California is one of the favorite tourist destinations in the USA. The mind-blowing variety of land-relief, the burgeoning economy, the cultural plenty, and the alluring lifestyle bring a number of tourists every year.
Sacramento: The capital of California State, Sacramento, is located in the rich and fertile Central Valley region. Founded in 1839 by John Sutter, Sacramento grew during the Gold Rush and became one of the main supply centers for the forty-niners. Later, Sacramento grew in importance as the western headquarters of the first transcontinental railroad. In your visit to Old Sacramento you are sure to relive the history of the city. The riverfront is dotted with a number of souvenir shops. The warehouses and wharfs of Old Sacramento are now restaurants and shops, but the ambience is one that is sure to evoke the frenzied passions of the days when gold prospectors came here and dreamt of untold riches. Eagle Theater in Sacramento is California's oldest theater. The city has a number of cultural centers and performing arts theaters which make it a favorite with the culturally inclined tourists. You may catch a musical performance at the California Musical Theater or if you are a theater buff visiting Sacramento in July-August, do make it to the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival. The California State Railroad Museum is of interest to children and adults alike and showcases the state's rail history as witnessed by this city. Stutter's Fort State Historic Park exhibits the city's historic relics from the days of the Gold Rush.
MapsofWorld Tips: The Sacramento News & Reviews is a popular and free-of-cost weekly that lists the city's hip parties, cultural performances, live music, and nightlife. Well worth a read.
Los Angeles: With a population of over 3.8 million settlers, Los Angeles is the second largest city in the USA. The 'Angelenos', as the inhabitants are called, are such an eclectic mix that the city is a multi-hued canvas assimilating various races, cultures, and ethnicities. The city's cosmopolitanism is perhaps its greatest identity. It is with good reason that Los Angeles is called the "Creative Capital of the World". Almost one sixth of the city's working population is employed in the creative industry. Hollywood, in Los Angeles, in home to the world of cinema and is recognized as the premier film industry of the world.
Downtown LA is the very soul of the city. The Plaza square in the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Park is reminiscent of the old town that Los Angeles was, quite a contrast to the metropolis of today. La Placita, the church at the Plaza still hold mass four times everyday. The olde worlde charm of Los Angeles is quite evident in this locale which houses the Avila Adobe, the city's oldest mansion. The Chinese American Museum was established to nourish the sentiments of the residents of Chinatown, located a few blocks away. The LA Civic Center, located south of the Plaza houses the City Hall, the Disney Hall, and Our Lady of the Angels church. Quite near the Civic Center is the Los Angeles Times office. The newspaper is the largest daily in circulation on the West Coast. The Times office offers tours for visitors.
Te grandeur of Bunker Hill transformed with the growth of Los Angeles, and now the Financial District locale stands for the chic offices and expensive condos. The Museum of Contemporary Art, on Grand Avenue displays the work of emerging local talents. While the Wells Fargo Museum is Los Angeles' attempt to preserve the heady memories of the Gold Rush, the Japanese American National Museum is the attempt of Little Tokyo's inhabitants at preserving their religion and culture. Broadway, also in downtown Los Angeles, is the iconic locale synonymous with theater, glamour, and shopping.
Hollywood is the name that stirs dreams. This Los Angeles locale houses a number of theaters such as the Kodak Theater, studios such as the famous Paramount Studios, and museums such as the Hollywood History Museum preserve the glamour and prestige of the film industry. The Hollywood Entertainment Museum is also well worth a visit. Those who have enjoyed the Wild West movies of Hollywood may wish to check out the Museum of the American West. For tourists wanting to give their children an educational tour of the city, the LA Zoo and Griffith Observatory at Griffith Park are the best bet.
The prime attraction of West LA is the Museum Row. As the name suggests the street is lined with a number of museums including the Craft and Folk Art Museum, the George C Page Museum, and the Petersen Automotive Museum.
A visit to the city of Los Angeles is incomplete without a visit to Disneyland in Orange County. Disneyland takes about forty-five minutes from Los Angeles city if you drive down the Santa Anna Freeway. The rides and dream settings make it a favorite with children and adults alike.
