Santa Monica: the coastal city with an iconic pier and picturesque beach nestled amongst swaying palm trees. With convenient access to Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, Santa Monica is perfectly located for a holiday packed with as much beachside stillness or fast-paced city action as you like. Every hotel in Santa Monica is within four miles of the beach, meaning you’ll always have easy access to one of California’s most pristine, idyllic beaches.
Santa Monica is home to an array of attractions, including its world-renowned Santa Monica Pier, with activities everyone will adore. From its famous solar-powered Ferris wheel, to Pacific Park’s endless hours of fun with a range of restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and even an arcade which boasts over 200 arcade games. Head for a chilled walk along the pier with the sound of the waves letting your worries drift away or check out the historic Looff Hippodrome Carousel. Below the pier, an immersive wildlife experience at Santa Monica Pier Aquarium awaits, including presentations and interactive exhibits teaching visitors about the bay’s wildlife and how to protect it.
Other must-see attractions in Santa Monica include its well-maintained 3.5 mile beach, with everything from world-class surfing, swimming and beachcombing to outdoor activities at Annenberg Community Beach House and beach volleyball. Hire some bikes and pedal along The Marvin Braude Bike Trail, with 22 miles of paved cycle paths ending at Torrance County Beach. For the ultimate way to experience ocean views, this cycle trail is ideal. Head back to the beach after an action-packed day and catch one of Santa Monica’s vibrant sunsets or experience a workout like no other at the Original Muscle Beach, home to open-air fitness equipment since the early 1930s.
Once the sun has set, Santa Monica comes alive: LA locals flood into the city to make the most of its oceanfront location and unique bars, including rooftop bars with Pacific Ocean views such as Sonoma Wine Garden, as well as places like Bar Copa and Circle Bar for dancing the night away. No matter the occasion, Santa Monica has a bar to suit your needs, from a quiet place to reflect on your trip memories so far or an upscale lounge to celebrate a special anniversary or birthday.
Fans of art and culture will love Santa Monica’s art scene, with over 75 museums and art galleries each offering something different. From L & M Arts, a branch of the New York City gallery, to Bergamot, a disused train depot which has been refreshed to become the new home of 35 art galleries, Santa Monica is a hub of inspiration. Artistic events are featured throughout the year on Santa Monica’s events calendar, including comedy festivals, live performances and even weekly picnics on the promenade throughout the summer season. If shopping is how you become inspired, the city also boasts several distinct shopping districts, each offering their own array of shops. Browse farmers markets and an exclusively pedestrian outdoors shopping area at Third Street Promenade, just two blocks from the beach and shop for global brands at Bloomingdale’s, Burberry and Michael Kors at Santa Monica Place, which even boasts its own rooftop with unparalleled Pacific Ocean views.
California's Central Coast
Head out on The Original Road Trip and explore California’s Central Coast— 350 miles of the world’s most beautiful coastline. This incomparable region stretches from Ventura just north of Los Angeles to Santa Clara south of San Francisco and it is divided into the four distinct regions of Monterey Bay, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. Discover the magnificence of the Central Coast to find a true California vacation, complete with coastal roads, Pacific sunsets, national and state parks, world-class wine regions, and classic beach towns.
Los Angeles is home to the Hollywood entertainment industry and an American icon – you’ve seen it in the movies and on TV, you’ve read about it in books and magazines. Now come and see it for yourself.
No trip to LA would be complete without visit to TLC Chinese Theatre to see the hands and footprints of its famous celebrities and of course to go star spotting along the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard! If you want the chance to see the celebrities in action, then take a trip to the world’s largest working movie studio at Universal Studios Hollywood and do a tour of their infamous backlot where blockbuster Hollywood movies, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho were made. Families won’t want to miss the thrills and spills of Universal’s amazing rides and attractions such as Transformers, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Music lovers will feel right at home in downtown’s L.A. Live complex, home to the Grammy Museum, which features exhibits and memorabilia tracing Los Angeles’ prominent role in the popular music industry.
Los Angeles is also home to the famous shopping district of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Rodeo Drive embodies all the glam of the big screen where you’ll find the flagship locations for some of the most prestigious brands in the world.
Another fantastic place to see stars – and panoramic views of the city – is the Griffith Observatory atop a hill in Griffith Park northwest of downtown. This is just one of the city’s many must-see stops for culture seekers.
