Deciding to travel to California? Look at our carefully selected list of top California attractions below on the best thing to do in California and places to go in California. Wondrous Drifter is a Web 3 travel company that aspires to disrupt the travel industry.
In the United States, California is one of the most popular tourist destinations.
For all its sheen and glamour, there is a lot more to the state than its polished, brochure-ready appearance would lead you to believe.
The Golden State has a lot to offer the adventurous traveler, from sunny beaches to foggy forests.
You won’t have any difficulty finding things to do in California that will excite you.
You may not be aware, but some of the west coast’s most significant landmarks may be found in California. Even a short drive along some of California’s state roads may be mind-blowing.
The view becomes more dramatic and stunning with each mile marker passed on the way between Mexico and Oregon. Geographically, the state of California is quite diverse.
The state is home to beautiful beaches, lakes, woods, mountains, marshes, and deserts.
The cultural diversity of the state matches the diversity of its terrain. In addition to the world-class entertainment provided by Hollywood, California is also a global leader in technology and the arts.
On the same day, you may shake hands with Mickey Mouse and an Orca whale. This is the state of California.
Other notable attractions include several wine regions, Michelin-starred eateries, and Hollywood. With so much to see and do in the Golden State, it may be difficult to fit everything into one or two visits.
With its breathtaking views of Monterey Bay, the 17-Mile Drive is a must-see for visitors.
In the exclusive Pebble Beach neighborhood, this road takes drivers through the Del Monte Forest, past palatial homes, and along picture-perfect cliffs and beaches.
The famous Lone Cypress Tree can be found at one of the many lookout points marked along the route.
To make the most of the 17-Mile Drive, book a room or dine at one of the Pebble Beach Resorts’ properties, such as The Lodge at Pebble Beach or The Inn at Spanish Bay, to take in the beautiful scenery that surrounds the properties.
Please be aware that 17-Mile Drive charges a small fee for access.
Table of Contents
- Alcatraz Island
- Anza Borrego Desert
- Anacapa Island
- Big Sur
- Balboa Fun Zone (Newport Beach)
- Burney Falls (Burney)
- Bodie State Historic Park (Bridgeport)
- California State Railroad Museum (Sacramento)
- Cabrillo National Monument (San Diego)
- Chinatown San Francisco
- Death Valley National Park
- Desert Hot Springs
- Disneyland (Anaheim)
A trip to Alcatraz Island is a must-do while in California.
The first fort and lighthouse built by the United States on the west coast are located on Alcatraz Island.
The notorious federal penitentiary, which was located on the island from 1934 to 1963, is also located there.
You can take a tour of the now-closed prison cells.
It was closed to the public for decades, but now the prison can be toured and even visited at night.
Take a ferry from San Francisco to the island’s shores as the first step.
Once you’ve stepped foot on dry land, you have complete freedom to explore the area and take in all the sights.
Of course, the prison itself is the main attraction, and visitors can take an audio tour of the complex, which is available in a variety of languages.
You can also visit the island’s lighthouse or the island’s abandoned military forts.
For those who enjoy the outdoors, there are rock pools and a variety of migratory birds to see.
Visitors are advised that the weather on the island can change at any time, so they should plan accordingly.
Address: San Francisco, CA 94133, United States
Anza Borrego Desert
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a world unto itself despite being only two hours east of San Diego’s beaches.
As a result of the Anza Borrego Desert’s location on both sides of the California-Colorado border, you can visit it without ever having to set foot in the other state.
California’s largest state park protects 600,000 acres/242,811 hectares of desert terrain, including dramatic badlands, cool palm oases, twisting slot canyons, and cactus-studded slopes, on the eastern side of the Peninsular Ranges, which blocks most storms coming in from the Pacific.
“borrego” (Spanish word for sheep) refers to the region’s native bighorn sheep in this desert preserve, named after famed Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza who crossed the desert in 1774.
A naturalist’s dream, the catclaws and manzanitas thrive in spite of the harsh conditions.
The park’s striking landscape is a geology lesson in progress, as it is constantly changing due to flash floods, seismic activity, and erosion.
Metal art sculptures, which can be found throughout the Anza Borrego Desert, are also a popular draw for tourists.
