The 24 Best Things to Do in California

California, also known as the Golden State, is a treasure trove of diverse landscapes, iconic landmarks, and unforgettable experiences.
From breathtaking coastlines to towering mountains, and vibrant cities to charming small towns, California offers something for everyone.
Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, a foodie, or an adventure seeker, you’ll find an abundance of activities and attractions to explore in this beautiful state.
In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the best things to do in California, ensuring that your trip is nothing short of extraordinary.

Things to Do in California
Things to Do in California

Table of Contents

  • Big Sur Road Trip
  • Explore the Iconic Golden Gate Bridge
  • San Francisco’s Painted Ladies
  • Experience the Thrills of Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Visit Alcatraz Island
  • Discover the Vibrant Art Scene in San Francisco
  • Explore the Stunning Coastline of Big Sur
  • Hollywood Sign & Griffith Observatory
  • Drive the Pacific Coast Highway
  • Wine Tasting
  • Experience the Glamour of Hollywood
  • Hit the Beach
  • Soak in Natural Hot Springs
  • Soak up the Sun in Santa Monica
  • Take in Lake Tahoe
  • Discover the Magic of Disneyland
  • Visit the National Parks
  • Indulge in Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
  • Head to Pismo Beach
  • Immerse Yourself in the Beauty of Yosemite National Park
  • Go Surfing
  • Winchester Mystery House
  • Dive into Underwater Wonders at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Admire the Majestic Burney Falls
  • Additional Information
  • Conclusion

Big Sur Road Trip

Embark on an unforgettable road trip along the Big Sur coastline, one of the most breathtaking drives in the entire country.
Stretching 90 miles along the coast, this scenic highway offers panoramic views of the rugged coastline and the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains.
The drive itself is a destination, with numerous stops along the way that showcase the beauty of this region.

Make sure to visit Carmel-by-the-Sea, a picturesque town known for its charming cottages and art galleries. Explore Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, a haven for wildlife and stunning coastal views.

Don’t miss the iconic Bixby Bridge, a marvel of engineering that spans a deep canyon.
Pfeiffer Beach and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park are also must-visit spots, offering pristine sandy shores and the mesmerizing McWay Falls.

Explore the Iconic Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge

No visit to California is complete without a stop at the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Spanning the strait that connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean, this engineering marvel is a symbol of the state’s rich history and innovation.

Take a stroll or rent a bike to explore the bridge up close and marvel at its grandeur. Don’t forget to capture the breathtaking views of the city skyline and the surrounding natural beauty.
For a unique perspective, consider booking a bay cruise or a helicopter tour to see the bridge from a different angle.

San Francisco’s Painted Ladies

For a taste of Victorian charm, head to San Francisco’s Alamo Square to admire the famous Painted Ladies. These beautifully restored Victorian houses, with their vibrant colors and intricate architectural details, are a sight to behold.

Set against the backdrop of modern skyscrapers, the Painted Ladies offer a unique blend of old and new. Take a stroll through the neighborhood and capture the perfect Instagram-worthy shot of these architectural gems.

Experience the Thrills of Universal Studios Hollywood

For an immersive and thrilling experience, head to Universal Studios Hollywood. This iconic theme park offers a unique blend of movie magic and adrenaline-pumping rides.
Take a behind-the-scenes tour of a working movie studio, witness jaw-dropping special effects, and enjoy thrilling attractions based on blockbuster films.

From the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to the heart-pounding Jurassic World ride, Universal Studios Hollywood is a haven for movie buffs and thrill-seekers alike.

Don’t forget to catch the spectacular shows and performances that bring the silver screen to life. Universal Studios Hollywood is where fantasy becomes reality.

Visit Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island

Step back in time and explore the infamous Alcatraz Island, home to the notorious Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Take a ferry from San Francisco’s Pier 33 and embark on a journey to this island with a dark past.

Explore the prison’s abandoned cells, learn about the lives of its notorious inmates, and discover the island’s fascinating history.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the island’s historic gardens and enjoy the stunning views of San Francisco Bay.

Discover the Vibrant Art Scene in San Francisco

San Francisco is known for its vibrant and eclectic art scene. From world-class museums to colorful street art, the city offers a rich cultural experience for art enthusiasts.
Explore the renowned San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and immerse yourself in contemporary and modern art masterpieces.

Take a stroll through the vibrant Mission District, where vibrant murals adorn the streets, telling stories of the city’s diverse culture and history.
Don’t miss the iconic “Painted Ladies” Victorian houses in Alamo Square, which have become synonymous with San Francisco’s charm. San Francisco is a haven for art lovers, and you’ll find inspiration at every turn.