There’s the Getty Centre with its soaring architecture and cosy museum rooms full of sought-after permanent and traveling art exhibits. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art features more than 120,000 works, representing ancient and modern culture. Nearby, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, the Page Museum (home to the La Brea Tar Pits), the Architecture & Design Museum and the Petersen Automotive Museum will round out your museum hopping.
Everyone in Los Angeles has a favourite beach, and each beach has its own vibe, from the famed beach at Malibu to lively Manhattan Beach.
Santa Monica’s 5.6-kilometer stretch of sand is marked by the world-famous pier at the end of Route 66. The pier – with its amusement park, arcade and aquarium – is only a short walk from Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, an outdoor mall offering shopping in a festive environment.
Neighbouring Venice Beach is equally enchanting, but at the same time, a world apart from Santa Monica - the beach is spacious and its iconic sidewalk features a notoriously quirky mix of people.
Nestled along the Pacific Coast between Malibu and Santa Barbara, Oxnard is the gateway to the Channel Islands National Parks & Marine Sanctuary. Oxnard offers a myriad of activities from its clean, uncrowded golden beaches, to its historic museums and fresh crops with two weekly Farmers’ Markets. Oceanfront and marina view accommodations can be found as well as other flagship properties each offering distinct settings and amenities. Oxnard’s picturesque Channel Islands Harbor is filled with outdoor adventure including kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, jet skis, bike riding and more. There, visitors can jump aboard with Island Packers, Ventura County’s official concessionaire to the Channel Islands National Park and take an amazing journey to the Channel Islands.
Along the way, catch sights of dolphins lapping playfully alongside the boat. On the islands, visitors can discover an outdoor paradise of adventure and choose to hike, snorkel, dive or kayak through the clear kelp forests, sea caves and coves offering some of the best conditions worldwide. History comes alive at Heritage Square which contains Victorian farmhouses, which were refurbished, restored and saved from destruction from the Oxnard Plain. Just blocks away, sits the Carnegie Art Museum, a former Andrew Carnegie Library containing rotating exhibits and fine art. When it’s time to relax, visitors will find a variety of restaurants including international tastes which range from Brazilian to Italian to Japanese and, of course, fresh seafood! Shopping and more eateries can be found at The Collection at Riverpark which contains the Annex, a public market with additional dining and entertainment offerings. The Collection also houses Levity Live featuring top notch comedians. Car buffs will have fun exploring two car museums – The Mullin Automotive Museum and the Murphy Auto Museum.
With a magnificent Californian coastline setting in between Malibu and Santa Barbara, Ventura offers uncrowded beaches and laid-back flair. Spend the whole day in shorts and flip-flops; Catch a wave, hit a brewery, discover farm-to-fork delights, and dance to live music. Feeling adventurous? Just off Ventura’s coast lies Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary, often referred to as North America’s Galapagos. Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz Island is considered one of the top 10 beach hikes in California. This eight-mile round-trip trail ascends along a grassy plateau that provides great views of the Pacific Ocean and the other islands, before winding down through a scenic olive grove to a stellar beach that reflects both the blue sky and the water, amidst complete solitude. Other activities available around the islands include snorkeling, diving, sea cave kayaking, and whale watching. Then arrive back at Ventura Harbor and grab dinner with views of an ocean sunset over the marina. Other local attractions include Ventura County Fairground home to the famous Ventura County Fair, Ventura Harbour, and Seaside Park. Ventura invites you to take that Southern California beach vacation you've always dreamed of!
Nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and Pacific Ocean on the Central Coast of California, Santa Barbara offers sweeping ocean panoramas amidst its Spanish-style architecture all located just 144 kilometers north of Los Angeles. Red tile roofs dot the landscape of green rolling hills that flatten out into sandy beaches and a bustling harbor.
Stearns Wharf connects sea and land with its fresh seafood eateries and a marine life center. The nearby Channel Islands and wine country encourage more scenic adventure, while historic theaters lining State Street are ideal for unwinding and taking in a show.
For a fun-packed morning, hire some bikes and cycle along the palm tree-lined promenade. Alternatively, for a day full of animal action, head to Santa Barbara Zoo. From giraffes to gorillas, there are loads of animals to see. For more wildlife adventures get everyone together for a dolphin and whale watching cruise where you’ll surely see some of the Pacific Ocean’s most wonderful creatures in their natural habitats.
