Though the first thing that pops into most people’s minds when they think of California is the superstars of Los Angeles (with San Francisco and its Golden Gate Bridge as a close second), California is actually quite dreamy with how diverse and fun it is to discover. Route 66, hiking to the Hollywood sign, hitting up a beach in Malibu, and skiing in Lake Tahoe are just a few of the many, many things to do in California, most of which are totally bucket list worthy!
Going just about anywhere in the state, from northern to southern, has got a fun activity or attraction to offer for any type of a traveler. California just may be a state you can never get enough of visiting, and the bucket list ideas below are some pretty major reasons why!
The Best California Attractions, Activities & Fun Things to Do from Northern to Southern
1. Camp on Angel Island
Angel Island is a small island off the San Francisco bay, and going camping there requires some grit as you’ll have to hike miles for some of the campsites. However, every step you take is worth it for those incredible views of the San Francisco skyline and other California attractions local to the area.
If camping isn’t your thing, then San Francisco’s scenic helicopter flight will fly you over the island or the twilight boat rise will cruise you around it.
2. Catch a Giant’s Game at Oracle Park
One of the most celebrated teams in major league baseball is the San Francisco Giants, and catching one of their games at the home stadium is sure to give you a thrilling night of action and fun. Whether you’re a huge fan of baseball or have never been to a game before, this activity is simply one of those things to do in California that you ought not to miss out on! If nothing else, make sure to eat the signature crab sandwich while you are there.
3. Hike to the Top of Half Dome
Located at Yosemite Valley’s eastern end, Half Dome is a famous granite dome that got its name from its unique shape. At 8,800 feet above sea level, it offers a dramatic and challenging hike that many love to take on as an adventure (that’s why it made our Hiking Bucket List of the 25 Best Hikes & Backpacking Treks in the World!). Luckily, this difficult climb only takes 10 to 12 hours to complete.
4. Climb Mount Shasta
Located at Cascada Range’s southern end, Mount Shasta is a volcano that may or may not be still active. It’s topped with a layer of ice, but is an easier hike than the above-mentioned Half Dome, while offering picturesque views of the mountains around you and the nature below you. There are various trails you can hop on, depending on whether your interest lies in reaching the very top, one of its many falls or lakes, or the less visited and more challenging Hotlum-Wintun Ridge.
5. Dine at the French Laundry in Yountville
The French Laundry in the Napa Valley is definitely an overachiever, it has had three coveted Michelin Stars since 2006 and Anthony Bourdain has called it “the best restaurant in the world, period.” Its Chef’s Tasting Menu changes daily and is a must-do experience for all foodies! Owner and chef extraordinaire, Thomas Keller is a master at his craft, but it will cost you a pretty penny to eat his food at this highly acclaimed restaurant. A dinner can easily run over $400 per person, but the hardest part is actually getting a reservation which can take months. This article will help: Getting reservations at Napa’s The French Laundry. Let me know if you are successful!
Foodie Bucket List Goal 1B: While you are waiting to snag reservations, why not try your hand at cooking some of the exquisite dishes that you can find in The French Laundry Cookbook.
6. Drive 17-mile drive in Monterey
The famous 17-mile drive in Monterey is known for being absolutely gorgeous, passing by various local California attractions like the well-known golf course and mansions, as well as worthwhile sceneries, including the Lone Cypress located on Pebble Beach. The drive will take you a minimum of 3 hours, at least if you want to stop to take in the scenery around you, as well as photograph them.
If you’re in San Francisco, these tours will take you to 17-mile drive and many other places:
- San Fran: Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur Full-Day Private Tour
- San Francisco: Monterey and Carmel Tour
- Pacific Coastal Highway Tour to Monterey & Carmel
7. Drive San Francisco’s Lombard Street
Driving down Lombard Street is one of the top things to do in San Francisco. Why? Because it is said to be the crookedest street in the world, thanks to its eight sharp turns between Hyde and Leavensworth. Even if you don’t drive down, walk down so you can see all the pretty houses that line the road.
8. Ski Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is known to have some of the best ski resorts in the United States, so although many people may initially head over to California for its palm trees and beachy weather, don’t forget that skiing can add a little adventure to your California activities list. There are plenty of resorts to choose from, but amongst the best are Heavenly and Squaw Valley.
