Exploring California is an unforgettable experience, with endless opportunities for adventure and discovery, many of which are within a few hours’ drive of the main metropolitan areas – San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. From the sun-kissed beaches of Southern California to the rugged coastline of Big Sur, the state is home to a diverse range of landscapes and destinations. So whether you’re looking to hike through California’s national parks, indulge in world-class cuisine, or simply soak up the laid-back California lifestyle, there’s something for everyone. With its year-round sunshine, stunning scenery, and endless possibilities for exploration, California truly has it all.
California’s National Parks (All California)
California is home to some of the most stunning and diverse U.S. national parks. From the towering granite cliffs of Yosemite National Park to the vast expanse of Joshua Tree National Park’s desert landscape, there is no shortage of natural wonders to explore. Visitors can also marvel at the otherworldly rock formations and deep canyons of Death Valley National Park, hike through the majestic giant sequoia trees in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, or observe a wide range of marine life at Channel Islands National Park. California’s national parks offer breathtaking scenery and opportunities for outdoor recreation, such as hiking, camping, rock climbing, and wildlife watching. With so much to see and experience, it’s no wonder that California’s national parks attract millions of visitors every year. Make sure to bring this must-have travel accessory, U.S. National Parks Travel Log, to record your park memories and collect your national parks passport stamps. Happy Trails!
One California Day’s Surprise Day Trips Make for Fun, Budget-Friendly California Adventures (All California)
Cruise into spring and summer on a travel budget with One California Day’s surprise day trips. The new Los Angeles-based travel company offers surprise day-trip itineraries, encouraging Californians and visitors alike to hit the open road this spring/summer and enjoy road trips within a 2-3 hour drive of their home base. Because, even with gasoline at record-high prices, local travel remains a cost-effective and more sustainable alternative to domestic and international plane travel.
With so many beautiful places to discover, One California Day’s self-guided mystery itineraries offer authentic experiences that support local businesses and are designed to surprise and delight, revealing a beautiful California destination one memorable stop at a time. With a dozen itineraries to choose from (and more to come), these gift-worthy day trips are perfect for couples, families, girls’ getaways, and special celebrations, and are reasonably priced at $75 (for the itinerary, not per person). For those not as keen on surprises or simply cannot wait to see where they are going, a digital pdf download is available for $55. Digital gift cards can also be purchased in either denomination. To purchase, travelers select a themed trip and the style of itinerary they would like (mailed packet or instantaneous download) here. The itineraries never expire, and travelers have the freedom to choose which day they would like to travel.
What’s included (and not):
- Included: A California Day Tripping Essentials guide that includes a packing list and helpful tips for planning your day; a series of 4-5 envelopes that make up the day’s itinerary; a fun keepsake travelers will want to use on their day trip (included in mailed packets only); restaurants, attractions, and activity recommendations; and a curated list of favorite hotels in the area.
- Not included: Any additional costs associated with the trip, including but not limited to transportation, gas, parking, entrance fees/tickets to attractions, food and beverages, and applicable taxes and gratuities; hotel and restaurant reservations; and hotel accommodations
Napa Valley (Northern California)
Napa Valley is a world-renowned wine region located in Northern California, with a reputation for producing some of the best wines in the world. The valley is home to over 400 wineries, ranging from small family-owned operations to large commercial estates, offering visitors an endless variety of tasting experiences. In addition to wine, Napa Valley is known for its farm-to-table cuisine, with numerous high-end restaurants showcasing locally sourced ingredients. The valley’s picturesque landscape, with rolling hills and vineyards, makes it a popular destination for outdoor recreation such as cycling and hot air ballooning. The Napa Valley Wine Train offers visitors a unique way to explore the region, with a scenic train ride through the vineyards and gourmet meals paired with local wines. The valley is also home to a number of spas and wellness retreats, offering a range of relaxing and rejuvenating treatments. With its world-class wines, gourmet cuisine, stunning scenery, and luxurious accommodations, Napa Valley is a top destination for food and wine enthusiasts from around the world.
Big Sur (Central California)
Big Sur is a breathtaking coastal region in central California, recognized for its dramatic cliffs, rugged coastline, and stunning natural beauty. The area is home to several state parks, including Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, which offers hiking trails through redwood forests, waterfalls, and stunning coastal vistas. The Big Sur coastline is also a popular destination for whale watching, with gray whales migrating along the coast between December and April. The region’s stunning scenery has been an inspiration to artists, writers, and musicians for decades, with several notable works of art depicting the area’s beauty. Visitors to Big Sur can also enjoy a range of outdoor activities, such as camping, kayaking, and beachcombing. The region is home to several luxury resorts and spas, offering a range of amenities and services for those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation. With its rugged coastline, stunning natural landscapes, and peaceful atmosphere, Big Sur is a true gem of the California coastline.