Drive through the Santa Ynez Valley, situated just 30 minutes away, to sample some of California’s best wine tasting destinations at the wineries dotted along the route or enjoy exciting times exploring the incredible coastline, nearby parks, hiking trails, museums (such as the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum or the modern Santa Barbara Museum of Art), and shopping that Santa Barbara has to offer. Be sure to visit the historic Santa Barbara Mission and take a stroll along State Street where you’ll find an amazing array of fancy shopping outlets and trendy restaurants all waiting to be discovered.
San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo. Simply called SLO by locals, San Luis Obispo is the cultural, commercial and entertainment hub of California’s scenic Central Coast. The city is located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and is nestled among thousands of acres of protected open space for hiking and mountain biking. And you’ll want to get outdoors: SLO enjoys year-round sun and a warm Mediterranean climate. Attractions include a bustling weekly farmers’ market every Thursday, the famous Bubblegum Alley, and cultural things to do for the whole family. Explore the SLO Children’s Museum, peruse the SLO Museum of Art, and uncover the city’s past at the History Center. Adjacent, you’ll find one of California’s historic gems, the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
A walk through the charming downtown core will take visitors along a scenic creek walk, past multiple public works of art, cafes, and dozens of boutique and popular stores. All of that walking will work up an appetite, and SLO’s agricultural roots offer up an authentic farm-to-fork experience to satiate, complemented by local craft beer and award winning wines. In fact, Wine Enthusiast named the SLO wine region as one of the top 10 wine getaways for 2018!
Monterey County is one of the premier vacation destinations for iconic California experiences. Skip the delay of city traffic and wind along the breathtaking Big Sur coastline on legendary Highway One to experience one of the premier road trips in the United States. Catch a glimpse of a whale from the comfort of the beach or sip handcrafted wines from a tasting room overlooking the picturesque Salinas Valley. Indulge in a rejuvenating day at a world-renowned spa or take the plunge via the “world’s highest tandem jump’ at Sky Dive Monterey Bay.
Salinas’ National Steinbeck Museum celebrates the life and work of one of the USA’s most noteworthy Nobel Prize-winning authors. Visit The John Steinbeck House for a peek into the writer’s childhood and have lunch at the House’s beloved restaurant. Don’t miss a trip to historic Cannery Row; this former turn-of-the-century cannery hub has been revitalized with waterfront dining, entertainment, colorful coastline, wine tasting and lots more. For even more history, explore Fort Ord National Monument, the site of an old military base set amid rolling hills and featuring kilometers of trails to hike, bike or horseback ride.
Famous for its stunning shoreline, quaint galleries, trendy restaurants and boutique style shopping as well being a favourite haunt of its most famous civil servant, the Honourable Mayor Clint Eastwood, a stop off at Carmel by the Sea needs to be close to the top of everyone’s Monterey Peninsula to do list. Popular attractions and activities include the historic Carmel Mission, the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Club, the beautiful Point Lobos State Reserve Park, and of course the wonderful surfing, kayaking and other exciting water sports at Carmel River State Beach.
With endless and unique opportunities to choose from, and a little something special for everyone, it’s time to live like you mean it in Monterey.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
No California coastal itinerary is complete without a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium! Serving as a premier aquarium on the West Coast and a global leader in ocean research and conservation, this is the place that inspired the setting of Pixar’s Finding Dory and the BBC’s Big Blue Live. The Aquarium’s 322,000 square feet showcase Pacific Ocean habitats with acclaimed marine exhibits such as the three-story Kelp Forest, one-million-gallon Open Sea exhibit, and the two-story home to charismatic Sea Otters. Expansive ocean-front decks overlook the sea and behind-the-scenes tours show how the Aquarium cares for thousands of live animals and their habitats.
The Aquarium also offers onsite, ocean-view dining at The Monterey Bay Aquarium Restaurant and Cafe, putting their Seafood Watch program and sustainable culinary trends into action. Discover the wonders of the Monterey Bay and how protecting our oceans benefits the world.
Offering some of the best fun in the Golden State, Santa Cruz is the quintessential California beach town. After all, it's where three vacationing Hawaiian princes first surfed the USA in 1885, and it’s the place Jack O’Neill invented the wetsuit in the 1950s. Santa Cruz’s history is cemented in this iconic California sport. Surfers tote their boards to the beach, where families relax on the sand as children splash and play in the water.
