Where do you start when heading to Hollywood? Well, you can start with Hollywood's most iconic attraction; the Hollywood Sign, that has been perched upon Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking beautiful Los Angeles (L.A.) since 1923. One of Hollywood's most acclaimed and oldest must-visit attractions is the one and only read more...
California's Yosemite National Park, situated more precisely in the Sierra Nevada range is one of the best national parks to be found in North America. In fact, it has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. Visualise enchanting valleys, gorges, lakes, streams, rivers, waterfalls with rainbow hues at the bottom, mountains, cedars, pine trees, meadows and wildlife all in one place – you are now imagining Yosemite National Park. Other attractions include towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada, Mount Lyell and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River. One of the most visited parts of Yosemite National Park is Yosemite Valley. Filled with hiking trails, rock climbing routes and spectacular waterfalls such Ribbon Falls, Bridalveil Fall and Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in North America at 2,423 ft, Yosemite is a fantastic representation of America's natural beauty so make it a must-visit!
San Francisco's most symbolic landmark since 1937 has been the Art Deco style Golden Gate Bridge which was until 1964 the longest steel suspension bridges in the world and which is also claimed to be one of the Wonders of the Modern World. Despite its intimidating scale, the Golden Gate Bridge, built to connect the north of San Francisco to Marin County, is considered the most picturesque and elegant bridge of its kind. Many times veiled by San Francisco's characteristic cotton-like fog, the Golden Gate Bridge is many times still visible as a result of its famous orange vermilion colour which stands out even in the gloomiest of days. Stretching 1 ¾ miles, it supports six traffic lanes as well as a pedestrian walkway and cycling lane. From here, you can witness incredible views towards the bridge's natural setting, take photos and enjoy a stroll along San Francisco's most visited highlight. Don't forget a jacket though as weather conditions can get cold and windy. Once you have crossed the bridge, why not take a gentle ferry ride with Golden Gate Ferry services back to your original destination (20-30 minutes); formerly the shortest way to cross the San Francisco Bay before this mega construction existed.
Most people wouldn't even think of visiting a prison during a holiday but when in San Francisco, an exception must be made! Now open to the public and located 1.5 miles offshore in San Francisco Bay is the infamous Alcatraz Island; a National Historic Landmark which has featured in movies like The Book of Eli, Escape from Alcatraz, The Rock, X-Men: The Last Stand and Catch Me If You Can. Its name, Alcatraz, which was first professed in the mid-18th century, derives from the Spanish word for pelican as a result of the large pelican population on the island. The island began its fame in 1846 as the site of the first operational lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States and in later years went from military fortification to a military prison and finally for which it is most known, as a federal prison (1934-1963). Given its isolation and the fact that its surrounding waters were cold and traitorous, meaning escape would be fatal, Alcatraz Island was chosen as an ideal location to imprison America's most dangerous and notorious criminals such as Al "Scarface" Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud "The Birdman of Alcatraz", George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Bumpy Johnson, Rafael Cancel Miranda (attacked the US Capitol) and Alvin "Creepy" Karpis. Often referred to as "The Rock" or even "Evil Island", this fascinating and almost eerie attraction is today part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is reachable only by ferry (Hornblower Cruises) from Pier 33 near Fisherman's Wharf. Whilst on the island there are several landmarks to check out from the still operating lighthouse to the Main Cellhouse, Baker Beach, Helipad, Library, Dining Hall, Building 64, Parade Grounds, Recreation Yard, Wardens House and Water Tower among others. During your tour, you can also find traces of Native American occupation; natural rock pools; beautiful flora; and bird, marine and animal life.
Situated on Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach is the brilliant Aquarium of the Pacific. Featuring multiple types of exhibits ranging from small (5000 gallons) to massive (350000 gallons), the Aquarium of the Pacific contains a collection of up to 11000 animals of 500 different species belonging to the waters and seascapes of the Pacific. It also educates visitors about the importance of conservation and protecting the ocean from pollution and the effects of global warming. During your tour through the colourful aquarium, discover amazing exhibits of different habitats belonging to particular regions of the Pacific. The names of the galleries where these exceptional exhibits are found are Southern California & Baja Gallery, Northern Pacific Gallery, Tropical Gallery, June Keyes Penguin Habitat, in addition to the exciting outdoor area, Explorer's Cove, which contains the Lorikeet Forest; and the Shark Lagoon which houses over 150 sharks and rays. The Aquarium of the Pacific is great for an educational trip and a fun day out with family and friends.
Dazzling vineyards, wineries, spa centres, elegant gourmet restaurants and astonishing scenery are waiting for you in Napa Valley, a prestigious part of the San Francisco Bay area in California and major wine region of the world. Millions of visitors travel to this region each year seeking to learn all about their favourite wines from vine to bottle as well as tantalising their taste buds with local cheeses, mustards, tomatoes and olive oils. Napa Valley is also recommended for those that enjoy fine dining which has flourished over the years in order to compliment the area's main attraction to the fullest. Wine tours and tastings are the best past times in Napa Valley although the area also boasts other unique leisure activities such as an early morning hot air balloon ride, horseback riding, sailing, cycling, fishing, golfing, gliding, and walking. Napa Valley is also a top location for luxurious spa treatments. Take yourself to Calistoga in the north end of Napa Valley where you'll find a superb hot springs resort promoting a healthy environment and zero stress! Here you can enjoy a much-needed massage or mud bath and wave goodbye to the stressed-out old you.
