California Bucket List – the best things to do in the State of California

California Bucket List

California is one of the most diverse and exciting states to visit in the US. From the golden beaches to the desert landscapes, famous national parks and thriving cities, there truly is something for everyone.

The best way to experience all California has to offer is on a road trip. A road trip will allow you to explore the state on your own time, and get a taste for all it has to offer. And it is guaranteed to be the adventure of a lifetime.

This Californa Bucket List will inspire you to book your trip and show you the destinations you MUST visit on a California Road Trip.

Why Visit California?

Down on the west coast lies the largest state by population amongst all of the 50 United States, and third by area. Scattered across more than 423, 970 km2, The Golden State is divided into a few regions: Southern California, Deserts, Central Coast, San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Valley, Sierra Nevada, Gold County, Bay Area, North Coast, and Shasta Cascades.

Because of its large area, California is “home” to a number of vast and various landscapes. Sky-high mountains where you can ski, waterfalls that will take your breath away, steep forests where you can lose yourself (not literally), and sandy deserts which take more than 25% from California`s total area. In fact, it is also home to the lowest and highest points in the US.

Feeling amazed? Wait until you hear what the weather is like…

California is known as being one of the states with the most fluctuating climates. This is simply because of what we`ve mentioned above – the versatile landscape. Someone could be skiing, while someone else sunbaths.

Spend some time on the beaches soaking up the endless Californian sunshine, visit some spectacular cities, get an adrenaline rush while visiting the best theme parks in the world or experience natural treasures that will take your breath away.

Whatever you want to get up to, without a doubt, California has it!

California Bucket List

In order to make things easier for you, we’ve divided our “California Bucket List” into a few sub-categories: beaches, cities, deserts, nature, and national parks.

1.    Beaches

I am sure we can all agree that nothing beats a beach day. While visiting the state of California you mustn’t miss a road trip along the coast with a few beach stops. You can experience magical sunsets that will stay engraved in your memory forever, recharge your batteries by sunbathing, take a long walk on the endless sandy beaches to clear your mind or take a swim in the Pacific Ocean.

Here is a list of the best beaches to visit in California.

Laguna Beach

California Bucket List

This beach is a big draw for tourists but also artists that found themselves inspired while dipping their feet in the crystal clear water. In addition to the water, the steep cliffs and hillsides that surround this beach together with the sparkling sand gives this beach a distinguishable look.

Venice Beach

California Bucket List

Sand, surf, and sunshine! We know all beaches have this, but Venice beach also has a 3-ring urban street circus, artists all over the place, people that exercise by doing hand-stands, weightlifters, barefoot sand sculptors, and more. The place is quite frenetic but we assure you it is a one-of-kind experience.

Santa Monica

California Bucket List

Festival food, amusement park, and aquarium wonders on top of an extra-long sandy beach is the perfect spot if you are looking for some entertainment while at the beach. The stunning lights plus the festive atmosphere creates a one-of-a-kind experience.

Catalina Island

California Bucket List

If you consider yourself a true outdoor activities addict, then you should consider visiting Catalina island. Located only 22 miles off the Southern California coast, you will be there before you know it.

You will be welcomed by pristine natural beauty, tree-lined pedestrian walkways that will fill your lungs with fresh air and clear your mind. Spend your day scuba diving, fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, and horseback riding. This gem in the ocean literally has it all.

Santa Cruz

California Bucket List

Stunning sunny weather and a world-famous surf spot can be found only an hour drive away from San Francisco in Santa Cruz. Not only is it the best surfing beach where world competitions are held, but its boardwalk is also a kids paradise with a number of rides, games, and roller coasters. In addition to all this, just a short drive from the coast and you will end up in the gravitationally resistant forest where trees tend to grow at strange angles, making it look enchanted and magical.


California Bucket List

This is probably one of the most gorgeous beaches in California. Hike down the side of a cliff to reach the beach and don’t forget to enjoy the spectacular beauty that will unravel right before your eyes. Rocky outcroppings create these stunning arches and caves that will take your breath away, we promise!

Besides these six spectacular must-visit California beaches, if you have more time we suggest visiting Crystal Cove State Park, La Jolla Beach, Hermosa Beach, Newport Beach, and Coronado.

2.    Cities

Los Angeles

California Bucket List

There is no doubt that our cities list must begin with The City of Angeles- Los Angeles. It is undoubtedly one of the most popular destinations in the State of California and for a number of reasons. This is a sprawling metropolis filled with dreamers and believers, wannabe actors, surfers, musicians and movie stars- all chasing their dreams and following their hearts.

Los Angeles is more than a megalopolis, it is a spot deeply connected and intertwined with nature-surrounded by hills, its corners touching golden sand beaches, with deep-blue skies, and dense vibrant neighbourhoods. It is overloaded with creative people that came to La La Land to not only chase their dreams but also tell their tale through on-stage performances, self-written songs, and lyrics. It is a vortex of edgy arty spaces, concert halls, and creativity on every corner. It is rich in architectural wonders as well as a thrilling mash-up of a number of architectural styles which creates this sort of diversity that cannot be seen anywhere else.