For beginners, surf instructors provide wetsuits and surfboards and get you up on the waves. Once you’re ready, grab your big stick and head to one of Santa Cruz County’s mellow beaches and experience what “Surf City” is all about.
The spectacular Californian coastline of the Santa Cruz area also offers fantastic, fishing, kayaking and dolphin and whale watching cruises along with the chance to meet up with other local wildlife like sea otters and seals. Hikers, backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts are well catered for at Big Basin Redwood State Park, California’s oldest state park, about an hour’s drive from Santa Cruz – enjoy mountain biking, hiking, and horse riding through scenic redwood groves. And of course no trip to Santa Cruz would be complete without a visit to one of the Santa Cruz regional wineries– bring a picnic, buy a bottle and soak up the views across Silicon Valley.
From coastal redwood forests to the sparkling blue waters of Monterey Bay, plus over 300 days of sunshine a year, Santa Cruz is always in season.
San Francisco is one of the world’s greatest destinations, thanks in part to the diversity of cultural influences that all helped to shape this iconic city. The writers of the Beat Generation, the hippies of the Summer of Love in the late 1960s and the gay and lesbian communities all contributed to make the city what it is today.
San Francisco is a place of landmarks and photo opportunities, not the least of which is the Golden Gate Bridge. Crossing the famous suspension bridge that spans San Francisco Bay via bicycle, by car or on foot has got to be near the top of your San Francisco to do list.
San Francisco has an immense range of attractions including the infamous Alcatraz cruise, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, over 200 parks and beaches, world-class shopping and evening entertainment. One of the best ways to see it all is by climbing aboard one of the cable cars serving California Street, Chinatown, Nob Hill and Ghirardelli Square near Fisherman’s Wharf - mission accomplished.
Downtown San Francisco is a village of museums, Union Square hosts the impressive theatre district, visit Lincoln Park for the most staggering view of the Golden Gate Bridge and visit the Legion of Honour, World War One memorial. When the sun goes down, the choices are endless with Jazz, bars, bistros and restaurants all ready and waiting. You’ll find no-frills Mexican in the Mission District and Castro districts alongside up-and-coming sushi and Chinese restaurants.
Dim sum is everywhere in Chinatown, and North Beach is famous for its Italian food. In the shopping paradise of Union Square, find Michelin-starred and celebrity chef restaurants alongside old-school establishments and casual eateries.
We believe there is only one state in this country where you can find a warm beach, live in the mountains, and see a desert. This fantastic state, is California. Located on the West Coast of the United States, and is the third largest state by area. With its stunning coastline, dramatic deserts, and rugged mountains, California offers wide-open spaces for everything from scenic road trips to adrenaline-fueled adventures.
From sunny beaches to Surfers in the waves, there are many spectacular hot spots along the coast of California which will attract generally from the popular Muscle beach Known as "The Birthplace of the Physical Fitness", located on the south side of Santa Monica Pier, to the Big Sur which is a sparsely populated region that contains vast wildernesses and breathtaking views as it stretches 90 miles along the rugged Pacific.
Indulge in everything San Francisco has to offer! San Francisco is one of the most vibrant, cosmopolitan, and innovative cities in the United States. 'A food lover's haven'Fisherman's Wharf boasts some of the best dining in the world. Enjoy fresh Dungeness crab served steaming hot at outdoor stands or in a variety of gourmet recipes at the Wharf’s many seafood restaurants. Bike the Golden Gate Bridge on a wide bike path with awesome views! Visit the infamous Alcatraz Island, the former prison home of some America’s most notorious criminals.
Ever dreamt of driving down the west coast in a Red Convertible Mustang? Speak to one of our expert travelplanners today who can tailormake that once in a lifetime Vacation. 'Hop in the car and drive into the sunset.'
Why not enjoy a visit to the Magnificent Yosemite National Park on route. Nothing prepares you for what you see when you get to Glacier Point.
Come to Los Angeles to discover what you can't see anywhere else! Where the stars live! The city also includes the famous shopping district Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Rodeo Drive embodies all the glam of the big screen. Flagship locations for some of the most prestigious brands in the world. A trip to LA would not be complete without a walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Learn more about the world's most famous sidewalk and the celebrities it honors!
Discover the secrets behind finding good food. On almost every other street corner and every exit on a California expressway is a fast food restaurant called In-N-Out. In-N-Out makes all its food fresh, which means that while you are waiting for your food, you can watch the patties being made and the French fries being peeled from the potato itself.
