30 Best & Must Visit Places In California (What To Do In California?)

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What to do in California? Read this ultimate list of must visit places in California or best cities to visit in California, along with reasons they’re worth seeing, things to do, activities, tips, and mid-budget hotel names:

Stunning California Road Trip Itinerary 21 – 25 days

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Must Visit Places In California – What To See In California?

California boasts a remarkable diversity of landscapes, from coastal shores and majestic mountains to vast deserts and lush forests, resulting in many unique and captivating destinations. This natural and geographical richness, combined with a rich history, vibrant culture, and innovation-driven urban centers, contributes to the abundance of must-visit places that cater to a wide range of interests and preferences.

San Francisco:

San Francisco has many iconic landmarks, diverse neighborhoods, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Mid-Budget Hotel: Hotel Emblem, Handlery Union Square Hotel.

Things to Do: 

Tips: Bring layers, as the weather can change quickly, and book Alcatraz tickets in advance.

Los Angeles:

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Los Angeles is the Entertainment Capital of Hollywood and has beautiful beaches.

Mid-Budget Hotel: The Garland, Hotel Angeleno.

Things to Do: 

  • Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, 
  • Griffith Observatory, and 
  • Relax on Santa Monica Beach.
    • Activities: Explore Getty Center, take a studio tour, hike Runyon Canyon, and shop on Rodeo Drive.

Tips: Expect traffic, plan to visit attractions early, and explore various neighborhoods.

San Diego:

San Diego is known for stunning beaches, sunsets, family-friendly attractions, and a laid-back vibe.

Mid-Budget Hotel: The Dana on Mission Bay, Town, and Country San Diego.

Things to Do: 

Tips: Enjoy the city’s excellent weather, and consider a Go San Diego Card for discounts.

Yosemite National Park:

Yosemite National Park is known for its stunning natural beauty, waterfalls, and hiking trails.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Yosemite View Lodge, Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite.

Things to Do: 

  • Hike to Yosemite Falls, 
  • Explore Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, 
  • And enjoy Glacier Point.
    • Activities: Rock climbing, camping, wildlife spotting, and photography.

Tips: Book accommodations well in advance, carry sufficient water and snacks for hikes, and be prepared for changing weather.

Lake Tahoe:

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Lake Tahoe is famous for its turquoise blue pristine lake, ski resorts, and outdoor recreation.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, Hotel Azure.

Things to Do: 

  • Ski or snowboard in winter, 
  • Enjoy water sports in summer, hike around the lake, 
  • and visit Emerald Bay State Park.
    • Activities: Try your luck at casinos, take a boat cruise on the lake, and explore Donner Memorial State Park.

Tips: Plan for seasonal activities, rent equipment in advance, and check road conditions during winter.

Napa Valley:

Napa Valley is a renowned wine region worldwide with beautiful vineyards and wineries.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Napa Winery Inn, Hotel Yountville.

Things to Do: 

  • Take wine tours and tastings, 
  • Explore the charming towns of Napa and Yountville, and enjoy hot air balloon rides.
    • Activities: Bike through the vineyards, indulge in gourmet dining and relax at local spas.

Tips: Make tasting appointments in advance, consider visiting during the harvest season, and have a designated driver or use a tour service.

Big Sur:

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Big Sur along Pacific Coast Highway 1 is known for its breathtaking coastal scenery with a backdrop of rugged mountains.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Big Sur River Inn, Ragged Point Inn.

Things to Do: 

  • Drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, 
  • Visit McWay Falls, and 
  • Hike in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
    • Activities: Camping, stargazing, photography, and relaxing on hidden beaches.

Tips: Check road conditions before traveling, pack essentials if camping, and explore the state parks along the route.

Joshua Tree National Park:

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Joshua Tree National Park is a Unique desert landscape with striking rock formations and Joshua Trees.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Joshua Tree Inn, Harmony Motel.

Things to Do: 

  • Hike the trails, 
  • Explore Hidden Valley, Keys View, and 
  • Stargaze in the International Dark Sky Park.
    • Activities: Rock climbing, photography, and birdwatching.

Tips: Bring plenty of water, wear appropriate clothing for desert conditions, and visit during cooler months.