Explore the Stunning Coastline of Big Sur

Big Sur, located along California’s central coast, is a rugged and breathtaking stretch of coastline that is a must-visit for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Drive along the iconic Highway 1, winding through towering cliffs and offering panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Stop at the numerous lookout points to capture the jaw-dropping beauty of the rugged coastline.

Hike through the enchanting redwood forests, explore hidden coves, and bask in the serenity of pristine beaches. Big Sur is a true natural wonder that will leave you in awe of California’s stunning landscapes.

Hollywood Sign & Griffith Observatory

No visit to California is complete without a visit to the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Take a hike to the Griffith Observatory and enjoy panoramic views of the city skyline and the iconic Hollywood Sign.

Explore the observatory’s exhibits and planetarium shows for a fascinating celestial experience.
Capture the perfect photo with the Hollywood Sign as your backdrop and immerse yourself in the glamour of the entertainment capital of the world.

Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

Embark on a scenic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the most iconic road trips in the United States. This breathtaking route offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs, and charming coastal towns.

Start your journey in San Francisco and make your way down to Los Angeles, passing through iconic destinations such as Big Sur, Monterey, and Santa Barbara.
Take your time to explore the charming towns, enjoy the beautiful beaches, and soak in the natural beauty of the California coastline.

Wine Tasting

Indulge in a wine-tasting experience in California’s renowned wine regions. Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and Santa Barbara are just a few of the destinations that offer world-class wineries and vineyards.

Immerse yourself in the picturesque vineyards, sample exquisite wines, and learn about the winemaking process.
Take a tour of the cellars, attend wine-pairing classes, or simply relax in a beautiful winery with a glass of your favorite vintage. A wine-tasting adventure in California is a must for any wine enthusiast.

Experience the Glamour of Hollywood

No visit to California is complete without a taste of Hollywood’s glitz and glamour. Walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and spot your favorite celebrity’s star among the thousands embedded in the sidewalk.
Take a tour of the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre, where countless movie premieres have taken place.

For an insider’s look at the movie industry, consider visiting one of the major studios for a guided tour. From Universal Studios to Warner Bros., these tours offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of filmmaking. Hollywood is the place where dreams are made, and you can be a part of it.

Hit the Beach

With over 800 miles of coastline, California is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the United States. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day by the ocean, a surf session, or a beachside picnic, the Golden State has it all. Zuma Beach, Laguna Beach, Carmel Beach, and Santa Monica State Beach are just a few of the many stunning beaches worth exploring.

Soak up the sun, take a refreshing dip in the Pacific Ocean, and enjoy the laid-back California beach culture.

Soak in Natural Hot Springs

Unwind and rejuvenate in California’s natural hot springs, known for their healing properties and stunning surroundings.

From Beverly Hot Springs in Los Angeles to Glen Ivy Hot Springs in Palm Springs, there are numerous options to choose from.
Immerse yourself in the mineral-rich waters, relax in a hot tub, or indulge in a rejuvenating spa treatment. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a wellness retreat, a soak in California’s natural hot springs is a must-do experience.

Soak up the Sun in Santa Monica

For a quintessential California beach experience, head to Santa Monica. This vibrant beach city offers a perfect blend of sun, sand, and entertainment.
Spend a day lounging on the iconic Santa Monica Beach, take a refreshing dip in the Pacific Ocean, and enjoy a stroll along the lively Santa Monica Pier.

Indulge in delicious seafood at the pier’s many restaurants, ride the Ferris wheel for panoramic views of the coastline, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of street performers and vendors. Santa Monica is the epitome of California’s laid-back beach culture.

Take in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe

Experience the beauty of Lake Tahoe, a pristine alpine lake located on the border of California and Nevada.
Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the crystal-clear waters of Lake Tahoe offer a picturesque setting for outdoor activities.

During the winter, hit the slopes for skiing or snowboarding. In the summer, enjoy swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding in the refreshing waters.
Take a leisurely hike along the lake’s scenic trails or simply relax on the shores and soak in the breathtaking views. Lake Tahoe is a true gem of California.

Discover the Magic of Disneyland

Disneyland in Anaheim
Disneyland in Anaheim

For a dose of enchantment and nostalgia, a visit to Disneyland in Anaheim is a must. This iconic theme park is the epitome of fun and imagination, offering a magical experience for visitors of all ages.

Step into the world of beloved Disney characters, explore immersive lands and enjoy thrilling rides and attractions.
From the classic Sleeping Beauty Castle to the exhilarating Space Mountain, Disneyland is a place where dreams come true.
Don’t forget to catch the spectacular parades and fireworks shows that add an extra touch of magic to your visit.

Visit the National Parks

California is home to nine national parks, each offering its unique natural wonders and outdoor adventures. Yosemite National Park is a crown jewel, with its towering granite cliffs, majestic waterfalls, and ancient sequoia groves.

