Quick Guide to California
One of the most famous states in the US, California, is packed with things to do and see for families and groups of all ages. In fact, it has a whopping 156,00 square mileage of land which makes it larger than many countries.
With such scope to cover, you may want to think about hiring a car for your California holiday adventure. Of course, your visit to California might just concentrate on one area of this amazing state. Whether you're living the glitz and glam in Hollywood, heading to Disneyland in Anaheim or exploring hilly San Francisco - there are plenty of options for California holidays in 2018/2019.
Fab holidays for:
A-list beaches, Celebrity spotting, Hiking trails
LAX in Los Angeles, San Diego International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.
Did you know?
California has the second highest forested land in the US - great for scenic trails.
Other Destinations in United States
Other Nearby Destinations
You Might Also Be Interested In
Top 5 Things to see in California
Los Angeles is home to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and many sites made famous by the association with the Hollywood movie industry. San Francisco has cooler temperatures and famous street cars. Smaller destinations such as Santa Barbara and the state capital Sacramento offer a slower pace of life. Parts of Yosemite National Park are perched high in the mountainous regions to the east, so there is always plenty to see.
Here are some top picks:
- Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica
- Head to the beach to dip your toes in the water, play some beach volleyball or laze on the sands. Afterwards, head to the pier for a bite to eat and ride the traditional 1920's carousel.
- Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
- You've probably seen it blown up a few times in a blockbuster movie. Visit San Francisco and see this city icon in real life.
- Alcatraz Island, San Francisco
- Take a boat ride out to this ominous island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. First it was a military prison, then a maximum-security penitentiary. Today it is a national park.
- Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles
- A trip to California wouldn't be complete without seeing the Hollywood sign. Situated on Mount Lee of the Santa Monica Mountains, the sign is 45-foot tall and 350-foot long.
- Disneyland Resort, Anaheim
- The original Disney theme park! Join Mickey and pals for some thrilling rides and spend the day immersed in all things Disney.
How to get to California
You can fly into one of a number of international airports located in California. Many people pick a flight to Los Angeles, arriving via LAX and then taking one of the busy highways to their destination. It is easiest to get around by car, so you should probably look into car hire from San Francisco Airport if the city by the bay is the first stop on your holiday to California. San Diego is the only other city in California where you can fly direct from the UK (via British Airways).
Where to stay in California
You can stay in hotels, motels (good for last minute holidays) and hostels of all types throughout California. It is really all down to what your itinerary involves. Many people pick low cost motels to give themselves the best chance of a cheap holiday deal in California. Don't worry - major cities have five-star luxury accommodation alongside affordable options so that you do not have to limit your list of hotspots to visit on your California holiday.
Weather in California
California has a Mediterranean-like climate with dry, warm summers and mild, wet winters. In this long, skinny state, the weather varies from north to south, east to west, so it's a good idea to plan your trip around these fluctuations! Summer is generally the busiest, and most expensive time to visit, as the whole state basks in sunshine. But Californian winters are just as exciting. Get your skis on and zip down one of many resorts open from around November to March.
In the south-west of the state, around San Diego, you'll find warm temperatures year-round. However, San Diego weather is warmest from June until August, making it the most expensive time to travel.
Summer is also peak season in San Francisco, and there will be plenty of tourists in the city and on the beaches. Travelling in winter will get you the best deals as there are fewer tourists. Just be sure to wrap up warm, the San Francisco weather can get chilly!
Take winter trips to Los Angeles for the cheapest deals. Los Angeles weather in summer is often too hot to roam around comfortably. March to May and September to November are the best months for low tariffs, fewer tourists and pleasant weather.
California For Couples
California is full of tranquil, picture-perfect beaches for a romantic getaway to remember. The famed coastline of Big Sur should top any couples' list of destinations. Take a romantic stroll along some of the region's idyllic white-sand beaches, or, take a leisurely drive along the rugged, awe-inspiring coast.
If you want a slice of Venetian life in the States, several places in Southern California offer gondola rides, so you can be serenaded to your heart's content as you glide through the serene waterways of places like Newport Bay and Huntington Bay.
California For Families
For a family with young children visiting California, there's only going to be one destination on everybody's lips - Disneyland. Watch their favourite cartoon characters come to life and experience the wacky carnival food on offer. California also boasts a rich natural landscape and families with older children will love exploring the jaw-dropping mountains of Joshua Tree National Park. Or if you're more inclined to water-based fun, grab your paddles and kayak around the Channel Islands National Park in Southern California. You'll dodge your way through tiny island rock formations as you explore this magical ocean sanctuary.
Highlights in California
Some of America's most iconic cities can be found in California - whether you've seen them on the silver screen or TV, or have seen paparazzi shots of stars in these locations, you're bound to have heard of them. After New York, Los Angeles is probably the most well-known city in the US. Home to the country's film and television industry, it's here that you'll find the Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame, the glamorous boutiques on Rodeo Drive, and Disneyland. Around six hours north of LA is San Francisco, home to many an iconic site. Think the Golden Gate Bridge, the former prison of Alcatraz, steep hills with cable cars rattling up and down them, and Chinatown - the largest outside of Asia. South of LA, near the border with Mexico, is San Diego. This coastal city might be most famous outside of the US for its SeaWorld, but it also has a top-notch zoo and even a safari park!