9. Drive the Avenue of the Giants
The Avenue of Giants is yet another famous drive in California, taking you on a 31 mile drive through the beautiful northern California redwoods. In fact, it’s even been quoted to be the best forest drive in the whole world!
10. Eat Garlic in Gilroy
The city of Gilroy is known as the garlic capital in the world, even hosting an annual garlic festival for the diehard fans. So, if there’s one place in the world you’ll want to eat the popular vegetable in, it’s Gilroy. From garlic fries to soup to ice cream, you can find almost everything garlic related in the city.
11. Eat Seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf
The Fisherman’s Wharf district in San Francisco is specifically known for its countless waterfront restaurants, most of which specialize in seafood (like, cioppino, chowder and crab cakes!). It’s easy to make a full day of not only eating in the area, but also visiting the other popular Fisherman’s Wharf’s attractions, most especially Pier 39.
For easy access to the area just pop on the San Francisco Hop-On Hop-Off bus, that makes a stop there.
12. Enjoy at Monterey Bay Aquarium
Although the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s admission price may cause your heart to skip a beat, you’re more than likely to walk out of the aquarium certain every single penny was well spent. There are more than 200 exhibits of marine life to look through—don’t miss the octopus and jellyfish!
13. Enjoy Nature at Lassen Volcanic National Park
If you love exploring diverse nature, then Lassen Volcanic National Park is a must among all the things to do in California. Beyond it having the world’s largest plug dome volcano, Lassen Peak, the park also offers lakes of crystalline colors, wildflower meadows, and more. There’s a total of over 150 miles worth of trails to be walked through, so there’ll surely be a route that’s perfect for you.
14. Explore the Lake Shasta Caverns
Considered to be a national natural landmark, the Lake Shasta Caverns are located inside Mt. Shasta, some 900 feet above the lake. The network of caves can be explored in a few hours, but it’s best to book advance tickets.
15. Get a Mud Bath in Calistoga
The quiet city of Calistoga is known for its relaxing vibe, and one of the best ways to quickly acclimate to it is to get a mud bath. The natural spa treatment mixes mineral-rich hot spring waters with volcanic ashes, it is then either applied to your body or you bath inside a tub of it. There are multiple spas where you can get your beautifying and healing mud bath game on, but I highly recommend Indian Springs (it’s where I checked this experience off my bucket list!).
16. Go to Big Sur
Wedged between Carmel Highlands and San Simeon in California’s Central Coast is this gorgeous and rugged mountainous area known as Big Sur. It’s described to be one of the most beautiful, iconic, scenic, and dramatic coastlines you can find in the world, definitely earning its spot as one of the top California attractions to visit, with plenty to see and be wowed by. Definitely don’t miss the stunning Bixby Creek Bridge and uber-popular McWay Falls!
17. Smell the Flowers at the Municipal Rose Garden
Offering you at least one reason to head over to the city of San Jose is the Municipal Rose Garden. It’s a stunner with nearly 200 different varieties represented, and at least a few of them in full bloom on any given day of the year. For the best visit, go in early May! And best of all, this is among the best FREE things to do in California.
18. Go to Turtle Bay Exploration Park
At the Turtle Bay Exploration Park you can find a wildlife center, a museum, a botanical garden, playgrounds for the younger family members, and even the world-famed Sundial Bridge. It’s a non-profit park boasting over 60 animal species, as well as restaurants, and some pretty fun summertime activities if that’s when you happen to visit.
19. Go Tubing Down the Russian River
Whether you’re a local or a visitor to Sonoma County, tubing down the Russian River is a must summer activity. You’ll want to plan your trip well, but the most recommended route is a 2-mile stretch from from Steelhead Beach to Sunset Beach! It’s such a fun way to enjoy time in the sun and water, while also taking it totally chill with some cool company and even cooler beverages.
20. Go Wine Tasting at Napa Valley’s Best Wineries
Napa Valley is famous for its wineries and wine tasting experiences, and not without a good reason! There’s a great number of them, and not only do they offer delicious wine, but often the wines are coupled with beautiful estates and gorgeous views. NapaValley.com has made it easy to choose with their 10 most beautiful wineries the visit article, but Veranda has listed 27 more just in case.
