From the neon lights of Las Vegas to the majestic Grand Canyon, California is full of iconic attractions. Whether you’re looking for the right destination for your next family holiday or a romantic couples’ getaway, California is brimming with appealing sights and activities. Few states have as many world famous American symbols as California; from New York’s legendary Statue of Liberty to the curved ears of Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. There are few destinations on Earth where you can see snow-tipped peaks one day, then lounge on clean white sands the next.
California has long been one of the most popular holiday destinations in the United States, thanks to its wide variety of attractions, great natural beauty and cultural significance. California is home to the world’s most famous film industry at Hollywood, making it ideal for those that love a good movie and are keen to catch a glimpse of their favourite celebrities. Choosing California for a holiday in 2017 puts you within easy reach of a huge selection of captivating attractions and places of interest.
At a glance
- Currency: United States Dollar
- Language: English
- Time Zone: GMT +-8
- Average flight time: 11h 0m
When to go
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California is a holiday haven for everybody, with a diverse selection of attractions catering to all tastes from movie lovers to theme park enthusiasts. One of the top attractions for many people is Hollywood, home of the world’s most famous film industry. Here you can catch a glimpse of your favourite Hollywood superstars and see iconic film memorabilia at Universal Studios. For many people, spotting your favourite stars’ names on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a real thrill, while you can round out your movie themed sightseeing with a visit to the Hollywood Sign and the iconic Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is also home to the Madame Tussauds Hollywood exhibit, where you can get up close and personal with film greats including Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Chan and Julia Roberts. One of the favourite Californian attractions for all ages is the legendary theme park resort of Disneyland, the only theme park built under the supervision of Walt Disney himself.
Wine and Dine
California is a melting pot of people from different cultures and backgrounds, and this is reflected in its eclectic cuisine. North California was the birthplace of America’s locally-produced food movement, which emphasises fresh fruits and vegetables and raising animals in a humane way. One of the first things you’ll notice about Californian cuisine is the amount of mobile restaurants and street food trucks parked everywhere - outside of sports stadiums, parks and office buildings.
California is a hit with foodies thanks to its incredible fresh seafood, with fishermen here trawling for over 300 species every year. Some of the most popular Californian seafood dishes include Dungeness crab, swordfish and shrimp, while San Francisco is renowned for its chunky clam chowder. Other staple dishes here include steak and California’s famous wines. Taco fans will enjoy the authentic and spicy offerings in California, thanks to the state’s border with Mexico.
California remains one of the most popular US holiday destinations with families, thanks to its huge selection of world-class attractions, gorgeous weather and friendly people. One of the main draws of California is its range of theme parks. California is home to Disneyland, the only Disney theme park to have been constructed under the direction of the late Walt Disney himself. Other popular theme park attractions include the Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles, as well as LEGOLAND at Carlsbad.
Families that loves their films won’t want to miss a tour of Universal Studios Hollywood. Other family-friendly offerings include the Disney California Adventure, a contemporary theme park with excellent dining choices and live shows, and Balboa Park, a varied theme park with museums, zoos and gardens spanning 1,200 acres.
Action and Adventure
The Californian lifestyle is all about getting out in the sunny weather and keeping active, making it a great choice for holidaymakers that like to stay in shape. There are a number of excellent venues in California for outdoor activities, blending exercise and sightseeing. Yosemite National Park is renowned for its huge sequoia trees and Tunnel View, a legendary vista featuring the tall cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. Some of the best outdoor activities here include biking the 20km of paved bicycle paths across the eastern valley, bird watching, hiking and horseback riding.
For a more challenging hiking experience, head to Joshua Tree National Park, a huge protected area in south California with jagged rock formations and striking desert landscapes. If you’re looking to dive in to an adventurous holiday, head to Lake Tahoe, where you can swim, fish and canoe.
Life's a Beach
Laguna Beach may be famous for its reality stars and fashion scene, but it also has one of the best beaches in California. The water at Laguna tends to be calm and is very clean, with the occasional stronger tide providing the ideal venue for surfing and other water sports. The main attraction of Laguna Beach is the warm white sands, perfect for playing volleyball, lounging in the sun or taking a walk along the beach.
Other popular South California beaches include Coronado, which welcomes water sports enthusiasts including bodysurfers, boogie boarders, tide poolers and swimmers, as well as whale watchers during the winter months. Venice Beach is popular for its beautiful sun-drenched weather and soft surf, but sets itself apart from other California beaches with its eclectic attractions including posing bodybuilders, artists, a 3-ring street circus and sand sculptors.
Beaches in North California tend to have a more sedate, tranquil feel, making them ideal for families with young children and more mature holidaymakers looking to get away from the bustle of places like Venice Beach. Cape Hatteras National Seashore extends for 115km along the Atlantic Coast and is distinguished by its tall, sandy dunes and foamy surf. For breath-taking views of the coast, climb the lighthouse here (the tallest in the USA at 60m).
For many people, the California nightlife scene is a huge draw. The nightlife here is eclectic and extensive, varying from hip-hop nightclubs to bluesy jazz bars. In downtown San Diego, you’ll find a number of nightclubs including FLUXX, which has some of the best happy hour deals in California, and the Onyx Room, which serves up cool drinks and trendy hip-hop and house music. If you love to spice things up with salsa music, head further north to the El Palacio in San Bernadino.
San Francisco has a huge choice of nightlife with the themed tiki bar at Smugglers Cove, the Occidental Cigar Club for more debonair holidaymakers and the 39th Floor Lounge for breath-taking views and easy listening music. Of course, no California holiday would be complete without a visit to Los Angeles, which boasts a selection of nightlife scenes including the modern cocktail bars in Downtown LA and the popular Palmtree Karaoke Bar.
California offers the ideal balance of gorgeous scenery, attractions and romantic settings for an unforgettable couples’ holiday. Big Sur is a magical stretch of coastline that attracts holidaymaking couples from across the globe and remains a popular wedding venue. Big Sur is famous for its dramatic coastline and stunning beaches. One beach has a waterfall, huge redwood trees and wood-topped mountains, setting the scene for romantic proposals and bringing a sense of mystery and excitement to your romantic break.
Malibu is an ideal choice for young couples and those looking to relax with their loved one in scenic surroundings. Miami has first-rate restaurants and iconic beaches that are ideal for water sports and romantic strolls, making it a good choice for those that prefer a laid-back vibe for their holidays.
California was once part of Mexico and has a diverse heritage that is reflected in the state’s multicultural neighbourhoods. San Francisco has one of the largest Chinatowns in America, vying for your attention with alluring aromas and bright colours. Close by, you’ll find the oldest Japantown in the US and the most famous jazz area at Fillmore.
Los Angeles is a wonderful place to learn more about other cultures, as you’ll find a number of cultural attractions like Little Armenia and Little Korea, as well as numerous museums. Some of the most popular cultural attractions in California include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the USS Midway Museum, the Presidio of San Francisco and the Exploratorium at San Francisco. You can learn more about California’s heritage at the California State Railroad Museum or the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, while some of the best multicultural museums include the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and the Japanese American National Museum.