Hidden Travel Gems of California

Beyond the typical tourist haunts of San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles, along with its major national parks, such as, Yosemite and Redwood, there are many locations in this state worthy of the traveler’s attention and time. From north to south California is blessed with a wealth of beautiful natural areas and cities and town which sparkle with charm and character.

Santa Barbara — Just north of Los Angeles is a delightful urban area with red roofs, a thriving Arts community, and a considerable dose of history.

Mission Santa Barbara

Solvang  — A mini-version of Denmark is accessible just north of Santa Barbara. The predominantly Danish community has contrived to duplicate their homeland and to parade it for visitors on a daily basis.

A Street in Solvang

Monterey Bay — Just south of San Francisco is a world which revolves around the sound and fury of a rocky coastline.

Lone Cypress

Muir Woods — This enclave of stately redwoods is dedicated to the famous naturalist, John Muir, who spent so much time documenting California’s gorgeous natural areas.

Giant Redwoods

Redding — The non-descript town of Redding has little to recommend it from a tourist standpoint, except for its unique and unusual Sundial Bridge.

Giant Sundial

Sonoma — Wine Country has become a popular region of California and now has a well-developed tourist base with numerous lodging options and restaurants catering to those who frequent wine-tasting facilities throughout the area. I eschew Napa, the largest town in the region, for Sonoma, a lovely town which offers a quieter charm.

Town Hall, Sonoma

Point Reyes National Seashore — This wild and untamed section of California coast has been preserved for future generations by its “national” designation. It is a popular day trip for San Franciscans.

Point Reyes National Seashore

California has a number of lesser-known national parks which travelers often overlook in favor of the bigger names.

Lassen Volcanic National Park — This park features Lassen Peak, one of a number of active volcanoes which run north to south from Washington into California, parallel to the coastline.

Lassen Peak

Death Valley National Park — This eerie, otherworldly landscape has been preserved as the largest national park in the continental United States. It is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, almost 300 feet below sea level.


Lake Tahoe — Very popular with Californians, this beautiful mountain lake is a four-season vacation destination. However, it is certainly less well known to travelers from elsewhere in the US and beyond.

Lake Tahoe

San Juan Capistrano — Famous as the place that swallows return to, this charming community is a lovely town to spend several hours exploring.

San Juan Capistrano

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park — Just south of Carmel, along the Pacific Coast Highway, is one of my favorite state parks in the entire United States. The setting is positively spectacular, with a waterfall spilling onto a beach which is part of a semi-circular cove.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park


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