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A complete guide: Unique places to visit in California

Are you all set to tick off California from your travel bucket list but don’t know how to make the most of your trip?  Then, join us as we take you through our curated list of unique places to visit in California.

Get ready to begin your wonder of California’s sprawling backyard.

hitchhicker's guide

Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara

The first place on our list is far away from the big-city bustle. Cue the Santa Ynez Valley, California’s most well-known wine region. Amidst the undulating hills, you’ll find picturesque shots of the sprawling wineries. 

This destination is perfect for trek-lovers who want to take stunning pictures against California’s famous sunsets and orange skies. 

The wine enthusiasts will find themselves at home here as the cooler climate allows many wine varieties to flourish in the valley.

Santa Ynez Valley hitchhiker's guide

Muir Woods, San Francisco

This unique place to visit in California is home to some of the tallest redwoods. Many of the trees here are over a thousand years old. Some of them stretch over two hundred and fifty feet in the sky!

A trip to Muir Woods will guarantee that you walk away with unforgettable pictures. You can walk through the trail on foot at your own pace and let yourself be surprised at every corner.

Griffith Observatory hitchhiker's guide

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

If you’re in California, you can’t miss out on Los Angeles. But when you get there, check out the Griffith Observatory for stunning views of the stars and the solar system!

It features a variety of science and space-related activities and displays, including the famous Tesla coil. Feel free to bring your children along and indulge in these opportunities. 

There is something here for everyone! So, you will likely be walking away with some newly satisfied curiosity that you didn’t even know you had. Oh, and did we mention what a fantastic view you get of the Hollywood sign?

Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood, San Francisco

With its roots in the hippie counterculture movement, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood is a culturally diverse and colorful place to visit. 

In its streets, you’ll find a large variety of boutiques, artisanal shops, murals, and various bright, colored Victorian-style houses. 


Make it a day trip! You can explore the cafes while getting the unique opportunity to interact with the diverse crowd that this locality attracts. Look no further if you want to visit a unique neighborhood in San Francisco!

What’s more? You can commute easily using buses and get around as a true tourist!

Trans-Catalina Trail, Catalina Island

What use is a trip to California if you didn’t pack your boots, ready for an adventure? The Trans-Catalina Trail is the perfect match for those among you who can’t wait to stretch your legs.

California is known for its sprawling landscape. While its diverse cities can get your adrenaline pumping, they don’t come anywhere close to what this trail has to offer.

It stretches for over 38 miles and gains an impressive 10,000 feet of height. Spectacular views are, of course, included, with the coastline stretching across the horizon. 

This destination can keep you busy for a few days, making unforgettable memories with your friends. It is undoubtedly one of the most unique places to visit in California. You won’t be disappointed if you choose to take it on!

Don’t worry if you’re not in your fittest shape. Mini sections of the trail are open to hikers and families who want to visit for a day!

San Diego Zoo, San Diego

A zoo is commonly a part of any itinerary and for a good reason. Zoos offer a peek into the world that we all inhabit but seldom get to experience in front of our eyes. If you’re looking for the perfect zoo to visit, look no further!

With over four thousand different species of animals, you’re in for a proper day-trip. Feel free to explore their unique ecosystems that span animals from all over the world. 

You’ll be able to find tours and other activities like animal feeding demonstration that keeps your entire group interested. 

Alcatraz, San Francisco

Alcatraz hitchhiker's guide

You can’t miss this one! This is hands-down one of the most unique places to visit in California. 

Starting from the Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll take a ferry to the island, historically famous for being inescapable! 

On The Rock, you can join a guided tour where you will find out about life in Alcatraz prison. Moreover, you can even get the chance to walk around corridors! Feel free to bring a camera along for period shots of the prison. 

Hopefully, you will arrive at your judgment about whether the prison really was impossible to escape from or not!

This is a unique place to visit in California because it combines different experiences into one. Everything is covered from sea-lion sounds on Fisherman’s Wharf to a ferry ride and fantastic photography opportunities.

California State Route 1

California state

Here’s what you need to do. Rent a car or a bike, and get on this coastal highway at sunset. You will be able to behold a spectacular view of the coast and California’s famous sunsets at sea as you drive around hills and undulating plains.

This place is unique because it isn’t somewhere you have to visit, but someplace that you experience. This drive is pure joy. 

So, what are you waiting for? Bring your road-trip playlist and set off in a fancy car! You can even plan a trip visiting the great coastal cities of California, all in one day. Indeed, a unique place to visit in California

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

One of the more ‘classic’ Californian experiences, but not any less exciting.

One of the most iconic suspension bridges in the world; you’ll not find any shortage of spots to get the perfect picture taken. But forget about those for a second; you’ll find yourself gazing across the strait as sailboats traverse underneath the bridge. 

Murphys, California

Situated in the serene foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, this small Californian town is known as one of the best small towns to visit in the US.

A short trip away from the famous Lake Tahoe; you can choose to spend some days in this beautiful town on your trip to California.

And what’s not to love about it? Choose from a variety of hotels while spending your afternoons exploring the vibrancy of the community here, from theatre to fine dining and so much more!

It is a town with its roots in gold rush history, so you’re likely to find quite a few period pieces as you walk around its streets. You can equally choose to visit Lake Tahoe for a family excursion!

So, there we have it!

We’ve done our best at trying to compile a list of unique places to visit in California from an extensive list of equally exciting candidates. Now, it’s up to you to begin your adventure!

Find out about more exciting things to see in California here.

If you want to learn more about places to visit in California, check out this blog by US News. Another great guide is available at this link!

Happy traveling!

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I am Rocio

Hello there! Thank you for stopping by. My name is Rocio, and I’m a Latina mother with a wanderlust. I believe that family trips are important in forming well-rounded kids. Even when you have kids, you can still travel, so I help busy parents figure out how. Through my blog, Real world Mami, I want to give you tips that will help you plan epic trips to both well-known and less-known places around the world. Happy Travels!

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