Free-spirited and sun-soaked, California is truly America’s wild child. With its trendsetting culture, perfect weather and fun-loving cities, you’ll find tons of crazily fun things to do in California. Add in some diverse and gorgeous landscapes into the mix, and you’ve got the ultimate formula to one of the nation’s most spectacular, vibrant and colorful states. From exploring national parks to meeting celebrities, the possibilities are simply endless in the Golden State.
Need some tips on what to do in California? Don’t have a clue on where to go in California? Experience a world of epic moments and adventures with our list of the best things to do in California!
1. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
There’s no better way to experience the city of San Francisco or the whole state than to walk across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. After all, the bridge is one of the most enduring sights and iconic landmarks in America. As you cross the bridge, you’ll get to feast your eyes on some picture-perfect postcard-worthy views. What’s more, you’ll feel that you’ve accomplished something bucket-list worthy, after you cross the bridge. To me, crossing the bridge should be on everyone’s bucket list of things to do in California.
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2. Make a pit stop to the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
Indulge on breathtaking overlooking views of LA from the Griffith Observatory. Afterwards, check out its exhibits as well as discover the stars and other planets at their planetarium. There’s an on-site café where you can grab some tasty snacks, making it amazingly desirable and easy to stay all day.
3. Take a Napa Valley wine tour
Wine lover or not, you definitely should include this tour to your bucket list of things to do in California. For the most part, a wine tasting tour in a Napa Valley vineyard will include a mouthwatering alfresco lunch. Of course, it features a leisurely stroll on the gnarled vines. And, did I mention that it will give you peace and quiet as well as glimpses of its scenic rolling hills?
4. Admire the collections at SFMOMA
Take a few moments, to admire the fabulous contemporary art collections at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. An art lover’s paradise, the museum’s wondrously curated art collection is highly regarded and praised on a global scale. For art lovers, it’s an irresistible museum that should be on top of your bucket list of things to do in California. You may avail a tour here, or wander on your own and try to decipher the exhibits and pieces.
5. Experience the outdoor activities at Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is truly an adventure wonderland, hardwired for adrenaline-seeking travelers who are looking for heart-pumping things to do in California. Known as North America’s largest alpine lake, Tahoe will swept you away with its jaw-dropping scenery and wide array of outdoor activities, like parasailing and kayaking. And since it straddles the state border line between Nevada and California, you may also head to the Silver State and try your luck at the casinos.
6. See Vikingsholm, Lake Tahoe
When visiting Lake Tahoe, don’t forget to visit the castle-like architectural wonder known as Vikingsholm. Even though it’s underrated, it’s, to me, one of the best things to do in California. With its unique design, it’s often billed as a fine example of Scandinavian architecture. To make things even better, it has a long and intriguing history that goes all the way to the 1800s. Tours for Vikingsholm are available for guests from spring to the final days of summer.
7. Visit Alcatraz Island, San Francisco
Dive into the crime history of San Francisco by taking a one-of-a-kind tour on the infamous Alcatraz Island. Opened in 1934, the Alcatraz Prison housed some of America’s most dangerous and notorious criminals. In 1963, the prison was closed due to its high maintenance. Nowadays, there are daily tours to the prison. Step into a real prison cell in Alcatraz and catch some unique San Francisco’s scenes, to experience one of the crazily cool things to do in California.
8. Take a cable car ride in San Francisco
I know what you’re thinking. It’s rather expensive, touristy, and unlike Grab or Uber, you can’t rate the drivers on your mobile phone. But, trust me, it’s got to be one of the most exhilarating and fun things to do in California. Clinging to the boxy car’s exterior and feeling the wind in your hair while you descend and ascend over San Francisco’s distinct neighborhoods and famous steep hills, is a Californian experience you won’t forget.
