Welcome to the Golden State. Whether you are a sun worshipper, an outdoor enthusiast, into exhilerating sports, a foodie or love road tripping to see quirky attractions, California has it all! From towering mountains to idyllic palm tree beaches to deserts that are perfect for finding solitude. Here is the Ultimate California Bucket List.
1. Road trip on Big Sur
The Big Sur coastline is California's biggest drawcard and people from all over the world come to drive this magnificent stretch of road where rugged mountains plunge into the wild Pacific ocean.
2. Hike to the Hollywood sign
Hollywood, where dreams are made. You can't come to the city of angels and not do this hike!
Related: How to spend 2 days in Los Angeles
3. Visit the lowest point in America at Badwater Basin
At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America. This is a surreal landscape of vast salt flats which you can walk out on to.
Related: 10 Things to Do in Death Valley
4. See the Golden Gate Bridge from Vista Point
Located on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge and accessible via car only on northbound US 101 or by foot over the bridge and a short hike up the mountain. It is truly worth the effort as you will be rewarded by an amazing view over this iconic engineering achievement.
Related: 9 Reasons To Visit San Francisco
Check out the Go San Francisco card to see all of the Golden Gate city attractions for one price.
5. Get your picture taken in front of Yosemite Falls
Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in America and the world so a visit here should be on everyone's bucket list. Yosemite Falls drops 2,425 feet and is a major attraction in the park. The best time to view the waterfall is during its peak flow between May to June.
6. Feel the love at Salvation Mountain
Be inspired by the bright murals and messages of love at Salvation Mountain. Salvation Mountain is artist Leonard Knight's tribute to God and his gift to the world with its simple yet powerful message, God is Love.
7. Soak in hot springs near Bishop
The Eastern Sierra's has some spectacular scenery and what could be a better way to enjoy the the view than from sitting in natural hot springs? Relaxing at any time of the day or night.
8. View where trash has turned to treasure at Glass Beach
Glass Beach is famous for its dazzling sea glass rounded by the rolling waves. Created from years of dumping garbage onto the beach, mother nature responded to this abuse with a nice surprise in the form of smooth, colored sea glass treasure in a rainbow of colors.
9. Check out the Carson Mansion in Eureka
The Carson Mansion is regarded as one of the highest executions of American Queen Anne Style architecture and considered the most grand Victorian home in America. It is located in Eureka, a great place to base yourself to explore the Northern California coast.
10. Hang out with some Elephant seals
No California coast road trip is complete without stopping to see the resident Elephant seals along Big Sur. They can be a noisy lot; grunting, snorting, squeking and fighting with each other.
11. Eat fresh seafood on the pier in Santa Barbara
The best way to spend your time in Santa Barbara is eating fresh seafood on the pier. We recommend Santa Barbara Shellfish Company but there is a selection of restaurants to choose from.
12. Hike Half Dome
Rising nearly 5000 feet above Yosemite Valley, Half Dome is a Yosemite icon and a great challenge to many hikers. Thousands of people reach the summit every year but the 16 mile round-trip hike is not for you if you're out of shape or unprepared. You will be gaining elevation most of your way to the top, but most would say it is worth it for the outstanding views.
13. Visit the Danish town of Solvang
Tour wineries, sample chocolate and enjoy authentic danish pastries in the quaint town of Solvang in the Santa Ynez valley.
14. Drive historic Route 66
Get your kicks on route 66. Route 66 or the 'Mother Road' was one of the original highways in the U.S. highway systems. Plenty of quirky roadside stops along the way to keep you entertained.
15. Learn to surf at Surfrider Beach in Malibu
Want to learn how to surf? What better place to learn than California where surf culture was first made popular! Surfrider Beach is our top pick for beaches to learn and there is a little ssurf shop across the road where you can hire boards for the day.
16. Camp out at Joshua Tree National Park
These unique trees were given their names by Mormon settlers who thought their branches resembled the biblical Joshua with his arms reaching out to the skies. Come and spend the weekend checking them out and exploring the unusual rock formations.
