10 things you absolutely have to do in California, eventually
California isn’t just a state, it’s like a whole country in itself. More people live in this epic slice of the West Coast than in any other part of the United States, and a visit will quickly reveal why. Here are 10 things to do in California that’ll really show off the best of the Golden State.
Redwood National Park and Forests
Gaze in awe at the world’s largest trees when you explore these stunning swathes of nature, packed with old-growth redwood trees and endangered species. Bring those binoculars to catch a glimpse of spotted owls and admire Giant Sequoias, Coast Redwoods, and Coast Douglas Firs. Another one of the popular things to do around these parts is to get behind the wheel to enjoy scenic drives through the beautiful wilderness.
Golden Gate Bridge
Now here’s a true modern wonder of the world. Stretching over 1 mile long, this California landmark is the most photographed bridge in the world, and with good reason. Straddling the strait, which connects San Francisco Bay with the Pacific, the orange-hued suspension bridge attracts visitors from around the world, and can be experienced on foot, by bike, or by car. Brace yourself for unforgettable views.
San Francisco Chinatown
There are Chinatowns in major cities all over the world, but the one in California happens to be the largest outside of Asia. It attracts more vacationers than the Golden Gate Bridge, and there are plenty of things to do amid its 22 blocks and 41 bustling alleyways. There are ornate, historic attractions wherever you look, not to mention the tongue-tingling scents and bright lights of the restaurants. The annual festival for the Chinese New Year is a must if you’re in town.
Follow in the footsteps of legendary writers Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac, and take in the dramatic scenery of the California Central Coast. This rugged realm of dense forests and crashing waves is gaining in popularity with vacationers today, with Pfeiffer Beach one of its big draws. Manganese garnet gives its sands a distinctive purple hue, making this one of the dreamiest places on this stretch of protected coastline to bask and relax at sunset.
Yosemite National Park
Immersing yourself in Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular things to do in California. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, it presents an other-worldly landscape where you can go hiking, camping, and rock climbing, which is central to the region’s heritage. You’ll also take the best selfies of your life. Yosemite Valley is especially stunning, and El Capitan rock is one of the great natural landmarks of the nation.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
This is one of the most renowned and respected public aquariums anywhere on Earth. A potential World Heritage Site, it’s famed for its fascinating aquatic aviary, and for the trailblazing work it puts into research, conservation, and sustainability. You’ll find yourself charmed by sea otters and bewitched by the 320,000 gallon kelp forest, with attractions to enchant all ages.
When it comes to people watching, Venice Beach is the place to be. Coming here is one of the major things to do in Los Angeles, and the dynamic street artists/performers are worth the trip alone. Thrilling water sports, the impressive sights of Muscle Beach, and an array of great, family-friendly dining options all make this a prime LA attraction, where artists and bohemians mingle with bodybuilders and sunbathers alike.
One of the must-see California museums, and the sister space to the Getty Villa, the Getty Center is as famous for its striking, modern architecture as it is for its art collection. What to do when you’re here? Well, it’s perched high in the hills overlooking LA, so you can take in unforgettable views of the city while exploring seasonal outdoor gardens. Free admission allows everyone to enjoy the masterpieces within, from works by baroque masters to vividly colorful Impressionist paintings.
Griffith Observatory may be home to exhibits that are among the world’s largest telescopes, but you don’t have to look to the heavens to take in incredible sights. From here, you can enjoy some of the best views of the Hollywood Sign and the Sierra Nevada. The live planetarium shows are also out of this world, making it well worth including Griffith Observatory on any LA itinerary.
Santa Monica Pier
Over 100 years old, Santa Monica Pier is famed for having the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel. Almost as iconic is the neon-adorned entrance, which beckons in visitors to enjoy the video arcade, bars, and restaurants. It’s also an exhilarating outdoor venue for concerts and movies throughout the year. Coming to wander the boardwalk is undoubtedly among the top things to do in California.
The Best Attractions in California
California dreaming? This list should give you enough inspiration to plan your trip to the West Coast, whether you want to get up close to sea life, take in views of the Hollywood sign, or get away from it all in Big Sur.
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