If you don’t want to navigate the wineries on your own, then check out these highly rated tours:
- Napa Valley: Guided Wine Tour with Picnic Lunch
- From San Francisco: Small-Group Napa Valley Tour for Wine Lovers
21. Take an Alcatraz Tour
Do you want to visit the famous place where Al “Scarface” Capone and murderer Robert Stroud were inmates? Then you must put a visit to Alcatraz Island on your California attraction list. Alcatraz is a famous prison that is on a rocky island in the San Francisco Bay, and you can go inside to take a peek at how life was like locked up.
You can easily book tickets online, or save a little money by booking combination tours that include a stop at Alcatraz, like these:
22. Photograph Zabriskie Point at Death Valley National Park
Zabriskie Point offers some of the best views you can find in Death Valley National Park, with gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. That’s probably why its view is one of the photographed in the park. And the best part is, you won’t even have to trek through a strenuous trail to get there, just a quarter mile walk uphill from the parking lot.
23. Ogle the Largest Tree in the World—General Sherman
General Sherman isn’t just any big tree, at 275 feet tall and a 100 foot in diameter trunk it’s the largest living tree in the world! But, that’s not all, it’s also estimated to be from 2300 to 2700 years old. You can find this king of the forest at the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park.
24. Marvel at Devil’s Postpile
Located near Mammoth Mountain, the Devil’s Postpile is an unusual rock formation that is considered a geologic wonder. It is said that the 60-foot tall basalt columns were formed 100,000 years ago and it truly is a marvel.
25. Pan for Gold
Have you ever dreamed of striking it rich? Well, panning for gold in California remains a popular activity, and can be done totally for free too (Gold Rush Nuggets has some places that are good for doing that). You may not necessarily get rich quick and probably have better odds with the lottery, but it’ll be a good time!
26. Ride the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
The Giant Dipper is a majestic old wooden roller coaster located in the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park. It is regarded as one of the most popular and oldest wooden coasters in the world, with a speed of 55 miles per hour, and has even received recognition as a National Historic Landmark.
27. Find the BEST View of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in and of itself is one of the most iconic things to see in all of California, but finding just the perfect spot to view it from makes seeing it all the more exceptional. Here’s some places to try:
- South Vista Point (especially in the morning!)
- Fort Point
- Marin Headlands
- Fort Baker
- St. Francis Yacht Club (especially during sunset)
- Crissy Field
For something extra unique, try getting an up close view by biking or walking across the Golden Gate or take the Golden Gate Bay Cruise that will take you underneath it!
28. See the hundreds of Elephant Seals at Año Nuevo State Park
At Año Nuevo State Park, you have the unique opportunity to view up to 10,000 elephant seals in their natural habitat, depending on the time of year! The hike to see them is a moderate 3 to 4 miles in distance, and you can tackle it on your own or join a guided tour.
29. Walk on Fort Bragg’s Glass Beach
Another truly unique experience to tick off your bucket list while in California is visiting the Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. It is a a rare destination that gained its name and attraction status from the small pieces of smoothed sea glass that the beach is covered with. Although you’re not allowed to take any of the glass on the beach, it makes for an interesting place to visit for a walk or a picnic.
30. Shuck Oysters at Hog Island
Operated by a marine biologist duo, the oysters at Hog Island are not only delicious, but they are farmed in a certified and sustainable manner. Today you can even order the oysters right to your front door, but the original way to shuck them is right by the bay in which they’re grown, and you can do just that at the Hog Island Oyster Farm in Tomales Bay.
If you want a full foodie experience in the area (that includes a stop at Hog Island), then take the Food and Farm Tour that leaves from Point Reyes.
31. Soak in the Eastern Sierra Natural Hot Spring
The gorgeous Eastern Sierra hot springs used to be a hidden secret among the locals, but have since become known in a more widespread fashion. A few hours here, coupled with its dramatic views, is a great combination of beautifying and relaxing experience while enjoying the nature around you.
32. Spend a Romantic Weekend in Mendocino
Located near Fort Bragg, Mendocino is a petite town offering scenic views of the Pacific Ocean that it’s next to. Though not big in size, it offers plenty to do over a romantic weekend, such as the Russian Gulch State Park and Jug Handle State Natural Reserve.
33. Take a Bioluminescent Kayak Tour in Tomales
One of the most gorgeous things to do in California is to take on a bioluminescent kayak tour in Tomales during the night, where during certain times of the year the waters come alive. These blue and bioluminescent waters are lit up along the shoreline by living organisms.
