Colorful residential neighborhood in the California coast

Things to do in  California

West coast, best coast

Is there anything you can't do in California? The frontier of the American West is an unreal assortment of natural beauty, cutting-edge culture, and an unconventional, let-it-all-go attitude that screams adventure. There are too many things to do in California to list—but to start, you can tour national parks from high mountains to low deserts, explore global centers of high-tech and Hollywood fame, sample world-class wines and multicultural cuisine galore, and while away perfect days in beautiful West Coast cities and beaches most of the year.

Top 15 attractions in California


A former federal prison that held notorious criminals Al “Scarface” Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Alcatraz is now a national historic landmark and one of the most sought-out (and sold-out) attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Highlights include touring what’s left of the maximum-security facility, hearing stories from former inmates, and sailing past the Golden Gate Bridge to reach the craggy isle.More

USS Midway Museum

Formerly the US Navy’s longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century (1945 to 1991), the USS Midway is now a floating museum docked off the coast of California. Aboard the hulking vessel, visitors can now explore more than 60 exhibits as well as peek inside the museum’s impressive aircraft collection.More

Golden Gate Bridge

The red-orange Golden Gate Bridge is a San Francisco icon, which spans 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) across and connects the city’s northernmost point to Marin County. While the suspension bridge is a major route for Bay Area commuters, the famous landmark also attracts visitors from around the world with its panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, the Marin headlands, Alcatraz, and San Francisco.More

Balboa Park

Home to world-class museums, manicured gardens, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park tops the list of San Diego city sights. Its 1,200 lush acres (486 hectares) comprise the largest urban park in the United States. Apart from its many attractions, Balboa Park also features lengthy walking and hiking trails, distinctive landscaping, Golden Age Spanish buildings, and one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs.More

Hollywood Sign

One of LA's most distinguishing icons, the famous Hollywood Sign proudly stands on Mt. Lee (Mount Lee) in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Los Angeles and the California movie industry it has come to symbolize. This LA landmark first appeared on its hillside perch in 1923 as an advertising gimmick for a real-estate development called Hollywoodland. Each letter stands 50 feet (15 meters) tall and is made of sheet metal painted white.More

Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal® Studios Hollywood is one of the world's oldest continuously operating movie studios. It’s also a theme park, presenting an entertaining mix of thrill rides and live-action shows, plus a tram ride. This large California theme park cleverly integrates ride shows and attractions with behind-the-scenes presentations on movie-making and special effects.More

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Only in Los Angeles are stars so common that they can even be found on the sidewalk. Studded with more than 2,600 brass stars across 18 city blocks, the Hollywood Walk of Fame features names of celebrities in mini monuments. See if you can spot the stars of your favorite motion pictures, TV shows, live theater, and more.More

Griffith Park

Griffith Park is one of the largest city parks in North America, covering a vast 4,310 acres (1,744 hectares). An oasis in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, this green space caters to visitors of all ages and interests with attractions such as the Los Angeles City Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, and the iconic Hollywood sign.More

17-Mile Drive

California's 17-Mile Drive, said to be one of the world's most scenic, is an essential Central Coast experience. Looping around the Monterey Peninsula, the private toll road offers stellar views of Monterey Bay and passes attractions such as the Lone Cypress, Bird Rock, the Del Monte Forest, and the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links.More

Golden Gate Park

The 1,000-plus acres (412 hectares) of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park are home to museums, picnic sites, lakes, golf, hiking and biking paths, concerts, and more. From the attraction-laden east end to the wilder west side where bison roam, the park offers plenty of ways to relax, get a culture fix, exercise, or gather with friends.More

Muir Woods

Home to one of the world's last remaining coastal redwood forests, Muir Woods National Monument allows travelers to hike, relax, or picnic among giant Northern California trees only minutes from the city. This protected nature reserve is also part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, home to Stinson Beach—the park's only lifeguarded beach—and Fort Baker.More

Sunset Strip

The legendary 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) stretch of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood known as the Sunset Strip extends east–west from Beverly Hills to Hollywood, laid end to end with celebrity-studded music venues dating back to the heyday of rock and roll, comedy clubs, boutiques, restaurants, hotels, and cocktail bars with stellar views of the surrounding city.More

Yosemite Falls

The highest measured waterfall in North America and the sixth-highest in the world, Yosemite Falls is the superstar attraction in Yosemite National Park. With a cumulative drop of 2,425 feet (739 meters), Yosemite Falls comprises three falls and is especially stunning in late spring when the snow melts and water flow is at its peak.More


