The third-largest state in the U.S., California is full of fun things to do and see. From its beautiful beaches and relaxing countryside to its electric nightlife and trendy attractions, there’s something for everyone.
California’s diverse offerings makes it a must-see for any traveler, but it also presents a challenge. How do you narrow down the choices into a manageable and well-rounded trip?
To help you plan your next adventure, our Geeks compiled this list of 10 cities you can’t miss when visiting the Golden State:
Located on an island in the Bay Area, Alameda, or “The Island City,” is full of fun things to do and see. If you’re looking for a little time in the sun, Crown Memorial State Beach is the perfect destination. The 2.5-mile beach offers the chance to swim and kayak in the warm waters of the San Francisco Bay. It also gives you the chance to explore some of the history of the area.
The Crab Cove Visitors Center is situated on the north end of the beach, and contains displays focused on the plant and wildlife native to the San Francisco Bay. The Memory Lane trail is accessible from Crab Cove, too. The self-guided journey takes you from the area’s origins to the present, with insights into its Victorian era and military history.
Outside of the beach, some other interesting attractions include the USS Hornet Museum, the Pacific Pinball Museum, and the Altarena Playhouse.
2. Chula Vista
Chula Vista, meaning “beautiful view,” really lives up to its name. This Californian city is set between the San Diego Bay and the coastal mountain foothills.
Visitors will love the scenic views at the Chula Vista Marina and along the city’s many hiking trails, like the Rice Canyon Trail, which is doable for all skill levels. Both families and adventurers will enjoy the Aquatica water park, which is affiliated with SeaWorld, and the Living Coast Discovery Center, a nonprofit aquarium and zoo featuring more than 350 plant and animal species.
Additionally, Chula Vista’s downtown district offers an array of dining, shopping, and entertainment opportunities, like the Third Avenue Village and the Otay Ranch Town Center.
3. Culver City
Known as “the heart of screenland,” Culver City is a haven for movie aficionados. The Sony Pictures Studio Tour takes guests through one of the most well-known studios in the world. After getting a glimpse behind the scenes of iconic films like “The Wizard of Oz” as well as current productions, check out the Sony Pictures Museum for information on both the studio’s past and the techniques they employ today.
Spending the night? Stay at the Culver Hotel, a 1920s flatiron building and national historical landmark. It has appeared in shows like “Bones” and “7th Heaven” and has housed celebrities like Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and Ronald Reagan. It now boasts 46 elegantly designed rooms with views of the downtown area, dining options, and nightly live music.
If you’re looking for a more luxurious trip, look no further than Lincoln. First, try your luck at Thunder Valley Casino Resort. Gambling, fine dining, live entertainment, nightclubs, swimming—this venue has it all.
Afterward, you can relax and unwind at one of Lincoln’s beautiful and sophisticated wineries, the perfect place to experience the comforts of California’s countryside. Wise Villa Winery & Bistro’s 26 acres includes a full-service, Tuscan-style bistro, European architecture, and wines made from organic grapes. Tour the facility, or enjoy their parties, events, and candlelight dinners. Ciotti Cellar is a family-run winery that describes their wines as “a little sunshine in a bottle.” Savor a sip while admiring the amazing view.
If that’s not your taste, visit one of Lincoln’s many breweries. The Goathouse Brewing Company’s handcrafted ales are made on-site. Visitors can see the hop fields and orchards the ingredients come from before stopping by the tasting room. Dueling Dogs Brewing Co.’s farm-fresh beers, ciders, and meads are known for their unique flavors. Guests can also pick up the ingredients behind the brews at their farm stand.
5. Long Beach
The coastal city of Long Beach, California, offers a great opportunity to have some fun on the waterfront. Start by booking a room at The Queen Mary Hotel, which is actually a real ocean liner. The ship has been docked in the city for more than 40 years and gives travelers the unique opportunity to step back in time and experience ocean life as it used to be.
Then, return to the present to enjoy marine life as it is today. Rent jet skis, boats, kayaks, and more to spend some time in the surf, or rent bikes or walk to enjoy the views and check out the shops. You can also get up close and personal with more than 11,000 creatures at the Aquarium of the Pacific. The facility is a great way to unearth more information about the Pacific region.
6. Nevada City
Dating back to the Gold Rush, Nevada City’s Victorian-style homes and historic buildings give this area a cozy, small-town vibe. There’s always live music and entertainment at the bars and restaurants in the downtown area, and live productions at the Nevada Theatre. Additionally, movies and film festivals can be enjoyed at venues like Off Broadstreet and the Miners Foundry Culture Center.
One of the best times to visit, however, is around Christmas. Described as “a Christmas card come to life,” Nevada City really gets into the spirit of the season. This Victorian celebration includes horse-drawn carriage rides, minstrels, carolers, and street vendors offering traditional holiday foods and goods. Attendees are encouraged to come dressed in their Victorian best.
7. San Jose
Set in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose is at the forefront of culture, technology, and innovation. A great way to experience all this bustling city has to offer is the South First Fridays Art Walk. As the name suggests, this event occurs on the first Friday of every month and allows a unique glimpse into San Jose’s creative soul. Businesses, galleries, and museums open their doors for the free, self-guided tour. Some participating venues include the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, Art Ark Gallery, and the Hammer Theater, among many others.
San Jose is also a great place to catch a game. The San Jose Sharks play in in the SAP Center during hockey season (September through April), and the San Jose Earthquakes play at the Avaya Stadium during the soccer season (March through October). The San Jose Giants, a minor-league baseball team affiliated with the San Francisco Giants, also play in the city.
8. Santa Clara
Santa Clara, only a short ride away from San Jose, has also felt the effects of the technological revolution. To learn about it and the people behind it, check out the Intel Museum. The 10,000-square-foot facility is interactive, informational, and great for the whole family.
Experience technology in action at California’s Great American Theme Park, which is constantly updated with the latest and greatest rides. Most recently, in 2018, the park added the RailBlazer, a coaster with a new, single-rail design.
This Southern-California gem is a food-lover’s paradise. With more than 400 eateries, there’s something to suit every palate. Got a sweet tooth? Torrance Bakery dates back to 1984 and is a favorite for locals and tourists alike. Creamistry specializes in ice cream prepared with liquid nitrogen, which makes it exceptionally creamy. Even better, each scoop is made fresh and is completely customizable.
Beer enthusiasts will revel in Torrance’s 11 breweries, each with their own spin on the popular beverage. Zymurgy Brew Works even offers customers the chance to make their own style and flavor. They provide the ingredients, recipes, and insight into the process.
10. Union City
Union City is another great spot for foodies. Niles Pie Company hosts classes ranging from pie baking to pasta making using all locally-sourced ingredients. Little Sheep Hot Pot offers a unique taste of Mongolian cuisine, and Chaplin’s Sports Bistro is the perfect spot to grab a bite while cheering on the Golden State Warriors. For more of a romantic vibe, Tomatina can’t be missed.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of attractions in California. Plan your trip today!