17. Marvel at the oldest tree's in the world at Bristlecone Pine Forest
The Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to some of the world's oldest living tree's. Some of these gnarled and twisted tree's are over 4,700 years old.
18. Ride an old wooden rollercoaster in Santa Cruz
The Giant Dipper is a historic wooden roller coaster located at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz. The classic wooden coaster can be seen in several movies including 'The Lost Boys'.
19. Take a beautiful drive along Tioga Pass
Tioga Pass is a mountain pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains and is the highest highway pass in California at an elevation of 9,945 feet. The road makes its way through stunning alpine scenery and there are several trailheads into the Yosemite backcountry if you feel like stretching your legs. The pass is subject to winter closure due to high snowfall so plan accordingly.
20. Wonder at Mono Lake's astonishing Tufa's
Mono Lake is an ancient saline lake nestled at the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Along the lakeshore, scenic limestone formations known as tufa towers rise from the water's surface. The colors are incredible at sunset!
21. Walk around a crater in Death Valley
Ubehebe Crater is a large volcanic crater 600 feet deep and half a mile across. It is known as a maar volcano and was created by steam and gas explosions when hot magma rising up from the depths reached ground water.
Related: 10 Things To Do In Death Valley
22. Eat a double double at In & Out
To get the complete California experience you really need to stop by an In & Out and order a double double. We promise you will not be dissappointed. If you have room order a serve of animal fries (not shown on the menu).
23. Bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge
Yes, it is a very 'touristy' thing to do, but the Golden Gate Bridge s actually a long walk so your saving yourself some time. Plus it is fun!
Related: 9 Reasons to Visit San Francisco
24. Say hello to the General Sherman at Seqouia National Park
You will not find a tree bigger than a giant Sequoia tree anywhere else in the world. They are only found in California so make sure you tick them off your California bucket list.
25. Fish for trout in the Eastern Sierra's
The Eastern Sierra's are known for great trout fishing so come out and give it a try. You can't lose when your surrounded by the natural beauty of this area. A great reason to stay outdoors a little longer.
26. Climb some rocks at the Buttermilks
The Buttermilk's is a well known destination for those in the bouldering community but whether you're into rock climbing or not, the Buttermilks are still worth a visit becuase of it's majestic back drop.
27. Be amazed by millions of Monarch Butterfly's
Every year thousands of Monarch Butterfly's migrate to this butterfly grove at Pismo Beach for the winter and cluster in the limbs of Eucalyptus tree's. To behold this natural wonder, plan your visit between October and February.
28. Hike up the the lower 48's highest peak Mount Whitney
At 14,508ft Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48. Hiking the Mt Whitney trail is no walk in the park; the trail itself is 21 miles with 6000 feet elevation gain and is not to be taken lightly.
29. Walk around an old ghost town at Bodie State Historical Park
Bodie was a bustling mining town in the late 1800’s filled with families, robbers, miners, store owners, gunfighters and prostitutes but is now maintained by the California State Parks System who took over in 1962 to make it a State Historic Park. This is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the United States.
30. Get your thrills at Six Flaggs
With 19 roller coasters, Six Flags holds the world record for most roller coasters in an amusement park. Come and experience rollercoasters that ride upside down, standing up and coasters that backflip if you dare.
31. Watch a live taping of a T.V show in the City of Angels
Many of your favorite TV shows are taped here in the city of angels so if you're looking for a unique way to spend the day why not watch a live taping? It is really interesting to learn about the way they are filmed and it is fun. The best things is it's free!
Related:How to Spend 2 Days in L.A.
32. Go cross-country skiing at Twin Lakes
Visiting Mammoth Lakes in the winter but not a skiier or snowboarder? Or are you looking for an outdoor activity that doesn't require as much energy? Then you should give cross country skiing a go at Twin Lakes. A stunning location with lots of trails to choose from.
33. Take a drive on Avenue of the Giants and see the tallest tree's in the world
This place has the largest remaining virgin stand of redwoods left in the world. These trees are so old they were around in the age of dinosaurs. Look, marvel and be humbled by their giant, silent stature.
