Everybody knows the one about California being the world's eigth biggest economy if it was a standalone country, but fiscal statistics aside, this is undoubtedly one seriously blessed corner of the world.
California is blessed with as perfect a climate as you could wish for (OK, maybe except for in Death Valley), and landscapes running the full scenic gamut from gorgeous beaches to ski-friendly mountain ranges via perfect winemaking country, vast (in all senses) forests and some of the world's most dramatic National Parks. All rather sickening, really, but boy does California make for an amazing luxury holiday destination. Throw in the culture, creativity and sheer energetic output of the key cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, and a few treasures that are less well known - just ask! - and this is the perfect destination for family holidays or couples alike.
San Francisco or Los Angeles are the likely starting points for any Californian trip, and the two cities dovetail beautifully; San Francisco the understated, walking friendly, hipster hangout with great shopping and excellent Oriental cuisine, and LA the quirky and exuberantly OTT city of neighbourhoods you'll probably feel you knew before even arriving, thanks to the iconic status of places like Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Speaking of iconic status, the stretch of coastline and road between these two cities is generally regarded as one of the most dramatic and beautiful in the world, and a Big Sur Road Trip is right at the top of several of the Original Travel team's holiday bucket lists. En route are many Californian highlights such as the giant redwood forests, and attractive towns such as Carmel, Monterrey and Santa Barbara.
There's more. South of LA and a stone's throw from the border with Mexico, San Diego is a vibrant mish mash of North and Central American culture. More relaxed than the frenetic Los Angeles but with even better beaches, it is a place to unwind; made even easier by the city's reputation for having the best craft beer in the country. And on the subject of 'liquor', very few wine regions on the planet are as pleasant to visit as the beautiful Sonoma and Napa Valleys north of San Francisco, as famous for their scenery and restaurants as their excellent wines.
After a stint in the wine region, there's no place better for burning off the excess than the jaw-droppingly beautiful Yosemite National Park, on which more in our Great American Wilderness section.
All this, and we haven't even mentioned the seriously impressive ski conditions in Lake Tahoe and the multitude of family friendly things on offer in California, ranging from the obvious (Disneyland, SeaWorld and Universal Studios anyone?) to seeing the sea lions in San Francisco and even just enjoying a bit of good old fashioned bucket and spade work on the many beautiful beaches.
|Yosemite National Park|
|Highway One, the California Coast Road Trip|
|Napa & Sonoma Valleys|