No Matter How You Like to Travel

California Is The Ultimate Playground

Alec Jones
June 13, 2024

Whatever kind of traveller you are, California is the playground for you.

The Golden State is a land of promise, where every corner and rise hides a new adventure and experience you’ll hold onto forever. California really is the ultimate playground.

The third-largest state in the United States boasts 1352 kilometres of coastline, 647,497 hectares of state parks, five climate zones and twelve distinct regions. We’ve partnered with Visit California to explore the many experiences you can find throughout the state.

California for:

The Urban Explorer

For many Aussie travellers, a trip to California starts in either Los Angeles or San Francisco. City seekers will be drawn to the urban activities, from festivals happening every other weekend and gastronomic wonders to explore on every block.

Los Angeles needs no introduction. The largest city in California has the second-highest population in the entire United States, with 4 million residents, and is arguably one of the most famous cities in the world.

It’s likely you’ll pass through LA at some point on your California adventure, drawn by the promise of seeing Hollywood, the Santa Monica Pier, the Hollywood Bowl and more.

Further to the north, you’ll find the San Francisco Bay, a cluster of urban centres that comprise the capital of northern California. San Francisco is renowned for its culture and dining scene, plus a bustling tech industry, thanks to the nearby Silicon Valley. The culture hub of Oakland across the bay offers a similar vibrant experience, and to the south, San Jose is a busy urban hub with an even higher population than San Francisco.

Images: Los Angeles Sean Pavone via iStock

Image credit: San Francisco scenery VCA, San Francisco Skyline San Franciso Travel Association, San Francisco Mission Murals via San Francisco Travel Association.

California for:

The Luxury Lover

There are plenty of luxurious valleys, sprawling resorts and world-class wellness centres throughout the state. Much of the southwestern USA has a busy wine scene. California is the largest wine producer in the nation, with 81 percent of vino tracing its roots to Californian soil — particularly in the Central Coast and Central Valley area, east of San Francisco and Santa Barbara.

If you’d rather sip wine in a pool chair, there’s no shortage of luxurious resorts, ranches and more to sojourn in. From eco-conscious lodges with breathtaking views of the north Pacific to sun-soaked pool decks and palm tree shade in the south, you can put your feet up in some of the comfiest lodgings on this side of the continent.

And what’s luxury without wellness? Experts will tell you the word wellness calls the Golden State itself home. That’s why you’ll find some seriously serene spas here, like the 164-year-old Glen Ivy Hot Springs and Spa or the rustic, recreationally driven Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa.

Image Credit: Glen Ivy

Images: Santa Barbara Vineyard Jay Sinclair via Visit Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Stonehouse courtesy of San Ysidro Ranch via Visit Santa Barbara, Glen Ivy Hot Springs Pool credit Glen Ivy.

California for:

The Wild Wanderer

If you’ve never laid your eyes on the natural wonders of California, you really must be living under a rock. That’s because so much of the state has been background scenery in your favourite movies. California’s north, in particular, is nothing short of jaw-droppingly scenic, starting with the rugged and wild North Coast, where deep redwood forests and towering cliffs fall into the crashing swell of the Pacific.

Further inland, the Sierra Nevada Mountains make for some truly spectacular scenery, with world-class ski country in the winter and idyllic meadows and come summertime, snows melt into deep blue lakes and reveal endless green forests begging to be explored.

The same can be said for the Mount Shasta Cascade, the “uptown” of California. It boasts all the same outdoor splendour of the High Sierra but with the added spice of volcanic activity sprinkled with colourful fields of wildflowers.

Image credit: Mount Shasta credit Photoquest7 via iStock

California for:

The Family Traveller

One of California’s biggest drawcards for visitors year-round is one of the world-famous Disneyland theme parks, built in 1955 in the southeast LA district of Anaheim. Disneyland is one of the world’s most popular theme parks. It welcomes well over 15 million visitors a year. Be it a whimsical Fantasyland or a galaxy far, far away, you can find it and see it come to life here.

Anaheim is also a hub for culture and experience seekers, thanks to a range of stadiums and theatres and a busy nightlife in the downtown area. If the itch for fun persists, you can head south to San Diego, where you’ll find an even bigger range of attractions.

The world-famous San Diego Zoo is a good place to start. The massive 100-acre property is home to a staggering 12,000+ animals. It’s also an accredited botanical garden that cares for over 700,000 plants. If the animal kingdom isn’t your jam, you could also plan some time at LEGOLAND Carlsbad, which has just as famous a reputation and much fewer living attractions.

Image credit: Anaheim Skyline credit Matt Gush via Getty Images.

California for:

The Snowsport Star

A lot of Australians are passionate about snowsports. We do have our small alpine range, but if we’re being totally honest, Aussie snowfall doesn’t hold a candle to the kind of conditions you’ll find in the northern hemisphere. California is home to 36 resorts, and its average snowfall exceeds our own by about 150 inches.

Over a dozen of California’s resorts are found in and around Lake Tahoe on the Nevada state border. The ski season typically lasts from November until early June, and you have your pick of large mountains to choose from, such as Northstar or Palisades Tahoe, as well as smaller, cosier slopes like Donner Ski Ranch and Homewood.

Tahoe isn’t the only alpine lake to be found in the Golden State, as Mammoth Lakes stands as another fantastic choice. Mammoth Mountain sees about nine metres of snow yearly. Alternatively, adventure horizontally in the Tamarock Cross-Country Ski Centre and its 30 kilometres of trails. Or, heck, ditch the skis altogether and put your feet up in one of the region’s many natural hot springs.

Image: Lake Tahoe credit Mariusz Blach via Getty Images

California for:

The Roadtripper

What we’ve learned is there really is something for everyone in the Golden State. The trick is fitting it all into one tour. Those overseas flights aren’t cheap, after all. It’s a good thing California is perfect for a specific kind of adventure: the one and only road trip. State highways crisscross between every major city and notable attraction, and you can’t ignore the call of what’s around the corner or over the next rise for long.

There are some particularly driveable sections of the state that we wholeheartedly recommend as worth the mileage. There’s the Central Valley, which runs through the heart of the state and is made up of a mix of farmland and vineyards. Keep an eye out for hot air balloons high above. In the east, the quiet rolling hills of Gold Country are jam-packed with accessible scenery and adventures and laden with history from California’s gold rush.

If you have a caravan or RV, you could take a tour of California’s eastern deserts, which make for relatively driveable (but typically hot) conditions and no shortage of sunbaked desert scenery. Our recommendation? Hit up Route 66, which runs from Santa Monica to the Arizona state border, passing through its share of wild west scenery along the way.

Image: Mojave Desert near Route 66 in California ⁠inacioluc via Getty

Start planning your tour of California, America’s ultimate playground, today.

Header image: Los Angeles Tourism

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