California is best known for its sand, surf, and sun, but that's only the beginning of the fun.
Here, you'll also find snowy mountains, dense forests, and sizzling hot deserts.
Aside from its dazzling geographic landscape, California has world-class attractions, including theme parks, museums, concert halls, and much more.
No matter what activities you love, you'll find many awesome options in the Golden State.
Interested to know more about this stunning place?
Here are the 150 best things to do in California:
Table of Contents Show
1. Central California
Central California comprises roughly the middle third of the Golden State.
The Cascade Range binds it to the north, the Tehachapi Mountains to the south, the Sierra Nevada to the east, and the San Francisco Bay to the west.
The region comprises ten counties, including Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, and Modesto.
Famous locales in Central California include the Big Sur mountain ranges and Monterey Bay.
There's no shortage of fun things to do in Central California!
Marvel at the Sequoias in General Grant Grove
At 267 feet, General Grant is the third-tallest tree in the world.
It's in the General Grant Grove, a 154-acre section of Kings Canyon National Park.
The tree is over 1,500 years old. It first gained federal protection in 1880, when the US government decided against selling four acres of land around the tree.
Grant Grove has several easy hiking trails where visitors can check out other giant sequoias, including the 254-foot-tall Robert E. Lee tree.
The area is popular during Christmas; General Grant, in fact, is considered the U.S. national Christmas tree.
Kings Canyon National Park spans Fresno and Tulane Counties. It's about an hour away from Fresno.
View the Hidden Beauty of the Forestiere Underground Gardens
California has many beautiful botanical gardens, but none are quite like the Forestiere Underground Gardens.
The garden consists of 65 underground rooms filled with trees and plants, including citrus trees, berries, and even exotic fruits like kumquats and jujubes.
To say they have an elaborate design is quite an understatement!
A series of custom basins and skylights provide sun and water year-round.
Plus, the plants bloom in succession, so the growing season continues throughout the year.
Baldassare Forestiere, a Sicilian who immigrated to Fresno in the early 1900s, created the garden.
After finding the soil hard, and the climate hot, he built small cellars on his property, which eventually turned into elaborate gardens.
The Forestiere Underground Gardens are in Fresno on Shaw Street.
Feel Inspired by the Female Artists at the Fresno Art Museum
In the late 1940s, a group of local artists called the Fresno Art League pooled their resources to create the Fresno Art Center in Fresno.
After growing in popularity for about a decade, the renamed Fresno Art Museum moved to its current location in Radio Park.
The museum's permanent collection has grown to include over 3,600 works of art, including works by Dali, Rivera, Rockwell, Warhol, and Adams.
But what makes the museum stand out is its long-standing commitment to female artists.
They created The Council of 100, a group of 100 local women who present an annual Distinguished Woman Artist Award to an established female artist.
Additionally, they're part of the Any Given Child pilot program, a federal initiative to connect elementary school students with the visual arts.
Don’t forget to check out the gift shop, the FAM Store.
It features jewelry, dishes, books, and other creations by local artists.
Photograph McWay Falls
McWay Falls is a plunge waterfall in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur, a short drive from Carmel.
It's one of only two waterfalls in the state to empty directly into the ocean in a stunning display.
In the 1920s, Congressman Lathrop Brown bought Saddlerock Ranch, a large property near the falls.
Today it's a museum dedicated to historical objects from the Big Sur area.
McWay Falls has changed over the years.
In the late 1980s, a landslide created a beach area. As a result, the falls now drain into a bay during low tide.
You'll have no problem viewing or photographing the falls from afar.
If you want to get closer, you'll need to hike down a half-mile dirt trail.
Catch a Show at The Park at River Walk
The stage sits in front of a lake and behind a stream, where it appears to float in the water.
The 32-acre public park is open year-round. It's between the Kern River and Stockdale Highway.
Aside from two lakes and a stream, the park features six covered picnic tables, a gazebo, a playground, and several barbecues.
The Dignity Health Amphitheater (formerly Spectrum Amphitheater) is also in the park.
It’s a locally-famous outdoor venue that hosts concerts and movie screenings.
First opened to the public in 2006, The Park at River Walk is a rural retreat where visitors can enjoy the flowing water, flowering trees, and easy access to the Kern River Bike Trail.
Get Wild at the California Living Museum
Although Kern County's desert climate might seem harsh and bleak, it's home to a surprisingly diverse array of plants and animals.
Known locally as CALM, the California Living Museum is both a zoo and an animal rehabilitation facility.
It's in Bakersfield along the Alfred Harrell Highway.
Over 80 species of animals live here for rehabilitation and shelter.
Most of them cannot survive on their own in the wild due to injury.
Exhibits include black bears, reptiles, birds of prey, mountain lions, bobcats, and more.
Many of the animals are endangered or otherwise not commonly found in zoos.
The 14-acre park also includes the DiGiorgio Education Center, gift shop, children's discovery room, and other areas devoted to education.
You can also rent a space for weddings, parties, and private events.
The museum opened in 1983 after three years of development.
Service organizations provide most of the funding.
Walk through History at the McHenry Mansion
Robert McHenry was one of Modesto's most famous and wealthiest residents.
The banker/politician/rancher moved to Modesto in 1880, about ten years after the town's official founding.
After arriving, McHenry purchased five lots of land, all near the corner of 15th and I streets.
Under the supervision of Stockton contractor Jeremiah Robinson, work on the McHenry Mansion began in 1882 and finished one year later.
At the time, newspapers referred to the mansion as the finest personal residence in town.
After McHenry's death, and the subsequent deaths of various heirs over the years, the city turned the mansion into the Elmwood Sanitarium in 1919 and later into apartments in 1923.
In 1976, the Julio R. Gallo Foundation bought the mansion, restored the original look, and opened it to the public as a historical attraction.
Visitors can tour the mansion, including authentic-looking bedrooms, dining rooms, and more.
The entire location is also available as a private rental with a total capacity of 200 people.
Play with the Kids at Boomers
You can't miss the building—it looks like a giant castle, complete with flags and spotlights.
They have a thrilling selection of indoor and outdoor games, including mini golf, bumper cars, kid-friendly go-karts, and more.
If you're traveling through Modesto on vacation, book one of their Tour & Travel Groups packages, which helps you save money and offers catering options.
Parents who need a break can hang out in Boomers Backyard.
It’s an outdoor space with fire pits and flat-screen TVs showing live sports.
You can grab a drink or order a variety of pub cuisine as your kids have fun in the park itself.
Stock Up at the Randsburg General Store
Death Valley contains many historic ghost towns, with Randsburg being the most popular among tourists.
It's not only filled with exciting sights, but it’s also a functional town with restaurants, shopping, and lodging.
The town dates back to the late 1890s.
It was an extension of the Rand Mining District, an area of silver mining that extended from the Yellow Aster and Kelly Mines.
During the early 1900s, the region produced more silver than anywhere else in the state.
Today, this tiny town - with a population of less than 70 – primarily caters to tourists.
Most attractions are along Butte Avenue, such as antique shops, an authentic saloon, a restaurant called the Joint, and the Randsburg General Store.
A fixture in town since the 1930s, the store is a sit-down restaurant, grocery store, and local museum.
You can even order an old-fashioned banana split and sodas from the soda fountain.
2. Great Basin
The Great Basin region includes all of Nevada, most of Utah, and areas in Idaho, Wyoming, and California.
It's the largest drainage basin in North America, with no outflow to rivers or oceans.
Instead, all the water collected within the basin then flows to lakes or swamps.
California's Great Basin region includes many national parks, the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, and the Tricorner Region, where the borders of California, Oregon, and Nevada meet.
Win Big at the Wanaaha Casino
The Wanaaha Casino is one of the newest casinos in the Great Basin region.
They have a wide range of casino games, including slots, poker, table games, video games, and tournament poker.
Even better, you can enjoy the majestic view of the nearby Eastern Sierra while playing.
The casino is also a great place to eat.
They have fine dining at TuKaNovie, drinks and televised sports at the Wanaaha Lounge, and quick bites at the Paiute Deli.
The casino is on the North Sierra Highway in the city of Bishop.
Tour the Museum of Western Film History
Hollywood first came to Lone Pine in 1920.
The town, and surrounding landscape of the Alabama Hills and Eastern Sierra, have appeared in over 400 movies and 1,000 commercials.
Lone Pine's Museum of Western Film History showcases this unique history with exhibits, memorabilia, and more.
The museum also details other films shot throughout Inyo County, including Gladiator and G.I. Jane.
The museum also hosts the Lone Pine Film Festival, which includes classic films, panel discussions, and guest stars.
The first festival, held in 1990, featured Roy Rogers.
Notably, the film festival predates the museum, which opened in 2006.
View Mount Whitney from the Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine
Lone Pine is also the best town to see Mount Whitney.
More specifically, head to the Interagency Visitor Center on Highway 395, just south of town.
You'll have a breathtaking view of the tallest mountain in the continental United States.
The Great Western Divide mountain chain blocks the view of Mount Whitney from many places in town, which means the visitor center is where you should go if you want to see or photograph the mountain (without hiking).
If you want to hike the mountain, you'll need to prepare.
The shortest day hike is about 10 miles and requires ice axes and crampons.
The visitor center also includes educational exhibits about the area.
Learn Local History at the Eastern California Museum
The Eastern California Museum is dedicated to preserving the cultural history of Owens Valley, Death Valley, Eastern Sierra, and the surrounding areas.
Among the highlights are 400 handmade baskets from the indigenous Paiute-Shoshone people.
Local volunteers ran the museum when it opened back in 1928.
Even today, it's clearly a labor of love for the museum caretakers.
The Historic Equipment Yard is next to the museum, where you can check out the Slim Princess, a restored steam locomotive.
It's a favorite for many visitors!
The museum is in Independence, close to Bishop, in Inyo County.
3. North Coast
Also known as the Redwood Coast, the North Coast sits along the Pacific coast between San Francisco Bay and the state of Oregon.
The region is primarily rural and known for its dense redwood forests, rocky coastlines, and steep mountains.
Counties on the North Coast include Humboldt, Marin, and Sonoma.
Stroll through the Clouds at the Redwood Sky Walk
Get up close and personal with red pandas and other exotic creatures at the Sequoia Park Zoo, one of the biggest attractions in Eureka.
While the zoo is a fantastic attraction in its own right, the highlight is the Redwood Sky Walk.
It's a self-guided series of walkways through the old-growth redwood trees.
You'll walk over 100 feet from the forest floor for about one-quarter of a mile.
Once you're back on the ground, you can check out the rest of the zoo, which includes bears, otters, raptors, and more.
Even though the zoo is only five acres, it's packed with fun.
Tour Humboldt Bay with the Madaket Harbor Cruise
Humboldt Bay is the state's second-largest enclosed bay.
With a surface area of 13 square miles and a maximum depth of 40 feet, it overflows with natural beauty.
The best way to experience the bay is by taking the Madaket Harbor Cruise.
The Madaket is the oldest passenger ferry in the country. It's a long, blue-and-white vessel with a classic style.
The Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum has provided Madaket tours since 1910.
Several different tour types are available.
During the narrated tour, the captain explains the local history and points out various sights.
A non-narrated tour with cocktails is also available if you prefer a quieter approach.
All tours take between an hour and an hour-and-a-half.
The ferry docks at the end of C Street in Eureka.
View the Coast from the Battery Point Lighthouse and Museum
It's an authentic lighthouse that's remained in operation since 1856.
Even today, the lighthouse is a navigation aid, with lighthouse keepers still living on the premises.
Tours include the tower, living quarters, and exhibits with authentic furniture and other objects dating back to the 1850s.
Tours are only available during low tide, as visitors need to walk about 200 feet between the shore and the island with the lighthouse.
The lighthouse is in Crescent City at the end of Lighthouse Way, while the museum is within walking distance at 6th and H Streets.
Get Out and Play at Beachfront Park
The park is along Crescent Harbor next to Front Street. It's divided into several sections.
