Hey, California Dreamers! Get ready to surf the golden waves of adventure because the Golden State is calling.
From the bustling cities to the sun-soaked beaches and everything in between, California is a playground for thrill-seekers and chill-seekers alike. We’ve scoured the coast and conquered the mountains to bring you the top 25 Best Places to Visit in California this 2024.
So, whether you’re a Hollywood hopeful, a wine connoisseur, or just want to hug a giant redwood, pack your sunscreen and explore the magic that makes California truly unbeatable!
1. Disneyland: Magical Kingdom
Embark on a magical journey to Disneyland, California, where dreams come alive. Delve into the intricacies of planning your visit with a comprehensive breakdown of costs, from park tickets to accommodation, ensuring you’re well-prepared for the enchanting experience that awaits.
Navigating the Disneyland visit cost, let’s explore the basics. Park tickets start at $104 per day, with an additional $65 for the Park Hopper option, offering flexibility to explore both Disneyland and California Adventure. Indulge your taste buds with delectable delights, budgeting around $70 per day per person for food and drinks.
As you plan your stay, discover a range of accommodations, from Disneyland hotels at $415 to $675 per night to off-property options averaging $200 per night. Transportation adds to the adventure, with ride-share options costing $160 to $240 for a round-trip from LAX, and local transportation within Anaheim at $10 or more.
Immerse yourself in the magic of Disneyland, where each detail is meticulously crafted to create a memorable experience. Whether you’re a couple seeking a romantic getaway or a family on a thrilling adventure, Disneyland promises an enchanting escape tailored to your unique preferences.
2. Death Valley: Extreme Wilderness
Escape to the otherworldly landscapes of Death Valley, California, a surreal destination that beckons with its unique charm.
For a mere $15 per person or $30 per vehicle, unlock a seven-day pass to explore the vast wonders of Death Valley National Park. Motorcyclists can embark on this adventure for $25 per bike, ensuring everyone has access to this natural marvel.
Prepare to be mesmerized as you witness the mesmerizing hues of Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. Traverse the rugged terrain and discover the artist’s palette at Artist’s Palette, where mineral-rich rocks paint a vivid spectacle. Stand in awe of the iconic Zabriskie Point, offering panoramic views of the otherworldly landscape.
Marvel at the engineering marvel of Dante’s View, providing an unparalleled vista of Death Valley’s vastness. As the sun sets, embrace the tranquility at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, where shifting sands create an ever-changing canvas. Unleash your adventurous spirit and discover the unparalleled beauty that makes Death Valley a must-visit destination.
3. San Diego Zoo: Conservation Oasis
Step into a wildlife wonderland at the iconic San Diego Zoo, welcoming you year-round, come rain or shine, even on holidays. As summer unfolds, relish extended hours from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, promising ample time for exploration.
The general admission tickets offer a comprehensive experience, encompassing park entrance, the Skyfari Aerial Tram, a guided bus tour, the Kangaroo Express Bus, and access to all captivating shows. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere and enjoy special holiday events like Halgloween and Jungle Bells.
Indulge in the diverse wonders of the animal kingdom with a 1-Day Pass—Any Day, priced at $74 for adults (ages 12+) and $64 for children at the gate.
Unleash your inner adventurer and embark on an enriching journey through this world-renowned zoo, combining education and entertainment for an unforgettable experience.
4. Balboa Park: Cultural Oasis
Step into the enchanting realm of Balboa Park, a haven that beckons with its 24-hour open grounds, allowing you to explore outdoor gardens and select attractions without an admission fee. Marvel at the Botanical Building, a free oasis of lush beauty.
Discover a treasure trove of cultural and recreational wonders, including renowned museums, captivating theaters, and stunning architecture. From the Spanish Village Art Center to the iconic California Tower, each corner narrates a unique story.
Engage in leisurely strolls amidst lush greenery, relishing the charm of Spanish-Renaissance-inspired architecture. Immerse yourself in the world of art, science, and culture, with attractions like the San Diego Museum of Art and the Fleet Science Center awaiting your exploration.