34. Chow down on clam chowder on the Santa Cruz pier
If you haven't tried clam chowder already (canned doesn't count) then you should treat your tastebuds to this delicous experience. There are many tasty seafood restaurants along the California coast for you to sample the many different variations.
35. See some awesome art in the Anza Borego Desert
Come and see these amazing life size metal sculptures in the Anza Borego Desert. Artist Ricardo Breceda was inspired the creatures that once roamed this same desert millions of years ago.
There are 130 of them for you to find including dinosaurs, saber tooth tigers and serpents.
36. Bike from Venice to Santa Monica
Take in a gorgeous sunset as you bicycle along the Venice Beach and Santa Monica beach front.
37. Slide down the indoor slide in LA.
Looking for something unusual to do in Los Angeles? Slide down the U.S. Bank Towers glass Skyslide! The slide is 1000 feet above downtown L.A. and is part of the tallest open air observation deck in California.
38. Marvel at the unique basalt columns at Devils Postpile National Monument
Devil's Postpile National Monument features thousands of hexagonal basalt columns formed 100,000 years ago when lava flow slowed and then cooled. The landmark is typically open from June through October. Visitors can hike 8 miles of trails at Devils Postpile National Monument and can also choose to venture outside the landmark’s boundaries to the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
39. See a movie in a cemetary
Get the full Hollywood experience by watching a screening of a classic film at the Hollywood Forever cemetary.
40. Ski or snowboard one of California's top ski resorts
California boasts many ski resorts with a wide variety of terrain spread out across the state. The San Bernardino Mountains provide easy access from L.A. to resorts like Big Bear, Snow Summit and Mountain High while further north the Sierra Nevada range is home to Mammoth Mountain, Kirkwood, Heavenly, Northstar and many more. Find out more information about California ski resorts here.
41. Run down the sand dunes at Mugu State Park
The Point Mugu sand dunes are located north of Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway. A fun pit stop if you are taking a road trip along Highway 1. Walk up and run down.
42. Peek at desert wildflowers in spring bloom
Visit one of California's beautiful deserts in the spring time and see it all it's colorful glory.
Related: 10 Things To Do in Death Valley
43. Fish off the pier at Pismo Beach
Fishing of the pier at Pismo is great way to spend a summer afternoon. You don't need a license and you don't even need your own fishing rod. Just rent one from the store on the pier.
44. Take a driving tour of Tahoe Lake
Lake Tahoe is a major year round tourist destination in California. Stunning mountain scenery and loads of outdoor activities which include boating, fishing, canoeing, hiking and skiing to name a few. Find lake side vacation homes with HomeAway.
45. Visit a brewery at altitude
The scenic lakeside mountain village of June Lake is a destination of spectacular glacial lakes and high jagged mountain peaks with a hidden gem, the June Lake Brewery. A great selection of ales, porters and stouts are brewed to perfection here. Make sure you try the infamous "Hute". The other great brewery in the area is Mammoth Lakes Brewing with the spectacular view you see above.
46. Horseback ride in the Santa Monica mountains
With more than 500 miles of horse trails in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, there's a lot to see. Why not do it horseback riding?
47. Vacation on a cruise ship
If you love cruising, Los Angeles is a great departing point for a quick and inexpensive getaway. Cruise ships depart from Los Angeles and Long Beach for Mexico and Hawaii year round. Find some great deals on Cruise Direct.
48. Try a date shake in Palm Springs
Southern California is a date mecca. Visit the 'Date Capital of the World' in the Coachella Valley and taste the many varieties of dates and date shakes. Sweet goodness!
49. Get merry wine tasting
California accounts for nearly 90 percent of American wine production so take a winery tour and sample some of the local product. You don't need to go up to Napa or Sonoma either, there are many winery's in the Santa Barabara area or down by San Diego in Temecula Valley.
50. Dance at a music festival
California has many music festivals throughout summer. Grab your friends, bring a tent and spend a few days dancing and bonding.
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By Arial Evans
Two Aussies road-tripping across the USA. Our goal is to discover America's wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment. Read more