I was lucky enough to live in the sunshine state California ( I don’t care if Florida is called that) for a whole year and I had the chance to visit a lot of different places, all around. I lived in the beautiful city of San Francisco which should definitely be #1 on your list but there are lots more wonderful places that are worth a trip. If you ever get the chance tvisit California, make sure to include some of these places.
1. San Francisco
In case you only have the chance to visit one place in California, I would say it should be this one. I lived here for a whole year and I can truly say that it’s a fantastic city. There is loads to do and you’ll find incredible spots that just take your breath away. There are some of the most famous landmarks in this city and you’re friends will be so jealous when they see you standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. I could give you a list of things to do here, but that would be incredibly long, so just check out my post on this. Anyway, if I ever meet someone who tells me that they don’t like San Francisco, I will start screaming in their face.
This may not be for everyone, if not you’re a monster, but definitely make sure to visit Disneyland. The first time I went here was as a little girl, while on vacation with my family in San Diego, and 20 years later, I went again with a couple of friends and it was great. I bought new mouse ears, spent way too much money on lots of pretty things, took a ride on the carousel, met and took pictures with some characters and so much more. It’s the happiest place on earth and if you try to tell me otherwise, I will hold my ears and sing lalalaaa really loud.
3. Lake Tahoe
This is an absolutely gorgeous place, no matter if you visit during summer or winter. It offers opportunities for winter sports, you can go hiking, swimming, fishing, sun bathing and more. I went there with my host family for a weekend and even though we didn’t do a ton, it was absolutely lovely. We stayed in a nice lodge, just like one in movies, which I totally loved, even though it reminded me of winter, which I’m not a huge fan of. We went for a lovely walk and the weather was a bit cold but still sunny, so perfect. I took the car to the lake because obviously, I didn’t want to leave without seeing it and in the evening, we went to the Ritz Carlton to have some s’mores around the fire and some dinner. This was super lovely to do and I’m sure there are a lot more lovely things to have fun with.
4. Hearst Castle
My friend and me went on a weekend bus trip, which was interesting but probably won’t ever happen again, and one of the places we visited was the beautiful Hearst Castle near San Simeon (Try not laughing when the tour guid keeps saying San Semen all the time, I know, very mature.). I must say, what we saw from the castle interior didn’t really knock my socks off, but the outdoor site is just incredible. The view is stunning, the architecture is amazing and it’s just a really gorgeous place. I mean, even Lady Gaga shot one of her music videos here, so trust me when I tell you that it’s gorgeous.
5. Yosemite National Park
That bus trip we did also included a stop at Yosemite National Park and I don’t even have words for how incredibly beautiful it is. And we didn’t even catch a time, when the waterfalls are running. If you want to see those, you have to plan your trip accordingly. Unfortunately, we didn’t spend much time there and only made a few picture stops but still, it was incredible. If I ever go again, I’d prefer to add a little hiking (yes, that just came from me) and you know, maybe even camping (maybe not).
6. Los Angeles
I admit that this city isn’t my favorite in the world because it’s just not that pretty. I know that a lot of people will disagree with this but maybe they just haven’t seen other gorgeous places. Anyway, I went twice and sure, there are fun things to do and cool places to check out. I thought the Gryffith Observatory was great and you have an awesome view, all over the city, and you’re also able to see the Hollywood sign from there. You can go looking for stars on the Walk of Fame, visit the Urban Light and if you’re a true 90s kid, make sure to visit the original Charmed house because a good fangirl/boy moment never hurts.
7. Highway 1 – Big Sur
The West Coast is just incredibly beautiful and if you want to get a good glimpse of it, take Highway 1 and enjoy the view. My friends and me took the car from San Francisco all the way to Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, which is popular for a hole within the rock formation that the sun is supposed to hit at sunset. I hate to tell you this but it doesn’t. I guess it only happens during a certain time of year and September just isn’t it. There were cameras on tripods everywhere and getting there wasn’t fun at all, since lots of people go there, but it was pretty anyway because Californian sunsets are beautiful anywhere. You also cross popular bridges, see amazing landscapes and it’s just a very beautiful ride.