You can’t miss Ricardo Breceda’s 130 massive metal sculptures as you enter the park just outside the town of Borrego Springs.
This land was once home to prehistoric animals like the saber-tooth cat, as well as mythical creatures like a 350-foot-long snake.
Whether they’re depictions of mythical dragons or geometric abstractions, they’re always interesting.
The desert is close to several Native American reservations if you’re interested in learning about other cultures.
There are few places in Anza-Borrego that aren’t wild and remote, accessible only via primitive roads or by foot.
A high clearance 4WD rental vehicle or a Jeep tour with California Overland may be the best option for getting around this area. To reap the rewards, you’ll find yourself immersed in the world’s most incomparable beauty and serenity.
Address: 200 Palm Canyon Dr, Borrego Springs, CA 92004, United States
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A few miles off the coast of California, Anacapa Island is a nature-dream lover’s destination.
The small Anacapa is the most visited of all the Channel Islands because of its proximity to the mainland (12 miles out to sea). The boat ride there takes about an hour, and you can see the entire island in half a day.
The island is only accessible by sea; there are no stores or restaurants or shopping malls in the area.
There are few public restrooms to be found. There are no public telephones. Cell phone signals are almost non-existent.
You’ll need to bring your own food and drink to the island.
The island’s lighthouse, built in 1932, emits a piercing horn to warn ships away from the island’s treacherous shoreline.
Anacapa Island is the place to go if you want the best hike of your life.
There’s a 2-mile loop trail around the islet that passes Inspiration Point and Cathedral Cove, two spectacular overlooks. The two smaller Anacapa islets and Santa Cruz Island, which is (relatively) large, can both be seen from Inspiration Point.
There are few places in the world where you can find such pristine wilderness in today’s world of commercialized parks and gardens.
Look for seals and sea lions from the sea cliffs, as well as kayakers exploring the island’s 30 sea caves.
It will allow you to commune with the natural world in a way that is impossible in more crowded and urban areas..
On calm days, you can swim in the landing cove on East Anacapa, where the sea cliffs are hundreds of feet high.
Bring your snorkeling gear so that you can see the garibaldis and the giant sea kelp up close and personal. Don’t forget to pack a hat for the sun. Anacapa Island is devoid of any kind of vegetation.
Address: Anacapa Island, California
The Big Sur, a 90-mile stretch of California’s Central Coast, is considered by many to be one of the world’s most beautiful drives.
Big Sur is one of California’s most stunning tourist destinations because of its location between the mountains and the ocean.
The Santa Lucia Mountains to the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains is a popular driving route for about 3 million people each year.
If you’re looking for the best scenic drive ever, this one is for you.
The Bixby Bridge, the world’s tallest single-span bridge, the Point Sur lighthouse, and the McWay Falls, which plunge 80 feet into the ocean, are just a few of the points of interest along the way.
You’ll see a wide variety of landscapes, from rolling hills to the crashing waves of the ocean. All of these places are accessible by foot or by car.
The route itself is 90 miles long, but there are numerous nearby parks, forests, beaches, and campgrounds where you can extend your explorations and have even more fun.
If you want to get away from it all and recharge, Big Sur is the place to go. These destinations also offer a wide range of outdoor activities.
Hike the Pine Ridge Trail, cool off at Pfeiffer Beach, and look for nephrite jade crystals at Jade Cove on your trip to the area.
This secluded corner of California’s central coast should be on everyone’s travel wish list.
Address: Big Sur, California, USA
Balboa Fun Zone (Newport Beach)
Located in Newport Beach, the Balboa Fun Zone serves as one of the last great coastal amusement parks in Southern California and is a popular family attraction for visitors.
The Balboa Fun Zone is a good substitute for Disneyland if you enjoy amusement parks but lack the time or resources to visit the California landmark.
Ride the waterfront Ferris Wheel, play games in the arcade, or visit the nautical museum while you eat your favorite beach snacks.
If you ride the Ferris wheel to the very top, you’ll see the ocean, and you can also participate in unusual harbor activities like whale watching or bayside bungee jumping.
In addition, the Balboa Fun Zone is suitable for visitors of all ages.
