18 Best Things To Do In California – Attractions, Tours & Sights

(Last Updated On: January 19, 2023)

California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States.

The Golden State became the official nickname of California in 1968.

California is a global center for technology and innovation, accounting for one in every four patents issued in the United States in 2022.

The Golden State is also home to more than 500 major tech companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook, and Uber.

Tourism is one of California’s largest industries, with almost 200 million visitors each year.

Los Angeles is the most popular destination in California, followed by San Francisco and San Diego.

Other popular destinations include Disneyland, Hollywood, and Lake Tahoe.

Whether you’re enjoying one of the many hiking trails, or sampling some bubbly in the wine country, or spending a day at a theme park or walking where stars once stood, visiting California is a must.

Things To Do In California

1. The Getty Center

The Getty Center

The Getty Center is one of the world’s largest cultural and philanthropic organizations.

Founded in 1954 by oil tycoon J. Paul Getty who donated his art collection to the center, it now houses more than 1.8 million works of art.

Located in Brentwood, approximately 25 minutes northwest of Downtown LA, California, the Getty Center is situated at the top of a hill and is renowned for its architecture and gardens.

One of the best Los Angeles museums, it is dedicated to advancing the understanding and appreciation of art through its collections, exhibitions, scholarship, and education programs.

Enjoy art from the 1400s to today in the Getty Center’s art galleries. With changing displays of iconic paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts.

Modern art and contemporary sculptures are located throughout the grounds, including at the tram departure and arrival plazas and next to the Central Garden.

Take a guided tour for in-depth information and behind-the-scenes details from a museum expert.

Admission is free, though temporarily requires timed tickets reservation.

The Getty Center is one of the most visited museums in the world, with more than two million visitors each year.

Address: Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049

2. Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island is a small island located in the San Francisco Bay, northern California.

The island was developed as a military fortification in the 19th century and later served as a federal prison from 1934 to 1963.

Today, Alcatraz is a popular tourist destination, with over one million visitors each year.

Alcatraz is best known for its former prison, which housed some of America’s most notorious criminals, including Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly.

The prison was closed in 1963 due to high costs and declining prisoner populations.

In 1972, Alcatraz became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The island in San Francisco Bay is accessible by ferry from San Francisco.

Visitors can tour the former prison, visit the island’s lighthouse, and enjoy panoramic views of San Francisco and the Bay.

It’s recommended that you book this in advance and buy your tickets early, as it is often fully booked.

3. California Theme Parks

California Theme Parks

One of the best things to do in California is a visit to one of the many theme parks in the state.

There are over 30 theme parks in the state of California.

The best amusement parks draw families and thrill-seekers from around the world.

With so many great attractions, narrowing down the best theme parks in California to visit isn’t an easy task.

Some of the best are: SeaWorld San Diego that features both animals and theme park attractions.

Disney California Adventure that features eight themed lands, many of which are designed after real California locations.

Universal Studios Hollywood, one of the most unique theme parks that invites you to tour one of the world’s most famous film studios.

The variety and quality of theme parks on offer in the Golden State rivals anywhere else in America.

4. Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most scenic highways in America.

The highway stretches for over 650 miles along the California coast, from Monterey to Dana Point.

This classic coastal drive is at its most dramatic along this 100 mile stretch of California.

The road winds through spectacular coastal scenery, including towering cliffs, pristine beaches, and redwood forests.

There are many popular tourist attractions along the route, such as Big Sur, Hearst Castle, and Malibu.

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the best ways to experience all that California has to offer.

5. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a cable car system that transports passengers from the desert floor to an observation deck at the top of San Jacinto Peak.

The tramway was built in 1963 and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Palm Springs.

The tramway consists of two cars, which travel up and down the mountain on parallel tracks.

Each car can carry up to 80 passengers and makes approximately 35 trips per day.

The tramway offers stunning views of the Coachella Valley and is a great way to experience the desert landscape.

Address: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, 1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262

6. Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the largest and most popular aquariums in the world.

Located on Cannery Row in Monterey, California, the aquarium features a wide variety of marine life from across the globe.

Some of the most popular attractions at the Monterey Bay Aquarium include the kelp forest exhibit, which is a replica of a kelp forest found off the coast of California.

The Open Sea exhibit, which features sharks, tunas, and other large fish; and the Jellyfish Gallery, which showcases some of the world’s most beautiful and strange jellyfish.

In addition to its many exhibits, the Monterey Bay Aquarium also offers a variety of educational programs and events for visitors of all ages.

The aquarium is also a popular destination for field trips and research projects.

Address: Monterey Bay Aquarium, 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940

7. Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a historic building located in Santa Barbara, California.

The courthouse was built in 1929 and is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the United States.