Santa Barbara:

Santa Barbara is a Mediterranean-style city with beautiful beaches and cultural attractions.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Hotel Milo Santa Barbara, Best Western Plus Encina Inn & Suites.

Things to Do: 

  • Visit Santa Barbara Mission, 
  • Relax on Butterfly Beach, 
  • Explore Lotusland Gardens, and 
  • Tour the Funk Zone.
    • Activities: Kayaking, wine tasting, exploring art galleries, and enjoying the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Tips: Explore State Street for shopping and dining, take a scenic drive on Cabrillo Highway, and enjoy the local food.

Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea:

Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea on Pacific Coast Highway 1 are known for Coastal beauty, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and charming villages.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Pacific Grove Inn, Carmel Mission Inn.

Things to Do: 

  • 10 Best Things To Do This Weekend In Monterey CA
  • Visit the aquarium, 
  • Drive along 17-Mile Drive, 
  • Explore Cannery Row, and 
  • Walk along Carmel Beach.
    • Activities: Whale watching, kayaking, exploring Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, and golfing.

Tips: Check for aquarium events, enjoy fresh seafood, and explore the scenic Pebble Beach golf courses.

Disneyland Resort (Anaheim):

Disneyland Resort is a Magical theme park experience for all ages.

Mid-Budget Hotel: The Anaheim Hotel, SpringHill Suites, Anaheim Maingate.

Things to Do: Explore Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, meet beloved characters, and enjoy thrilling rides.

    • Activities: Watch parades and shows, shop at Downtown Disney, and indulge in themed dining.

Tips: Check park hours and crowd calendars, use the Disney MaxPass for ride reservations, and book accommodations near the resort.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks:

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Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park are home to giant sequoias and stunning mountain landscapes.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Wuksachi Lodge, John Muir Lodge.

Things to Do: 

  • Visit General Sherman Tree, 
  • Hike through groves, 
  • Explore Crystal Cave, and 
  • Enjoy scenic drives.
    • Activities: Camping, snowshoeing in winter, photography, and starry night observation.

Tips: Check for road closures and weather conditions, take guided cave tours, and prepare for elevation changes.

Palm Springs: What To Do In California?

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Palm Springs is a desert Oasis known for its modern architecture and outdoor activities.

Mid-Budget Hotel: The Saguaro Palm Springs, Ace Hotel & Swim Club.

Things to Do: 

  • Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, 
  • Explore mid-century modern architecture, 
  • Hike in Indian Canyons, and 
  • Relax in hot springs.
    • Activities: Golfing, shopping in Uptown Design District, and exploring Joshua Tree National Park nearby.

Tips: Visit in cooler months, hydrate well due to the desert climate, and explore the art galleries and museums.

San Luis Obispo (SLO):

San Luis Obispo is a quaint college town with a relaxed atmosphere and natural beauty.

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Mid-Budget Hotel: Madonna Inn, Apple Farm Inn.

Things to Do: 

  • Stroll around Bubblegum Alley, 
  • Hike Bishop Peak, 
  • Explore Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, and 
  • Relax at Avila Beach.
    • Activities: Biking, wine tasting in Edna Valley, and visiting the Farmers’ Market.

Tips: Enjoy the walkable downtown, experience the lively local culture, and explore nearby wineries.

Huntington Beach:

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Huntington Beach is known for its Surfing culture, stunning pristine beaches, and beachfront attractions.

Mid-Budget Hotel: The Waterfront Beach Resort, Kimpton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort.

Things to Do: 

  • Learn to surf, explore Huntington Beach Pier, 
  • Bike along the boardwalk, and 
  • Visit Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.
    • Activities: Volleyball, bonfires on the beach, and enjoying live music at Pacific City.

Tips: Check the surf forecast, participate in beach bonfire programs, and explore the vibrant dining scene.


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Malibu has a gorgeous coastline, celebrity homes, and beachside charm.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Malibu Beach Inn, The M Malibu.

Things to Do: 

  • Visit Zuma Beach, 
  • Explore Malibu Pier, hike in Malibu Creek State Park, and 
  • Tour Getty Villa.
    • Activities: Surfing, beach picnics, wine tasting at local vineyards, and horseback riding.

Tips: Respect private property, enjoy the scenic Pacific Coast Highway drive and experience the stunning sunsets.

