7 Iconic Sites to Put on a California Travel Itinerary
From the Pacific Ocean to towering mountaintops, adventures await those traveling to California.
In a state with an abundance of sunshine, enchanting coastline and captivating cities, stop by iconic places prominent in history and popular with visitors. Tour a castle, admire museum masterpieces, catch a glimpse of celebrities and marvel at natural wonders in U.S. national parks. Don’t forget to put your toes in the sand and absorb that California culture.
Balboa Park, San Diego
For more than a century, Balboa Park has been an integral part of San Diego culture with its zoo, museums and gardens. The horticultural spectacle includes the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden with 130 varieties. Among the museums are the Museum of Man, Museum of Art, Natural History Museum, Fleet Science Center and Air & Space Museum. The Old Globe theater hosts the Shakespeare Festival each summer and live band performances. Most famous is the San Diego Zoo, where you can see more than 3,700 animals, including the beloved pandas.
Beverly Hills, Los Angeles
Experience Beverly Hills, less than 2.5 square kilometers in size, but expansive in charm with beautiful Spanish architecture, palm-lined streets, mansions, movie star sightings and high-end retailers. Here, you will find Rodeo Drive, one of Los Angeles’ must-visit destinations for luxury shopping for brands like Prada, YSL, Versace, Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston, Armani and Zegna. Visitors also delight in browsing elegant and beautiful shops along Beverly and Canon drives, where you are likely to see celebrities.
The Getty Center, Los Angeles
In the hills of west Los Angeles, admire the spectacular modern design of The Getty Center, the work of renowned architect Richard Meier, and its white-washed travertine that was mined on the outskirts of Rome, Italy. Inside, see European masterpieces of art and photography. The courtyard, designed by Robert Irwin, features sculptures, fountains, a gazebo, gardens and views of Mount Baldy. Thanks to a grant from philanthropist J. Paul Getty, the only charge to visit the center is a parking fee.
Great view from the Getty Center in the hills surrounding Los Angeles
Hearst Castle, San Simeon
Mansions are common sights in California, where movie stars and technology giants enjoy luxury living, but none of them compares to Hearst Castle. Designed by Julia Morgan, California's first female architect, the lavish castle was completed in 1947 and was once the private home of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst. The 51-hectare park is now one of the most popular attractions in California. Tour the 165-room castle and the landscaped gardens with fountains, pools and hilltop views of the Pacific Ocean.
The lavish, 165-room Hearst Castle in San Simeon
Huntington Beach, Surf City USA
Southern California's beach culture thrives in Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA. Cycle the promenade, play beach volleyball, stop in surf shops, test the waves near the iconic Huntington Beach Pier and admire the skills of local surfers. From the marina, a short walk takes you to Main Street and its fashionable boutiques and restaurants; sit at a sidewalk table to enjoy the sunshine and sea breezes. See the city’s natural side by going horseback riding, bird watching or exploring in the 526-hectare Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, Riverside
The inn blends elegance and Old World romance with Southern California citrus groves. Started as a brick hotel in 1876, the inn was transformed into a castle with turrets, ornate tiled vaults, arches and lush gardens, attracting celebrities and the elite, including U.S. presidents. Learn about Mission Inn’s magnificent architecture and glorious history during a walking tour. Enjoy a host of conveniences, including a full-service spa, several restaurants and close proximity to the Riverside business district, art galleries and the restored 1929 theater at Fox Performing Arts Center.
Courtyard scenery at The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, Three Rivers
Known for towering mountains, deep canyons and roaring rivers, the national parks are about 210 kilometers south of Yosemite National Park. See Mount Whitney, the USA’s highest mountain at 4,418 meters, and Kings Canyon, one of North America's deepest canyons at 2,500 meters. Both parks, as well as neighboring Giant Sequoia National Monument and the National Forest, are famous for giant sequoia trees. Don’t miss a photo opportunity at the General Sherman Tree, which is 83 meters tall and over 111 meters in diameter.