The state of California has an exciting and diverse way of life in more ways than one. Its people come from many cultures and backgrounds and its geography ranges from arid deserts to a pristine coastline to towering mountains and beautiful redwood forests.
This unique mixture of geography and people make it an ideal vacation destination for any group of travelers with varying ages and interests.
Northern California is home to the Shasta Cascade and North Coast regions. The Shasta Cascade region is a Mecca for adventure and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Its relatively unspoiled natural habitats include rushing rivers, towering mountains, lush forests, and breathtaking waterfalls. Any nature buff should not miss out on one of the many hikes that lead to incredible views of Northern California. Climb Burney Mountain to see Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Mt. Shasta, the second highest volcano in the lower United States, and Lassen Peak. Travel to Weaverville to see the rugged Trinity Alps. For those interested in visiting historical sites, visit Redding and Shasta State Historic Park, a restored Gold Rush town within the protection of a state park.
The 400-mile region that spans from the Redwood Forests in on the northern border to just above San Francisco in the south is known as the North Coast. Charming villages filled with antique shops and local markets infiltrate this area known for its towering trees.
Fishermen will want to be sure to see Clear Lake, just outside of the town of Lakeport. Known as the “Bass capital of the World”, it is home to the largest freshwater lake in California. One cannot visit this region of the state without traveling south to Sonoma County. Home to award-winning wineries and vintners, it is an area to picnic in the beautiful surroundings while enjoying the area’s wines, cheeses, and fruit. The kids will be thrilled to take a trip to Outrageous Waters Water Park outside of Clearlake. With exhilarating water slides and a grand prix racetrack, it is a day trip the whole family can enjoy together. Before you leave this larger-than-life region and head towards southern California, the trip must be completed by a visit to see the giant redwoods in Sequoia National Park. Nowhere in the world do trees of this magnitude exist. They are truly a treasure of not only California, but also the entire country.
Central California is perhaps the most diverse area of the state. Made of the San Francisco and Bay Area, Central Coast, Central Valley, Gold Country, and High Sierra Region, the range in climate, geography, and culture make it quite a dynamic place to visit. The San Francisco Bay Area remains a true melting pot for the West Coast. From Chinatown to the Haight-Ashbury district to the South of Market area, with its dot com survivors, one can experience so much in a day-trip to the city. Visit Alcatraz Island to see where famous criminals like Al Capone were housed in the once-heralded “inescapable prison”.
Before heading south to Santa Clara and Santa Cruz, be sure to check out the Golden Gate Bridge. You don’t have to be in a car to traverse this bridge. This attraction offers shopping, biking and walking lanes, and much more! While driving southbound, be sure to stop and take a walk down the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Known for its ice cream and old-fashioned roller coaster, it’s a great place to sightsee and people-watch, too! Be sure not to leave this region, without taking a drive to Napa Valley, California’s famous wine region. Taste full flavored chardonnays and visit some of the state’s most famous wineries like Sterling Vineyards and Rutherford. The Central Coast is a largely unpopulated strip of the shoreline with lavish resorts and spas and agricultural communities to the east. In Oxnard, take a stroll down their timeless streets to view Colonial-style homes from the 1900’s that are on the National Register of Historic Places. For those interested in learning about plants and animals indigenous to California, a suggested destination is Channel Islands National Park.
Visitors participating in whale watching cruises can view the islands of Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Anacapa. Over 2,000 species of plants and animals can be viewed just by visiting this chain of eight islands. This region of California is the perfect place for a peaceful getaway full of history, culture, and natural beauty.
The Central Valley is one of the most productive agriculture regions of the world. Food lovers will love all that the valley has to offer. Many well-known companies produce their gourmet directly from this area. Sun-maid Raisins has its home in Kingston and offers tours of its grounds and factory where you can sample its delicious and rich golden raisins. Almond lovers do not need to miss a trip to Modesto, where the Blue Diamond Almonds are grown and sold. Even candy lovers can find a tour to tantalize their taste buds. Fairfield, California is where the Herman Goelitz Candy Company is headquartered. Learn how a Jelly Belly becomes a jellybean and how they produce the hundreds of flavors of this tasty treat. For the visitor who enjoys bird watching, a drive to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in Willows will be a day well spent. With 6 national wildlife refuges and a stop-through for over half the migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway, it is a way to view a vast majority of the bird species from South America to Northern Canada in one spot!
