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Things to do in California

Things to do in  California

Welcome to California

From southern California’s beachy San Diego and star-studded Los Angeles to history-steeped San Francisco and quieter towns in the north, the Golden State serves up an endless array of destinations and activities. Cruise out to Alcatraz, the famed former prison in the San Francisco Bay, or visit Catalina Island on a boat trip from Long Beach or Dana Point. Outdoor adventures in Yosemite National Park, skiing in Lake Tahoe, or a stroll down the Santa Monica Pier give a glimpse of the state’s majestic natural features. Visit LA to stroll on the Walk of Fame, hit the theme parks in Anaheim, or hike up to snap a photo in front of the Hollywood sign. Monterey and Carmel are home to miles of coastline, a wealth of marine life, and world-class golf facilities. Both the San Diego Zoo and the Monterey Bay Aquarium are considered the top wildlife facilities in their categories, home to an incredible array of animals and opportunities to learn about our non-human neighbors. California’s miles of farm country mean dining opportunities include farm-fresh, high-quality meat and produce. Foodies can dig into fish tacos in SoCal, munch sourdough bread in San Francisco, or hit the wine trail in Napa and Sonoma.

Top 15 attractions in California

#1
Alcatraz

Alcatraz

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A former federal prison that held notorious criminals Al “Scarface” Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Alcatraz is now a national historic landmark and one of the most sought-out (and sold-out) attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Highlights include touring what’s left of the maximum-security facility, hearing stories from former inmates, and sailing past the Golden Gate Bridge to reach the craggy isle.More
#2
Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

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The red-orange Golden Gate Bridge is a San Francisco icon, which spans 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) across and connects the city’s northernmost point to Marin County. While the suspension bridge is a major route for Bay Area commuters, the famous landmark also attracts visitors from around the world with its panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, the Marin headlands, Alcatraz, and San Francisco.More
#3
USS Midway Museum

USS Midway Museum

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Formerly the US Navy’s longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century (1945 to 1991), the USS Midway is now a floating museum docked off the coast of California. Aboard the hulking vessel, visitors can now explore more than 60 exhibits as well as peek inside the museum’s impressive aircraft collection.More
#4
Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign

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One of LA's most distinguishing icons, the famous Hollywood Sign proudly stands on Mt. Lee (Mount Lee) in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Los Angeles and the California movie industry it has come to symbolize. This LA landmark first appeared on its hillside perch in 1923 as an advertising gimmick for a real-estate development called Hollywoodland. Each letter stands 50 feet (15 meters) tall and is made of sheet metal painted white.More
#5
Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Walk of Fame

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Only in Los Angeles are stars so common that they can even be found on the sidewalk. Studded with more than 2,600 brass stars across 18 city blocks, the Hollywood Walk of Fame features names of celebrities in mini monuments. See if you can spot the stars of your favorite motion pictures, TV shows, live theater, and more.More
#6
Coronado

Coronado

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Across the bay from downtown San Diego, the small resort town of Coronado is an idyllic escape from the city with a wide, sandy coastline and a tree-lined main drag that’s home to shops and restaurants. Visitors go to hang out on the beach, tour historical sites, and watch the sunset.More
#7
San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay

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A natural harbor spanned by the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the picturesque San Francisco Bay is the defining feature of California’s Bay Area. Get out on the chilly, choppy water—or just savor the views from the shoreline as the fog rolls in.More
#8
Aquarium of the Pacific

Aquarium of the Pacific

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One of Long Beach’s top attractions, the Aquarium of the Pacific is home to at least 11,000 aquatic animals across more than 50 exhibits that reflect the marine life of the Pacific Ocean. The nonprofit organization is the largest aquarium in Southern California and one of the most visited in the United States.More
#9
Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

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The highest measured waterfall in North America and the sixth-highest in the world, Yosemite Falls is the superstar attraction in Yosemite National Park. With a cumulative drop of 2,425 feet (739 meters), Yosemite Falls comprises three falls and is especially stunning in late spring when the snow melts and water flow is at its peak.More
#10
Balboa Park

Balboa Park

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Home to world-class museums, manicured gardens, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park tops the list of San Diego city sights. Its 1,200 lush acres (486 hectares) comprise the largest urban park in the United States. Apart from its many attractions, Balboa Park also features lengthy walking and hiking trails, distinctive landscaping, Golden Age Spanish buildings, and one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs.More
#11
Muir Woods