Kid's Town is a large play around with swings, picnic areas, a Tot Lot, and more.
On the east end of the park, you'll find Dog Town, a dog park with hydrant-shaped water fountains, doggy bag disposal stations, and other canine-friendly accommodations.
One of the biggest attractions in the park is the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center.
It's a rehab center for injured seals and sea lions.
Pet a Shark at Ocean World
Ocean World isn't nearly as large or famous as Sea World, but that's not a problem, as its smaller size allows for a more hands-on experience.
The park first opened in 1964. Visitors would board a barge in the Crescent City harbor and view animals through unique observation windows.
While the floating amusement park idea was novel, it was also rather impractical.
In 1985, the museum relocated to land, with the animals housed in large tanks.
Tours take about 45 minutes.
They include exhibits such as the Touch and Feel Tide Pool, seal lion performances, and the opportunity to touch a live shark.
Ocean World is on Highway 101 South in Crescent City.
Watch Whales on the Mendocino Coast
California gray whales travel from Alaska to Baja, Mexico, every year from November through April.
You can watch these majestic animals from multiple locations along the Mendocino Coast.
Book one of the many whale-watching boat tours in the area for the closest viewing experience possible.
The best time to view whales is during calm, early mornings, especially in March.
You may even be able to see orcas and other dolphins if you’re very lucky.
The city of Mendocino also holds a whale-watching festival in March, with exhibits, special tours, and more.
Catch a Ride on the Skunk Train
In the mid-1920s, trains began to include passenger cars, which burned gasoline for power and crude oil to keep passengers warm.
The two forms of fuel created a strong smell that resulted in the nickname "skunk train," although their official name was the California Western Railroad.
Today, you can travel in recreations of these classic train cars, although (thankfully) the smell is drastically reduced, making travel fun and pleasant.
Skunk Train offers several experiences, including three scenic train rides and two electric railbike voyages.
Most rides depart from Laurel Street in Fort Bragg, with one ride originating in Willits on East Commercial Street.
Not only are the trains family-friendly, but dogs are welcome, too.
4. Sacramento Valley
The Sacramento Valley is a region north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
It's mainly a rural area known for flat grasslands.
Much of the region is devoted to agriculture.
Popular crops include almonds, walnuts, rice, and prunes.
The Sacramento Valley is home to approximately two-thirds of the world's prune market.
Sacramento, the largest city in the region, is also the state's capital.
Explore the Beautiful and Sprawling Bidwell Park
It's a beautiful, massive outdoor area with groves, bodies of water, cliffs, animals, and more.
The park consists of 3,670 acres stretching 11 miles long.
It first opened to the public in 1905 through a donation by the daughter of the town's founder.
It's divided into three sections by Manzanita Avenue.
Lower Park is to the west of the avenue, while Middle and Upper Park lie to the east.
Upper Park has a steep, rocky terrain. Lower and Middle Park are flatter with more vegetation.
The park has many famous features, such as the Monkey Face rock formation, the Five Mile swimming and picnic area, and the fairy-tale-themed Caper Acres playground.
Before exploring the park, stop by the Chico Creek Nature Center to learn more about its ecosystems and history.
Elevate Your Aviation Knowledge at Chico Air Museum
The Chico Air Museum is a fun and educational destination located inside the Chico Municipal Airport.
As you walk through the repurposed WWII hanger, you'll find countless exhibits, including scale models.
The outside display area features over 15 restored aircraft, including an F-86 Sabre, a high-speed aircraft used in the Korean War.
The museum regularly hosts public speaking events, too.
You can listen to fascinating speeches from WWII pilots, astronauts, and other aviation experts.
The museum first opened in 2004.
An all-volunteer team maintains it, including docents from the Airman Docent Program, a special program for kids under 18 interested in aviation.
Air tankers use the airport's runways to resupply when fighting wildfires in the area.
Visitors can watch the tankers land and take off.
See the World's Biggest Yo-Yo at the National Yo-Yo Museum
You'll want to return again and again to the National Yo-Yo Museum!
It features more yo-yos and related memorabilia than you can see anywhere else in the world.
Peruse display after display of yo-yos in all shapes, colors, and sizes, including yo-yos.
The main attraction—and one you're sure not to miss—is Big-Yo, a 256-pound yo-yo certified by Guinness as the World's Biggest Working Wooden Yo-Yo.
Big-Yo actually works!
Of course, using this giant yo-yo requires a construction crane and a confident operator, but the yo-yo operates like any other.
The museum is on Broadway Street in Chino.
It's inside Bird in Hand, a famous local art and craft store.
Savor the Tastes of the Davis Farmers Market
Davis holds a farmer's market every Saturday and Wednesday of the year at Central Park in the downtown area.
It's a large gathering with rows of stalls filled with fruits, veggies, poultry, seafood, and more.
You'll also find a huge selection of baked goods, plants, and handmade crafts.
Practically everything sold at the Davis Farmers Market was grown, raised, or otherwise created locally.
While the Central Park market is the most significant event, they also hold satellite markets on the UC Davis North Quad, Sutter Davis Hospital, and Sutter Medical Center.
More than a place to buy fresh food, the Davis Farmers Market is a fun and old-fashioned community event where you'll feel like a local even if you're visiting for the day.
Expand Your Horizons at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art
Known informally as the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, this museum houses works from the University of California, Davis, art faculty.
It's on Old Davis Road at the University of California campus in Davis.
In the early 1960s, the UC Davis art department employed many innovative and cutting-edge artists such as Wayne Thiebaud, Roland Peterson, and Manuel Neri.
The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art showcase their works, including their contributions to performance, video, and other types of non-fine art.
The building itself is a work of art.
It's a stunning spectacle of polished concrete, floor-to-ceiling glass, and a Grand Canopy that fills the gallery with light and shadows.
Tour the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame
They say the town of Davis has more bicycles than people, and while that's likely an exaggeration, the area is undoubtedly bike-friendly.
If you're interested in learning about bicycles, check out the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame.
The museum features rotating exhibits detailing over 150 years of bicycle history, racing, and much more.
Highlights include bikes from cycling legends Major Taylor and Frank Louis Kramer.
While Davis is a natural home for the Hall of Fame, it's not the facility's original location.
It first opened in Somerville, New Jersey, before moving to Davis in 2010.
Aside from public tours, the location is also available for private rentals.
Celebrate a birthday, family reunion, or another event among biking legends.
Watch Government in Action at the California State Capitol Museum
Sacramento is the seat of California's state government, including the California State Capitol building and the California State Capitol Museum housed inside.
It's a stunning, stately building based on the U.S. Capitol's look.
You'll find the Capitol and museum on 10th Street, on the west end of Capitol Park, and on the east end of the Capitol Mall.
It’s also close to Sacramento’s Old Town, which has plenty of historic buildings and views of the American river.
The Capitol's construction finished in 1874, although the state significantly expanded the building in the early 1950s.
In the 1990s, the California Department of Parks and Recreation began work on the museum.
Today, the museum offers eight public tours of the Capitol daily, along with multiple displays, including a recreation of historic rooms.
You can learn the fascinating history of California's government from 150 years ago through today.
Learn about Locomotives at the California State Railroad Museum
The locomotive, or "iron horse," played an instrumental role in connecting California to the rest of the country.
The 225,000-square-foot museum features 21 restored railway cars, a rotation of illustrated displays, and even kid-friendly re-enactments with costumed actors.
If you visit in December, you can take a ride on the Polar Express, a real train ride featuring elaborate decorations, hot chocolate, and a visit from Santa himself.
You can visit the adjacent Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station, a detailed reconstruction of the country's first transcontinental railroad station, complete with telegraph sounds and tall wooden counters.
View the Sutter Buttes
They're the result of volcanic lava domes turning into buttes.
The tallest point of the Sutter Buttes is 2,122 feet, with the range forming a circle about 10 feet across.
Much of the land around the Sutter Buttes is privately owned, except for 200 acres in the North Butte, donated for public use.
Near the base of Sutter Buttes is the town of Sutter, home to about 2,000 residents.
Roads and a bike path connect Sutter and Yuba City, making Sutter Buttes an excellent day trip.
Go Skiing at Palisades Tahoe
Palisades Tahoe is the largest, and arguably most famous, ski resort in the Lake Tahoe region, but the name might not sound familiar.
In 1949, the resort opened with the name Squaw Valley, which the owners changed in September 2021 due to the offensive connotations of the word.
Visitors have access to six peaks, serviced by 30 chairlifts, across 6,000 acres of skiable terrain.
In 1960, the resort hosted the Winter Olympics, cementing its fame as a world-class place to ski.
Over 600,000 people visit Palisades each year.
It's in Placer County on Washeshu Peak. The closest city is Truckee, California, although it's also close to Reno, Nevada.
Pay a Visit to Roseland Golfland Sunsplash
Kids and adults will have tons of fun at Roseland Golfland Sunsplash.
It's a combination of an amusement park and a waterpark that's fun for the whole family.
Visitors to the park can play miniature golf, bumper cars, arcade games, and more.
The towers of King Ben's Castle rise from the middle of the park.
It's the park's centerpiece, with video games, laser tag, and other indoor activities.
King Ben's Castle also has plenty of places to eat, like King's Kitchen Pizza and Snacks and the Castaway Cover Snackbar.
The waterpark is a significant draw, especially in the summertime. It has numerous slides, such as Thunder Falls, the Six Chuter, and the Stormrider.
Roseland Golfland Sunsplash is on Taylor Road near I-80 in Roseland.
View Californian Art at the Crocker Art Museum
The Crocker Art Museum presents a complete and fascinating look at Californian art.
It's the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi.
The artwork in the collection is from early statehood to the present day, including many works of art depicting the Gold Rush.
Modern genres displayed at the museum include Pop Art, Impressionism, and Abstract Expressionism.
Wealthy judge Edwin Crocker and his wife, Margaret, turned their private collection into a museum in the 1870s.
The family eventually donated the museum to the city of Sacramento.
It's an eye-catching collection of buildings on O Street, including a prominent curved white building.
Answer the Call at the Roseville Telephone Museum
You won't believe how much the phone has changed in the past century!
Inside, you can view phones from early prototypes through modern designs.
They have candlestick phones, rotary phones, switchboards, and much more.
While many of these phones seem odd and cumbersome today, the museum does a great job explaining how the telephone revolutionized society in practically every aspect.
The Roseville Telephone Museum is an offshoot of the Roseville Telephone Company, which provided telephone service throughout Roseville and neighboring communities into the early 2000s.
The Roseville Telephone Company eventually turned into Consolidated Communications.
They continue to maintain the museum, which is free to visit.
Savor Wine at the Old Sugar Mill
A wine tasting at one vineyard is excellent, but a tasting at 14 vineyards is even better.
The Old Sugar Mill is a former beet sugar refinery from 1934.
It's on Willow Avenue in Clarksburg Street, about 15 minutes from downtown Sacramento.
Although the refinery closed many years ago, the building retains its original style and charm.
The Old Sugar Mill is a premier wine-tasting destination backed by 14 area wineries throughout Northern California.
Tastings feature wines from the Clarksburg Wine Company, Todd Taylor, Elevation Ten, and many more.
Tour and Taste at the Heringer Estates
John Heringa immigrated to California from Holland in 1868, and generations of his family have continued to make an impact felt even today.
In the 1970s, the Heringer family (they Americanized their name) planted grapes on their farm, helping the region's early transformation to wine country.
Visitors to Heringer Estates can tour the vineyard, winery, and estate.
The estate is a beautiful wooden building with a large open area.
They also host many farmer's markets on the property.
Fresh fruits and veggies go perfectly with your wine samples!
The Heringer Estates are on Netherlands Road in Clarksburg.
5. Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta
An inland delta formed by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers helps define the border of San Joaquin County.
It's the focal point of the state's water system, providing water to farmland and people throughout San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region is also called the California Delta.
Here are fun things to do in the California Delta region!