Balboa Park is not merely a destination; it’s an immersive experience, inviting you to witness the harmonious blend of nature and human creativity. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, history buff, or nature lover, Balboa Park offers an unforgettable tapestry of experiences.
5. Monterey Bay Aquarium: Aquatic Wonderland
Embark on a mesmerizing marine adventure at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where the wonders of the ocean come to life. The entrance fees, ranging from $44.95 for children to $59.95 for adults, grant you access to an aquatic wonderland.
Delve into the mysteries of the deep with captivating exhibits like the mesmerizing Kelp Forest and the iconic Open Sea. Witness sea otters playfully frolicking and observe the graceful dance of jellyfish in the stunning Jellies exhibit.
Engage in interactive displays, providing a hands-on learning experience for visitors of all ages. The Aquarium’s commitment to marine conservation and education shines through its innovative programs, leaving you inspired to protect our oceans.
With breathtaking ocean views as your backdrop, Monterey Bay Aquarium offers an immersive journey into the underwater realm. Experience the magic of marine life and leave with a newfound appreciation for the beauty and fragility of our oceans.
6. Redwood National and State Parks: Towering Giants
Embark on a majestic journey through the towering giants of Redwood National and State Parks, where nature unveils its grandeur. While the parks are generally fee-free, be mindful of the $35 camping fee in selected areas.
Immerse yourself in the cathedral-like groves of ancient redwoods, some reaching heights that challenge the sky. Traverse scenic trails like the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, revealing the awe-inspiring beauty of these ancient trees and the diverse ecosystems they shelter.
Explore the coastal wonders of the Del Norte Coast Redwoods, where lush greenery meets the roaring Pacific. Engage in wildlife encounters, as these parks harbor a rich biodiversity, including Roosevelt elk and vibrant birdlife.
Feel the heartbeat of nature in the ancient shadows of these giants, and connect with the essence of wilderness. Whether camping under the colossal canopy or hiking amidst the giants, Redwood National and State Parks promise an unforgettable communion with nature.
7. Yosemite National Park: Majestic Wilderness
Embark on a breathtaking odyssey to Yosemite National Park, where nature weaves a masterpiece of granite cliffs, towering waterfalls, and ancient sequoias. Secure your Standard Entrance Pass, ranging from $20.00 to $35.00, ensuring seamless access via credit cards or mobile payments.
Drive through the iconic park gates, shrouded in twilight or bathed in dawn’s light, as entrances remain open 24/7 (excluding Hetch Hetchy). Discover Yosemite’s unparalleled beauty, from the grandeur of El Capitan to the misty allure of Bridalveil Fall.
Capture the essence of wilderness by exploring Yosemite Valley’s meadows, where the vibrant hues of wildflowers dance in harmony. Experience the serenity of Mirror Lake, mirroring the majestic Half Dome, as you immerse yourself in nature’s grand tapestry.
Whether you navigate the park’s winding roads by private vehicle, motorcycle, or as a per-person explorer, Yosemite unveils a symphony of landscapes, making every fee a gateway to an awe-inspiring encounter with the marvels of the natural world.
8. Big Sur: Coastal Majesty
Venture into the captivating realm of Big Sur, a coastal haven where majestic cliffs meet the Pacific’s embrace. For just $10 per vehicle, unlock the gateway to nature’s grandeur.
As the sun graces the horizon, Big Sur State Parks unfold their wonders from 8 a.m. to sunset. The $10 day use fee grants access not only to Big Sur but also to neighboring California State Parks until day’s end.
Indulge in the enchanting array of Big Sur hotels, where accommodations span from $59 to $269 per night. Whether you seek budget-friendly comfort or luxury retreats, Big Sur caters to every explorer’s lodging preference.
