'The Golden State' of California has it all: snow-capped mountains, sweeping coastlines, vast deserts, unique wildlife, lush forests and long stretches of golden beach. Beyond all of California’s natural beauty is authentic cuisine, world famous family adventure parks, and history in the making.
The ruggedly beautiful coastline curves north of Los Angeles to San Francisco along the famous Big Sur coastal highway, one of USA's most scenic drives and the backdrop to hundreds of classic Hollywood movies. The San Francisco Bay Area is proudly presided over by a cosmopolitan city whose cable cars and Golden Gate Bridge are instantly recognisable. Alcatraz island looms ominously in the distance, isolated by frigid water and accessible only by ferry. Across the bay is Berkeley, the home of Californian cuisine and the local food movement led by the world renowned activist, author, and chef Alice Waters. The University of California Berkeley was ground zero for many of the historic events, protests, and psychedelics that defined America in the 1960s.
California's best-known wine country extends north of San Francisco into the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, but excellent wine regions also flourish near Santa Barbara and San Diego. Northern California is the land of giant sequoias and redwoods, waterfalls, whitewater rivers, forests, icy lakes and towering mountains. Los Angeles, the 'City of Angels', is the second-largest city in the USA and lives up to its reputation as 'the entertainment capital of the world'. Celebrity spotting in chic boutiques, four-star restaurants, or just the gas station is a regular and fun occurrence. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills brings the best (and most expensive) fashions from across the globe to one small street.
Big Sur lies between San Francisco and Los Angeles but may as well be on its own planet of natural beauty. Dramatic cliffs plunge into the Pacific Ocean where California gray whales migrate and condors soar overhead. Visitors come to hike through redwood forests, participate in the local artist scene, and get away from anything manmade.
Orange County is home to one of the world's most famous attractions - Disneyland Resort - as well as 67km (42 miles) of beaches and the charming rural communities of the Santa Ana Mountains. The Desert region, in the southeast, features expansive landscapes, brilliant skies, traces of pioneer history and glittering resort cities. From Death Valley, the lowest place in North America at 86m (282ft) below sea level, one can travel in the same day to California's Mt Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States, at 4,418m (14,494ft) elevation.
Further south, sharing a border with Mexico, lies San Diego, a haven for surfers, animal lovers, and sun seekers. Californian weather can occasionally get chilly, but not in San Diego, which has been named as the best summer climate in America. Surfing enthusiasts and sun worshipers enjoy sand and surf on over fourteen beaches including world famous La Jolla Beach. Families love SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment for a great way to get up close with Californian sea lions, dolphins, beluga whales, and turtles.