34. Marvel at Burney Falls
Burney Falls is a stunning waterfall located within Shasta County’s McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. The 129-foot waterfall flows with the most intensity from April to October, and has even been dubbed one of the most exceptional waterfalls in Northern California.
35. Walk Amongst the Giant Redwoods at Muir Woods
At Muir Woods, you can walk amongst magnificent old-growth forest with gorgeous Giant Redwood trees. While Muir Woods do not boast the tallest redwood tree to exist, these old trees will still assuredly make you feel tiny in size.
If you’re visiting San Francisco, there are plenty of tours that will take you there:
- San Francisco: 6-Hour City and Muir Woods Tour
- San Francisco: Muir Woods, Sausalito, and Wine Country Tour
- San Francisco: Private Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour
36. Visit the California State Capitol and Museum
Located in Sacramento, the California State Capitol and its museum will wow you with its architecture and history. From its museum you can find a variety of exhibitions, including historic rooms, murals, portraits and statues, but the surrounding Capitol Park area is worth exploring too.
37. Visit the Most Famous Ghost Town in California
Though Bodie was once upon a time a popular mining town, it has now been regarded as a ghost town for more than a century. It’s a place where you can walk through real sites similar to the sets you’ve seen in plenty of movies of the Western genre.
38. Visit the Oldest Winery in California: Buena Vista Winery
Located in my home-county of Sonoma, the Buena Vista Winery has been in operation since the 1850s. From chardonnay to petite sirah, you’ll not only be able to taste some exceptional wines, but also enjoy the beautiful castle-like surroundings.
39. Visit Winchester Mystery House
The Winchester Mystery House is a victorian style mansion used to be the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, operating today as a popular tourist attraction. It draws visitors interested in its architecture and grand size, as well as those curious of the possible hauntings conducted by the ghosts of those who died from Winchester rifles.
40. Walk the Tiburon Historic Trail
The Tiburon Historical Trail trail used to be a rail trail, now offering walking and biking opportunities with impeccable views of San Francisco Bay (including the Golden Gate Bridge!) as well as Mt. Tamalpais. At just over 2 1/2 miles at full length, it makes for a great afternoon workout without being too strenuous to complete. The best part is that your start or end will be in the cute town of Tiburon, which is the perfect spot for lunch, or at least a gelato reward.
41. Walk Through the Cypress Tree Tunnel in Point Reyes
Another picturesque nature experience in northern California is the walk through the Cypress Tree Tunnel. The way the trees form the perfect awning over the road has drawn visitors from around the world.
42. Whitewater Raft the American River
If you’re looking for an adventurous activity that will get your adrenaline pumping, than whitewater rafting might be right up your alley. On the American River you can enjoy easier rafting trails among your group, or go with a professional for a more extreme ride with more intense rapids.
NORTHERN & SOUTHERN
43. Do a California Spanish Mission Road Trip
Taking you from San Diego to Sonoma, the 21 California Missions offer some of the oldest historical spots in all of the United States, originating from the time period where California was under Spain’s control. The full The California Missions Trail road trip will take you approximately 7 days.
44. Sleep in a Treehouse
While the opportunity to sleep in a tree house isn’t exclusive to California, they sure boast many beautiful and interesting tree house options for spending the night in. Treehouse Rentals has a list of some of the cutest tree houses you can rent for the night!
45. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway
Also known as California State Route 1, this highway runs along the Pacific Coastline, with various attractions located on the scenic route. In total, the highway measures at a length of over 656 miles, Mendocino County as its northernmost point and Orange County as its southernmost point. As a bonus, many ideas on this list can be checked off during your drive!
46. Go Whale Watching
Another must thing to do in California is to go whale watching! There are a variety of companies offering whale watching tours between Sacramento and San Diego. You may spot grey whales and orcas between December and May, humpbacks between May and November, and blue whales between July and October.
47. Order from the Secret Menu at In-n-Out
From milkshakes to burgers with special sauce, In-n-Out is a iconic California spot for a quick meal in general, but discovering its secret menu and trying out the various items on it takes your experience to a whole another level! There are plenty of items on the downlow menu (Eat This, Not That shared 17 of them!), but don’t miss out on the animals fries that are made with In-N-Outs signature sauce, American cheese, and caramelized onions.
