Travel on holiday to the third biggest state in the US; it’s home to famous cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. The snow-capped peaks of Lake Tahoe in the north, and vast deserts of Southern California show just how diverse this part of the USA is. But wherever you go, one thing’s for sure; you’ll never be too far the laid-back beach life along the stunning coastline. Whether you’re travelling to the Golden State as a couple or with the family in tow, you’ll discover that the possibilities are practically endless on your California holidays. No wonder it’s one of the most popular destinations in the world!
Expect soaring highs in summer and mild daytime temperatures all year.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and San Diego International Airport (SAN). 12 Hours from the UK.
Set on a peninsula on California’s north-west coast, the famously hilly San Francisco has a distinctive ‘village’ feel. There’s a vibrant social and theatre scene here, and foodies should head to the wineries of Sonoma and Napa Valleys. In southern California is the glamorous Los Angeles, home of red carpets and golden sands – think Laguna Beach and the iconic Malibu Beach (which inspired Baywatch). Further south of LA is sunny San Diego, which borders Mexico. Delight the kids with nature theme parks such as SeaWorld and San Diego Zoo, and enjoy its lively cultural hub Balboa Park.
From San Francisco’s hotels it’s easy to explore this vibrant and unpretentious city on foot, or by quaint cable car. Hop aboard the ferry to Alcatraz, aka ‘The Rock’, to see its infamous prison-turned-nature reserve; shop and hang out in the popular Pier 39 leisure complex.
Nicknamed ‘La La Land’, this is the ultimate place for stargazers. Stroll from your Los Angeles hotel to the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard; enjoy a tour around Universal Studios Hollywood, the world’s biggest working film studio. At Griffith Observatory you can see stars of the celestial kind.
The 8th largest city in the USA and oldest in California, San Diego is great for families and day trips. The popular Balboa Park is the USA’s biggest cultural park, and home to arts venues, museums and San Diego Zoo; kids will love its Discovery Playground and Skyfari Aerial Tram.
Cosmopolitan cities and stunning beaches are all part of California holidays. You’ll find a wealth of sights and sounds in places like Los Angeles or San Francisco.The soft white sands of Malibu Beach and Ocean Beach are ideal for topping up your tan and there’s so much more to explore beyond. The Golden State in home to inspiring natural attractions, from lush green forests to vast orange desserts. And of course, there are plenty of theme parks to keep the little ones happy, such as the magical Disneyland® Park and fun-filled LEGOLAND®.
It’s always a great idea to visit at least one national park during your California holidays; they’re nothing short of epic. You’ll see incredible mountain views at the Yosemite Valley. Hop over the state line into Arizona and brave the incredible heat of at Death Valley, it’s renowned as the hottest place on Earth. Here, you can hike over the rocky Pinnacles and see Lassen’s volcanoes. Many of the state parks tend to be closer to urban centres, so the likes of Big Basin Redwoods near Santa Cruz, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park near the coast, are perfect for unforgettable daytrips into the great outdoors.
Holidays to California will delight the little ones as well as your inner child, because this state is home to theme parks galore. Head up to Anaheim in Orange County to meet the famous characters at the magical Disneyland® Park. Treat the family to tickets for LEGOLAND® and experience the water parks and rides. Love animals? San Diego Zoo is the place to go; the Skyfari Aerial Tram ride alone is well worth the price of admission. If you love movies, you won’t want to miss Universal Studios Hollywood. Explore the magic and excitement of a real-life movie studio, featuring animated characters, action heroes, roaring dinosaurs, and lots of other surprises.
Hit the beach
For many visitors, holidays to California are all about the beach. After all, this state boasts 1770km of fabulous coastline, dotted with sandy beaches and majestic cliffs. Looking for peace and quiet and romantic strolls? Head for San Francisco’s peaceful Ocean Beach. In Los Angeles, you’ll find the famous hangout Malibu Beach or The Bu as locals call it; it’s the place to go to spot off-duty celebs. In San Diego itself, Mission Beach comes complete with a classic boardwalk and a wooden rollercoaster; the friendly Moonlight Beach is ideal for families. You can also visit Laguna Beach, which sits between Los Angeles and San Diego, for a chilled and cultured vibe.
CALIFORNIA HOLIDAY RESORTS
Safety and Security
For up to date advice on travelling to California, please visit Safety and security - USA travel advice
California is best for...
Movie fans:Rub shoulders with off-duty A-listers when you head for glamorous Hollywood. Don’t miss the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard and Universal Studios Hollywood.
Families:You’ll have the chance to make childhood dreams come true in California’s epic theme parks. How about a trip to Disneyland Resort? You could do as the locals do, and head for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
Road trippers:Hire a car and drive along the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway and bring your all-American road trip to life. It’s up to you where you go next.
Language:The language spoken here is English.
Currency:You’ll need to get your holiday changed into American Dollars ($).
Local time:California is 8 hours behind GMT/UK time.
Fly to:LAX or San Francisco International Airport. Transfer times are 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Flight time from UK:The flight time to California is 11–12 hours.
Tourist information:More tourist information can be found here: Visit California.
Visa & health:Before heading off on your California holidays, visit USA travel advice for visa and health advice.
Weather and climate
Temperature:13 to 32 (°C).
Best time of year to visit:If you like it hot, visit in summer, when 32 (°C) temperatures are common.
Spring is a beautiful time of year for California holidays, with mild daytime temperatures that are ideal for exploring everything the Golden State has to offer. When summer comes around, you can cool off in the sea when it hits glorious highs of 32(°C). Looking for a more laid-back experience? Choose holidays to California in the autumn; this time of year is grape harvest season. If you’re planning some skiing, head for the mountains in winter and you’ll find plenty of snow. Temperatures vary from 8 (°C) in San Francisco to 15 (°C) in LA and San Diego in the peak winter season.
By bus/metro: It’s a cheap and efficient way to travel around in the San Francisco and Los Angeles and explore different parts of town.
By tram/train: You’ll find charming streetcars in San Francisco. Explore downtown San Diego on its bright red trolley.
By taxi: San Diego and San Francisco run metered taxis, but you can try asking for an estimate before you get in. Don’t forget about the 15% to 20% tip, it’s the thing to do here.
By hire car: Taking to the road will give you the freedom you need for a daytrip away from your hotel. If you’re planning on road-tripping, it’s the only way to do it properly.
By horse-drawn carriage: Carriages and pedicabs are a quirky way to take a trip down San Diego’s charming seafront.
Film festivals:On the must-see list are the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January, and September’s SoCal Independent Film Festival in Huntington Beach, Orange County.
Music and arts:The ultra-cool Coachella music and arts festival takes place in April. Look out for the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach from July to August, where clever performers and artists recreate artworks with staging, make-up and costumes.
Sports:Petrol-heads come to Fontana from all over the US and beyond to see the NASCAR Sprint Cup races in September. If you love your snow sports, head to Lake Tahoe for the US Freestyle Championships at the end of March every year.