Take the time to explore the magical neighbourhoods in LA, and experience the sandy beaches.

Here is a helpful short list of other places to visit in LA:

  • The Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • The retro theatres
  • Paramount Pictures Studios
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • TCL Chinese Theatre
  • Hike to the Hollywood sign
  • Griffith Observatory and Park
  • The Getty Center
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Rodeo Drive
  • Walt Disney Concert Hall
  • Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Warner Bros. Studio.

San Francisco

California Bucket List

Besides visiting Los Angeles, another must-visit city is San Francisco. Yes, the Golden Gate Bridge is the landmark that this city is known for but besides this bridge, the city abounds with plenty of other things to be seen and done. Visit Alcatraz Island, Fisherman`s Wharf, Golden Gate Park, the Union Square, Lombard Street, Chinatown, PIER 39, Coit Tower, Place of Fine Arts, Twin Peaks, Muir Woods National Monument, North Beach, California Academy of Sciences, Painted Ladies, Japanese Tea Garden, Embarcadero, Haight-Ashbury, Ghirardelli, and many many other things. For a full Backpackers Guide to San Francisco, click here.

Anaheim and Disney parks

California Bucket List

Skipping Disneyland is an absolute no-no, even if you are visiting California with or without your kids. Side by side, California Adventure Park and Disneyland will give you a day filled with adventure, entertainment, fun, thrilling rides, and meetings with your (and your kids) favourite characters.

3.    Deserts

As we previously mentioned, 25% of the full area of California is desert so we must mention the most popular. Surely, if you are no fan of heat there is no need to visit them but we must say they are spectacular.

Death Valley

California Bucket List

Bizarre yet incredible geographic marvels are scattered across the Death Valley National Parks. With scenery and landscapes that resemble one from outer space and a scary name because of the extremely hot temperatures, this location will stick with you forever since it is a sight that cannot be found at any other place on the earth. Here are a few spots to visit: Devil`s Golf Course, Artist`s Palette, Zabriskie Point, Mesquite Flat, Ubehebe Crater and Badwater Basin. If you have the time, take a moment to make a night walk to The Badwater basin which is the lowest point in North America and do some stargazing. It will be a sight that will turn into one of the fondest and dearest memories of your stay in California. This is one of the places to explore on a 14 day West Coast Road Trip.

Salvation Mountain

California Bucket List

Salvation Mountain is literally a colorful mountain covered in declarations of love and peace.

Mojave Desert

California Bucket List

Although this is not quite the touristic spot, you`d be surprised to find out this desert offers a lot of outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, viewing sand dunes, ghost towns, diverse wildlife, historic sites, the largest Joshua trees in California, and even volcanic craters.

4.    Nature and National Parks


California Bucket List

We are creating a bucket list over here, so make sure you write down taking a drive through the redwoods. No California bucket list can be complete without experiencing the massive, ancient redwoods in Redwood National and State Parks, and the Avenue of the Giants. Pristine, ancient, hundreds of years old trees as wide as your car will make you feel like you are the tiniest person on the planet. For a full guide to Redwood National Park, click here.

Yosemite National Park

California Bucket List

Located in central California, this national park is one of the most iconic, well-known, and most-visited national parks in the United States. Starting from the grandiose granite walls in Yosemite Valley, all the way to the number of hiking trails tens of miles long, this national park will offer you one-of-a-kind gorgeous views, peaceful campfire nights, skies filled with stars, and daring adventures. For a full guide to Yosemite National Park, click here.

How to get to California?

We promised that once you read this California Bucket List, you`d want to go to California so now it is only fair to tell you how you can get there.

The first thing you should know is that there are two ways to go to the United States.

The first way is to check whether or not your country is part of the Visa Waiver Program meaning you could you travel to the USA and stay as much as 90 days. Approximately 90 countries are part of this program and the only thing their citizens need to do is Submit ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). In translation, with this USA ESTA application, you are checking whether or not you are eligible to travel or not under the Visa Waiver Program.

Unfortunately, if your country is not part of the VWP, the second way to go to California is to apply for a Visitor Visa (B-2). This is a far more complicated procedure that requires a lot of necessary documents, and an interview in the American embassy. However, reading all the things that can be done in California, we think it is definitely worth applying.

California Bucket List

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California Bucket List

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This article was prepared by Martin – a social worker and travel agent.

“I am a self-made but experienced travel blogger. I have been to many places which I can mark as my most favourite ones. I have a lot of stories about the people I meet during my travels. I shared a lot of tears, laughter, pain, and joy with all of them.”

“I am writing my travel blog for several years and love to tell the people how I made my trips affordable and what things you must do after going to a specific place.”

Disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post!

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