Sample Some Vino at the Oak Farm Vineyards
San Joaquin Country is flush with wineries, including the historic Oak Farm Vineyards, a property dating back to 1853.
The 70-acre vineyard is in northwest Lodi, near the Mokelumne River.
It's conveniently located in the city but still remote enough to feel like a true getaway.
The winery is a beautiful wooden building with an eye-catching red roof, while the vinery has fields of vines and 100-year-old oak trees.
The Tasting Bar Experience is a favorite among visitors. It features two whites and three reds.
A trip to the Oak Farm Vineyards is an adults-only adventure, as they don't allow anyone under 21 on the premises, including infants.
View Famous Works of Art at the Haggin Museum
The Haggin Museum combines local history with a collection of notable artwork from around the world.
The San Joaquin Pioneer and Historical Society developed the museum in the late 1920s to promote local history.
Stockton natives Robert and Eila McKee supplied the necessary funds, provided the family's art collection was included in the museum, and it was named after Eila's late father, James Ben Ali Haggin.
The museum has several captivating sections.
The Pioneer Room displays artifacts and other collectibles from local history.
Additional exhibits focus on the Gold Rush, Native Americans, and San Joaquin's history in firefighting and shipbuilding.
The art gallery includes paintings from European and California, including extensive collections from Albery Bierstadt and J.C. Leyendecker.
The Haggin Museum is a beautiful building with orange brick and four white columns.
It's in Victory Park on Pershing Avenue in Stockton.
View Exotic Animals at the Micke Grove Zoo
While Cali is home to some of the world's largest zoos, including the San Diego Zoo, don't overlook some of the state's smaller options.
The Micke Grove Zoo is only five acres, but it's still filled with fascinating animals and lots of fun.
Exhibits have exotic and local animals, such as raptors, lemurs, and tortoises.
The zoo is in the Micke Grove Regional Park, an area in the city of Lodi that features numerous attractions, including a Japanese garden, picnic areas, a disc golf course, and the San Joaquin Historical Museum.
The zoo opened in 1957. It's on the site of a former oak tree park donated to San Joaquin county by the Micke family in 1935.
It was formerly the smallest zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums but lost accreditation due to a lack of veterinarian space.
Fortunately, the University of California at Davis Teaching Hospital helped add space and support.
6. San Francisco Bay Area
The San Francisco Bay Area is Northern California's largest metropolitan area.
Home to nine counties, 101 municipalities, and over 7.75 million residents, the Bay Area is packed with things to see and do, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Napa Valley, Chinatown, and much more.
Stroll through Lagoon Valley Park
Although Lagoon Valley Park is a relatively small 470 acres, it's packed with fun activities and beautiful scenery.
It's on Pena Adobe Road, just outside of Vacaville.
If you're driving along I-80 between Sacramento and the Bay Area, Lagoon Valley Park is a great place to stop and stretch your legs.
Solano County developed the park in the 1970s but transferred ownership in 1994 to Vacaville.
Visitors can take an easy, two-mile walk around the lagoon, where you can see and smell the water.
If you're feeling more energetic, you can take a 20-mile hike around the park.
You might see some cows grazing in the lower fields.
Do you like disc golf?
Lagoon Valley Park has a 27-basket course free for the public to use.
Lagoon Valley Park is dog-friendly.
You can let your pet run off-leash in the 30,000-square-foot fenced-in dog park.
Learn Solano County History at the Vacaville Museum
The museum features fine art, sculpture, historical antiques, and more.
It's also the starting point for the self-guided Vacaville Museum Guild Historical Homes Walking.
They also host special events, such as presentations from local history experts.
While the focus is on Solano County, they're also known for their exhibits connected to Berryessa Valley, Willis Jepson, and surrounding locations.
The Vacaville Museum is on Buck Avenue, a few blocks west of Andrews Park.
It opened to the public in 1984.
Do the Snoopy Dance at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center
Famed Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz lived in Santa Rosa from 1969 until he died in 2000.
Two years later, the city honored him by opening the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.
It's on Hardies Lane in Santa Rosa.
You can't miss it—a giant statue of Charlie Brown points right to the museum's front door.
The museum has a collection of original art and memorabilia, including Schulz's personal office.
It also features a 3.5-ton Snoopy sculpture and a 22-foot ceramic mural.
They offer a wide range of classes for elementary-aged kids, including cartooning, fine art, and LEGO animation.
The museum is a fun and fascinating look at a legendary artist and the timeless, beloved characters he created.
Experience the Wild Side of Life at Safari West
The 400-acre preserve is only a 17-minute drive north of Santa Rosa, making it perfect for a day trip.
Safari West doesn't focus too much on animals native to the area. Instead, the preserve has wildlife throughout Africa, including zebras, cheetahs, rhinos, giraffes, and much more.
The history of the preserve dates back to the 1970s.
Peter Lang, the son of a famous Hollywood director and producer, began a private collection of wild animals.
Over time, the collection grew into a preserve and animal care facility.
By the 1980s, Safari West had settled into its current 400-acre location.
Visitors can take tours, eat at the restaurant, and spend the night at the accompanying hotel.
Marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge
The bridge painted a color called "International Orange," is impossible to miss.
It's 8,980 feet long, 90 feet wide, and 746 feet tall at its highest point.
Construction on the bridge began in 1993 before opening on May 27, 1937.
The state designated it an official landmark in 1987.
Visitors to the bridge can walk, bike, or drive across it.
The main walkway is on the eastern side.
Railways protect pedestrians and bikers from the six lanes of traffic.
The San Francisco side has the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center with restrooms, a gift shop, and a cafe.
You'll find the H. Dana Bower Rest Area and Vista Point on the Marin County side.
Experience the Thrills and Chills of Alcatraz Island
The island is about 1.25 miles from San Francisco's shores.
You'll need to reserve ferry tickets beforehand from Alcatraz City Cruises, the official source for tours.
The ferry ride takes about 15 minutes and departs from Pier 33.
Visitors to the island can explore the prison grounds, including cell blocks, the dining hall, and the warden's house.
Other landmarks include early military fortifications and the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast.
Alcatraz has a fascinating and spooky history.
Originally a military base, it was converted into a federal prison in 1934 before closing in 1963.
You can learn all about the prison during the tour and even get voluntarily “locked” in a real cell!
Relax and Shop at Jack London Square
Jack London was one of the country's most prolific, famous, and successful authors during the late 1890s and early 1900s.
London grew up in Oakland and lived there as an older adult, too.
Today, the city honors its local legend with Jack London Square, a bustling area filled with shops, restaurants, hotels, and more.
Jack London Square is on the waterfront near Water Street and Webster Street.
It's in the Jack London District.
Aside from dining and shopping, you can also explore Jack London's Cabin, a faithful recreation of London's famous Klondike cabin.
Bring your appetite if you're in the area on Sunday morning, as the local stores host a farmer's market.
Interestingly, the site has been a famous shopping district since the early 1800s, which the city renamed in London's honor in 1951.
Hunt Ghosts at the Winchester Mystery House
Tour what's considered one of the most haunted locations in the world.
The Winchester Mystery House is the former residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Wirt Winchester, inventor of the famous firearm.
Sarah Winchester purchased the 45-acre San Jose property in 1886 after moving to California from Connecticut for health reasons.
Today, the house is a major tourist attraction due to its one-of-a-kind design and long history of rumored supernatural happenings.
Notable features of the Gothic/Victorian house include staircases that lead to nowhere, stained glass windows, intricate wood carvings, and more.
Unfortunately for ghost hunters, many stories surrounding Sarah's behavior are likely fictional.
The strange layout of the house is due to repairs made after the 1906 earthquake, not because she was afraid of vengeful spirits.
The house is in San Jose on Winchester Boulevard near Moorpark Avenue.
Smell the Roses at the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden
Breathe in the beauty of over 189 varieties of roses at the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden.
It's in San Jose on Dana Avenue near Rosicrucian Park.
The 5.5-acre plot of land was originally a prune orchard before the city purchased it in 1927.
After lobbying by the Santa Clara County Rose Society, the San Jose City Council turned the plot of land into a rose garden.
Although the rose garden has struggled to find funding, it has thrived for decades, often due to volunteers.
With over 3,500 plantings, roses are in full bloom nearly every day of the year.
In 2010, the garden won the "America's Best Garden" award from the American rose industry.
Dine in Style at The French Laundry
The French Laundry is one of the world's most famous and well-respected restaurants.
For over 44 years, it's been a fixture on Washington Street in the city of Yountville, in Napa Valley.
The restaurant first opened in 1978.
Owners Sally and Don Schmitt ran the place for 17 years, essentially inventing what's known as California Cuisine dishes with a focus on lean meats and locally-sourced fruits and veggies.
In 1994, the Schmitts sold the restaurant to culinary legend Thomas Keller, who turned it into a world-class destination and earned it a three-star Michelin rating.
Why the unusual name?
The building was originally a French steam laundry in the 1920s.
When the Schmitts bought the building, they discovered locals throughout town still referred to it as "the French laundry," so they decided to keep the name.
The restaurant serves two different nine-course meals each day, one created by the chef and the other based on the availability of seasonal vegetables.
While dining is a bit pricey, you're guaranteed a truly one-of-a-kind culinary experience.
Drink Wine in a Castle at Castello di Amorosa
There's something special about a wine tasting held in a castle.
The Castello di Amorosa is a winery inside a detailed replica of an ancient European castle, made with 8,000 tons of hand-chiseled stone and one million imported bricks.
Fourth-generator wine-maker Dario Sattui bought an estate on the property in 1993, then spent $40 million creating the castle, winery, and additional buildings.
The castle has 107 rooms across eight levels, including a moat, great hall, knight's chamber, and even a torture chamber complete with an iron maiden.
Visitors can stop by for a wine tasting, guided tour, or both.
Many areas of the castle are available for private rental.
Castello di Amorosa is in Napa Valley near Calistoga.
They're on St Helena Highway.
Navigate the Twists and Turns of Lombard Street
Make sure you check your brakes before driving down this one-of-a-kind street!
Lombard Street in San Francisco is often referred to as "the most crooked street in the world."
While the street extends 12 blocks throughout San Francisco, the most famous section is a single block on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth.
The 600-foot section contains eight tight turns.
Initially built in 1922, the hairpin design helps combat the hill's 27 percent grade.
The area is a big tourist attraction, drawing more than 17,000 visitors daily, or about 250 cars an hour.
The street runs from The Presidio to The Embarcadero with a slight gap on Telegraph Hill.
Explore and Learn at the California Academy of Sciences
The museum's exhibits mainly focus on natural history, with additional sections for the planetarium, rainforest exhibit, and aquarium.
It's the oldest natural history museum in California and includes original exhibits about animals, Africa, minerals, colors, and more.
Nearly 800 objects are on display.
The museum began as a "learned society" in 1853.
It underwent a significant redesign in 2008; today, it has a welcoming, modern look.
You can explore the museum on your own or as part of a tour.
Many different events and presentations are also available.
Experience the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
At 170,000 square feet, it's one of the largest museums in the country, with a collection of over 33,000 pieces of fine art, photography, sculpture, and architecture.
The museum opened in 1935, and then moved into the SoMa (South of Market) district in 1995.
In 2016, it underwent a significant expansion that doubled available gallery space.
Notable artists exhibited at the museum include Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol, Dorothea Lange, and Ansel Adams.
Don't forget to check out the Living Wall, a thirty-foot wall made from 19,000 plants, making it the largest living wall in the country.
See the Sea Lions at Pier 39
In September 1989, sea lions first started appearing on Pier 39.
Initially, they preferred spending time on Seal Rock, in the Lands End area of the Outer Richmond District of the city.
Nobody knows for sure why they moved.
Regardless, they've made a home for themselves at Pier 39, where they gather in groups ranging from 100 to over 4,000.
Aside from sea lions, Pier 39 has many family-friendly attractions, including street performances, retail stores, restaurants, an arcade, and more.
It's near Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach.
You can take an F Market streetcar right to the pier.
