In the United States, all roads lead west–to California. That said, once you get there, you can become lost in the vastness of it all. This is not to say that California is vast like the Alaskan wilderness. Instead, the vast opportunity of California and the things to see and do can leave tourists and newcomers alike feeling harried in their attempt to take everything in.
If you are one of these poor souls, the following cities should help focus your efforts as you search for relaxation, entertainment, and the occasional glimpse of celebrity royalty.
1. Los Angeles
If you want to experience celebrity by proxy, you must visit the Hollywood sign. It sits within the confines of Mount Lee in Griffith Park. Although it is visible from across the canyon, the best way to experience this cultural landmark is by hiking up Mount Lee, an afternoon activity you will find fun but fairly taxing.
That said, if you pace yourself, you can experience one of the most exhilarating vistas in the country. Of course, if you are not one for hiking, you can relax on Venice Beach, which is home to skating and muscles.
Finally, you can visit the La Brea Tar Pits. Although the pits were once a death trap for prehistoric mammals of all sizes, they are now one of the most fascinating glimpses of geological history.
Some cities are host to beautiful gardens, but Fresno is home to the Forestiere Underground Gardens. Started by Baldassare Forestiere, the gardens represent his daytime hobby of digging tunnels and planting flowers and fruit trees. As his efforts were impromptu, there is no real order to the gardens. Instead, they form one of the most unusual mazes in the country.
Of course, gardens involve thirsty work, so the Tioga-Sequoia Beer Garden should be your next stop. At the beer garden, you can partake in a variety of craft beers before heading to Sequoia National Park where the native sequoias are centuries old and up to 26 feet in diameter. Of course, these century-old trees are saplings compared to some of the others. For instance, you can trek into the forest to see trees that are more than 3,000 years old.
For families and the young at heart, Disney Land is the must-see attraction in this city. Allow a full day for walking and enjoying cinema-inspired rides, attractions, and live shows. Although it is a theme park, you can actually enjoy some of the best cuisines in town, or you can enjoy funnel cakes and hot dogs until your camera is out of memory.
For water lovers, Davey’s Locker offers charter fishing where you can spend the entire day or night out at sea with your line in the water. Sights include whales, dolphins, and the occasional shark. Consequently, you are advised to not leave your camera behind. In terms of overnight tours, you will have the chance to enjoy meals in the indoor kitchen and sleep offshore in comfortable bunks. Breakfasts come early, and as you awaken to warm coffee and misty air, you can take part in the ritual bait hooking where the bait consists of huge fish designed to catch only the largest ocean dwellers.
Although it is not one of the largest cities in California, it is considered to be the gateway to Death Valley National Park. With only 31 residents, it offers the true hospitality found only in a small town. As a desert city, it gives you a good idea of what is in store for you once you reach the park. The place is hot, friendly, and well worth the trip. That said, you can keep cool in the Crowbar Cafe and Saloon, and if you are traveling via RV, you have access to one of the most popular RV parks in the region. Finally, Shoshone has its own airport and desert museum.
5. San Diego
Balboa Park should be the first item on your itinerary as it is home to the renowned San Diego Air and Space Museum. Historic aircraft across multiple wartime eras are on display as are a variety of amazing dirigible artifacts.
Balboa Park is also home to the Japanese Friendship Garden, a 12-acre collection of beautiful landscaping, historic architecture, and sublime views of the beach. Finally, Balboa Park is home to Desert Garden, which is a true desert garden in every sense. For instance, it requires no irrigation system as its native flora is drought-hardened plants that survive in the harshest climates.
Following Balboa Park, you are doing yourself a favor if you visit Coronado Beach. This public beach offers some of the calmest waters and softest sand in California. Afterward, you can stop off at the Hotel del Coronado, a meticulously preserved landmark that offers the finest luxury suites, dining, and views.
Finally, your evening in San Diego should eventually take you to Gaslamp Quarter where you can shop, dine, and attend some of the most prestigious art galleries along the west coast. The cobblestone streets have a quaint, old-world feel in what is arguably one of the most modern cities in the world. To quench your thirst, you must stop off at Prohibition, a famous speakeasy that boasts the largest variety of craft cocktails on the planet.