California

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California

edit

Introduction

Old gas pump, Route 66, California

Old gas pump, Route 66, California

© Utrecht

Rugged national parks, world-class vineyards and of course the countless beaches keep travellers coming back to California. It's one of the biggest and most densely populated states of the USA, especially along the long and beautiful coastline from San Diego to San Francisco. Inland you will find much more space though, with mountains, deserts and the world's longest, biggest and oldest trees! It also holds on of the world's hottest places: Death Valley.

Top

edit

Geography

The geography of California is extraordinarily diverse. The Pacific Ocean is in the west, Nevada and Arizona are to the east, Oregon is in the north, and the southern border is shared with Mexico. California is the third largest state in the United States.

The California Central Valley runs up and down the state while the coastal mountain ranges lay to the west, the Sierra Nevada to the east, the Cascade Range to the north and the Tehachapi Mountains in the south. There are hundreds of miles beaches, large stretches of desert, high mountains covered with snow, and thick redwood forests. The Sierra Nevada includes the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states, Mount Whitney, at 4421 metres. The range embraces Yosemite Valley, famous for its glacially carved domes, and Sequoia National Park, home to the giant sequoia trees, the largest living organisms on Earth, and the deep freshwater lake, Lake Tahoe, the largest lake in the state by volume.

About 45 % of the state's total surface area is covered by forests,] and California's diversity of pine species is unmatched by any other state. California contains more forestland than any other state except Alaska. Many of the trees in the California White Mountains are the oldest in the world; one Bristlecone pine has an age of 4,700 years.

In the south is a large inland salt lake, the Salton Sea. The south-central desert is called the Mojave; to the northeast of the Mojave lies Death Valley, which contains the lowest and hottest place in North America, the Badwater Basin at -86 metres. The horizontal distance from the nadir of Death Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney is less than 140 kilometres.

Top

edit

Regions

  • Bay Area - Home to the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and the technology-centered Silicon Valley.
  • Desert - Palm trees, Joshua trees, blazing sun, and quirky resorts.
  • Central Coast - An isolated stretch of land that features cool mountains and a rugged coastline.
  • Gold Country - Historic foothills leading east to the Sierras; the 1848 discovery of gold in this region brought many Americans to California and helped California become a state less than five years after the territory had been acquired.
  • Los Angeles County
  • North Coast - Home to the world's tallest trees, the coast redwoods as well as rugged coastlines and remote nature adventures.
  • Sacramento Valley - Home of Sacramento, the state capital, and the urban areas around the city.
  • San Joaquin Valley - Breadbasket of California and home to a large percentage of America's fruit and vegetable supply.
  • Shasta Cascades - Hills and mountains in the state's northeast corner that are off the beaten path for most visitors.
  • Sierra Nevada - California's alpine and skiing region, including Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe.
  • Southern California - Home to Los Angeles, San Diego, Disneyland, and miles of famous beaches.

Top

edit

Cities

  • Anaheim
  • Bakersfield - The world's largest Basque population outside of Spain is found here and fine Basque restaurants abound.
  • Fresno
  • Long Beach
  • Los Angeles - The state's largest city, and 2nd-largest in the nation. L.A. is home to Hollywood, Venice, The Getty Center, and Griffith Park.
  • Oakland - Bay Area, across from San Francisco, home to the Golden Gate Warriors NBA Team.
  • Palm Springs - Desert recreation with golf, spas, resorts, casinos, and the famous aerial tramway.
  • Sacramento - The laid-back state capital with historic area of the city, Old Sacramento.
  • San Diego - Balboa Park, Old Town, SeaWorld, San Diego Zoo, and nearby Tijuana, Mexico.
  • San Francisco - Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, America's largest Chinatown, cable cars, and Victorian houses
  • San Jose - South of San Francisco, home of the Winchester Mystery House, and the center of Silicon Valley, which is home to many technology companies.
  • Santa Ana
  • Santa Barbara - City on a south-facing coast which styles itself, with some justification, as "the American Riviera."
  • Santa Cruz - A central coast city. The home of the historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Mission Santa Cruz, and the Mystery Spot.

Other significantly sized cities include, Riverside, Barstow, San Bernardino, Pasadena, Stockton, Chula Vista, Modesto, Fremont and Glendale. Other popular tourist destinations include South Lake Tahoe, Solvang, Napa Valley, and Santa Monica.

