California Things To Do

Top fun things to do in California! We have endless ideas for Northern and Southern California activities, travel, families, couples, or anyone. Beach California is the best free online planning resource. See also our comprehensive Things To Do listings of all California cities and counties and the restaurants, shopping, entertainment and recreation they have to offer!


1. Take a cruise along the coast. You can hop on a Holiday cruise ship or Viking Serenade out of the Port of Los Angeles at San Pedro. There are a variety of excursions providing opportunities to see the Baja California coastline in just a few days time. Or travel to distant lands if you like. Cruises also depart the Port of Long Beach.


2.  Shop 290 malls  (Malls) and districts such as upscale at Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica or South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. There's cool stuff at The Block in Orange or Irvine Spectrum, outlet shopping in Pismo Beach, Oxnard and a variety of other spots or enjoy the incredible antique meccas of Summerland, Orange and Carlsbad


3. The Old West lives in California. From the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, Old Town San Diego, Old Sacramento and  Gold Country ghost towns to Knotts Berry Farm gun battles and stagecoach rides, you'll think you've gone to cowboy heaven. Stagecoach museums in Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara are top notch. And miners and old timers still pan for gold in dem dar hills, believe it or not.


4. Aquariums stretch along the coast and include Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Six Flags Marine World, Steinhart Aquarium at California Academy of Sciences  San Francisco,  Monterey Bay Aquarium Monterey  (pictured), Cabrillo Marine Aquarium  San Pedro,  Steven Birch Aquarium-Museum  La Jolla,  Sea World of California San Diego, Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and  Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab & Aquarium in Manhattan Beach.

5. How many of the 405 wineries can you visit in a day? Full list  More than half of them offer free tastings with others charging from $1 to $5.50.  Napa and Sonoma are home to half the state's wineries while the Central Coast is gaining fast with 55  wineries and tasting rooms. Don't miss the romance of California County wineries such as Byron Vineyards & Winery, Chateau Julien, Foxen Vineyard, Laetitia Winery & Vineyard and the wineries of Napa  to name some. Also found along the coast are micro breweries offering specialty beers.


6. Smell those fabulous California flowers.   More than 60% of all domestically grown, commercially sold, cut flowers are produced in California.  Over 5,000 acres are devoted to commercial growing of fresh cut flowers with San Diego dominating the flowers and foliage crops yield at 49% of the state total (more statistics). From Carlsbad to Carpinteria to Lompoc, enjoy colorful fields of poinsettias, sweet peas, ranunculus and poppies, to name a few. Viewing is seasonal so call these cities' visitor bureaus or chambers before you go looking. 


7.  Foodies are a demographic of people who travel for the love of a good meal. More than 45 percent of today's food dollar is spent away from home and that number goes up when you travel. There are nearly 74,000 restaurants and bars in California with top chefs vying for top hat in the California dining market. Everything under the sun can be found, but most interesting is the mix of cultural styles and food preparations seen in California cuisine. Photo of  TV food personality Mary Sue Milliken.  Photo of desert at Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage.


8. Sunbathe at one of California's 418 coastal beaches spanning 1,100 miles.  Some are operated by the State of California, some are controlled by counties and others are within the city limits of approximately 100 beach cities. 


9. Snorkel & dive or take a glass bottom boat tour at Catalina Island underwater park. Take one of the scuba trips out to the open sea near many of California's scattered islands. Nearly every coastal town has scuba gear and many offer excursions for licensed divers. Here are some coastal favorites: a world-renown underwater preserve at Scripps Institute in La Jolla, kelp forests at Anacapa Island, Fort Ross State Historic Park for abalone diving and Point Lobos, Monterey preserves at Whalers and Bluefish Coves. 


10.  Amusement parks await those who can't get enough fun.  Visit Knotts Berry Farm, which features  the 30-story ride on Supreme Scream (left). It blasts you back down in a three second adrenaline rush. Then there's the world's tallest and steepest water ride called Perilous Plunge. It is guaranteed to soak you but for a day of "wet and wild", go across the street to Soak City.  New and unique is Bonfante Gardens in Gilroy.  Classic Disneyland, and the new California Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood and City Walk,   Sea World, Legoland for children, Six Flags Marine World and Magic Mountain, Great America's Goliath and several other major attractions mean that you better give yourself two weeks to see all of them. California also has 19 professional ball and hockey teams, more than any other state!


11. There are 21 missions in California which include Mission San Luis Rey, Carmel Mission, Mission Santa Barbara and Mission San Juan Capistrano.  They provide a  historical displays of early California. Many are near the beach, following the trail of the Camino Real which Spanish  padres took in establishing a foothold in California. See the full list of missions


12.  Sunsets range from golden and warm to cool pink and blue hues. Why we see  these colors.  Whatever the view, they all set over the beautiful Pacific Ocean, framed by buildings, piers, palm trees and long stretches of beach.  Please don't miss a California Beach Sunset.  It is a sight to behold. You might even consider getting married or renewing your vows at one of California's beautiful sunset beach spots.  In most cities, you can make reservations for a park location. Here is a Sunrise and Sunset Calculator which tells you the precise time the sun is setting.


