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California Dreamin' : The Essential Sights


California is a state full of contrasts, from its vibrant coastal locations to its sleepier, rural interior. A fabulous location for a trip with friends or even a family break that goes beyond the tired cliché of theme parks it's perhaps better known for. Delve deeper into this fascinating location and plan a break that gets you to the heart of the Pacific Region, from the majesty of the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Mojave Desert, the scenic San Francisco and the movie magic of Los Angeles. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss:

Wine Tasting in the Napa Valley

Napa Valley produces the most prestigious and well-regarded wine in California, so a trip round some of its many vineyards is not to be missed. Winemakers here have been growing crops since the mid-1800s, digging caves and planting vines into the steep hillsides.A narrow 5-mile wide valley provides the wine-growing territory for 30 miles length and is lined with wine tasting venues. You can find a guide to the best ones to visit here.

La Jolla Coastline

If you’re after an upmarket seaside experience, La Jolla, home to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, is sure to impress with its breath-taking rugged coastline. Sweeping ocean vistas, excellent rock pooling and some amazing restaurants provide the perfect escape from a hectic road trip itinerary. If you like golfing, the location offers some great courses plus ocean attractions such as kayaking, paddleboarding, surfing and scuba diving. The San Diego Marriott La Jolla makes a great base to explore the resort.

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

As one of the most photographed structures in the US, this iconic structure has appeared in countless TV shows and movies but loses no grandeur for that when you see it in person. A landmark feature of engineering prowess, it was the first bridge support ever to be constructed in the open ocean. There are plenty of viewing points on and around the structure itself along with gift shops and cafes. Walking onto the Bridge itself can be a dizzying feat, rising to 220 feet above the water at its mid-span. There are free, regular walking tours if you’re keen to learn the history surrounding this amazing structure.

The Hollywood Sign

No trip to Los Angeles would be complete without a snap for your Instagram feed of the iconic Hollywood sign, erected in 1923. Initially reading ‘Hollywoodland’, the surviving nine letters face into the Los Angeles basin and are visible from several points. Best viewed on your way to something else, you shouldn’t pass up the chance to get a shot with the sign looming in the background – note that it is not illuminated at night, so you’ll need to go past during the day. It’s a fun and completely free thing to do if you’re in the area.

Yosemite Valley

If getting back to nature suits you, America’s second-largest national park is a jewel in Cali’s crown. Home to the tallest waterfall in the US, the world’s largest granite monolith, the powerful Mariposa River and an abundance of wildlife, it’s a perfect escape from the hectic pace of modern life to wonder at the beauty of nature.
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