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What to see in California: useful tips and recommended itineraries

California, a state on the west coast of the United States, includes beautiful beaches such as Malibu and Santa Monica, cliffs, redwood forests, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Mojave Desert and Central Valley farmland.
The capital is Sacramento, while some of the most important cities are Los Angeles, where Hollywood is located and San Francisco, known for the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and the tram network.
Here's what to see in California and all the useful tips for an unforgettable trip.



Index

  1. Useful info and necessary documents
  2. When to go: climate and best time
  3. How to reach us
  4. Getting around
  5. What to see and what to do: Cities and natural parks
  6. Recommended itineraries:
  7. User questions and comments
  8. Request a personalized quote

Useful info and necessary documents

  • Airports available: Los Angeles International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Oakland Metropolitan Oak Airport
  • Entry requirements: passport, return ticket, ESTA (electronic system for travel authorization). Visa not required for Italian citizens for stays of less than 180 days
  • When to go: climate and best time

    • Weather: on the southern coasts (Los Angeles) the climate is Mediterranean, with mild winters (average of 15 ° C) and hot summers (average of 28 ° C), dry and windy. The northern coastal areas (San Francisco) have a temperate oceanic climate, with mild and rainy winters (peaks February-March) and cool summers (average of 18 ° C). San Francisco Bay is particularly cool in the summer and foggy.
      Inland (Sacramento), rainfall increases in winter, while in the Sierra Nevada there are abundant snowfalls. In Death Valley the climate is desert. The sea is always cold with averages of 17 ° C, in September it reaches 18-19 degrees.
    • Best time: from spring to autumn, especially April / June because it never rains (except further south) and it is not very hot. However, it is a destination that can be visited all year round.
    • Period to avoid: July and August for Death Valley, where very high temperatures are reached; in general the winter months from December to March which are the wettest.
    • Advice: in summer light and casual clothes during the day, comfortable shoes, a sweatshirt or jacket for the evening. San Francisco will need a jacket even during the day. Temperatures are unpredictable, so dress in layers with a mix of "long and short".
      In winter, for the coastal areas, wear warm clothes and a jacket; for the more inland mountain areas, wear even heavier clothes, and finally snow clothes for the Sierra Nevada. Don't forget umbrella or raincoat.
      Pack a hat, sunscreen (the sun beats down a lot!), Sunglasses, first aid medicines, plug adapters, passport photocopies.
      For those wishing to dive into the icy Californian waters, they can do so by getting a wetsuit.
    • Trip duration: minimum 7 days. The ideal duration is 15 days.

    How to reach us

    • From Milan or Rome: the best solution is to fly to Los Angeles. From Rome there is a direct flight (12 hours) with Alitalia, or to Oakland (12-13 hours) operated by Norwegian. From Milan you have to make a stopover, the cheapest is in Zurich and from there you can get to San Francisco in about 12 hours with Swiss.
      Flights from Rome to Los Angeles from € 347,94 - Flights from Milan to Los Angeles from € 396,45
    • From the main European capitals: from Paris there are several direct flights to Los Angeles lasting 11-12 hours. The companies are Air France, Delta, Norwegian (pretty good), Air Tahiti Nui. From Berlin you have to stop in Amsterdam with KLM or Delta, total duration 15 hours. From London there are direct flights lasting 11-12 hours with Virgin Atlantic, Delta, British Airways, American.

    Getting around

    With an area of ​​just over 400.000 sq km it is the third largest US state, after Alaska and Texas. It stretches for nearly 900 miles along the Pacific coast, starting from the border with Mexico.

    You can travel by plane, an ideal way to shorten the distances in terms of hours between north and south. Airline connections are guaranteed between the most important cities, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Diego (indicatively, the costs are from € 100,00 each way for short flights to € 300,00 for longer flights) .

    Considering that California lends itself well to a road trip, thanks to the beauty of the landscapes and the low fuel costs, The most recommended way to get around is the car. The car rental starts from € 30,00 per day: remember to get an international driving license and always respect the traffic regulations, which are very strict. The best rental agencies are Alamo (100% American) and Hertz.
    Another excellent alternative to get around, if you are not predisposed to travel on the road, is to take part in a organized tour, who will think of everything for you.



    What to see and what to do: Cities and natural parks

    California is the American myth par excellence, a wonderful urbanized and wild territory at the same time. From the Death Valley desert to the beautiful coastlines, from Los Angeles to San Francisco, I will guide you among the most beautiful places and attractions not to be missed.

    1 - San Francisco

    San Francisco is famous for its "ups and downs", as it is spread over the hills, the majestic Golden Gate, which you can best appreciate by cycling through it (rented at Pier 39-41) e Lombard Street, the crookedest road in the world.

    Again, don't miss a good seafood lunch at the Fisherman's Wharf, a ride on Cable Car and in the neighborhoods Chinatown o Hight Ahsbury.

    Several bay cruises depart from the San Francisco docks (from € 25,00 per person for an hour) or to the eerie Alcatraz island, located in the center of the bay and one of the most visited places in San Francisco.

