Things to do in California: 19 Great Things to See & Do

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Updated On: November 09, 2023 by   Courtney AugelloCourtney Augello

The Golden State is a world-renowned tourist destination that offers an abundance of incredible things to do in California for tourists. From its breathtaking coastline and iconic cities to its diverse natural wonders and rich cultural heritage, there are things to do in California for everyone.

Whether you’re seeking relaxation on pristine beaches, thrilling adventures in theme parks, awe-inspiring landscapes in national parks, or immersing yourself in vibrant cities and cultural delights, there are things to do in California that will pique your interest.

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California has many picturesque beaches.

With so many things to do in California, it can be difficult to choose which cities to visit and attractions to see. To help you plan the best itinerary, we’ve explored some of the best things to do in California for an unforgettable holiday.

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Santa Monica is one of the most popular beach destinations in California.

Explore the Coastal Beauty

Santa Monica

Visiting the coast is one of the most popular things to do in California. Among the popular coastal destinations in California, Santa Monica stands out as a must-visit spot. Located in Los Angeles County, Santa Monica boasts a lively beachfront with a famous pier.

Visitors can soak up the sun on the sandy shores, take a leisurely stroll along the Ocean Front Walk, and indulge in a variety of outdoor activities such as beach volleyball and bike riding.

The Santa Monica Pier is a hub of entertainment with its amusement park rides, Ferris wheel, and waterfront dining options. For adults and children alike, visiting Santa Monica is one of the most enjoyable things to do in California.

Seaport Village

Another charming coastal destination is Seaport Village in San Diego. This waterfront district is known for its picturesque setting, complete with charming shops, restaurants, and scenic views of the San Diego Bay.

Visitors can enjoy a leisurely walk along the waterfront promenade, browse unique boutiques, and savour delicious seafood while admiring the sailboats and yachts passing by.

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Surfing is one of the most popular things to do in California.

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach, located in Orange County, is renowned for its artistic vibe and pristine coastline. It offers stunning coves, tide pools, and beautiful cliffs overlooking the ocean. Visiting Laguna Beach is truly one of the most scenic things to do in California.

In addition to sunbathing and swimming, visitors can explore the unique art galleries and shops along the Pacific Coast Highway. Laguna Beach is also known for its annual Pageant of the Masters, an extraordinary live re-creation of famous artworks using real people as models.

La Jolla

Further down the coast, La Jolla, near San Diego, presents a picturesque seaside community with stunning beaches and captivating marine life. The La Jolla Cove is a popular spot for snorkelling, as it is home to a diverse array of marine species, including colourful fish and even sea lions.

Visitors can explore the tide pools, take kayak tours, or simply relax on the sandy beaches while enjoying the magnificent coastal scenery.

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La Jolla is a scenic area near San Diego.

Big Sur

No discussion of California’s coastal beauty would be complete without mentioning Big Sur. Situated along the Central Coast, Big Sur is renowned for its rugged coastline, towering cliffs, and breathtaking vistas.

It offers a dramatic juxtaposition of mountains and ocean, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts. Visitors can hike along the scenic trails in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, marvel at McWay Falls cascading onto the beach, and capture awe-inspiring views from Bixby Bridge.


The variety of activities available makes being on the water one of the most fun things to do in California. Surfing is a popular water sport along the coast, with numerous surf breaks attracting beginners and experienced surfers alike.

Beachcombing is one of the most delightful things to do in California on the beach shore. Visitors can discover seashells, colourful pebbles, and interesting marine treasures that washed up on the sand.

For wildlife enthusiasts, whale watching is a captivating activity, as California’s coastline is frequented by migrating grey whales, humpback whales, and even orcas during certain times of the year.

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San Francisco is home to many of the best things to do in California.

Discover the Vibrant Cities

San Francisco

California’s vibrant cities showcase the state’s unique character and offer a multitude of attractions for visitors to explore. San Francisco, known for its hilly streets and iconic cable cars, is a city brimming with charm.

The Golden Gate Bridge stands as a symbol of the city and provides stunning views of the bay. Visitors can also explore Alcatraz Island, the notorious former prison, and take a leisurely stroll along the vibrant waterfront at Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Francisco’s diverse culinary scene offers a mix of international flavours, and its shopping opportunities range from luxury boutiques in Union Square to eclectic shops in the Mission District.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, captivates visitors with its glitz and glamour. Hollywood is an iconic landmark, attracting tourists who wish to see the famous Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and the Hollywood Sign.