California was populated by the Gold Rush of 1849, the largest human migration ever known. Without visiting the Gold Country region of the state, one cannot truly understand California’s past or present. The first settlement created by the Gold Rush can be viewed at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park outside of Sacramento. Recreated by maps of the time, this first non-Indian settlement was instrumental in making the state what it is today. For those looking for a more hands-on adventure, travel to Auburn and the Auburn State Recreation Area. Featuring extreme hiking and biking trails and the rushing North and Middle Forks of the American River for rafters, it is a trip no outdoor enthusiast should miss. To experience true early Californian architecture, look no further than the state capital building in Sacramento. Restored and made partially into a museum, the Capitol is exactly as it was in 1874. Learn about California’s history while viewing the beautifully rich Spanish-inspired architecture. The High Sierra region is home to the state’s winter playground, a mixture of world-class resorts and a true picture of the American wilderness. The popular resort areas of Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Lakes provide tantalizing views, incredible skiing terrain, and relaxing lakeside summer activities. Ride the Gondola at Heavenly in Lake Tahoe and arrive at a sightseeing platform at 9,123 feet to see views of Carson Valley, Desolation Wilderness and shore-to-shore views of Lake Tahoe. Mammoth Mountain has been ranked one of the best skiing and snowboarding destinations in the world. Receiving an average snowfall of 353 inches a year, it is an area winter lovers will not want to miss!
The Los Angeles County, Orange County, Inland Empire, Deserts, and San Diego County regions make up Southern California. This area known for its warm climate and multicultural experience is full of great vacation destinations to be visited year-round. America and the rest of the world have been awed by Los Angeles and Hollywood since filming started in 1913. Since that time, people have moved to and traveled to this area to follow their dreams and walk the footsteps of the stars. But, Los Angeles County offers more than just Hollywood and Rodeo Boulevard for visitors looking for more out of their vacation. For those coming out to California for its surf, be sure to head to Malibu. Surfrider Beach boasts near perfect waves for experts to enjoy and newcomers to learn on. Families will enjoy the safer waters at Mother’s Beach in Marina del Ray. Quiet surf and excellent lifeguards make this one Mom’s favorite! For those wanting to experience one of the cultures of southern California, look no farther than Chinatown. Full of spice and silk stands, Chinese restaurants, and exotic herbs, this trip will show you another culture, transported into our own. The new Chinatown is a great place for visitors to learn about the Chinese culture in a safe, tourist-friendly area. For great views and a taste of southern California life outside the city, rent a convertible and take a drive down some of the region’s highways. Try out Hwy 1 from Malibu to Santa Monica or Mulholland Drive from Santa Monica to Hollywood. Orange County is home to Disneyland and many first-class resorts making it one of California’s most popular vacation destinations. Laguna Beach is a favorite among visitors and locals. Head to Main Beach Park right in downtown Laguna for great beach volleyball, basketball, activities for the kids, and protected tide pools. A great stay can be found in Newport Beach. Known as the body surfing capital of the world, it has great surf and safe beaches for the whole family. Orange County is well known for its diversity. Understandably so, since it is possible for visitors to see the Vietnamese settlement of Little Saigon and visit Silverado Canyon, an old stage-coast drop off, all in one day.
The Inland Empire is full of cultural, adventure, and scenic attractions. Where else can you walk around beautiful citrus groves while admiring snow-capped mountains in the distance? Big Bear Lake is a popular year-round destination due to its abundance of both summer and winter activities. In the summer, be sure to try out its alpine slide. One of only three in the nation, it is fashioned after winter bobsledding and is a favorite among visitors and residents alike. During the winter, this vacation destination offers everything a winter traveler could want including snow tubing, snowboarding and skiing, and snowshoeing. Next, visitors should head over the mountains and into the valley to witness a beautiful abundance of agriculture while picking peaches, apples, and pears in the Lucerne and Apple Valleys. Take a hot-air balloon ride to get a birds-eye view of one of the most spectacular countrysides in the nation. The Deserts of California contrast each other greatly from snow-capped mountains to lush fields of poppies to barren deserts, home to world-class resorts. Death Valley National Park is where the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere can be found. At 282 feet below sea level it is home to a unique ecosystem thus providing an interesting day trip for an adventurous traveler. Palm Springs is a resort community offering first class treatment and a wide array of local attractions. The Golf Capital of the World boasts over 100 courses in the area and is a golfers dream with tournament level greens and beautiful views and scenery. This area is rich in history and has much to tell of Spanish explorers and the plight of the Native American. Open up to the natural beauty of the Deserts to experience an American treasure unmatched on this continent.
The San Diego County Region is the last stop before heading into Mexico. This region offers a little bit of everything California has to offer, all in one stop. From wineries to beautiful shorelines to palm trees and mountains, this County is rich in geography and culture. Visit Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside to see the “King of the Missions”. It is the largest mission in California and offers visitors serene retreats and peaceful gardens. Visit Mission Bay and its Beaches for wind surfing, sailing, skiing, and a host of other waterfront activities. The nature lover will come to find that it is also home to many species of birds, fish, and other animals. Trek down to its nature reserve near Crown Point to learn more about plants and animals indigenous to southern California. Bordered by some of California’s most magnificent beaches in the west and snow capped mountains in the east and Mexico to the south, it is not hard to understand why San Diego County can offer so much to its visitors. Encompassing a little bit of everything California has to offer, it is the perfect vacation destination for any kind of traveler.