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California is the third-largest state in the U.S. It sits on the western edge of the country with an impressive 840 miles of running coastline! From boundless oceans to snow-capped mountains, expansive deserts and idyllic vineyards, California has a little bit of everything.
Nature lovers will delight in the lush redwood forests, pristine lakes, and sandy coastline. City-goes will be enchanted by sprawling shopping malls, endless entertainment options, and world-class restaurants.
California is full of vibrant multicultural cities, each beckoning visitors with unique and exciting attractions. If you’re trying to decide where to go in California, here are the 17 best places to visit in the Golden State!
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Safety is an important thing to keep in mind when visiting California. Generally speaking, this U.S. state is very safe to travel to and you should have nothing to worry about.
If you’re visiting one of California’s national parks, like Yosemite or the redwood forests, remember to be prepared when out exploring. Always bring proper supplies with you, like water, snacks, and a map or some form of GPS.
Some of the larger cities in California, like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego have higher crime rates compared to other cities. Stay in populated/tourist areas and follow the rules of common sense and you should have nothing to worry about!
San Diego is So Cal at it’s finest! This is the city you think of when you picture California. It’s supplied with endless coastlines, sandy beaches, and warm weather year-round. The city has a lively yet laid-back vibe that makes it one of the best places to visit in California!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in San Diego, California
Not yet booked? Take a look at our favorite hotels in Downtown San Diego!
Disneyland is the happiest place on earth! This beloved theme park is filled with fun and exciting attractions both kids and adults will enjoy. From Disney themed rides to heart-pumping roller coasters, there’s something for everyone.
The park also has a wide range of themed eateries, shopping, and entertainment options.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Disneyland, California
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When most people think of California wine, they think of Napa. However, Paso Robles is just as nice but far less expensive and touristy. Not to mention, it’s only about a half-hour drive from the ocean!
The area is teeming with picturesque wineries that won’t break your budget.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Paso Robles, California
If you’re looking for places to go in California off the beaten path, San Simeon is your answer! This small California town has a very relaxed vibe and a somewhat mysterious allure. It’s the kind of town you’d see in an Alfred Hitchcock movie from the 1950s.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in San Simeon, California
San Francisco is one of the top places to visit in California, and for good reason! The districts that make up the city are totally unique and give it an eclectic character. From Chinatown to fisherman’s wharf to the financial district, no two areas of San Francisco are the same.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in San Francisco, California
Will you also visit San Francisco, California? We know great places to stay in San Francisco too!
Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places in California. The valley floor is surrounded by sheer granite cliffs, domes, waterfalls, and over 800 miles of scenic hiking trails. In Yosemite Village, there are shops, restaurants, and lodging. This area of the state is an outdoor oasis and one of the best places in California for nature lovers.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Yosemite National park, California
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If you’re looking for a small, easy-going coastal town, Pismo is your answer. From surf-friendly shorelines to scenic hiking trails to a buzzing downtown, this city epitomizes old-school California. Pismo is also the clam chowder capital of the world. When you visit, make sure to pick up some award-winning chowder from Splash Cafe.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Pismo Beach, California
If you’re visiting southern California, Santa Catalina Island is a great place to go for a day trip. The ferry ride to the island departs from the southern California cities of Long Beach, San Pedro, Dana Point, and Newport Beach and takes one hour. Make sure to book your tickets in advance!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Santa Catalina Island, California
San Francisco is amazing! You can see more of it with these great day trips from San Francisco, USA!
Caramel-by-the-Sea is a town known for its quaint ambiance and whimsical cottage homes. This chic California city is filled with boutiques, art galleries, cozy cafes, fine dining eateries, and much more! It’s one of the more lavish California vacation spots but offers plenty of local charm and a social small-town feel.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Los Angeles is a sprawling urban city in southern California. It has high-energy and endless attractions that make it one of the most popular places to visit. From world-class museums to pulsating nightclubs to an endless coastline, this is a city that will keep you busy.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Los Angeles, California
Want to go deeper? Take a cool tour in Denver, USA to learn more than you could on your own!
Monterey is a city on California’s picturesque rugged coastline. If you’re traveling with your significant other, the city offers plenty of romantic activities. There are miles of scenic hiking trails, a gorgeous stretch of coastline, local wineries, and an abundance of shopping and dining options. This sea-side city has a small-town charm that makes it very appealing.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Monterey, California
Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This northern California city is geared towards nature lovers and is known for its year-round outdoor attractions. In the winter, the ski resorts open for business. In the summer after the snow melts, outdoor activities such as hiking and watersports are popular.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Lake Tahoe, California
Palm Springs is a resort town located in the Sonoran Desert of southern California. If you’re looking for the best places to go in California for a relaxing vacation, this is your city. You’ll find museums, art galleries, scenic canyons, shopping centers, and fine-dining restaurants. Palm Springs is all about self-care and pampering!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Palm Springs, California
Big Sur is a 90 mile stretch of California’s central coast that goes between the cities of Carmel and San Simeon. It’s bordered by the mountains and the ocean, making it one of the most beautiful places to travel in California. Driving along the Big Sur highway route will provide you with picturesque views of the rugged coastline.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Big Sur Coast, California
Santa Cruz is a beach town that screams classic California, from its lively oceanfront boardwalk to its surfing scene to its vintage clothing stores. It’s surrounded by groves of towering redwoods, coastal hiking trails, and secluded beaches. It offers the best mix of indoor and outdoor attractions. It’s perfect for every type of traveler!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Santa Cruz, California
Santa Barbara is located on central California’s idyllic coast. It’s one of the most glamorous places to take a California vacation. From upscale boutiques and restaurants to the palm-lined waterfront, it has an attractive upmarket appeal. The city reflects Santa Barbara’s fascinating, Spanish colonial heritage. The downtown area is characterized by white stucco buildings with red-roofs.
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Santa Barbara, California
Humboldt County is one of the most scenic places to explore in California. You’ll find plenty of remote forests, secluded beaches, and quiet rivers. It’s a great place to visit if you enjoy hiking, hunting, fishing, and outdoor adventures. This California county is an escape to the great outdoors!
Our Favorite Places to Stay in Humboldt County, California
We hope you enjoyed our list of the 17 best places in California to visit. As you can tell, there are so many different areas of the state to explore. Each city offers something totally different and unique to travelers.
This is a place you could visit over and over again and enjoy a new and exciting experience every time. California allures visitors with plenty of sunshine, a running coastline, and metropolitan sophistication.
From towering mountains to towering buildings and scenic landscapes to sprawling shopping malls, there’s something for everyone!
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Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!