California is one of the unique states of the US. Most people associate California only with Hollywood and travel south, and fail to understand that there are lots of places to visit and much more things to do in California. Stunning countrysides, enchanting cities, ancient sites, water sports, untouched nature – the ‘Left Coast’ has a lot to offer. Bursting with the feeling of adventure and lots of sunshine, people romanticize this place in popular culture and movies too.
Los Angeles or San Diego are the go-to places for people on extended holidays as they are some of the coolest places to visit. However, travelers should work their way up along the coast and head towards the northern mountainous regions. Taking a drive along the breathtaking Pacific Coast Highway is undoubtedly going to be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.
The natural beauty of the Big Sur, Joshua tree, and the Redwood forest is sure to amaze you. Apart from that, fantastic hiking spots, road trips, camping spots, and great food are sure to capture your attention for the rest of the journey.
Best Time to Plan A Trip to California
There isn’t just one particular season where you can plan a trip to California. It is one of those places which you can visit all around the year. It has a delightful Mediterranean climate with snug and sunny summers, and moist, cool winters.
The variations in temperatures due to the vast size of this state is another reason to plan your trip properly. The inland regions experience dry summers, vibrant autumn, cold winters – with snowfall in higher regions, and gentle spring months. Whereas the coastal areas experience temperatures that rarely dip below 20⁰C (68⁰F), there the sea breeze cools down even the hottest days.
January to March
The winter months vary from the Bay Area and San Francisco having cold coastal temperatures to Los Angeles and San Diego in the south experiencing warm, sunny days. It is the most cost-effective time to travel, with very few visitors present at the regional attractions, even though some of them close at this point. The snowfall in higher regions makes it ideal for winter sports. During this time, grey whales migrate through Monterey Bay, making it one of the most famous attractions of that time.
April to May
The increasing temperatures have a positive impact on the theme parks and beaches in southern California. It also causes the snow to melt, revealing forest canopies and hiking trails. The waterfalls at their peak beauty at this point gush onto the granite boulders with immense pressure, which later flows into the lush green valleys below.
During this time, one of the most famous music festivals – the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, takes place in Palm Springs.
June to August
During this time, all the major sites open for business and are at their peak season prices. The summer here is generally hot and sunny and attracts a lot of crowd on the beaches as it clashes with the school holidays. It is undoubtedly one of the busiest periods for tourism.
San Diego hosts one of the largest comic-con festivals in the world – The San Diego Comic-con, which attracts pop culture enthusiasts from all over the world.
September to October
The mild climate during the autumn season attracts lots of tourists who want to experience the picturesque greenery. It is the grape harvest time in the wine regions of California and is also known as the crush. The North Coast regions experience fog during the summers.
A two-week food festival hosted by Sacramento promotes fresh local produce.
November to December
Chilly days in certain parts of the state and sunny days in the remaining areas show the variation in winter seasons across the state. The inland deserts can be the best place to visit during this time with warm and clear days. A visit to the central coast could let you experience cooler, misty conditions.
This is the time when people prepare for the festive season across states, cities, and towns with decorative displays and light shows.
This Golden state has a lot of attractions and loads of things to do around. Read along to know about all the fun things that you can do apart from visiting Disneyland and Hollywood.
Fun Things You Must Try While Traveling in California
Alcatraz Prison Tour
Once home to some of the most infamous criminals, this prison located off the shore of San Francisco, operated from 1934 to 1963. Famously known as the Rock, this island is home to unpredictable weather conditions. The presence of inmates like “Birdman” Robert Stroud, “Machine Gun” Kelly, and many others added to the notoriety of this place. However, many people are unaware of the historical significance of this place.
In the 19th century, this island served as a military prison and harbor defense port. The remainders of the American Indian occupation between 1969 to 1971 etched on this island is an important landmark for the American Indian rights movement.
Renovations and restorations are unearthing the numerous stories locked away in the books of history. If you are a history enthusiast, or if such places intrigue you, it is a must-visit.
Go on an Alcohol Tasting Spree in the NAPA Valley
Alcohol tasting is the heart of Napa Valley. With several breweries and wineries scattered around in this region, it makes it the perfect place to go on an alcohol tasting spree. This area has some boutique wineries to famous brand name producers like Hall St. Helena, Castello di Amorosa, Sterling Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, to name a few.
You can ask your tour agency or any local tour agency to organize wine tours, group tours, and across the valley transportation facilities to make the most of the valley. These hills have beautiful vineyards, and it would be a pity to miss such a sight.
