Without a doubt, California is the top vacation state in the lower 48 . With stunning beaches, gorgeous forests, and cultural cities all wrapped in a warm and sunny package nearly year-round, the Golden State earns its nickname with an overabundance of first-rate activities enjoyed with beautiful weather.
The wealth of exciting opportunities is so vast that even California natives rarely run out of things to do. On your next trip to the golden coast, you must experience these five thrilling adventures you’ll only find in California.
1. California 1
There are road trips, and then there are road trips in California. Aside from the long-deceased — albeit still legendary — Route 66, the most iconic driving route in the United States is the great Pacific Coast Highway. Hugging the stunning Golden Coast at every curve, this stretch of highway connects most of California’s great seaside cities, from San Francisco in the North to San Diego in the south. Along the way, drivers see spectacular scenery and singular sights, including:
- Hearst Castle, a mansion of preposterous luxury.
- The towering Redwoods in various state and national forests.
- Fort Bragg’s glass beach, whose “sand” is actually reformed glass from the ocean.
- Bodega Bay, a charming town and the setting for Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”
- The otherworldly Pfeiffer Beach of Big Sur.
- And so much more.
2. Death Valley Buttes
If there is one place in California most tourists fear to visit, it is Death Valley. The name itself implies danger, and the extreme temperatures of the austere landscape are infamous. However, most Californians know Death Valley not as a treacherous no-man’s-land, but rather as a wonderful destination for some challenging day hikes. The northern stretches of the park are covered with hills and mountains crisscrossed with trails of varying difficulty; the Death Valley Buttes is a shorter hike — just over a mile long — but its ascent can be satisfyingly demanding, especially with its resulting views of the valley.
Certainly, hiking in Death Valley is not for the unprepared. As with any outdoor adventure, you always carry sufficient water, which in the desert is roughly a gallon per person per day. Loose-fitting clothing, especially with long sleeves and pants, will help keep the body cool and prevent sunburn, exhaustion, and other serious effects of exposure. Finally, it is best to bring someone along who knows the area well, so you can minimize your chances of getting lost in Death Valley.
3. Yosemite’s Half Dome
For most California travelers, just laying eyes on the magnificent landscape of Yosemite National Park is enough to inspire wonder. However, to avid rock climbers, Yosemite contains much more than beautiful nature: It offers a true climbing test. Half Dome, a well-named crest of rock that dominates the Yosemite skyline, has been recognized as an essential rock climbing mission for over a century. However, this hike and climb is extremely popular, so if you plan to make the pilgrimage to Half Dome, you should apply for permits well in advance of your trip.
4. L.A. Restaurant Scene
It might not contain stunning natural scenery, but like the previous two adventures the L.A. restaurant scene is a grueling but ultimately gratifying trek. To be honest, it is hard to find a bad place to eat in this city, which is a melting pot of several world cuisines. Regardless, there are a lot of places to stay if you’re a foodie. Expedia or any other travel site should offer decent deals near any of the restaurants below:
- Maude. An eatery whose menu changes monthly to highlight a specific seasonal ingredient.
- Trois Mec. A tiny space inside a strip mall that boasts some of the most daring French dishes.
- A.O.C. A well-appointed dining hall celebrated as a typical example of fine California food.
- Lukshon. A minimalist, modern space that serves delicious and diverse Southeast Asian cuisine.
5. Marina del Rey
Interrupting the line of Los Angeles’s famous sandy beaches, Marina del Rey is a neighborhood of the metropolis that cherishes the water rather than the coast. Boasting the world’s largest manmade small-craft harbor, Marina cherishes all of its watersports. You can spend every day of your vacation sampling a new variety of marine recreation. Boats are available on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis, and any other equipment you might need to enjoy the waves, from flippers to Jet skis, are available for rent, as well. You might even try something you’ve never imagined, like:
- Paddle boarding
- Aquatic yoga