California is a myriad of history, glitz and glam, cuisine and nature. Known as ‘the Golden State’ with its gold rush history and state flower (the golden poppy), this US state attracted almost 270 million visitors in 2023! No matter what you love whilst travelling, here’s why you should visit California.  

Nature lovers 

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park
Magnificent El Capitan
Photo by codyconk on Instagram

California’s coastal climate has led to a wide range of flora, fauna and scenery that will intrigue even the most astute nature lover. Our favourite ‘green’ spots include:  

  • Yosemite National Park: giving you a bit of everything, Yosemite is world-famous for its lakes, meadows, waterfalls and alpine scenery. Don’t miss the magnificent vertical rock formation, El Capitan, or the pounding waters of Yosemite Falls 
  • Lake Tahoe: hop onboard a yacht to experience the picturesque freshwater colours 
  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park: potentially one of the only places where you can walk through a forest only to hear the crashing of ocean waves nearby! Located right beside the Pacific Ocean, its grounds are filled with native California Redwoods 

City lovers 

San Diego
Photo by theparentologist on Instagram

If you love to soak in the atmosphere of a big city, California’s three largest cities will meet the brief:  

  • Los Angeles: from casual beach vibes at Santa Monica Pier, to the glitz and glam along Rodeo Drive, Los Angeles is California’s entertainment capital 
  • San Francisco: San Francisco is instantly recognisable with landmarks such as Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard Street. Despite being a big city, we love retreating to the peaceful Japanese Tea Garden (the oldest public Japanese garden in the US) with its koi ponds and pagodas 
  • San Diego: located on the Mexican border and with Spanish roots, San Diego is a melting pot of cultures. There are several neighbourhoods that showcase its diversity and make it a quirky city to explore 

Small town lovers 

Solvang, California
Charming Solvang
Photo by letravelstyle on Instagram

There are also small towns aplenty in California, best suited if you prefer a more relaxed vibe and fewer crowds to contend with:  

  • Solvang: a Danish village in the US? With flower-lined streets, windmills and Danish bakeries, it’s a real treat to visit this unique village 
  • Sausalito: found on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito is like San Francisco’s quaint little sister. Travellers love its gorgeous waterfront views and range of shops, cafes, galleries and restaurants 
  • Monterey: with a fishy history, you can’t miss colourful Cannery Row. It is now full of eateries and shops but historically was home to sardine factories. Monterey is also great for sea life spotting – keep your eyes peeled for whales and sea otters 

Museum lovers 

View from Getty Museum, LA
At the Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Photo by mabilitellestubelo on Instagram

If you like to spend your holidays visiting as many museums as possible, you won’t be disappointed by California’s range!  

  • San Diego: Balboa Park is renowned for having the largest collection of museums outside of Washington DC, from the San Diego Museum of Art to the Air & Space Museum 
  • Los Angeles: Los Angeles museums seem to have great vantage points. Both the Getty Museum and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library sit atop lofty perches with incredible exhibitions inside and breath taking views outside  
  • San Francisco: there are some truly remarkable museums here. The former Alcatraz Prison is now a fascinating museum; and the California Academy of Sciences houses a Living Roof and the world’s deepest indoor living coral reef 

Food & wine lovers 

Chinese dumplings
You won’t go hungry in Chinatown, San Francisco
Photo by allie.eats on Instagram

Finally, California certainly delivers for the food and wine aficionados. This is just a selection of what your tastebuds will experience in the Golden State:  

  • Don’t miss San Francisco’s Chinatown, the oldest in the US. It’s perfect for cheap eats, from steaming pork buns to hand-pulled noodles 
  • Sonoma and Napa Valley are regarded as two of California’s top wine producers for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Sonoma, and Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley 
  • Some of the best food trucks can be found in Los Angeles. There’s a cuisine to suit every palate, whether you’re craving a Greek gyro, tender meat cooked low and slow, or crispy arancini bites 
  • In-N-Out Burger is a popular fast-food chain that began in California. Order a Double-Double and a side of animal fries for a tasty lunch 
  • California is the top US state for producing a variety of fruit and vegetables – lemons, stone fruit, avocados, figs, berries, nuts and broccoli – so eating fresh and seasonally is easy here  

Stretching over almost 1,500 kilometres, there is an abundance of things to see, eat and do in California. Experience the best of this US state on a Globus or Cosmos tour. 

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