Los Angeles has over a 1000 theaters and music, art, and drama is at the heart of the city's cultural life. The city's many orchestras and music groups perform round the year. Do tune in to one of these mellifluous concerts when in LA.
MapsofWorld Trivia: "Hotel California", the Eagles' single was released in February 1977 and has been a global favorite ever since. In Don Henley's own words, the song is "our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles". The song depicts the excesses in lifestyle consequent to the "Hippie" movement and exposes the nightmares of being trapped in drug abuse. In the Howard Stern Show, Don Felder refers to the inspiration - a drive into LA at night, the lights in the horizon, and the images of Hollywood.
San Francisco: The City of San Francisco is the 4th largest city in California, in terms of its population. The city is also a county by itself. It is the second most densely populated city in the USA and a veritable melting point for cultures. San Francisco has long been the center of liberal activism and cultural movements in the United States. The city is known as the Gay Capital of the world. San Francisco is known for its hip culture, its summer fog, the perfect blend of colonial and contemporary architecture, the Golden Gate Bridge, its commercial wealth, and urban lifestyle.
Union Square is the heart of San Francisco. High shopping, cable cars, theaters, and art centers, boutiques and stores and the general buzz reflect the spirit of the city. Theater District is the hub of tourist and cultural activity. The Financial District of San Francisco was almost entirely rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake wreck. It is indeed at the heart of the commercial enterprises carried out in the city. The Wells Fargo History Museum is certain to give you an insight into the city's economic history and as if to substantiate this claim the Bank of America headquarters nearby, displays its architectural and financial prowess. The immigration of Asians has resulted in the growth of communities such as Chinatown in San Francisco.
Chinatown is the largest settlement of the Chinese outside China, with the exception of their settlement in New York. Grant Avenue promises a true picture of the attempts of these settlers at recreating their native lifestyle and the eateries, souvenir shops, and tourist centers are reminiscent of Hong Kong. Stockton Street is the best place to buy Chinese herbs and other ingredients that go into cooking an authentic Chinese meal. To explore more of this incredible settlement you may head towards Waverly Place. The three Chinese temples of Waverly Palace remain places of worship for the Asians of this locality. The culturally inclined tourist will find North Beach and its famous City Lights Bookstore very appealing. Further north, up Columbus Plaza are the bistros and cafes that were the attractive drug-joints of the hippie days. Despite their erstwhile disrepute, it is widely acknowledged that the artists, poets, and youth who make the Beat movement a revolutionary success frequented these locales and contributed to the popular culture of the times. There are a pronounced number of Italian settlers in this area. Those exploring San Francisco on foot will find a visit to Lombard Street and Macondray Lane well worth a visit. San Francisco's Civic Center stands out as a bizarre contrast to the adjoining SoMa district and in fact to the city itself. The City Hall and United Nations Plaza impress with their grandeur. The gold dome of the plaza and the tours on offer never fails to catch the attention of the casual tourist.
The Mission is a locale of much interest, primarily due to its easy ambience, abundance of bookstores and Mexican restaurants. Mission Dolores enchants with its beautiful murals and arches and takes one back, in a rather snug unobtrusive manner to the Spanish missionary endeavors. Not for nothing is San Francisco known as the LGBT capital. A trip to the posh locales of the Castro is quite enough to provide one a glimpse of the gay scene in the city and indeed, the entire state. The bars and hangouts, the chic shops and immaculately dressed residents quickly make every tourist to the locale fall in love with the ease and comfortable culture. The love that went into fashioning "The Quilt" emphasizes San Francisco's love of its inhabitants, irrespective of race, creed, sex, and sexual orientation. A visit to the Japanese Tea Garden near the Golden Gate Park is enough to take one away from the madding bustle of the city and Haight-Ashbury is just right for a leisurely stroll with a loved one. A trip to the many enterprises of Fisherman's Wharf, the snobbish, swanky locales of Nob Hill, a drive across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and you would have savored the all-encompassing variety and inclusive spirit of San Francisco.
