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Things to do in California

Things to do in  California

Welcome to California

From southern California’s beachy San Diego and star-studded Los Angeles to history-steeped San Francisco and quieter towns in the north, the Golden State serves up an endless array of destinations and activities. Cruise out to Alcatraz, the famed former prison in the San Francisco Bay, or visit Catalina Island on a boat trip from Long Beach or Dana Point. Outdoor adventures in Yosemite National Park, skiing in Lake Tahoe, or a stroll down the Santa Monica Pier give a glimpse of the state’s majestic natural features. Visit LA to stroll on the Walk of Fame, hit the theme parks in Anaheim, or hike up to snap a photo in front of the Hollywood sign. Monterey and Carmel are home to miles of coastline, a wealth of marine life, and world-class golf facilities. Both the San Diego Zoo and the Monterey Bay Aquarium are considered the top wildlife facilities in their categories, home to an incredible array of animals and opportunities to learn about our non-human neighbors. California’s miles of farm country mean dining opportunities include farm-fresh, high-quality meat and produce. Foodies can dig into fish tacos in SoCal, munch sourdough bread in San Francisco, or hit the wine trail in Napa and Sonoma.

Top 15 attractions in California


A former federal prison that held notorious criminals Al “Scarface” Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Alcatraz is now a national historic landmark and one of the most sought-out (and sold-out) attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Highlights include touring what’s left of the maximum-security facility, hearing stories from former inmates, and sailing past the Golden Gate Bridge to reach the craggy isle.More

Golden Gate Bridge

The red-orange Golden Gate Bridge is a San Francisco icon, which spans 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) across and connects the city’s northernmost point to Marin County. While the suspension bridge is a major route for Bay Area commuters, the famous landmark also attracts visitors from around the world with its panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, the Marin headlands, Alcatraz, and San Francisco.More

USS Midway Museum

Formerly the US Navy’s longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century (1945 to 1991), the USS Midway is now a floating museum docked off the coast of California. Aboard the hulking vessel, visitors can now explore more than 60 exhibits as well as peek inside the museum’s impressive aircraft collection.More

Hollywood Sign

One of LA's most distinguishing icons, the famous Hollywood Sign proudly stands on Mt. Lee (Mount Lee) in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Los Angeles and the California movie industry it has come to symbolize. This LA landmark first appeared on its hillside perch in 1923 as an advertising gimmick for a real-estate development called Hollywoodland. Each letter stands 50 feet (15 meters) tall and is made of sheet metal painted white.More

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Only in Los Angeles are stars so common that they can even be found on the sidewalk. Studded with more than 2,600 brass stars across 18 city blocks, the Hollywood Walk of Fame features names of celebrities in mini monuments. See if you can spot the stars of your favorite motion pictures, TV shows, live theater, and more.More

Universal Studios Hollywood

One of the world's oldest continuously operating movie studios, Universal® Studios Hollywood presents an entertaining mix of thrill rides and live action shows, plus a tram ride. The large California theme park cleverly integrates the shows and rides with behind-the-scenes presentations on movie-making.More

San Francisco Bay

A natural harbor spanned by the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the picturesque San Francisco Bay is the defining feature of California’s Bay Area. Get out on the chilly, choppy water—or just savor the views from the shoreline as the fog rolls in.More

Griffith Park

Griffith Park is one of the largest city parks in North America, covering a vast 4,310 acres (1,744 hectares). An oasis in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, this green space caters to visitors of all ages and interests with attractions such as the Los Angeles City Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, and the iconic Hollywood sign.More

Muir Woods

Home to one of the world's last remaining coastal redwood forests, Muir Woods National Monument allows travelers to hike, relax, or picnic among giant Northern California trees only minutes from the city. This protected nature reserve is also part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, home to Stinson Beach—the park's only lifeguarded beach—and Fort Baker.More


Across the bay from downtown San Diego, the small resort town of Coronado is an idyllic escape from the city with a wide, sandy coastline and a tree-lined main drag that’s home to shops and restaurants. Visitors go to hang out on the beach, tour historical sites, and watch the sunset.More

Yosemite Falls

The highest measured waterfall in North America and the sixth-highest in the world, Yosemite Falls is the superstar attraction in Yosemite National Park. With a cumulative drop of 2,425 feet (739 meters), Yosemite Falls comprises three falls and is especially stunning in late spring when the snow melts and water flow is at its peak.More