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

Beaches

Santa Monica

Rollercoaster, Santa Monica

Rollercoaster, Santa Monica

© Utrecht


Although Santa Monica is a city itself rather than part of the city of Los Angeles, it basically is the playground for the beach bums in the LA. Most of the action in Santa Monica is centred around the Santa Monica Pier, where the official end of Route 66 is located. The pier, with its activities like rollercoasters and all sorts of shops, splits the beach into two halfs. The northern one is less attractive and most parking takes place there. The southern half, towards Venice Beach, is more attractive, with cycle- and foothpaths and palmtrees. The water here is pretty cold like most of the Californian coast, and watch out for riptides or strong currents at times. There are lifeguards patrolling around the waters, but better safe than sorry!

Venice Beach
While Santa Monica Beach is more of a family style beach, Venice Beach is more the beach for the young and the ones that like to see and to be seen. Apart from the beach, there is also lots of sport grounds, including the famous Muscle Beach, where you'll find the big guys pumping their iron. Next to the beach runs the Ocean Front Walk, or just boardwalk, full with souvenir shops, snacks, drinks and even 'legal' (as in 'good for health problems') marihuana shops. Things can feel a bit worn down and downright shabby after the sun sets, but most of the times it's nothing more than a feeling and certainly not an unsafe place!

Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park is a United States national park that consists of five of the eight Channel Islands off the coast of the U.S. state of California, in the Pacific Ocean. Although the islands are close to the shore of densely populated Southern California, their isolation has left them relatively undeveloped. The park covers 100,994 ha of which 31,978 ha are owned by the federal government. The Nature Conservancy owns and manages 76% of Santa Cruz Island, the largest island in the park. Channel Islands National Park is home to a wide variety of significant natural and cultural resources. It was designated a U.S. National Monument on April 26, 1938, and a National Biosphere Reserve in 1976. It was promoted to a National Park on March 5, 1980. Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary encompasses the waters six nautical miles around Channel Islands National Park.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley Road, California

Death Valley Road, California

© Utrecht

Death Valley is located in the Mojave Desert of California in the United States. Although Death Valley basically refers to the valley floor itself, it's actually part of the much larger Death Valley National Park. It is a place of extremes with the driest, hottest, and lowest place in North America. Oddly enough, it is not that far from Mount Whitney, which is the highest point in the lower 48 states. It is a popular camping destination and features many great hiking trails and natural wonders. Though these activities surely are not recommended in the hot summer months unless you plan to hike early in the morning.

Joshua Tree National Park

Located deep in the southern Californian desert is Joshua Tree National Park. Designated as a National Park in 1994 this area is one of the best preserved desert areas in the country. The park covers two different deserts that have their own ecosystem that are determined by different elevations. The area below 900 metres, is in the Colorado Desert and the plant life is creosote bush, ocotillo and cholla cactus. The Little San Bernardino Mountains cut through the southern park of the park.

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree

© airwaves


The higher, and therefore moister, part of the park is in the cooler Mojave Desert. This part of the park is home to the namesake of the park the Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia), which is related to the yucca plant. There are also several bird species to watch for in the park, with the best place to watch being Barker Dam. The dam is a also a good spot to watch for Big Horn sheep. The Mojave Desert part of the park, in the western part, is also home to amazing geologic formations. These bare rocks are broken up into loose boulders that are home to the parks most popular activity of rock climbing. Many people descend upon the park during the fall and spring, which is the high season, in order to take part in some of the best rock climbing in the world.

Kings Canyon National Park

General Sherman + Ang

General Sherman + Ang

© pendleton

Kings Canyon National Park is a national park in the southern Sierra Nevada, east of Fresno, California. The park was established in 1940 and covers 186,925 ha. It incorporated General Grant National Park, established in 1890 to protect the General Grant Grove of giant sequoias. The park is north of and contiguous with Sequoia National Park; the two are administered by the National Park Service jointly as the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Some of the highlights of the park include the Grants Grove (including the Fallen Monarch) and the Giant Forest (including the famous General Sherman Tree).

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

© Utrecht

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a United States National Park in northeastern California. The dominant feature of the park is Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world and the southern-most volcano in the Cascade Range. Lassen Volcanic National Park started as two separate national monuments designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907: Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument.

Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is one of the most beautiful roads along one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. It stretches along much of the Californian coastline.

Colourful mailboxes along Big Sur, California

Colourful mailboxes along Big Sur, California

© Utrecht


It starts at Interstate 5 near Dana Point in Orange County, south of Los Angeles and runs north past places like Santa Barbara, Cambria, Santa Cruz and San Francisco up to US Highway 101 near Leggett in Mendocino County. There is plenty to see and do along this magnificent drive, including the great Elephant Seal Colony near Cambria, the San Simeon Castle, the beautiful stretch of Big Sur with the famous Bixby Creek Bridge and of course the Golden Gate Bridge, shared with Highway 101.

