How to visit California

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Martí Micolau

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  • Getting around
  • How much does a California tour cost?
  • What is the best time to visit California?
  • Where to sleep in California
  • What to visit in California
  • California Parks
  • California Beaches

Natural landscapes of rare beauty, important dimensions and global metropolises are just some of the many reasons why it is impossible to leave the USA without having visited California.

Third state in the USA by size (followed by Texas and Alaska), California is also the most populous state in the States which has had a strong influence on the rest of the Western world also (but not only) due to the presence of Hollywood.

So, let's see what are the most important things to know for those who want to organize a tour in California.

Getting around

We said that California is one of the largest states within the confederation of the States and, moreover, it boasts a significant landscape difference, including more than 1300 km of coasts, several deserts, mountains and depressions.
In such a geographical context, it is understandable that public connections are not always efficient; in fact, it is undisputed that the the best way to get around California is the car.

Moreover, California has a good road network and, in particular, has many freeways that connect the main points of interest of the state quite easily; alongside these there is no shortage of secondary roads, less frequented, which allow interesting and suggestive panoramic routes.

However, we do not underestimate - as already said - the California size: we consider that the two main cities of the state - San Francisco and Los Angeles - are connected by Interstate 5 which is more than 600 km long and takes about 6/7 hours of travel.

For these routes it is certainly recommended to take into consideration the air connections, proposed by Southwest Airlines; once at your destination, renting a car is one of the most eligible options, if you do not intend to visit only the city centers of the main cities where, instead, the use of public transport may be sufficient.

How much does a California tour cost?

Of course, the price varies in relation to the comforts and quality we want for our holiday. Starting from the hotels, if we intend to stay in hotels the price ranges from about 80 $ per night up to over 200/300 $ for average accommodations. Obviously, for maximum comfort there are no spending limits.
Other accommodation options can certainly be cheaper: motels are around $ 50 per night, while bed and breakfasts are a bit more expensive (around $ 50 / $ 60).
Decidedly cheaper are the campsites that, with a few dollars, allow you to take advantage of the services offered (as well as being a decidedly characteristic solution).

For those wishing to rent a car it is certainly nice to know that here the rental costs are lower than in Europe, as well as the price of gasoline. The individual costs must then be quantified in relation to the type of car and the comfort chosen, as well as the contractual clauses included (exclusive guide, kasko policy ...)

What is the best time to visit California?

Indicatively, California is a place that can be visited all year round thanks to a temperate climate, that is, it is not hot in the summer and it is not too cold in the winter.
However, we must certainly consider where and what we want to do in California: the size of the state naturally imposes a diversification of climatic conditions between the various areas of California (we simply consider that bearable temperatures in the city in summer correspond to an unbearable climate in the On the other hand, if it rains in the city in winter, there will be snow on the mountain ranges) and according to the activities you want to practice (one account will be the desired time to visit a city and another one for a day at sea).

More specifically, the North is certainly the coldest area in the region, with a temperature between 5 and 12 degrees in January and between 11 and 17 in July.

At the opposite, Palm Springs it is one of the hottest areas, with a temperature in January between 6 and 21 degrees and between 24 and 43 in July, high humidity and very little rainfall (3 mm in April).

As for the cities, both San Diego and Los Angeles have a temperate climate, with temperatures in January between 10 and 20 degrees and, in summer, between 20 and 30 degrees.
Los Angeles is on average a bit wetter and with slightly higher humidity than San Diego.
As for activities, California has a climate that meets everyone's needs: in the North you can definitely ski in the winter months, while in the summer the Californian beaches are a must for those visiting California.

No less interesting are the festivals and events scheduled: in spring Cinco de Mayo (May 5) - a traditional Mexican festival with mariachi dances and songs - animates both Los Angeles and San Francisco; in the summer, beach life reigns supreme, while in autumn the Mexican Independence Day falls with Mexican music, dances and dishes in Los Angeles. In winter, in addition to the Halloween and Christmas celebrations, the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles in February deserves special mention.

Where to sleep in California

Find out where to sleep in Los Angeles | where to sleep in San Francisco

In California, there are accommodation options for all tastes: the presence of Hollywood and major financial centers offers luxury hotels and classy accommodations next to cheap motels or campgrounds in the immediate vicinity of the cities.
The choice of which is the best accommodation is obviously subjective and also linked to the address we gave to our trip to California.

If we prefer the comfort of a hotel, in the main cities there is no shortage of those of the main international chains, with the usual and well-known quality of services; alongside these there are also smaller hotels and family-run ones.
For tourists who have tight budgets, bed and breakfasts are inevitable solutions, which guarantee not only significant economic savings, but also the charm of old period houses adapted for the occasion.
For those who intend to stay in California for a long time, it may also be useful to consider renting accommodation through specialized agencies.

Outside of traditional accommodations, it is certainly worth considering - given the typicality of the Californian territory - to settle in campsites or in parks.
In addition to the usual campgrounds, in California it is possible to find hospitality in the state and federal parks (one of the most suggestive places is definitely the Yosemite Valley).
The costs to use the services are quite modest and offer bathrooms and places for tents and campers. Given the singularity of the proposal, it is certainly advisable to inquire and book in advance.

Traveling from one city to another - we have seen - takes several hours by car, so it could certainly be useful to consider the possibility of staying in a motel on the freeways, not very different from those we have always seen in American films.
The prices are affordable and the structure can be more or less comfortable, however if you don't get too formal, they can represent more than enough accommodation for one night.

What to visit in California

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Together with San Francisco it is the most important city in the state. His name is inextricably linked to the movie stars he made famous with Hollywood. There is no doubt of course that in Los Angeles one cannot fail to visit the most important film industry headquarters in the world and its legendary Walk of Fame.

