The 10 Best Things to do in California

by AA

Question: What are the best 10 things to do in California?

Answer: Top 10 lists are always fun, and California is such a large and varied state that there are plenty of activities to choose from. Normally, I cover only the coastal areas of California on this web site, but I'll make an exception here, because there are some amazing things far from the coast that most certainly should be included on a Top 10 List. So here's my take, in no particular order.

  1. Visit the Redwoods. There are actually two different species called redwoods, and they're both huge and spectacular trees. The coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are found in the moist coastal areas of Northern California, where they form lush, ferny groves. You'll find the most impressive groves in Redwood National Park and the various Redwood State Parks. Other locations include Muir Woods (in Marin County, north of San Francisco) and Big Basin Redwoods State Park (near Santa Cruz).

    The other species is the giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), which is found in the drier habitat of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. You'll find the most impressive specimens in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in Central California.

  2. Visit Yosemite National Park. This mountain valley carved out by glaciers is a natural wonder and boasts some of the most magnificent scenery in California. It's awe-inspiring any time of the year.

  3. Have fun at Disneyland. Southern California boasts numerous amusement parks and water parks, but Disneyland is the grandaddy of them all. To my mind, it's still the best.

  4. Visit San Diego. With a nearly perfect climate, beautiful beaches and charm to spare, San Diego is a prime tourist destination. The San Diego Zoo is world class, and Balboa Park is one of the loveliest urban parks in the nation, featuring numerous museums, gardens, restaurants and other attractions. You won't want to miss Coronado Municipal Beach, which belongs on any list of America's best beaches.

  5. Go on a whale watching cruise. Whale watching is a popular activity in California, and it's available in many places along the coast. During the gray whale migration (from December through April), tours are offered throughout California. However, you'll find whale watching cruises offered year-round in many places from the Bay Area to San Diego.

  6. Play the tourist in San Francisco. The City by the Bay is a great place to go sightseeing. You can take a ride on a cable car, stroll around Fisherman's Wharf, go on a tour of Alcatraz, visit the many museums and attractions in Golden Gate Park, or take a walk on the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. There are also numerous guided sight-seeing tours available.

  7. Take a drive through Big Sur. You've already seen this stretch of Highway 1; it's featured in innumerable auto commercials and movies. It's the most scenic drive in California, with numerous pull-outs so you can stop and take in the view. And if you have time to get out and explore, take a short hike to McWay Falls, or one of Big Sur's many scenic beaches.

  8. Get in the water. There are many ways to enjoy California's beaches, but for the ultimate California experience you've got to get into the water. You can rent a bodyboard just about anywhere in Southern California, and the sport is the perfect introduction to riding the waves. If you're more adventurous, take surfing lessons. You can even explore the coast in a kayak; rentals and guided tours are widely available.

  9. Visit Wine Country. Many vineyards and wineries in California offer tours and tasting rooms, and there are tour companies that offer guided tours. But there's more to California's wine country than Napa Valley. You can also enjoy tours in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. In the Bay Area, numerous vineyards and wineries are found in the Santa Cruz Mountains. And on the central coast, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties offer outstanding wineries.

  10. Relax on the American Riviera, Santa Barbara. This elegant small city is famous for its Mission-style architecture and red-tiles roofs, which you can explore on the self-guided Red Tile Walking Tour. Santa Barbara also boasts some lovely beaches, a beautiful historic Mission, plenty of cultural offerings, and a vibrant night-life.


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