Sunset Strip

The legendary 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) stretch of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood known as the Sunset Strip extends east–west from Beverly Hills to Hollywood, laid end to end with celebrity-studded music venues dating back to the heyday of rock and roll, comedy clubs, boutiques, restaurants, hotels, and cocktail bars with stellar views of the surrounding city.More

Aquarium of the Pacific

One of Long Beach’s top attractions, the Aquarium of the Pacific is home to at least 11,000 aquatic animals across more than 50 exhibits that reflect the marine life of the Pacific Ocean. The nonprofit organization is the largest aquarium in Southern California and one of the most visited in the United States.More

Balboa Park

Home to world-class museums, manicured gardens, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park tops the list of San Diego city sights. Its 1,200 lush acres (486 hectares) comprise the largest urban park in the United States. Apart from its many attractions, Balboa Park also features lengthy walking and hiking trails, distinctive landscaping, Golden Age Spanish buildings, and one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs.More

17-Mile Drive

California’s 17-Mile Drive, said to be one of the world’s most scenic, is an essential Central Coast experience. Looping around the Monterey Peninsula, the private toll road offers stellar views of Monterey Bay and passes attractions such as the Lone Cypress, Bird Rock, the Del Monte Forest, and the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course.More
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Trip ideas

Top activities in California

Napa and Sonoma Wine Country Full-Day Tour from San Francisco
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Muir Woods & Sausalito Half-Day Tour (Return by Bus or Ferry from Sausalito)
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Muir Woods & Sausalito Half-Day Tour (Return by Bus or Ferry from Sausalito)

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Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood

Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood

San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise

San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise

Small Group Yosemite and Giant Sequoias Day Trip from San Francisco
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San Diego Seal Tour
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San Diego Seal Tour

San Diego Whale Watching Cruise
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San Diego Whale Watching Cruise

San Francisco Bay Sunset Catamaran Cruise
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San Diego Harbor Cruise

San Diego Harbor Cruise

San Diego Whale Watching Tour

San Diego Whale Watching Tour

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All about California

When to visit

Home to everything from cities, deserts, and mountains to beaches, national parks, and redwood groves, California caters to year-round actvities. During the warmer months, cool down in the Pacific Ocean or hike Yosemite. When winter arrives, hit the slopes of Lake Tahoe for top-notch skiing or enjoy winter sun in SoCal.

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People Also Ask

What is California known for?

Natural beauty. California is home to rugged coastlines hugging the Pacific Ocean, age-old redwood and sequoia trees, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Yosemite and Death Valley are must-see national parks. Hollywood is the seat of the American entertainment industry, while Silicon Valley is the center of global technology.

What is the number 1 tourist attraction in California?

By the numbers, Disneyland is the top attraction. The Los Angeles amusement park draws about 18 millions visitors annually. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, perhaps the state’s most recognizable attraction, falls second with about 10 million visitors annually. Yosemite National Park rounds out the top three.

What is something unique you might see in California?

Among its wonders are Death Valley with its salt flats and the lowest point in North America. In San Francisco, there’s the world’s last manually operated cable car system. General Sherman in Sequoia National Park is thought to be the largest giant sequoia. Don't miss Lassen National Park’s volcanic, Mars-like landscapes.

What kind of activities can you do in California?

There's plenty to do in California. Outdoorsy types can surf, kayak, hike, scuba, ski and sun-worship year-round. Culture mavens can visit world-class museums—from the Getty Center to the deYoung museum and SFMOMA. Wine tasting is a year-round affair; high-end shopping is a favorite Los Angeles diversion.

What is the prettiest place in California?

Carmel-by-the-Sea has an immaculate downtown, European-style courtyards and alleyways, and a bevy of art galleries. Point Lobos nearby is a California postcard, with Monterey cypress trees framing the shimmering Pacific Ocean. The Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is peace on earth.

What can you do in California right now?

Year-round activities in California include wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma counties; driving down 600 coast-hugging miles (900 kilometers) on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, also known as California State Route 1; surfing rugged, pristine shorelines; and checking out Disneyland for family fun.


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