I had a fair idea, primarily because the state is incredibly diverse. Let me break down the top 11 reasons why you should visit California. You will want to go back – again and again, and again.
California is literally gold
Affectionately known as the Golden State, the states official mineral is gold after it was discovered in Coloma in 1848. Thus sparking the California gold rush which saw more than 300,000 residents from all over the United States (and the world) descend on California to claim their riches.
That isn’t the only tie to the Golden state though. You’ll also find that gold is one of California’s state colours, alongside blue. If that hasn’t convinced you why the state deserves its nickname, here are three more reasons to win you over.
California’s state flower is a golden poppy. In springtime, you can see these super blooms carpeting much of the arid desert landscape. Take advantage of these top three places to view them and make sure you stay on the trails; Antelope Valley, Walker Canyon and Carrizo Plain.
San Francisco is home to one of the States most famous landmarks and possibly one of the worlds most photographed architectural wonders, the Golden Gate Bridge.
Last but not least, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t end your day by casting your eyes over the Pacific Ocean to witness one of California’s mesmerising golden sunsets.
The weather is amazing, year-round
With a mostly Mediterranean climate, you can bet on hot summers, mild spring/autumn seasons and mellow winters across much of the state.
The best way to dress is with layers as the evenings can cool down, even in summer, depending on where in the state you are.
California’s coastline is 840 miles long which offers a diverse domain. Generally the further north and inland across the mountain range you go, the cooler it will be. To the south, the temperatures rise, especially in desert areas like Death Valley, known as one of the hottest places on the planet.
When you think of California it usually projects images of sunshine to the front of your mind, but the state is also home to around 35 ski resorts. Strap in at top resorts; Mammoth, Heavenly, Squaw Valley, Kirkwood and Northstar.
Queue road trip playlist – California is home to some of the worlds most attractive drives
One of those being the great All – American road trip that starts near Dana Point and winds up in Mendocino County. Most people tend to start this classic in San Diego or Los Angeles and spend four to seven days hugging the dramatic coastline before finishing their road trip in San Francisco, or vice versa.
That trip is a bucket list drive for many, and for good reason, it is breathtaking! There are, however, more miles to cover to suit a myriad of interests if you’re looking for something a little different, or visiting more than once.
If a farm to table principle is more to your taste, you can journey through California’s Heartland. Follow winding country roads while you sample your way through the states fertile Central Valley.
If you’re a surfer, you’ll know what I am saying when I mention Mavericks or Trestles. You can pick up an iconic car, strap on your boards and embark on an endless summer (in a few days or more) of California’s 14 top surfing spots.
Lastly, who doesn’t want to get their kicks on the infamous Route 66? The Mother Road starts or ends right here in Santa Monica.
Nature is hugely diverse
Home to the highest (Mt Whitney) and lowest (Death Valley) points of all US States, there is a lot more to California than Hollywood glam and laid back surf lifestyles.
If nature is calling, you will find nine national parks, more than any other state in the country. Each park is in stark contrast to the next; Lassen, Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Pinnacles, Channel Islands, Death Valley, Redwood and Sequoia / Kings Canyon.
In addition, there are also close to 300 state parks which range from beaches, mountains, forests and deserts.
State parks are often overlooked, I urge you to experience them and be the judge. In my opinion, some State Parks are as (if not more) impressive as the National Parks. Take a look at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve for example, equally as stunning as Redwood NP with far fewer visitors.
Live out your wildest foodie dreams
Whether you’re a gluten-free, lactose-intolerant vegan or have the palate of a Michelin Star judge, California has you covered.
As a matter of fact, there are 90 starred restaurants in California. Which means if you’re visiting on an ESTA you could stay in California for the full 90 days and have a Michelin starred meal each day.
There is one Californian institution that may not have been judged but is a star in its own right. A staple on any road trip is In N Out Burger. If you know you know, but if you don’t – they have their own ‘secret’ menu you can order from. Pssst… animal style. You’re welcome.
There are also seven ‘foods‘ that made California famous. So in the name of research, I have verified all with my own tastebuds. Some of these may surprise you; Sourdough bread, Cioppino, Mission burrito, Mai Tai, Fortune Cookies, Rocky Road and Martinis.
