Known as ‘The Golden State’ for many reasons including the home of the Golden Gate Bridge and mile after mile of pristine golden sand beaches, California is understandably one of the most popular states to be visited across the nation. If you have yet to visit California, where have you been? Ok I understand, you need a little more convincing. After reading the following post, I believe you will raring to book your next trip to San Francisco, Los Angeles or somewhere in the beautiful state of California.
Rather than either Heather or myself trying to sell California on our own (though based on our own experiences I’m sure we could do a pretty good job), we are fortunate to have Jessica Sern from ‘Longest Bus Ride‘ share her thoughts on why you should visit California in the near future.
Be sure to keep up with Jessica on her travels by following her across these social media networks:
The state of California is known for Hollywood, wine, and Silicon Valley. Of the 50 united states, it is the largest in both population and gross domestic product (GDP). If compared to other countries, California alone has the 7th largest GDP, about equal to that of Italy.
The fastest driving route north to south takes nearly 12 hours, however, the slower Route 1 is much more scenic. Summers are warm to hot while winters are cool in southern California to snowy in the mountains. The state boasts mountains in the north and east, forests, valleys, desert, and a coastline along the entire west side.
Death Valley is the lowest, driest, and hottest place in the United States. Enjoy beautiful hiking, canyoning, backpacking, and biking, with mountains colored by volcanic ash and magnificent sunsets. Or, simply take a tranquil walk along the salt flats at Badwater Basin and enjoy the monochromatic vista and the feeling of being 242 feet (85.5 meters) below sea level.
Free guided ranger tours, and paid Jeep tours will take you off the beaten path. Wildlife is most visible in the early morning and evening. Always keep extra water and a full tank of gas in your vehicle as roads are remote.
Surfing is a popular sport up and down the entire California coast and the state has world-class waves. The water in southern California is much warmer than the water up north. In fact, surfers in northern California wear wetsuits year-round.
San Clemente, south of Los Angeles, boasts Trestles, which has a huge sand beach and warm weather. This is the place to take surf lessons! And, San Clemente is a great little surf town with a laidback culture, beachside hotels, and delicious food.
Any surfer must visit Nomad’s Canteen for the surfboard collection and traditional foods from your favorite surf spots around the world.
Yosemite National Park
Take your camera and binoculars. Massive rock walls. Spectacular landscapes. Watch the rock climbers on the 3,000-foot rock walls and at the historic Camp 4 bouldering site. Hiking and camping are fantastic—just don’t feed the black bears, which are only dangerous to your food.
This is California nature like you cannot imagine. Cabins and a luxury hotel are also found here but make your reservation well in advance of your visit. Although several hours from any major city, do not miss this place. Day trip bus tours from San Francisco are available, but the park is large so consider staying a few days.
San Francisco (S.F.) and Los Angeles (L.A.) are California’s largest cities and don’t forget a coat and jeans for S.F., even if visiting in the summer.
The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco is a popular local saying for a reason! Meanwhile, L.A. is warm to hot year round.
The food cultures are so unbelievably great in both cities that you may want to stay forever. Food trucks are popular in both cities. L.A. is known for Korean food, so visit Korea Town.
Meanwhile, S.F. has a strong farm to table and organic food movement, originated in nearby Berkeley by Alice Waters. Visit the Ferry Building for an overview any day, but on Saturday’s, the Farmer’s Market is world renowned. If you want to get an S.F. local talking, just ask them where you should go to eat for the best… well, anything.
Off The Beaten Track
Oakland is located 20 minutes from San Francisco. Take the 3-mile walk around Lake Merritt, and visit the bonsai garden. People from all over the world use the landscaped lakeside trail for exercising, walking their dogs or strolling with their families. Make some stops along the way. Rent a kayak at the boathouse.
Visit Fairyland (adults must be accompanied by a child), the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Disneyland. And, if you really want to get local, plan on Friday dinner at the Oakland Museum of California. After walking around the lake, walk across the street and visit the museum, buy dinner at the food trucks, eat in the sculpture garden, and dance to live music.
Local secret: The hot cocoa made with San Francisco’s own Tcho chocolate mixed with rum and topped with fresh whipping cream is amazing! ($8 with rum, $4 without rum)
Insider Tips for California
Jessica has also put together a few handy tips that will prove to be extremely beneficial for either a first-time or returning visitor to California.
Locals use the Yelp website or smartphone app.
San Francisco and Northern California generally has a casual culture of jeans and shirt, perhaps the remains from the beatnik and hippie cultures. Los Angeles has a more formal culture, where women wear more makeup and heels and men dress nicely.
Summer – the entire state is hot, except San Francisco, since it has a special micro-climate.
Winter – the entire state cools down. Southern California remains relatively warm while northern California gets cold. It snows in the mountains, including Yosemite.
San Francisco has BART (a metro) and Muni (buses and trams). Both San Francisco and Los Angeles have Uber, Lyft, and taxis. Other towns and cities have buses but generally limited public transportation.
Amtrak trains tend to run 30 minutes to many hours behind schedule but offer beautiful scenery. Southwest Airlines serves most California airports and includes free check-in for 2 bags. Rental cars are widely available, and Costco membership provides a discount.
Public Transportation Schedules in the San Francisco Area: Use www.411.org or Google Maps.
In Summer, hosts in San Francisco receive up to 40 requests a day, since accommodation is expensive. So, look for hosts in nearby cities that are on the BART line (similar to the metro). Here are some top tips for couchsurfing.
Popular Outdoor Activities
Surfing, skiing & snowboarding, baseball, basketball, American football, soccer (the real football) and hiking.
Visit California – Our Thoughts
What more is there to say? I hope you will agree with me that Jessica has given a pretty comprehensive list of reasons to visit California. Even if you are not convinced that you need to take a trip out west, we are ready to pack our bags and make a return trip to start exploring more of the Golden State.
So where have we been you may be wondering? Well, our first trip out west was to the beautiful Golden Gate City aka San Francisco.
We spent a long weekend there exploring all of the main tourist sights such as Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street and of course those quirky streetcars which are the only wait to get around (aside from walking which is also a great way to explore but can get a little tiring with all those hills!).
We then headed south to the breathtaking Monterey Peninsula, home of the world-famous Pebble Beach golf course. I am a huge golfer as you have probably established by now if you have followed us for a while, so it was an honor to walk on the hallowed turf of Pebble Beach (maybe next time I can afford the $495 green fees to actually play!)
Driving along the 17-Mile Drive was a cool experience as we saw a variety of wildlife and beautiful landscapes before we headed inland en route to Yosemite National Park. I think Jessica summarizes this pretty well but we would love to head back there and explore more of the park!
Los Angeles is your typical city with a number of attractive reasons to visit including paying a visit to the infamous Hollywood sign and of course catching a Lakers game at the Staples Center if possible.
In terms of area, California is the third largest state and by population, it’s the largest. With these two statistics, there is clearly a lot of reasons beyond the five mentioned above that should inspire you to visit here. From rural natural beauty to a myriad of urbanized areas ready to entertain you, California has it all…and more!
We want to reiterate our appreciation to Jessica for sharing her knowledge and experiences of California with us and hopefully, you are as inspired as we are to visit California in the not too distant future.
What are your experiences in California? Do you prefer to visit for the rural beauty or one of the many cities in California? Or perhaps you just prefer to hit the gorgeous beaches along the Pacific coastline?