You won't want to miss the chance to hit some of the seven best theme parks in California for some fun in the sun. Explore Americas first Theme park, Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park not far from Disney. From sky-high roller coasters like Six Flags Magic Mountain's Goliath to good old-fashioned family fun at amusement parks like Disneyland, Universal and Seaworld. You can easily find the theme park that fits the fun you seek!
A visit to California would not be complete without a stay in San Diego. Approximately 120 miles south of Los Angeles and immediately adjacent to the border with Mexico. For families ready to get out and explore the wonders of the world you can't beat a visit to the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego.
"Beachside Attitude with Big City Excitement!”
With a multitude of attractions in town, San Diego is perfect for families! If your family enjoys animals, be sure to spend time at SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park or SEALIFE Aquarium. The majestic USS Midway aircraft carrier museum is also high on many visitors’ list – where kids can climb aboard jet planes and helicopters and have their very own audio-tour! LEGOLAND California is perfect for the fun-loving builders in your family. And if you’re visiting in the summer months, be sure to cool off at SeaWorld’s Aquatica Waterpark or LEGOLAND’s water park.
San Diego is also known as the “Craft Beer Capital of the USA”. With over 120 breweries & micro-breweries in the region, visitors can sample some of San Diego’s innovative and tasty beer scene just about anywhere. For true beer lovers, why not try a Beer Tasting Tour that will take you to multiple breweries?
For local trips, trolleys and buses are cheap and run regularly and Uber is very popular. To travel further afield, your hire car is perfect.
Our insider tip would be to visit Old Town – a neighborhood that contains one of California’s most popular State Parks, a collection of historic museums, shops featuring curios imported across the border from Mexico and a number of delicious Mexican eateries! This fun and historic neighborhood combines some interesting San Diego history and culture along with delicious foods and great shopping.
Come to Los Angeles to discover what you can't see anywhere else! Where the stars live!
The city also includes the famous shopping district Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Rodeo Drive embodies all the glam of the big screen. Flagship locations for some of the most prestigious brands in the world. A trip to LA would not be complete without a walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Learn more about the world's most famous sidewalk and the celebrities it honors! If you want the chance to see the celebrities in action, then why not visit the world’s largest working movie studio at Universal Studios Hollywood and do a tour of their infamous backlot where the Hollywood movies are made.
'It’s Invigorating and Optimistic'
San Francisco is one of the world's most attractive and vibrant cities. There is so much to see and do in this incredible city including The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Napa Valley, Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf and The Castro to mention a few.
For over 150 years San Francisco has been a magnet for fortune seekers, immigrants, artists and poets. Rich in culture, San Francisco is well known for its liberal views, openness and acceptance of all cultures, religions, sexuality and lifestyles. The cities relaxed atmosphere and open minded lifestyle is what makes it such a unique destination to anywhere else in America.
There is so much to do on holidays in San Francisco. See the electic sights of the city or hire a car and drive along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway.
Ride a historic cable car down to Fisherman’s Wharf. See the sea lions basking in the sunshine at Pier 39 or hear the infamous tales of Alcatraz on an unforgettable sightseeing tour. To the inmates who were confined to Alcatraz prison, their punnishment was not only captivity but also psychological torture. An undoubted highlight of a visit to San Francisco is the chance to explore Alcatraz Prison.
Luxury holidays in San Francisco can be spent shopping in designer boutiques around Union Square or relaxing with a sumptuous spa treatment.Treat yourself to a sophisticated afternoon tea at the Fairmont San Francisco or sample the finest contemporary Californian cuisine at Taj Campton Place's award-winning restaurant. Spend your evening at the San Francisco Ballet or sipping Champagne in the Financial District.
Our carefully selected hotels are located throughout the city and will provide the perfect base for your unforgettable stay in San Francisco.
San Francisco is quite hilly however, transport is easy. San Francisco is one of the easiest cities in the world to negotiate. Public Transportation options abound, including our world-famous cable cars. Getting around has never been this fun.
Don’t miss out!! Make sure to see all the great attractions San Francisco has to offer.