Amidst the rugged coastline and ancient redwoods, Big Sur beckons with ethereal landscapes. Traverse Highway 1, where each curve reveals panoramic ocean vistas, and embark on hikes that lead to hidden waterfalls. Big Sur is a haven for the soul-seeker.
9. Griffith Observatory: Celestial Gateway
Step into the celestial wonderland of Griffith Observatory, where cosmic exploration meets earthly awe, and the best part? Admission is eternally free. The Observatory, open Tuesday-Sunday, invites you to wander its grounds, terraces, and sidewalks every day.
Breathtaking views await as you gaze upon the City of Angels from this iconic spot. Dive into the cosmos with the free public telescopes that unveil celestial marvels.
Be prepared for bustling crowds within the building, but the cosmic revelations inside the galleries and theaters are worth a short wait.
Whether you’re a stargazing enthusiast or a casual observer, Griffith Observatory promises an immersive celestial experience. Revel in the cosmic symphony, explore the interactive exhibits, and behold the wonders of our universe against the twinkling backdrop of Los Angeles.
10. Alcatraz Island: Infamous Fortress
Embark on a journey into the notorious past of Alcatraz Island, an iconic fortress in the San Francisco Bay. Day tour tickets, priced at US$41.00 for adults, promise an immersive experience.
As you step onto the island, the chilling tales of Alcatraz come to life. Explore the cell blocks that once housed some of America’s most notorious criminals, feeling the weight of history within the cold, iron bars.
The Alcatraz day tour, spanning 2 ½ to 3 hours, unveils the haunting stories of escape attempts and prison life. Engage with the award-winning audio tour, narrated by former inmates and guards, adding a spine-tingling layer to your exploration.
Alcatraz’s mystique lies not just in its grim history but in the captivating views of San Francisco’s skyline from the island. A visit to Alcatraz is a gripping journey into the heart of one of America’s most infamous penitentiaries.
11. Santa Catalina Island: Island Escape
Embark on an enchanting voyage to Santa Catalina Island, where crystal-clear waters and charming streets await. Round-trip fares, such as $84.00 for adults, unlock a world of island wonders.
As the ferry sets sail, relish panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Santa Catalina Island unfolds, offering idyllic landscapes and a Mediterranean-inspired ambiance. The island wharfage fee and tax, approximately $7.00, support its preservation.
Upon arrival, stroll through the quaint town of Avalon, characterized by pastel-colored buildings and vibrant bougainvillea. Explore the historic Catalina Casino, a cultural hub showcasing art deco architecture and offering breathtaking vistas from its terrace.
Dive into the underwater realm at the Catalina Island Undersea Gardens, home to mesmerizing marine life. Whether you’re enjoying the scenic beauty or indulging in water activities, Santa Catalina Island promises a rejuvenating escape just a ferry ride away.
12. San Francisco: Iconic Bay City
Explore the iconic streets of San Francisco, where every corner tells a story. Start your journey at Crissy Field & The Presidio Tunnel Tops, a haven blending nature and urban delights. Wander along the picturesque promenade, savoring panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.
Discover the sprawling oasis of Golden Gate Park, a lush expanse offering botanical gardens, museums, and serene lakes. Unwind in the Japanese Tea Garden or explore the de Young Museum’s artistic treasures. The park’s versatility ensures an experience tailored to your interests.
Head to the Ferry Building Marketplace, a food lover’s paradise nestled along the waterfront. Sample artisanal treats, from freshly baked pastries to local cheeses. The buzzing marketplace encapsulates San Francisco’s culinary diversity.
Whether marveling at architectural wonders, indulging in gastronomic delights, or immersing yourself in nature’s beauty, San Francisco’s charm lies in its vibrant tapestry, inviting you to create your unique adventure.
13. Lake Tahoe: Alpine Gem
Embark on a captivating journey to the gem of the Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe. Nestled between California and Nevada, this alpine paradise promises an unforgettable escape. The average daily cost of $118 encompasses a spectrum of experiences, ensuring a budget-friendly adventure.