Participate in Hands-On Learning at the Exploratorium
Instead, it's one of the world's most famous participatory museums.
Exhibits feature lights, sounds, moving parts, and tons of interactivity.
The Exploratorium is on Pier 15 and 17 in San Francisco's Embarcadero district (the eastern waterfront by the Port of San Francisco).
Founder Frank Oppenheimer opened the museum in 1969 at the Palace of Fine Arts.
It relocated to its current location in 2013.
The museum displays approximately 600 exhibits at any given time.
Visitors can interact with bicycle-wheel gyroscopes, infrared cameras, homemade "tornados," and much more.
Explore Ancient Cultures in Chinatown
Established in 1848, San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest and one of the largest Chinese enclaves in North America.
Stepping into Chinatown can feel like entering a completely different world, as this district has its own language, architecture, food, places of worship, and more.
Chinatown is a 24-square-block area in downtown San Francisco, with entrances on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street.
Take photos at Dragon Gate, the southern entrance on Grant Street.
Stroll through Portsmouth Square, the oldest public square in the city.
Tour the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company.
You'll find no shortage of interesting things to do and see in Chinatown.
7. Sierra Nevadas
The Sierra Nevadas are a 400-mile mountain range between the Central Valley and Great Basin regions.
The region is heavily protected from development, allowing its natural beauty to thrive.
Famous locales include Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Lake Tahoe, and General Sherman, the largest tree by volume in the US.
While visitors won't see many large metropolitan areas in the region, they'll find fresh air and breathtaking vistas.
Here are the best things to do in Sierra Nevadas:
Experience the Great Outdoors in Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of the country's most celebrated and visited attractions.
It's over 750,000 acres of awe-inspiring beauty and natural wonders.
It's divided into many sections. Yosemite Valley is the most visited.
Famous attractions include the park's signature Half Dome, the frequently-photographed El Capitan, and the picturesque Yosemite Falls.
Ancient, gigantic sequoia trees are another hallmark of Yosemite.
While Mariposa Grove is the most popular place in the park to view sequoias, you can also find them in Tuolumne and Merced Groves.
Yosemite Village is another location in the park worth visiting.
It's a scenic area with rustic buildings, the Ansel Adams Gallery, and the Yosemite Museum, featuring exhibits about the park's history.
The park spans Tuolumne, Madera, Mono, and Mariposa counties.
Mariposa is the closest city to Yosemite, about one hour away.
Congress passed a law in 1890 establishing Yosemite National Park.
In a peculiar twist, the National Park Service was formed in 1916.
Existing parks, including Yosemite, were transferred into the Park Service's care.
Ski the Slopes at Heavenly Mountain Resorts
Many visitors from out-of-state don't realize California has some of the best skiing in the country.
The resort opened in 1995 and has remained a top skiing destination.
Its 4,800 acres include 97 runs, 30 lifts, and four base facilities.
The ski season, assisted by an extensive snowmaking system, typically runs from November through April.
The resort offers plenty of fun in the off-season, including the Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster, a gondola ride, and a kid-friendly zip line.
Ice Skate at the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena
While the Sierra Nevada region is known for beautiful national parks, there are also many opportunities for indoor recreation, such as ice skating at the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena.
The arena welcomes skaters of all ages and abilities! They hold open skates daily for adults, kids, and toddlers.
They also host adult and youth hockey leagues.
Don't worry if you're only visiting because they have opportunities to play pick-up games, too.
You can rent the rink for private functions, such as birthday parties.
The South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena is an NHL-sized arena open year-round.
It's in South Lake Tahoe on Rufus Allen Boulevard.
Learn Local History at the Firehouse #1 Museum
Nevada City is the county seat of Nevada County, an area known for gold mining during the 1850s.
Today, this small town draws tourists interested in local history.
Nevada City's main street has many old-fashioned buildings, but the centerpiece is the Firehouse #1 Museum.
It's the Victorian-styled brick building right in the middle of downtown.
The Firehouse #1 Museum is arguably the most photographed building in town!
Exhibits focus on the building's history as a firehouse, which operated from the 1860s through the 1930s.
However, the museum also has much more. Visitors can learn about the Nisenan Indians, Nevada County's Chinese immigrants, and other people who have made the area home.
Another notable display includes items from the Donner Party.
Ride a Train at the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad & Transportation Museum
Grass Valley, a city in Nevada County, is home to a charming transport museum and heritage railroad.
At the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad & Transportation Museum, you can view photos and artifacts from the narrow gauge railways throughout Nevada and Placer Counties.
Narrow gauge railways operate on a smaller track than the traditional type.
They were a significant aspect of commercial shipping throughout the two counties from 1876 through the early 1940s.
All visitors receive a guided tour of the museum, rail yard, and restoration shop.
The main exhibit is Engine 5, an authentic train engine from 1875.
You can also ride on a working, restored, narrow-gauge railcar.
The museum is just off Golden Chain Highway in Grass Valley.
Step into Scandinavia at Vikingsholm
Vikingsholm is a massive mansion built in an authentic Scandinavian style.
It's often referred to as the truest Scandinavian architecture in North America.
Tahoe's hidden castle boasts 38 rooms, Nordic fireplaces, carved beams, and other displays of luxury.
Lora Josephine Knight, the country's wealthiest woman at the time, commissioned Vikingsholm as a summer home.
Construction took over 200 workers more than a year to complete.
The home is at the head of Emerald Bay on 232 acres of property.
The hike from the parking lot to the mansion is about a mile.
Tours are available from June through September.
Aside from touring the mansion, visitors can learn more in the adjacent visitor's center.
Go Skiing at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
Mammoth Mountain lives up to its name.
It's one of the largest ski resorts in the United States, with over 3,500 acres of skiable terrain and 28 lifts.
The resort is on Mammoth Mountain in the Sierra Nevada, spanning Mono and Madera Counties.
While you can likely find any amenities you need at the resort, the city of Mammoth Lakes is also nearby.
Even if you're not a skier, you'll find plenty to enjoy at Mammoth.
Take a gondola ride to the top of the mountain.
Check out the view while you enjoy something to eat or drink at the Eleven53 Cafe.
During warm weather, the area is popular for mountain biking.
Step Back in Time at Columbia State Historic Park
Gold rush history comes alive at Columbia State Historic Park, in the city of Columbia in Tuolumne County.
The area was granted state historic park status in 1945 and has drawn visitors steadily ever since.
Visitors can explore almost 30 historic buildings.
Re-enactors in period costumes talk with guests in the candy store, on stagecoach rides, and throughout town.
Additionally, you can learn more about the town's history at the Columbia Museum.
Stop by on the second Saturday of each month for Gold Rush Days, with guided tours and special exhibits.
In 1850, a prospector named John Walker found gold in the area, leading to not only the development of the town but also one of the largest finds during the entire Gold Rush.
Wander around Sequoia National Forest
If there's one word to describe Sequoia National Forest, it's "giant," not just because of the redwoods.
The forest covers over a million acres across the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range.
It has 850 miles of trails and 2,500 miles of roads.
And then there are the sequoias.
The most famous area of the forest is the Giant Sequoia National Monument, a 320,000-square-foot area with groves of trees 250 to 300 feet tall.
Another popular sight is the Needles, a sharp granite outcropping near the Kern River.
Have you ever driven through a tree before?
You can at Tunnel Log, a 275-foot fallen tree with a cut shape that allows cars to drive right underneath it.
Sequoia National Forest has two main entrances: Ash Mountain, near Three Rivers, and Big Stump, the entrance in the north.
The park's headquarters are on Newcomb Street in Porterville.
It was established in 1908. One year later, President Roosevelt expanded the area's square footage.
8. Shasta Cascade
The Shasta Cascade region is primarily wilderness, known for Mount Shasta and seven national forests.
It's within the northeastern and north-central part of California, near the state's borders with Oregon and Nevada.
The area was a Native American homeland until the early 1800s when the Gold Rush transformed it.
Here are the best things to do in Shasta Cascade:
Hunt, Fish, and Explore at the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge
The Modoc National Wildlife Refuge is a 7,000-acre habitat on the western edge of the Great Basin.
It's home to a diverse array of plants and wildlife.
The snowmelt from the nearby Warner Mountains flows into the Pit River, creating a welcoming oasis away from the harsh desert.
The refuge is within Modoc County, just outside the city of Alturas.
The refuge dates back to 1870, when the Dorris family claimed the land under the first Homestead Act.
Originally a 5,360-acre ranch, the family purchased additional land and turned the area into a wildlife refuge.
Today, the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge is a breeding area and breeding ground for over 250 species of birds, including cranes and waterfowl.
Relax at the Surprise Valley Hotsprings
The Surprise Valley is a 60-mile region in northeastern California, home to a wealth of natural beauty and small towns.
One of the most relaxing places to spend a night (or more) is the Surprise Valley Hotsprings.
It's about five miles from the main shopping area of Cedarville and about 10 miles from Cedar Pass.
Soak in the natural mineral waters.
Most rooms have private outdoor tubs, while a few have indoor whirlpools.
Mineral pools provide several health benefits. They can help eliminate toxins, improve digestion, increase circulation, and more.
Aside from enjoying the hot springs, you can also get pampered at the spa or gaze at the night sky, as the area is near a Dark Sky Sanctuary.
The Surprise Valley Hotsprings make a relaxing "home base" if you want to spend time exploring Surprise Valley (also known as the Tricorner Region).
Walk the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay Exploration Park
It's a beautiful, relaxing place to stroll and explore.
The most famous part of the park is the Sundial Bridge. It's a cable-stayed pedestrian bridge that crosses the Sacramento River.
The Sundial Bridge has a 217-foot mast that serves as a functional sundial, casting a large shadow that moves about one foot every minute.
Other fun things to do in the park include touring the McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, the Turtle Bay Museum, and Paul Bunyon's Forest Camp, a kid-friendly forest camp.
Turtle Bay Exploration Park is on Sundial Bridge Drive.
The location is also the gateway to the Sacramento River Trails.
Swim and Play at WaterWorks Park
Summer in the Sacramento Valley can see many days when the temperature exceeds 100°, and there's no better place to beat the heat than WaterWorks Park.
Whether you want to chill in a lazy river or race through dips and curves, you'll find it all here.
Popular favorites include The Dragon, a 350-foot enclosed tube, and the Cyclone, where riders drop five stories into a swirling vortex.
The park also has a full Kiddy Playground for young ones under 48-inches tall. It has a shallow pool, fountain, and small slides.
The park first opened in 1985 but went through several ownership changes.
It's in Redding on Highway 299 and Interstate 5, about seven miles south of Lake Shasta.
Ski the Slopes at Mount Shasta Ski Park
Mount Shasta Ski Park is a 425-acre ski area directly on the mountain, about six miles from the summit.
They have 32 trails, three triple chairlifts, and two magic carpets for tubing and teaching.
The resort also has tons of fun things to do in the summer.
Visitors can bike, hike, take scenic lift rides, and more. It's one of the most active summer ski resorts in the state.
The resort's location on Mount Shasta makes it easy to find. It's between McCloud and the city of Mount Shasta.
Mount Shasta Ski Park has remained the only ski area on the mountain since it opened in 1985.
However, it's not the first ski resort to operate here.
The Mount Shasta Ski Bowl opened in 1958 and lasted until the end of the 70s after failing to recover financially following an avalanche.
View Volcanoes at Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is a geological wonder. It's the only national park where you can view every type of volcano.
You can check out a plug dome, cinder cone, stratovolcano, and shield.
Aside from volcanoes, the area is abundant with lakes, forests, and other natural beauty.
Lassen Volcanic National Park, established in 1916, includes two national monuments.
In 1907, President Roosevelt created both the Cinder Cone National Monument and the Lassen Park National Monument.
Visitors can hike, boat, fish, cross-country ski, and more. You can even drive through the park and sightsee from your car.
The 106,452-acre park spans four counties: Shasta, Lassen, Plumas, and Tehama.
