5 Things That Should Be on Your California Bucket List

California is a massive state, with myriad habitats ranging from blazing deserts to enchanted forests to cliff-lined beaches. Narrowing down where to go and what to see when you’re planning a visit to this region can be tricky, as cities and attractions may be hundreds of miles apart. If a California trip is on your travel bucket list, here are the five places that absolutely need to be on your itinerary.

Visit San Diego

Image via Flickr by Giuseppe Milo (www.pixael.com)

California has a lot of major cities, but San Diego is among the most beautiful. A full 70 miles of coastline provide plenty of beach-day opportunities, including surfing at Mission Beach or walking along the clean sands of Coronado Beach. Stroll through the historic Gaslamp Quarter for some after-hours fun, or visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo to visit your favorite furry friends.

While there are plenty of accommodation options in San Diego, consider staying in hotels in nearby La Mesa to avoid some of the big crowds.

Mellow Out in Big Sur

Another coastline gem is Big Sur, a stretch of 90 miles that runs between Monterey Bay and San Simeon in central California. Here, you’ll find the quiet respite you need from the modern world, with only the rush of waves and the call of birds to keep you company. In particular, be sure to stop by McWay Falls and Pfeiffer Beach on your journey through this area.

Take In the Views at San Francisco

It seems impossible to leave out San Francisco, a city renowned for its laid-back lifestyle and eclectic locals. Your first stop should be the Golden Gate Bridge, where you can admire gorgeous views of the San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz Island is another attraction you simply can’t pass up, where you can learn more about the infamous prison, lighthouse, and fort.

Explore Yosemite National Park

Swing by the 1,200-square-mile Yosemite National Park to see some of the most awe-inspiring views this country has to offer. You’ll get to observe numerous rock formations carved millions of years ago through the power of glaciers. Towering waterfalls provide postcard-worthy photographs, while green meadows, cavernous valleys, and natural wildlife beckon to be discovered. Visit Mariposa Grove to discover over 500 ancient sequoias, or hike to Hetch Hetchy Valley to spot blossoming wildflowers.

Tour Lake Tahoe

The tantalizing baby-blue waters contrasting with the gray granite cliffs and deep emerald pines make Lake Tahoe a sensory delight. There’s much to do in this popular vacation spot, but for the best views, head to Emerald Bay. It’s been designated a National Natural Landmark because of its intense beauty. It was formed thousands of years ago by moraines when massive glaciers started melting.

So, what would an ideal itinerary look like with all these destinations? Start down in San Diego, then make your way up to Big Sur. Travel through San Francisco to get to Yosemite National Park, and then head north to Lake Tahoe. Overall, it’s about an 18-hour trip if you decide to drive, but this also gives you the chance to take Pacific Coast Highway and catch many notable vistas along the way.

Kristy Snyder

I'm a creative and quirky woman just looking to make her mark on the world. Writer, thinker, crafter, doer. Loves playing ice hockey and curling up with a good book. Traveling is a foremost passion and the road is always calling. Above all, I try to be an enjoyer of life.

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