48. Drive (& Eat Along) the California Cheese Trail
California is not only known for its oceanfront views and mountainous peaks, it’s also pretty famous for its handcrafted cheese—so much so that they’ve create cheese trails for you to explore. There are more than half a dozen possible California cheese trail options to choose from, which leaves you plenty of tasting opportunities to find your favorite.
49. Visit The Lowest Point In The USA At Badwater Basin
Death Valley National Park is worth a visit for many reason, but one of the standouts is Badwater Basin. It is a lake-like endorheic basin with an elevation of 282 ft below sea level, making it the lowest point in all of the United States. The salt flats created by the elevation span almost 200 square miles, which make it quite a site to see.
If you’re in Las Vegas, then take the Death Valley National Park Tour, that will take you to visit the hottest, driest and lowest point in the Western Hemisphere.
50. Attend a Summer Music Festival
While everyone is always talking about Coachella and Bottlerock, there are so many other music festivals to check out during the summertime and beyond. Jones Around the World listed over 30 different music festivals you can see across the state and the Music Festival Wizard has a bunch of good ones too!
51. Check a National Park Off Your Bucket List
California boasts many US National Parks, from the famed ones like Yosemite and Joshua Tree, to various lesser known ones equally worthy of a visit. Some are already featured on this list, but not all. There are overall 9 national parks within California, totaling more than any other state in the US, so certainly there will be one just perfect for you to visit.
52. Explore Balboa Park
Balboa Park is a versatile place, from where you can find both culture and nature. There are gardens and forests, playgrounds and architecture from various time periods, as well as nearly 20 museums to learn just about anything in, from dinosaurs to orchids.
53. Be Inspired At Salvation Mountain
Located in Imperial County, the Salvation Mountain is a hillside artwork created by Leonard Knight, who created it as a tribute to God. aIt consists of murals and painted areas, bricks, windows and tires, as well as automobile parts, with bible verses and other Christian sayings painted all over.
54. Camp Under The Stars At Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park’s night sky offers incredible visuals of the Milky Way, and therefore spending the night stargazing at the national park is another must among things to do in California. But, what most people come for is to be surrounded by the surreal trees with prickly limbs.
For the ultimate experience, take a driving tour through Joshua Tree, where the guide will be able to explain the flora and geology.
55. Have a Weekend Getaway in Santa Barbara
A coastal city with a Mediterranean-like climate, Santa Barbara is not only a popular home for celebrities (like Oprah!), but it’s also a popular destination among tourists. It is easy to visit any time of year, offering its visitors old Spanish architecture, nice weather, numerous beaches, a pleasant harbor area, the Stearns Wharf pier, and so much more.
Here’s some fun things to do while you’re there:
- Santa Barbara Surfing Lesson
- Santa Barbara: Funk Zone Food & Photo Tour
- Santa Barbara: Santa Ynez Wine Country Shuttle
56. Check the City View at Griffith Observatory
An attraction within Los Angeles, from Griffith Observatory you can get some gorgeous views of the city any time of day. The structure itself is also impressive, hosting a planetarium, as well as related exhibits. For a really cool experience, then take the Hollywood Sign Hiking Tour to Griffith Observatory.
57. Drive Route 66 From Through California
Route 66 is a historic and famous road taking drivers from Santa Monica across California and all the way past state borders. There are numerous notable stops along the way, such as Mojave National Preserve, Oro Grande, and San Gabriel Valley. Plus, don’t miss Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch!
58. Enjoy Legoland California
Inspired by the toy brand Lego, at LEGOLAND California Resort you can enjoy a theme park with 60 rides and attractions suitable for kids, a water park, and an aquarium. It’s a fun place to spend a day when going out as a family.
59. Have Fun at Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier also has a small amusement park to enjoy, with its main attraction being the solar paneled Ferris Wheel. There is also an aquarium, an arcade, pubs, restaurants, and shops, as well as a place for anglers to fish.
60. See the Art Sculptures of Borrego Springs
Borrego Springs is a unique small desert town is located entirely within a state park, with nearly daily backyard stargazing parties and ruby red grapefruits, just to name a few reasons to visit. It’s perhaps known best for its art scene, however, as the art sculptures, many of which depict prehistoric animals or creatures from fantasy (such as dragons), are impressive to say the least.