9. Central Coast
The Central Coast consists of six counties along the coast between Point Mugu and Monterey Bay.
It's known for fertile farming land, jaw-dropping vistas, and the world-famous rocky coastline of Big Sur.
The Central Coast American Viticultural Area is also in this region.
An AVA is an area officially designed for growing grapes to use in winemaking.
Although not the biggest region in the state, the Central Coast is filled with uniquely Californian landmarks.
Below are the best things to do on Central Coast!
Shop and Fish at Cannery Row
Cannery Row is a waterfront area famous as the site of a once-thriving sardine canning industry.
The busy and difficult life of sardine canning is detailed in two John Steinbeck novels, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday.
While the canneries closed down in the 1950s, the area is a thriving tourism destination today, packed with restaurants, hotels, and historical attractions.
It's also a great spot to see some sea lions, as the animals have made the area their home.
In recent years, Cannery Row has turned into a gateway of sorts for local watersports due to its proximity to public fishing, kayaking, and scuba diving.
The area is near both MacAbee Beach and San Carlos Beach.
Play at Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach Golf Links isn't just one of the most famous golf courses in the world - it's also widely considered one of the most beautiful.
The Pebble Beach Golf Links originated over 100 years ago.
They were initially part of a resort hotel in Monterey (although today, the golf course is in Pebble Beach).
Jack Neville designed the original course. He tried to place as much of the course as possible along the rocky Monterey Coast, resulting in the signature figure-eight design.
The course has undergone several redesigns over the years, including creating a new fifth hole by Jack Nicklaus.
While greens fees are high (upwards of $500 a round), the experience is truly one-of-a-kind for any fan of the game.
Experience the Marine Marvels at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium combines entertainment and education to create an experience the whole family will enjoy.
The aquarium opened in 1984 and led to a revitalization of the entire Cannery Row district. It's built in a former sardine cannery.
Tours include live animal displays in realistic environments.
You can watch otters, sharks, jellyfish, and more.
Aside from being a tourist destination, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has also pioneered several aquarium techniques.
They're the first to house a living kelp forest and display a living great white shark, among other achievements.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a cafeteria and a gift shop. You’ll love the stuffed animal otters!
Let the Kids Run Wild at the Dennis the Menace Playground
Monterey has one of the biggest and most innovative public playgrounds in the state and maybe even the world.
The Dennis the Menace Park has slides, forts, rope bridges, sandboxes, and much more, all in a bright, cartoony style.
Nearly all aspects of the park are wheelchair and stroller accessible.
It's part of the El Estero Park Complex, a 45-acre recreation area in the city's center.
Aside from the park, visitors can also paddleboat in the lake, grill on the barbecues, let their furry friends run around the dog park, and more.
Visit the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum
Surfing and Southern California share a long history, but the sport's influence is arguably felt most strongly in Santa Cruz, where surfing gained early popularity in the mainland U.S.
The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is the world's first surfing museum.
It opened to the public in 1986 and hosts over 70,000 visitors annually.
Exhibits cover the entire history of surfing.
Visitors can check out historical photos and videos, antique surfboards, and more. Surfing is explored as both a sport and a cultural influence.
The museum is on West Cliff Drive at Lighthouse Point.
Another attraction on Lighthouse Point is the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, a memorial from 1967 dedicated to legendary surfer Mark Abbott.
See the Sights from the Point Sur Lighthouse
Lighthouses are truly dazzling attractions, but not too many are open to the public, making a Point Sur Lighthouse tour a rare experience.
It's the only lighthouse built before the 1900s with public tours.
The lighthouse is in Point Sur State Historic Park, a short drive south of Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey.
Even first-time visitors will have no problem finding the lighthouse.
It's a 48-foot sandstone tower with a striking orange-and-black top.
The U.S. Congress funded the initial construction of the lighthouse in an attempt to halt the numerous shipwrecks that had occurred in Point Sur.
The Point Sur Lighthouse has been powered by whale oil, lard oil, kerosene, electricity, and more.
Public tours are available every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, with additional summer tours on Thursdays.
View the Butterflies at Monarch Butterfly Grove
The Monarch Butterfly Grove is an amazing natural attraction where you can view or photograph migrating butterflies.
Over 10,000 butterflies spend November through February each year in Pismo State Beach.
A large sign identifies the butterfly area within the beach.
Plus, the butterflies are usually easy to see, hanging from the trees in big groups.
They gather in the eucalyptus and Monterey cypress trees, seeking shelter from cold winter temperatures.
During the summer, the butterflies live in Canada but head to warmer climates in the winter.
If they're to the west of the Rocky Mountains, they migrate to coastal California.
The Butterfly Grove is one mile south of Pismo Beach.
Treat Yourself like Royalty at Hearst Castle
Publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst certainly wasn't known for his subtleness, including when designing one of his most famous homes.
It's a towering, white castle inspired by Spanish Colonial Revival and Mediterranean Revival styles.
Architect Julia Morgan worked closely with Hearst to design the castle.
Although not initially designed for socializing, the castle became known for extravagant, celebrity-filled parties throughout the 1920s and 30s.
Today, you don't need riches or fame to wander the grounds, as the castle is open for public tours.
Visitors can explore the Grand Rooms, Upstairs Suites, and more.
Another must-see at the Castle is the Julia Morgan tour, a two-hour exploration of her life as America's first professional female architect.
Play Games at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
It's the state's oldest amusement park, retaining a classic style with bright colors, a wooden roller coaster called the Giant Dipper, and the Looff Carousel, which still uses the original pipe organ from 1934.
You'll also find plenty of modern attractions, such as a video arcade, laser tag arena, and mini golf course.
Another famous feature on the Boardwalk is Cocoanut Grove, a former concert hall turned conference center available for weddings, banquets, and other large gatherings.
To find the Boardwalk, take the Ocean Street exit from California State Route 1.
Snap Some Pics at Pfeiffer Beach
Its most renowned feature is Keyhole Rock, a semi-circular opening in a rock formation on the shore.
The sun shines through the opening in January and December, creating a fantastic photo opportunity.
Another interesting aspect of Pfeiffer Beach are the purple streaks in the sand, created by Manganese garnet washed down from a nearby creek.
Drive down Sycamore Canyon Road for about two miles until you reach the parking lot.
No overnight camping is allowed, but the park stays open until after the sun goes down, allowing plenty of time for the perfect sunset shot.
Walk Down Bubblegum Alley
Bubblegum Alley is usually considered one of the grossest tourist attractions in downtown San Luis Obispo, but it has remained for at least 70 years.
It's a narrow alley, about 20 meters long, in the 700 block of Higuera Street.
The gum-lined alley has murky origins.
Students graduating from San Luis Obispo High School might have started it in the 1940s, but nobody knows for sure.
The alley has undergone several thorough cleanings, including a major one in 1996. But the gum wall remains.
While many people find it disgusting, it's also a significant tourist attraction, drawing lots of business to local shops in the area.
Discover Local History at the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
History comes to life at the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, one of the many California Spanish missions founded in 1772.
The mission is named after Saint Louis of Anjou, while the city of San Luis Obispo is named after the mission.
It's open for tours of the church and grounds.
Visitors can view authentic rooms, learn about the history of the museum, and more.
After checking out the mission, take a stroll through the beautiful surrounding gardens, which have grown for centuries.
The mission is also a functioning church, holding mass every day of the week.
Experience Denmark in the Town of Solvang
Solvang is a small town with a distinctly Danish design.
The self-styled Danish Capital of America is filled with Danish architecture, museums, and tradition.
It also has a Christmas event year-round for your family to enjoy.
Danish immigrants founded the city in 1911, and it has remained connected to its Danish heritage.
Solvang is in the Santa Ynez Valley, within the heart of Santa Barbara wine country.
Strolling through town is great fun for the whole family, but if you want to learn more about the town and its culture, check out the Solvang Visitor Center.
Other attractions in the town include Hans Christian Andersen Park, the Solvang Motorcycle Museum, and the Old Mission Santa Ines 1804.
See the Ostriches at Ostrichland USA
Ostrichland USA is a fun and funky Central Coast landmark.
It's a semi-open zoo with over 100 ostriches and emus.
These big birds are friendly and approachable.
Ostrichland is in Buellton, near Solvang (the Danish town) and many Santa Ynez Valley wineries.
If you've never seen an emu before, you're in for a treat because no other animal is quite like them.
Belly Up to the Bar at the Cold Springs Tavern
The Cold Springs Tavern is more than a place to get a warm meal and a cold drink. It's also an intriguing piece of Old West history.
In 1865, the building was a stagecoach stop called the Cold Spring Relay Station.
Stagecoach travelers would tend to their horses, eat meals, and refresh.
After the stagecoach line ended in the early 1900s, the building sat empty for many years until Adelaide Ovington purchased it in 1941 and turned it into a tavern.
The Cold Springs Tavern is in the San Marcos Pass area, about 20 minutes north of Santa Barbara.
Today, they have a weekend BBQ, live music, and other events in an authentic western setting.
Shop and Dine at the Historic Stearns Wharf
It's a beautiful, family-friendly area with 17 restaurants, gift shops, and specialty stores.
If you time your trip right, you’ll also be able to enjoy the weekly farmer’s market that features many handcrafted goods.
Before becoming a tourist destination, the pier was an essential commercial line in Santa Barbara for over 25 years.
When commercial shipping in the 19th century began to change, Stearns Wharf lost significant business.
The area only survived due to the success of The Harbor Restaurant, which marked the area's transition into a tourist destination.
Mother Nature hasn't always been kind to the wharf, but it's still survived an earthquake and a large fire.
Stearns Wharf starts near West Cabrillo Boulevard and State Street intersection.
Get Funky in the Funk Zone
It's located between the Pacific and Highway 101, next to the Amtrak station.
Much of the Funk Zonk is along Anacapa Street.
The Funk Zone is home to all sorts of fun and funky businesses, such as art galleries, surf shops, vintage stores, and more.
Fans of public art should definitely visit the Funk Zone, as most buildings are adorned with elaborate murals.
It's also well-known for its winemaking.
The Urban Wine Trail, a self-guided tour of 20 tasting rooms, winds through most of the district.
Visit the Santa Barbara Zoo
Although not as large or famous as the San Diego Zoo, the Santa Barbara Zoo is still worth a visit.
It's a fun, educational, and compact zoo you can stroll through in a day or even an afternoon.
The 30-acre zoo features over 500 animals, arranged in exhibits such as Australian Walkabout, African Plains, The Forest's Edge, and more.
The zoo's biggest claim to fame is Gemina, a giraffe who lived in the zoo until her death in 2008.
She received a lot of publicity during her life due to her unusual, "crooked" neck.
The zoo first opened in 1963.
It's considered one of the country's best small zoos. You'll find it in Santa Barbara between the 101 and Sycamore Creek.
10. Desert Region
The desert region of California is harsh at times but also filled with life and beauty.
It's in the eastern part of Southern California.
Naturally, the region has many deserts, including the majority of the Mojave Desert, High Desert, Colorado Desert, and Yuha Desert.
Aside from outdoor adventures, many fun things to do in the desert region involve local Old West history.
Here are the best things to do in Desert Region:
Enjoy the Desert Beauty of Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is the region's largest and most famous draw, receiving about three million visitors each year from around the world.
The 795,156-acre park stretches across San Bernardino County and Riverside County, bordering San Bernardino to the east and LA and Palm Springs to the north.
The park consists of two deserts, the Mojave and Colorado.
The Mojave has a higher elevation. It's also where you'll find the famous Joshua Trees.
The Colorado Desert sits below 3,000 feet.
Foliage in this desert includes dense groves of cacti plus the California fan palm, the only palm native to the state.
The city of Coachella is also here.
No matter which desert you visit, you'll find an abundance of fun activities and breathtaking scenery to view.
Joshua Tree has nine campgrounds, multiple hiking options across more than a dozen trails, many famous climbing routes, bird watching, stargazing, and more.
