Best Cities to Visit in California

cities in California

These cities in California have much more to offer

These cities in California have much more to offer than Hollywood, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the many incredible beaches. Old neighbourhoods, often located along the Pacific Ocean, offer a unique feel and personality; they are interspersed among modern cities full of amazing museums, world-class restaurants, and vibrant bars.

The beach scene is thriving in these cities, making it possible to roam through their streets, before relaxing on the pristine sand and having a cocktail later in the evening.

There’s plenty of outdoor activities in these storybook towns, including scenic coastal views and quaint main streets. Check out these beautiful towns and cities in California. 

Ojai

Ojai - cities in california

You can reach Ojai by taking the Pacific Coast Highway northwest of Los Angeles. Ojai is nestled in a valley among the Topatopa Mountains, offering breathtaking views of the mountains. biking, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing and even Jeep tours are all popular pursuits.

The country setting is also ideal for those seeking wellness experiences. If you are looking to unwind, indulge yourself in a spa treatment at Ojai Valley Inn. Moreover, if you’re visiting Ojai, it’s worth checking out Ojai Village, where you’ll find Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.

This area offers many charming shops and restaurants, including Bart’s Books, a popular outdoor bookstore.

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach - cities in california

In southern California, Laguna Beach is a tropical paradise. There are dozens of cove beaches hidden along Orange County’s coastline in residential neighbourhoods. This coastal beach town between San Diego and Los Angeles has been drawing visitors for years. Many beaches are a standout, such as Victoria Beach, which has a pirate tower built right into the cliffs, as well as Thousand Steps Beach, which is known for its sea caves. Beachgoers looking for traditional sandy shorelines will find them at Main Beach and Crystal Cove State Park.

Heisler Park offers epic oceanfront sunsets either at the beach or in the park, so don’t miss them.

St. Helena

St. Helena - cities in california

It’s safe to say that St. Helena is one of the most picturesque towns in the Napa Valley. Near the Napa city limits, St. Helena offers its visitors charm left and right with its tree-lined Main Street, , and a hearty selection of shops, restaurants, and galleries. You should also visit local wineries, such as Hall Wines, about 15 minutes from the city center, or Merryvale Vineyard, the first one created after Prohibition. For a special treat, check out The Restaurant at Meadowood (awarded three Michelin stars) or Woodhouse Chocolate.

Despite its central location, the real draw to this area is its close proximity to Napa Valley’s vineyards and state parks.

San Clemente

San Clemente - cities in california

If you’re visiting California, you can’t go wrong with San Clemente. The city of San Clemente, located in Orange County, is known for having “the world’s best climate.” It enjoys about 300 days of sunshine per year and average temperatures of 73 degrees all year long. Stunning scenery such as cascading hillsides, gorgeous beaches and Spanish colonial architecture only make the town even more picturesque.

You will find plenty of locals enjoying the weather and scenery at the bustling beach and pier in this city. Afterward, visitors can explore San Clemente’s striking coastline along the approximately 2-mile-long San Clemente Coastal Trail.

Sonoma

Sonoma - cities in california

The budget-conscious traveller is likely to take advantage of Sonoma’s wine country. Sonoma, situated about 45 miles north of San Francisco, is not only cheaper than Napa, but larger as well, which means fewer tourists at tasting rooms. However, the city of Sonoma is small, housing fewer than 12,000 people despite being located in Sonoma County (over 1,600 square miles). Sonoma is not only a great home base for exploring nearby wineries and vineyards, but also a National Historic Monument for its historically significant architecture.

You will Enjoy a stroll through the picturesque town center or a hike on the Sonoma Overlook Trail for spectacular views.

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach - cities in california

In addition to Oceano Dunes, Pismo Beach is home to many outdoor activities, including surfing, hiking, and more. In addition to horseback riding on the sandy beach, all-terrain vehicles can be rented and driven through the dunes. Sea caves in Dinosaur Caves Park can be explored by kayak during a kayaking tour. You can also take a stroll along Pismo Beach if you don’t like to venture far from the beach. The monastery butterfly grove is open from October to February so you can observe thousands of butterflies or walk the trails along the coastal hillsides.

Tahoe City

Tahoe City - cities in california

The tranquility of this town on Lake Tahoe offers an escape from the fast pace of city life. Located in the northwest region of Lake Tahoe, just a few miles from Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, this tiny town has a population of fewer than 3,000. A quiet Lake Boulevard runs through the town, flanked by towering pine trees, beautiful lake views, and a variety of local shops and charming restaurants that range from rustic to quirky. In town activities include Commons Beach, biking along the Truckee River Bike Trail, diving into Lake Tahoe from the Tahoe State Recreation Area, a great spot for camping.

Nevada City

Nevada City - cities in california

If you want a glimpse of California at the time of the gold rush, Nevada City is the place to go. Located approximately 60 miles northeast of Sacramento, this historic town has made its preservation a top priority and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Explore Broad Street, Nevada City’s main thoroughfare, where much of the town’s iconic architecture has been preserved, and you’ll also find a variety of small businesses run by friendly locals. Empire Mine State Historic Park, and the nearby Tahoe National Forest, are sure to appeal to history buffs, while outdoor enthusiasts should take advantage of the nearby park.

Idyllwild

Idyllwild - cities in california

In Idyllwild you can experience Yosemite-like landscapes without having to deal with the crowds that descend on the popular national park. Mount San Jacinto State Park, which is 105 miles east of Los Angeles, is home to Idyllwild, which features green forested landscapes and granite peaks. There is a rustic charm in this town that complements the surrounding landscape. Explore Idyllwild’s central streets and find one-of-a-kind goods before exploring the outdoors. The town is free of chain restaurants and stores.

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Morro Bay

Morro Bay - cities in california

There is no better place to relax and unwind than this small fishing village located about 20 miles north of San Luis Obispo. Visitors to Morro Bay will enjoy the laid-back atmosphere, which encourages them to enjoy the scenery. This famous volcanic plug, Morro Rock, stands at 576 feet high with an estimated age of 576 years. Historically, it was used by sailors for navigation as early as 1542. Many tourists visit the rock’s adjacent beaches to admire its stature. Other popular attractions in Morro Bay include trips to Morro Bay State Park and the Morro Bay National Estuary Program, which provides information about local wildlife for residents and visitors.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea - cities in california

In my opinion, this is among the most adorable towns in California. The stunning location along the Monterey coastline, lush forests, and fairytale-like architecture make this a dreamy retreat that will leave you wanting to stay. A walk through the streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea will allow you to fully enjoy this charming small town. Additionally, Carmel offers unique dining experiences because chain restaurants aren’t allowed to set up shop. After browsing and dining at locally owned businesses along Ocean Avenue, stroll down to Carmel Beach. Consider finding a spot underneath a cypress tree or sticking around for sunset.

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Julian

Julian - cities in california

Visitors willing to make the long drive from nearby San Diego, this mountain town offers sweeping wooded landscapes and country kitsch. Its old-world feel and wide range of outdoor activities make Julian stand out among place like it. The old main street features Western-style storefronts adorned with Americana. Lunch may be eaten at the old-fashioned Miner’s Diner, local goods may be purchased at the Julian Cider Mill, and dessert may be purchased at the famous Julian Pie Company. Then, you’ll find a number of beautiful parks to explore, including Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, William Heise County Park, and Santa Ysabel Preserve.