Top 10 Ways to Fully Experience California

by Jonny Rowntree

The third largest state, California is home to one in eight Americans for a good reason. But there is a whole lot more to California than just beaches. It’s a great destination for outdoor pursuits and admiring some amazing natural wonders. Take a look at our list of ten ways to get the most out of your time to this great US state.

Golden Gate Bridge
A misty sunset makes the Golden Gate Bridge look even more golden and is just one of the ten stops that should be at the top of your list while studying abroad in California.

1. Surf in Orange County

Surfing is the quintessential Californian experience. Head to ‘The OC’ during the summer and fall months and you have got to give this a go. There are places for different abilities of surfers, for first-timers right up to professionals. Seek out Lower Trestles – a world famous spot that’s arguably the best surfing hang out in the state. 

2. Golden Gate Bridge 

Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge will make you feel like you’re in the midst of a Hollywood movie. Many visitors opt for a guided tour of the bridge, but you can even climb the cables to stand right on the top of this amazing structure if you dare. 

3. Drive Highway One 

Also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, this route is one of the most stunning driving tours in the world. Stretching along the West Coast from Northern California to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, the road runs through rugged cliffs, past white beaches, whale-filled ocean, and through the buzzing cities of San Francisco and San Diego. Hire an RV and do it in classic style. 

4. Yosemite National Park

This UNESCO World Heritage Site sprawls across 1,200 square miles of terrain. It’s a great spot to visit in all seasons – visitors hike in the summer and ice pick the glacier in the winter. There are 800 miles of trails and metal cables take you right up to the highest peaks of the park. Key attractions are the Yosemite Falls, the views from Glacier Point, the giant sequoia groves and the iconic granite Half Dome. 

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

5. Disneyland

Located in Anaheim, this popular offshoot of the classic Florida theme park is just as enjoyable for kids and adults alike. The original Disneyland Park is coupled up with the new Disney California Adventure Park, with loads of new rides and entertainment on the boardwalk. There are three hotels within the resort if you want to stay on-site. 

6. Ski Lake Tahoe

One of the world’s most majestic ski and snowboard locations, the runs of Lake Tahoe offer glimpses across the sparkling blue waters of the lake and tons of powder. There are some challenging runs here and even outside of ski season, it’s a beautiful place to visit for hiking and sightseeing. 

7. Raft the Kings River

If you’re looking for an adrenalin hit then why not sign up for a white water tour of California’s Kings River? It’s a Class 3 river – ideal for beginners and intermediate rafters, and surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. A variety of operators provide one and two day trips for an unforgettable experience and camping under the Californian stars.

8. Drinking in the Napa Valley

Encompassing hundreds of wineries, this is one of the most famous New World wine regions. Along with top-notch wine goes awesome food, and there are plenty of fine dining restaurants to tickle your taste buds during a stay here. Walking and biking tours – or even a hot air balloon ride – are the way to get around whilst still being able to sample the wines and the gorgeous scenery as you go.

Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park

9. Check out the Redwoods

A classic part of California’s natural heritage is these grand old trees. Take a trip to the Redwood National Park to get up close to the tallest trees in the world. While you’re here, the park also features a long coastline which is ideal for spotting marine life and grey whales. 

10. Watch a baseball game

San Francisco is a fun city, famous for its liberal stance and history of fighting for gay rights. There’s a ton of things to see and do here, but a classic part of the American experience is to head to a baseball game. Choose the Giants or Oakland Athletics and don’t bother reading up on home runs and fly balls before you go – no one needs to understand this game to enjoy the atmosphere.