8. San Diego Parks
Besides checking out cities, I love amusement parks in every form. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of the city, the last time I visited, but the main reason for the trip were the parks, anyway. My family and I went there when my brother and me were kids and I just wanted to go back as an adult. Technically, my mom really wanted to visit the zoo again so I took her and we had a lovely time. Also make sure to take a look around the place in front of the park because you’ll find a beautiful carousel and a little train that takes you for a fun ride. Yes, I don’t think I need to tell you that I hopped on, right away. The Zoo is located at Balboa Park and I wish I could’ve visited the park more but it’s on my list for the next visit. Sea World is somewhere I wanted to go again because I just absolutely love the life under the sea and I’m obsessed with visiting aquariums. This is just a bigger version of it but definitely a lot of fun.
9. Jelly Belly Factory
If you’re a candy fan like me, you have to go. It’s located in Fairfield, about an hour outside of San Francisco, and they offer free tours. I took my former au pair child and we got to see how Jelly Beans are made. It was probably more exciting for me than it was for her because she was a bit too young but we did have a lovely time. It’s just a very colorful and fun place which includes photobooths, a huge merchandize store where you can buy beans in whatever flavor you like, a food court, game machines and more. If I were a kid, I’d love to celebrate my birthday there. I’d probably even do it as an adult.
10. Santa Monica Pier
If you make it to LA, absolutely make sure to stop by at the Santa Monica Pier. I am a huge kid inside and everything there just really pulls me in. Take a ride on the ferris wheel and enjoy the incredible view or hop onto the beautiful merry-go-round. Stuff your mouth with fast food, buy some postcards or just hang out at the beach. You’ll also find the famous Muscle Beach right next to the Pier, if you’re into it. This is a nice place to just let go and have fun, goof around, be a kid and enjoy the sunshine.
11. Silicon Valley
So you can’t really check out the Facebook headquarters but at least you can get a fun picture in front of a huge sign. However, you can visit Google and it’s an amazing campus. I’m not exactly sure how far you can go but if you have someone who works there, you get a pretty good view of everything Google has to offer. I mean, that place is incredible and includes anything an employee could wish for and even more, since it actually goes beyond anyone’s imagination until you’ve actually seen it.
12. Muir Woods
If you want to hike through a lovely piece of nature, visit the Muir Woods. You can either just go for the general route or plan on going for some major hiking action, whatever works for you. Some of those trees are so big, you could actually live in them. The great thing about San Francisco is that even though it’s a big city, you don’t have to drive very far to find beautiful green spaces to enjoy. If you have some time left on your way back, you can add a little stop at Point Bonita Lighthouse, located in the Marin Headlands, because getting there will give you a crazy view and it’s cute and free.
13. Monterey Bay Aquarium
As I mentioned above, I love aquariums and it makes me incredibly happy to visit them. During the fun trip along Highway 1, my friends and I stopped at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is a particularly nice one. It’s located directly by the ocean and in general just in a really pretty place. Man, I know I’m fangirling so hard over the West Coast but it’s just so pretty, wherever you go. I think they made a very good job with this aquarium and Monterey in general is not a bad place to be, either.
14. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo
I know that this may not be on the top of most people’s list when they’re on vacation but if your a kid at heart like me, you cherish a good and fun amusement park. This one has fabulous roller coasters, animals, Looney Tunes running around and the best thing ever, they offer dolphin encounters. It has always been a dream of mine to swim with dolphins and at Six Flags it came true. It was an absolutely amazing experience and it’s also affordable in comparison to other places who offer something like this.
15. Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Here we go again, another wonderful boardwalk and I’m fangirling all over it. Seeing carousels and roller coasters makes my heart jump, I just can’t help it. There is sunshine, the beach, fast food, arcades, souvenir shops and just tons of fun. Unfortunately, I learned of this place a little to late, so I only went once for a couple of hours but it was amazing. I guess every trip that includes a ride on a merry-go-round makes me happy but still. I really want to go back and spend a whole day there and just have lots and lots of fun.