Things to Do in California - page 3
Everybody loves shopping on vacation, and shopping for great deals at outlet stores is even better. Carlsbad Premium Outlets features a huge selection of designer and mainstream brands, with some 90 shops, including everything from Ralph Lauren and Barneys New York to Adidas and Crate and Barrel. The outlet mall boasts an outdoor setting, with storefronts along sunny walking paths, so shoppers can enjoy the Southern California weather as they peruse their finds. And just next door are the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, a vast flower garden that opens seasonally from March to May, where visitors can stroll the fields to see attractions like an American flag made out of red, white, and blue petunias.
Whether you're into adventure travel or are looking for a spot of relaxation, Heavenly Gondola—at the Heavenly Ski Resort—is a must-visit Lake Tahoe attraction. Ride the cable car to the top of the mountain, then gaze out over panoramic shore-to-shore views of turquoise Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains from up high or take to the hiking trails.
One of the most famous shopping districts in the world, Rodeo Drive attracts a well-heeled crowd of label lovers who exercise their credit cards at designer shops like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tiffany, and Gucci. Between the elegant storefronts, luxury cars, and swaying palm trees, it’s a Hollywood movie scene come to life.
It should come as no surprise that a city hailed for its beautiful coastline should consider its waterfront the #1 tourist attraction in the area. With a variety of restaurants, boating and sport fishing tours, a bird sanctuary, bike path, and a beautiful promenade connecting the Waterfront to the rest of the downtown area, the Santa Barbara Waterfront is, without a doubt, one of the glittering gems of Santa Barbara.
From State Street (the area’s main business street) head East to see Chase Palm Park (home to Sunday art-walks and where many a pickup soccer game begins), the Santa Barbara Skate Park, and the Bird Sanctuary. Head West from State Street and find the Harbor, Waterfront Museum, several restaurants, and water sports adventure tours.
When people think of what life is like for folks who actually live in Southern California, images similar to Huntington Beach typically come to mind. Appropriately nicknamed “Surf City USA,” Huntington Beach’s 10 miles of coastline and warm temperatures make outdoor living possible year round.
Popular activities revolve around the wide, sandy beaches, from surfing to volleyball, swimming and stand-up paddle boarding. When the sun sets, beach bonfires become the star attraction in the sand. Huntington Beach has more than over 500 fire rings, free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Hot dogs and s’mores cook nicely under the stars.
The Huntington Beach Pier is one of the longest piers on the West Coast, stretching 1,850 feet into the waves. It serves as the unofficial center of all of the action and is located on the Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street. Visitors can fish, shop, eat or just wander.
Set along California’s Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica has two claims to fame: the Santa Monica Beach and pier. At Santa Monica Beach, miles of sand host playgrounds, parks, picnic areas, staffed lifeguard stations, and the original Muscle Beach. Nearly 8 million visitors frequent the area each year, most of whom follow the boardwalk to the Santa Monica Pier, whose neon-lit arch and ferris wheel are instantly recognizable from film and TV.
Iconic Half Dome rises 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) above the floor of Yosemite Valley. Perhaps one of the most famous hikes in Yosemite National Park, Half Dome was once considered impossible to climb. Now hundreds of park visitors reach this magnificent granite formation’s summit each day, and countless more gaze at its towering face from below.
With its pristine waters, long stretches of sandy beach, rocky coves with giant boulders, and stunning panoramic views, Sand Harbor is one of the most popular beaches at Lake Tahoe. It’s the ideal place for the whole family to enjoy a day of fun in the sun surrounded by some of Lake Tahoe’s most spectacular scenery.
From steamships to submarines, the Maritime Museum of San Diego welcomes you aboard an array of historic ships, letting you delve into the rich maritime history of San Diego. Each vessel offers its own exhibits and experiences. The museum’s fleet ranges from the world’s oldest active sailing ship—Star of India—to modern submarines.
Vikingsholm Castle is a historic mansion and architectural highlight of Lake Tahoe. Located in beautiful Emerald Bay State Park, the majestic home overlooks the lake’s scenic Emerald Bay and Fannette Island. Blending seamlessly with its surrounding natural environment, Vikingsholm is considered to be one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere.
More Things to Do in California
Once the stomping ground of Italian fishermen, Fisherman’s Wharf is now one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist destinations. The bustling waterfront strip is filled with souvenir shops, seafood restaurants, and a wealth of family-friendly attractions—most notably a colony of sea lions that sunbathes and poses for photos on Pier 39.
After the great earthquake of 1925 ruined much of the city, an opportunity arose to give this beloved city by the sea something that would reflect the areas culture and beauty; something that would both honor and impress its residents. Designed in Spanish-Moorish style and completed in 1929, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse is now one of the main tourist attractions on a visit to the American Riviera.
One of the most beautiful government buildings in all of the United States, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a working courthouse, but visitors are encouraged to explore what its grounds hold in store for them. Here you’ll find the Sunken gardens where many weddings take place, an elevator to the 85-foot “El Mirador” clock tower for a panoramic view of downtown Santa Barbara, many hand-painted rooms full of detail (including the fantastic Mural Room), the Spirit of the Ocean fountain, and many wrought-iron hand-rails and window coverings which make the courthouse what it is – spectacular.
In its heyday, the Salton Sea was the largest inland lake in California with 130 miles of shoreline and lots of resort towns. Eventually, rising salinity levels threatened local wildlife, and health concerns sent the tourists fleeing. It is now a state park and recreation area and a modern artists’ playground.