Speaking of Cioppino, you need to get yourself to Sotto Mare in San Francisco to taste it for yourself. I am not being dramatic when I say it is the best tomato-based seafood stew you will ever inhale. I stumbled upon this gem twice while on culinary journeys with Avital, their tours are also a must.
Aside from the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas, you can not miss the wine country. But that’s a whole separate discussion we will have.
Cheers! Salud! 90% of US wine comes from… California
Californians also rank first for wine consumption, that explains why they are so chilled.
Boasting around 4,500 wineries, California is considered to be one of the top producing wine areas in the world after France, Italy & Spain.
You could fairly divide wine country into six different regions; Southern California, Central Coast, Sierra Foothills, Inland Valleys, Far North and North Coast.
While Napa has earned its right to fame, it would be an injustice not to visit Sonoma. Reason being, there are three wine areas within Sonoma County. That means more wineries and diversity in varietals that are grown.
You’ll also find a wider range of accommodation and activities on offer, and it can be lighter on your purse strings too.
My top takeaways from Sonoma are to take a hot air balloon and soar above the vineyards, sip and cycle your way along backroads as you experience smaller local wineries, and give back to a sanctuary for rescued animals while doing goat yoga. Yes, you read that right, yoga… with baby goats.
California knows how to party…
You’ll know some of the big names like Coachella, Outside Lands and Comic-Con. But, did you know Fallbrook is the avocado capital of the world? If you’re reading this over your morning smashed avo, don’t choke, but there is an annual avocado festival.
If attending summer camp was a dream or distant memory, Tentsile Campout could be your wish granted. Sleep strung out between the trees and spend your day’s slacklining, hiking or immersed in a range of activities like yoga.
Disclosurefest also brings The Mass Meditation Initiative annually, along with a host of other spiritual-based events throughout the year.
Pebble Beach Food & Wine is a four-day event that matches 250 wineries with 100 celebrity chefs to bring you the finest gastronomy affair on the West Coast.
Whoever you are or want to be, there is at least one festival or event that will have you pressing ‘pay now’ on your next flight to California.
California champions creativity and culture
There is a heavy focus on growing and sustaining art and culture within the state. The California Arts Council has named 14 districts to highlight the unique artistic identities and flourishing cultural diversity within local communities.
I don’t know about you, but I am completely in love with the approach California has taken to invest in their creative community. Our new economy is dependent on nurturing ingenuity and this is a large leap in the right direction.
New art districts aside, the state harbours an enormous amount of creative minds and areas. Venture into the desert and you’ll find visionary communities like East Jesus and Slab City. Here you will find Leonard Knight’s labour of love, Salvation Mountain, now made by famous Instagram.
Ski and surf in the same day
There are not many places that offer compact diversity as California does.
Known as the California Double, Start your day surfing at Huntington Beach, Venice or Malibu in the morning. Within a 2.5 hour drive, you can be hitting the slopes at Big Bear, Mt Baldy or Mountain High in the early afternoon.
Got a weekend that you want to jam-pack? Why not spend a day at Big Bear to ski your heart out and back it up with a day in Venice to surf it off.
It’s a gateway to the US
From there you can easily pick up an internal flight or hire a car and set off on a road trip.
But, If you’re already in the US and put your price alerts on, you can easily visit California for under $100.
Turn on your Bluetooth and connect
I started counting how many songs contain the word California and had to stop, there is an army of them. Don’t even get me started on lyrics that include city names or were inspired by the lifestyle and landscapes.
I genuinely want to help you to start that the ball rolling on your Californian playlist so you can hit the open road.
In no particular order, here are 11 favourites to inspire you to put the top down and speed off into the golden sunset.
- Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Californication
- Mamas & The Papas – California Dreamin’
- Eagles – Hotel California
- 2Pac – California Love
- Katy Perry – California Gurls
- Childish Gambino – California
- Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Dani California
- The Notorious BIG – Going back to Cali
- The Rivieras – California Sun
- Ray Charles – California, Here I Come
- Otis Redding – Sittin on the Dock of the Bay
What are you waiting for? California is calling you and it is time to dream big.
Did I miss anything you love about California? Let me know in the comments below.