#56 best destination in the world

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


  • Modern and contemporary art museum that holds an internationally recognized collection of modern and contemporary art
  • The current collection includes over 33,000 works of painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, design, and media arts
  • Opened in 1935

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco


  • Small, 22 acre island developed with facilities for a lighthouse, military fortification, a military prison, and a federal prison, starting in 1868
  • Now the island is home to an the abandoned prison, the site of the oldest operating lighthouse on the West coast, early military fortifications, and natural features like rock pools and a seabird colony

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

  • Tallest suspension bridge in the United States spanning the Golden Gate, one mile wide
  • One of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco and the United States

Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, Redwood National and State Parks


  • Contains 139,000 acres that feature old-growth temperate rainforest
  • The trees are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth
  • In 1850, old-growth redwood forest covered more than 2 million acres of the California coast
  • Lumbermen and gold miners came to the region after a minor gold rush
  • These people harvested the giant trees for the booming development in San Francisco
  • After many decades of unrestricted clear-cut logging, conservation efforts began in the 1920s, creating the park

Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park


  • Park that covers 747,956 acres of the Sierra Nevada of California, 95% of which is designated wilderness
  • Internationally recognized for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, lakes, mountains, glaciers, and biological diversity
  • Established in 1890
  • Elevation reaches a height of 13,114 ft

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park


  • Highest waterfall in Yosemite National Park Located in the Sierra Nevada of California, and in late spring the water flow is at its peak

Horsetail Fall, Yosemite National Park


  • Seasonal waterfall that flows in the winter and early spring
  • If Horsetail Fall is flowing in February and the weather conditions are just right, the setting sun illuminates the waterfall, making it glow orange and red
  • This natural phenomenon is often referred to as the “Firefall”, a name that pays homage to Yosemite Firefall, the manmade event that once took place in Yosemite

John Muir Wilderness, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks


  • Park whose namesake, Kings Canyon, is a rugged glacier-carved valley more than a mile deep
  • Other natural features include multiple 14,000 foot peaks, high mountain meadows, flowing rivers, and some of the world’s largest stands of giant sequoia trees
  • General Grant National Park was initially created to protect a small area of giant sequoias from logging, however, development interests wanted to build hydroelectric dams in the canyon
  • As visitation rose post–World War II, the preservation lobby prevailed and today, the park has only limited services and lodgings despite its size, and much of the park is designated wilderness

Big Trees Trail, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks


  • Park established in 1890, to protect 404,064 acres of forested mountainous terrain
  • Contains the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet above sea level
  • The park is notable for its giant sequoia trees, including the General Sherman tree, the largest tree on Earth by volume
  • The General Sherman tree grows in the Giant Forest, which contains five of the ten largest trees in the world
  • The parks preserve a landscape that still resembles the southern Sierra Nevada before Euro-American settlement

Moonstone Beach, Cambria

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  • Was a tourist attraction in the beach community from the late 1880s to the early 1920s
  • Storms had deposited the moonstones along the beach
  • By 1907, the sand and stones of the beach became components of streets, sidewalks and foundation

Getty Center, Los Angeles


  • Museum well known for its architecture, gardens, and views overlooking Los Angeles
  • Features pre-20th century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture and decorate arts
  • Exhibits 19th and 20th century American, Asian, and European photographs
  • Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting Irises is one of the paintings on display
  • Opened in 1997

Los Angeles County Museum of Art


  • Largest art museum in the western United States
  • It holds more than 150,000 works spanning the history of art from ancient times to the present; also features film and concerts

Universal Studios Hollywood


  • Film studio and theme park that is one of the oldest and most famous Hollywood film studios still in use



  • Theme park opened in 1955 and designed under direct supervision from Walt Disney
  • Disney came up with the concept of Disneyland after visiting amusement parks with his daughters in the 1930s and 1940s

Disney California Adventure


  • Park themed after the history and culture of California
  • Opened in 2001

Skull Rock, Joshua Tree National Park


  • Park named after the Joshua trees native to the Mojave Desert
  • Encompasses a total of number of acres slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island
  • 429,690 acres of the park is designated wilderness

La Jolla Cove


  • Small cove with a beach that is surrounded by cliffs
  • The area is protected as part of a marine reserve and is popular with snorkelers, swimmers and scuba divers
  • While the beach has a small dry sand area at high tide, during very low tides, tide pools are revealed at the cove
  • California sea lions can be found in the waters of the Cove and hauling out, temporarily leaving the water to rest on its beaches, cliffs, and bluffs

