Ah, California. Also referred to as the Golden State—named for its golden sunsets, the Golden Gate bridge, and fields of golden poppies (the state flower)—California is known for endless sunshine sunshine, beautiful coastline, stunning mountains and vibrant cities. California really is a pretty perfect place. And I would know.
I am lucky enough to call California home. Born and raised in a small town in the Sierra Nevada foothills, I grew up in the mountains, where we often spent time in the Bay Area and would visit nearby Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. Later I moved south to go to college, where I fell in love with the beautiful beach town of Santa Barbara. I went to law school in the city of San Francisco, did a brief stint in Sausalito and Sonoma, moved back to Santa Barbara after law school, and finally moved to Ventura in 2016, where I’ve been ever since. My husband grew up in Sonoma, I’ve got friends in San Diego, and I travel to Los Angeles for work regularly. So I think it’s safe to say I know a little about my home state.
You just can’t beat our weather, diverse terrain, and variety in cities. It’s the only place I’m aware of where you can ski in the morning and surf at the beach in the afternoon. It’s hard to imagine what a place like California might seem like to someone who’s never been here, but I would image it would be quite glorious. Offering a little bit of something for everyone—incredible state and national parks for adventurers or vibrant metropolitan cities for those looking for a little more excitement—California really is a pretty magical place.
Whether you’re a first time visitor or a resident just looking for more information about some weekend getaway trips, this guide should be helpful in providing travel recommendations and things to do in my favorite places across the state. I hope you enjoy.
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Like, really big. First timers often make the mistake of thinking they can see all of California in just a few short days. Even a week would be impossible. If you wanted to hit up the major cities and sites—San Diego, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe—you’ll likely need at least 10 days, but more likely two weeks. And you’ll need to rent a car to get around.
California’s largest cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco, are both known for their horrific traffic. Though LA has the worst reputation because of its mind-numbingly bad traffic, in recent years the traffic in the Bay Area has gotten just as bad. It can quite often take you an hour to travel 10 miles, and don’t even think of trying to get somewhere during rush hour.
So be sure to keep this in mind if you will be traveling to or through Los Angeles or San Francisco. Traffic always plays a roll in how long it will take you to get across the city to get to a dinner reservation or a show. So be prepared to add in additional time to get you where you need to be going.
The Weather isn't always what you might expect.
Okay, okay. The weather in California is pretty great. That’s why I live here. And that’s why most people love it here. But don’t go thinking that it’s 80 degrees and sunny year round. We have seasons, and since the state is so large, the northern part of the state is quite a bit colder than the southern part. And don’t think that just because you’re on the beach that it will be all sunshine and rainbows year round. Santa Barbara and Ventura, for example, experience what we are refer to as “May Grey” and “June Gloom” in the months of May and June, where we sometimes don’t see sun for an entire month. San Francisco has “Karl the fog”. Los Angeles also has the marine layer that rolls in during the late spring months and stays most days until noon. So be sure to bring layers, no matter what time of year you decide to visit.
Because the state is so big, the terrain is incredibly diverse, with everything from mountains to beaches to full blown desert. We have snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains, shaded redwood forests, and deserts filled with Dr. Seuss like Joshua Trees. The mountains are—quite obviously—rather cold in the winter and the desert is insanely hot in the summer. So put simply: check the weather. It varies quite drastically depending on where you are and what time of year you are visiting.
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