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California Bucket List: Top 41 Things To Do! - California Globetrotter

California Bucket List: Top 41 Things To Do!

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This is one of those moments where I am slightly homesick for my home state of California and I start reminiscing about all the amazing things to do, see and eat when in the Golden State!

From an endless amount of pristine beaches to a variety of theme parks, vineyards all up and down the state, to snow-capped mountains, California offers a never-ending amount of things to do and see, for both locals and visitors.

Here I will compile some of the most popular, well-known and beloved sights to see to the overlooked, less-touristy places one can visit throughout the state!

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

1. GRAB A DRINK IN SAN DIEGO’S GASLAMP QUARTER

Known as the National Historic District, the Gaslamp Quarter has become the heart of San Diego as the place to shop, dine and dance while admiring the historic buildings dating back to the 1880s.

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Picture from SanDiegan.com

2. VISIT THE HISTORIC HOTEL DE CORONADO

The Hotel del Coronado was opened in 1888 in classic Victorian grandeur along San Diego’s Pacific shore. Films like Some Like It Hot were produced here and the hotel hosts a list of Top A-Listers who have stayed at the hotel.

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3. CHECK OUT THE OLD POINT LOMA LIGHTHOUSE

Opened in 1855, the lighthouse was only used for 36 years. Today, visitors can view the lighthouse keeper’s living quarters just as they were in the 1890s.

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Picture from Wikipedia

4. TAKE A STROLL THROUGH BALBOA PARK

Balboa Park was founded in 1868 and includes an expansive park, historic buildings, museums and even the San Diego Zoo.

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Picture from San Diego Magazine

5. DRINK A BEER AT ONE OF SAN DIEGO’S MANY LEGENDARY BREWERIES

Over the last decades, San Diego has become the home of pop up breweries striking success as Craft Beer has gained popularity. My favorite? Stone Brewery in Escondido.

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Picture from theBrewingNetwork.com

6. EXPLORE THE LA JOLLA COVES

La Jolla is an upscale coastal resort town along the cliffs and coves where San Diegans enjoy exploring the coves along the shore, and occasionally watching the sea lions who beach here.

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Picture from Wikipedia.com

7. EAT A HOT APPLE PIE IN JULIAN

When San Diegans want to get away from the city, they head up the mountain town of Julian to enjoy Hot Apple Pies, most famously sought after during October.

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Picture from Try Something New

8. STROLL THROUGH THE CARSLBAD FLOWER FIELDS

My hometown favorite – Every Spring, the hillside in Carlsbad blooms with flowers of every shade of the rainbow and makes for a lovely sight to see!

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Picture from SanDiegan.com

9. CHECK OUT SALVATION MOUNTAIN

Leonard Knight spent 25 years of his life transforming a simple hill into an artistic masterpiece. The hill is now covered in inspiring, colorful murals and messages.

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Picture from therivertermagazine.com

10. TAKE A HIKE IN JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

Established in 1936, Joshua Tree offers much to explore. From the unusual Joshua trees to stunning desert vistas as well as interesting hikes where one can discover lost mines.

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Picture from greatoutdoorssandiego.wildapricot.org

11. GO WINE TASTING IN THE TEMECULA VALLEY WINE REGION

Diegans head to Temecula, the wine capital of Southern California, to spend the afternoon wine tasting their way through the valley by renting limousines.

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Picture from topdoglimobus.com

12. VISIT THE TOWER AT LAGUNA BEACH

Located along the Victoria Beach is the Pirate Tower built along the cliffs, white sandy beach and blue waters.

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Picture from Roadtrippers.com

 13. PLAY IN THE WORLD’S HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH: DISNEYLAND/CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE

No matter your age, Disneyland is the place where your inner child can roam free!

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14. GET SCARED AT KNOTT’S BERRY FARM

During October, this classic amusement park turns into Knott’s SCARY Farm as characters hide, chase and scare those who are brave enough to enter.

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Picture from Los Angeles Times

 15. ENJOY A SUNSET AT HUNTINGTON BEACH

Known as the absolute “surf city, Huntington Beach includes surf museums, competitions and an endless amount of surfers who can be admired from the pier.

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Picture from shorebreakhotel.com

 16. TAKE A DRIVE DOWN SUNSET BOULEVARD

Winding its way for 26 miles from downtown LA to the Pacific Coast Highway, this drive was made famous by classic movies. Today, Sunset Boulevard is lined with homes of the rich and famous, luxury hotels, restaurants and nightclubs.

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Picture from Google

 17. HIKE UP TO THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN

How could anyone pass up the opportunity to hike up to the famed Hollywood Hills without checking out the Hollywood sign!?