Pioneertown, Yucca Valley, and 29 Palms are the three towns closest to the north and west park entrances.
Visit Ubehebe Crater
Several thousand years ago, a massive volcanic eruption occurred in northern Death Valley, resulting in a 600-foot-deep, half-mile-wide crater you can view today.
The Ubehebe crater is easy to reach.
It's at the north end of Death Valley National Park, but you can drive the entire way and view the crater from the parking lot.
More than simply a hole in the ground, the crater is a stunning example of nature's power and beauty. The crater walls feature a dazzling display of minerals and colors.
You can also choose from three hikes, one around the rim of the crater, another that goes to the bottom of the crater, and a third leading to Little Hebe, a smaller crater nearby.
The origins of the name are unknown, but the phrase "Ubehebe" doesn't mean "big basket," as is commonly believed.
Experience the One-of-a-Kind Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is unlike other national parks in many ways.
First, it's the largest national park in the continental U.S.
It also has the hottest temperatures, driest air, and lowest elevation.
The park is bordered by the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin Desert, the Panamint Valley, and most of Saline Valley.
The closest city outside of the park is Lone Pine.
When you first enter the park, head to the Furnace Creek Visitor's Center, where you can pick up a map and browse educational exhibits.
Furnace Creek is also a small town inside the park, with a population in the low hundreds.
Zabriskie Point is a popular spot in the park, offering tremendous views, especially when the sun rises and sets.
Badwater Basin is another famous park location, as it has the lowest elevation of any point in North America. It's 282 feet below sea level.
Yet another highlight inside the park is the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, where dunes rise as high as 100 feet.
The dunes might look familiar, as they're featured heavily in the first Star Wars film.
Congress designated the area as a national monument in 1993 and a national park in 1994.
11. Inland Southern California
Also called the Inland Empire, Inland Southern California is a large, land-locked region about 60 miles west of L.A. and the Pacific Ocean.
The Inland Empire includes San Bernardino and Riverside, the region's two largest cities, plus Victor Valley (part of the Mojave), Coachella, and other desert communities.
Here are the best things to do in Inland Southern California:
Pay a Visit to Integratron
In 1960, a man named George Van Tessel built an out-of-this-world structure in the town of Landers, located near Joshua Tree in Death Valley.
Van Tassel was a former aircraft mechanic who firmly believed aliens had contacted him and sent him building instructions for a machine that could rejuvenate human cells.
He followed the alien "blueprints" to create the Integraton, a 38-foot tall domed structure painted a bright white.
After Van Tassel's death, the building cycled through multiple owners before it was purchased by three sisters: Joanna, Nancy, and Patty Karl.
They turned the building into a tourist attraction.
While the Integration's ability to heal cell tissue never came true, the current owners claim the building has perfect acoustics.
Visitors get to experience sound baths meant to create a profoundly calming effect.
Whether or not you believe in sound baths, or aliens, touring the Integration is a fascinating and unique experience.
Dine at Peggy Sue's 50's Diner
While many restaurants attempt to recreate the look of a 1950s roadside diner, Peggy Sue's Roadside Diner is the real deal.
It originally opened in 1954. It had three booths and nine seats at the counter.
Although the diner closed for several decades, it reopened under new ownership in 1986.
The new owners are a married couple with a background in amusement parks and movies.
They restored the diner as closely as possible to its original condition while adding era-appropriate memorabilia.
Aside from burgers and sandwiches, diners can enjoy a slice from Peggy Sue's Pizza Parlor. You can buy malts, sundaes, and floats at the 5 & Dime Store.
Peggy Sue's 50's Diner is on Yermo Road near I-95 in the town of Yermo, about 10 miles north of Barstow.
Cruise Over to the Route 66 Mother Road Museum
Route 66 is a classic American highway, helping connect California to the midwest.
More than simply a road, Route 66 had a significant impact on the state's early economic growth and culture.
With historical photographs and engaging displays, you'll learn the history of Route 66, from its beginnings as a pioneer trail to its enormous impact on automotive history and interstate commerce.
The museum is in Barstow in a hotel complex/rail depot called the Casa del Desierto.
Also called Harvey Houses, they were considered some of the finest railway food available at the time.
The museum first opened on July 4, 2000.
Visit Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
It's a twelve-and-a-half-minute ride from the Coachella Valley to the top of San Jacinto Peak.
The tram car makes two complete revolutions during the trip, letting passengers view the entire landscape without moving from their seats.
At the top of the peak, visitors can see up to 200 miles.
You can see Mount Charleston, near Las Vegas, on a nice day.
The peak also features two restaurants, several gift shops, and a video presentation on the area's history.
The tram first opened in 1963.
Even today, it's still the only way to reach the top of the peak aside from a multi-hour hike.
Step Back in Time at the Calico Ghost Town
The town of Calico thrived from the late 1880s through the early 1900s, thanks to the discovery of silver in the desert hills.
After sitting abandoned for decades, the founder of Knott's Berry Farm, Walter Knott, purchased the town in the 1950s and restored its original appearance as a staffed ghost town where you can visit and see how old miners used to live.
Today, the Calico Ghost Town Regional Park is a thriving tourist attraction within driving distance of Barstow.
Authentic recreations of original buildings, like Lil's Saloon and Smitty's Gallery, line the streets.
Other features include gunfight stunt shows, mine tours, and railroad rides.
Tour the First Original McDonald's Museum
The history behind McDonald's gets a little confusing due to conflicts between the original owners, so there's some dispute as to whether or not this Mickey D's is truly the first.
Regardless, it was still one of the original restaurants, now a museum dedicated to the famous brand.
Dick and Mac McDonald's opened McDonald's Barbecue Restaurant right here in 1940.
Several years later, they simplified their menu, creating many foods and processes famously associated with the chain.
While you can't order a Big Mac here today (sorry!), you can take a fascinating tour through the history of the company. The museum is packed with props, displays, and memorabilia.
If the tour makes you hungry, the closest McDonald's is a seven-minute drive south.
Play at the Fiesta Village Family Fun Center
If you've put on an extra few from eating at McDonald's in San Bernardino, you and the kids could head to the neighboring city of Colton, where you can run wild at the Fiesta Village Family Fun Center.
All-ages, family-friendly fun is the name of the game here.
They have laser tag, go-karts, roller skating, batting cages, arcade games, and more.
Bring your swimsuit because they have three water slides.
The Pyrite River Rapids allows two-person inner tubes, the Sidewinder Body Slide is 250 feet of fast fun, and the Blast Off launches you into the deep end.
Fiesta Village Family Fun Center is a local favorite.
They've won the local paper's Best Place for Kids to Have Fun award from 2007 through 2022.
It's on Washington Street, just east of the Riverside Freeway.
Learn about Local Culture at the Palm Springs Art Museum
Discover the area's unique history, view local art, and maybe even catch a live performance at the Palm Springs Art Museum.
The museum has changed considerably over the years.
In 1938, it opened as the Palm Springs Desert Museum in downtown Palm Springs.
The museum first focused on local science and history, including wildlife and the local Native American tribes, such as the Cahuilla.
In the 1950s, the museum began including art exhibits.
As the museum grew, it relocated to its current 75,000-square-foot building on Museum Drive.
Visitors can check out the 24,000 objects, including 12,000 pieces of art and 12,000 scientific specimens, including ancient tools and preserved animals.
Additionally, the Annenberg Theater is a great place in town to catch a concert, play, or dance performance.
View Local Artifacts at the San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum
The past and present meet at the San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum.
It's dedicated to the history of the railroad throughout the area.
Exhibits include the first rail car used in San Bernardino, a recreation of a 1910 railroad station, and hundreds of photographs.
The museum first opened in 2008. It sits inside a restored 1918 Santa Fe West Depot on West Third Street.
The depot is still a functioning train station, providing service to Amtrak and Metrolink passengers.
Visiting the museum is free, thanks to support from the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society.
Enjoy King-Sized Fun at Castle Park
The 25-acre park has 35 rides, four mini-golf courses, a water area, and a gigantic video arcade.
Plus, visitors will find no shortage of great eats, including casual dining at The Big Top Restaurant.
The park first opened in 1976 under the name Castle Amusement Park.
It's just off the Riverside Freeway near Park Sierra Drive.
You can't miss the enormous medieval towers!
Don't miss the Ghost Blasters, their "dark ride."
As you ride through a dark and spooky area, you'll shoot at targets with a laser gun, attempting to collect more points than your fellow riders.
Rock Out at the Glen Helen Amphitheater 80
The Glen Helen Amphitheater is the largest outdoor music venue in the country. Watching live music here is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
It's in San Bernardino's Glen Helen Regional Park.
Concertgoers have an astonishing view of the hills behind the stage.
The Amphitheater has hosted numerous large music festivals, such as Ozzfest, Crue Fest, and the Anger Management Tour.
The name of the venue is relatively new.
Previous names include the Blockbuster Pavilion, Hyundai Pavilion, and San Manuel Amphitheater.
The theater opened in 1993. San Bernardino County owns and maintains it.
Swim, Hike, and Picnic at Lake Gregory Regional Park
Lake Gregory Regional Park is a beautiful outdoor area located in the city of Crestline.
The park is an 84-acre network of trails and pine forests surrounding the large and picturesque Lake Gregory reservoir.
Work to dam Houston Creek and build the lake began in 1937 and finished in 1939.
A wealthy citrus grower named Arthur Gregory, Sr. led the project's development.
Visitors to Lake Gregory Regional Park can fish, hike, picnic, and simply hang out on the beach.
Swimming and non-motorized water sports are allowed in the lake.
The park also has a gated dog park. Dogs are allowed on the trails, too, provided they're on a leash.
The park is especially popular in summer when it provides an easy way to stay cool in hot temps.
See Wild Animals at the Big Bear Alpine Zoo
The Big Bear Alpine Zoo allows visitors to view animals they'd likely never get a chance to see otherwise, such as bears, eagles, wolves, and cougars.
The zoo began in 1959 as a rehabilitation center for injured wildlife. As they started to take in more animals, they created exhibits so the public could view these exotic creatures.
Approximately 90% of the animals brought to the facility are released back into nature after rehabilitation. The remaining animals live out their lives in the comfort of the zoo.
The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is one of two alpine zoos in the country. An alpine zoo is a zoo situated in the high mountains with animals who live in that climate.
The zoo is in the San Bernardino National Forest, on Moonridge Road in the town of Big Bear Lake.
Ski With Ease at Mount Baldy Resort
California offers plenty of opportunities for great skiing, but the most convenient option for many residents is Mount Baldy, only 45 miles from Los Angeles.
Mount Baldy is a multi-directional, 800-acre ski area with 26 runs and four chair lifts.
Skiers of all skill levels will find plenty of suitable runs.
The resort dates back to the early 1950s, and some elements of the original lifts still exist today.
You'll find fun things to do at Mount Baldy throughout the year.
In summer, visitors flock to the area for hiking, disc golf, and scenic lift rides.
They also host Moonlight Hikes in the summer.
At the end of the hike, everybody celebrates with live music, BBQ, and drinks.
When you visit, take the Sugar Pine Chair Lift to the Top of the Notch Recreation Area, where you can eat at the famous Top of the Notch Restaurant.
Mount Baldy is in the city of Mount Baldy in San Bernardino County.
Celebrate Christmas Year-Round in SkyPark at Santa's Village
Originally known as Santa's Village, this amusement park first opened in 1955, pre-dating Disneyland by about a month.
The first Santa's Village has a monorail, petting zoo, liver reindeer, shops, and plenty of rides for the kids.
While the park remained popular for decades, it eventually went bankrupt and closed in 1998.
After several years as a ghost town, the park reopened with a new name, new ownership, and updated attractions.
The park has two separate areas.
SkyPark includes 10 miles of outdoor activities like biking, hiking, fishing, ziplines, and other active fun.
The Village is the other part of the park, a charming section with restaurants, shopping, and rides.
They offer seasonal displays for Christmas, Halloween, and other holidays.
