15 must-see places in California
15 must-see places in California: Among the USA‘s most fascinating states to visit is California. The fame brought to it by Hollywood films, the relaxed atmosphere of its beaches or its magnificent national parks are just some of the main attractions to see in California . Interestingly, it is the country’s most populous state, and if it were an independent nation, it would be the fifth richest in the world. In this article, we take a look at 15 must-see places in California to make sure you don’t miss out on anything of interest.
Yosemite National Park and its glacial valley:
Yosemite National Park is one of the best in the United States. It’s so complete! Located in northern California, its mountains, valleys, rivers and waterfalls attract millions of tourists every year.
Some of Yosemite’s best attractions are to be found in its spectacular glacial valley. You can’t miss Tunnel View , Glacier Point or Half Dome, a granite ridge that is Yosemite’s most popular image.
And without a doubt, another great Yosemite attraction is its giant redwoods. The best place to see them is at Mariposa Grove, in the southern part of the park, where you’ll find hundreds of specimens.
San Francisco and the Golden Gate:
San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in California. It is set in a magnificent bay, and the Golden Gate is its main icon. But there’s much more to the city than just the bridge!
One of our favorite spots is Fisherman’s Wharf . Here, right on the water’s edge, you can breathe in a fantastic atmosphere. You’ll find a multitude of stores, restaurants and you may even spot seals on the pier.
But what would San Francisco be without its steep streets? Don’t forget to hop on their historic streetcar to discover them. It’s a real treat!
Alcatraz, the most famous prison in California and the world:
Admittedly, when you read about San Francisco in the previous point, you thought we were missing something. But Alcatraz deserves a separate point!
It’s the most famous prison on the planet. It’s located on a small island 2 kilometers off the coast of San Francisco. But why is it so famous? From 1934 to 1963, it was the United States’ maximum-security federal prison. The country’s most dangerous criminals were locked up here, including Al Capone.
Being on an island and, they say, the surrounding water is infested with sharks , made escape almost impossible. Indeed, in the 36 years it has been in operation, no one has succeeded in escaping , although there have been over 30 attempts. Of course, there are 5 bodies that have never been found… maybe they will be!
Without a doubt, we think this is one of the most interesting places to see in California . So when you visit San Francisco, be sure to check it out.
Joshua Tree National Park and its landscapes:
If you want to see landscapes that look like they’re from another planet, you’ve got to visit this national park. The main characters are a species of Yucca, found almost exclusively in this region, and called Joshua Tree.
And when these trees meet the arid, almost lunar desert landscape, you can only expect great things. What’s more, in the national park you’ll find many curious geological formations. We recommend that you spend a night in one of the park’s campsites to enjoy a night under the stars. The atmosphere is magical!
The park is located halfway between Los Angeles and Phoenix. So if you’re planning to visit Arizona or Colorado’s Grand Canyon, be sure to check out this treasure.
Los Angeles and Hollywood:
Los Angeles is the most famous city to visit in California. So you can’t miss it! We were a little disappointed, but we think it’s worth spending a few hours getting to know its famous residential neighborhoods, which have appeared a thousand times in its films.
Given the many spectacular sights in this part of the U.S., visiting Los Angeles in a day is no nonsense. You can visit Hollywood’s neighborhoods, see its famous sign, hallucinate with the mansions of Beverly Hills or enjoy the view from the Griffith Observatory. You name it!
Venice Beach and Santa Monica, one of the most atmospheric places to see in California:
Before we leave Los Angeles, we think the Venice and Santa Monica area deserves a separate chapter. They are one of the most special areas to see in California. Walking is the best way to get to know them.
We recommend starting your walk by visiting the curious canals of Venice. They are artificial and were created by a tobacco magnate because he wanted to make the area a replica of Venice. What’s more, until a few years ago, there were tourist gondolas.
Then stroll along the boardwalk to the famous Santa Monica Pier, the end point of Route 66. And enjoy a sunset there!
Malibu and its wooden houses:
Near Los Angeles, you can visit Malibu, one of California’s most famous towns. Its seaside wooden houses and relaxed atmosphere have attracted many artists and celebrities to live here, including Lady Gaga and Sean Penn. Even Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aninston got married there!
Despite the notoriety, the atmosphere in Malibu is very cool. If you like surfing, don’t hesitate to grab your board and ride the waves. The Pacific breeze is much nicer in Malibu than in Los Angeles.