Immerse yourself in the pristine beauty of Lake Tahoe’s crystal-clear waters. Marvel at the breathtaking panorama of snow-capped peaks, a perfect backdrop for a plethora of outdoor activities. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker indulging in water sports or a nature enthusiast exploring hiking trails, Lake Tahoe caters to all.
Explore the vibrant culture of South Lake Tahoe, where charming shops and restaurants line the streets. Delight your taste buds with diverse culinary offerings and unwind in cozy cafes. The town’s warm hospitality adds a touch of local charm to your vacation.
As the sun sets behind the majestic mountains, relish the tranquility of Lake Tahoe’s evening ambiance. Whether you’re strolling along the shoreline or gazing at the stars from a lakeside retreat, South Lake Tahoe promises an enchanting experience at every turn.
14. Santa Monica Pier: Seaside Playground
Welcome to the iconic Santa Monica Pier, a coastal haven teeming with excitement! Entry to the pier is free, beckoning you to explore its myriad attractions. Delight in the aquatic wonders at the aquarium, where tickets are a mere $5 for adults while children under 12 enter gratis.
For thrill-seekers, Pacific Park awaits with exhilarating rides. Individual ride prices range from $5 to $10, or opt for unlimited joy with a wristband at $32.95 for those over 8, and $17.95 for children under 7.
Embark on a scenic journey via bus numbers 8, 101, 102, and 534, with convenient stops along Ocean Avenue. If you prefer the road less traveled, ample parking is available for those arriving by car.
Whether you’re a solo adventurer or sharing the experience with loved ones, the Santa Monica Pier promises a kaleidoscope of entertainment, making it a must-visit destination on your Californian escapade.
15. Sequoia National Park: Arboreal Wonderland
Embark on a mesmerizing journey to Sequoia National Park, where nature’s grandeur unfolds before your eyes. For a fee of $35 per car, $30 per motorcycle, or $20 for pedestrians and cyclists, immerse yourself in the wonders that await.
Stand in awe beneath the colossal trees of the Giant Forest, home to the legendary General Sherman, the world’s largest tree. Traverse scenic trails adorned with wildflowers, leading you to panoramic vistas that showcase the park’s diverse landscapes.
Marvel at the iconic Moro Rock, offering a bird’s-eye view of the Great Western Divide and the High Sierra. Adventure awaits at Crystal Cave, a subterranean wonder adorned with dazzling formations, inviting you to explore the park’s hidden treasures.
As twilight descends, savor the tranquility of Sequoia’s starlit skies. Whether you camp under ancient giants or find solace in a cozy lodge, the park promises an immersive experience, a testament to the raw beauty of nature.
16. Old Town San Diego: Historic Haven
Step into the vibrant tapestry of history at Old Town San Diego, a captivating destination that unfolds its tales daily, inviting you to explore its rich cultural mosaic. This open-air museum beckons with its timeless charm, free for all to wander through and absorb its historical embrace.
As you traverse the cobblestone streets, immerse yourself in a myriad of fascinating venues. While the park itself is free, individual attractions may have admission fees.
Experience the allure of the Whaley House, haunted and historic, or savor authentic Mexican cuisine at one of the charming eateries.
Expect to be transported back in time as costumed guides narrate tales of the past. Visit unique shops showcasing artisan crafts and souvenirs, making Old Town San Diego an unforgettable, multifaceted journey into California’s rich heritage. With its free-spirited atmosphere and a tapestry woven with tales, Old Town beckons, offering a timeless escape.
17. Downtown Los Angeles: Urban Hub
Embark on an urban adventure in Downtown Los Angeles, where a tapestry of cultural gems awaits your exploration. Dive into the city’s beating heart, the vibrant Music Center, hosting classical marvels and Broadway spectacles. Immerse yourself in the harmony and grandeur.