Redwood National Park

The Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) are located in the United States, along the coast of northern California. Comprising Redwood National Park (established 1968) and California's Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks (dating from the 1920s), the combined RNSP contain 540 km2.

Redwood circle

Redwood circle

© angelstena


Located entirely within Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, the four parks, together, protect 45% of all remaining coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) old-growth forests, totaling at least 157.75 km2. These trees are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth. In addition to the redwood forests, the parks preserve other indigenous flora, fauna, grassland prairie, cultural resources, portions of rivers and other streams, and 60 kilometres of pristine coastline.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park is a national park in the southern Sierra Nevada east of Visalia, California, in the United States.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

© katze06


It was established on September 25, 1890. The park spans 1,635.18 km2. Encompassing a vertical relief of nearly 4,000 metres, the park contains among its natural resources the highest point in the contiguous 48 United States, Mount Whitney, at 4,421 metres above sea level. The park is south of and contiguous with Kings Canyon National Park; the two are administered by the National Park Service together as the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a massive national park, with 95% designated as a wilderness area, covering over 761,266 acres in several counties in east central California. Over 3.5 million people visit this park every year to see its stunning beauty. Its main attractions are its amazing granite cliffs, waterfalls, pristine streams, Giant Sequoia groves and stunning biological diversity.

Spectactular view from Glacier Point Road, Yosemite NP

Spectactular view from Glacier Point Road, Yosemite NP

© Utrecht


Resting across the Sierra Nevada Mountains the elevation ranges from 600 to 4,000 metres, which covers 5 distinct major vegetation zones. If looking for the drive by experience, car camping fun or the intense back country hiking and rock climbing Yosemite National Park has something for any outdoorsy junkie. Remember to watch out for black bears. The park consists of 5 areas: the Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Road/Area, Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows, Wawona and Hetch Hetchy (the least visited).

National Parks

Amusement Parks

Skiing

Most people think of the beach and the desert when they think of a vacation in California. But some of the worlds best skiing can be found in California and the Lake Tahoe area. Looking for some intense turns and extreme backcountry or just some cruisers California Ski Areas have it all. For more information read the articles:

Top

edit

Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

Other Events and Festivals

January

February

March

April

Top

edit

Weather

As California stretches from the border with Mexico north almost up half of the western coastline of the USA and there deserts and high mountain ranges, the climate in California can be quite different from place to place.

Generally though, summers from May to October are quite warm almost anywhere and can be extremely hot in the southern and southeastern deserts, with Death Valley recording temperatures over 50 °C almost every year. At the same time, the north and northwest might face some cooler conditions and it rarely gets overly hot in San Francisco for example. Temperatures vary from 25 °C to 35 °C in most areas during this time, though mountainous areas can be colder, especially at night.

Winters last from December to March, with cold conditions in the northern and eastern mountain ranges, though still fairly warm in the south, with temperatures between 16 °C and 22 °C. Nights can be particulary cold in the deserts during this time as well. The mountains can see heavy snowfall during this time and there are quite some ski areas, for example around Lake Tahoe along the border with Nevada.

Late Spring and early autumn are actually quite nice for a visit, although still you have to bear in mind that especially the higher areas can still be affected by cold and snow. Everywhere else is pleasantly warm though.

The northern parts have more rain, quite evenly distributed throughout the year though somewhat drier in summer. Some areas haven't seen decent amounts of rain though for several years, especially in the southern parts and deserts.

