yosemite National Park is in Northern California. The park is spread over more than 700,000 acres and is renowned for its sequoia groves, crystal clear streams, imposing granite cliffs, and wide forests. This park offers an opportunity to commune with nature in a manner that few places on Earth can match. Endless meadows; the Half Dome, which is a huge granite cliff; the iconic Yosemite Falls, which drop more than 2,000 feet; and more than 400 animal species to glimpse are but a few reasons for visiting Yosemite. Explore more than 800 miles of hiking trails. Attend rock-climbing classes. Enjoy biking on a 12-mile path. Winter brings with it opportunities to enjoy downhill skiing at the Badger Pass Ski Area and cross-country skiing at multiple places in the park.

5.  Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a freshwater alpine lake and one of the most beautiful places you can hope to visit anywhere in the world. The unspoiled scenery and the deep blue waters of the lake are perfect for recharging your batteries and getting ready to face the world once again. The Emerald Bay State Park is one of the best places to get a full idea of what the area is about. Varicolored granite cliffs and never-ending vistas of beautiful scenery define this part of Lake Tahoe. Fannette Island and Vikingsholm are two must-visit places in this park. Lake Tahoe offers some of the best skiing in America. Diamond Peak, Squaw Valley, and Alpine Meadows are just some of the skiing facilities and resorts in the area. Boating, hiking, and bicycling are popular summertime activities here. Kings Beach State Recreation Area is a free-to-access park and is spread over 28 acres. It offers just the right combination of temperatures for a swim and sunbathing. The D. L. Bliss State Park is another free park renowned for the trek to Balancing Rock, a 250,000-pound rock balancing on a piece of granite.

 6. Gold Country in Sierra Nevada

Gold Country, or the Mother Lode, is a region in northern California that was abuzz with activity during the California Gold Rush of 1849. The region is a popular tourist attraction not only for the historic vibes it still spreads through its museums and recreated mining sites, but also for its vineyards. The fabled Highway 49 passes through many mining towns and is in itself a great draw with visitors. The Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, 26 miles from Nevada City, is the site of the world’s largest hydraulic mining site and of North Bloomfield, now a ghost town. The Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park includes sites where gold was first struck in this region. Do make it a point to visit the old sawmill at Coloma. The discovery of gold at this spot began the gold rush. If you’re feeling lucky, you may want to try your hand panning for gold at the river, just like folks did all those years back. Walk, enjoy nature, and fish at the Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park. Gold Country is full of towns with unique appeal. Sutter’s Creek, El Dorado, Angels Camp, Rough and Ready, Sonora, and many other small towns have preserved their architectural heritage that is worth seeing. These towns also retain some of the feel and ambiance of 19th century California. Old buildings house art galleries and restaurants. The great outdoors are a step outside these towns. The American River offers opportunities for white water rafting, fishing, and boating. Nevada City, especially the downtown area is filled with historic hotels, lodges, shops, and museums that are steeped in the atmosphere of the Old West.

7. Sonoma County and Mendocino

Sonoma County is at heart of California the wine country, and is also a great place to experience the region’s Mexican history. Some of the best beaches in Northern California are in Sonoma. Sonoma, the capital of Sonoma County, has one of the most picturesque town squares in all of America. It is a National Historic Landmark and surrounded by buildings such as the Blue Wing Inn and Sebastiani Theatre. There are more than 425 wineries in Sonoma County, and these are great places to refine your palate, enjoy wine pairings, take in beautiful views, and attend food festivals. There are more than 60 regional and state parks in the county. These parks are sanctuaries for imposing redwoods and diverse fauna, and also include beaches and waterfronts. You can trek, hike, swim, fish, and do everything that a city dweller longs to do but cannot because the opportunities are few and far between.  Spring Lake Regional Park, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, and Jack London State Historic Park are among the best known parks in the region. A two-hour drive from San Francisco, the Point Reyes National Seashore is renowned for beautiful seaside trails and mesmerizing vistas of the Pacific Ocean. If you’re into birdwatching, then you’ll love this place. Continue traveling north till you reach Bodega Bay. The one-and-half hour drive along Sonoma Coast is as beautiful as the bay with its beaches, trekking routes, horseback riding and kayaking opportunities. 100 miles up north from Bodega Bay is the scenic and historic town of Mendocino. Clean beaches and fresh air have always attracted tourists to this place. Groves of redwood, never-ending pastures, and a rugged coastline combine to offer excellent hiking opportunities. Lake Mendocino and Big River Estuary offer boating, kayaking, and fishing. Glass Beach in Fort Bragg is a one-of-a-kind beach with polished glass pebbles covering coves.