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Picture from Wikipedia

 18. WALK DOWN THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME

Hollywood Boulevard is still renowned around the world as a street filled with glamour from the Golden Age. Today, the glamor might be gone, but there is still plenty to see such as the Walk of Fame, Mann’s Chinese Theater, El Captain Theater and more!

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Picture from billontheroad.com

 19. PLAY AT THE SANTA MONICA PIER

With some of the best weather in California, friendly shops and a largely pedestrian-only area, it makes for one of the best places to take a stroll or even take a ride on the small amusement park located on the pier.

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20. STAY THE NIGHT ON THE RMS QUEEN MARY

This beautiful luxury liner sailed its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City in 1936. Sailing weekly to and fro, it played many roles. From luxury liner, to troopship during WWII, to finally a permanently docked hotel in Long Beach. The ship is also known as one of the top 10 most haunted locations in America.

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Picture from ssmaritime.com

 21. EAT A DOUBLE-DOUBLE CHEESEBURGER AND ANIMAL STYLE FRIES FROM IN-N-OUT

Located mostly in the America Southwest (California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas), you haven’t experienced California UNLESS you have had a Double-Double.

IMG_199022. SCUBA DIVE/SNORKEL ON CATALINA ISLAND

Just 21 miles off the coast of California is the small island of Catalina which has some of the best coral reefs and colored fish perfect for taking a swim!

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Picture from visitcatalinaisland.com

 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

23. TAKE A STEP BACK INTO THE GILDED ERA AT HEARST CASTLE

Hearst Castle isn’t your typical European-style castle, but a massive mansion house built by the newspaper tycoon William R. Hearst. Here, Hollywood royalty were lavishly entertained.

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Picture from Wikipedia

 24. VISIT THE SCANDINAVIAN SETTLEMENT TOWN OF SOLVANG

A group of Dutch educators established this Scandinavian colony in 1911 and today tourists can tour the city in a horse-drawn streetcar, see the windmills, eat a beer garden and feel like they are back in Europe!

IMG_198825. STROLL THE STREETS OF SANTA BARBARA

Santa Barbara is a unique city as it was completely built in a Mediterranean style architecture which also includes the Santa Barbara Mission.

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Picture from santabarbara.com

 26. GO WHALE WATCHING IN MONTEREY BAY

There are few locations where you can catch a glimpse of humpback whales. So pack your camera and prepare yourself as sightings aren’t entirely uncommon.

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Picture from Google

 27. CAMP OR HIKE IN BIG SUR

With 100 miles of breathtaking mountains, cliffs, rocky coves meeting the sea, Big Sur is a great place to get away from the city life, as there are no towns and very little sign of civilization here.

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Picture from henrymillernew.files.wordpress.com

 Northern California

28. HIKE UP HALF DOME IN YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

Standing almost 1 mile above the valley floor, Half Dome has become the symbol of Yosemite National Park. If you’re brave and experienced enough, you can climb/hike the gargantuan mountain.

IMG_199229. RIDE THE DELTA RIVERBOAT ACROSS LAKE TAHOE

By far one of the most beautiful bodies of water in California, what better way to explore it than by taking a ride on a paddle wheeler!

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Picture from cbssacramento.files.wordpress.com

 30. EXPLORE THE WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE

In 18884, the heiress of the Winchester Rifle, Sarah Winchester bought a small farm house in San Jose. Under the impression that the continual expansion of the house would exorcise the spirits of those who had been killed by the Winchester rifle. For 38 years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the house was continuously expanded until her death in 1922.

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Picture from Wikipedia

 31. TAKE A RIDE ON A SAN FRANCISCO CABLE CAR

Cable cars first appeared in 1873 in the hope of transporting people up and down the steep, rolling hills of San Francisco. by 1906, there were over 600 cars in use. Today, there are only thee original cable cars in use.

IMG_199732. ENJOY THE VIEW OF SAN FRANCISCO’S GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

From Golden Gate Park, you can explore the amazing Japanese Tea Gardens as well as find an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

IMG_198933. EAT IN CHINESE FOOD IN CHINATOWN

If you’re looking for some amazing Chinese food, then Chinatown in San Francisco is the place to find it. With authentic looking Chinese architecture, lamps and restaurants, it is the place to go!

IMG_199634. EAT CLAM CHOWDER IN A BREAD BOWL AT FISHERMAN’S WHARF

What could possibly be better than a steamy bowl of clam chowder in a freshly baked, sourdough bread bowl on a cold, foggy San Francisco day to warm you up?

