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The 12 Places You Need to Know When Visiting California

California Insider Guides
by Julia Kitlinski-Hong Jun 1, 2017

California has a myriad of interesting and beautiful destinations within its borders. This can make it much harder to plan a trip. We’ve put together some highlights for you, from the lesser known to the celebrated, here is a little help to get you started.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Yosemite National Park

 Glacier PointMariposa County, United StatesBest place to stop for lunch. You can drive pretty much right up to this spot.

Yosemite lies in the Sierra Nevada mountains and holds towering sequoia trees, roaring waterfalls and massive granite cliffs. Popular features include Half Dome for hiking and rock climbing; Glacier Point for aerial views of the park; and Yosemite Falls for a classic waterfall photo opp.

The Pacific Coast Highway

 Manhattan Beach PierManhattan Beach, United StatesLooking down Manhattan Beach in LA with my drone. Great place to just relax and enjoy the ocean views!

The Pacific Coastal Highway is most likely the most iconic road in California. PCH hugs the coastline and has stunning views of the Pacific Ocean at every turn. Jump in your vehicle – convertible preferred – in Malibu and zip along the highway with the dazzling sea on one side and million-dollar homes nestled into the rugged mountains on the other. Head towards Los Angeles. You’ll go through Redondo Beach, Hermosa and Manhattan Beach, all worthy stops in their own right. Take time to admire the spectacular views of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, then finish up the last highway stretch to San Pedro.


 Scribe WinerySonoma, United StatesLocated on the border of Sonoma and Napa, Scribe is heaven on a nice day. On weekends, members bring a blanket, buy a bottle of wine and sit on hill. We’re told it’s quite the party. Tastings available to the public and are served at charming picnic tables with fresh flowers. #wine #rose

Sonoma has a picturesque downtown and plenty of cheese, wine and scenic views. Make sure to come early in the day, since wineries close around 5pm and there is nothing worse than a rushed wine tasting. After getting your fill of wine, take a walk through the residential neighborhoods where if you’re lucky you might see a few horses grazing in someone’s yard.

Berkeley Marina

 Berkeley MarinaBerkeley, United StatesGreat for going on a free sailboat ride with Cal Sailing Club.

The non-profit organization, Cal Sailing Club’s is volunteer-run and takes guests on introductory sailboat rides every month during their Open House. Children must be at least 5-years-old and accompanied by an adult. Open house hours are 1-4 p.m. Pro tip: get there early, since spots fill up fast.

Joshua Tree National Park

 Joshua Tree National ParkRiverside County, United StatesSunrise at the iconic #California park in the #desert. #camping #hiking

Here where the Mojave and Colorado desert ecosystems come together, you’ll find prickly Joshua trees and rugged monzogranite formations. Joshua Tree is one of the world’s predominant climbing areas. Camp the night and hear the coyotes howl at dawn. For those just staying the day, there are plenty of hiking trails and rock climbing opportunities.

Gold Country

 California State Capitol MuseumSacramento, United StatesLearn about California’s political past in this beautiful building.

From the state capitol of Sacramento, which was a bustling hub of activity during the height of the Gold Rush to the more remote Marshall Gold Discovery Park, where gold was first discovered, this area of California offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of the Rush. California State Route 49 passes through most of the major historic mining towns like Jamestown, Placerville and Sutter Creek. You can still walk through towns that feel stuck in time and see landmarks that memorialize a mineral and time that changed California forever.


 Drake’s DealershipOakland, United StatesSpacious outdoor space with delicious food and craft brews.

Oakland is one of the state’s most diverse cities. Grab a cheese-centric sandwich at The Sacred Wheel and then head to Lake Temescal for a peaceful picnic lunch. Venture to Oakland’s Chinatown where you sample delicious baked goods from many of the small bakeries in the area. For a true taste of Oakland, check out First Fridays with art, brews, food and live music.

Death Valley

 Badwater BasinInyo County, United StatesThe salt flats in Badwater Basin are 282 feet below sea level. In the summer it is extremely hot walking out on the salt flats. It was about 115 degrees when I was there. Bring lots of water! The salt crystals are really a cool sight to see. If you want you can taste the salt. #nationalpark

California’s lowest point in the state can reach triple digits in the summertime and freezing temperatures during the wintertime. Despite these seasonal extremes, the weather in the spring and fall can be an ideal time to visit and explore. Hike through landscapes that will change your idea of gorgeous, including Titus Canyon and Badwater Basin’s saltwater flats – or head to Racetrack Playa, where large rocks move all on their own accord.

Venice Beach

 Venice BeachLos Angeles, United StatesI grew up watching shows that featured Venice beach. I finally had the chance to visit and was not disappointed. In my opinion, this place is a bubble that contains the flavour of LA in a single spot.

Locals nosh on artisanal pizza and get their chakras in line by drinking their daily quota of green juice in this beachside city. In the past decade, companies like Google have moved in, changing the dynamic of the area into a more tech-centric environment. But, if you go to the boardwalk, you are still likely to find street performers and cheap souvenir shops. For a delicious meal head to Abbot Kinney, where you can find Gjelina .

Santa Barbara

 Mony’s Mexican FoodSanta Barbara, United StatesBonkers Mexican food. Salsa bar had pistachio salsa, peanut salsa, and avo salsa #sauceheaven #mexican #cheap-eats in the #funkzone

It’s hard not to fall in love with the Mediterranean-style architecture featured around the downtown as a nod to the city’s Spanish colonial past. World-class wineries, fine dining and an ideal mild climate make Santa Barbara a tourist and local favorite. Stroll down the main thoroughfare, State Street, to get a good feel for Santa Barbara.

San Luis Obispo

 Chamisal VineyardsSan Luis Obispo, United StatesThis is one of my favorite places to go #winetasting in #EdnaValley. They make unbelievable Chardonnays and Pinoit Noirs. If you like these two varieties you can’t go wrong with a stop here!

This college town located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, embraces a slower way of life on California’s Central Coast. Do not let its size deter you, since it has plenty of things to see and a wealth of good food. Spend a few hours wandering through the town’s historic mission or indulge in some tri-tip at Old San Luis BBQ. For a taste of the whimsical, head over to Bubblegum Alley in downtown or lay your head at the famous Madonna Inn-where every room has an elaborate theme.

Point Reyes National Seashore

 Point Reyes National SeashorePoint Reyes Station, United StatesMy heart is in Point Reyes. Point Reyes rivals and often beats anywhere I have hiked in the world. I am lucky to have it just a 45 minute drive away from me and I never take that for granted. Any day hike will take you through a beautiful variety of landscapes and vistas. There are also some awesome campsites to spend a few days in. Not much beats watching the Pacific waves crash along the rocky shoreline, or the fog roll in/out in the mornings and evenings. Point Reyes I love you! #hiking #camping

If you find yourself in West Marin, make sure to stop by this stunning national park that boasts rugged coastline, sheer cliffs and towering redwoods. This is California scenery at its best and there are plenty of hiking trails to meander along, bird-watch and if you’re lucky you might spot a whale or two off in the Pacific. For some of the best ocean views, make sure to head over to Point Reyes Lighthouse. Point Reyes Station, a nearby small town is the perfect place to pick up picnic provisions before heading out on your grand adventure.

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