SkyPark at Santa's Village is in Skyforest, just off the Rim of the World Highway near Hooks Creek.
12. South Coast
The South Coast has locations and styles frequently associated with California.
The South Coast is home to what's called the SoCal lifestyle, a laidback and fitness-focused attitude.
Many popular attractions associated with California await you on the South Coast!
Here are the best things to do on South Coast:
Surf at Malibu Lagoon State Beach
Known locally as "Surfrider Beach," the 150-acre Malibu Lagoon State Beach is a legendary surf spot known for its world-class "point" surf.
The beach is near Malibu Pier in the city of Malibu in Los Angeles County.
It's a part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and has beautiful hiking opportunities.
A combination of sand, silt, and cobble creates smooth waves on the shoreline, which is a significant reason for the area's appeal to surfers.
The beach has three surf spots.
First Point is the most accessible and popular among both long and short borders.
Experienced riders mainly surf Second Point. At Third Point, riders can surf long distances in the last summer months.
California designated Malibu Lagoon State Beach as a state park in 1951. It also became the first World Surfing Reserve designation in 2010.
Explore History at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
It's the largest presidential library in the country.
You can either explore the museum on your own or take a guided tour.
The museum holds millions of photos, documents, and other records.
Two highlights of the tour include sections of the Berlin Wall and the actual Air Force One used when Reagan was in office.
You can also grab a bite at The Gipper's Bistro, serving up a salad, soup, pizza, and grilled entrees.
Finish up your visit with a trip to the Museum Store, boasting a massive collection of Reagan-themed merchandise.
Stroll along the Venice Beach Boardwalk
California has many boardwalks, but none have the same style as the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
It's a two-mile open market on Ocean Front Walk on Venice Beach.
The busiest part of the Boardwalk is between North Venice Boulevard and Park Avenue.
You'll find a wide variety of souvenir shops, public art, street performers, skateboarding areas, and other fun.
There's no shortage of unique characters to watch, too, as the beach attracts individuals from all walks of life.
The Venice Beach Boardwalk is also home to Muscle Beach, the world-famous bodybuilding gym known as the home of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, and others.
There is workout equipment right there on the beach for anyone to use and enjoy.
The area has been a popular attraction since its inception in 1905.
In the 1950s, it briefly fell into a state of disrepair, but today thrives as a bustling tourist destination.
Cruise around Mullin Automotive Museum
Peter W. Mullin, the founder of the M Financial Group, is known as a business titan, philanthropist, and big-time car collector.
He founded the Mullin Automotive Museum in 2010, providing much of his personal collection for its initial launch.
Wander among beautiful, fully restored vehicles from throughout history.
One highlight is the collection of French cars from the 1920s and 1930s.
Another favorite is the collection of Bugattis. Mullin is a major fan of Bugattis and even serves as president of the American Bugatti Club.
The building is a work of art worth seeing. It has a hip, Art-Deco style that compliments the look of the cars.
The Mullin Automotive Museum is in Oxnard, on Emerson Avenue, just down the street from the Murphy Auto Museum.
Pick Veggies and Play with Animals at the Underwood Family Farms
Visitors of all ages love the gentle good times at the Underwood Family Farms.
Play with ponies, alpacas, bunnies, and many more animals in the Animal Center.
Picking your own produce is another favorite activity at the Underwood Family Farms. They have seasonal favorites, such as pumpkin patches in the fall.
Kid-friendly tours are also available where little ones can learn about either farming or animal care. Each tour includes a hay ride.
It's in the city limits of Moorpark off 23 Freeway, between Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks.
Enjoy the Sunset from the Ventura Pier
The Ventura Pier is the oldest wooden pier in California.
The beach around the pier is packed with fun places to eat and drink, including a brewpub and a taco joint.
The pier is usually quiet, stretching into the Pacific.
It's a relaxing place to watch the sunset or enjoy views of the Channel Islands and the Ventura coastline.
Once a year, the pier is host to a food fair.
Approximately 50 restaurants, breweries, and wineries serve up their best to a crowd of about 800, with proceeds benefiting pier preservation.
Experience a World of Entertainment at Universal Studios Hollywood
What began as a movie studio in 1912 has grown into the ninth-largest theme park in America.
Universal Studios Hollywood offers a thrilling combination of studio tours, rides, and live stunt shows.
In 1962, the new owners of Universal Pictures suggested short studio tours as a way to increase revenue.
They proved so popular the studio created bigger rides and other experiences.
Universal Studios Hollywood is perhaps most famous for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with a castle, restaurants, stage shows, and rides.
Other popular attractions based on Universal properties include Jurassic World: The Ride, Transformers: The Ride 3D, and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.
Don't forget about the Studio Tour.
Guests take a tram ride through the Universal backlot, where they view sets and props from Jaws, Fast & Furious, and other favorites.
Ride the Coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain
Six Flags Magic Mountain is a roller coaster lover's dream come true.
The park holds the world record for most roller coasters after adding its 20th coaster in July 2022.
George Millay, a SeaWorld founder, built the park, opening it in 1971. Management's philosophy focused on fast, innovative coasters from the very beginning, such as the Gold Rusher, the park's first steel coaster.
Over the years, other famous coasters at the park have included the Great American Revolution, with a 360-degree loop, and the Colossus, a fast, dual-tracked wooden coaster.
Today, the 262-acre park features DC Universe rides, Bugs Bunny World, water rides, a family-friendly Grand Carousel, and more.
It's only 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles, on Magic Mountain Parkway in Valencia.
Nourish Your Soul at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Broaden your artistic horizons at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the largest art museum in the Western US.
Known as LACMA, the exhibits cover art from ancient times throughout today. The Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art is particularly famous, with works by Picasso, Jasper Johns, and other modern masters.
The museum is also committed to education, offering classes and programs for adults, kids, and families. The museum also hosts special events regularly, like the Tim Burton exhibit, so be sure to see what’s on when you visit.
Although the museum first opened in 1910, it's undergone many redesigns over the years, including redesigns or additions from Renzo Piano, William Pereira, Bruce Golf, and other world-famous architects.
It's located on Wilshire Boulevard on Museum Row in the Miracle Mile.
Stroll Down Universal Citywalk 100
The Universal Citywalk in Hollywood is a fun, vibrant shopping and dining area. There are 30 restaurants, 30 retail stores, several nightclubs, and even indoor skydiving.
Citywalk started as an expansion to Universal Studio Hollywood, but over the years has become a distinct attraction. It still acts as a path between the parking lot and Universal Studios, but you don't need to buy a ticket for Citywalk.
Although the amphitheater opened in 1972, the modern opening date for Citywalk is 1993.
Much of the theme is based on classic Hollywood styles. Citywalk is active day and night but the party really gets going on Friday and Saturday nights.
Citywalk's gigantic television monitor plays videos, special concerts, and other Universal-related entertainment.
Live music is also frequently found at 5 Towers, an outdoor concert venue with an elaborate, thrilling audio-video setup.
See a Prehistoric Marvel at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
In the middle of modern Los Angeles, near the Miracle Mile, you can step back in time at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum.
The tar pits are fascinating geographical marvels where crude oil seeps up from the earth. In this case, the oil is from the 6th Street Fault.
The tar pits have existed for tens of thousands of years. Animals, plants, and even a prehistoric woman have all become trapped in the tar, leaving behind fossils museum visitors can view today. You can see models of things like wooly mammoths in the pits themselves.
Visitors can walk the grounds to view the real tar pits. The inside of the museum is equally fascinating, with not only fossils but a variety of educational programs.
Another highlight is the Ice Age Encounters show, where audiences are thrilled by an up-close, incredibly lifelike saber-toothed cat.
View Fine Art at the Vincent Price Art Museum
The Vincent Price Art Museum isn't what you may think. Although named after the horror movie icon, the museum doesn't have exhibits designed to scare and chill you.
Instead, the museum features Price's personal collection of paintings, which focuses on underrepresented and eclectic artists.
Exhibits include Ancient Americas, impressionist works, and Los-Angeles based artists, including Don Bachardy, Gronk, Patssi Valdez, and Charles White.
The museum also has a vast collection of artwork from early Mesoamerican, African, Native American, and European cultures.
Of the 9,000 objects in the museum's permanent collection, Price donated 2,000. The museum opened in 1957.
It's on the East Los Angeles College campus in Monterey Park.
Get Away From It All in Avalon
Off the coast of Southern California, near Ventura and Santa Barbara, lie the Channel Islands, an archipelago of eight islands known for their natural beauty.
The largest city in the Channel Islands is Avalon, a resort community on Santa Catalina Island.
Known as Catalina, this is the most popular island in the bunch.
Much of the city is centered around Avalon Bay, which is near the Crescent Street pedestrian mall.
The area features retail stores, restaurants, fountains, a seawall, carnival and arcade games, and more.
The Catalina Casino is also within an easy walk. With a unique Art Deco and Mediterranean style, it's the city's most distinctive landmark.
The development of Avalon began in the early 1900s. Notable business titans such as George Shatto, William Wrigley, Jr., and others all played a role in turning the city into a resort and tourist destination.
Don’t miss out seeing the bison herd that dwells on the island, as well!
Multiple ferries run to and from the island daily, departing from San Pedro, Long Beach, Dana Point, and more. You can also travel by private vessel.
Visit Mickey and Friends at Disneyland Park
No trip to California is complete without a visit to the original Happiest Place on Earth, whether you’re going as a family or by yourself.
Disneyland Park (formerly just "Disneyland") is on Disneyland Drive in the city of Anaheim.
The 160-acre park opened in 1955, after construction by a team personally selected by Walt Disney. The opening aired as a televised special on the ABC network, and Walt’s famous saying, “Welcome to this happy place; Welcome!” can still be heard in various parades and events around the park.
Disneyland is the world's second most visited amusement park, behind only the Magic Kingdom in Florida (formerly Disney World).
The park has undergone numerous upgrades and changes over the years, including the addition of New Orleans Square, Mickey's Toontown, and Star Wars: Galaxy Edge, along with classic favorites like Adventureland and Tomorrowland. For example, the Tom Sawyer island is now Pirate Lair, with new exhibits.
Disneyland offers nearly unlimited opportunities for fun, including rides, parades, live music, shows, characters, and more.
Explore the History of the Auto at Petersen Automotive Museum
Car lovers will want to put the pedal to the metal and race over to the Petersen Automotive Museum, one of the largest car museums in the world.
The museum is fully-loaded with features. It has 25 galleries with over 100 vehicles on display, plus about 100 more stored in an underground vault.
Exhibits cover the history of the automotive industry, famous car styles, and much more, often emphasizing SoCal car culture.
Other exhibitions include cars from TV shows and movies, electric cars, hot rods, and others. New displays are frequently added.
The Petersen Automotive Museum is in the Los Angeles Miracle Mile neighborhood along Wilshire Boulevard.
It began in 1962 as an addition to a local department store but moved to its current, independent location in 1994. In 2015, the museum received an extensive, modern makeover.
View the Artwork and Stroll the Gardens in the Huntington Library
Behold beauty, both natural and man-made, at the Huntington Library, a fascinating combination of a research institution, botanical gardens, and an art museum.
Henry Huntington, an heir to a railroad fortune, opened the library in 1920. Much of the art in the museum was originally part of his private collection that he wanted to share with the whole state.
Today, the Library holds over 45,000 pieces of art, with a strong focus on European art from the 18th and 19th century, and American art from the 17th through the 20th century. One of the most famous paintings on display is Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy.
Stroll the serene ground and explore 130 acres of over a dozen themed gardens, including the Japanese Garden, Desert Garden, and Chinese Garden.
The library includes an extensive collection of rare books, including a vellum copy of the Gutenberg Bible and letters from Washington, Lincoln, and other notable figures from history.
The Huntington Library is on Oxford Road in San Marino, a small, wealthy city in Los Angeles County.
See the Stars at Griffith Observatory
While Los Angeles is known for its timeless movie stars, don't overlook the stars in the night sky.