MapsofWorld Trivia: And you thought Azkaban was the scariest prison? Alcatraz prison on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay was reserved for the country's most wanted criminals. In its 29 year history as high-security federal prison, not a single prisoner is recorded to have escaped. Kept in complete and madding isolation, the prisoners were kept in rather inhuman conditions. The very name of Alcatrez struck fear in the hearts of hardened criminals.
San Diego: Popularly called "Sandy Ego", due to the presence of white-sand beaches, sunny climatic conditions, and popular tourist attractions, San Diego is the second largest city in the state of California, in terms of population. Located on the Pacific Coast of southern California, San Diego is the hub of research and technological studies and industries in the state. Balboa Park in downtown San Diego houses a number of museums including the famous San Diego Museum of Art. Other museums in the Balboa Park are the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Mingei International Museum of Folk Art, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Man, the Timkin Museum of Art, and the Museum of San Diego History. The park encloses the Japanese Friendship Garden, a beautiful garden and the San Diego Zoo. The Belmont Amusement Park and the Sea World are other tourist attractions of San Diego that record a high footfall. The old world charm of Old Town San Diego and the colonial architecture of Presidio Hill make the locales well worth a visit. Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are very attractive to the adventure tourists. Tourmaline Surfing Park and Windansea Beach are surfers' delights. La Jolla, north of San Diego is a beach community and the La Jolla Cove here provides for snorkeling. Further yet, is the Stephen Birch Aquarium and Museum. A trip to this museum provides families with young children the opportunity to enjoy an educational picnic.
MapsofWorld Tips: When in San Diego, do indulge in a safari to the nearby Anza-Borego Desert. It is the largest desert state park in the country. Winters are a safe bet when it comes to visiting this state park but the spring months bring the wildlife out of their hibernation and the desert becomes a living entity.
Santa Barbara: A popular tourist city in California, Santa Barbara is often called the 'American Riviera'. The beaches of Santa Barbara are among the most beautiful in the state. Clean and golden sands and a warm if slightly humid climate, and romantic views have earned the city this name. Santa Barbara, as it is now, was rebuilt after the city was wrecked by a devastating earthquake in 1925. The city was planned to reflect its colonial history and the Spanish influence on the architecture of the region. Mission Santa Barbara is a perfect example of the beautiful blend of Spanish style and Romanesque design as found in the architecture of the locales. Accentuating the history of the city are the numerous museums such as the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Museum of Natural History. August is the ideal month to visit Santa Barbara, for it is in this month that the annual festival, called the Fiesta is held with much pomp and merrymaking. The Summer Solstice Parade is another annual event hosted by the city that is enjoyed immensely by the tourists and locals alike. The parade is held amidst a number of street performances, parties, and fancy dressing events.
Santa Cruz: Seventy miles south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz is another popular destination with the tourists of California because of the pristine long stretch of beaches and natural beauty. Mystique is added by Mystery Spot, where legends of Druidic worship and New Age religious practices entice the adventurous. Natural Bridges State Beach and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, besides being popular tourist attractions are often the venues that host the 'Miss California' pageant. Cowell Beach is your ideal destination if you are looking for adventure sports while the city's Surfing Museum can provide you the inspiration. West Cliff Drive and Steamer Lane are the locales that photographers seek out, since they are known for their spectacular views. The biggest wave, the perfect sunset, the beautiful coastline, and relatively virgin beaches make for the perfect pictures. McPherson Center for Art and History was founded in 1992 and a visit to this 20,000 square feet center is well worth a visit. Art enthusiasts may wish to visit the Santa Cruz Art League Galleries. With a bit of luck you are likely to find an interesting display here. The Santa Cruz Film Festival, the Shakespeare Festival of Santa Cruz and Open Studios Art Tour are popular cultural events that attract a number of visitors from all parts of the country.
