California is one of the most complete states in the United States: here there are beaches, mountains, lakes, ski trails, scenic trains, and ghostly deserts. You can also find the most beautiful national parks, the world’s largest trees, the most famous theme parks, the most modern and liberal cities, as well as hundreds of charming villages overlooking the pacific ocean.
1. Pacific Coast Highway
To get a general idea of the Golden State it’s best to follow the coast along the Pacific Coast Highway(PCH) away from the collapsed freeways. This Californian road borders cliffs and beach towns, each with its own personality: from bohemian villages to rich and glamorous cities. The PCH also connects the main cities of the coast: the surfer San Diego, the fast-paced LA, and the hipster-laced San Francisco. Between them, you can see hidden beaches and surf paradises, picnic spots where you can eat fresh fish and wooden docks from which to contemplate sunsets over the immensity of the ocean.
02. Walk among giants
It’s time to disconnect and hug a tree. Why not start with the highest in the world? Large redwoods grow along the California coast, from Big Sur to the Oregon border, north of the state. Walk and even stop to meditate in the shadow of these millennial giants in places like the Muir Woods National Monument, Humboldt State Park or the State and National Park of Redwood.
Muir’s sequoias are the closest to San Francisco, just 19 miles north of the Golden Gate. On weekends the place is saturated with visitors, but in the middle of the week, in the early morning or late afternoon, when the tourist buses are gone, they can be seen with some tranquility. The 1.6-mile Main Trail Loop is a very pleasant walk through the Redwood Creek forest to the 1000-year-old Cathedral Trail trees.There are many other paths suitable for all audiences, well signposted.
The largest redwood park is the Humboldt Redwoods. It houses three-quarters of the world’s 100 tallest trees, and features such as the Rockefeller Forest, where we can feel like in the dinosaur age: it is the world’s largest primitive redwood forest.
If we want to escape from tourism, Redwood National & State Park can be a good alternative. Much less visited than the redwoods of the south, their specimens nevertheless have more than 2,500 years. It is a good place to camp (you need a permit, which is free).
3. Wine with Jack London
The Napa Valley is California’s best-known winemaking area (Falcon Crest did a lot for our culture ….) But the nearby Sonoma Valley is possibly more authentic and much more laid back (locals call it Slow-noma). Here, the vineyards are surrounded by ranches that offer different experiences, such as sampling new crops directly from the barrel in a shed with a zinc roof or enjoy the late vintage zinfandel with a ration of white chocolate ice cream watered with organic olive oil . This is Sonoma, conventions are not good.
The town of Sonoma is a great base for exploring the Wine Country, especially along Sonoma Hwy / Hwy 12, which runs from Sonoma to Santa Rosa and then continues to the west of the county and is full of wineries. If you prefer to discover the old style of the valley we can do it in Glen Ellen, a redoubt of other times, with its white fences and brick buildings of the nineteenth century.
The local hero of the area is Jack London, the writer, who was a fisherman, gold digger in Alaska and traveled through the South Seas before ending his days engaging in farming in this county of California. His tomb is near the last house he lived in, the House of Happy Walls, now a museum surrounded by a park that proposes several hiking and mountain bike trails (www.jacklondonpark.com).
4. The Essential Disneyland
No matter the age, you have to visit the Disney Kingdom if you travel to California. Where orange groves and walnut trees grew, Walt Disney, built in 1955, is a magical territory that is currently the most visited tourist attraction in the southern part of the state. At the Anaheim theme parks, cartoon characters parade on Main Street USA and fireworks explode over Sleeping Beauty Castle on summer nights.
5. The most beautiful national park
Yosemite inspires respect and almost reverence: more than four million visitors a year can attest. Sometimes the crowds bother, but it’s impossible not to get excited about the Half Dome silhouette, the Captain’s mole, the graceful fall of Yosemite Falls, the subalpine lakes, and the virgin Hetch Hetchy trails.
Yosemite National Park was described by conservationist John Muir as “great temple” and “land of delights”. Everything looks huge when you walk among meadows of wild flowers and valleys carved by glaciers, avalanches and earthquakes, or between waterfalls; Contemplating the granite domes or walking among old redwood forests. The most sublime views are enjoyed from Glacier Point on a full moon night or touring the mountainous Tioga Road in summer.
The jewel of the park is the Yosemite Valley, crossed by the Merced River and marked by granite massifs like El Capitán, one of the largest monoliths in the world.
6. The golden bridge of the free spirits
It’s impossible to travel to California without stopping in San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge. You must cross the mythical bridge (erected in 1937) on foot or by bicycle, watching the cargo ships pass between the orange towers, and gazing at 360-degree views of the steep Marin capes, the city skyscrapers in the background, and The island of Alcatraz.
7. Death Valley
Its name evokes a hellish place, scorching and resembling a Biblical exile, but the Death Valley is a place full of life. Close up, springtime wildflowers bloom on the beige slopes and you will discover an exceptional landscape: singing sand dunes, water-carved canyons, desert rocks, craters of extinct volcanoes, oasis with palm trees and a Abundant endemic flora and fauna.
Adventurers can venture into narrow canyons filled with geological rarities, climb volcanic craters formed by violent prehistoric explosions or explore ghost mining towns of the Wild West.
8. A day at the Zoo
When the people of San Diego are not on the beach, they go to Balboa Park. Families can spend the day visiting more than a dozen museums, seeing exotic animals, riding the Skyfari cable car of the city’s famous Zoo, or attending a show at the Old Globe Theater.
San Diego is the largest city on the southern coast of California and probably the best place to live in the entire state, a city with a sustainable urbanism where green commerce is on the rise, the beaches are clean and the skies impeccable. It is the paradise of the good life, populated by tourists, hedonistic surfers, people who ride bikes on the beach, go horse racing, or tour the best breweries.
9. Santa Monica and Venice
The elegant Santa Monica beach is the perfect alternative to Los Angeles, and one of the happiest places on earth, or so it seems. You can learn surfing, climb a solar powered ferris wheel, dance under the stars on an old pier, discover the aquarium’s tactile pools or put your feet in the water. The sunsets are overwhelming. You’ll encounter a parade of new agers, bodybuilders, punks, gothic and hippy percussionists on the nearby beach of Venice.
10. A Walk for Fame
Film and television studios have emigrated to other places, but Hollywood and its Stars Walk of Fame still attract millions of visitors. Modern hotels, restored movie theaters and ostentatious bars and discos where VIPs have a preference. It is unavoidable to take a souvenir photo in front of the Grauman Chinese Theater, or inside the Hollywood & Highland Babylon Court, with the mythical Hollywood sign in the background.
Be sure to visit any of the large studios such as Paramount, Sony or Warner Bros.