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Dreaming of iconic surf beaches, glitzy Hollywood glamour, and wild national parks? Set your sights on California for a long-haul holiday. The Golden State stretches out along the USA’s west coast, offering year-round sunshine, spectacular nature, and a one-of-a-kind, irreverent culture.
Home to surf-kissed beaches and dynamic cities, Southern California is a superb spot for a holiday. Head to the golden sands around Malibu and San Diego for city and sea. Get away from the crowds in tranquil spots such as Carmel beach and Mendocino. Browse galleries in between beach days at arty Laguna beach.
If food is your thing, Los Angeles and San Francisco have exceptional Mexican, Chinese, and other imported cuisines, and brunch is a very big deal – prepare to queue for that vegan Buddha bowl and oat milk cortado. Swirl a glass of chardonnay at Napa’s upscale vineyards or head to Sonoma, where cheerful waitstaff top up glasses of zinfandel.
For a taste of California’s natural drama, explore the outdoors in Yosemite, Sequoia and Death Valley national parks. Head to alpine Lake Tahoe, bordering the neighbouring state of Nevada, for unrivalled hiking. Get lost among giants in Redwood National Park. Towering forests and technicolour deserts await.
For a longer trip, California’s epic landscapes are perfect for a road trip: drive along the Pacific Coast Highway from the Golden Gate Bridge to Big Sur, stopping at quirky Santa Barbara, Los Angeles’ sparkling skyline, and fun-loving San Diego. There’s kid-friendly fun along the way, with Disneyland and Six Flags theme parks, pier side fun in Santa Monica, and zany museums galore.
Most people travel safely in California, though large cities like LA and San Francisco have neighbourhoods where there is street crime. For the most up-to-date travel advice for the USA, check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
British passport holders need a visa waiver (ESTA) to holiday in the USA.
Four days is enough for a whistle-stop tour of Los Angeles or San Francisco, but you’ll need at least a week to add a national park such as Death Valley or Yosemite. For a coastal road trip or a tour of national parks and beauty spots like Tahoe, a fortnight is ideal.
City police are quick to enforce hands-free driving laws.
Car rentals are easy to find at airports and major cities (book ahead). You don’t need a car in Los Angeles, which has a metro and buses, or San Francisco, where public transport is reasonable. The Coast Starlight train is a slow but eco-friendly way to travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
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