Muir Woods

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Home to one of the world's last remaining coastal redwood forests, Muir Woods National Monument allows travelers to hike, relax, or picnic among giant Northern California trees only minutes from the city. This protected nature reserve is also part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, home to Stinson Beach—the park's only lifeguarded beach—and Fort Baker.More
#12
Griffith Park

Griffith Park

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Griffith Park is one of the largest city parks in North America, covering a vast 4,310 acres (1,744 hectares). An oasis in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, this green space caters to visitors of all ages and interests with attractions such as the Los Angeles City Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, and the iconic Hollywood sign.More
#13
Venice Beach

Venice Beach

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Known for its free-spirited vibe, Venice Beach is a happening, upscale outlier of Los Angeles, fronted by the iconic Venice Boardwalk, officially known as the Ocean Front Walk. Encounters with pickup basketball teams, fortune tellers, and roller skating sunseekers are pretty much guaranteed—especially on hot Southern California summer days. Beyond the sand, visit the skate park, the famous Muscle Beach outdoor gym, and Abbot Kinney Boulevard, featuring trendy restaurants, stylish boutiques, galleries, and cafés.More
#14
Sunset Strip

Sunset Strip

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The legendary 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) stretch of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood known as the Sunset Strip extends east–west from Beverly Hills to Hollywood, laid end to end with celebrity-studded music venues dating back to the heyday of rock and roll, comedy clubs, boutiques, restaurants, hotels, and cocktail bars with stellar views of the surrounding city.More
#15
Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood

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One of the world's oldest continuously operating movie studios, Universal® Studios Hollywood presents an entertaining mix of thrill rides and live action shows, plus a tram ride. The large California theme park cleverly integrates the shows and rides with behind-the-scenes presentations on movie-making.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in California

Alcatraz with San Francisco Bay Cruise
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Alcatraz Inside with Fisherman's Wharf Lunch Credit
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Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood
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Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood

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2807
From
US$69.00
San Diego Harbor Cruise

San Diego Harbor Cruise

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From
US$32.00
Muir Woods & Sausalito Half-Day Tour (Return by Bus or Ferry from Sausalito)
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Full-Day Iconic Sights of LA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Beaches and More
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San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise
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San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise

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450
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US$110.90
Alcatraz Island Tour - Package Deal

Alcatraz Island Tour - Package Deal

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46
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US$140.80
San Diego Whale Watching Tour

San Diego Whale Watching Tour

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775
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US$65.00
GoCar San Francisco Tour

GoCar San Francisco Tour

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622
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US$92.44
per group
San Diego Seal Tour
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San Diego Seal Tour

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535
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US$46.00
Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