The city offers a range of attractions, including the Getty Center, Universal Studios Hollywood, and the vibrant nightlife of Sunset Boulevard. Los Angeles boasts a diverse culinary scene, with a plethora of trendy restaurants and food trucks offering cuisine from around the world.

Shopping enthusiasts can explore the upscale boutiques on Rodeo Drive or the vintage shops on Melrose Avenue. With so much to see and do, visiting Los Angeles is one of the best things to do in California.

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The Hollywood sign is a popular tourist attraction.


Sacramento, the capital of California, offers a unique blend of history and culture. Visitors can explore the State Capitol building, take a walk along the scenic Old Sacramento Waterfront, or visit the Crocker Art Museum, one of the oldest art museums in the state.

The city’s culinary scene showcases farm-to-fork dining, emphasising locally sourced ingredients. Shopping opportunities in Sacramento range from boutique shops in Midtown to bustling farmers’ markets.

San Diego

San Diego, known for its pleasant climate and laid-back atmosphere, is a city with diverse attractions. Balboa Park, one of the largest urban parks in the United States, is home to numerous museums, gardens, and the renowned San Diego Zoo.

Visitors can explore the historic Gaslamp Quarter, relax on the beautiful beaches, or take a harbour cruise to admire the city skyline. San Diego’s culinary scene offers a mix of international cuisines, from fresh seafood to Mexican delicacies.

Visiting San Diego is also one of the best things to do in California for shoppers. The city is full of options ranging from luxury brands in Fashion Valley to unique boutiques in neighbourhoods like La Jolla and North Park.

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Sacramento is the capital of California.

Experience Natural Wonders


California is blessed with a variety of national parks that showcase the state’s natural wonders. Yosemite National Park, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, is renowned for its stunning granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and ancient sequoia trees.

Visitors can hike through picturesque valleys, such as Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows, or marvel at iconic landmarks like Half Dome and El Capitan. Camping in Yosemite allows visitors to immerse themselves in the park’s pristine wilderness and enjoy activities like rock climbing, fishing, and wildlife spotting.

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park, situated in the Mojave Desert, is a unique desert oasis known for its otherworldly landscape. The park is characterised by its namesake Joshua trees, towering rock formations, and vast expanses of desert scenery.

Hiking trails lead visitors to hidden oases, where they can encounter diverse desert flora and fauna. Camping under a star-filled sky is a memorable experience in Joshua Tree, and rock climbing enthusiasts can challenge themselves on the park’s distinctive granite formations.

Death Valley

Death Valley National Park, one of the hottest and driest places on Earth, offers a surreal and awe-inspiring landscape. Visitors can explore the vast salt flats of Badwater Basin, hike through colourful canyons like Golden Canyon and Artist’s Palette, or venture to the mesmerising sand dunes.

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Death Valley is one of the hottest areas on Earth.

The park’s unique geology, including the towering peaks of the Panamint Mountains and the mysterious moving rocks of Racetrack Playa, provide endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. Camping in Death Valley allows visitors to witness spectacular sunsets and experience the tranquil beauty of the desert night sky.

For nature lovers who want to experience extreme landscapes, exploring Death Valley is one of the most fascinating things to do in California.


Redwood National and State Parks, located along the northern coast of California, are home to the world’s tallest trees, the majestic coast redwoods. These ancient giants can reach heights of over 350 feet and create a magical, ethereal forest setting.

Hiking trails wind through the lush groves, where visitors can immerse themselves in the serenity of nature. Camping in the redwood forests provides a unique opportunity to connect with the natural world and witness the sheer scale and beauty of these ancient trees, making it one of the best things to do in California for nature lovers.

Outdoor Activities

There are tons of things to do in California at the state’s natural wonders. Hiking enthusiasts can explore trails of varying difficulty, from leisurely nature walks to challenging summit hikes. Camping options range from developed campgrounds with amenities to more remote backcountry sites.

Wildlife spotting is a popular activity in these parks, with opportunities to encounter diverse species such as black bears, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and a wide array of birdlife.

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Joshua Tree is a very scenic area in California.

Indulge in Wine Country

Renowned Wine Regions in California

California’s Wine Country is renowned worldwide for its exceptional wine regions, with Napa Valley and Sonoma standing out as the crown jewels. For wine lovers, it is a wonderful location for a holiday in the USA.

Napa Valley, located just north of San Francisco, is synonymous with premium wine production. The region boasts over 400 wineries, ranging from small, family-owned vineyards to grand estates.