Balboa Park, San Diego


  • Historic urban cultural park containing gardens, walking paths, several museums, theaters, and attractions such as archery ranges and bowling
  • Placed in reserve in 1835, the park’s site is one of the oldest in the United States dedicated to public recreational use
  • Balboa Park hosted the 1915–16 Panama–California Exposition and 1935–36 California Pacific International Exposition, both of which left architectural landmarks in the park known as the Exposition buildings

USS Midway Museum, San Diego

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  • Historical naval aircraft carrier museum located in downtown San Diego, California at Navy Pier
  • The ship houses an extensive collection of aircraft, many of which were built in California

Coronado Beach


  • Beach located in the resort city of Coronado
  • Explorer Sebastian Vizcaino gave Coronado its name and drew its first map in 1602
  • Its name is derived from the Coronado Islands, an offshore Mexican archipelago

Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park

  • Park that features 40 rides including roller coasters, family rides, dark rides, and water rides.
  • The theme park began in the 1920s as a roadside berry stand run by Walter Knott along State Route 39 in California

Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia

  • Theme park opened in 1971, and with 19 roller coasters, Six Flags Magic Mountain holds the world record for most roller coasters in an amusement park
  • Some of the themed areas of the park include DC universe, Bugs Bunny World, Steampunk District, and Samurai Summit

Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park

  • Endorheic basin in Death Valley National Park, noted as the lowest point in North America and the United States, with a depth of 282 ft below sea level
  • The site itself consists of a small spring-fed pool of “bad water” next to the road in a sink; the accumulated salts of the surrounding basin make it undrinkable, thus giving it the name
  • The pool does have animal and plant life, including pickleweed, aquatic insects, and the Badwater snail.
  • Adjacent to the pool, where water is not always present at the surface, repeated freeze–thaw and evaporation cycles gradually push the thin salt crust into hexagonal honeycomb shapes
  • The salt flats are hazardous to traverse (in many cases being only a thin white crust over mud

Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park

  • Small Racetrack Valley endorheic basin
  • The sailing stones are a geological phenomenon found in the Racetrack
  • Slabs of dolomite and syenite ranging from a few hundred grams to hundreds of kilograms inscribe visible tracks as they slide across the playa surface, without human or animal intervention
  • Instead, rocks move when ice sheets just a few millimeters thick start to melt during periods of light wind
  • These thin floating ice panels create an ice shove that moves the rocks at up to five meters per minute

Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe

  • Ski resort located on the California–Nevada border in South Lake Tahoe
  • It opened for in 1955, and has 97 runs and 30 lifts that are spread between California and Nevada
  • The resort boasts the highest elevation of the Lake Tahoe area resorts with a peak elevation of 10,067 ft
  • Their ski season usually runs from mid November to mid April

Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park

  • Anacapa is the smallest of the northern islands of the Channel Islands archipelago, and is within the Channel Islands National Park
  • Small volcanic island located about 11 miles off the coast of California
  • The island is composed of a series of narrow islets 6 miles long, the islets have precipitous cliffs, dropping off steeply into the sea

Mono Lake, Mono County

  • Saline soda lake in Mono County, formed at least 760,000 years ago as a terminal lake in an endorheic basin
  • The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salts to accumulate in the lake which make its water alkaline
  • The desert lake has an unusually productive ecosystem based on brine shrimp, which thrive in its waters, and provides critical habitat for two million annual migratory birds that feed on the shrimp and flies

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

  • Beach adjacent to MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, named from a time when it was abundant with sea glass created from years of dumping garbage into an area of coastline near the northern part of the town

Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur

  • Bridge on the Big Sur coast of California, is one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design and setting
  • Before the opening of the bridge in 1932, residents of the Big Sur area were virtually cut off during winter due to blockages on the often impassable Old Coast Road

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

  • Beach located in the Big Sur region, and one of the most popular beaches on the Central Coast
  • Well known for Keyhole Rock, a popular photography subject
  • On a limited number of days in December and January each year, photographers crowd the beach to obtain pictures of the setting sun visible through the rock arch
  • The parking lot accommodates 65 vehicles and is usually full on summer and holiday weekends
  • During the summer, a shuttle may operate from the US Forest Service headquarters at Big Sur Station to the beach