Top

edit

Getting There

By Plane

  • The main airport is Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). It is one of the busiest airports in the world, handling over 60 million passengers a year. LAX is located in southwestern Los Angeles in the neighborhood of Westchester, 16 miles (27 kilometres) from the downtown core. The airport has 9 terminals: number 1 to 8 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), serving hundreds of destinations within the US and to Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and Oceania.
  • Oakland International Airport (OAK) is about 5 miles (8 kilometres) from the CBD of Oakland. It mainly serves other US cities, but has some international flights as well, mainly to Guadalajara and Cancun and seasonal flights to Terceira, one of the Azores Islands.
  • Sacramento International Airport (SMF) is located about 10 miles (16 kilometres) from the central business district of Sacramento. It mainly has domestic flights, though there are international connections with a few cities in Mexico, mainly Guadalajara.
  • San Diego International Airport (SAN) is just about 5 kilometres from downtown San Diego. Around 20 airlines serve San Diego, with many domestic and several international connections.
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO), located 21 kilometres (13 miles) south of San Francisco, is a major gateway to Asia, Europe and Oceania and there are numerous domestic flights as well. After Los Angeles International Airport, it's the second biggest in California and in the top 25 of the world regarding the number of passengers.
  • San Jose International Airport (SJC) is about 4 kilometres from downtown San Jose. It mainly has domestic flights and some international connections to Mexican places like Guadalajara and San Jose del Cabo.
  • Santa Ana-John Wayne Airport (SNA) is an airport near Santa Ana and is the main gateway to the Orange County. The airport is served by Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) buses #76 and #212, as well as the Irvine Shuttle route A.

By Train

Several trains operated by Amtrak travel to and from California from a number of other states in the country. These include:

  • The Sunset Limited between Los Angeles and New Orleans.
  • The California Zephyr between Emeryville (San Francisco) and Chicago.
  • The Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and Seattle.
  • The Southwest Chief between Los Angeles and Chicago, via Albuquerque.
  • The Texas Eagle between Los Angeles and Chicago three times a week. The San Antonio, Texas to Chicago part goes every day.

By Car

There are many roads, including Interstates that go to/from the state. The I-5 runs the entire lenght of the state towards Oregon. The I-80 goes into Nevada, while the I-15 travels to Las Vegas. The I-40, I-10 and I-8 run towards Arizona.

By Bus

Check Greyhound for options.

Top

edit

Getting Around

By Plane

Flying may be a more reasonable option for crossing large expanses of the state. American/American Eagle; United/United Express, Virgin America, Southwest, Jetblue and Alaska Airlines offer intrastate flights within the state of California. San Francisco is a hub for United and Virgin America; Los Angeles is a hub for United, American/American Eagle, Virgin America and Alaska Airlines; and Long Beach is the West Coast hub for JetBlue. The LAX-SFO route is one of the busiest in America which means competitive fares and delays are frequent which is only made worse by the fog that tends to hit San Francisco bay at a regular basis.

By Train

Three trains operated by Amtrak travel throughout the state of California. These are:

  • The Capitol Corridor between Auburn and San Jose, stopping Sacramento and Emeryville (San Francisco) among other places.
  • The Pacific Surfliner between Paso Robles and San Diego, stopping in cities like Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
  • The Sao Joaquins between the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.

By Car

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

California has a number of National Scenic Byways which offer a great way to explore the state crossing beautiful landscapes. Mostly, there are lots of national parks, state parks or monuments along the way and it's generally a better alternative than the faster but boring Interstate Highways.

By Bus

The bus is not the most glamorous way to get around the state, but it can be the cheapest. There are fairly frequent service between San Francisco and Los Angeles; San Francisco and Sacramento; and Sacramento and Los Angeles on multiple lines. There are hourly "clocker" buses between Los Angeles, San Diego and/or Tijuana. The bus stations/stops in San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose and San Diego are all well-located and in separate locations that are not necessary next to or near each other. In Los Angeles the stations (Greyhound, Tufesa, Intercalifornia, El Paso-LA Limousines) are east of the downtown core in the notorious and sketchy 'skid row' area (gentrifying to become the 'arts' & 'fashion' districts). Others (Bolt Bus & Megabus) have stops at either Union Station or Patsaouras Transit Plaza on the opposite side of the tracks from Union Staton, or somewhere nearby (CA Shuttle Bus) instead. Some of the same companies also have additional stops or depots in Santa Monica, North Hollywood, El Monte, Colton and/or East L.A. as well as Santa Ana in Orange County. There are multiple bus companies operating within California and they are:

  • Bolt Bus, toll-free: +1-877-BOLTBUS (2658287) (2658287). Offers service between Los Angeles (downtown Union Station & N Hollywood) and the SF Bay area (San Jose, San Francisco & Oakland) on one route and from Los Angeles (downtown Union Station & Ontario) to Barstow and Las Vegas on another.
  • Eastern Sierra Transit, ☎ +1 760 872-1901, toll-free: +1 800 922-1930. Operates 'local' buses along US Hwy 395 corridor between Mammoth Lake, Bishop and Lone Pine in Mono and Inyo Counties in the eastern 'Desert' and the Sierra Nevada parts of the state. They have a route continuing north to Carson City & Reno from Mammoth Lake and south to Lancaster from Lone Pine. The area is not served by Greyhound or Amtrak Thruway buses.
  • El Paso Los Angeles Limousine Express, (downtown LA depot) 622 E 6th St (SW corner of E 6th St & Wall St across the street from police station), ☎ +1 213 623-2323, +1 323-265-3232. Travels along I-10 between Los Angeles, Indio, Phoenix, Las Cruces and El Paso on one route and on I-15 to Las Vegas & North Las Vegas on another route. They have additional stops in E. Los Angeles, El Monte and Colton on their way on both routes. They also have a second depot at 4425 S Atlantic Blvd in E Los Angeles.
  • Flixbus, ☎ +1 855 626-8585. German bus company to rival Greyhound Lines (First Group); Megabus (Stagecoach Group) and various American and Mexican bus companies in the American market. It connects Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Sacramento, SF Bay Area and San Diego via multiple cities en route in Arizona and California. It may expand to other parts of the U.S. if it is successful. It dominates the German market and has grown rapidly through subcontracting its operations, which has the downside for customers that the buses are not of a consistent style or quality.
  • Green Tortoise, ☎ +1 415 956-7500, toll-free: 1 800 867-8647. Operates something like a 'hippie' bus that serves as a bus by day with stops to visit different places like a bus tour throughout the day and a RV camper by night in different campgrounds. It offers bus tours and camping trips to Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Death Valley Sequoia and along the coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Some of its tours involve a 3- to 5-day round trip from the point of origin such as from San Francisco to Yosemite NP and back while others are one way where the journey starts from one place and end in the other like from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree and end in Las Vegas. Even with round trips it is possible to ask to be picked up or dropped off in different places than the point of origin/return. Others like its 'Hostel Hoppers' or 'Express' are a straightforward bus ride from point A to B. It is one way to combine 'taking the bus' from one place to another and to visit and see remote places without a private automobile.
  • Greyhound & Curceros-USA, toll-free: 1 800 231-2222. Greyhound goes to 100 locations statewide, though these are not all actual stations, some are merely stops. In general, Greyhound serves the same routes that Amtrak does along the main highways. In some cases Greyhound is cheaper, faster, and more frequent than Amtrak.
  • Hoang Express, ☎ +1 714 839-3500, toll-free: +1-888-834-9336. Travels between SoCal (San Diego, El Monte, Los Angeles, Westminster); Bay Area (San Francisco, San Jose & Oakland) and to Sacramento on another route from Los Angeles. They also offer service from Los Angeles to Arizona (Phoenix, Chandler and Tempe. $60-65 to Bay Area; $80 to Sacramento.
  • International Bus Lines (formerly Intercalifornias), ☎ +1 213 629-4885, toll-free: +1-888-834-9336. Connects Tijuana, San Ysidro (just over the border), Santa Ana, Los Angeles, San Fernando, Bakersfield, Fresno, and San Jose/Stockton (route splits/joins in Madero) and several other places in between. Prices vary depending on your destination.
  • LuxBus, on request for hotel pick up/drop off, toll-free: +1-877-610-7870. Operates to/from Las Vegas, Anaheim, and San Diego.
  • Mendocino Transit Authority (MTA). Travels extensively in the North Coast region along Hwy 1 from Ft Bragg to Navarro River Junction (#65), Point Arena (#75), Bodega Bay and Santa Rosa (#95). Another route from Ft Bragg to Willits, Ukiah and Santa Rosa along SR-20 and US Hwy 101 (Rt #65). Much of the area is not served by Greyhound or Amtrak Thruway Buses off the US Hwy 101 corridor.
  • Megabus. Goes up to Oakland (via S Jose & San Francisco) and over to Las Vegas on two separate routes from Los Angeles. They also have another route from San Francisco to Sacramento & Reno along I-80.
  • Orange Belt Stages (Trailways), ☎ +1 559 733-4408, toll-free: 1 800-266-7433. Regular scheduled service between Lenmoore and Santa Maria through Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo. They also offer day trips to different places for sightseeing and to scheduled events throughout California.
  • Sage Stage, (bus stops) Rite Aide @ 5th & Main in Alturas, ☎ +1 530 233-6410. Provides public transportation from Alturas and Canby in Modoc County, in the Shasta Cascades, to Redding; Reno, NV; and Klamath Falls, OR on three separate routes.
  • Santa Barbara Airbus, ☎ +1 805 964-7759, toll-free: +1-800-423-1618. Connects LAX to Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and Goleta.
  • "Cabin" (formerly Sleep Bus). Overnight service to the Los Angeles area (Ocean & Arizona Ave in Palisades Park in Santa Monica) from San Francisco (Bayside Lot @ 1 Bryant St). This is an actual sleeper bus featuring twin size bunk beds with privacy curtains, power outlets, and free wifi.
  • Tufesa, ☎ +1 213 489-8079. Connects Los Angles to Sacramento (via Bakersfield, Fresno, etc); to Salt Lake City (via Barstow, Las Vegas, St George, etc); to Hermosillo (via Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales); San Francisco Bay Area; and to Tijuana (via Santa Ana, San Diego/San Ysidro). Prices vary depending on your destination.
  • Yarts. Operates regularly scheduled buses from Yosemite NP (Visitors' Center) to Fresno, Merced, Mammoth Lakes & Sonora on four separate routes.
  • Jass, ☎ +1 408 209-0304. Offers services from San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Clara, Oakland and other areas of the state with different travel routes. Prices vary from place to place.