Lassen Volcanic National Park:

Lassen Volcanic National Park has unique geothermal features and volcanic landscapes.

Mid-Budget Hotel: St. Bernard Lodge, Best Western Trailside Inn.

Things to Do: 

  • Explore Bumpass Hell, 
  • Hike to the summit of Lassen Peak, 
  • Visit the hydrothermal areas, and 
  • Enjoy scenic drives.
    • Activities: Camping, snowshoeing in winter, birdwatching, and starry night photography.

Tips: Check for seasonal road closures, be prepared for changing weather, and carry bear-proof containers for camping.


Solvang is a charming Danish-style village in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Mid-Budget Hotel: King Frederik Inn, Wine Valley Inn.

Things to Do: 

  • Explore Danish architecture, 
  • Taste Danish pastries, 
  • Visit Hans Christian Andersen Museum, and 
  • Enjoy wine tasting.
    • Activities: Cycling in the countryside, horseback riding, and experiencing the local festivals.

Tips: Try the aebleskiver (Danish pancake balls), explore local wine trails, and immerse yourself in the quaint ambiance.

Redwood National and State Parks:

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Mendocino County redwoods

Redwood National Park has majestic old-growth redwood trees in Redwood forests and coastal beauty.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Redwood Coast Vacation Rentals, Trinidad Bay Bed & Breakfast.

Things to Do: 

  • Drive through the Avenue of the Giants, 
  • Hike Fern Canyon, 
  • Explore Stout Grove, and enjoy beach walks.
    • Activities: Camping, river kayaking, birdwatching, and guided ranger programs.

Tips: Check trail conditions, respect the delicate ecosystem, and experience the awe-inspiring scale of the redwoods.

Santa Cruz:

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Santa Cruz is a vibrant beach town with outdoor fun and cultural attractions.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Dream Inn Santa Cruz, Beach Street Inn, and Suites.

Things to Do: 

  • Ride the historic Giant Dipper roller coaster, 
  • Explore the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 
  • Hike in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and 
  • Visit the Santa Cruz Wharf.
    • Activities: Surfing, exploring Natural Bridges State Beach, and shopping on Pacific Avenue.

Tips: Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere, try the locally-made ice cream, and explore nearby state parks.


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Sacramento is California’s capital city with a history and vibrant culture.

Mid-Budget Hotel: The Citizen Hotel, Hyatt Regency Sacramento.

Things to Do: 

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  • Visit the State Capitol, 
  • Explore Old Sacramento, 
  • Discover the Crocker Art Museum, and 
  • Stroll along the American River Parkway.
  • Activities: Bike along the American River Bike Trail, enjoy farm-to-fork dining, and attend local events.

Tips: Learn about the Gold Rush history, explore the Second Saturday Art Walk, and enjoy the city’s riverfront charm.

Point Reyes National Seashore:

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Point Reyes National Seashore is a Rugged coastal beauty and diverse ecosystems.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Point Reyes Station Inn, HI Point Reyes Hostel.

Things to Do: 

  • Visit Point Reyes Lighthouse, 
  • Hike Tomales Point Trail, 
  • Explore Point Reyes Beach, and 
  • Spot wildlife.
  • Activities: Birdwatching, tidepool exploration, and enjoying fresh oysters nearby Tomales Bay.

Tips: Check weather conditions before visiting, make reservations for the lighthouse tour, and explore the historic Point Reyes Station.

Beverly Hills:

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Rodeo Drive

Beverly Hills neighborhood is an upscale shopping, luxury lifestyle, and celebrity sightings.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Maison 140 Beverly Hills, Hotel Beverly Terrace.

Things to Do: 

  • Stroll down Rodeo Drive, 
  • Explore the Greystone Mansion, 
  • Visit the Paley Center for Media, and 
  • Take a celebrity homes tour.
  • Activities: Enjoy fine dining, spa treatments, and people-watching at trendy cafes.

Tips: Watch for public art installations, visit during awards season for a chance to spot celebrities, and explore nearby attractions like the Getty Center.


Weekend road trips from San Francisco | Places To Visit Near San Francisco On Weekend Road trip

Mendocino is a quaint coastal village with stunning landscapes and an artistic community. For art-lovers and laid back travelers Mendocino is one of the best places to visit in California.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Little River Inn, Hill House Inn.