From the Hills to the Sign, the Los Angeles neighborhood of Hollywood has become synonymous with the entertainment industry—and, often, its glamorous appeal. Match your handprints and footprints to those of Hollywood stars on the Walk of Fame; look out for celebs in Tinseltown; and visit famed theaters, such as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre—now the TCL Chinese Theatre—and the Egyptian.More

San Francisco Bay

A natural harbor spanned by the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the picturesque San Francisco Bay is the defining feature of California’s Bay Area. Get out on the chilly, choppy water—or just savor the views from the shoreline as the fog rolls in.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in California

Napa and Sonoma Wine Country Full-Day Tour from San Francisco
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Napa and Sonoma Wine Country Full-Day Tour from San Francisco

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Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood
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Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood

San Francisco: Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoia Day Tour
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Muir Woods & Sausalito Half-Day Tour (Return by Bus or Ferry from Sausalito)
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San Diego Whale Watching Cruise

San Diego Whale Watching Cruise

Skip the Ticketing Line: Aquarium of the Pacific General Admission Ticket
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San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise

San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise

All-Inclusive Full-Day Wine Tasting Tour of Temecula Valley
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San Francisco Super Saver: Muir Woods & Wine Country w/ optional Gourmet Lunch
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San Diego Whale Watching Cruise
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San Diego Whale Watching Cruise

Shared 3 Hours Los Angeles VIP Tour
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Shared 3 Hours Los Angeles VIP Tour

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All about California

When to visit

You may hear it often, but in California, it’s true: There’s never a bad time to visit. There are, however, general guidelines to follow. Spring is ideal for getting outside—think desert wildflower season and Coachella, one of the largest music festivals on the planet. Summer brings the tourist crush, more festivals, and the best beach weather in the US. Ski season typically runs from November to March but often starts early and stays late.

Getting around

The California road trip is alive and well. Highways 1, 5, and 101 cover large swathes of the state: Interstate 5 along the interior, while state and US routes 1 and 101 follow the scenic coast. If you have time, road-tripping is an essential California experience. The California Amtrak train system can get you around, but it is slow and not particularly affordable. To travel quickly between metro areas, flying is your best bet.

Traveler tips

Think of California, and you’ll likely picture postcard-worthy beaches up and down the rugged coast. While beautiful beaches are everywhere in the Golden State, those north of the Central Coast have chilly Pacific waters that may feel too cold for swimming. To take a dip without a wetsuit, make southern California, toward San Diego, your destination where the water will be warmer—places like Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Drake’s Beach.

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People Also Ask

What is California known for?

Natural beauty. California is home to rugged coastlines hugging the Pacific Ocean, age-old redwood and sequoia trees, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Yosemite and Death Valley are must-see national parks. Hollywood is the seat of the American entertainment industry, while Silicon Valley is the center of global technology.

What is the number 1 tourist attraction in California?

By the numbers, Disneyland® Park is the top attraction. The Los Angeles amusement park draws about 18 million visitors annually. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, perhaps the state’s most recognizable attraction, falls second with about 10 million visitors annually. Yosemite National Park rounds out the top three.

What is something unique you might see in California?

Among its wonders are Death Valley with its salt flats and the lowest point in North America. In San Francisco, there’s the world’s last manually operated cable car system. General Sherman in Sequoia National Park is thought to be the largest giant sequoia. Don't miss Lassen National Park’s volcanic, Mars-like landscapes.

What kind of activities can you do in California?

There's plenty of things to do in California. Outdoorsy types can surf, kayak, hike, scuba, ski, and sun-worship year-round. Culture mavens can visit world-class museums—from the Getty Center to the deYoung museum and SFMOMA. Wine tasting is a year-round affair; high-end shopping is a favorite Los Angeles diversion.

What is the prettiest place in California?

Carmel-by-the-Sea has an immaculate downtown, European-style courtyards and alleyways, and a bevy of art galleries. Point Lobos nearby is a California postcard, with Monterey cypress trees framing the shimmering Pacific Ocean. The Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is peace on earth.

What can you do in California right now?

Year-round things to do in California include wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma counties; driving down 600 coast-hugging miles (900 kilometers) on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, also known as California State Route 1; surfing rugged, pristine shorelines; and checking out Disneyland® for family fun.

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