"Gorgeous Beaches and Breath-Taking Cliffs"
For the trendsetters, jet-setters and beach lovers, don't miss out! Newport Beach has a classy Harbor most people only dream of docking in. You won't be disappointed with the shopping district which makes Rodeo Drive look discounted. With the only harbor in Orange County, and the largest recreational harbor on the west coast, Newport Beach offers eight miles of extraordinary fishing, swimming, surfing and aquatic sports activities. Sit by the pier and gaze in to the blazing sunset...Yes you are in paradise!
Cycling, movie shoots, beach volleyball games, and the finest of people-watching all happen here, and it's no wonder. People love to gather at this California beach, partially because it's immaculate. With 3.5 miles of Southern California beaches and over 300 days of sunshine, the Santa Monica Beach is a prime piece of California coastline and a welcome retreat for vacationers and locals alike with a range of activities for everyone.There’s never a shortage of seaside fun at Santa Monica Pier where the beach meets the boardwalk in a festive display of amusement park rides, aquarium wonders and festival food. It’s free to stroll the historic boardwalk and browse through the goods, and even if you don’t go for thrill rides, there’s no charge for the show-stopping sunset at the end of each day.
Laguna Beach features seven miles of soft sand and the sound of the surf is a year round retreat. Laguna is one of Orange County's most fashionable towns, as well as one of the most culturally rich. The water at Laguna is generally clean and calm, though occasionally the Pacific tends to be cool with strong tides. Clean, white and warm, Laguna's sands are perfect for strolling, volleyball matches or simply unwinding on a blanket.
No beach in the world is like Venice Beach. Other California beaches have sand, surf and sunshine but, they do not have a 3-ring urban street circus, complete with philosophizing artists, trash-talking hoopsters, preening weightlifters, barefoot sand sculptors and more. All of this frenetic activity happens on Ocean Front Walk, a 3/4-mile concrete boardwalk with stores, fast-food spots, flea markets and artists.
The Malibu Lagoon is where Malibu Creek meets the Pacific Ocean. Malibu's Surfrider Beach has been long standing as a premier surfing beach. On the east side of Malibu Creek Bridge, the famous Malibu Pier allows for excellent saltwater fishing. On the west side of Malibu Creek Bridge, visitors will find picnic tables and a nature area, excellent for bird watching and the study of a unique eco-system, a Southern California saltwater marsh.
Long Beach is a very special place, known for its white sandy beaches and its iconic boardwalk. Long Beach Island is a beach lover’s paradise. Even at the widest point of this 18-mile-long island, you’re never more than half a mile from the other side. Long Beach has transformed itself into an upscale tourist resort, with many waterfront attractions, including a new aquarium with a fabulous shark exhibit, two excellent art museums, charming shops, public golf courses, the annual April Grand Prix international auto race and lots of recreational activities along its eight-mile stretch of beach. Take the kids to the waterfront entertainment complex with rides and live performances or to the farming demonstrations at Rancho Los Alamitos. Cruise the canals of Naples in a genuine Venetian gondola. Tensions and stresses dissolve in this laid-back, friendly city.
"One of the best family beach destinations in the country". Enjoy the delightful Pismo Pier for sightseeing, walking, fishing and seeing the great sunset. This classic beach town is located on California's famous central coast and offers long white beaches for taking a refreshing stroll or for just enjoying the spectacular views of the Pismo Beach sunset. Visitors enjoy numberless activities including golfing, bicycling, walking,tennis, horseback riding, scuba diving, bowling, hiking, miles of beautiful and clean beaches, exploring tide pools, coves, and caves.
This stretch of coast along southern Santa Barbara County is sometimes referred to as "The American Riviera". With gorgeous beaches, breathtaking cliff views, mouth-watering restaurants, world-class hotels and a vibrant arts community, how could Santa Barbara not be on this list? In a flash you could imagine you're on the Riviera. Perfect for a weekend escape from Los Angeles or a holiday that gives you the best of California in one spot.
Stroll a white-sand crescent. With its sugary sand and idyllic setting-edged by wind-carved cypress trees and bluffs topped with quaint cottages with billion-dollar views—this roughly 1-mile/2-km-long crescent is a great place to relax and play. Kids love to build sand castles just above the surf line, or splash in the usually tame breakers (just know that the water is quite chilly—hovering just below 60°F/15.5°C, even in summer).
