Home to nearly 40 million people, California is a sprawling state that’s even bigger than England. And given its varied landscape, you definitely will not run out of things to do on your California trip. There are endless beaches, sprawling vineyards, lush farmlands, incredible deserts, charming villages and bustling metropolises. On any given day, there’s a wide variety of activities waiting for you to do, from surfing to hiking and even rollercoaster riding! Given the many options, deciding what to do on your trip is no easy task.
So to make things easier for you, here’s a list of the best things to do on your trip to California, whether you are visiting for the first time or have been there many times before.
1. Visit the Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is a must-stop for everyone visiting Northern California. Connecting San Francisco to the Northern California counties, this iconic structure is known for its mesmerizing view. The best way to admire this famous attraction is to roam along its eastern walkway, drive over it and stop at the viewpoints on both the southern and northern sides of the bridge.
There are several other activities that visitors can do while exploring the Golden Gate Bridge. Visit the Fort Point Historic Site, a national historic site at the southern side of the bridge. If you love hiking, conquer the Batteries to Bluffs Trail, a 2.2 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located close to the Golden Gate. You can always get updated information about the area, as well as viewing the historical exhibits, at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center.
2. Try the Californian Wineries
California is home to some of the United States’ best wineries. There are so many of them that it can be hard to decide where to go. If you only need to visit one region, make it the Sonoma Valley. The area is home to nearly 60,000 acres of vineyards and more than 400 wineries. Rent a car and drive through the picturesque winding roads lined with sprawling vineyards. The area is also home to charming country inns and tranquil parks everywhere, making it a very pleasant destination.
The Mendocino Wine Country is another popular wine destination known for its breathtaking landscapes. It’s one of the least crowded wine regions in the state and home to some of the best winemakers. Most of them use sustainable techniques in producing the tastiest wines in the region.
With 240 wineries in a 30-mile stretch, the Napa Valley is the most densely concentrated winery region in the world. A visit to the Napa Valley is a must for wine lovers of all kinds. For an authentic experience, check out the Castello di Amorosa Winery, which features an authentically styled 13th-century Tuscan castle built using medieval building techniques.
While it’s possible to visit these California wineries on your own, joining winery tours is highly recommended. These guided tours cater to everyone, from total newbies to wine connoisseurs hoping to discover the best Californian wines.
3. Hike Up to the Hollywood Sign
Your visit to California won’t be complete without getting your photo taken in front of the famous Hollywood Sign. The best place to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood Sign and have your photos taken is at Griffith Park. But if you want to hike up to the sign, you can take any of the Mount Hollywood hiking trails that start from the back corner of the parking lot.
The trail from Canyon Drive is a popular route and caters to easy to moderate hikers. However, since it’s a very popular trail, parking can be difficult, and the area can get very crowded. If you’re a more experienced hiker, take the Griffith Observatory trail. It’s a bit difficult, but it’s not too crowded. The hike is about six miles round trip, and it’s ideal for the more adventurous tourists.
4. Take a Road Trip to Santa Barbara
California’s diverse landscape makes it one of the best places for a scenic road trip in the States. The 120-mile Highway 101 from Malibu to Lompoc is a famous route for those who wanted to experience an incredibly scenic drive. This stretch of Highway 101 offers the most incredible views of both the beach and wine country.
Starting in the iconic city of Malibu, the highway runs along the rugged mountains of Santa Monica before reaching Oxnard, Ventura, and ending at the beautiful Santa Barbara road trip completion destination. Look over to the west and make a stop at the Channel Islands National Park to visit one of its beautiful beaches, such as El Capitán, Refugio, and Gaviota. From here, the highway will take you inland through the rolling ranch lands before reaching the beautiful city of Lompoc. Aside from its gorgeous flower fields, Lompoc is also known for its beautiful golf courses, charming Old Town and an exquisite collection of locally-grown wine.
5. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey is, no doubt, one of California’s most beautiful towns. It’s home to beautiful beaches and wineries and a quaint downtown. But perhaps the most popular attraction here is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This massive aquarium first opened in 1984 and features a wide variety of sea creatures such as penguins, otters, sea turtles, and sharks.
Monterey Bay Aquarium is a great place to visit, especially if you’re traveling with kids. This aquarium is so huge that it can get overwhelming to explore, so make sure you come prepared.
You do not need to see all the attractions in one visit. But there are a few exhibits that are truly worth your time, such as the Jellyfish and Open Sea. Here, you will find different types of tiny sea creatures, such as the jellyfish, shrimp and sand dollars, alongside halibut and sharks. The Giant Pacific Octopus is also fun to visit. As the name suggests, this attraction features giant octopuses that are about six feet long. And if your kids are big fans of sea otters, then check out the Sea Otters Feeding area where they can interact and feed these adorable sea creatures.