Sonoma, neighbouring Napa Valley, offers a more laid-back and diverse wine experience, with over 425 wineries spanning from the coast to the inland valleys. These wine regions collectively showcase the best of California’s viticulture, making visiting them one of the most interesting things to do in California.

Experiences and Scenic Beauty

Wine tasting experiences in Napa Valley and Sonoma are unparalleled. Visitors can indulge in the art of wine appreciation, sampling a wide variety of world-class wines, from robust Cabernet Sauvignons to elegant Chardonnays and everything in between.

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Napa Valley is a great destination for wine lovers.

Tasting rooms in charming wineries offer a warm and inviting atmosphere, where knowledgeable staff guide visitors through tastings, sharing the intricacies of each wine. Many wineries also offer vineyard tours, allowing visitors to see the winemaking process firsthand and gain insight into the craftsmanship behind the wines.

The scenic beauty of Napa Valley and Sonoma adds to the allure of Wine Country. Rolling hills, picturesque vineyards, and charming wineries create a breathtaking backdrop for wine tasting and exploration.

Visitors can embark on leisurely drives along scenic routes, such as the Silverado Trail or Sonoma Valley’s Highway 12, enjoying panoramic views of the vineyard-dotted landscapes. For a unique experience, hot air balloon rides offer a birds-eye perspective, providing a memorable way to appreciate the beauty of Wine Country from above.

Culinary Offerings and Luxury Accommodations

Culinary offerings in Wine Country are as exceptional as the wines themselves. Michelin-starred restaurants, farm-to-table eateries, and gourmet food markets showcase the region’s commitment to culinary excellence.

Many wineries have on-site restaurants where visitors can savour carefully curated wine and food pairings, enhancing both flavours. From fine dining experiences to casual picnics among the vineyards, Wine Country caters to a range of culinary preferences, making it a paradise for food lovers.

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Many Californian vineyards offer tasting experiences.

Luxury accommodations in Wine Country provide an idyllic retreat for visitors. Boutique hotels, charming bed and breakfasts, and lavish resorts offer a blend of comfort and sophistication.

Some establishments are nestled within vineyards, providing an immersive experience where guests can wake up to sweeping vineyard views and enjoy exclusive access to winery facilities.

Many accommodations also offer spa services, allowing guests to relax and unwind after a day of wine tasting and exploration.

Seek Thrills in Theme Parks

Legoland California

California is home to some of the world’s most famous and beloved theme parks, providing entertainment and excitement for visitors of all ages. Legoland California, located in Carlsbad, offers a unique experience for Lego enthusiasts.

The park features impressive Lego sculptures, interactive exhibits, and thrilling rides designed for kids and families. From building Lego creations to embarking on exciting adventures, Legoland California combines education and fun in a whimsical setting, making it one of the best things to do in California for families.

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Disneyland is a great destination for families.


Disneyland, located in Anaheim, is synonymous with magical experiences. The original Disneyland Park captures the imagination with its iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle and classic attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain.

Disney California Adventure Park, adjacent to Disneyland, offers a more contemporary experience with immersive lands such as Pixar Pier and Cars Land. From meeting beloved Disney characters to enjoying thrilling rides and spectacular parades, Disneyland offers a world of enchantment and wonder, making it one of the best things to do in California.

Universal Studios

Universal Studios Hollywood, situated in Los Angeles, takes visitors behind the scenes of the entertainment industry. The park combines thrilling rides with immersive experiences based on popular movies and TV shows.

From the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to the Studio Tour, where visitors can explore working movie sets, Universal Studios Hollywood offers an interactive and adrenaline-pumping adventure.

Live shows and special effects demonstrations further enhance the entertainment experience, making it a must-visit destination for movie enthusiasts. For movie buffs, visiting Universal Studios is one of the most exciting things to do in California.

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Universal Studios features film sets, themed rides, and other attractions.

There are Many Great Things to do in California

There are endless incredible things to do in California for tourists and locals alike. From the coastal beauty of its pristine beaches to the vibrant cities brimming with unique character, there are things to do in California for everyone who visits.

Whether it’s lounging on the sun-kissed beaches, exploring iconic landmarks, indulging in culinary delights, immersing in cultural experiences, embarking on outdoor adventures, or stepping into fantasy worlds at the theme parks, there is an abundant number of things to do in California.

So, whether you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker, a food enthusiast, or an adrenaline junkie, the Golden State invites you to embark on an unforgettable journey of things to do in California.

If you’re planning a holiday in California, check out these 5 Great Activities at Blackstar Canyon in Orange County.

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