61. Island Hop Along the Channel Islands
The Channel Islands make up a national park in their own right, with various flora and fauna you can’t find anywhere else on Earth. With access from Santa Barbara, these 5 islands are all bucket list worthy, each with their unique attractions and activities to offer, from kayaking to hiking.
62. See the Animals at San Diego Zoo
Located in the aforementioned Balboa Park, at San Diego Zoo you can see animals from over 650 species and subspecies. They operate with a cageless, open-air exhibit principle, creating a more natural habitat-like environment for the animals to live in.
63. Go to Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood is a great combination of a film studio and a theme park. It’s split into two lots, both with their own collection of attractions, ranging from rides to shows, connected by escalators. Within the Upper Lot, you can find the Harry Potter theme area.
64. Hike The Hollywood Sign
Another site from where you get some excellent views of Los Angeles below you is from The Hollywood Sign, which is iconic in its own right. There are three trails you can take to get up there, each ranging in difficulty, with the easiest one being suitable for children as well.
You can hike it on your own of these highly rated tours will take you there:
- Los Angeles: Hollywood Sign Hike
- Los Angeles: Make the Most of LA Guided Tour
- Los Angeles: Hollywood Sign Comedy and Pictures Tour
65. Learn To Surf At Surfrider Beach In Malibu
The Surfrider Beach is a section of a bigger Malibu Lagoon State Beach, popular especially among surfers. It’s located next to the Malibu Pier and does offer a nice sandy beach for sun-tanners to lay on, as well.
66. See the Oldest Tree In The World At The Bristlecone Pine Forest
The Bristlecone Pine Forest is an ancient one, with its oldest trees surpassing 4000 years in age. The trees are gorgeous, and simply being able to be so close to something so old is absolutely mind-blowing and beautiful.
67. Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tram
Hop on the largest rotating tram car in the whole world, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, and travel along Chino Canyon’s thrilling cliffs. From the vantage point up top you can catch panoramic views of Coachella Valley and Palm Springs, and even catch sights all the way until Salton Sea.
68. See a Concert at the Hollywood Bowl
Hollywood Bowl is a modern amphitheater in Los Angeles, with a history encompassing nearly a full century by now. It’s been regarded as an upscale spot for live music since its opening day, and you can catch many acclaimed artists’ and bands’ concerts at the venue.
69. See a Dodgers Game at Dodger Stadium
The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of the most successful baseball teams out there and so an afternoon spent watching their game at Dodger Stadium is unlikely to leave you disappointed. For the most thrilling experience, try to grab tickets for a game against San Francisco Giants or New York Yankees, although at the end of the day any game will do if you simply want to catch them shine.
70. See a Lakers Game at Staples Center
Alternatively, if basketball is more your groove then Los Angeles is also home to another successful sports team, the basketball team the Lakers. Numerous notable players have worn the Lakers jersey over the years, with Kobe Bryant often regarded as the greatest Lakers player of all time.
71. See the Blooms In Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Found within Mojave Desert Grassland, each spring Antelope Valley bursts into bloom with golden California poppies. It’s a sight worth seeing and exploring, with eight miles worth of trails, and various wildflowers creating an ever changing display of colors.
72. Shop on Rodeo Drive
While you’re in Beverly Hills, don’t forget to check out Rodeo Drive (that’s the road where the famous Pretty Women scene with Julia Roberts takes place)! It houses numerous shopping opportunities and cute European-inspired architecture, and is also a fun location for people watching.
73. Stay at the Iconic Madonna Inn
Located in San Luis Obispo, the Madonna Inn is more than a mere motel – it’s a full on landmark! It’s known for its over the top interior and exterior, much of which are donned with the color pink. Just the men’s urinal, built to resemble a rock waterfall, is an attraction of its own.
74. Day Trip to Coronado Island
Coronado Island is a small island with direct road access from San Diego. It’s a popular day trip destination, drawing visitors for its views of the bay, various restaurants offering seafood and other local cuisine, numerous fun activities in the water and on the beach, among other things.
75. Tour The Hearst Castle
As mentioned in my guide for the Hearst Castle, this luxurious property offers great tours through its gorgeous interiors and exteriors. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this stunning mansion attracts more than 750,000 visitors each year, with a couple of different tours to choose from based on your taste and interests.
