California, the most populous and the third largest U.S. state by area, has a diverse geography, the largest economy in the country, and holds some of the nation’s most populous urban areas.
The Greater Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area are its biggest and most densely populated areas, and Sacramento is its capital.
California’s western coastline along the Pacific Ocean is popular for its warm, Mediterranean climate. It is also known for its Sierra Nevada mountains in the east, the Mojave Desert in the southeast, and the Redwood Forest in the Northwest.
These varying land masses bring contrasting weather patterns such as moist, rainy areas, arid conditions, and snow at higher elevations.
California, known for its popular culture, is not short of beaches, sports, technology, and entertainment. Hollywood near Los Angeles is home to the world’s oldest and largest film industry.
Due to California’s immense expanse of land and geologic diversity, it offers a plethora of national landmarks to visit and enjoy its natural beauty.
Whether you seek the thrill of thematic attractions or are an art, history, or nature buff, the Golden State has an exciting slice to offer you for your next trip out west.
Not sure what you want to see or where you want to go? We can help you decide. Read up on the following popular Californian landmark destinations.
Famous Landmarks in California
1. Yosemite National Park
Congress established Yosemite as a national park in 1890, and in 1984, Yosemite was declared a world heritage site. Roughly the size of Rhode Island, the national park in Central California is mostly surrounded by wilderness.
It is internationally recognized for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, lakes, mountains, glaciers, and 3,000-year-old giant sequoia trees. Millions of visitors each year flock to Yosemite, and that keeps growing.
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Activities such as rock climbing the 7-mile-wide canyon, El Capitan, or taking pictures of Yosemite Falls, the largest waterfall in North America, are only a small sample of excursions you can avail yourself of.
If anything, do participate in an interesting lecture about the ever-evolving story of the sequoia forests and how their co-existence with other surrounding plants and animals sustains the park’s entire existence.
2. Joshua Tree National Park
This national park, located in southeastern California, sits on the Mojave and Colorado deserts. It lies east of Los Angeles and north of Palm Springs.
The park was named after the trees which are native to this area. Joshua Tree became a national park in 1994 when the U.S. Congress passed the California Desert Protection Act.
Slightly larger than Rhode Island, the park is mostly wilderness with the Little San Bernardino Mountains on its southwest edge.
Explore the geographical formations and learn about its rich history of laws to protect its ecosystem. Engage in backpacking, biking, camping, birding, horseback riding, and geological tours.
3. Disneyland Park
This ever-popular theme park in Anaheim opened in 1955 and was first imagined by Walt Disney while visiting Griffith Park in Los Angeles with his daughters.
It consists of nine themed places in which you can enjoy the feel of different environments and times. Whether you like the old west, exotic settings, imaginary worlds, or the futuristic space age, you have your pick of diverse attractions.
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In addition, you can enjoy live entertainment such as musical shows, fireworks, and parades at scheduled times. Pose with and take pictures with your favorite Disney characters throughout the park.
As per ongoing renovation, Disney California Adventure Park opened in 2001, while Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge debuted in 2019.
Expected to be approved by 2023, Disney announced plans to further expand the park with more rides, restaurants, and shops, titled DisneylandForward.
4. Golden Gate Bridge
The famous 1-mile suspension bridge crosses from San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. It gets its name not from its color but from the Golden Gate Strait channel.
Also Read: Famous Landmarks in San Francisco
At 746 feet high, the bridge is declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World and recognized as a symbol of San Francisco and California.
It was once considered the largest and tallest suspension bridge when it opened in 1937. The Golden Gate Bridge links San Francisco to Marin County, carrying cars, pedestrians, and bicycle traffic.
5. Alcatraz Island
This small island in San Francisco Bay, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, used to house one of the most notorious federal prisons in American history.
The prison closed in 1963 and is now a major tourist attraction. It welcomes over 1.5 million visitors annually who enjoy its fantastic views of the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you are interested in exploring its federal penitentiary history, you can spend a few hours perusing the exhibits, viewing video presentations, or going on audio tours.
6. Sequoia National Park
Ancient giant sequoias are the main attraction of this national park. However, you can also find huge mountains, foothills, deep canyons, and vast caverns. Explore the Groves, where you can tour the forest, camp, hike, picnic, or find lodging accommodations.
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Please stop by the visitor centers and museums to explore exhibits, get travel information, or shop in its park stores. Kids of all ages can earn badges by completing activities in its Junior ranger book.
On an overnight backpacking trip, experience the majestic landscape of the Sierra Nevada’s wilderness. Study the biodiversity and find out how wildfires affect its abundance.
7. San Diego Zoo
The 100-acre wildlife park is designed as a natural habitat setting which is home to about 4,000 animals, including many rare and endangered species.
It is located north of downtown San Diego in Balboa Park. Enjoy an exciting educational experience while you support San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s conversation efforts. Kids go free at the zoo between October 1 and 31st.
Youth can learn about nature and encounter new species through the Wildlife Explorers Basecamp program, which began on March 11, 2022, and is ongoing.
Some animal exhibits that can be seen are apes, elephants, polar bears, and pandas. It is the most visited zoo in the U.S. with more than 4 million visitors in 2018.
8. Universal Studios Hollywood
This well-known film studio was originally created to offer tours of the real Universal Studios Films sets. It is the first of many Universal Studio Theme Parks worldwide.
The first studio tour began in 1914 when Carl Laemmle, a German American Immigrant, bought the Taylor ranch in the San Fernando Valley and founded Universal City. A year later, he opened Universal Studios.
Modern-day Universal Studios is split into an upper and lower area. It contains rides, shows, play areas, concession stands, merchandise shops and other attractions. Movie-themed thrill rides and shows are popular, as well as 3D, interactive, and special effects stage presentations.
9. Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Founded in 1961, the LACMA used to be part of the L.A. Museum of History, Science, and Art but was moved to Wilshire Boulevard. Its collections grew in the 1980s, and buildings were added to replace older, demolished ones.
In 2020, Peter Zumthor created a new facility and now it is the largest art museum in the western U.S., attracting nearly 9 million visitors annually.
The museum holds 150,000 works of art, including film features, photography, and a concert series. More recent exhibits, such as movie-director exhibits, focus on popular culture and entertainment.
LACMA reflects 6,000 years of global artistic expression while experimenting with new educational initiatives to engage more diverse audiences.
10. Griffith Observatory
This is a 67,000-square-foot observatory in Los Angeles near the slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. It is a popular tourist attraction with a close view of the Hollywood sign.
One can explore the cosmos through telescopes, see free live shows in its Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and enjoy spectacular views of the L.A. Basin and Downtown Los Angeles.
Griffith J. Griffith had it built in 1935 after donating land. His goal was to make astronomy accessible to the public. Since then, it continues to promote science education and experiential astronomy.
Now owned and operated by the City of L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks, Griffith Observatory is the most visited public observatory in the world.
Perhaps now you have a better idea of where you want to visit as you make your way to the Golden West. Whether you are awe-inspired by its natural resources, enlightened by its rich, diverse culture, or enamored with its posh cities and entertainment, the land of milk and honey is sure to satisfy your lust for adventure.