9. Disneyland Park, Anaheim
Wondering what to do in California with the kids? Then, make sure to include a pit-stop to Disneyland Park to your list of things to do in California. Full of colors and life, this magical theme park is the perfect family destination, home to numerous attractions and things to do in California. Here, you and the rest of the family may go on an outer space experience, meet fairy-tale princesses, dive under the ocean, sail with pirates and explore jungles.
Keep in mind, though, that there’s more to Disneyland than its games, rides and shows for the little ones. Although it’s mainly designed for kids, there’s something for everybody in the family at Disneyland Anaheim. Besides its recreated worlds and rides, the park also features hotels, shopping centers and restaurant. No wonder travelers ranked it as one of the top family-friendly things to do in California.
10. Take a hike on Runyon Canyon, Los Angeles
Up for some fun things to do in California? Why not take a hike on the beloved Runyon Canyon? Glamorous yet a bit rigorous, this mountain trail offers a pleasant hiking experience, with stunning overlooking views of the entire city. As an added bonus, it gives you a chance to run alongside the hottest celebrities in Tinseltown.
11. Visit Calico Ghost Town, Yermo
Fond of historic attractions, and looking for some cool things to do in California? A former mining town, Calico has been resorted artfully to mirror its look and visual appeal in the 19th century. Listed as Historical Landmark in California, the town offers a plethora of activities, such ghost tours and old train rides.
12. Explore Balboa Park, San Diego
Balboa Park is a sprawling 1,200-acre oasis where nature, science and culture blend perfectly together. There are museums, walking paths, gardens and over 15 theaters begging to be explored and discovered. On top of it all, the park is home to another famed tourist attraction in California – the San Diego Zoo.
13. Visit Death Valley National Park
Death Valley features some of the most inhospitable terrain in California, with severe heat that has made this desert bizarrely beautiful. Sand dunes, dry parched land, mountains, salt fields and a lake sitting below sea level have created an extraordinary landscape in this secluded valley. Travelers may hike short trails, drive through national park and drop by at the lookout spots. Additionally, they can do some paddling in Badwater Lake and see the ruins of a former industry in the valley.
14. Hit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
No list of the best things to do in California is complete without the inclusion of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Sure, it’s not as popular as Disneyland, the Golden Gate Bridge or any of the other celebrated attractions and things to do in California. But, it’s home to undoubtedly the world’s largest trees. Not to mention, these sequoia tress are pretty old, with some existing for more than 3,000 years.
While both national parks in California feature gigantic sequoia trees, Sequoia is by far the place to see these ancient marvels. Furthermore, the national park is home to the steep Mount Whitney. Standing proudly at 14,495 feet, it’s , hands down, one of the tallest mountains in the US. A must-see here is the 272-foot General Sherman – the world’s largest single stem tree.
The Kings Canyon National Park, meanwhile, is wilder and more rugged, with roaring rivers, jagged peaks and secluded sections wherein you can enjoy nature and escape the crowds.
15. Visit Joshua Tree National Park
Speaking of national parks, don’t forget to include Joshua Tree to your bucket list of things to do in California. Famed for its impressive rock formations and giant boulders, the 800,000-acre park will sweep you away with its lunar-like landscapes and Joshua Trees. And, like most of national parks in California, Joshua Trees has a host of other remarkable attractions and sights.
16. Experience Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles
What are some fun things to do in California for film buffs? Visit The Universal Studios Hollywood! Not only were your favorite blockbusters likely filmed here, but it’s also an exciting amusement park. You’ll discover worlds or universes that you’ve only seen on the silver screen. Studio tours are available, allowing visitors to get a glimpse of the upcoming Hollywood flicks. Plus, the amusement park has a mishmash of ride simulators and roller coasters as well as plenty of options for dining.
17. See Hearst Castle, San Simeon
A visit to Hearst Castle is, to me, one of the can’t-miss things to do in California. Listed as a National Historic Landmark, the castle started out as ranch in the 1800s, and was turned into an estate to showcase the immaculate art collection of the owners. The grounds and castle are made up 165 rooms as well as 123 acres of walkways, pools, terraces and gardens. Pretty sweet, right?
