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California
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California - Attractions

Carmel, California - Pebble Beach © Ronnie Allen/USATourist.com
The warm tropical beaches and surf of Southern California draws many sun-loving vacationers to this state.

California is blessed with a unique geological landscape that offers a wide array of scenic attractions and a variety of climates. It has sandy beaches and rugged rocky coasts, bountiful farmlands, barren deserts, dense forests and snowcapped mountain peaks. It is a favorite tourist destination for US natives as well as world travelers.

The warm tropical beaches and surf of Southern California draws many sun-loving vacationers to this state. Los Angeles, that great multi-cultural metropolis with its glamorous suburbs of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, attracts shoppers and sightseers, while the picturesque charm and beauty of San Francisco makes it a tourist favorite. The spectacular beauty of the rugged coastline at Big Sur, the alpine splendor of Yosemite Valley, the impressive grandeur of the giant Sequoia forests all combine to make this one of the favorite vacation destinations for hikers, bikers, campers, wilderness backpackers, skiers and just plain tourists. Here are a few of the most popular tourist attractions in California.

Los Angeles

A large cosmopolitan center along the southern coast of California is the second largest city in the USA. Los Angeles is really a conglomeration of many smaller communities that have combined into one large metropolis with a diverse multicultural population and an interesting variety of neighborhoods. The most famous LA communities are Hollywood, home of the movie studios, and Beverly Hills, home of the movie stars. The Southern California surfing communities of Santa Monica Beach, Venice Beach and Redondo Beach lie on the western edge of the city, and the original Disneyland is located in the community of Anaheim.

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge © Ronnie Allen / USATourist.com
San Francisco is famous for the Golden Gate Bridge and its antique cable cars that ascend steeply inclined streets lined with grand old Victorian houses.

San Francisco

This northern California city lies about 400 miles up the coast from Los Angeles and is considered to be one of the most picturesque cities in the USA. It is situated on a series of hills overlooking a vast blue bay nestled among the coastal mountains. San Francisco is famous for the Golden Gate Bridge and its antique cable cars that ascend steeply inclined streets lined with grand old Victorian houses. It is very near the magnificent coastal scenery of the Marin headlands and is not far from the world famous technology district known as "Silicon Valley".

San Diego

Located at the extreme southern end of the coast near the Mexican border, San Diego is known for its exceptionally pleasant climate and warm tropical beaches. With less traffic and congestion than its colossal neighbor, Los Angeles, this city offers a more relaxing atmosphere. San Diego has one of the best zoological parks in the world. It is located only a few miles from the Mexican border town of Tijuana.

Palm Springs

The town of Palm Springs, in a desert valley 100 miles east of Los Angeles, has long been the winter hideaway for movie stars and wealthy Californians drawn to its year round sunshine and warmth. It contains numerous golf courses, upscale shops and classy restaurants catering to the affluent visitors.

Palm Springs: Golf Course & Mountains © Ronnie Allen / USATourist.com
Palm Springs contains numerous golf courses, upscale shops and classy restaurants catering to the affluent visitors.

California Wine Country

As the largest producer of wine in the USA, California has established a reputation for fine wines. Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, located about 50 miles north of San Francisco, are the most recognized wine growing regions. The Central Coast Area from Monterey to Santa Barbara is nearly as famous, and a number of lesser-known wine growing districts are scattered throughout the state. Many wineries are open to the public for free tours and free wine tastings.

Big Sur

The California Coast extending for about 100 miles south from Monterrey is known as Big Sur. Here, the Coastal Mountains dip their feet directly into the Pacific Ocean to form some magnificent scenery with sea cliffs, rocky headlands and tiny beaches tucked into secluded inlets. Highway 1, hugging the slopes of the mountainside, offers exquisite vistas at every turn.

Death Valley

Located about 150 miles east of Los Angeles near the Nevada border, Death Valley contains some of the most desolate scenery in the USA. This narrow flat basin situated amid parched barren mountains often experiences daytime temperatures above 140 degrees F and is nearly devoid of life. Yet, the austere arid landscape with its multicolored rock formations and its gleaming white salt flats is strangely beautiful.

Joshua Tree National Park

Located just east of Palm Springs, this park preserves the curious flora and fauna of the Mojave desert country including many thousands of the strange looking Joshua tree. It is relatively unknown and draws few visitors except for serious rock climbers and campers.

Joshua Tree National Park © Ronnie Allen / USATourist.com
Joshua Tree National Park preserves the curious flora and fauna of the Mojave desert country including many thousands of the strange looking Joshua tree.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

These twin wilderness preserves are situated in the Sierra Nevada Mountains midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Less popular than Yosemite and less crowded, they offer some of the best hiking, backpacking and wilderness exploration in the state.

Yosemite National Park

A vast alpine preserve, known for its exquisitely beautiful Yosemite Valley, is located about 150 miles east of San Francisco in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The glacially eroded vale is only 12 miles long and less than one mile wide but has 2000 feet-high walls of sheer granite with nine waterfalls cascading over a thousand feet down its sides including the 2400 feet-high Yosemite Falls. This immensely popular attraction is a favorite for sightseers, backpackers and rock climbers.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: Santa Barbara beach