A series of museums have developed around Hollywood that tell the history of cinema, however it is unfair to limit the visit to Los Angeles to the cinema part only.

In fact, Griffith Park is also located here, one of the largest urban parks in the States, and some of the most beautiful beaches in California, such as Santa Monica and Malibu, where it is also possible to indulge in windsuf and the main water sports.
For lovers of driving, a trip along the legendary Sunset Boulevard cannot be missed, which also leads us to one of the most famous areas of LA, Beverly Hills.
Among the museums, the Getty Center is not to be missed.

At the gates of San Francisco, there is this small world that has made young and old dream, since 1955: an amusement park that has become not only a symbol of the world of fairy tales, but also a model for all other parks of the genre, it hosts rides, shows, hotels and shops. Unmissable.

At times contradictory, the city of San Francisco is another of the urban destinations that cannot be missed in California. It developed during the years of the golden age and, after a brief moment of impasse during the Depression, it established itself as one of the most important financial centers in the country, also thanks to the presence of the prolific Silicon Valley.
In addition to the economic aspect, San Francisco is very interesting for the rich ethnic and multicultural variety it has.
In its bay stands the infamous Alcatraz Island prison; other points of interest are Nob Hill, the highest point of the city, and the Golden Gate Bridge immersed in a prestigious naturalistic area with hiking trails and beaches, included in the Golden Gate Park

The second largest city in California has a decidedly un-American look, but no less fascinating. Founded by the San Diego de Alacalà Mission, the city has typically colonial features, with missionary structures that have endured over time; particularly impressive is the historic district of Gaslamp, with buildings from the Victorian era, bars and clubs from other times.

Inside we find the Death Valley National Park, the national park that about 1 century ago recorded the highest temperature in the world.
Home to scenic and simply breathtaking views, the sand dunes of Stovepipe Wells alternate, the stretch of salt that stretches below the sea level of Badwater and Lake Havasu.

In the mid-nineteenth century California became the destination of those seeking fortune: the rumor of the presence of gold spread and everyone flocked here, giving life to cities that we still know today, like Jackson.
Close to Jackson, we can still admire what an Indian tribe village looked like before the gold rush, preserved at Chaw'se Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park.

Nature lovers, your destination in California to admire unique landscapes in the world is the Sierra Nevada. Here we find the redwood forests, the tallest trees in the world (Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks) and Mount Whitney which is the highest peak in the States.
Also in Sierra Nevada we find the legendary Yosemite National Park.
In addition to nature, we can also indulge in gambling in one of the many casinos that are located along the Stateline.

California Parks

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Joshua Tree National Park
The distinctive element of this park are the Joshua Tree, of the yucca species, so renamed by the first Mormons that in the XNUMXth century they saw the trees and were struck by the branches reaching towards the sky that reminded them of the arms of the biblical Joshua calling out to God.
Joshua trees only grow here and reach 9 meters in height; the park is desert and has fantastic rock formations, ideal for climbing lovers.

Death Valley National Park
Furnace in the world, the highest temperature in the world is recorded here in summer; this was not enough, the park represents the lowest point of the western hemisphere, being placed on a depression of the earth's crust, enclosed by mountain ranges with sharp peaks, in a sort of embrace.
Rich in canyons, it is certainly one of the most original and worth visiting parks.

Yosemite National Park (Sierra Nevada)
A successful mix of evergreen forests and expanses of sheer rocks, surmounted by alpine pastures make the panorama of the Yosemite National Park truly evocative, which is partially accessible by car (you can also reach the Yosemite Valley, considered an excellent starting point to discover the park).
For the rest, however, it is a destination mainly intended for hikers.

Sequoia National Park (Sierra Nevada)
We have all seen at least one photo of a tunnel carved into a collapsed sequoia: if you want to witness the experience of passing under a sequoia live, your destination is the twin parks Sequoia and Kings Canyon National parks, consisting of 34 woods of the tallest trees in the world, in the immediate vicinity of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the States.

Redwood National Park
National park established in 1968, here too the undisputed protagonists are the sequoias that stretch along the coast of Northern California.

Channel Islands National Park (Central Southern California)
A volcanic archipelago where no human presence is recorded, it is home to dolphins, gray whales and California brown pelicans that, with a bit of luck, we will not struggle to spot, along with sea elephants and sea fur seals.

California Beaches

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Los Angeles
LA boasts the most desirable beaches of the West Coast, thanks to a beautiful alternation between cliffs and sandy shores; the most famous are certainly Santa Monica and Malibu. Surfrider County Beach and Zuma County Beach are a must for surfers, while for those who want to fish and dive there is Point Dume County Beach.
The fine sands of Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach are perfect for families.

Southern Central California and Santa Barbara
Less crowded than the LA coast, this area offers more privacy for those who want to indulge in the beach life.
East Beach, near Santa Barbara, is particularly suitable for children, while El Capitan State Beach offers interesting ideas for those who love to observe nature.
Going towards Monterey we can find the famous Morro Rock, an emblem of California and a reference point for Spanish navigators in the past centuries.

Here we find Laguna Beach, a meeting place for artists and with a suggestive walk to the top of the cliffs, ideal for those who want to enjoy a peaceful afternoon of relaxation in a unique setting in the world and Huntington State Beach, the kingdom of surfers.

San Diego
One of the most interesting destinations is Jolla Cove is an interesting ecological reserve where divers and freediving practitioners can indulge in fabulous dives; for lovers, Coronado Beach is, on the other hand, one of the most romantic beaches in San Diego.

San Francisco
The Bay Area has a mild temperature, so even in winter we can think of spending a sunny afternoon on the beach; in addition to the usual sea life, here we can try our hand at observing the local fauna which is quite varied and rich.

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