Cannery Row, Monterey

  • Waterfront street in the New Monterey section of Monterey, California
  • It was the site of a number of now-defunct sardine canning factories
  • The last cannery closed in 1973
  • The street name, formerly a nickname for Ocean View Avenue, became official in January 1958 to honor John Steinbeck and his well-known novel Cannery Row

Baker Beach, San Francisco

  • Highly reviewed public beach on the peninsula of San Francisco
  • The beach lies on the shore of the Pacific Ocean
  • It is roughly a 0.5 miles long, beginning just south of Golden Gate Point

Lassen Peak, Lassen Volcanic National Park

  • Active volcano that is part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, which stretches from southwestern British Columbia to northern California.
  • Lassen Peak is the largest lava dome on Earth
  • Lassen Peak and Mount St. Helens in Washington were the only two volcanoes in the contiguous United States to erupt during the 20th century
  • The volcano poses a threat to the nearby area through lava flows, volcanically induced mudslides, landslides, and debris flows, ash, avalanches, and floods
  • To monitor this threat, Lassen Peak and the surrounding vicinity are closely observed with sensors by the California Volcano Observatory

Bear Gulch Cave Trail, Pinnacles National Park

  • National park whose namesakes are the eroded leftovers of the western half of an extinct volcano that has moved 200 miles from its original location on the San Andreas Fault
  • The east side of the park has shade and water, the west has high walls
  • The rock formations provide for spectacular pinnacles that attract rock climbers
  • The park features unusual talus caves that house at least 13 species of bats
  • Pinnacles is most often visited in spring or fall because of the intense heat during the summer

The Broad, Los Angeles

  • Contemporary art museum on in Los Angeles, named for philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, who financed the building that houses the Broad art collections
  • Opened in 2015

Huntington Library, San Marino

  • In addition to a library, the institution houses an extensive art collection with a focus on 18th- and 19th-century European art and 17th- to mid-20th-century American art
  • The property also includes approximately 120 acres of specialized botanical landscaped gardens, most notably the “Japanese Garden”, the “Desert Garden”, and the “Chinese Garden”

De Young Museum, San Francisco

  • Fine arts museum located in San Francisco
  • The de Young showcases American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, international contemporary art, textiles, and costumes, and art from the Americas, the Pacific and Africa
  • The deYoung Museum Collections include: American Art, African Art, Oceanic Art, Arts of the Americas, Costume and Textile Arts, Graphic Arts, Photography and Sculpture

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, Oro Grande

  • Unique pitstop featuring many tree-shaped sculptures made from glass bottles and vintage items

Huntington Beach Pier

  • One of the longest public piers on the West Coast
  • A popular meeting place for surfers, the ocean waves here are enhanced by a natural effect caused by the edge-diffraction of open ocean swells around Catalina Island, creating consistent surf year-round

Venice Beach, Los Angeles

  • Beach that includes the promenade that runs parallel to the beach, Muscle Beach, and the Venice Beach Recreation Center, with handball courts, paddle tennis courts, a Skate Dancing plaza, and numerous beach volleyball courts, it also includes a bike trail

Laguna Beach, Orange County

  • Seaside resort city located in Orange County
  • It is known for its mild year-round climate, scenic coves, environmental preservation efforts, and artist community
  • Large annual events include the Pageant of the Masters, Festival of Arts, Sawdust Art Festival, Art-A-Fair, Bluewater Music Festival, and Kelpfest

El Matador Beach, Malibu

  • Highly reviewed beach known for its Mediterranean climate and its 21 mile strip of the Malibu coast
  • The exclusive Malibu Colony has been historically home to Hollywood celebrities
  • People in the entertainment industry and other affluent residents live throughout the city, yet many residents are middle class

Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

  • Museum in San Francisco, that specializes in Asian art
  • It was founded in the 1960s and has more than 18,000 works of art in its permanent collection, some as much as 6,000 years old

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

  • Largest natural and historical museum in the western United States
  • Its collections include nearly 35 million specimens and artifacts and cover 4.5 billion years of history

California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento

  • Museum interpreting the role of the “iron horse” in connecting California to the rest of the nation
  • The museum features 21 restored locomotives and railroad cars, some dating back to 1862
  • Other exhibits show how the influence of railroads changed American society, influencing travel, commerce and daily life, as well as the lives of railroaders and the diversity of people who work on railroads
  • Adjacent to the main museum building is a reconstruction of the 1870s-era Central Pacific Railroad passenger station and freight depot on Front Street
  • Between April and October, the Sacramento Southern Railroad, operated by the museum, takes passengers on a 40-minute, 6 mile roundtrip route along the Sacramento River on a portion of the former Southern Pacific Railroad