As you venture further, discover the expansive Grand Park, a lush oasis amid skyscrapers, inviting you to craft your idyllic picnic against a backdrop of cityscape brilliance. Stroll through the serene gardens, a haven in the midst of urban hustle.
Art aficionados, rejoice! At MOCA Grand Avenue, modern masterpieces beckon. Encounter thought-provoking exhibits, showcasing the evolution of contemporary art. Expect a visual feast that transcends boundaries and captivates the soul.
Downtown LA unfolds as a cultural tapestry, woven with diverse threads of history, music, and art. So, whether you’re basking in the melodies, savoring a picnic, or marveling at avant-garde creations, the heart of Los Angeles welcomes you to a dynamic, enriching experience.
18. USS Midway Museum: Nautical Legacy
Embark on a maritime odyssey at the USS Midway Museum, a naval marvel moored in San Diego. Open from 10 am to 5 pm, this floating tribute welcomes visitors to delve into naval history.
Trace the decks of the USS Midway, America’s legendary aircraft carrier, and witness its pivotal role in conflicts from WWII to the Persian Gulf. From 10 am to 4 pm, explore captivating exhibits that bring the past to life.
Admission fees ensure an immersive experience: $34 for adults, $24 for youths (4-12), and veterans.
Remember, the museum closes at 5 pm, so plan your journey to savor every moment of naval heritage. Anchored at 910 N. Harbor Drive, it’s a nautical adventure you won’t forget.
19. Palm Springs: Desert Oasis
Welcome to the desert oasis of Palm Springs, a haven for sun-seekers and nature enthusiasts alike. Ascend to new heights with the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, offering panoramic views of the Coachella Valley.
For a brush with nature, explore the Coachella Valley Preserve, a sanctuary teeming with indigenous flora and fauna. Traverse its enchanting trails, discovering the allure of desert landscapes and hidden oases.
Indulge in a unique blend of wildlife and horticulture at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Encounter captivating animal exhibits and immerse yourself in the beauty of curated desert ecosystems.
Whether you’re scaling mountain peaks or communing with nature, Palm Springs promises a retreat where the sun-soaked ambiance and natural wonders combine for an unforgettable desert escapade.
20. Joshua Tree: Desert Wonderland
Embark on a transformative journey to Joshua Tree, a sanctuary of boundless beauty. Secure the Joshua Tree Annual Pass at $55, granting you 12 months of access to this desert haven. Vehicle passes, priced from $15 to $30 for 7 days, promise an immersive encounter with the park’s mesmerizing landscapes.
Explore the rugged rock formations and the distinctive Joshua trees that lend their name to this unique sanctuary. Traverse the boundaries between the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert, each unveiling its own extraordinary character.
With an annual pass in hand, witness the surreal landscapes that shift from the cactus-laden Colorado Desert to the cooler Mojave Desert.
Immerse yourself in the allure of Joshua Tree, where nature’s artwork paints the desert canvas, inviting you to wander through its twisted and bristled wonders. It’s not just a park; it’s a testament to the untouched majesty of the Californian desert.
21. Channel Islands: Coastal Sanctuary
Embark on a captivating journey to Channel Islands, California, a hidden gem accessible by boat from Ventura. The adventure comes at a cost, ranging from $56 to $160 per person, but the experience is priceless. Opt for a thrilling air trip to Santa Rosa for the ultimate aerial perspective, departing from the charming Camarillo airport.
As you approach the islands, the first sight is Anacapa, a mere 14 miles away. A scenic one-hour boat ride unveils stunning coastal vistas, building anticipation for the wonders that await. The absence of park fees is a welcome surprise, making this destination not just breathtaking but also budget-friendly.
Upon arrival, immerse yourself in the diverse ecosystems, from rich marine life to vibrant flora. Explore sea caves, hike picturesque trails, and witness the unique wildlife, including the endemic island fox.
The Channel Islands promises an escape into nature’s embrace, an oasis where adventure and tranquility harmonize in a perfect coastal symphony.
