California is one of the greatest states to visit in the US. From top to bottom, this massive West Coast state delivers fun activities for every taste – from hiking in the mountains and relaxed recreation at an ocean shore to wine tasting in the gorgeous vineyard landscapes. If you haven’t been to this diverse and stunningly beautiful region of the world, you haven’t seen anything! For all of you who call yourselves avid travelers, we’ve picked ten places in California that are mandatory to visit.
1. Point Reyes
Point Reyes Cape, the part of the eponymous national park, is located approximately 50 km northwest of San Francisco. This hilly terrain boasts mighty cliffs, quiet beaches, and secluded lagoons stretched along the shore. If you’re lucky enough, you can spot whales that are often found off the coast of California. For the picture-postcard scenes, walk to the Point Reyes lighthouse. Nestled on the edge of a steep cliff, it lends a fantastic ocean view. The legends say that the infamous privateer Francis Drake has hidden countless treasures somewhere here, so why don’t you try to find them?
2. Big Sur
Big Sur is a stretch of coast sitting between the city of San Simeon and the Carmel mountain range. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was one of the most isolated corners of the United States. It only had a couple of houses free of any modern conveniences. Everything changed after Big Sur had been connected with civilization by a road (by the way, it’s perhaps the most picturesque road in the USA). Today, Big Sur offers jaw-dropping views of the ocean, towering cliffs, cozy coves, as well as the fabulous Bixby Creek Bridge. There are not many hotels to stay but Big Sur is a great place for camping.
3. Napa Valley
The main wine region of the United States boasts hundreds of wine cellars, high-tech factories, and small family-run vineyards. Whatever wine you prefer — Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, you name it — you will find it in abundance in Napa. A visit to a winery (with tasting) starts from just $15. If time and budget permit, we recommend exploring Napa Valley by the Wine Train. This historic train cruises through the valley at a speed of only 20 mph. While admiring the enchanting views through the window, you can enjoy gourmet cuisine and fine wines. On top of that, don’t miss your chance to visit world-famous Napa Valley events held all year-round. If you want to feel the spirit of this place to the fullest, drop by Napa Valley Festival del Sole. It celebrates food, art, music, and, of course, local wine.
4. Death Valley
One of the most dreaded and appealing wastelands, this region is located between the Mojave Desert and the Great Basin, southeast of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It got its “life-affirming” name in the era of the gold rush when immigrants crossed the desert to reach gold mines via the shortest route. Not everyone got there, but those daredevils who managed to survive called the area the Death Valley. To prove its deadly status, the Valley “pampers” visitors with extremely high temperatures. The highlight of this place is moving stones, which is a mystery that scientists are still trying to solve.
5. La Jolla Cove, San Diego
Sparking with attractions and sights, La Jolla Cove is probably the most sought-after landmark in the San Diego area. In Spanish, its name means “jewel”, which is probably why real estate prices are among the highest in the region. La Jolla lures with its stunning sandy beaches, bizarre cliffs, and mysterious caves. When here, don’t miss the Children’s Pool, which is the sandy beach where seals and sea lions bask in the sun and even give birth to their pups. A funny sign near the beach’s entrance says that if a seal is looking at you, it doesn’t mean it wants you to pet it.
6. USS Midway Museum
San Diego offers many more attractions for an unforgettable getaway. If you prefer man-made wonders, the USS Midway Museum is a must-visit spot. Housed at the navy pier in San Diego downtown, it has been open for the public since 2004. The heart of the museum is the very first heavy aircraft carrier built in the USA. The carrier displays helicopters and aircraft of various sizes and purposes. The museum has been repeatedly used as a set for TV shows, news broadcasts, and even sports events.
7. Sequoia National Park
Located in the southern Sierra Nevada, Sequoia National Park is home to the largest trees on Earth. The volume of General Sherman, perhaps the most famous sequoia tree, is 52,500 cubic feet (like half of an Olympic-size pool). The park is teeming with giant sequoias that reach more than 300 feet high and 30 feet in girth. Their age is mind-blowing four thousand years old (although some youths are “only” two thousand years old). The park is bristling with other attractions such as a dome-shaped Moro Rock, scenic caves, and a car tunnel carved in the trunk of a fallen giant sequoia.
8. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park, the main competitor of Sequoia Park, is the perfect place to get away from the craziness of city life. It’s known for awe-inspiring landscapes, high cliffs, picturesque waterfalls, and myriads of geysers. It houses more than 160 species of rare plants including huge sequoiadendron. Jumbo trees are not the only giants of the park. Yosemite Falls, for instance, is in the top-20 of the tallest waterfalls in the world. Yosemite offers a relaxed atmosphere to feel at ease in your mind as well as a bunch of outdoor activities to keep yourself in shape. Hiking, climbing, river rafting, kayaking, and cycling are at your disposal.
A small island in the bay of San Francisco hosts the world’s most famous prison. In the past, it carried a lighthouse and a fort but this correctional facility brought the island worldwide fame. Alcatraz accommodated dangerous offenders and people who tried to escape from other prisons. In 1963, the prison was closed but 10 years later it was revived as a tourist attraction. The tours include a short ferry trip, cell examining, and stories about the famous “guests” of Alcatraz.
10. Lake Tahoe
Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, this bewitching lake is a place of sublime beauty and serenity. Its clear turquoise waters are framed by untouched forest and highlighted by the silhouettes of mountains in the background. In the summertime, Lake Tahoe welcomes hiking, mountain biking, and water sports enthusiasts. If you’re not a fan of outdoor activities, you can sunbathe on the beach, swim in these invigorating waters, or take a boat ride. Several state parks surround the lake. They deliver countless scenic nature trails and great picnic spots. In winter, Lake Tahoe turns into a center of ski tourism featuring trails for cross-country, snowshoeing, and sledding.
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