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Picture from hubpages.com

35. ADMIRE THE CALIFORNIA STATE CAPITOL BUILDING IN SACRAMENTO

Built in 1860, the Capital Building is one of the most impressive buildings in the state with a Renaissance Revival style and a tall central dome. From here, the governor of the state operates his daily business. No, Arnold Schwarzenegger is no longer the governor of California.

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Picture from Motovo.com

 36. DISCOVER THE OLD TOWN OF SACRAMENTO

Spanning six blocks, Old Sacramento is a small district which preserves many historic buildings that were built during the Gold Rush in 1849.

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Picture from turtoncom.com

 37. GO WINE TASTING IN NAPA AND SONOMA VALLEY

Who doesn’t need another excuse to go wine tasting in California?? Especially when the winery looks like a castle, such as Castello di Amorosa.

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Picture from mapio.net

 38. WANDER THROUGH THE REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS

One of the most breathtaking sights to see are the massive Redwood trees. After all, how could something be so large!?

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Picture from lonemountainrv.com

 39. CAMP IN THE MCARTHUR-BURNEY FALLS MEMORIAL PARK

A childhood favorite of mine, there is no more beautiful place to camp than near some of the most stunning waterfalls in California.

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Picture from fineartamerica.com

 40. VISIT THE GLASS BEACH IN FORT BRAGG

Have you ever experienced a beach with sand with any other color than white or black sand? Well, you’ll be in for a treat when you head to Fort Bragg and check out the colorful rocks and stones which were created by pollution. Who knew pollution could be so beautiful?

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Picture from unfinishedman.com

 41. VISIT ONE OF CALIFORNIA’S MANY MISSIONS

There are 21 missions that can be found along the California Historic Mission Trail, near or along Highway 101. All of the missions are named after the Spanish monarchy which had financed expeditions to California for the empire’s expansion. My favorite: Mission San Luis Rey in San Diego!

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Picture from Wikipedia

Heading to California soon and want to take all the best places with you? Then I highly recommend using the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide for California! Without these guides, I would be lost! These are my travel Bibles!

         

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own and these products/services have been found useful during our travels and come highly recommended to you from yours truly!

Be sure to check out more blogs about California!

23 Things You Will Miss About California

New Years Eve in San Francisco

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Author: California Globetrotter

At 14 I started traveling the world with my parents and was hooked! By 21 I was studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany. By 26 I sold all of my belongings and bought a one way ticket to Germany to teach English. Little did I know, I'd meet the love of my life and end up traveling to the most romantic and idyllic towns in Europe and becoming a long-term expat in Bavaria! My name is Lorelei and I'm just your typical CaliGirl, Sunset Chaser, Fairytale Dreamer, Dress Lover, Traveloholic, Beer Drinker!

24 thoughts on “California Bucket List: Top 41 Things To Do!

  1. This list is brilliant! I’ve managed half of the items, mostly the Southern California ones, and look forward to checking out the rest! We enjoyed visiting Castello di Amorosa, it’s a lovely place and can’t wait to go back to Napa Valley. And I never leave California without a visit to In-n-Out! And I miss those Julian apple pies. #CityTripping

  2. oh in N out, how i miss thee!! I spent some time in San Diego a few years back so i did most of the touristy things there. I loved La Jolla and of course the gaslamp was a fun time. Joshua Tree, Napa Valley, Yosemite, and a Big Sur road trip are all high on my Cali radar! great post!🙂

  3. What a great bucket list! Hollywood is way up on our list!! #Citytripping xx

  4. Amazing! We were supposed to move to San Jose, but ended up here. I can understand why you miss it!🙂 #citytripping

  5. Wow! It would take a long time to do all of these things but I’m seriously tempted by so many that I haven’t discovered yet – thank you so much for these wonderful recommendations. I’ve visited San Franciso, LA, driven the coastal route between the two but there’s so much more to discover…#citytripping

  6. A very exhaustive list…especially as I’ve barely set foot in California (LAX airport doesn’t really count!) I want to do all of these so much. This list is very handy for when we finally get to California. Thanks for sharing on #citytripping xx

  7. I want to do it all! Big Sur, Joshua Tree and the redwoods have been on my list for ages. So glad I now know about the Hotel de Coronado too.

  8. Great tips! I’m finally getting to California this summer but need more time to fit it all in… #citytripping

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  17. I went to see the hollywood sign and I was super disappointed but like you say, if you go to Hollywood oh well you have to do it ! I would definitively check out Joshua Tree NP next time I’m around🙂 Thanks for all these tips !

  18. What a great, expansive listing! Thank you!

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