Make your way past Cabrillo Bridge and through California Quadrangle and find yourself in Balboa Park, one of San Diego's major attractions built in 1868. The whole area is public and made up of illustrious gardens like those of Alcazar Garden, Botanical Building, Desert Cactus Garden, Casa del Rey Moro Garden, Japanese Friendship Garden, Bird Park, Palm Canyon, and Zoro Garden, along with natural green vegetation and walking paths helping to provide a relaxed environment for people to spend their day either strolling, jogging or cycling. The park is likewise abundant in individual places to visit like monuments, statues, museums, theatres, music venues and exquisite architectural landmarks of different styles from two historical expositions of which the park was a host – Panama-California Exposition and California Pacific International Exposition. The highly acclaimed San Diego Zoo is another feature to be found in Balboa Park and a definite must-visit; in particular those that are travelling with children. Balboa Park, an urban cultural park, literally has something for all ages and proposes a great day of sightseeing within a relaxed open space.
Prepare to be gobsmacked as soon as you step foot into Hearst Castle, a famous mansion built between 1919 and 1947 that is everything and beyond beautiful and located on a hilltop in San Simeon halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Today a National and Californian Historical Landmark, Hearst Castle is a legendary example of grand ambition and what money can buy. Exceeding 90,000 sq feet and with its own airfield, movie theatre, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, 127 acres of gardens, 3 guesthouses, 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms and private zoo, it's no wonder that Hearst Castle was an A-list magnet during its first years of existence. Its owner, William Hearst, hosted formal dinners and evening entertainment for the elite of Hollywood and the Political world almost every night here inviting the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Bob hope, Franklin Roosevelt, Joan Crawford and even Winston Churchill to his "humble" home. Today, Hearst Castle is open for public tours (in groups or private) and invites you to discover the true meaning of elegance and thinking big. Check out everything from crystal chandeliers to perfectly pristine floors, extraordinary art and antique collections from all over the world, imitations of historical European architectural styles and so much more! You won't want to leave this breathtaking masterpiece.
Extending 400 miles from north-to-south, and some 70 miles from east-to-west, the major mountain range of Sierra Nevada which crosses the states of California and Nevada are simply fantastic for a backpack holiday filled with activities for hungry adventurers. Observe some of the most scenic landscapes on the globe in the Sierra Nevada range and trek the various terrains in store from desert-like conditions to icy grounds. Within the realms of the Sierra Nevada are glorious features like the highest point in the contiguous United States known as Mount Whitney (4,421 m); the stunning Alpine lake, Lake Tahoe; three national parks including the Yosemite National Park; 20 wilderness areas, over 500 peaks, and two distinct national monuments known as Devils Postpile and Giant Sequoia so there is no chance of having nothing to see or do! In fact Sierra Nevada is one of North America's top locations for nature fanatics. Winter time and early spring are the best times for impeccable skiing and snowboarding conditions or mountain climbing. If you love fishing, the Sierra Nevada is an authentic wonderland of lakes and rivers abundant in fish. For hikers, you won't find such exemplary walking trails anywhere else. Well maintained and easy to follow, these trails will guide you through picturesque settings and lead you towards dauntingly high yet graceful mountain peaks; lakes, rivers and meadows. The sheer beauty of the Sierra Nevada is simply indescribable. You'll just have to see if for yourself!
California is internationally known as being home to the "Entertainment Capital of the World" because of its glamorous movie scene but the entertainment it offers doesn't just stop there. California is home to iconic amusement and theme parks which are worlds of their own and extremely recommended. There are over 30 theme parks and 17 waterparks to be explored in the state alone with an enormous range of thrill rides, rollercoasters and water rides that will guarantee countless memorable moments whether you're on a day-out with friends or the entire family. There is something for everybody, young and old alike, so no one will be left just watching. Below are just some you might want to consider visiting.
The most prominent amusement park to be found in California is Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, family of the Disney parks located around the globe. It's not as big as Disney World in Florida, but it's the next best thing and will fulfil all your expectations.
Sea World in San Diego is one of those destinations that everyone should visit at least once in their lives no matter what their age. This marine mammal park, oceanarium and theme park presents you with a fascinating display of what lies within the ocean and offers inspiring animal shows such as a killer whale show – a true highlight but do watch out for all the splashing!
The Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita offers adrenaline junkies the time of their lives with 18 sensational rollercoasters to choose from. Dare your friends or family to go on as many spine chilling rides as possible and find out which one of you is courageous and which one is all mouth!
California's Great America in Santa Clara is the only theme park in the state to have a water park. You will find a pleasing list of rollercoasters, thrill rides and family rides to choose from.
If you have a Lego fan at home, taking them to Legoland in Carlsbad, San Diego, is a dream come true. Not only providing entertainment for children and the young at heart, it is engaging with cool displays and Lego constructions. A family favourite without a doubt!
Situated in Buena Park, Knott's Berry Farm is a popular attraction with over 3 million visitors recorded in 2012. Beginning as a farm and later developed into a theme park as it is known today, you will find an array of extreme rollercoasters, entertainment shows and tasty eating opportunities – Boysenberry Pie and chicken dinners. A great time to visit is during October in Halloween season when the park goes from berry farm to scary farm with the special Halloween Haunt event.