Carmel-by-the-Sea (Central California)
Carmel-by-the-Sea, is a charming coastal town located on the Monterey Peninsula in California. The town is known for its quaint architecture, picturesque streets, and stunning white sand beaches. Carmel-by-the-sea’s downtown area, with its storybook cottages, art galleries, and boutique shops, has a romantic and cozy feel, while the beaches offer visitors a chance to soak up the sun and enjoy the fresh sea air. Carmel is also a hub for the arts, with several theaters and galleries showcasing local and international talent. The town is home to the famous Sunset Center, which hosts a range of concerts, plays, and other cultural events throughout the year. Carmel is also a popular destination for foodies, with a range of restaurants offering cuisine from around the world. The town’s scenic location on the Monterey Peninsula offers visitors easy access to a range of outdoor activities, such as hiking, golfing, and whale watching. With its quaint charm, beautiful beaches, and thriving arts and culture scene, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to California. For accommodations, there is no other place to stay than Hofsas House, a boutique inn with a focus on “Casual elegance, personal service and traditional family hospitality.” Get ready for a fairytale trip with a happy ending.
Santa Barbara (Southern California)
Located two hours from Los Angeles sits the coastal city of Santa Barbara. Called the American Riviera for its sandy beaches and beautiful sunsets, Santa Barbara is the perfect escape from LA. The city is home to a thriving arts scene, with numerous galleries and museums showcasing the works of local artists. Visitors can explore the historic downtown area, filled with unique shops, restaurants, and wine tasting rooms. The Santa Barbara Mission, established in 1786, is a must-visit for history buffs, while the Santa Barbara Zoo is a great destination for families. The city’s beaches are also a major draw, with miles of coastline offering opportunities for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing. Stearns Wharf, one of the city’s most popular attractions, is a historic pier featuring restaurants, shops, and stunning views of the ocean. With its laid-back vibe, picturesque surroundings, and endless opportunities for recreation and relaxation, Santa Barbara is a true gem on the California coast. If you’re staying overnight, book a room at the newly reinvented Courtyard Santa Barbara Downtown, from former star of ABC’s The Bachelor, Andrew Firestone. The hotel’s prime downtown location, modern and hip esthetic, and stylish, yet laid-back signature restaurant Saint Remy, make it the perfect retreat to luxuriate and relax while enjoying all Santa Barbara has to offer.
Ojai (Southern California)
Nestled in the picturesque Ojai Valley, Ojai is a small town in Ventura County, California, beloved for its serene natural beauty and vibrant cultural scene. The town’s charming downtown area is filled with art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants, making it a popular destination for visitors looking to shop, dine, and explore. Ojai is also known for its healing and wellness offerings, numerous spas and retreats offering yoga classes, meditation sessions, and other holistic therapies. The town is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, including the Los Padres National Forest and the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, which provide ample opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and outdoor yoga. The town’s annual Ojai Music Festival draws music lovers from around the world, while the Ojai Valley Lavender Festival celebrates the town’s agricultural heritage. With its unique blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and wellness offerings, Ojai is a true gem in the heart of Southern California. When in Ojai, you must stay at the Ojai Valley Inn. Voted by Condé Nast Traveler Magazine as one of the Top 100 Hotels in the World and one of the Best Hotels in the World by Travel + Leisure, the Ojai Valley Inn offers world-class culinary destinations, wellness services, and overall relaxation.
Catalina Island (Southern California)
Catalina Island is a beautiful and unique destination located off the coast of Southern California. The island’s rugged terrain, crystal-clear waters, and picturesque beaches make it a popular destination for tourists seeking outdoor adventure and relaxation. The island is home to a number of hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding ocean and wildlife, as well as opportunities for camping and picnicking. Catalina Island is also known for its diving and snorkeling, with underwater caves and an abundance of marine life to discover. Visitors can explore the charming town of Avalon, which features quaint shops, restaurants, and galleries, or take a tour of the island’s interior on a guided Jeep or bus tour. The island is also home to the Catalina Island Conservancy, which works to preserve and protect the island’s unique ecology and wildlife. With its stunning natural beauty, unique culture, and endless opportunities for adventure, Catalina Island is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Southern California. For transportation and accommodations, contact the Catalina Express.
So what are you waiting for? From coast to mountains, get out and uncover California’s best hidden gems!