Whether you're in search of adventure, luxury or star-spotting, California is such a large and varied state that there is something for everyone. Here are 10 unique experiences to enjoy when you visit the Golden State.
With so many man-made attractions and dramatic landscapes, it's no wonder California attracts millions of visitors from around the globe.
Need any more reasons to visit the Golden State? Discover 10 of the best California experiences below.
1. Spot the Stars
California's liveliest city is by far Los Angeles. This main hub is the perfect place to see an A-list actor whether you're taking a tour at Universal Studios Hollywood or Warner Bros Studios, hiking along Runyon Canyon, dancing the night away at a starlet-filled club, or shopping along Melrose Avenue or Robertson Boulevard. Starline Grand Tours also offers the chance to view more than 40 of the stars homes in Beverly Hills.
2. Only in California
If you're wanting a variety of activities on your itinerary that rivals no other, you can't go past California. If you're the exploring type, be sure to take an Alcatraz and San Francisco City Tour. The ultimate introduction to San Francisco, you'll enjoy a stunning cruise along the waters of San Francisco Bay, followed by a walking tour of the 'Cell Block' at Alcatraz.
If you're wanting a bit more action (as well as massive star spotting!) book a ticket to Coachella. This annual two-weekend, three-day music and arts festival, located in the Inland Empire's Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert, features performances by your favourite stars in rock, indie, hip hop and electronica. Famous faces Kendall Jenner, Sienna Miller and Kelly Osbourne are festival regulars. One word of warning: book your ticket in advance!
3. Shop 'til you Drop
California is a shopaholic's dream. Take your pick from outlets, malls, vintage and designer shopping. If you've got cash to splash, then you can't go past Rodeo Drive, home to designer brands including Chanel and Versace. With its palm tree-lined streets and village-like atmosphere, it's no wonder why it's one of the most famous streets.
For impressive savings on designer brands, head to Desert Hills Premium Outlets. Located just over an hours drive from Los Angeles and Orange Counties and 20 minutes west of Palm Springs, you can save big on brands such as Burberry, Calvin Klein and DKNY.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, California, commonly referred to as the 'coolest block in America', is the place to go, whether shopping for antiques, vintage or mainstream labels. Shopping complete, you can then head to one of the trendy restaurants or bars for a pick-me-up.
4. Stay in an Iconic Hotel
When it comes to California, the list of iconic hotels are endless! While you've most probably heard of notables like Chateau Marmont or Hollywood Roosevelt, two definitely worth considering are ANDAZ Hotel West Hollywood and The Shore Hotel in Santa Monica.
With Hollywood Hills as the backdrop, ANDAZ Hotel is perfect for tourists. Only a five minute walk from the Sunset Strip, this West Hollywood hotel features a stunning rooftop pool and a mix of Old Hollywood glamour with modern contemporary design.
If you prefer more of a beachfront setting, enjoy a stay at Shore Hotel. Situated on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, this is the perfect destination for a leisurely getaway. Santa Monica, named one of National Geographic's Top 10 Best Cities in the world, offers many activities, whether it's enjoying the 3.5 miles of pristine coastline, touring the local art galleries or scouring through the local farmers' markets.
5. Hang Out at the Beach
To experience the quintessential California lifestyle, you have to explore the legendary beach towns. Whether you're wanting to surf, sunbathe or take in the sunset, there is something for everyone, if you're willing to travel.
Coronado Beach - Located five minutes from San Diego, this family-friendly beach features wide stretches of sand (Californian beaches feature wider stretches of sand than Australia), and is perfect for whale watching from January through to March.
La Jolla - For the active ones, this 'jewel' of San Diego is a small beach perfect for swimming, snorkelling and diving.
Pismo Beach - Located in central California between Los Angeles and San Francisco, tourists can either take a more relaxing pace by strolling through the Monarch Butterfly Cove, or go horseback riding along private trails.
Huntington Beach Pier - Nicknamed 'Surf City, USA', this picturesque area features year-round surf (thanks to ocean swells around Catalina Island). It also features one of the longest piers on the west coast.
Baker Beach - To the west of the Golden Gate Bridge is Baker Beach. With its rocky serpentine shoreline it's unsafe for swimming, however it does make for a nice picnic area or chance to take in the panoramic views of the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
6. Theme Parks
Southern California features plenty of amusement and water parks, but the grandaddy of them all is Disneyland! Situated in Anaheim, this world-famous venue is a make-believe kingdom, with plenty of activities for the whole family.
Located in sunny San Diego, SeaWorld is the theme park for live shows, marine animals, and rides not for the faint-hearted. If you love rides, then jump on the Flume Roller Coaster, raft through the Shipwreck Rapids and a simulated helicopter ride. The whole family can visit the main attraction - Shamu Show features dancing fountains and performances by killer whales.
7. Get Back to Nature
If you love to get your fitness fix out in the open or just like to relax outdoors, there are plenty of national parks to choose from. A must-visit is Yosemite National Park. A mountain valley, carved out by glaciers, features some of the most beautiful scenery in all of California. Covering nearly 1,200 square miles of mountainous terrain in the Sierra Nevada of California (almost as big as Rhode Island), this popular landmark is open all year round.
To see huge and spectacular trees, visit the Redwood National and State Parks, along the coast of Northern California. Located entirely within the Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, you'll find the most impressive groves. There are also plenty of activities to take part in including exhibits, guided walks, horse riding and mountain biking.
8. Big Sur Coastline
One of the most scenic routes to take a drive down, starts from Cannery Row in Monterey Bay along Big Sur's waterfalls, to the long stretch of Pismo Beach. Covering an area of about 90 miles along the central coast of California, it's an easy way to revel and soak in the laidback Californian lifestyle.
9. Relax at a Luxurious Day Spa
There are many excellent day spas to choose from in Northern California, that it's hard to choose just one. Relax poolside with a luxurious beauty treatment, enjoy a wine tasting at Napa Valley, or get in touch with nature via an outdoor hike.
10. Rent a Lakeside House
If you haven't heard of Lake Tahoe, then you're in for a treat. If you can't afford renting a house, then try one of the elegant hotels or inns. The view at Lake Tahoe is stunning especially in winter and spring where the mountains are covered in snow.
For more great travel tips and inspiration, check out visitcalifornia.com.au