Nethercutt Collection, Sylmar

  • Multi-storied private car collection and museum complex located in Sylmar
  • It was founded by J.B. Nethercutt in 1971 and its centerpiece is the prestigious automobile collection of the Nethercutt-Richards family, which has led several publications to name it as one of the greatest collections in the world
  • As J.B.’s former estate, the San Sylmar penthouse tower is one of the largest houses in the United States at 60,000 square feet
  • The collection also houses collections of mechanical musical instruments, including orchestrions, player pianos, music boxes, antique furniture, and an automotive research library

Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena

  • Art museum whose collections include: European paintings, sculptures, and tapestries; Asian sculptures, paintings, and woodblock prints
  • Outside sculptures surround the museum, with notable Rodin sculptures near its entrance
  • The museum contains the Norton Simon Theater which shows film programs daily, and hosts lectures, symposia, and dance and musical performances year-round

California Science Center, Los Angeles

  • Museum billed as the West Coast’s largest hands-on science center, founded in 1951
  • Admission includes access to the permanent exhibits, such as the Space Shuttle Endeavour and other prominent aircraft and spacecraft, and to various demonstrations
  • A separate ticket is required for the IMAX movies, most special traveling exhibitions, and special activities that include a climbing wall, motion simulator, and a high-wire bicycle

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

  • Observatory in Los Angeles, on the slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park
  • It commands a view of the Los Angeles Basin including Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, and the Pacific Ocean
  • The observatory has a close view of the Hollywood Sign and an extensive array of space and science-related displays
  • Over 7 million people have been able to view through the 12-inch Zeiss refractor since the observatory’s 1935 opening; this is the most people to have viewed through any telescope

Exploratorium, San Francisco

  • Museum of science, technology, and arts in San Francisco, opened in 1969
  • The participatory nature of its exhibits and its self-identification as a center for informal learning has led to it being cited as the prototype for participatory museums around the world
  • The museum is divided into several galleries, including the physics of seeing and listening (Light and Sound), Human Behavior, Living Systems, Tinkering (including electricity and magnetism), the Outdoor Gallery, and the Bay Observatory Gallery, which focuses on local environment, weather, and landscape

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento

  • Art museum founded in 1885, making it the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi River
  • Located in Sacramento, the museum holds one of the state’s premier collections of Californian art
  • The collection includes American works dating from the Gold Rush to the present, European paintings and master drawings, one of the largest international ceramics collections in the U.S., and collections of Asian, African, and Oceanic art

California’s Great America, Santa Clara

  • Amusement park located in Santa Clara, originally opened in 1976
  • Features over 40 rides and attractions, and one of its most notable is Gold Striker, which has been featured as a top-ranked wooden roller coaster
  • Other notable rides include a single-rail coaster, and an inverted coaster

Hollywood Sign, Hollywood Hills

  • American landmark and cultural icon overlooking Hollywood, Los Angeles
  • It was originally created in 1923 as a temporary advertisement for a local real estate development, but due to increasing recognition the sign was left up, and replaced in 1978 with a more durable all-steel structure.
  • The sign makes frequent appearances in popular culture, particularly in establishing shots for films and television programs set in or around Hollywood

Salton Sea

  • Shallow, landlocked, highly-saline body of water in Riverside and Imperial counties
  • In the 1950s and into the ’60s, the area became a resort destination, and communities grew with hotels and vacation homes
  • In the 1970s, scientists issued warnings that the lake would continue to shrink and become more inhospitable to wildlife, due to farming
  • In the 1980s, contamination from farm runoff promoted the outbreak and spread of diseases
  • Salinity rose so high that large fish kills occurred, often blighting the beaches of the sea with their carcasses
  • As the lake bed became exposed, the winds sent clouds of toxic dust into nearby communities
  • Local, state, and federal bodies all had found minimal success dealing with the dust, dying wildlife, and other problems for which warnings had been issued decades before
  • At the beginning of 2018 local agencies declared an emergency and, along with the state, funded and developed the Salton Sea Management Program

Shrine Drive-Thru Tree, Humboldt Redwoods State Park

  • Avenue of the Giants, a scenic highway, features a tree that visitors can drive through
  • Shrine Drive-Thru Tree is privately owned, and near the town of Myers Flat