In the wineries, you can taste famous wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, etc. If you are a lover of alcohol and love earthy, spicy tastes, then you should surely try Aviation Gin. It has a hint of flamed orange peel and birch beer and leaves a long, warm after-taste.
Trip to Death Valley
Dead and foreboding, the Death Valley is one of the hottest places in Eastern California. It consists of miles of barren desert and sweltering heat, which can become quite extreme during the day when the sun becomes too oppressive.
Although officials warn the tourists against going to the valley during the day, it is still one of the most famous tourist attractions of California. If you wish to see the valley uninterrupted on a clear day, make sure to visit the place called Dante’s View and visit in the early hours of the day.
The best time to explore this beautiful valley is during spring when wildflowers bloom, or autumn, when you get to see clear skies. Although winter can be quite cold, it remains great in terms of crowd and weather.
Go For Stand-up Paddle Boarding
Being a relaxing and exciting sport, it is similar to surfing. You can go for a relaxed paddle, or go in for the waves to experience the ultimate adventure sports. This sport involves standing on the board while paddling and moving through the water. You need to balance on the board to paddle and gain momentum.
It is an inexpensive sport, with rental shops and instructors everywhere. The instructors are experienced and eager to teach beginners. There is no better place than California to go paddle boarding as the water becomes colder up north due to the pacific currents.
Some of the most famous places to go paddle boarding are:
- Mission Bay: Being one of the largest man-made salt bays, it is perfect for SUP fishing. The water remains calm on windy days too because of its three-sided enclosure, making it an ideal spot for beginners.
- Lake Tahoe: One of the most famous destinations of Northern California, at the border of Nevada, has the most transparent water you will ever find. If you want to see the magnificent boulders below clear waters, this is the perfect spot for you. Plan a visit in November to evade crowds.
- The Golden Gate Bridge: A magnificent view of the mountains in the north, The Golden Gate Bridge, with San Francisco’s beautiful skyline in the background – what can be better than this? The main launch point at Horseshoe Cove can experience rough waters on some days. Also, make sure to look out for the boats around you, as it is a famous spot for boating too.
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Drop By The Big Sur Region
Covering approximately 90 miles along California’s Central Coast, the Big Sur is undoubtedly one of the coolest places to visit. With the Pacific Coast Highway running through it, this place proudly displays the famous Bixby Bridge.
Numerous lighthouses and majestic cliffs on the West Coast of the US, adorn this region. You can rent an RV to explore this beautiful region, or if you know how to drive, you can do that too, but make sure to have assistance along with you.
This region overflows with traffic during the peak summer months, so the best time to visit is autumn or early spring. It is better to stay off this track during the winter months as it experiences rainfall.
Plan a Trip to Redwood National Park
For those who consider that visiting one national park in America is like visiting all of them, it is a wrong assessment. The Redwood National Park, located in Northern California, is home to the tallest, most massive trees in the world. It is one of the best places to visit in California.
Densely populated, with a rare species of sequoia trees, these are the only surviving variety of its genus, the tallest of them being 400 feet high and 30 feet in diameter. To make paths along the forest, engineers had to simply bore through these trees instead of cutting them down due to its size. So basically, you will be traveling between the trees.
The best time to visit this national park is during summer, due to low rainfalls and warmer temperatures.
Visit McWay Falls
Located on the coast of Big Sur, the McWay Falls is an 80-foot waterfall that flows around the year from McWay Creek in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
Landslides, mudflows, and construction work of the highway led to the formation of this place. The deposition of landslide debris and the action of waves led to the deposition of some material on the McWay Cove, which formed a sandy beach right beneath the falls, where nothing existed before. During high tide, the waterfall drains directly into the ocean. In the coming years, the place might not exist due to constant wave action, and the falls may directly drain into the ocean again as it used to previously.
The beach is inaccessible due to the cliffs surrounding it, and you can only reach there by boat. You can hike along the McWay Creek, which is a 0.5-mile-long trail, starting at the parking area east of Highway 1. You have to walk down the dirt path, through a short tunnel, to reach the place which overlooks the falls. The Browns’ Mansion was formerly present on this site, and you can see the remnants of the foundations of the mansion now. It is one of the most peaceful and beautiful places to visit in California.
An Ending Note
If you are planning a trip to California, be ready for an experience of a lifetime. Boredom can never get to you because of the abundance of things that you can do here. Also, be careful on the trip. Be aware of your surroundings in places like Los Angeles, even though it is a safe place to travel. Let your close ones know where you are traveling to, and save them the tension of your whereabouts. But most importantly, enjoy your trip.