General Sherman in Sequoia National Park:
Sequoia trees are typical of California. You can’t leave the state without seeing the tallest trees on the planet! One of the best places to enjoy them is Sequoia National Park. You’ll see many of these trees. Among them, the one that stands out the most is General Sherman, which, at 83 meters, is said to be the tallest tree on the planet . And mind you, they say it can be up to 2,700 years old. Almost nothing!
Big Sur, one of the most beautiful places to see in California:
If you love scenic drives, you can’t miss the Big Sur region. It’s a 145-kilometer stretch of road that runs along the coast between the cities of Carmel and San Simeón. Driving this winding road and taking in the view of the Pacific is a unique experience. The cliffs are magnificent!
At the end of Big Sur, you can visit San Simeon and Hearst Castle, one of the most spectacular buildings to see in California. This private palace is now a museum that you can visit. You’ll be amazed by all the details!
Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay:
South Lake Tahoe is a popular place for Californians to spend their vacations in the great outdoors. As its name suggests, it lies on the shores of Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in the United States. It’s a real wonder!
Around the lake, you can visit Emerald Bay State Park, a real gem for nature lovers. There are several itineraries that will take you to some very nice viewpoints from which you can see the lake and its emerald-colored water. However, the most curious thing is how Île Fanette stands out. It reminded us a lot of Lake Bled, one of the most beautiful lakes in Slovenia.
Away from Emerald Bay, around Lake Tahoe, you can take many hiking trails, enjoy water sports on the lake or cycle around it.
By the way, if you have the time and want to discover another interesting lake in the USA, we recommend a visit to Salt Lake City , in the state of Utah.
Redwood National Park and its giant trees:
There are many interesting national parks on the West Coast of the USA. And Redwood is one of the most attractive! It’s located in the northern part of California. Most know it as the site of the tallest trees on Earth. And that’s because 45% of all old-growth redwood forests are concentrated in Redwood.
Apart from these immense trees, in the park you can enjoy wild rivers and a multitude of trails. You’ll love the green! Our advice is to spend several nights in their campsites and explore the various trails. Just out of curiosity, several scenes from Jurassic Park were recorded here!
Death Valley, one of the most curious places to see in California:
Death Valley is usually an essential stopover on almost any itinerary along the West Coast. Why the name? Because it’s one of the hottest places on the planet, and life there is virtually impossible. In fact, a temperature of 56.7°C has been recorded, the highest in Earth’s history.
The valley is made up of miles and miles of desert landscape and scorching heat. The valley’s most famous landmarks are the Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the country. It’s a huge saltpan situated some 85 meters below sea level. But beware! We don’t recommend spending a lot of time outside the car, as it’s generally dangerous.
Other nice places to see in Death Valley are Dante’s View and Zabriskie Point. From here, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the valley, one of the most spectacular places to see in California.
Mammoth Lakes, an adventurer’s paradise:
Relatively close to Yosemite, you can visit Mammoth Likes Village , a paradise for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Nearby, you’ll find nearly a hundred lakes and 500 kilometers of trails. The lakes are crystal-clear in color.
One of the most beautiful trails is to Duck Lake. The color is incredible! Although Minaret Lake is our favorite. It’s incredible to see the contrast between the beauty of the lake and the peaks that emerge from behind. The sunrise is magnificent.
And don’t forget to visit Devil’s Postpile, some basalt columns that reminded us of Iceland. And be careful, there’s a large population of black bears living in and around Mammoth Lakes!
Disneyland , one of the most fun places to see in California:
15 must-see places in California: Whether you’re traveling to California with or without kids, we think visiting Disneyland is always synonymous with fun. Although Magic Kingdom and the rest of Orlando’s theme parks are better, the California park is really good. It was also the company’s first!
Lassen Volcanic National Park and its activity:
And to finish this post on the 15 must-see places in California, we couldn’t forget to mention this magnificent national park. Being located in the north, relatively close to the Oregon border, it’s not the most visited. However, we think it’s well worth a visit!
Here you can enjoy a great deal of geothermal activity. It reminds us a lot of Rotorua, one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations.
One of the best ways to explore the park is to do the Lassen Peak Trail. In total, it takes around 5-6 hours (round trip) and takes you through the famous Devastated Area, one of the park’s most famous landmarks. You’ll see lava rocks from the volcano’s last eruption.
And if you want to see the geothermal activity, don’t miss the Bumpass Hell Trail. Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places to see in California.