    2 - Alcatraz Island

    Alcatraz is the most famous security prison in the world and is located in San Francisco Bay.
    The prison was active for about 30 years and hosted, among many others, Al Capone. 26 attempts were made to escape by 36 inmates, but none were successful.

    The island can be reached by boat Alcatraz Cruises from Pier 33 and costs are starting from € 25,00, depending on the type of tour and duration. A visit to the island and a tour of the narrow cells is planned, very suggestive, especially if done at night. The ticket includes the audio tour that will make you relive the life that was led in the prison in those years very well. Book well in advance (2-3 months before) given the huge turnout.

    Recommended cards, tickets and tours: Alcatraz ticket and 3 hour sunset bike tour



    3 - Yosemite National Park

    Lo Yosemite National Park is a protected natural area which is located southeast of San Francisco.
    Established in 1864 by a decree signed by Abraham Lincoln, it was the first natural park in the world.

    Do not miss the Grizzly Giant, the 63,7 meter high sequoia in the area of Mariposa Groove, Yosemite Falls, waterfalls that reach 700 meters in height, theHalf dome, the largest granite rock in the world and the Glacier point, panoramic point at 2100 meters above sea level.

    Since there are so many paths, you can hike through gigantic sequoias and incredible landscapes, squirrels, bears and wolves. The entrance ticket on foot or by bike is $ 20 (€ 17,00), $ 35 (€ 30,00) for vehicles and is valid for one week.

    Recommended cards, tickets and tours: Yosemite Valley: 3-day camping adventure

    4-Big Sur

    Heading south from San Francisco you can take a scenic and historic road that runs along the coast: Big Sur. The coastal stretch stretches on legendary Highway 1 for over 150km, between the borders of Hearst Castle to the south and the town of Carmel to the north.

    From San Francisco just take Highway 1 and follow it: you will pass through areas of wild and unspoiled nature, bends overlooking the cliff where you can admire breathtaking views. It passes by interesting locations such as Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Pebble Beach Parkway 17 Mile Drive.



    5 - Hollywood

    You can't visit Los Angeles without taking one stroll along the Walk of Fame! They are two sidewalks that run on Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, on Hollywood Hill, on which over 2000 brass stars are set with the names of celebrities from the star system.

    Also here is the Chinese Theater, in front of which there are concrete blocks with the signatures and footprints of the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Sofia Loren, Federico Fellini and many others. In addition, a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood is a must, the film studio and theme park where you can see the sets of numerous films and TV series. Admission starts at $ 90 (€ 77,00).

    5 - San Diego

    San Diego is a Californian city on the Pacific coast known for its beaches, numerous parks and mild climate. In the huge Balboa Park have headquarters, in addition to the famous San Diego Zoo, galleries, artists' studios, museums and gardens.
    In the port of the city there is the navy fleet, where the USS Midway is located, the large aircraft carrier now transformed into a museum open to the public.

    To visit other parks such as Wild Animal Park, with exotic animals in total freedom and the SeaWorld, with aquatic animals. Prices start from € 50,00 and, often, there are cumulative packages to see more parks together.
    For surf enthusiasts, La Jolla and Pacific Beach are two perfect beaches to practice this sport and ride the most famous waves in the world, the La Jolla and Beaches Tour guided tour is particularly recommended.

    6 - Death Valley National Park

    Death Valley is the largest national park in California and the entire United States. It is one of the driest and hottest areas on the planet, it goes down to 86 meters below sea level.
    Temperatures can reach 50 ° C, so I recommend dressing lightly, wearing a sun hat and protecting yourself with a cream.

    Before venturing into Death Valley by car, make sure you have enough water and fuel supplies, as there are only three rather expensive gas stations.

    The panoramic places are Dante's view, Badwater (the lowest point in the United States and in the entire Northern Hemisphere) e Artist's Palette (a natural amphitheater in which the rocks are colored green, red, pink, yellow).
    However, the most famous point to see is certainly Zabriskie Point, where the white rocks are corrugated and, at sunset, it seems to be on the moon! Admission costs $ 30 for cars (€ 25,00), $ 15 (€ 13,00) per person and $ 25 for motorcycles (€ 22,00).

    7 - Joshua Tree National Park

    The desert Joshua Tree National Park owes its name to Yucca brevifolia, a plant that is a cross between a cactus and a tree, whose branches look like arms.
    Here are two deserts, the Mojave Desert and Colorado Desert, for which different landscapes alternate.

    A must see Skull Rock Nature Trailna, a striking skull-shaped rock and, at a short distance, the expanse of rocks of the Jumbo Rocks Campground.

    An experience that I suggest is to sleep one night in a tent inside the park, so as to admire the sunset and the brilliant starry night.
    Stock up on water and beware of dangerous animals, as there are plenty of them, including rattlesnakes, scorpions and black widow spiders. Admission costs $ 15 (€ 13,00).

    Recommended cards, tickets and tours: Grand Canyon West Side: Skywalk, helicopter and boats through Joshua Tree

    8 - Venice Beach and Santa Monica

    Venice Beach and Santa Monica are the most famous beaches and you love California. Venice is a real neighborhood that develops around the beach of the same name, where street artists, peddlers, bodybuilders who train, kids who play coexist harmoniously.