The courthouse features a beautiful tile roof, an intricate clock tower, and a stunning stained glass window.

The courthouse is open to the public and offers guided tours.

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a popular tourist destination and is one of the most photographed buildings in California.

Address: Santa Barbara County Courthouse, 1100 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

8. Emerald Bay State Park

Emerald Bay State Park

Emerald Bay State Park is a state park in California that is located on the western side of Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe is said to be one of the purest large lakes in the world.

Lake Tahoe is one of the major tourist attractions in California and is home to winter sports, summer outdoor recreation, and scenery enjoyed throughout the year.

Emerald Bay is also home to Eagle Point, where visitors can see the remains of a volcanic crater.

The park also has a number of hiking trails, and is a popular destination for camping and picnicking.

In the winter, the park is a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding.

Emerald Bay State Park is the state’s greatest glacial park thanks to its stunning scenery and dramatic alpine peaks, ridges, and lake.

The park receives over two million visitors each year and is open all year round.

Address: Emerald Bay State Park, 138 Emerald Bay Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

9. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

One of California’s splendid National Parks, Yosemite National Park is best known for its waterfalls, but there is much more to see and do here.

Visitors can hike through forests, explore meadows and valleys, or even go rock climbing.

There are also plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife, including deer, squirrels, and birds.

Yosemite National Park is a great place to visit any time of year, but many people come during the summer when the weather is warmest.

When planning a trip to Yosemite, be sure to book your lodging in advance. There are a number of hotels and campgrounds within the park, but they fill up quickly during peak season.

You should also purchase a park pass before your visit, as this is required for entry.

Once you’re in the park, there are plenty of ranger-led activities to take part in, or you can simply explore on your own.

There are also a number of restaurants and cafes where you can grab a bite to eat.

10. Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge dominates the San Francisco Skyline with this towering bridge spanning 4200 feet, at the height of a 65 story building.

On a sunny day it’s recommended you walk or bike across the bridge to take in the amazing views.

It’s also recommended you visit Fort Point which has great views looking up at the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay from the south side.

You can also go to vista point which is located on the north side and again will provide you breath-taking views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Both viewing points will give you a perfect picture taking opportunity.

For those visiting San Francisco in the colder months, you can take a bus tour which drives across the bridge and even stops, so you can snap some pictures and take in the views.

11. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

In the heart of California’s Mojave Desert lies one of the hottest and driest places on Earth: Death Valley National Park.

This vast park spans more than 3.4 million acres, making it the largest national park in the contiguous United States.

And with an average yearly temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s also one of the hottest places on the planet.

Despite its name, Death Valley is actually teeming with life.

The park is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, including bighorn sheep, coyotes, eagles, and bobcats.

Visitors can explore canyons, mountains, sand dunes, and even a salt-filled lake.

And there are plenty of opportunities for adventure, whether you want to hike, camp, or stargaze.

12. San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo is world-renowned for its impressive collection of animals and plants. With over 3,700 species, the zoo is one of the largest in the world.

Founded in 1916, the zoo has been a leader in conservation efforts and has helped to save many endangered species from extinction.

The San Diego Zoo is home to some of the most iconic animals on Earth.

The giant pandas are some of the most popular residents, and the zoo has worked diligently to create a habitat that meets their needs.

The San Diego Zoo also houses elephants, lions, tigers, giraffes, and many other amazing animals.

In addition to its incredible animal collection, the San Diego Zoo is also known for its beautiful gardens.

The zoo’s horticulturists have created a variety of gardens, including a rainforest, an African savanna, and a desert.

These gardens provide homes for many of the zoo’s animals and give visitors the opportunity to see them in their natural habitats.

Address: San Diego Zoo, 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

13. Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park is a national park located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

The park is home to the largest tree on Earth, the General Sherman Tree.

The park spans over 404,000 acres and is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life.

Sequoia trees, which can live for over 3,000 years, are the main attraction in the park.

These massive trees can reach heights of over 300 feet and diameters of over 25 feet.

In addition to sequoias, the park is also home to redwoods, cedars, firs, pines, and other types of trees.

The animal life in Sequoia National Park includes bears, coyotes, deer, eagles, foxes, and many other types of animals.

The park also has a wide variety of plant life, including wildflowers, ferns, and mosses.

Sequoia National Park has hundreds of miles of trails suitable for all abilities and ages.

Each route provides beautiful sights, from scenic overlooks to massive trees to waterfalls

14. Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is a historic landmark located in Santa Monica, California.

The pier is home to a number of shops, restaurants, and attractions, including the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and the Pacific Park amusement park.

The pier was originally built in 1909 as a pleasure pier for the residents of Santa Monica.

However, it soon became a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.

Today, the pier is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southern California.

Each year, millions of people visit the pier to enjoy its many shops, restaurants, and attractions.

15. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree is a national park located in southern California.

The park spans over 790,000 acres and is named for the Joshua trees that grow in the area.

The park is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life.

The Joshua trees, which can live for up to 500 years, are the main attraction in the park.

In addition to Joshua trees, the park is also home to cacti, desert wildflowers, and other plants.

The animal life in Joshua Tree National Park includes squirrels, lizards, snakes, birds, and tortoises.

The park is also home to a number of mammals, including bighorn sheep, coyotes, and bobcats.

There’s a great Visitor’s Center with maps of various trails to help you navigate while visiting the park.

However you can do a drive through for the standard National Park fee, if you’re not up for a walk or hike.

Address: Joshua Tree Visitor Center, 6554 Park Blvd Joshua Tree, CA 92252

16. Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Walk of Fame

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Los Angeles, California.

More than 2,000 stars have been embedded in the sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street since the late 1950s.

Tourists from all over the world come to see the stars and take photos with their favourite celebrities.

Some of the most popular stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame include Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Humphrey Bogart.

Each star has a brass plaque with the name of the celebrity and their handprints or footprints. Many tourists enjoy taking rubbings of these famous stars’ plaques.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is constantly evolving as new stars are added each year.

In order to be eligible for a star, celebrities must have made significant contributions to the entertainment industry.

A committee of industry insiders select the nominees each year and the public is given the opportunity to vote on who they think should receive a star.

The Walk of Fame is more than just a tourist destination – it’s also a glimpse into the history of Hollywood and the celebrities who have made it what it is today.

Address: Hollywood Blvd & Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90028, United States

17. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a mile-long boardwalk and amusement park just south of central Santa Cruz.

The park was founded in 1907 and is the oldest operating amusement park in California.

The park spans over 28 acres and is home to a number of rides, games, and attractions.

Some of the most popular rides at the park include the Giant Dipper roller coaster, the Looff Carousel, and the 1924 Wurlitzer organ.

The rides at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk are open seven days a week, from April to August; they’re usually open on weekends during the fall and winter months.

The Boardwalk is also home to a number of shops, restaurants, and arcades.

Each year, the park attracts millions of visitors from all over the world.

Address: 400 Beach St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

18. Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign

The Hollywood Sign is one of the most iconic symbols of Los Angeles, California.

The giant white letters are located on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking the city.

The sign was originally built in 1923 as an advertisement for a housing development called Hollywoodland.

The sign was meant to be temporary, but it became so popular that it was left up and eventually became an official landmark in 1973.

The Hollywood Sign is perhaps most famous for its appearances in movies and TV shows, but it is also a popular tourist destination.

Visitors can hike to the top of Mount Lee for a close-up view of the sign or take a tour of the Hollywood Hills to get a bird’s eye view of Los Angeles neighborhood.


Is California a Golden State?

The favorable influence of the finding of gold in the state around 1848 was the major reason the Golden State became the official nickname of California in 1968.

What is the best month to visit California?

The months of September and October are ideal to visit California as they avoid the fog and the crowds.

The temperature is also ideal for spending time on the beach, sight-seeing, and attending festivals

Is Point Reyes National Seashore worth visiting Northern California?

Point Reyes is a vast expanse of protected coastline in Northern California Marin County.

Point Reyes is definitely worth visiting for either a day or a short weekend trip.

If you enjoy spending time outdoors, you will not be disappointed here. It is a short trip from San Francisco or an easy stop on a coastal California road trip.

What is considered California wine country?

Napa Valley wine country is located in Northern California, 50 miles northeast of San Francisco.

With more than 400 wineries, Napa Valley wine country is known for world-class wine, as well as beautiful countryside and near perfect weather year-round.

What is unusual about the Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California?

The Winchester Mystery House is a mansion in San Jose, California, that was once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester.

It is renowned for its size, its architectural curiosities, and its lack of any master building plan.

According to the most popular myth, Mrs. Winchester was haunted by the spirits of those slain by her late husband’s firm’s invention, the Winchester rifle.

A psychic informed her that in order to avoid the spirits, she would have to move west, acquire a property and keep building nonstop after her spouse died.

Is Long Beach California worth visiting?

Just south of downtown Los Angeles, Long Beach is a destination worth adding to your Southern California travel bucket list.

Long Beach offers waterfront attractions, bike-friendly roadways, outdoor adventures, and amazing weather.


  • Tamara M

    Hey there! My name is Tamara, welcome to my little world! I’m a 20-something-year-old from Toronto, Canada (though I’m rarely there) and I’m super passionate about exploring the world, photography, and cooking delicious plant-based recipes. I created this blog to share my favorite places, adventures, restaurants, accommodations, and travel tips with all of you and keep a bit of a travel diary for myself.

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