Whenever California is mentioned, people often think of Hollywood, celebrities and the Golden Gate Bridge. Famous cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles are often the first places your mind goes when thinking of the Golden State.
Perhaps even images of leggy blondes in tiny swimsuits on the beach and tanned surfer guys, images which are reinforced by Hollywood movies since the beginning of time.
However, the state has more to offer than the usual tourist traps.
There are several wonderful gems in California that are just waiting to be discovered!
I have put together a list of places that are often overlooked by tourists. If you are searching for something unique, you won’t want to miss these hidden gems.
Spend some time getting to know the real California that is rich in natural resources and history.
This list will give you an entirely new appreciation of the state, glitz, and glamour aside.
So be prepared to be awed and don’t forget to bring your camera along for Instagram-worthy pictures.
Download the Skyscanner app and set up alerts to any city in the world. I have about 30 different alerts set up at a time and whenever a price drops I get notified. Thanks to Skyscanner I booked a roundtrip ticket from Miami to London (no layovers) for less than $350, when the regular price was over $600!!
Discover the Best Kept Secrets Of California
Redwoods in Arcata
Situated in Humboldt County and a five-hour drive north of San Francisco, Arcata is just in proximity of Arcata Bay and is also the home of Humboldt University.
An erstwhile logging town, it has thrived and transformed itself into a charming university town.
However, very few people stop to pay this charming place a visit and they just didn’t know what they were missing.
One of the place’s biggest attractions is its proximity to the Redwoods National Forest. Those who visit will be treated to the sight of the bay on one side, with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, and on the other side, they will see the majestic redwoods.
The expansive coastline can be explored easily and there is also the option to hike through the trails winding among the redwoods.
After a day of exploration, it is time to head to the Plaza and have an amazing cup of coffee, where you will also be treated to sights of restored historic buildings.
Hearst Castle can be found in San Simeon and was built by William Randolph Hearst. Construction was begun in 1922 and the castle was not yet completed when Hearst died in 1955.
The huge residence is popular for its beautifully created spaces both in the exteriors and interiors. It has numerous rooms which house the former owner’s art collection.
The guesthouses, which were the first to be completed, were given names of La Casa del Mar, La Casa del Sol, and La Casa del Monte.
Hearst lived in the main house which is called La Casa Grande. It has 100 rooms, 31 bathrooms, 38 bedrooms, 14 living rooms, 2 libraries, and a massive dining room.
Hearts named the property La Cuesta Encantada or The Enchanted Hill, just strolling around you will clearly see why.
Seven years after Hearst’s death, the family left the castle to the Federal State of California. The castle and its contents have been preserved, giving visitors unique insight into the luxurious lifestyle of its former owners.
A place that can be enjoyed at any time of the year but is particularly a gorgeous winter destination, Mammoth Lakes is where you should go skiing from the end of November until June.
Take the cable car to enjoy magnificent panoramic views while heading down. Some of the most outstanding features are the Devils Postpile, a vertical rock formation made of basalt columns and the 98-foot high Rainbow Falls on the San Joaquin River.
Mammoth Lakes is a long way from San Francisco and Los Angeles, so be prepared for a long drive.
Don’t forget to stop by Mammoth Lakes Hot Springs in the almost ghost town of Benton. Nine hot springs are awaiting the soaking pleasure of visitors.
Guests can also enjoy excellent views of the Sierra Nevada while relaxing in the hot springs.
Bodie Ghost Town
Bodie Ghost Town is a destination in itself and deserves more than just a passing glance.
Located at the foot of Bodie Hills in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it became a historic park in 1962 and has preserved a part of the historic town born during the Gold Rush.
A former mining camp during its heyday in 1878, it had a bank, jail and plenty of saloons along the Main Street.
The town waned through the 1800s and was considered a ghost town by the 1940s.
Be transported back in time as you walk down the deserted streets, gold mills, saloons, and storefronts and imagine yourself as one of the early settlers.
Everything has been left as-is for posterity.
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Preserve
Pay a visit to the Central California Coast and see the elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas Preserve.
You can visit any time of year but the best times are in late January, late April or late October to see these curious creatures up close and personal.
Remember to bring your camera with you and enjoy the magnificent sights of the ocean too.
Badwater Basin in Death Valley
The lowest point in the continent, Badwater Basin is about 282 feet below sea level.
The sinkhole consists of a small spring-fed pool that has salts from the surrounding basins which make it undrinkable. Being in Death Valley gives people a feeling of being on another planet, because of its unique physical appearance.
The curious sight of the basin stretching out in all its vastness covered by salt crust cut into hexagonal shapes is something you do not see every day.
Be on your guard and always check out the “sea level” sign on the cliffs overlooking Badwater Basin.
Be careful as well when crossing the salt flats as it can be just a thin white crust over mud but don’t forget to enjoy the biodiversity of the unique salt flats.
Mono Lake is a saline soda lake In California best known for its partially submerged tufa rock formations and the almost glassy surface of the water that attracts photographers from all over the world.
This place is quite the sight at night since it’s not near any cities, the stars really shine bright (just look at that picture!).
Fun Fact: The lake was estimated to have formed some 760,000 years ago!
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Torrey Pines is about 1,500 acres of pure wilderness. You wouldn’t think this stunning reserve was within the city limits of San Diego.
From stunning beaches, beautiful cliffs, and exotic trees; there’s something here for anyone who is willing to explore and get a tad lost.
Will you be visiting any of these less common spots in California? Make sure to share these hidden gems in California with all your friends!
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