11 Top-Rated California Tourist Attractions
1 Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park in Northern California is one of the United States' most scenic and famous national parks. The mountains, valleys, rivers and huge waterfalls have drawn visitors and artists here throughout the decades. Ansel Adams photographs of the park have famously captured some of the beauty and awe that has inspired visitors and photographers over the years.
Disneyland in Anaheim is California's premier family destination and has been for decades. This massive amusement park is home to all kinds of rides, games, shows, and entertainment, complete with restaurants and hotels.
3 Death Valley
Death Valley, which encompasses Death Valley National Park, contains some of California's most inhospitable terrain, with extreme heat that has left this desert area strangely beautiful. Salt fields, dry parched land, sand dunes, mountains, and a lake that lies below sea level create a unique landscape in this remote valley. Visitors can drive through the park and stop at lookouts, hike short trails, see the ruins of the valley's former industry, and even paddle in the shallow Badwater Lake, if there is any water in the lake at that time.
4 Big Sur
This beautiful stretch of coastline and forest offers a chance for visitors to get back to nature. Camping and hiking are two of the biggest activities in this area. At Garrapata State Park is a beautiful stretch of beach, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a lovely place for hiking.
5 Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe lies high in the mountains and is a beautiful spot year round. In summer the lake is a playground for boaters and beach goers. During the winter months the surrounding mountains offer some excellent terrain for skiing, with the Sugar Bowl Ski Area bringing in skiers from all over.
6 Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are jointly managed and are known for their dramatic landscape and giant redwood trees. Mountains, alpine lakes, and forest draw visitors who come to hike, mountain biking, or horseback ride the hundreds of kilometers of trails that traverse the park.
7 Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is one of those famous attractions that people tend to call to mind when they think of the city, and even California. The orange frame against the blue water of San Francisco Bay, or rising out of the fog that often covers the area, is an unforgettable sight.
This theme park is a classic family destination, drawing people from all over the Western United States. Orca and dolphin shows, opportunities for close up encounters with some favorite marine life, and thrill rides are the main attractions. San Diego's SeaWorld is strategically located along the waterfront in Mission Bay.
9 Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park, covering an area of 1,070,000 acres, begins in Crescent City and runs south for 46 miles, mainly along the Pacific Coast. As well as the beautiful redwood trees, the park offers numerous walks and picnic sites. The headquarters of the park are in Crescent City.
Inside Redwood National Park, which was created in 1868, lie three State Parks, all on or near Highway 101. These include Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The latter possesses the tallest redwoods.
10 Santa Catalina Island
The island of Santa Catalina lies 26 miles southwest of Wilmington, the port of Los Angeles. The island is a popular destination with boaters or day trippers. Avalon is the main population center and where all the "action" can be found. Camping, swimming, deep-sea fishing, kayaking, and diving are some of the other main attractions of the island. Catalina is rocky, with a mountainous interior that reaches over 3,100 ft. The island measures 21 miles long and varies between 0.5 to 9 miles in width. The interior and most of the coast are uninhabited.
11 Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park, made up of five individual islands, is a great place to see wildlife and a little undisturbed nature. The islands are accessible only by private boat, or park concessionaire boats. The mainland visitors centers are located in Ventura and Santa Barbara, from where transportation can be arranged.