Death Valley National Park showcases the beauty of the desert, with its vast dunes and colorful rock formations. Redwood and Sequoia National Parks are home to the world’s tallest trees.

Joshua Tree National Park features stunning desert landscapes and unique flora. Explore these national parks and more for an unforgettable encounter with California’s natural beauty.

Indulge in Wine Tasting in Napa Valley

Wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs will find their paradise in Napa Valley, California’s renowned wine region. With its picturesque vineyards, world-class wineries, and exquisite wines, Napa Valley offers a sensory journey for the taste buds.

Take a leisurely drive along the Silverado Trail, stopping at wineries along the way to sample award-winning wines and learn about the winemaking process.

Indulge in gourmet dining experiences paired with the finest local wines, and savor the beauty of the rolling hills and vineyards. Napa Valley is a destination that will delight all your senses.

Head to Pismo Beach

Escape to the charming coastal town of Pismo Beach for a relaxing getaway. With its long white sand beaches and pleasant weather, Pismo Beach is a perfect destination for sun-seekers.

Take a stroll along the shoreline, go surfing or paddleboarding in the Pacific Ocean, or simply unwind and soak up the sun.
The nearby town of San Luis Obispo offers additional attractions, including Spanish missions, art galleries, and excellent tasting rooms. Pismo Beach is the ultimate destination for a laid-back beach vacation.

Immerse Yourself in the Beauty of Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

Nature lovers will find paradise in Yosemite National Park. Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its awe-inspiring landscapes, towering waterfalls, and ancient giant sequoia trees.

Embark on scenic hikes along the park’s numerous trails, witness the power of Yosemite Falls, and capture the iconic Half Dome in all its glory. For a truly unforgettable experience, consider camping under the stars and immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature.

Yosemite National Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and offers endless opportunities for adventure and exploration.

Go Surfing

Experience the thrill of riding the waves in some of California’s best surf spots. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a beginner looking to catch your first wave, California’s coastline offers endless opportunities for surfing.

Rincon Point in Santa Barbara, Malibu, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach are just a few of the iconic surf destinations.
Grab your board, paddle out into the ocean, and embrace the laid-back surf culture that California is famous for. Surfing in California is an experience that should not be missed.

Winchester Mystery House

Embark on a journey into the supernatural at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. This sprawling mansion was once the residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of the firearm magnate William Wirt Winchester.

Legend has it that Sarah built the house to appease the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles.
Explore the mysterious corridors, secret passages, and architectural oddities of this labyrinthine mansion.
Take a guided tour to learn about the house’s fascinating history and the ghostly legends that surround it.

Dive into Underwater Wonders at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Embark on an underwater adventure at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the world’s most renowned aquariums.
Located on the picturesque Cannery Row in Monterey, this aquarium showcases a fascinating array of marine life from Monterey Bay and beyond.

Explore mesmerizing exhibits, from the mesmerizing kelp forest to the playful sea otters. Marvel at the vibrant coral reefs and get up close and personal with sharks, jellyfish, and penguins.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a captivating journey into the wonders of the ocean and is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts of all ages.

Admire the Majestic Burney Falls

Discover the enchanting beauty of Burney Falls at Burney Falls State Park. This stunning waterfall, with its crystal-clear waters cascading down a rocky cliff, is often referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

The falls are fed by underground springs, creating a constant flow of water year-round. Take a hike along the park’s scenic trails, enjoy a picnic by the falls, or simply admire the majestic beauty of this natural wonder.
Burney Falls is a hidden gem in California that will leave you in awe.

Additional Information:

  • California offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, surfing, kayaking, and more. Take advantage of the state’s beautiful landscapes and enjoy the great outdoors.
  • Don’t forget to indulge in California’s diverse culinary scene. From farm-to-table restaurants to world-class wineries, the state is a food lover’s paradise.
  • California is home to numerous national parks, including Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, and Sequoia National Park. Explore these natural wonders and experience the beauty of the untouched wilderness.
  • Consider visiting California’s vibrant cities, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, to immerse yourself in the state’s rich cultural heritage and urban buzz.
  • Plan your visit to California during the spring or fall seasons for pleasant weather and fewer crowds. However, keep in mind that the state’s diverse climate offers a range of experiences throughout the year.


California is a playground for adventurers, nature lovers, and anyone seeking unforgettable experiences. From the breathtaking coastline of Big Sur to the vibrant cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, from the towering peaks of Yosemite National Park to the serene beauty of Lake Tahoe, California offers a diverse range of activities and attractions.

Whether you’re exploring iconic landmarks, indulging in wine tasting, or simply relaxing on the beach, the Golden State has something for everyone.

So pack your bags, hit the road, and embark on a journey through the best things to do in California. Your adventure awaits!

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