The Griffith Observatory is a large, public observatory on Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, perfect for a family outing or a unique date night.
It offers spectacular views of Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, the Pacific Ocean, and more.
The observatory, exhibit hall, and planetarium were donated in 1896 by Griffith J. Griffith, a wealthy industrialist who lived in the area.
Aside from the 12-inch Zeiss refractor telescope, other exhibits include the Foucault pendulum, a solar telescope, a relief model of the moon, and more.
Even if you've never visited Griffith Observatory, it likely looks familiar due to its presence in numerous movies and TV shows, including Back to the Future Part II, Transformers, and La La Land.
Take a Closer Look at the Hollywood Sign
While the Hollywood Sign is visible from across Los Angeles, there are several ways you can get closer.
You can hike to the sign from the Bronson Canyon entrance to Griffith Park or the trailhead near the Lake Hollywood Reservoir.
Note that you're only allowed in designated areas near the sign. Touching or climbing it will trigger a silent alarm, so it’s best to admire the sign from a distance.
If you want a closer view for photos but don't want to hike to the sign, the Lake Hollywood Park trailhead is your best option. Of course, you can see the sign directly from Hollywood, so those who don’t want to hike at all won’t miss out.
A real estate company placed the original sign back in 1923. Due to popular demand from residents, the city decided to make it a permanent addition to Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills.
The sign erected by the city in 1978 was made from steel, the same material used today.
Go to a Concert at the Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl is considered one of the best music venues in the country, home to legendary performances from artists dating back to the 1920s.
The amphitheater, with seating for about 17,500, sits inside a bowl-shaped hillside in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.
The venue has a signature bandshell circling the stage. Behind the stage, concertgoers can enjoy a spectacular view of the Hollywood Hills, including the famed Hollywood Sign.
Something's always happening at the Bowl, no matter when you visit. You can catch major acts of all genres, plus regular performances from the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and more.
They also host special events, such as dining, so you can have a full evening excursion without worrying about dinner.
Get Wild at the San Diego Zoo
Explore the wild side of life at the San Diego Zoo, one of the world's largest and most diverse zoos. It's in Balboa Park, San Diego, which we’ll discuss in more depth later.
The zoo first opened in 1916 following initial planning by Dr. Harry M. Wegeforth, the founder of the Zoological Society of San Diego.
Zoo director Belle Benchley played a crucial role in developing and growing the zoo, serving as director from 1925 through 1953. She was usually the only female zoo director in the world.
The zoo is a pioneer in cageless exhibits, which create a more natural experience for both the animals and visitors.
Visitors can view over 4,000 animals across 650 species. Notable exhibits have included Rex the lion, one of the first animals held at the zoo, the world's only albino koala, and the last pangolin to live in a zoo.
For those staying the night in San Diego, try the Roar and Snore overnight camping and adventures.
Fun fact: The first video uploaded to YouTube, Me at the zoo, featured a young man at the San Diego Zoo.
Learn Navy History at the USS Midway Museum
The USS Midway Museum is the largest naval history museum in the world. It's aboard the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier moored at the end of Navy Pier in San Diego.
The Midway is the longest-serving aircraft of the 20th Century. It was commissioned from 1945 to 1992, making it the only carrier to serve during the Cold War.
Visitors can tour the ship plus view different displays, including a collection of aircraft. The tour is a self-guided audio tour narrated by former sailors.
In 2017, the museum added a holographic movie theater where visitors can view "The Battle of Midway Theater."
The museum appears on TV often in many sporting events and shows, including NCAA basketball games and once on a special episode of American Idol. While the museum is great for any history or military buff, it’s also a fantastic way to view the stunning sights of the harbor itself.
Dive into Fun at SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld opened its first park right here in Mission Bay Park in San Diego.
The founders first set out to build an underwater restaurant, but soon their plan changed into making a marine zoological park that specializes in rehabilitation. It opened to the public on March 21, 1964.
The 189-acre park features live animal exhibits, family-friendly rides, shows, and more. Some of the biggest animal attractions include the famous Shamu orca, bottlenose dolphins, and sea lions. Of course, children will love to visit the tide pools where they can interact with tidal creatures like rays and starfish.
Not many people think of roller coasters when they think of Seaworld, but the park has some awesome ones, including The Electric Eel, the tallest and fastest coaster in the city.
Many of the park's shows rotate based on the season, but you'll always find something fascinating and educational. In the summertime, catch Cirque Electrique, a daring acrobatic performance.
Play With Bricks at Legoland California Resort
Legoland California Resort is a massive LEGO-themed amusement park, aquarium, and water park, the perfect place for families to beat the heat and have some wholesome fun.
The main part of the resort is the theme park, which first opened in 1999, making it the first Legoland park launched in the United States (two more have opened since).
The park has over 60 kid-friendly attractions, including roller coasters, go-karts, and even a LEGO factory tour. You can also watch live shows and 4D movies, which are 3D movies that have moving elements, making you feel like you’re part of the movie yourself.
The water park has seven water slides and several sandy beaches. Popular spots include the Build-a-Raft River and the LEGO Legends of CHIMA Water Park.
In the aquarium, you and the family can view over 350 aquatic species. The aquarium also has numerous exhibitions and feeding demonstrations with an emphasis on children's education.
No matter where you go in the resort, you're sure to run into beloved characters, including favorites from the movies like Emmet, Lucy, and Bennie. You might even spot a Bionicle or two!
The park is on Legoland Drive in Carlsbad, on the way down to San Diego.
Stroll Down Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is one of the most famous piers in the world, with gorgeous ocean views, the Pacific Park amusement park, and a solar-powered Ferris wheel.
You'll also find plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop. The west end of the pier is a well-known fishing spot.
It's in the city of Santa Monica at the end of Colorado Avenue.
The Santa Monica Pier technically consists of two separate piers, the narrow Municipal Pier and the wider Pleasure Pier, both built in the early 1900s.
In 1983, storms and a crane accident destroyed approximately one-third of the Santa Monica Pier, although the city eventually rebuilt it.
The pier is in numerous movies and TV shows, perhaps most notably in The Sting. For anyone looking for beach-themed fun, especially families, Santa Monica pier is a must see. There are carnival games, rides, and, of course, the nearby beach.
View the Sea Serpent at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. It's primarily a desert region rich with native plants and animals.
One of the biggest attractions in the park are the large metal sculptures found throughout the landscape. They're the work of Ricardo Breceda, known as the Picasso of Steel.
The Sea Serpent is one of his biggest and most famous works. This 350-foot monster "swims" through the desert outside of Borrego Springs, the largest town inside the state park.
After checking out the gigantic sculptures, why not stick around and explore the state park? It has 12 wilderness areas and over 100 miles of hiking.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is also well-known for its stargazing. It's an official Dark Sky Park, which means you have a dazzling, clear view of the night sky.
Relax in Balboa Park
For over 150 years, Balboa Park has remained a vibrant center for culture and recreation within San Diego.
It's a massive 1,200-acre park with museums, theaters, gardens, walking paths, and more. The park also contains the San Diego Zoo.
First opened in 1835, it's among the oldest public parks in the country. While many people had a hand in shaping the park, one of the most influential was Kate Sessions, who was responsible for much of the early foliage.
Famous museums in the park include the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Art Institute, and the San Diego Natural History Museum. One of the more recent additions is the San Diego Comic-Con Museum.
If you're interested in gardens, you'll enjoy the Japanese Friendship Garden, Marston House Garden, and others.
Other big draws in Balboa Park are the Balboa Park Carousel, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá, the Morley Field Sports Complex, and Palisades Building. You can watch concerts, puppet shows, live theater, and more.
The park is between Sixth Avenue, Upas Street, 28th Street, and Russ Boulevard. It’s also quite close to Old Town San Diego, which has historic buildings, museums, and plenty of delicious places to eat.
Visit Hollywood Walk of Fame
Step into the footprints of your favorite Hollywood stars at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
These sidewalks stars are famous the world over. Celebrities from the Golden Age of Hollywood through today have immortalized their handprints, shoe prints, and signatures in cement.
The Walk of Fame extends 15 blocks down Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks on Vine Street.
Over 2,700 actors, directors, writers, and other celebrities have a star on the Walk of Fame, with more added each year.
Classic actors from the 30s and 40s typically have their stars in front of the TCL Chinese Theater (formerly called Grauman's Chinese Theater). The theatre in itself is a sight to see, a striking and unique photo opportunity.
Academy Award winners often have their stars in front of the Dolby Theatre, which is the site of the awards show.
Some of the most photographed stars on the Walk of Fame are Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Walt Disney, and Sandra Bullock.
The Walk of Fame is one of the state's biggest tourist attractions, drawing over 10 million visitors each year. It’s also close to the famous neighborhoods Beverly Hills and BelAir, two more must-see attractions for anyone passing through Hollywood.
Ride the Waves at Huntington Beach
Huntington is a city famous for its 9.5-mile-long coastline of beautiful beaches and some of the best surfing in the world, earning it the nickname of "Surf City, USA."
Huntington Beach consists of four different-facing beaches: northwest, southwest, south, and west.
Due to the many different surfing options, Huntington Beach offers something for surfers of all skill levels, including total beginners.
Huntington Beach also played an integral part in the early popularity of surfing across the country. It was home to some of the first surfing in the mainland U.S.
Aside from surfing, visitors to Huntington Beach can fish, play volleyball, play basketball, or build fires in designated rings. There are also plenty of beach cafes to enjoy, all within walking distance from the beaches themselves.
If you’re in the area with your dog, head to Huntington Dog Beach, located between Seapoint Avenue and 21st Street along the Pacific Coast Highway. The beach permits dogs to frolic on the sand and swim in the ocean.
Have Fun at Disney California Adventure Park
Disney California Adventure is a 72-acre park next door to Disneyland. Although it's part of the Disneyland resort, it's a separate park that requires its own admission fee.
If you want to visit both parks, purchase a Park Hopper ticket and feel free to go from park to park.
Attractions at the park include Avengers Campus, the Incredicoaster, and Radiator Springs Racer. You can also experience Soarin’ Over California, a 4D experience that blends ride with educational movie about California. You’ll feel the spray of the sea and smell the orange blossoms as you fly over the state.
California Adventure Park has plenty of charm on its own, especially for adults. Unlike in Disneyland Park, you can purchase alcoholic beverages, like wine and beer, and enjoy a drink along the recreated Pierhead, reminiscent of San Francisco.
Visit Knotts Berry Farm
Located in Buena Park, Knott's Berry Farm started its life as a farm, as you might imagine. The farm was known for its berries and berry preserves, which turned into a restaurant. Then, in the '40s, they opened a replica ghost town (inspired by Calico). It grew from there and became the thriving theme park of today.
Known for its old west vibes and roller coasters, every year the park transforms into Knott's Scary Farm, a Halloween event that has fun events for kids and adults. Spooky decorations go up, and the park has different scary mazes (all with unique themes) that more mature audiences can enjoy.
Pay a Visit to The Queen Mary
Take a trip through history by touring The Queen Mary. Built by Cunard, the company that created the Titanic, the ship is elegant and majestic, the perfect stop for any history buff or those who want to take a trip to the United Kingdom without leaving California.
Originally, the liner was equipped as a luxury vessel, replete with two indoor swimming pools, nurseries for the children, a music studio, telephone, tennis courts, and dog kennels. Now, the ship is a hotel and museum that holds events throughout the year.
You can take a walk on the promenade, enjoy the Observation Bar with an upscale restaurant, or grab a quick bite at the Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton's cafe.
If you stop by in October, you can enjoy scary Halloween mazes and fantastic costumes. Or, if you visit in November and December, you can enjoy some winter themed events, including ice skating.
California is an amazing state, filled from top to bottom with natural beauty, fascinating history, and dynamic attractions.
The Golden State has so many awesome things to do. You can enjoy the majesty of the outdoors, explore historic towns and cities, play at the numerous theme parks, and have fun everywhere you go. There is literally something for everyone in this stunning region.