13.  Skating, blading & skateboarding is a breeze on more than 100 miles of paved ocean paths. 22-mile long Venice Beach path in the Los Angeles South Bay region is known as the "in-line skating capital of the world." There are numerous free public skateparks visitors bring their skateboards with them to enjoy. The biggest skate park in the U.S. is Vans Skate at the Block in Orange and one of the nicest parks we've seen at the beach is  Skater's Point in Santa Barbara


14. There are 26 Lighthouses including Alcatraz, Anacapa Island, Battery Point, East Brother, Fort Point, LA Harbor (Angels Gate),  Montara, Old Point Loma,  Oxnard Harbour, Piedras Blancas, Pigeon Point, Point Arena, Point Bonita, Point Cabrillo, Point Fermin, Point Loma, Point Montara, Point Pinos, Point Reyes, Point Sur Lightstation, Point Vicente, Port Hueneme, Punta Gorda, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, and St George lighthouse.


15.  Bird watching at  Bolsa Chica wetlands in Huntington Beach. It provides 1700 acres of habitat, 1100 of which are wetlands supporting at least four endangered species of birds.  Upper Newport Bay is a 880-acre State Ecological Preserve  home to up to 30,000 birds including six endangered species. The San Joaquin Freshwater Marsh Reserve, is a 202-acre wetland adjacent to University of California Irvine. 


16. There are close to 100 Piers in California (some on this web site).  A public pier is a publicly owned manmade structure that has the following characteristics: is connected above the mean high tide to the main coastline or to the land mass of a named and charted natural island; has unrestricted free access for the general public; and has been built or currently functions for the primary purpose of allowing angling access to ocean waters.  Wonderful for strolling on to watch the ocean, they also are popular spots where you can fish without a permit


17. Embrace the Surfing culture. Visit Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, California Surf Museum in Oceanside or Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. With the  best waves on the mainland USA, surfboard manufacturers, surf magazines, surf clothing, statues, music, high school surf teams and legends of surfing (old timers), the sport is everywhere. Watch surfers every day of the year along the coast. 


18. Boats & Ships such as the Queen Mary Ship in Long Beach harbor, Star of India in San Diego where military ships in port are often available for touring, nautical museums in San Francisco, Sacramento, Newport Beach and Dana Point and at other locations provide historical  information. Harbor museums such as the San Pedro Maritime Museum are interesting and great spots for souvenir hunting with their gift shops. Long Beach, California is home to the largest municipal public harbor for private docking. Kayaks, row boats, peddlers, motor boats, yacht charters, marinas, gondola rides and whale watching, fishing and scuba diving trips are available up and down the coast. 


19.Zoo camps at Santa Ana Zoo, safaris at San Diego Wild Animal Park and world class zoo facilities range from hillside views of the Pacific Ocean at Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens to hillside views of the city at Los Angeles Zoo.  Dozens of zoos throughout the state offer train rides, tram rides, sky rides and more. Two rated as "Top Ten" choices for the United States include San Diego Zoo, was voted best in the US by Family Fun Magazine, and San Diego Wild Animal Park.
See list of zoos, addresses and information.


20. Celebrate California's cultural diversity evident in San Francisco's Chinese New Year Parade which attracted over 850,000 this year. Los Angeles Little Tokyo region and Spanish Olivera Street, Garden Grove and Westminster's Little Saigon, and the Spanish culture at Mission San Juan Capistrano's annual Return of the Swallows and other events  throughout the state. 


21. Back to nature experiences are within reach and allow guests to enjoy the outdoors and scenic beauty of the coast at California's state parks. Your timing couldn't be better as price cuts for 146 parks, beaches, museums, campgrounds and boating facilities began in  July 2000. From Hearst Castle $4 per person reduction, to free boat launching, you can now afford to visit more than one park in a day and even have money to stay overnight.  State Parks list.


22. Horse back riding tours are available in Huntington Beach, on Big Bear Lake mountain paths, Carmel Valley Ranch nature preserve, Pismo's sandy beaches, Catalina Island, Bodega Bay and at Ricochet Ridge Ranch (707-964-7669) in Ft. Bragg. Polo is popular in Montecito, horse racing  wins in Los Alamitos, Santa Anita and Del Mar and even the Olympic equestrian competitions can be seen in Coto de Caza from time to time. 


23. The Car is a friend in California and virtually anywhere you go you can find car rentals. Museums are plentiful and include Deer Park Market &  Vintage Car Museum  Escondido, Firehouse Museum  San Diego, J. Paul Getty Museum  Malibu, Pacific Coast Dream Machines  Halfmoon Bay,  Peterson Automotive Museum  Los Angeles, San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park, Vintage Museum of  Transportation Oxnard and  Toyota Museum  of Torrance. Here is the list with addresses. Numerous cities hold Concours d'Elegance celebrations.


24. Beach volleyball is a unique sport played in the sand with audiences close at hand.  10 years ago you would be hard pressed to find permanent nets on the beach but polls and nets are a fixture now. The Association of Volleyball Professionals and Beach Volleyball America are the heavyweights for sand competition. Public sand play is free at most beaches with balls available for rent at some concessions. 


25.  Jet Ski  at Mission Bay, San Diego, Redondo Beach, Long Beach harbor, Belmont Shore, Big Bear Lake, Carlsbad, Catalina Island, Newport Beach bay and just about any place where the water's not too rough and local regulations allow the sport. Pictured is the ocean at Mussel Shoals


26. The movie's the thing in California where everyone wants to try their hand at acting. 30-screen movie theaters, IMAX shows and specialty houses with foreign films are abundant.  Location shoots are always happening somewhere but for guaranteed entertainment, see a studio filming. Here's a list of a few famous movie locations. Mann's Chinese Theater, Hollywood Entertainment Museum, Paramount Studios, television show tapings, Universal Studios Hollywood and the Walk of Fame.

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