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California Travel Guide

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Golden Gate Bridge © San Francisco CVB

California Travel Guide

The land of movie stars and make believe, California occupies the imagination of the entire world. Dreams of swaying palm trees lining manicured Beverly Hills boulevards with enormous mansions, sunny beach boardwalks with fun fairs and rollerbladers, scenic highways skirting dramatic coastal drop-offs, and secluded paths meandering through groves of giant redwood trees are all part of the magic of this wildly popular state.

For many people, a holiday in California means visiting Hollywood in Los Angeles, including a wide variety of activities ranging from the rides at Universal Studios, to posing for pictures at the Hollywood Wax Museum, to hunting down celebrity grave sites for Bing Crosby and Natalie Wood.

Southern California is also famous for its many theme parks, like Six Flags, Knott's Berry Farm, and of course Disneyland. From there, many travellers take a quick drive down the 101 Highway to San Diego, for family-friendly attractions like Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.

Holidays in San Francisco and other destinations in Northern California offer a different experience, often less pre-packaged and more cultural. Whether going for dim sum in the bustling streets of Chinatown, hunting for records in Haight Ashbury, wine tasting in Napa Valley, or riding the famous cable cars up and down the hills, San Francisco has something for everyone.

But far from the bustling streets of the big cities, the stunning landscape of California offers scenic photo opportunities ranging from the giant redwoods of Sequoia National Park, to the twisted branches of Joshua Tree. Travellers can ski or swim at Lake Tahoe, and cavort with dolphins on Catalina Island… leading many to wonder if there's anything you can't find in California!

Best time to visit California

The weather in California is famously beautiful, and it really is a year-round destination. That said, California's climate varies dramatically from north to south, something visitors should be aware of. The weather in Southern California is hot with dry desert winds in the summer, and more rainfall and lower temperatures in the winter (November to February). Northern California is cooler with much more rain, and winters can be downright cold in San Francisco. Read more on California's Climate and Weather.

What to see in California

-Catch a killer whale show at Sea World.

-See giant redwoods, the biggest trees on earth, in Muir Woods.

-Compare handprints with Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe in Hollywood.

-Watch enormous floats made from flowers go by in the Tournament of Roses Parade.

What to do in California

-Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.

-Sample local wines in Napa Valley and Santa Barbara.

-Go skiing at popular resorts like Big Bear and Mammoth Mountain.

-Catch a wave and walk on the boardwalk on Santa Monica Beach. Read more on California Attractions.

Getting to California

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) are major international hubs, and there are plenty of flights to California available from practically anywhere. There are direct flights to California from London and most major UK cities, and flights from London take roughly 10-11 hours. Get more information on California Airports.

Read

East of Eden by John Steinbeck, LA Confidential by James Ellroy, and The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle.

Watch

Sideways (2004), Sunset Boulevard (1950), American Graffiti (1973), Chinatown (1974) and The Karate Kid (1984).

Drink

Napa Valley wine like Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.

Eat

California-style sushi, Chinese dim sum and In-and-Out burgers.

What to buy

California wine, Mickey Mouse ears and Hollywood souvenirs.

What to pack

Plenty of sunscreen, and a comfortable pair of walking shoes. A warm jacket is needed if visiting northern California in the winter.

What's on in California

Hollywood's most famous stars gather for the Academy Awards, held in February; a family-friendly theme park gets a spooky makeover in Knott's Scary Farm every October; and superheroes and movie stars rub shoulders at San Diego's famous Comic Con. California has one of the busiest events calendars in the world! More information on California Events.

Did you know?

-California's state motto is "Eureka!" (I have found it!)

-Sequoia National Park contains the largest living tree. Its trunk is 102 feet in circumference.

-The Hollywood Bowl is the world's largest outdoor amphitheatre.

A final word

From the magic of Tinseltown to the remote beauty of the mountains, sunny California has something for everyone.

Become our California Travel Expert

We are looking for contributors for our California travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to California or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.