No trip to California is complete without a visit to one of its famous beaches. Just outside of LA, Santa Monica Beach not only has a three-and-a-half-mile-long stretch of sand, but an iconic pier with an aquarium and theme parks as well. Check out the roller skaters and muscle men that line the boardwalk of nearby Venice Beach before taking a dip in the Pacific. Mid-two-thousands TV fans should head to Laguna Beach and Newport Beach in Orange County to check out filming locations for Laguna Beach and The OC. The coves of El Matador Beach near Malibu are spectacular, while the city of Malibu itself boasts more than three dozen beaches on its famous coastline.
Food and Drink
Thanks to its proximity to the Mexican border, California's food scene is strongly influenced by the flavours of its Latin American neighbour. Head to San Diego, where you'll find the most authentic - and spiciest - tacos. The state also places a huge focus on healthy, local eating, with farmers markets galore, and loads of food trucks cooking up street food using fresh produce sourced nearby. California eats more seafood per capita than anywhere else in the United States - just head for the ocean and you're bound to find the day's catch being cooked to perfection.
When it comes to imbibing, California's craft brewing scene is no slouch - there are more than 500 breweries spread across the Sunshine State, meaning that you'll have no trouble picking up a beer, whether you're in California, Sacramento or the desert! Its wineries are nothing to sniff at, either, as the film Sideways attested to. Napa Valley is perhaps the most well-known wine region, producing cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays up there with some of the best you'll taste in the world. It's premium wines galore at Sonoma Valley, while the North Coast Wine Country is where to go if organic, sustainable wines are your preference.
Events and Festivals
With so much sunshine, it's no surprise that California loves a good festival. The most famous of these festivals has got to be Coachella. Celebrities, music-lovers and the fashionable flock to this mecca of music over two weekends every year to check out some of the biggest bands in the world, in the middle of the Californian desert. Prepare to get dusty! Lesser known, but no less of a party, is Outside Lands festival, which is held each year in San Francisco and boasts a lineup of some the best up-and-coming musos, as well as huge crowd favourites, all with an eco-friendly bent. And don't get us started on the myriad other festivals in the Sunshine State: Lightning in a Bottle (for those who want to participate in a bit of self expression), Nocturnal Wonderland (for the ravers) and Northern Nights Festival (for those hoping to connect to nature).
Looking for something a little more low-key? Palm Springs International Film Festival is held in January, and great for cinema buffs, while Lunar New Year and Tet both embrace the diverse communities of the state as the Chinese and Vietnamese communities respectively ring in the new year. Celebrate the incredible culture of California's African-American community during the annual African-American Festival, and sip on a glass of the state's finest wine at the California Wine Festival.
Sometimes it seems as though California is made for entertaining visitors. No matter where you visit in this long skinny state, you're bound to find an activity to excite you. The most obvious? The adrenaline-pumping fun in the state's theme parks. Disneyland is the most famous, but you can also see the movie magic at Universal Studios, have fun with the whole family at Knott's Berry Farm, say 'hi' to a dolphin at SeaWorld San Diego, and ride one of Six Flags Magic Mountain's 19 rollercoasters!
The state also isn't short of famous sites. Try and see the Golden Gate Bridge through San Francisco's famous fog and, while you're at it, head over to the former prison of Alcatraz. See mega wealth at Hearst Castle, the mansion built by the famous media magnate, take a photo of the Hollywood sign, and pretend you're Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land at the Griffith Observatory.
The image of a sun-kissed blonde frolicking on the sand might be a cliché - but it's a cliché for a reason! California's beaches are world-renowned and, like America itself, big, brash and beautiful. In fact, the first Spanish explorers to make it to California thought it was the biblical Eden! Its 840 miles of coastline runs the gamut from beaches ripe for surfing, to stretches of sand encircled by towering cliffs, and even those with waterfalls cascading into the ocean, with dolphins splashing in the distance.
With so many beaches, it's almost impossible to explore all of them in a holiday, let alone a lifetime. And that's not even to mention the other sea-related adventures visitors can partake in! Eating seafood at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, driving along the cliffs in Big Sur and people-watching on the promenade at Venice Beach are almost rites of passage for visitors to California.
Huntington Beach, south of LA, offers a little something for everyone: decent surfing, volleyball, fishing, basketball courts and even fire rings for evening bonfires. Big Sur is the feather in the hat of California: rugged cliffs, few people and views across the state's coastline. Its beaches are equally impressive; Pfeiffer Beach has purple-tinged sand and views across to the inaccessible McWay Waterfall, which plunges into the ocean; Sand Dollar Beach, Partington Cove and Limekiln State Park Beach are all also worth a look. South of Big Sur is Moonstone Beach, a grand sweep of coastline with rockpools, and a prime location for spotting whales, dolphins and birds.
Of course, the main cities also offer plenty in the way of beaches. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park is one of the city's most popular tourist destinations, Lighthouse Field State Beach is noted for its great swell for surfing and Natural Bridges State Beach for its bridge-like arched rock formation in the water. In LA, Santa Monica and Dockweiler Beaches are great pitstops if you're combining a city break with a beach holiday.
Don't forget to tick some of California's most iconic beaches off your list: Venice, Malibu, La Jolla and Laguna Beaches.