San Jose: Nicknamed, Capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose is one of the oldest cities in California. The Spanish settlement, El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe, was founded in 1977. Its location in the Santa Clara valley gave San Jose the advantage of being an agricultural hub. But the growth of high-tech business in the Silicon Valley has quickly transformed San Jose into a commercial center and home to many corporations. San Jose is a city for those who like an active vacation. Winchester Mystery House is just right to lend the otherwise urban locale an air of eerie calm. Read up the building's history to enjoy your visit. The Rosicrucian Museum is the right place to check out Babylonian objets d'art. A trip to the Tech Museum of Innovation, downtown San Jose is a great learning experience. San Jose is a sports enthusiast's paradise. Besides finding like-minded company, you are likely to catch the professional sports teams playing in one of the city's many stadia. Soccer fans never fail to discuss the highlights of the last San Jose Earthquakes match. The National Premier Soccer League local favorite is Real San Jose. Hockey fans follow the San Jose Sharks and baseball enthusiasts worship the San Jose Giants.
MapsofWorld Tips: The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum offers Junior Archaeologist training programs for children aged 5 to 17. The museum also organizes scavenger hunts and weekend workshops, a sure hit with both children and parents and an educational weekend spent in San Jose.
Lake Tahoe: Lake Tahoe is a major tourist destination in California and every year a large number of visitors flock to Tahoe City to take advantage of the many adventure sports options available here. Heavenly Valley, Squaw Valley, Homewood, Echo Summit, Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood, and Sierra Ranch are among the better-known ski resorts in Lake Tahoe. Most of them have various ski courses for the novice, beginner, and experts. Skiing equipment is available on rent as well. For those less enthusiastic about adventure sports, guided cruises are the perfect option. The beauty of the lake and the Sierra Nevada are captivating. Sailboat racing is another interesting activity at Tahoe. Scuba diving is another favorite activity. Tourists are warned that scuba diving at Tahoe is not for the novice. The rugged trails of the Sierra Nevada draw tourists for another reason. These make perfect hiking and cycling trails. The Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165 mile course that allows the cyclist to circumnavigate the entire like is preferred by most. The Eagle Lake Trailhead and the Granite Chief Wilderness are expeditions by themselves.
MapsofWorld Tips: Ski resorts at Lake Tahoe rent skis for about $30. Travel light and forget your bulky equipment at home.
Yosemite National Park: The Yosemite National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The national park was founded in 1890 and encompasses the most stunning wilderness of Sierra Nevada. The Yosemite National Park is home to some amazing and beautiful species of animals and plants. The numerous waterfalls, natural springs, and thicketed forests of the region make it a favorite with nature lovers. El Captain, Glacier Point, Half Dome, Mariposa Grove, and Mirror Lake are some of the major attractions of this national park. Bears, bobcats, cougars, foxes, marmots, deer, and skinks are some of the animals found here. Their natural habitat is preserved and the beautiful flowers of the park provide colorful settings.
Joshua Tree National Park: In the mood for a desert Safari? The Joshua Tree National Park is the right place to be. The Colorado Desert is lower in elevation than the Mojave Desert and this national park is located at the intersection of both. The Joshua trees are not trees, say scientists, but are a form of overgrown desert shrubs. A safari to the Joshua Tree Natural Park is best undertaken at sunrise or at sunset. At other times, the variance in desert temperature is high and midday can get exceptionally hot. Hiking trails are organized to the Fortynine Palm Oasis. It is recommended that you be accompanied by a local or a guide to ensure safety. The beautiful features of the Wonderland of Rocks and the Hidden Valley are a wonder to behold. Photographers love this national park.
Californians take immense pride in their state. They are known for their enterprising attitude, love for travel, culture, and education. The state's economic growth and increased demands of the markets across the USA led to the development of an extensive network of multi-lane expressways and freeways. With the Californians love for travel and movement the state has seen a boom in its automobile culture and currently is among the regions of the world with the greatest automobile concentration.
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is an architectural marvel and was the longest suspension bridge when its construction was completed, in the year 1937. Hollywood, the land of dreams is a glamour paradise of millions across the globe. With all this and much more, California is well worth many visits. The state is one of the favorite tourist destinations drawing the attention of the world.