Best of California

There’s something for everyone in California. The Golden State has gorgeous beaches, family-friendly attractions, outdoor adventures, skiing, movie stars, Napa Valley, and some of the best surfing in the entire world. Living here in La Jolla, I have easy access to other destinations in the state, but California is worth a visit whether you’re traveling here from across the country or across the world.

Five Reasons to Visit California

The weather is amazing

California’s weather is famous around the world for good reason. In most parts of the state, it’s pleasantly warm year-round — think a comfortable 70℉ — and in much of the state (including right here in La Jolla) the sun is shining more often than not. The clouds occasionally blot out the sun, but on drizzly days there’s still plenty to do.

California has the best theme parks

California is pretty much the ultimate family vacation destination thanks to the theme parks around the state. There are rides and games, thrills, animals, and more that will leave you and your family with memories that last a lifetime. You can see more of them in one trip if you grab discounted California theme park tickets ahead of time. If you’re visiting theme parks and attractions like Disneyland®, LEGOLAND®, Universal Studios Hollywood®, or Knott’s Berry Farm®, I can help you find California theme park tickets for less.

California is kid-friendly

The only thing you’ll need to worry about when visiting California with kids is making sure they have enough sunblock on. There are children’s museums, young kid-friendly amusement parks, fun restaurants, and countless beaches, parks, and playgrounds where children can run off some steam all over the state. Some of the biggest museums in California have free admission for kids. Planning a visit to San Diego? In October, museums, attractions, tours, hotels, and restaurants have free admission or free stuff to do for kids. And if you have younger children, Los Angeles is a surprisingly great destination!

There’s lots of nature

From the seals and sea lions of La Jolla to the misty redwood forests in Northern California to the High Sierras, California is a state where getting fresh air is as enjoyable as hitting the spa. Skiing, anyone? There’s so much biodiversity in the state that it would take you multiple visits to explore all the habitats here.

California has some of the best luxury hotels

As far as I’m concerned, this is THE state to have a one-of-a-kind luxury hotel experience in the US. In San Diego, you can stay at high-end hotels right near family-friendly attractions like the San Diego Zoo® or in the heart of the hippest parts of the city. In Los Angeles, you can enjoy truly decadent pampering and see all the celebrities you could want. Then there are the ultra-posh hotels of Orange County, the trendy hotels of San Francisco, and the chill hotels in Napa.

Before your next trip to California, check out my luxury hotel reviews. All of my reviews are of hotels I’ve actually stayed at, and I do my best to give an unbiased look into what a typical stay is like. If you haven’t booked yet, I wanted to mention that I can get you exclusive VIP amenities as an Independent Affiliate of Cadence® Travel. When you book through me, your reservation will be flagged VIP and you’ll get extras like complimentary breakfasts, room upgrades, spa credits, and more.

Some of My Favorite Places in California

People forget that California is huge, and so a visit to southern California is entirely different from a visit to northern areas. Like most Californians, I have my favorite haunts in my home state — hopefully my California travel tips give you some fun starting points as you explore!

San Francisco

From the iconic cable cars and pastel painted ladies to the steep hills and the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is a must-visit destination with instantly recognizable hotspots thanks to its popularity in movies and on TV. That said, a lot of visitors to San Francisco are surprised by how much more there is to see and do here. There are fantastic museums for art lovers, historic theaters, hop on/hop off city tours, and cell house tours of Alcatraz Island. Or you can hike dozens of trails, watch the sea lions at PIER 39, or picnic in one of the city’s many gorgeous parks. Whether you’re visiting the city for the very first time or you’re a local, there is a lot to do in San Francisco.

TIP: Go San Francisco® is one of the best ways to save money on San Francisco attractions.

Los Angeles

Compared to San Francisco, Los Angeles is huge at 4,000 square miles. It’s actually bigger than some states, and it’s the most populous county in the whole country. Many people think of Los Angeles as a celebrity mecca — and it is — but it also has a thriving cultural scene with fabulous live theater, a diverse and delicious food scene, live music that’s to die for, beautiful beaches, and great hiking trails that are right in the city. The warm and sunny weather year-round is hard to beat and is just as beautiful as it looks on TV.

TIP: Go Los Angeles® is a multi-attraction pass that can help you sightsee for less.

Orange County

Widely known as the OC, Orange County has destination beaches (Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach come to mind), fantastic restaurants, pretty piers, boardwalks, and amusement parks, too. It’s only about an hour south of Los Angeles, so it shares the gorgeous weather, and it’s a great place to rest, relax, and recharge. The atmosphere is casual and laid-back, but there are plenty of luxury hotels (Balboa Bay Resort® is a favorite) if you’d prefer to head back to upscale accommodations after your surf lesson. The OC is also a hub of spa life, so if it’s pampering you’re after, you’ll definitely find that here, too.

Santa Barbara

There’s more to Santa Barbara than the beautiful coastline, though you could absolutely spend an entire vacation relaxing on the city’s broad beaches in between catching the occasional wave. This California city a world-class foodie destination that’s heavily focused on local produce (thanks to a year-round growing season) and the tacos are amazing. The quintessential red-tile roofs and whitewashed walls that people associate with Santa Barbara architecture are worth sightseeing for. As for what else there is to do in Santa Barbara besides eat and wander, the answer will depend on your tastes. The harbor cruises are wonderful, and you can sample wines from more than two dozen wineries on Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail. Santa Barbara also has history and art museums, and a vibrant cultural district known locally as the Funk Zone. When we go (which is often because we have family there), we like to take Amtrak®’s Pacific Surfliner train to avoid the traffic and stay at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, which has become one of our favorite luxury hotels.