By Boat

There are some services between California's mainland and islands off the coast like Santa Catalina Island near Los Angeles.

Top

edit

Eat

California doesn't have a very well-defined cuisine of its own, but rather a remarkably diverse food scene defined by its large population of immigrants of varied ethnic backgrounds and its access to one of the most productive agricultural regions this side of the planet. The culinary style referred to as "Californian cuisine" focuses on imaginative fusions of other cuisines, typically with heavy attention to presentation and an emphasis on using freshly prepared local ingredients.

Almost any dish you can imagine can be found somewhere in California, with the cuisines of The Americas and Asia heavily represented and those of nearly every other country available to a lesser extent. More "North American" fare includes everything from burger shacks to vegetarian, organic and even completely vegan restaurants; the Californian love for food has left it with one of the most diverse restaurant scenes in North America. The large cities have the most variety, while things get simpler and more meat-heavy as you get more rural.

IN N OUT Burger is a local favorite. You'll find them along major freeways throughout the state. Their menus are simple (unless you know their "secret menu,") and their burgers are delicious.

Top

edit

Drink

California is known for its fine wines and gourmet beers. Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino are premier wine districts north of San Francisco, but there are others in the Central Coast region and even the San Diego region where suitable microclimates have been found. The inland Central Valley region has hotter summers and traditionally produced inexpensive bulk wines, but quality has been improving with winemaking innovations.

Californians tend to view wine as a natural accompaniment of food or socializing, overlooking its alcoholic content more easily than with distilled spirits. However police crackdowns on drinking and driving are increasingly severe with roadblocks and random checks. Conviction for driving with a blood alcohol level over .08 percent is likely to bring serious legal and financial consequences. Drivers with lower blood alcohol can still be convicted for DUI (driving under the influence) if they fail field sobriety tests such as walking a straight line. You must be 21 years of age to drink any alcoholic beverage. Under age drinking is taken very seriously so if you are in a club or bar and appear to be under 30 you should be ready to present identification showing your age.

For beer, California also has a large population of microbreweries. Sierra Nevada, located in Chico, is one of the biggest microbreweries in North America. In the Central Coast the midsized brewery Firestone Walker in Paso Robles is a good addition to the local wineries in the area. In San Diego, Stone Brewing Company offers a great variety of beers that can be purchased throughout the state. There are over 200 microbreweries in California.

Top

edit

Sleep

Hotel and Motel Chains

There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:

View our map of accommodation in California

Top

Quick Facts

[edit]

Capital
Sacramento

Accommodation in California

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in California searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

Contributors

as well as dr.pepper (5%), slugtrek (3%), Peter (2%), Lavafalls (2%), Herr Bert (1%), frederico9 (1%)

California Travel Helpers

  • Odinnthor

    My time in the US, has been in California and Hawaii. At present I am living in Southern California. However the reason I can help with travel in the state, is due to having done several Grand California Tours as a Tour Director, and as such know the state pretty well, including the iconic Highway 1 coastal road between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I will admit, I am not really that familiar with Northern California, north of Napa/Sonoma wine country, but from Wine country to the southern Mexican border, - including Tijuana, I am fairly proficient. Oh, and I may be up there in years, but I can inform young visitors on the best ways for them to enjoy La La Land, including the clubs and good hostels and other things of interest to the younger set. Benefits from having a great daughter at a late age who is now 27. Hey I was too busy travelling.........d:o)
    Holla back folks.....d:o)

    Ask Odinnthor a question about California

This is version 100. Last edited at 9:24 on Jun 12, 19 by Utrecht. 93 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License