76. Visit Aquarium of the Pacific
An attraction in Long Beach, at the aquarium you can find over 100 exhibits and at least 12,000 animals to ogle at. No matter how old or young you are, the sea creatures at the Aquarium of the Pacific are sure to melt your heart.
77. Go to Disneyland
Whilst not as big as Florida’s Walt Disney World, California’s two Disney theme parks, together forming one united Disneyland Resort, can easily keep you busy and entertained for a couple of days. California’s Disneyland was the first of its kind, opened in 1955, and remains the second most visited amusement park in the world today.
78. Tour The Queen Mary
The Queen Mary was a passenger ship that sailed on the North Atlantic Ocean for three decades until it docked for the last time on California’s Long Beach, where it still remains moored as of today. Now you can get inside the Queen Mary to tour around the ship and visit its exhibitions, or dine and grab drinks at one of its bars and restaurants, or even stay the night in one of the cabins.
79. Visit The Danish Town Of Solvang
Established by a community of Danes more than a decade ago in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley, this small town will charm you today with its idyllic architecture. Due to its many Denmark-related attractions, such as a statue of Hans Christian Andersen, the town receives more than a million visitors annually.
80. Visit the USS Midway Museum
Known as the 20th century’s longest serving aircraft carrier, the USS Midway operates as a museum today. While it did not actually take part in the battle it received its name from, it served an interesting journey during the Cold War. At the museum you can learn not only about this aircraft carrier itself, but also of the Battle of Midway.
81. Walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Already boasting of more than 2500 stars dedicated to various celebrities, entertainers, and other important names in the film and music industries, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a fun and unique place to take yourself out for a walk. Try to find your favorite celebrity’s star on the Walk of Fame, if they’ve got theirs set in there yet!
82. Walk through the Colorful Flower Fields in Carlsbad
With 50 acres’ worth of floral beauty at Carlsbad Ranch, these flower fields are not to be missed on your list of California attractions if you happen to be in the state any time from March to May. You won’t even need to go all the way to the Netherlands to feel nearly as if you’re already there!
83. Watch A Taping Of A Live TV Show
You can’t possibly visit southern California and not attend at least one taping of a show you like to watch on the TV! For a lot of them you won’t even need to pay for an entrance ticket, though you will have to plan for it. Here are tips for how you can get lucky enough to catch a taping whilst in Hollywood.
84. Take A Day Trip To Santa Catalina Island
A small island towards the southern parts of California, the picturesque and rocky Santa Catalina Island has a lot of romance and enjoyment to offer its visitors. It’s popular for glass bottom boat tours, snorkeling, and scuba diving, among other activities and attractions.
85. Leave a Deposit on the Gum Wall in San Luis Obispo
More endearingly known as the Bubblegum Alley, this gum wall is exactly what it sounds like: an accumulation of bubblegum, more specifically the used and chewed kind. Yeah, it may sound icky at first, but it may also be a fun little activity to pop in a gum, head over to the alley, and deposit onto the wall, making yourself a part of this unique attraction.
86. Walk Along the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave Desert
These dunes are the largest dune fields you’ll find on the Mojave Desert, covering 45 square miles of dunes, ramps, and sand sheets. The hiking trail stretches out some 2.7 miles, offering, well, mostly sand, but also some pretty kick ass views and surroundings.
If you want to explore through all of these things to do in California, you may easily spend a lifetime – or at least quite a portion of it – doing so! Whether it’s stargazing at Joshua Tree National Park or a weekend getaway at Santa Barbara, California and its beautiful weather all year round will assuredly capture a huge part of your heart. These activities and attractions better be getting onto your California Bucket List right about now, if they haven’t made it on it yet!
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9 thoughts on “California Bucket List: 75+ Fun Things to Do from Northern to Southern”
Really amazing places. Thanks for sharing.
I just moved to Oregon last year (from east coast) and I’ve LOVED my trips into northern Cali. Saving this post for later. Thanks so much for all the detail. Wow!
Thank you for sharing very useful.
Thank you for sharing, one of my dreams is to go to California!
We love your ideas for a California adventure, especially camping on Angel island and hiking to the top of mt. Shasta and Half Dome.
Very helpful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Thankyou for sharing beautiful locations
Thankyou so much for sharing nice information
I’ve done Disneyworld and Disneyland and I actually prefer Disneyland. It’s not as daunting! Great list. I haven’t been to California in a while. I miss it.