What do you eat in Barstow? Pretty much one thing, and one thing only – an In-N-Out burger. Ain’t nobody got time for an average McDonald’s or a subpar Burger King when you’re travelling the Pacific coast – it’s In-N-Out, or nothing. The cheeseburgers and hamburgers are as you’d expect (delicious), but for the real experience, you have to go for the double-double. Two cheese slices, two patties, a perfect bun, and all washed down with a very naughty but very necessary milkshake…cos you know it makes sense. Yes it may be a billion calories, but this road side treat is oh so worth it.
Take in Old Town Sacramento
Sacramento is the capital of California, but it’s the district of Old Sacramento you really want to visit. If you’re a fan of Westworld, prepare to be super into your surroundings, all wooden sidewalks, wagon rides and historic buildings that are reminiscent of Sacramento of old, built at the very beginning of the gold rush era. The area is so iconic in fact, the entire district became a National Historic Landmark in 1965. Grab a slice of the historic action on a Gold Fever Tour, or climb aboard a vintage train for a 45 minute ride along the Sacramento River.
Gaze on the iconic Joshua Trees in the Mojave Desert
Dry, barren, bleak – all words which could describe the Mojave Desert, but none which paint a picture anywhere near the truth. Occupying more than 25,000 square miles and spanning out from southeastern California to portions of Nevada, Arizona and Utah, the Mojave Desert is vast, dry, and impossibly hot (it’s known to hit a scorching 134 F in Death Valley). Because of these conditions, vegetation is rare…with the exception of one, the Joshua Tree. This unlikely hero is synonymous with the Mojave landscape; the largest of the yuccas, only growing in the higher, cooler regions of the desert. Spot them doing their thing as you cruise through the Mojave on your California trip.
Relax in the tranquillity of Bass Lake
Remember all of the American movies you grew up watching (namely the Parent Trap) where the kids spend long, blissful summers hanging out ashore beautiful looking lakes? That’s basically what Bass Lake is like – heaven. Staying at the divine Pines Resort, a little slice of utopia nestled within a towering pine forest, your time will be spent here relaxing on the deck of your chalet, playing in the pool, warming up in the jacuzzi, and taking advantage of the multitude of watersports on offer. And that’s before you’ve even stopped to just reflect, breathe, and enjoy being in one of the most enchanting nature spots you might ever visit.
Commune with nature in Yosemite National Park
Calling California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range home, Yosemite National park is hands down one of the top 10 USA experiences you must, must do during your time stateside. Never will the words ‘I’m bored’ pass your lips from the second you enter the park, there is just too much to tempt you with. The big ticket icons here are the likes of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan and Ribbon Falls, but with so many hikes and so much space to play in, you’ll get equal satisfaction finding your own little icons in this outdoor playground.
Go for a speed boat adventure in San Diego
The best way to see San Diego? On the water, undoubtedly. Run by possibly the most laid back, surfer dude types you’ll ever come across, Contiki’s speed boat experience will take you out into San Diego Harbour, affording killer views of the city skyline and super iconic Coronado Bridge. Making your way (at a pretty decent speed) past towering navy ships, you’ll then slow down for one amazing reason – to spot the sea lions who casually sunbathe and chill on the pontoons. Cute as you like, these guys are the king of chill, only leaving their spots for quick refreshing dips and tasty, fishy snacks.
Learn how to Hang Ten at Mission Beach
Always envisioned yourself riding the waves and embracing the full surf lifestyle? There’s only one place to give it a go – San Diego’s Mission Beach. Taught by local surfing pros, you’ll learn the basics on the beach before it’s time to hit the surf and put the theory to the test. Yes you’ll fall, yes you’ll probably get frustrated, but that feeling when you finally catch your first wave will be nothing short of euphoric, and there’s only one way to celebrate – with a cold one at a nearby beach side café.
Hang with the stars in Hollywood
Anyone who’s anyone has had their big break in Hollywood. It’s the land of blinding white smiles, vegan eateries, and hopes and dreams. Most who seek fame and fortune don’t get their big break, but the pull of Hollywood is enough to keep them there long after the celebrity dream has faded. Everything here is iconic – the Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, the Dolby Theatre – but equally, authenticity can be found in equal measure. West Hollywood is where the cool kids hang, whilst hiking into the hills is also a super popular pastime with the locals.
Feed your culture hungry side in San Francisco
The city amidst the clouds, San Francisco is a hot bed of culture, colour, cuisine, history, art, nature…you name it, San Fran does it. What should be going to the top of the list for your tour of California? First up, you have to go to Alcatraz, the tiny island 1.5 miles off shore best known for being a federal prison for really naughty people (Al Capone was imprisoned here) between 1933 and 1963. Cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge should also be high on the agenda, as should a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown. Where’s the best view of the city? Wander up to the Twin Peaks and you might found out…
Hit the slopes at Lake Tahoe
You can ski in California? Damn right you can, with Lake Tahoe offering more resorts and terrain than anywhere else in North America, not to mention around 35ft of snow dumped every season. The backdrops here are pretty insane, with resorts nestled at the feet of towering peaks, not to mention the piercing blue water of the lake never letting you forget who’s in charge. Ideal for every type of skier or boarder, take your pick from perfectly groomed pistes to powdery playgrounds amongst the pines. There really is something for everyone, even those who only seek California for the sunshine.
Things to do in California
California Craft Beer Summit
Sacramento may be the capital of Cali, but it’s also earned its stripes for another big reason – it’s one California’s biggest players in the craft beer scene. The Craft Beer Summit, help annually in September, offers an up-close look at the state’s beer making world, whether you want to start brewing your own, are checking out the competition, or you just appreciate a beery tipple.