    Continuing north you arrive at Santa Monica, a huge expanse of sand with the unmistakable pier, the Ferris wheel and the famous "Route 66 End of the Trail" sign, which signals the end of Route 66. Don't miss a walk at sunset: the view is memorable!

    9 - Santa Barbara

    For those who just want to relax a bit, Santa Barbara is ideal! And the classic seaside town, with beaches dotted with palm trees and restaurants. It is not as chaotic as Los Angeles, you can move anywhere on foot and is frequented by many young people, mainly for the lively nightlife.

    Here you will also find a lot of history and architecture, with old Hispanic-style buildings, for example the County courthouse and Stearns Wharf, the oldest wooden pier in the entire state of California.

    Recommended cards, tickets and tours: Santa Barbara: Funk Zona Food & Photo Tour

    10 - Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

    Il Sequoia and Kings Canyon, less famous than Yosemite, are two adjacent parks famous for their giant sequoias, the elevated peaks and the deep canyons.

    Within the borders of Sequoia and Kings Canyon is the highest peak in the United States, Mount Whitney, at 4.417 meters, and Kings River Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in North America. Huge sequoias can be observed, like General Sherman Tree, the largest living being in the world. The entrance ticket costs $ 30 (€ 25,00) to visit both.

    Recommended itineraries:

    7 days from € 1000,00 per person (excluding flights)

    1. First day: arrival in Los Angeles and hotel accommodation. Free evening.
    2. Second day: departure for Las Vegas and hotel accommodation. City tour.
    3. Third day: you leave Las Vegas and cross the Death Valley. Stop at the main points of interest and arrival in Fresno. Overnight.
    4. Fourth day: departure for Yosemite Park and visit of the Park. Return to Fresno for overnight.
    5. Fifth day: departure in the morning for San Francisco (3 hours and 30 minutes journey), hotel accommodation. City tour.
    6. Sixth day: day dedicated to visiting San Francisco. Overnight.
    7. Seventh day: departure from San Francisco for the return.

    10 days starting from € 1300,00 per person (excluding flights)

    1. First day: arrival in Los Angeles and hotel accommodation. Rest of the day free. Overnight: 2 nights.
    2. Second day: Visit Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Universal Studios. Return to the hotel and the rest of the evening at leisure.
    3. Third day: departure for Las Vegas (travel time 4 hours), the world capital of entertainment. Hotel accommodation and city tour. Overnight: 2 nights.
    4. Fourth day: free visit of Las Vegas. I'm going back to the hotel.
    5. Fifth day: departure for Death Valley National Park, visit to Zabriskie Point, Badwater and other points of interest. Arrival in Fresno and hotel accommodation. Overnight: 2 nights.
    6. Sixth day: Visit to Yosemite National Park and return to Fresno in the evening.
    7. Seventh day: departure for San Francisco (3 hours 30 minutes), hotel accommodation and free evening. Overnight: 2 nights.
    8. Eighth day: visit the main attractions of San Francisco. I'm going back to the hotel.
    9. Ninth day: Leave San Francisco to travel south along Big Sur and 17-Mile Drive. Stop in Monterey and Carmel. Return to Los Angeles and hotel accommodation.
    10. Tenth day: free day and transfer to the airport for the return.

    15 days starting from € 1.600 per person (excluding flights)

    1. First day: arrival in Los Angeles and hotel accommodation. Free evening .
    2. Second day: departure along the Pacific Coast Highway passing through Malibu and Santa Barbara. Arrival in San Simeon and hotel accommodation.
    3. Third day: Depart for Monterey via California Hightway One, 17 Mile Drive, stopping in Carmel. After visiting Monterey, depart for San Francisco. Arrival in the evening and hotel accommodation. Overnight: 2 nights.
    4. Fourth day: free visit of San Francisco.
    5. Fifth day: we leave San Francisco to reach and visit Yosemite park. Overnight in Fresno.
    6. Sixth day: visit to Sequoia and King Canyon National Park. Overnight in Bakersfield.
    7. Seventh dayDeparture for Las Vegas and hotel accommodation. Overnight: 2 nights.
    8. Eighth day: free visit of the city of Las Vegas.
    9. Ninth day: departure for Zion Park and visit. Continue to Bryce Canyon. Overnight.
    10. Tenth day: Visit Bryce Canyon National Park and Lake Powell. Overnight.
    11. Eleventh day: Departure for the Grand Canyon, visit and hotel accommodation in Flagstaff.
    12. Twelfth day: Take the scenic drive through Oak Creek Canyon and the town of Sedona from Flagstaff. Continue to Palm Springs, hotel accommodation.
    13. Thirteenth day: off to Los Angeles, free visit. Overnight: 2 nights.
    14. Fourteenth day: day in Los Angeles, visit to Hollywood and Universal Studios. Free excursion to Venice Beach or Santa Monica.
    15. Fifteenth day: departure for the airport and return.

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