22. La Jolla Cove: Coastal Gem
Welcome to La Jolla Cove, a coastal haven in California where nature’s beauty takes center stage. The best part? No entry fee; it’s a public beach paradise waiting for you to explore. Dive into the aquatic wonders with activities like the guided Sea Cave Kayaking Tour or the 2-hour exploration of the 7 Caves.
As you paddle through crystal-clear waters, marvel at the rich marine life and the breathtaking coastal cliffs that surround you. La Jolla Cove is a haven for adventure seekers, offering an immersive experience in its hidden treasures. Take a leisurely stroll along the shore, uncovering the secrets of this picturesque destination.
Expect a sensory feast as you encounter the diverse marine species, from playful seals to vibrant underwater flora. The seaside ambiance is complemented by the Hidden Treasures Walking Tour, revealing the charm and history embedded in La Jolla Cove’s scenic landscapes.
Don’t miss the chance to indulge in a coastal escape that seamlessly blends adventure and relaxation.
23. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: Desert Wilderness
Embark on an unforgettable journey to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, a pristine oasis in California.
Choose your route, whether from the vibrant city of Los Angeles or the coastal charm of San Diego, each promising a scenic drive. Upon arrival, a $10 per vehicle entrance fee grants access to a desert paradise.
The visitor center, open from 9 am-5 pm, is your gateway to the park’s wonders, and the parking lot ensures a seamless visit from 7 am-7 pm daily. Indulge in diverse activities, from camping under the star-lit sky to exploring hiking trails that lead to hidden gems within the vast desert landscape.
Anza-Borrego promises an escape into tranquility, where the stark beauty of the desert meets the opportunity for adventure. Immerse yourself in the unique flora and fauna, stargaze under the expansive night sky, and let the desert whispers captivate your senses in this hidden gem of California.
24. Kings Canyon National Park: Alpine Majesty
Embark on a majestic journey to Kings Canyon National Park, a California treasure awaiting your exploration. Whether you choose the serenity of a private vehicle ($35.00) or the thrill of a motorcycle adventure ($30.00), the park invites you with open arms. Per-person entry stands at a reasonable $20.00, making this natural wonder accessible to all.
Kings Canyon National Park welcomes you 24/7, 365 days a year, with occasional winter road closures swiftly managed for your safety. Dive into a plethora of activities, from engaging ranger programs to invigorating day hikes, wilderness adventures, and winter activities that promise to elevate your connection with nature.
As you traverse the park’s diverse landscapes, be prepared to witness the grandeur of towering sequoias, pristine lakes, and rugged canyons.
Kings Canyon offers an immersive experience where every turn unravels a new spectacle, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Don’t miss the chance to create lasting memories in this enchanting sanctuary.
25. Griffith Park: Urban Oasis
Welcome to Griffith Park, a sprawling oasis in California that beckons you with open arms, and the best part? Access is entirely free! Explore at any time, as the park generously opens its doors 24 hours a day.
Embark on an unforgettable adventure through the iconic Hiking Trails leading to the Hollywood Sign, offering breathtaking vistas of the cityscape. Delve into the mysterious Caves, hidden gems awaiting your discovery within the park’s vast landscape.
For a different experience, lose yourself in the wonders of the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Uncover the rich cultural tapestry at The Autry Museum, showcasing the vibrant history of the American West.
Griffith Park is a haven where nature and culture converge seamlessly, providing a perfect escape for hiking enthusiasts, wildlife lovers, and history buffs alike. Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in the diverse offerings of this Californian gem.
Conclusion: 25 Best Places to Visit in California
California’s wonders are endless, from the beautiful Lake Tahoe to the serene beauty of Yosemite—25 extraordinary places uncovered! But hold onto your surfboards because the adventure doesn’t end here.
Dive into our blog for more hidden gems waiting to be explored. Your stories enrich our journey, so don’t hesitate to share. Let’s keep exploring the Golden State together. Keep the feedback coming!