By Isabella Brady

With scenic coastlines, dense forests, rich history and arid deserts, California truly has an adventure for everyone. Ironically, many Californians have experienced very little of their surroundings in comparison to the abundance of opportunities in their backyard. Sometimes just knowing what’s out there limits where we go! Here I have listed some of my personal favorites so you can start making awesome memories, and learn more about your home state! Hiking, relaxing, exploring—regardless of what you have in mind, here are some cool places to start.

National Parks & State Parks

  1. Channel islands –With beautiful kelp forests, sea caves, and history, these islands are a great place for outdoor adventures; kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, hiking, camping and more.
  2. Lassen Volcanic National Park – Picturesque mountains, rivers, and lakes surround the park, its most reputable region being the largest plug dome volcano in the world, and its namesake.
  3. La Brea tar pits- This historic park boasts a historical museum detailing everything from dinosaurs to the famous tar pits still there today, ironically located in the city center of Los Angeles.
  4. Ano Nuevo – An amazing place to observe elephant seals in their natural habitat, visit a museum and admire the California coast.
  5. Shasta National Forest – The iconic mountain measures about 7,000 feet in elevation, and hosts a myriad of outdoor activities, including renowned skiing, mountaineering and beautiful wilderness.
  6. Yosemite – The first National Park, Yosemite is known for its capital attractions, encompassing half dome, Yosemite falls, and a variety of others. However, the historic park also holds unique ethnic history of the Miwok tribe who was driven out—an  important aspect to all regions of California and the U.S.
  7. Death Valley – Driest, hottest and lowest of the National Parks, Death valley is a great place to witness the beauty of the California desert, and to bring lots of water!
  8. Joshua tree – Located in the Mojave desert, the park is named for its miraculous and rare Joshua trees which are visited by 2.4 million people every year.
  9. Sequoia and Kings canyon –  Home to densely forested mountains, the rugged landscape offers endless trails and opportunities for visitors to explore.
  10. Hearst Castle – William Randolph Hearst’s historical home, the estate offers stunning views and unique architecture to explore.
  11. Julia Pfieffer Burns Falls – Covertly nestled in Big Sur’s coastline, this hidden gem offers emerald waters, scenic overlooks, and an undisturbed landscape for tourists to capture.

Amusement parks

  • Great America
  • Raging Waters
  • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
  • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Universal Studios
  • Knott’s Berry Farm
  • Santa Monica (Belmont) Pier
  • Sea World


  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • Bay Bridge
  • Bixby Bridge

Even More Places to Explore!

  • John Steinbeck’s house 
  • Winchester mystery house
  • Sunol Adobe
  • 21 Missions –have you seen them all?
  • Nike missile site
  • Old Sacramento
  • Pampanito 
  • USS Hornet
  • Colombia state historical park
  • San Diego State historical park
  • The Balclutha
  • Star of India
  • Coloma
  • Fort Ross
  • Donner Camp
  • Jack London state park
  • Larkin House 
  • Leland Stanford state park
  • Jelly Belly Factory
  • Musee Mecanique
  • De Young Museum 
  • San Francisco Museum of Art
  • Sausalito
  • Angel Island
  • Alcatraz
  • Lake Tahoe
  • Muir Woods
  • Henry Cowell
  • Henry Coe
  • Pinecrest
  • Pinnacles