Bicycle rentals, harbor cruises, whale watching, or a day trip to Catalina Island are all popular activities at Balboa Newport Beach.
Carousels, arcade games, and gentle ferry rides are just a few of the kid-friendly activities available in California if you’re planning a trip there with your family.
It’s a wonderful spot to take the whole family.
How to Get to the Balboa Park Family Fun Area
It is possible to access the Balboa Fun Zone by way of Balboa Blvd. on the Balboa Peninsula, across the street from the Balboa Pier.
Across Balboa Blvd, next to the pier, there is a public parking lot.
Alternatively, the auto ferry on Balboa Island will take you to the Balboa Fun Zone.
Address: 600 E Bay Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92661, United States
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Burney Falls (Burney)
One of California’s best-kept secrets, Burney Falls is 60 miles northeast of Redding in an area of the Shasta Cascade range that appears to be nothing more than a jumble of worn cinder cones and open plains beneath a cloudless sky.
This 129-foot-tall, the fern-draped waterfall is one of the most impressive sights in California, if not the whole continent.
You have to visit Burney Falls to believe its size, which Theodore Roosevelt once dubbed “the eighth wonder of the world.”.
Water pours into the lake below from almost a dozen different locations, and it does so continually throughout the year.
When the broad wall of water confronts you head on, you’ll need to raise your voice to communicate (or just enjoy the silence).
It roars over mossy ledges and down fern-covered faces, hurling rainbow-tipped gushers and shards in all directions before plunging into a crystal-clear pool where you can see air bubble flumes extending far below the surface.
Every day, the waterfall discharges more than 100,000,000 (one hundred million) gallons of water into the river below.
The cold volumes of snowmelt flow from the sieve-like volcanic rock face in addition to the main falls.
Visitors to Burney Falls in the dry season will be happy to know that the falls are unaffected by a lack of rainfall!
The best time to see the falls is in the spring, from April through October, when the snow is beginning to melt.
There’s a lot more to McArthur Burney Falls State Park than just the waterfall, so you can go camping, fishing, or kayaking on the neighboring nature trails after you’re done with sightseeing.
If you’re a fan of heights, you may climb to the top of a number of observation sites to get a birds-eye perspective.
You’ll remember Burney Falls for a long time to come. In fact, it’ll linger indefinitely in your mind.
It’s one of the top things to do in California for a variety of reasons.
There are five miles of hiking trails inside the park, as well as the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs through the park.
Address: Highway 89, Burney, CA 96013, USA
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Bodie State Historic Park (Bridgeport)
Bodie State Historic Park is an authentic California gold-mining ghost town.
When Waterman S. Body (William Bodey) found a tiny quantity of gold in the hills north of Mono Lake, the town was named after him.
A mining cave-in in 1875 which resulted in the discovery of pay dirt led to the purchase of the mine by the Standard Company in 1877. Bodie transformed into a boomtown overnight.
However, many left the town after all the gold got mined. Economic activities tanked and never recovered.
As just a small portion of the town has been preserved, the ruins of Bodie have been placed in a “arrested degradation” status and are protected as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park since 1962.
Bodie has become a very cool ghost town to explore.
The interiors are exactly as they were when they were last occupied and are still packed with supplies. For tourists, going to Bodie is as good as travelling back in time as the town has preserved its 20th century in its houses, parlors, mills, and saloons.
A museum dedicated to the town and its past residents is located on the premise
Bodie State Historic Park is a great spot to learn about the California Gold Rush.
Even if you’re not a history buff, it’s a lot of fun!
Today, despite the fact that the town of Bodie is located on a 13-mile stretch of dusty, rough, and sluggish State Highway 395, many people rave and visit this historical site
Address: CA-270, Bridgeport, CA 93517, United States
California State Railroad Museum (Sacramento)
As one of Sacramento’s largest and most popular tourist attraction, the California State Railroad Museum complex was opened to the public in 1976.
The Museum attracts more than half a million visitors each year, many of whom come from all around the world
Six buildings totaling $30 million were constructed as part of the complex.