Empire Polo Club, California
A festival that has become the stuff of legend over the past few years, Coachella is the major music festival for the state of California. Bringing the Colorado Desert to life every April in a wave of colour, flower crowns, celebrity guests and all star performers, past headliners have including the Queen herself (Beyone), The Weeknd, Radiohead, Coldplay, Prince and Jay Z.
Empire Polo Club, California
Want the desert location of Coachella but prefer to get down to some good ol’ fashioned country music? Stagecoach it is. Taking place right after Coachella at the end of April, Stagecoach is the festival if you love a little bit of country, and a little bit of rock and roll. 2018 headliners include Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban and Garth Brooks.
San Francisco, California
Indie and alternative rock, hip hop and electro are the straight up vibes of Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, held every August in San Fran’s Golden Gate Park. Just picture it; listening to the likes of Lorde, Alt-J and Little Dragon, within the serene setting of this urban oasis – pretty dreamy, right?
Festival of Arts
650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach
The Festival of Arts keeps their tagline simple – ‘where art happens’. And really, they’ve nailed it. Taking place annually from July through to September, the festival showcases 140 talented artists from across Orange County, offering you the opportunity to meet the artists and explore their artwork. But it doesn’t just stop there; with art workshops, music series and art activities also available, this is the festival for anyone wanting to flex their creative muscle.
Top 5 Festivals in California
When we say California and festivals, we’ll bet one word springs to mind – Coachella. And whilst this may be the major player on the Cali festival scene, this state offers so much more on a year round basis, no matter what you’re into. Food, drink, music, arts, culture – the Cali festival fun never really stops…
The Walt Disney Family Museum
San Francisco, California
The life, the legend and the legacy of Walt Disney, all under one roof – that’s the magic of the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. Here, you can learn about the man himself, his inspirations, early life and genius innovations, and you can also check out the exhibitions that chart the creation of the Disney brand and beloved characters through the ages.
California Academy of Sciences
San Francisco, California
As one of the largest museums of natural history in the world and boasting over 26 million specimens, the California Academy of Sciences isn’t here to mess around. Boasting an aquarium, planetarium and natural history museum, the Academy of Sciences also has a cool after dark offering in the form of NightLife, a themed event held every Thursday offering live music, cocktails and insight.
Los Angeles, California
An educational centre and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures in ancient Greece and Rome, the Getty Villa is a history fan’s utopia. The building itself is stunning – a faux villa based on the remains of the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum – and the collection housed here is made up of around 1,200 artifacts, each dated between 6,500 BC and 500AD.
California State Railroad Museum
It’s all aboard for a lesson in history at the California State Railroad Museum. Many tours of California will include a visit to this fascinating museum, regarded as North America’s best railroad museum (and the home of the Polar Express no less). The railway played an instrumental role in the development of California state, and this museum brings to life this journey through exhibits, beautifully restored railroads cars, and engaging storytelling.
An outstanding example of American Arts and Crafts architecture, Gamble House (and all its furnishings) was designed by celebrated architects Charles and Henry Greene in 1908, for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter & Gamble empire. Gamble House was built as a summer house for the family, and a visit here offers fascinating insight into how a wealthy family lived their lives at the turn of the century.
Top 5 Museums & Galleries in California
In a state that gave us everything from the gold rush to Mickey Mouse to Silicon Valley, you better believe the museums here are varied, vast, and even a little odd. Taking you from past to present and even dancing with the future, these are the museums which may just become your California highlights.
Any Hot Dog
Long lines of people and creatively topped dogs will indicate you’ve come to the right place. An LA institution since 1939, Pink’s is regularly cited as one of LA’s most iconic dishes and with a menu that includes bacon burrito dogs, philly cheesesteak dogs and ‘the Hollywood walk of Fame dog’, it’s not hard to see why.
Best eaten at Pink’s Hot Dogs, 709 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles
Fully Topped Donut
Being open 24/7, there’s basically never not a good time for a California donut. Topped with just about anything you can imagine (Lucky Charms, Reeses Pieces), these bad boys come in both specialty flavours, and the classics (raspberry, lemon, blueberry). Don’t fancy a donut at 8am? They also serve up tasty croissants, muffins, milkshakes and coffee.
Best eaten at California Donuts, 3540 W 3rd Street, Los Angeles
Animal Style Anything
Just in case we haven’t convinced you yet of the absolute deliciousness that awaits you at In-N-Out, we’ll give it another shot. With locations across the state this place is as California as you can get, with flavours that don’t disappoint. What to order? As the title suggests, pretty much animal style anything…
Best eaten at In-N- Out Burger, locations across California
Secret Breakfast Ice Cream
Intrigued? You should be. Crazy popular and known as being ‘for adults, by adults’, Humphry Slocombe ice cream knows how to draw the crowds. Secret Breakfast is undoubtedly their best seller; a surprising combination of bourbon and corn flake cookies, it’s one of three flavours offered daily among an ever changing roster of creative ice creams.
Best eaten at Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream, locations across San Francisco
What started as a parking lot business soon boomed into one of LA’s best loved food trucks, such is the success of Ricky Piña’s Baja-style tacos. For a humble $3, expect a flavor party consisting of delicate white fish cooked to a tasty golden brown, topped with chopped cabbage and pico de gallo, and all folded into a soft tortilla.
Best eaten at Ricky’s Fish Tacos, 3117 Riverside Dr., Los Angeles
Food in California
Whether you're stuffing your face with outrageous hot dogs, juicy burgers and exploding doughnuts, or you’re mirroring the LA lifestyle with green juices and vegan wraps, there’s one thing for sure – California food is yum. Undeniably American but with strong Asian and Mexican influences, we have one piece of advice when eating in the golden state – don’t hold back.