Things to do in California

Our most recommended things to do in California

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

1. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

From top to bottom, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway delivers a scenic and educational journey as you travel through 5 transitional zones. Some have compared it to taking a ride from Mexico to Alaska in just 10 minutes. See for yourself as you ride up to the top, where spectacular views await! The 2.5 mile (4 kilometer) ride from the Valley Station (elevation 2,643 feet, or 805 meters) to the Mountain Station (elevation 8,516 feet, or 2,596 meters) transports you from the warm desert sands to cool mountain air, with temperatures that are generally 30-degrees cooler than on the ground. The tramway is the threshold of the 14,000-acre Mt. San Jacinto State Park, a natural place with some of the last pristine wilderness in Southern California. In the winter, try cross-county skiing or snowshoeing. Rental equipment is available at the Adventure Cether, snow conditions permitting. During the summer months, camping, guided nature walks, and 54 miles (87 kilometers) of hiking are available. There are 2 dining options at the Mountain Station: Peaks Restaurant offers upscale contemporary cuisine with a spectacular view of the desert floor, and Pines Cafe is a cafeteria-style restaurant that offers a casual dining experience. Also at the top are gift shops, a Natural History Museum, and 2 documentary-style movies on the history of the tramway and the Mt. San Jacinto State Park.

San Diego: USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket

2. San Diego: USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket

Take a self-guided audio tour onboard the world’s longest-serving aircraft carrier, the historic USS Midway. See the carrier’s 25 restored aircraft from the days of WWII to Operation Desert Storm. Visit areas throughout the Midway, from the crew's sleeping quarters to the pilots' ready rooms. Docents are available throughout the carrier and are eager to share their stories, anecdotes, and statistics, creating a picture of just how important the USS Midway was to the U.S. Navy. Most guests spend 3 to 4 hours exploring this historic aircraft carrier and learning its history. The included audio guide, available in 6 languages, will help you explore the dozens of highlighted areas across the massive ship.  There are family-oriented activities throughout the Museum. Included are 3 types of flight simulators, music videos, short films, climb-aboard aircraft and cockpits, and more. The Museum is located at the Navy Pier in downtown San Diego.

San Jose: Winchester Mystery House Tour

3. San Jose: Winchester Mystery House Tour

Come explore the fascinating Victorian mansion built by Winchester rifle heiress, Sarah L. Winchester. Marvel at this vast, strange and unusual place. Take a 65-minute guided tour of this architectural marvel, built for 38 years from 1884. Experience beautiful stained glass windows, ornate parquet floors, and turn-of-the-century craftsmanship. Discover strange oddities such as doors to nowhere, stairs to the ceiling, and windows in the floor. See rooms bare with remnants of the 1906 earthquake damage, and others furnished with lounge chairs, grand pianos, and chandeliers. After your tour, walk round the beautiful the gardens, and enjoy the fresh flowers, picnic benches and palm trees. Try your hand at axe throwing or the shooting gallery for an additional charge, or browse for souvenirs at the gift shop.

San Francisco: Golden Gate Bay Cruise

4. San Francisco: Golden Gate Bay Cruise

Cruise around the Golden Gate Bay on a boat tour. Enjoy informative commentary, see sights like Alcatraz Island, and purchase food and drink from the onboard bar. Launched in 1939 as part of the Golden Gate International Exposition, this 1-hour cruise has been a highlight of any visit to San Francisco for over 75 years. With 8-14 departures daily from Fisherman's Wharf, you will sail along San Francisco's breathtaking waterfront, under the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, and close to the notorious Alcatraz Island. Discover San Francisco's fascinating history, brought to life through audio commentary broadcast in 16 languages via personal headphones. Look out for wildlife along the way, including pelicans, sea lions, and even dolphins and whales. Sail past the lively neighborhood of North Beach, the famous swimming clubs of Aquatic Park, the historic vessels at Hyde Street Pier, and San Francisco Maritime National Park, before heading west towards Golden Gate Bridge. Enjoy views of Crissy Field and the lush hillsides of the Presidio, before cruising under Golden Gate Bridge. Steam back into the Bay, traveling past the wildlife reserves of the Marin Headlands, and the legendary town of Sausalito, once home to the 1960s’ flower generation. With Angel Island State Park to your left, cruise around the infamous Alcatraz. After a full hour of exciting sights, the barking sea lions at Pier 39 welcome you back to Pier 43 1/2. A full bar with drinks, snacks, and merchandise, including logo wear, is available at reasonable prices on board the iconic red and blue sea vessels.

San Francisco: 1-Hour Bay Cruise by Boat

5. San Francisco: 1-Hour Bay Cruise by Boat

Enjoy a 1-hour journey along San Francisco's historic waterfront and experience the thrilling history of the San Francisco Bay, with all the sound and glory it deserves. The 1-hour non-stop Bay Cruise takes you past the famous PIER 39 sea lions and along San Francisco’s historic waterfront, revealing the city’s fascinating skyline. Relax in comfort, with both indoor and outdoor seating, and enjoy a full narration describing major landmarks as you sail by. See sights like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the iconic San Francisco skyline as you go. Whether it’s your first time to San Francisco, or your 10th visit, the Bay Cruise is something you should experience at least once in your life. You will get a complimentary souvenir map, which is available in nine languages, and if you get hungry, there’s a full-service snack bar on board with food and drink available to purchase.