18. Spend a day at SeaWorld San Diego
Traveling to San Diego with your family, and don’t where to go in California? You definitely should include a stopover at SeaWorld San Diego to your list of things to do in California. For years, this beloved theme park has been a classic American family destination, luring people from all over the country. Located in Mission Bay’s waterfront, SeaWorld offers close up marine life encounters, thrill rides as well as dolphin and orca shows.
19. Wander around Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Enjoy a mile of beach as well as boardwalk games and rides at the Santa Cruz Beach. Kids will have an absolute blast, and adults will feel like children again. Even better, the boardwalk has a host of cool events, such as concerts, cook-offs, movie nights on the beach and a whole lot more. So, if you’re visiting the sunny state, put it to your list of things to do in California.
20. Tour Big Sur
Big Sur is arguably the finest and most striking stretch on the Californian coast. And, with numerous places to picnic, camp and hike, it makes a great entry to your bucket list of things to do in California. Moreover, it has a multitude of overlooking spots that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a movie or a postcard. Since it’s a low-populated part of California, you’ll have a great deal of room for nature trips and exploration.
21. Head to Solvang
Think you have to spend a fortune and travel far to visit Denmark? Guess what? You don’t have to book a trip to Europe to see the beauty of Denmark. From Santa Barbara, you’ll just have to drive 35 miles northwest to Solvang, for a sweet taste of Denmark. Except for the sunny and warm weather, everything in this town screams Danish. From its horse-drawn carriage to its thatched roofs, the town has a strong and remarkable Danish influence that it can fool just anyone.
22. Check out the Getty, Los Angeles
They don’t call the Getty as one of the top attractions and things to do in California for nothing. As a matter of fact, the remarkable campus draws more than a million visitors every year. Overlooking the city of Los Angeles, the museum displays a dazzling range of artwork from various eras of art history.
23. Stroll Rodeo Drive, Los Angeles
A quintessential LA experience! Los Angeles visitors will instantly recognize this ritzy strip of expensive jewelry and clothes from the flick “Pretty Woman”. Personally, shopping seems a bad idea at Rodeo Drive since it’s one of the world’s most expensive shopping strips. Still, it’s worth a visit, especially if you love to do a little sightseeing in California.
24. Hike or camp at Yosemite National Park
Clearly, there’s no shortage of picturesque national parks in California. And, in my book, Yosemite leads the pack of the most gorgeous national parks in California. With world-class recreational opportunities, abundant wildlife and marvelous glacier-sculpted geology, it surely is one of the top things to do in California. Resplendent and exciting, the park has a plethora of fun activities, like big-wall rock climbing, wildlife watching, fishing, rafting and hiking.
25. Snap a Hollywood Sign selfie
The truth is, you can’t directly hike to LA’s Hollywood Sign. But, on the bright side, there’s a legal trail that lets you look out over the well-known sign. Likewise, there are places within the area where you can get a clear view of it.
26. Go on an eating spree at San Francisco Chinatown
Chinoiserie-adorned buildings, secret alleyways and lantern-strung streets are all worthy stops and Instagrammable sights of the historic Chinatown in San Francisco. But, the real draw here is the impeccable and delectable food. Don’t know where to start? Check out the Mister Jiu’s Michelin-starred dishes, savor Cold Drinks’ Asian scotch cocktails, and sample Juicy Fruit’s exotic fruit smoothies. A must-try at the SF Chinatown is Good Mong Kok Bakery’s dim sum dumpling.
27. Spend some time exploring Sacramento
Just because it’s not as celebrated as LA or San Francisco, a visit to Sacramento should still be on your bucket list of things to do in California. As far as I’m concerned, it is, by far, one of the most underrated places to visit in California and America. With a booming culinary scene, it’s bound to become a sought-after destination in the US. In addition, the city has a handful of intriguing sites, including the California State Capitol Museum and Old Sacramento Historic District.
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