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California Trip Planning

Planning a trip to California is no easy feat with the number of incredible places to visit in California. Factor in the weather, tourist season, national parks, and road trips, there are a few things to consider when devising your California trip. But never fear dear reader, these guides will help get your travel bug juices flowing and guide you to inspiration for your upcoming trip plus provide you with the must-know details before traveling to the Golden State.

Places to Go in California

Whether you’re after beaches, nightlife, unique nature, or fabulous sights of any kind, California doesn’t disappoint. This big state has no shortage of top destinations to visit and these California travel guides will help you to plan an unforgettable trip. 

Los Angeles

A city of dreams, Los Angeles is a destination at the top of many people’s travel bucket list. While you may have already made up your mind about visiting LA or not, it really is a quintessential place to visit in California. Glitz and glam are here, of course, but what other city in the world has hiking trails just miles from the city, and is lined with so many manicured beaches? Let’s not forget about the culinary scene that is prominent in Los Angeles or the arts, culture, and diversity that is also found here. Love it or hate it, LA is always a spot worth exploring again.

Things to do in San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco barely needs an introduction, as this world-class city should be at the top of your California bucket list (yes, even above LA). Home to a major foodie scene, gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, plenty of hills, and so many things to do for tourists and locals alike, there’s no doubt that you’ll leave your heart in San Francisco when you visit. Not to mention the California attractions just outside of the city limits such as Sonoma (hey, wine!), Redwood National Park, Point Reyes, and more. San Francisco boomed during the Gold Rush and it’s still booming, so much that earthquakes can disrupt this must-visit spot on the Pacific Coast. It’s one incredible city that seriously can’t be missed.

San Diego

San Diego is everything most big cities aren’t: welcoming. The city is made up of a number of different areas with their own distinct vibe that join together with a confident attitude that makes locals call San Diego ‘America’s Finest City.’ Come here for a chilled, laid-back surfer vibe where the beaches are abundant, nature is on the doorstep and the food is finger-licking good.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs and the greater Palm Springs area is far more than just a hot spot for retirees, golfers, and those seeking a luxurious weekend away from the big city. A trip to the desert will treat you to the hot springs that Palm Springs is known for, but venture a little further out and you’ll be rewarded with scenic desert views on hikes, over Coachella Valley, riding a cable car through a canyon, or even in the midst of the incredibly popular Joshua Tree National Park. But if you choose to stay in town you’ll walk where stars such as Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra once loved, and be charmed by the retro-chic style of this must-visit town.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe draws in visitors throughout the year as this nature-lovers paradise has a glow-up for every season. Avid hikers visit Lake Tahoe for the numerous trails and stunning viewpoints year-round, while those who prefer the powdered snow-covered mountains stick to winter. Regardless of what level of adrenaline you prefer when on a trip, Lake Tahoe is a top choice. Cozy up in a cabin, relax on a beach, bike, kayak, and more, this Nothern California destination will surely have you wanting to visit for longer.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite hardly needs an introduction as it’s California’s most famous park. So famous that draws in roughly 4 million visitors a year! But don’t let the number of visitors a year deter you from getting up close to the magnificent beauty of this natural attraction. Look up and you’ll find yourself surrounded by granite walls that tower over you, waterfalls that plunge from extraordinary heights, and Yosemite Valley that will no doubt take your breath away. Half Dome is a popular and tough climb, but adventurers of all levels are welcome here, with plenty to do for all ages that will have you wanting to stay for longer and keep you from moving on from the exquisite beauty that is Yosemite National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park

As much beautiful nature that California has, Joshua Tree is home to some of the most unique. Far from just the famous Joshua trees themselves, this national park has an abundance of wildlife, sights, plants, and rock formations that are quite uncommon. No trip to Southern California should be done without at least a day trip to Joshua Tree, but if you can, spend more time exploring this desert area. While hiking and camping is easily the most common thing to do in Joshua Tree National Park, there are lots of unusual sights around too.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Move of Yosemite, these alluring parks are a big star in California too. Home to some of the largest trees in the world, the famous sequoias, and stunning in any season, don’t pass up on making your way to these lesser-visited parks. Hiking, caving, rock climbing, and epic scenery for road trips are just some of the highlights of Sequoia & Kings Canyon. For a chance to experience legendary nature up-close and without the crowds then make sure you add these parks to your California itinerary!

Death Valley National Park

Don’t let the name of this California park convince you that it isn’t worthy of a visit. A harsh name, yes, but it comes with the terrain. As one of the largest national parks in the US, you most likely won’t see all of it, but what you do see with surely be other-worldly, transporting you to lands that are difficult to put into words. The expansive area of Death Valley should be explored to witness how extreme nature can be. Home to the lowest in the US and the record holder of the hottest temperatures, Death Valley National Park is a place for adventurers, intrigued travelers, and explorers alike. 

Big Sur

This stretch of rugged coastline in California draws in artists, hippies, and city slickers hoping for some time in nature to recharge. While some believe that Big Sur is just another name for Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, it’s more than just the park’s area. Stretching between the Santa Lucia Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean, few call this area home, but many adore visiting the rustic landscape that is a haven for those looking for some time in nature and to witness the beauty and power of Mother Earth.

Things to do in Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park

Forget the beaches and sunny skies you picture when you think of California, the northern redwoods are a completely different California destination. Instead, picture yourself amongst some of the tallest trees in the world, walking your way along dirt paths that weave you between the trees, under a canopy of greenery where the light shines through. Fog is common here and only adds to the beautiful moody scenery that this scenic part of California is familiar with. Redwood National Park and the surrounding state parks are worthy of a visit for any and every outdoor lover.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes National Seashore

Venture north from San Francisco along the coast and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to come across the truly picturesque Point Reyes National Seashore. This part of California and the surrounding areas are filled with coastal and inland hiking trails, and an abundance of wildlife both on land, in the water, and in the air. Aside from the natural scenery, Point Reyes has great camping, one of two tidefalls (a waterfall that plunges into the ocean) in California, and small towns that great spots for foodies.

June Lake

Known as the Switzerland of California, June Lake may be a lesser-known destination, but it’s certainly not one to pass up on visiting! If you’re ever in the area (or simply want to just visit June Lake on its own), please do. Multiple alpine lakes dot the area and it’s an excellent addition to a Highway 395 road trip. Not to mention on your way to June Lake from a spot such as Francisco a trip will lead through Yosemite. Skiing, hiking, swimming, scenic driving…June Lake has natural entertainment year-round.

Mammoth Lakes

Waterfalls, towering mountains, alpine lakes, and snowy ski hills, and even hot pools! Mammoth Lakes is an adventure-land for outdoor lovers. The best part? It welcomes nature seekers year-round with an abundance of activities and natural beauty on display throughout the seasons. Take to the hiking trails in the area and around, hit Mammoth Mountain once the snow covers the hills, and find yourself taking in the glory of crystal clear lakes. Head to Mammoth Lakes for an epic weekend of adventure from San Francisco, Los Angeles, or even Las Vegas.

More California Destinations