Yosemite National Park
Amazing California Theme Parks
Movie magic, mega attractions - If Hollywood is the land of make believe, then this is your chance to step into that fantasy world. On a sprawling complex on the east side of the Hollywood Hills, this movie studio/part theme park blends behind-the-scenes tours with rides that swoosh, swoop, and dive through movie-themed worlds. An adjacent, neon-lit complex of shops, eateries, and entertainment spaces known as Universal CityWalk lets you stretch out the experience beyond the park.
It's hard to say who enjoys LEGOLAND more: the little ones running around in a magical world created by 60 million LEGO plastic bricks, or their parents who get a kick out of it too. Walk through Miniland USA for a visual and structural jaw-dropper: expansive miniaturized recreations of Washington D.C., New York, and San Francisco, as well as scenes from Star Wars. There’s also a chance to go behind-the-scenes to look at the soundstage and models used during the The LEGO Movie. While the focus here leans towards making little ones smile, there’s plenty to entertain older visitors too: the park has more than 60 rides, shows, and attractions, including three rollercoasters.
From swooshing and swooping rides to interactive shows and million-gallon aquariums, this is one theme park that truly makes a big, big splash. See and learn about the amazing undersea worlds of animals from around the globe, including walruses, sea lions, polar bears, and penguins. See (and touch) harmless rays and sharks, and be entertained by Shamu and other killer whales , as well as dolphins, in daily shows and presentations. Climb aboard a host of rides, too, including Manta, a high-tech coaster that has you twisting, diving and turning like a ray.
Smaller California Theme Parks
Santa Monica's Pier
Take a stroll along Santa Monica’s signature pier at sunset, that enormous sun sinking into the Pacific, and you’ll probably wonder if it can get much better than this. But wait; it can. Right here. First, there’s an amusement park-perched right on the pier-called Pacific Park, with not-too-scary roller coasters and classic carnie rides that make a nice mix even for little ones. Then there are incomparable views from atop the pier’s solar-powered Ferris wheel. On weekends, you can join free historical walking tours to learn more about the pier, which dates to 1909. And then there are those simple pleasures-a creamy thick shake, a simple necklace of seashells-at snack shacks and trinket shops lining the pier. And there are the local fishermen adding color to the scene; hang out for a while and you’re bound to hear some good yarns and watch some slippery fish reeled in. Find out what those fish might be by heading under the pier (directly below the turn-of-the-20th-century wooden carousel), to the inviting Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, with some 100 species of fish and aquatic animals, and lots of family-friendly educational displays.
Take an African-style adventure in the Sonoma Valley. The sheer amount of African wildlife at this park will amaze even seasoned safari-goers. Giraffes, rhinos, zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, bongos and other incredible animals roam rolling hills and woodlands in this expansive park, a 1½-hour drive north of San Francisco. Dozens of birds also call the park home, including cranes, flamingoes, ostriches, and storks. Guests board small vehicles to tour the park with informative guides, and you really don’t know what will be around the next corner. Visitors of all ages also enjoy closer encounters with some of the park’s animals. For an unforgettable experience (families welcome), consider an overnight stay in an ultra-tricked-up safari-style tent, with plush beds, private bathrooms, and a natural soundtrack outside that’s straight out of the Serengeti.
All aboard this family favorite. This quarter-scale railroad park was the dream of Sonoma printer Stanley Frank. He filled the park’s 10 acres with scaled-down locomotives and train cars built as exact replicas of classic full-size versions, making TrainTown one of the most detailed sets of scaled trains in the country.
Santa Barbara wine country offers the wine-curious traveler an authentic experience all its own. An easy 45-minute drive over the hill, though, reveals rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see, and a quintessential wine country experience marked by world-class wine, cuisine and hospitality. Amidst a buzzing downtown scene, the urban wine scene is electric, with dozens of tasting rooms and working wineries peppering the city.
Tours & Classes
For more of a hands-on experience, treat yourself to a fun and educational cooking class or book a food or wine tour where you’ll go behind the scenes, meet the makers and find out why our restaurants and tasting rooms are so special.
The fantastic Spanish-Moorish-style Santa Barbara County Courthouse delights the eye with exuberant displays of brilliantly colored tiles and cinematic murals. Above it all the clock tower observation deck offers a spectacular panorama of the city, the mountains, and the harbor. Toward the hills are two pink-tinted towers of the centuries-Old Mission Santa Barbara, hailed as the “Queen of the Missions” for its iconic beauty. Along the way is the Presidio Neighborhood, named for the fort that became the heart of European settlement here.
Galleries & Gardens