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Great sandcastle beaches include Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, Stinson, Cabrillo, Hermosa, Coronado and Pacific Beaches


 

About California

About California Vacation Planning

 
We think California is the best vacation destination in the U.S. Come for the first time or the fiftieth time - the possibilities are endless. California’s vast size makes it more like a country than a state – you’ll never finish exploring its many treasures. Not surprisingly, many of the most enthusiastic travelers here are California residents enjoying unexplored regions of their home state.

California has a vacation for everyone – from beaches to big cities, forests to funky towns, desert oases to deep canyons, thrill rides to timeless redwoods – this site is all you need to find your favorite California destinations.

California’s unmatched natural beauty and cultural diversity will make every visit special. There are 18 National Forests, 8 National Parks and 264 State Parks and Beaches to explore. With 840 miles of coastline, visitors have hundreds of access points to the Pacific Ocean.

California’s 35 million people are concentrated mostly in the coastal cities from San Francisco south to San Diego. Mid-sized cities in the Central Valley like Bakersfield and Sacramento are growing as the population moves slowly inland. Surprisingly, it is still easy to find solitude in California - away from it all.

Whatever the season or region you pick for your trip, get packing and go!
 
California Vacation Ideas
 
Start brainstorming with some ideas  that suggest an itinerary for your California vacation.
 
"Kids + Parents – Keep Everybody Happy Family Vacation"

  • San Diego – Voted # 2 in America’s Favorite Family Trip Destination poll by Travel + Leisure Magazine (June 2004) – just behind NYC. With so many beaches, parks, attractions and great weather, adults and kids will have plenty to do. More info at San Diego pages.

  • Lake Tahoe – In summer, kids are busy in the water on the California side while parents enjoy the Nevada nightlife at Tahoe area casinos or a hike on the trails around the lake. In winter, everyone can ski or skate or sit by a fire. More info at Lake Tahoe Area pages.

"What the Kids Really Want Family Vacation"

  • Disneyland – (Anaheim, in the Los Angles metro are) – What else? More info at Los Angeles pages.

"Get Away from It All Vacation"


"Road Trip! Vacation"

  • Do the classic drives on Highway 1, hugging the coast, enjoying views and beaches. Try the stretches from San Francisco to Fort Bragg or Half Moon Bay to Big Sur. More info at the Pacific Coast Highway and Monterey Area pages.

  • Guess where Route 66 ended? Santa Monica, on the coast near Los Angeles. Only remnants remain of the original route but many can be spotted along the stretch between San Bernardino and Pasadena, just north of I-10 and 210, west of LA. More info at Los Angeles-Riverside Region pages.

  • Pick any one of the Scenic Drives (22 in all) mapped and described on this site. Take your pick from the Scenic Drives pages.

"I Love Lighthouses! Coastal Vacation"

  • California’s 1200-mile coastline offers the chance to get close to (and into, in a few cases) some of the most beautiful and remote lighthouses found anywhere in the world.  California’s forty lighthouses can be found as far south as San Diego (Point Loma) and as far north as Crescent City (St. George Reef).  Many are near cities (the first, on Alcatraz Island, is in the center of the San Francisco Bay) or very close to Highway 1, the main scenic coastal route.  

"Visit the Biggest Trees on Earth Vacation"


  • For the in-depth redwoods experience, head north to Redwood National Park along the coast between Eureka and Crescent City. More info on the Redwood Highway pages.

  • For shear mass, nothing beats the sequoia. On the southern edge of Yosemite National Park, tour the Mariposa Grove. More info at the Yosemite National Park pages.

"Romantic Escape Vacation"

  • Monterey/Carmel area – charming places to stay, gorgeous beach walks, fine dining – what else do you need? More info at Monterey Area pages.

  • Catalina Island – Take the ferry from Long Beach and spend a few days car-free and carefree on this once-private island. More info at Los Angeles pages.

  • Mendocino – Looks like a New England village with picket fences, cottages and a wildly beautiful perch on the coast. Nearby wineries and forests with trails, too. More info at Pacific Coast Highway pages.

"Extreme Scenic Vacation"

  • Yosemite – Start in the famous Valley and then head to Tuolumne Meadows. More info at the Yosemite-Mono Lake Area pages.

  • Point Lobos State Reserve – Just south of Carmel, this stretch of coast is wild and beautiful. More info at the Monterey Area pages.

  • Joshua Tree National Park – Especially stunning in spring when the desert blooms and the crazy joshua trees flower. Excellent hiking and easy-to-hard rockclimbing. More info at the Palm Springs-Joshua Tree Area pages.

"Boredom-Chaser Vacation"

  • Los Angeles – Concerts, nightclubs, top restaurants, shopping mecca for any budget, celebrity-watching, beaches, museums, sporting events – just go! More info at the Los Angeles pages.

  • San Francisco – Hip or not, you’ll never be bored in San Francisco – even the fog changes every day. Take a Bay cruise, visit Golden Gate Park, see a show, eat crab at Fisherman’s Wharf – or, just hang out and take it all in. More info at the San Francisco pages.

"You Have to See it to Believe It Vacation"

  • Hearst Castle – The occasional home of the publishing magnate (where his actress-girlfriend played hostess) is over-the-top decadent with stunning views from many of the 165 rooms on the ground. Now a California State Park. More info at the Central Coast pages.

  • Mono Lake – A saline lake with no outlet, high in the Sierra east of Yosemite, attracts huge numbers of migratory and nesting birds. Photographers love the weird limestone tufa formations poking from the lake’s surface. More info at the Yosemite-Mono Lake Area pages.

   


 
© Ron Niebrugge
Big Sur's beaches are perfect for beachcombers - to the south, beaches are more swimmable, to the north, more dramatic and secluded

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