Ansel Adams is known for his striking black-and-white photos, capturing and preserving the wild beauty of nature’s monuments. Through his poignant images of Half Dome and Vernal Fall, Yosemite became a symbol for the evocative drama of the American West, and the park took its place in the hearts and consciousness of the American public.
This towering flow of water is one of Yosemite’s best known waterfalls, accessible on the ground by a moderate hike. Its volume depends on the season, though it generally runs year-round.
Depending on the amount of water, there is either one massive waterfall or several smaller strands falling across the rock to the valley below. Vernal Fall flows from the Nevada Falls above before plunging over the rock. The waterfall is about 317 feet tall, so it’s impressive (and often a bit damp) standing right at its base. Aside from the water there is often lots of greenery surrounding the falls, which adds to its scenery. The falls also produce a fine mist that can create rainbows.
The steep hiking trail that leads to Vernal Fall is mostly rock steps, but the views are worth the climb. There is also plenty of natural scenery, of Merced River and Yosemite Valley, to enjoy on the way up. If you’d rather see it from a distance, Vernal Fall is also visible from the Glacier Point overlook.
On the southern tip of the Point Loma peninsula, which separates the Pacific Ocean from San Diego Bay, Cabrillo National Monument stands in honor of Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who journeyed up the California coast in the mid-1500s. Stop at the statue for views of the open sea, bay, and San Diego skyline.
San Francisco’s Chinatown, one of North America’s oldest and largest, has long been one of the city’s top attractions. Highlights of this bustling neighborhood that dates back to the California Gold Rush include shops, dim sum restaurants, temples, and markets.
The Funk Zone is a hip, artistic neighborhood in Santa Barbara, CA, and it has become a haven for artists, artisans, wine makers, and chefs. Visitors will find plenty of artisan shops, art galleries, hip eateries, award-winning microbreweries, and a craft distillery, and many of them are located in aged warehouses and forgotten scuba shops. There are countless tasting rooms and a few specialty wineries. Five of the wineries located in the Funk Zone are part of the Urban Wine Trail, which is a group of wineries in Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley.
There is always something to do in the Funk Zone. Try a new or established restaurant, or check out the gourmet food trucks. Attend an art gallery opening. Taste a variety of local wines. Shop at quirky boutiques and thrift stores. This neighborhood is the perfect place to enjoy a trendy, artsy vibe no matter what activities you choose.
San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts dates to the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition. One of the only remaining buildings from the World’s Fair, the Greco-Roman–inspired ruin is a favorite Bay Area venue. Walk under the picturesque rotunda, wander the grounds, and visit lagoons that are home to ducks, swans, and geese.
The world-famous San Diego Zoo presents a stunning variety of nature’s largest, smallest, exotic, and most endangered creatures. The epic zoo has more than 3,700 animals representing over 800 species in a beautifully landscaped 100 acres (40.5 hectares), typically in lush enclosures that replicate their natural habitat. San Diego Zoo is considered to be one of the best and well-known zoos in the world, and is a must-see attraction in sunny Southern California.
Home to towering Sequoia trees, Tuolumne Grove is one of the most popular day hikes in Yosemite National Park. The hike to the grove is relatively short—only 2.5 miles (4km) round trip—and generally takes around two hours including the stops to crane your neck skyward and admire the ancient trees. One of the park’s three Sequoia groves, Tuolumne Grove is home to 25 of the massive trees, and also includes a “drive through tree,” which although it is no longer open to vehicles, makes for one of the more interesting photos you’ll take when visiting the park.
To learn more about the history of the grove, as well as the trees themselves, you can join in a guided hike to the grove when the trail is open in summer, or experience having the grove to yourself on a snowshoeing trip in winter.
Despite its name, San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood does not border the water and has no sandy spots. But its position between Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and the Embarcadero makes it one of the city’s most popular areas for visitors and locals, all of whom enjoy its Italian eateries, Beat history, quiet park, and nightlife scene.
Though it doesn’t often get the attention of its famous sibling, the Golden Gate, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is spectacular in its own right. Once the largest and most expensive bridge of its time, in 75 years the Bay Bridge has proved critics wrong – the dream of connecting San Francisco to Oakland would not be stopped by anything. Logistics, cost, and politics couldn’t stop the expansion, and now the Bay Bridge has made history yet again my becoming the world’s largest self -anchored suspension bridge. Safely transporting the 280,000 automobiles that transverse its roads every day, the Bay Bridge connects San Francisco to Oakland, with a little stop at Yerba Buena Island along the way.
The 1,000-plus acres (412 hectares) of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park are home to museums, picnic sites, lakes, golf, hiking and biking paths, concerts, and more. From the attraction-laden east end to the wilder west side where bison roam, the park offers plenty of ways to relax, get a culture fix, exercise, or gather with friends.
- Things to do in Santa Barbara
- Things to do in Los Angeles
- Things to do in Yosemite National Park
- Things to do in Long Beach
- Things to do in San Francisco
- Things to do in Palm Springs
- Things to do in Paso Robles
- Things to do in San Luis Obispo
- Things to do in Pismo Beach
- Things to do in Santa Monica
- Things to do in Sausalito
- Things to do in La Jolla
- Things to do in Nevada
- Things to do in Arizona
- Things to do in Utah