California’s popular image across the nation is often limited to certain sights, like Southern California beaches, and certain cities, like San Francisco. But the entire state is beautiful and holds many other cities and sights that visitors simply shouldn’t miss.

The Poppy Reserve

If you’d like to swim in a sea of orange flowers, check out the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State Natural Reserve. Located just outside of Lancaster, CA, north of Los Angeles, the park boasts fields of bright orange California poppies, of course, along with several other species of California wildflowers. Poppy viewing is best in April; freezes earlier in the year can affect the amount of blooms.

Avalon and Santa Catalina Island

The Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California are mostly uninhabited save for military and state park personnel, and groups of determined campers. But Santa Catalina Island (or just Catalina) has two towns, Avalon and Two Harbors, as well as a respected marine institute. Whether you want to stroll down Avalon’s car-restricted streets, hike around the island, or go boating or snorkeling, a day on Catalina will be packed with activity.


This Marin County town, north of San Francisco, offers sights that visitors will not forget. Not only are you near the lovely hills of coastal California, but you are within easy reach of the fantastic Point Reyes National Seashore. If you are thinking of heading to Novato for retirement, consider that this location offers some great museums and historical areas to keep you busy.  Because of this, and many other reasons, people decide that this is where that want to live.

Balboa Park

Just north of downtown San Diego, Balboa Park has an internationally respected zoo, several museums, a hands-on science center, the Old Globe Theatre, and many gardens showcasing different types of plants from roses to desert vegetation. Restaurants dot the park, and the views east toward the mountains of San Diego County can’t be beat.


The town of Solvang looks like it was built for tourists, but the truth is quite different. This Danish-style was actually founded by Danes as a place for Danish settlers who were tired of harsh winters in the Midwestern United States. Modern visitors get to eat delicious Danish pastries and visit nearby wineries in the bucolic Santa Ynez Valley, as well as see one of the historic missions of California.

California holds so many sights and cities of interest that listing all of them would require a book (if not several books). Start with these five, though, and you’ll have a trip to remember.