8. Central Coast and Big Sur

The serene, forested slopes of surrounding hills, green pasturelands, and beaches for as far as the eye can see – words can scarcely do justice to the natural charms of the Central Coast. This part of California is still relatively undiscovered and retains charms that touristy towns lose. A trail through the Central Coast will take you through beautiful rustic towns such as Arroyo Grande and Paso Robles. The main city, San Luis Obispo, is nestled at the base of the Santa Lucia hills and is a mere half an hour from the beach. Blessed with sunny weather and cheerful vibes, this is a great town to set up camp and then check out what the Central Coast has to offer. The old Spanish Mission in this town is a big draw with visitors. Pismo Beach, which attracts surfers, and the slightly remote Avila Beach are just two of the many beaches that locals can venture to. Hearst Castle in San Simeon is one of America’s most well-known landmarks and it is around an hour’s drive from this city. The castle was commissioned by media mogul William Randolph Hearst and sits atop a hill like a huge eagle’s nest. It follows the architectural style of old Spanish cathedrals and the view of the ocean from this vantage point is marvelous. A visit to the castle will allow you to see priceless artifacts from all over the world. These include Egyptian statues, artwork from ancient Rome, and mosaics from Italy. Tales of the rugged beauty of the Big Sur and its remote allure have always attracted travelers. This is a 90-mile road overlooking mountains and the coast and is still verdant like it always has been. Challenging hairpin bends on Highway One connect vehicles to this stretch, which begins around 20 miles to the south of Carmel and winds up 15 miles above San Simeon. Huge redwood jungles, foaming waves, breakers, and massive cliff faces are just some of the sights that get imprinted on the vistor’s mind. If you go there, do visit McWay Waterfall Hiking Trail, which is the best vantage point to feast on the beauty of the Big Sur.

9. Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is one of the prettiest coastal towns in America. It is one of California’s prime resort destinations because of its pleasant weather and long strips of sandy beaches not yet overrun by commercialization. The city takes pride in its history that dates back to the time of Spanish missions, and the Mission Santa Barbara, which dates back to the 18th century, is the pride of this city. The downtown district abounds in Spanish haciendas and architecture that is evocative of aristocratic Spain. The Courthouse is an excellent example of Moorish architecture that developed in Cordoba, Spain. A lazy walk along the waterfront, a day at the beach, and some shopping are great ways to relax in Santa Barbara. There are many restaurants in the city offering gourmet food served in outdoor patios.

10. Humboldt County and Redwood Forests

Humboldt County is yet another gem of a place that is far from the madding crowd. If your idea of a vacation is to inhale fresh air, give your limbs some exercise, soothe your spirits, and test yourself against nature, then Humboldt County won’t disappoint. Here, you can hunt game, fish, swim, hike, and do all those things that you cannot in the city. The beaches are free of crowds, the forests are green, the valleys infused with the fragrance of Douglas fir, and the ocean breeze carries a salty tang that always reminds you of where you are. This is a remote place where suspension bridges connecting roads on either side of gorges are not uncommon. This is Northern California at its pristine best. Come down from the northern reaches of this county and you have the Humboldt Redwoods State Park beckoning you with some of the oldest living trees on earth – giant redwoods that have been here for thousands of years. Redwood National Park is another place where the forest is primeval and the ferns present an otherworldly picture. Moonstone Beach has a beautiful shore and one can sample fresh catches in Trinidad, a bustling fishing village nearby. Nature walks, riding trails, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, and paddle boating are all possible in Humboldt County. The town of Eureka located along the bay is the main city here and being a maritime town has a rich history. The old section of Eureka has many old buildings dating to the Victorian era. Many buildings now serve as hotels and B&Bs. Notable buildings here include Carter House Inns, Carson House, and Eureka Inn. Perhaps the best way to get a feel of the city is step away from it and take a cruise along the bay. It’s an opportunity to learn about the place, and also view marine life such as seals, fish, and crabs. Places worth visiting here include Clarke Historical Museum and Morris Graves Museum.

11. Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes is a hit with visitors who relish sunny weather and activities such as hiking and fishing. The mountain air is clean and carries with it whiffs of cedars, pines, and firs. The beautiful location is an ideal setting for mountain biking during spring and summer, and skiing in winter. The area offers more than 300 miles of trail to hike, and with varying degrees of difficulty. You can choose from rolling meadows and  scented forests on one hand and craggy peaks on the other. There are one hundred lakes here and they offer excellent trout fishing. The alpine wilderness is transformed into a skier’s paradise during winter and you can choose from over 150 trails to test your skiing skills.

Originally posted 2017-03-28 06:58:24.

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