Recent reviews from experiences in California

star-5
Good Times
Belinda_P, Jul 2022
Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood
Lots to see and learn!
star-5
We had a great experience...
Karen_H, Apr 2022
Perfect 5 ½ Hour LA & Hollywood Tour from Santa Monica
We learned alot about California & were able to see places that most tourists dont get to see.
star-5
Family Trip!
Brian_M, Mar 2022
The One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz
This was a perfect trip for our one day stop in San Fran during a Spring Break California trip.
star-5
Love California and like...
Linda_B, Feb 2022
All Day LA Hollywood & Beach Tour
Love California and like to go there in the winter time.
star-5
Brilliant Tour, Incredible Scenery and Wonderful Guide!!
niamhymullan, Jul 2022
Small Group Yosemite and Giant Sequioas Day Trip from San Francisco
It was a great bit of California to see and support.
star-5
Outstanding tour!
Edward_K, Jul 2022
Grand City Tour of Los Angeles
She was able to point out celebrities’ houses & gave great recommendations about areas to visit as well as to avoid & shared useful recommendations for restaurants & bars.
star-5
Tour of Santa Barbara going back in time with stop at Santa Barbara Mission
Lisa_M, Jun 2022
Santa Barbara Trolley Tour
Are one 15 minute stop at the Santa Barbara Mission was beautiful pleasant treat to see how well preserved this 10th of the 21 Spanish Missions that were built here in California (1818-1820 completed).
star-5
Best trip EVER !!!!
Lisa_B, May 2022
Half-Day Whale Watching Tour From Monterey
Such an exciting and truly beautiful sight to see the grand creature playing in the ocean.
star-5
No whales today but amazing trip
Andrew_C, May 2022
San Diego Whale Watching Cruise
The only downside was there were no whales to see on the day but I guess that’s nature.
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Memories for a Lifetime
Josue_R, Feb 2022
Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoias Day Trip from San Francisco
My husband and I can’t wait to visit Yosemite in the future.
star-5
Start your San Diego Trip with this Tour
Samit_C, Feb 2022
Tequila, Tacos and Tombstones Culinary Tour of San Diego
Kirk also has great tips for other interesting things to do in San Diego.
star-5
A fun and informative tour
Karen_M, Feb 2022
Private Guided Golf Cart Tour of Avalon
This is the only way to see Avalon!
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Prepare for the lines
Robert_D, Jan 2022
Disneyland Resort Tickets - USA Residents
America came out to visit DisneyLand and California Adventures.
star-5
Tour
Teresa_B, Oct 2021
Full-Day Guided Tour of San Francisco with Alcatraz
Happy for all the tours 😎👍🛳⚓️⛩Experience was very nice to see San Francisco California.
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Swan On The Water
Kisha_W, Sep 2021
Swan Boat Rental in Echo Park
I just wish I was able to do it at night to see the swans lit up..!!
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Ist Anniversary trip to California
Simona_W, Sep 2021
Hollywood Tour
We were able to visit the Farmers Market to eat and shop.
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California coast outing
MBB, Jul 2021
Newport Beach Whale and Dolphin Watching Cruise
Watching the pods of dolphins and getting to see Patches, the dolphin, was an added kick.
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Great Tour
Frank_B, Mar 2021
Earthquake Canyon Express Downhill Bicycle Adventure
It is a place that might not be well known in California but you definitely need to see if.
star-5
Amazing Views
Michael_B, Jan 2021
Hollywood Sightseeing and Celebrity Homes Tour by Open-Top Bus
Without even having to spend money on Uber to see places i have always wanted to see i was able to do so by simply being on this tour.
star-5
Muir Woods
Susan_P, Mar 2020
Muir Woods Tour of California Coastal Redwoods (Entrance fee included)
Highly recommend this tour to see the great California Redwoods.
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All about California

When to visit

Home to everything from cities, deserts, and mountains to beaches, national parks, and redwood groves, California caters to year-round actvities. During the warmer months, cool down in the Pacific Ocean or hike Yosemite. When winter arrives, hit the slopes of Lake Tahoe for top-notch skiing or enjoy winter sun in SoCal.

Currency
US Dollar ($)
Time Zone
PDT (UTC -8)
Country Code
+1
Language(s)
English

People Also Ask

What is California known for?

Natural beauty. California is home to rugged coastlines hugging the Pacific Ocean, age-old redwood and sequoia trees, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Yosemite and Death Valley are must-see national parks. Hollywood is the seat of the American entertainment industry, while Silicon Valley is the center of global technology.

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What is the number 1 tourist attraction in California?

By the numbers, Disneyland is the top attraction. The Los Angeles amusement park draws about 18 millions visitors annually. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, perhaps the state’s most recognizable attraction, falls second with about 10 million visitors annually. Yosemite National Park rounds out the top three.

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What is something unique you might see in California?

Among its wonders are Death Valley with its salt flats and the lowest point in North America. In San Francisco, there’s the world’s last manually operated cable car system. General Sherman in Sequoia National Park is thought to be the largest giant sequoia. Don't miss Lassen National Park’s volcanic, Mars-like landscapes.

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What kind of activities can you do in California?

There's plenty to do in California. Outdoorsy types can surf, kayak, hike, scuba, ski and sun-worship year-round. Culture mavens can visit world-class museums—from the Getty Center to the deYoung museum and SFMOMA. Wine tasting is a year-round affair; high-end shopping is a favorite Los Angeles diversion.

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What is the prettiest place in California?

Carmel-by-the-Sea has an immaculate downtown, European-style courtyards and alleyways, and a bevy of art galleries. Point Lobos nearby is a California postcard, with Monterey cypress trees framing the shimmering Pacific Ocean. The Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is peace on earth.

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What can you do in California right now?

Year-round activities in California include wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma counties; driving down 600 coast-hugging miles (900 kilometers) on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, also known as California State Route 1; surfing rugged, pristine shorelines; and checking out Disneyland for family fun.

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Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
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What are the top things to do in California?
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What are the top things to do near California?
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What do I need to know before visiting California?