The buildings of the California State Railroad Museum complex contain over 225,000 square feet of exhibit space total and use stimulating exhibits, enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guides, and beautifully restored railroad cars and locomotives to illustrate railroad history in California and the West.
More than 100,000 square feet of display space is included in the principal exhibit building, the Railroad History Museum, which opened in May 1981.
In the main Railroad History Museum building, 21 painstakingly restored locomotives and carriages, as well as various displays, demonstrate how railways have affected people’s lives, the economy, and the distinctive culture of California and the West over the past 150 years.
A Pullman-style sleeper car and a dining car stocked with railroad china are included.
Admire the 150-year-old, 40-ton monument to engineering, invention, and history.
Take a trip on the railways that were instrumental in the growth of California.
The museum brings the history of the California railroads to life.
Address: 125 I St, Sacramento, CA 95814, United States
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Cabrillo National Monument (San Diego)
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States in 1542 when he climbed out of his boat and onto land.
On October 14, 1913, Cabrillo National Monument was established as a tribute to his achievements. Cabrillo’s expedition to the California coast is commemorated by a monument and an exhibit at the Visitor Center.
The Cabrillo National Monument is located on the Loma Peninsula, on San Diego’s southernmost tip.
San Diego’s bay and skyline may be seen from Cabrillo National Monument’s Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which has been a San Diego landmark since 1854.
The Point Loma coast artillery museum is housed in a historic army facility.
Gray whales can be observed moving off the coast in the winter. The Bayside Trail’s native coastal sage scrub ecosystem is a peaceful haven for reflection and relaxation.
Rock-intertidal shoreline may be found on the park’s west side, which is a short distance from the main entrance.
There is a lot of information regarding the exploration of the New World in the 16th century at Cabrillo Park.
Address: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106, United States
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a one-square-mile village nestled along California’s Central Coast, and it’s full of one-of-a-kind wonders.
This quaint little settlement in Monterey County, California, is one of the most distinctive and endearing in the state.
This is a town famous for its previous mayor, the Honorable Mayor Clint Eastwood.
It is definitely worth the detour off the Pacific Coast Highway because of its picturesque seaside setting, forested lanes, fairy tale-like architecture, and plenty of small stores and eateries.
If you’re in the mood for a fairytale setting with a plethora of great dining options, charming boutique hotels, and charmingly decorated residences, then you’ve come to the right place.
During your time in Carmel, do check out other beaches apart from the major one, Carmel Beach, which is located at the end of Ocean Avenue.
This city was rated one of the “Best Cities for Romance” by Travel & Leisure. Be sure to bring your loved one there.
Note: no addresses in Carmel-by-the-Sea
By rejecting house-to-house mail service in favor of a central post office, Carmel’s founding fathers did not want the villiage to become “citified”
Outside of Carmel’s downtown area, there are no addresses, parking meters, no street lights, and no sidewalks. This is still the case to this day.
Address: Carmel-By-The-Sea California 93923, USA
Chinatown San Francisco
San Francisco’s Chinatown is located on Stockton Street and Grant Avenue and is both the largest and the oldest Chinatown outside of Asia. Among San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions is the Golden Gate Bridge.
The biggest Chinese population outside of Asia may be found in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The Chinese Cultural Center and the celebration of the Chinese New Year event, held every February, are reflections of the vibrant local culture.
The Bank of Canton and the Sing Chong Building, two historically significant landmarks in the heart of Chinatown, play host to several annual events.
San Francisco’s Chinatown is also an excellent location to enjoy real Chinese cuisine and tour a variety of Asian-themed boutiques.
Chinese restaurants, art galleries, teahouses, and even karaoke bars may all be found here.
It’s hard not to get lost in the busy streets of Chinatown, which stretch all the way from the Dragon Gate to China Live.
On top of all that, it’s one of the city’s most walkable districts.
There are a number of interesting drinking establishments in the area, including the Buddha Lounge, Li Po Cocktail Lounge, and the two stories of retail space that make up China Live. Several businesses, including bakers and grocers, line Grant Avenue, the neighborhood’s major street.
In Chinatown, San Francisco’s colorful lanes, treasure-filled stores, and pulsating marketplaces are worth an afternoon’s exploration.