Monterey Bay: Whale Watching Tour

6. Monterey Bay: Whale Watching Tour

Discover a variety of whale species in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on this cruise from Monterey. Uncover one of the world’s best locations for whale watching due to its deep submarine canyon close to shore. With whales spotted almost every day, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Set sail from the Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Catch a glimpse of the hundreds of Californian Sea Lions inside the harbor as the boat leaves the dock. Take advantage of the view and snap a photo to capture the memory. Pass the historic Cannery Row as you leave the harbor and enter the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Search for feeding humpback whales, a variety of dolphin species, porpoises, blue whales, and fin whales. Listen as the onboard biologist provides fascinating insights into the creatures of the bay and what is being done to protect them. During the summer/ fall season, the tour will focus on feeding whales that come to the bay to feast on small fish and krill. Spot humpback whales daily but keep an eye out for blue whales, fin whales, gray whales (finishing migration), orcas and a variety of other dolphin species. During the winter season, the tour will focus on migrating whales at the south end of Monterey Bay where gray whales pass by. Return to your starting point at the end of your tour.

South Lake Tahoe: Sightseeing Cruise of Emerald Bay

7. South Lake Tahoe: Sightseeing Cruise of Emerald Bay

Embark on a sightseeing cruise starting in South Lake Tahoe either at sunset or during the day. Take in the scenic beauty while cruising 11 kilometers across the lake to Emerald Bay, one of the top ten most photographed places in the world. Savor snacks and drinks as you sail. See the majestic mountains of South Lake Tahoe while onboard the world-class Tahoe Bleu Wave yacht. As you cruise, you will find indoor and outdoor seating with 360-degree panoramic views of Lake Tahoe, the snow-capped mountains, Fannette Island, Vikingsholm Castle, Eagle Waterfall, and the Rubicon. Navigate the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe while hearing your captain's narration about this lake. You may even get the chance to see a variety of wildlife such as the bald eagle, black bears, and wild geese. If you've chosen the sunset option, relax and watch the sun dip low below the sky.

San Diego: SeaWorld Skip-the-Line Park Admission Ticket

8. San Diego: SeaWorld Skip-the-Line Park Admission Ticket

Discover the underwater world at SeaWorld San Diego, with animal encounters, interactive exhibits, and thrilling rides. Get up close to marine life and enjoy educational animal presentations for the whole family to enjoy. Upgrade your ticket to include a dining pass to eat all day at SeaWorld. Experience thrilling rides such as Electric Eel with its high-energy twists and loops, or Manta, with two thrilling launches that send riders soaring in the spirit of the world’s largest ray. For kid-friendly fun, enjoy Tentacle Swirl, Sea Dragon Drop, Elmo's Flying Fish, and so much more. Admire the animals at SeaWorld such as beluga whales, walruses, penguins, sharks, and orcas as you learn about these incredible creatures. Enjoy interactive exhibits such as the Explorer's Reef Touchpools and Sea Lion Point. Explore the Sesame Street Bay of Play where you can meet your Sesame Street friends. If you choose to upgrade to the all-day dining bundle, you can get an entree, a side/dessert, and a drink every 1 hour at Shipwreck Reef Café®, Calypso Bay Smokehouse, Mama Stella’s® Pizza Kitchen, Big Bird's Bistro, Coral Market, Shark Market, Orca West Market, and Pretzel Shop.

Monterey: Whale Watching Tour with A Marine Guide

9. Monterey: Whale Watching Tour with A Marine Guide

Hop onboard one of the largest vessels in Monterey for a guided whale-watching tour. Leave the harbor and head out into Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary in search of whales, dolphins, and other marine wildlife that migrate through the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Relax in the heated cabins of the 110-feet Princess Monterey and the 100-feet Atlantis Monterey. Grab a snack or drink from the onboard bar, enjoy spacious indoor and outdoor seating, and never miss a moment with a 360-viewing walkaround deck. With deep nutrient-rich waters just offshore, Monterey Bay hosts humpback whales and blue whales during summer and fall. Gray whales pass by the coastline as they navigate one of the longest migrations of a marine mammal during winter and spring, while dolphins come to the bay throughout the year. Every trip is different, so whether it’s your first time on a marine wildlife cruise or you’re a whale-watching veteran, see what Monterey Bay has in store for you.

Monterey: Monterey Bay Dolphin and Whale Watching Boat Tour

10. Monterey: Monterey Bay Dolphin and Whale Watching Boat Tour

Discover the diverse wildlife of Monterey Bay on a guided dolphin and whale watching boat cruise. Feast your eyes on massive gray whales, watch playful dolphins leap from the water, spot turtles skimming underneath the waves, and learn about the ecological landscape of the bay's oceanic habitat. Begin your tour by meeting your captain and boarding the boat at the Old Fisherman's Wharf. Sail into Monterey Bay, watching for birds and otters along the wharf's shallow banks. Learn about local efforts to protect what is considered to be one of the most ecologically diverse bays in the area. As you sail further away from the shoreline, watch for harbor seals, bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales, elephant seals, and even sharks. Catch sight of gray whales leaping alongside the boat and curious killer whales, with their characteristic black and white coloring, swimming nearby.

Frequently asked questions about California

What top attractions are a must-see in California?

Other Sightseeing Options in California

Want to discover all there is to do in California? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about California

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 34,308 reviews

Defo recommend! The first hour or so is guided with such friendly and passionate staff. You get to see lots and even the Friends foundation. The self guided part of the tour allows you to see the Friends set, the Big Bang Theory set and more! Defo recommend!

We had a great time…2 first time riders.(1 adult, 1 teen) and one 2nd time rider. Just enough training and perfect pace. Just enough time for stops and picture taking. Highly recommend!

we had an amazing time with Jamie as our guide. we did the extended tour and there were all kinds of stories, history to be learned and a fun way to spend the evening. will do again!

The food was great, the staff was friendly, and the cruise was so much fun. Sam was our server and she left us the sweetest note at the end.

we saw a lot of dolphins, and the price is certainly fair