The best places to visit in California from surf spots to mountain tops

From towering redwood forests in foggy Northern California to perfectly sun-kissed surf beaches in the south, this “Golden State” alongside the Pacific simply begs to be explored. Come for the landscape, stay for the sensational meals, and glimpse the future in the making on America’s creative coast

San Francisco’s Golden Gates

Strut out onto San Francisco’s iconic bridge to spy on cargo ships threading through pylons painted “International Orange.” Memorize the 360-degree views of the rugged Marin Headlands, downtown skyscrapers and the speck that is Alcatraz.

Not too far away, you could spend days getting lost in Golden Gate Park without uncovering all of its secrets, like the paddleboat pond and bison paddock, or fully exploring its innovative science and art museums. Weekend traffic closures make the park even more of a paradise for pedestrians and cyclists.

Redwood forests

California’s towering giants grow along much of the coast, from Big Sur to the Oregon border. It’s possible to cruise past these trees – or even drive right through them at old-fashioned tourist traps – but nothing compares to the awe you’ll feel while walking underneath the ancient ones. Meditate on eternity at Muir Woods National Monument, Humboldt Redwoods State Park or Redwood National & State Parks.

Sonoma Valley

As winemaking in neighboring Napa Valley grows ever more upscale, here sun-dappled vineyards are still surrounded by pastoral ranchlands. The uniqueness of the terroir is valued in this down-to-earth wine country, where you taste new vintages straight from the barrel inside a tin-roofed shed while playing with the winemaker’s pet dog. Relax and enjoy a late-harvest zinfandel with a scoop of white-chocolate ice cream drizzled with organic olive oil. This is Sonoma: conventions need not apply.

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