Death Valley National Park
In addition to being the hottest site on Earth, this national park is also the driest in all of North America, not just in the United States. An extremely hot and dry environment can be found in the unique valley.
Some of the most extreme landscapes in the United States may be found inside Death Valley National Park’s borders. It’s hard to believe Death Valley is one of the most inhospitable natural places on the globe, but it is.
There were a lot of pioneers who perished in the 1800s trying to make their way across the desert’s treacherous terrain, which is how it acquired its name.
Travelers are encouraged to visit Death Valley early in the morning because of the intense heat after in the day. On a clear day, Dante’s View is one of the best places to see the valley.
Despite the heat, there is, nevertheless, a rugged beauty to the scenery, particularly in locations like Badwater Basin’s fractured salt flats.
It’s the lowest point in North America, at a depth of 280 feet below sea level, and it’s both barren and spectacular.
Also check out Furnace Creek, which has recorded the highest air temperatures on the world.
According to some, the 134-degree Fahrenheit temperature measured at the appropriately called Furnace Creek is the highest air temperature ever recorded on Earth. This is how the Furnace Creek got its name.
Death Valley National Park is a great place to go hiking, bicycling, climbing, camping, and stargazing.
Artists Drive, a 9-mile paved road with pastel-colored hills, and walking sand dunes is worth your while to explore
Do also visit the Racetrack, which is home to the famous strange moving rocks.
The Racetrack, located in a secluded valley between the Cottonwood and Last Chance Mountains, is a sight to behold. Strange-moving pebbles are the main attraction of the “Racetrack,” a playa (a dry lakebed).
Address: California, USA
Desert Hot Springs
Despite being formed in 1963, Desert Hot Springs has a long history.
Around 1908, the Desert Lands Act allowing homesteading was approved, and it is believed that Jack Riley was the first white man to set foot in what is now known as Desert Hot Springs.
Hot springs may be found across California’s rugged environment, but the finest are found in hot, humid areas where the steam and heat combine to make you feel drowsy.
Take advantage of the fact that there are more mineral springs to enjoy in this region than anyplace else in the United States.
Desert Hot Springs is the place to go if you want to unwind completely.
Here, you can savor this level of hot spring opulence!
An underground aquifer underneath the city provides some of the world’s purest hot and cold mineral springs.
Desert Hot Springs, a resort town featuring hotels, spas, salons, and mineral springs, is roughly a half-hour drive from the more well-known Palm Springs.
You’ll be able to pick and choose where you want to relax.
Booking a suite at a high-end resort with indoor waterfalls and thermal rooms is an option for those who enjoy the finer things in life.
It’s common for boutique hotels to have their own mineral pools and spas where guests may relax and unwind.
If you’re looking for interesting things to do in Palm Springs and the surrounding region, Desert Hot Springs is a good option.
Address: Riverside County, California, United States
The world’s most renowned amusement park, Disneyland, has all of Walt Disney’s most beloved characters.
If you’re planning a trip to California with children, you owe it to them to take them to the Anaheim-based Disneyland theme park.
Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy are just a few of the beloved characters who appear throughout the park’s thrilling attractions and colorful eateries.
This theme park not only has everything you could possibly desire in an amusement park, but it also provides luxurious lodging and food to match.
There is so much to see and do in Disneyland that one could fill a book with all of the possibilities. It’s packed with activities, from haunted homes to jungle cruises.
You won’t have to miss a thing thanks to the park’s many trains. During your time away from the rides, you’ll be able to visit a variety of stores, cafés, and restaurants; arcades; emporiums; hotels; and other attractions.
In addition, visitors will be able to go back in time to the early 1900’s and enjoy the small-town nostalgia of Main Street USA, which has horse-drawn carriages, sweet treat stores, and Dapper Dans crooning your favorite classic melodies.
From Sleeping Beauty’s castle, proceed right into Fantasyland, where most guests may enjoy iconic Disneyland attractions like Dumbo the Flying Elephant, It’s a Small World, and Mad Tea Party.
Is Disney on your bucket list? Check it off while you’re in California! The world’s happiest place is waiting for you!
Need more reasons to visit California? Check out why visit California at least once in your lifetime here.
Address: 1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, United States