Things to Do: 

  • Explore Mendocino Headlands State Park, 
  • Visit art galleries, 
  • Discover Glass Beach, and 
  • Admire Point Cabrillo Light Station.
  • Activities: Whale watching, wine tasting in Anderson Valley, and hiking in Russian Gulch State Park.

Tips: Enjoy the small-town charm, shop for local crafts, and explore the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

Death Valley National Park:

Death Valley National Park is a unique desert landscape, including the lowest point in North America. Death valley national park is one of the unique places to visit in California.

Mid-Budget Hotel: The Inn at Death Valley, Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel.

Things to Do: 

  • Visit Badwater Basin, 
  • Hike in Golden Canyon, 
  • Explore Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and 
  • Experience Dante’s View.
  • Activities: Stargazing at Dark Sky Festival, visiting Furnace Creek Visitor Center, and marveling at the Artist’s Palette.

Tips: Plan your visit during cooler months, carry plenty of water, and explore the park’s diverse geology.

Catalina Island: 

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Catalina Island is a perfect Island getaway with outdoor adventures and a stunning coastline.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Hotel Atwater, Hermosa Hotel.

Things to Do:

  • Explore Avalon’s shops and restaurants, 
  • Take a zip line eco tour, 
  • Snorkel in the clear waters, and 
  • Hike the Trans-Catalina Trail.
  • Activities: Scuba diving, kayaking, biking, and visiting the Catalina Island Museum.

Tips: Book activities in advance, consider a glass-bottom boat tour, and enjoy the relaxing island atmosphere.


Places To Visit Near San Francisco On Weekend Road trip

Sausalito is a charming waterfront town with views of San Francisco.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa, Inn Above Tide.

Things to Do: 

  • Walk along the Sausalito waterfront, 
  • Explore the Marin Headlands, 
  • Visit the Bay Area Discovery Museum, and 
  • Admire the houseboats.
  • Activities: Kayaking in Richardson Bay, shopping downtown, and enjoying seafood by the bay.

Tips: Take the ferry from San Francisco for beautiful views, explore Marinship Park for local history, and appreciate the art galleries.


Road trips from Sacramento California

Berkeley is a University town with intellectual pursuits and eclectic culture.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Graduate Berkeley, Hotel Shattuck Plaza.

Things to Do: 

  • Visit the UC Berkeley campus, 
  • Explore the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 
  • Hike in Tilden Regional Park, and 
  • Enjoy the gourmet food scene.
  • Activities: Attend lectures and events at the university, explore the Telegraph Avenue shopping district, and visit the Lawrence Hall of Science.

Tips: Embrace the college town vibe, attend a live performance at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and explore the vibrant neighborhoods.

Paso Robles:

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Paso Robles is a Wine country with charming wineries and a growing culinary scene.

Mid-Budget Hotel: La Bellasera Hotel & Suites, Adelaide Inn.

Things to Do: 

  • Go wine tasting along the Paso Robles Wine Trail, 
  • Visit the Hearst Castle, 
  • Enjoy hot air balloon rides, and 
  • Explore Paso Robles Downtown City Park.
  • Activities: Attend wine festivals, relax in mineral hot springs, and explore local artisan shops.

Tips: Plan a winery tour, explore Paso Market Walk for local food vendors, and experience the historic Paso Robles Inn.


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Julian is a quaint mountain town with historic charm and natural beauty and one of the best places to visit in California.

Mid-Budget Hotel: Julian Gold Rush Hotel, Tucker Peak Lodge.

Things to Do: 

  • Explore Julian’s Main Street, 
  • Visit Julian Pioneer Museum, 
  • Go apple picking, and 
  • Hike in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.
  • Activities: Enjoy homemade apple pie, experience seasonal events like apple picking and gold panning, and stargaze in the clear mountain air.

Tips: Visit during the fall for apple season, explore nearby Lake Cuyamaca, and immerse yourself in the town’s gold rush history.

With its diverse regions and attractions, California offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. Now you know some must visit places in California (Cities to visit in California) with things to do, activities, hotel stays, and all helpful tips. 

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