Attractions

California is home to a wealth of attractions, boasting some of the most scenic drives and national parks in the US, and indeed the world, as well as some stupendously fun man-made diversions, including dozens of celebrated theme parks. The Golden State is more than just the thrill of Hollywood and its resident celebrities, and holidaymakers may panic when choosing from the myriad options; many travellers craft their itineraries around one of the three great cities of California - Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego - but these urban playgrounds are just one aspect of the state's diverse appeal.

The most renowned attractions of California include Redwood National Park and Sequoia National Park, home to some of the tallest trees in the world, including the mammoth General Sherman, and the world-famous theme parks like Disneyland, SeaWorld San Diego, Knott's Berry Farm and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The remarkable, barren landscapes of Death Valley National Park, the beautiful Big Sur coastline, Lake Tahoe, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge spanning San Francisco Bay, and the unparalleled Yosemite National Park, are all major drawcards.

Golden Gate Bridge photo

Golden Gate Bridge

The rust-coloured towers, graceful suspension and supportive cables of the Golden Gate Bridge make this famous symbol of San Francisco the most photographed bridge in the world, an…

Golden Gate Bridge

The rust-coloured towers, graceful suspension and supportive cables of the Golden Gate Bridge make this famous symbol of San Francisco the most photographed bridge in the world, and visible from almost any high point in the city, although it is often shrouded in rolling fog. Spanning the two-mile (3km) mouth of the bay, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its completion in 1937 and was built to withstand winds of more than 100 mph (161km per hour). During high winds it can sway up to 27 feet (8m) in each direction. One of the great engineering accomplishments of the 20th century, the bridge claims to have used enough wire in its construction to stretch around the earth several times. Walking across the bridge, under the towers that loom 65 storeys above the water, is one of the best ways to experience the immensity of the structure and affords beautiful views of the San Francisco skyline, the bay and its islands.

Address Highway 101 North

Website www.goldengatebridge.org

Transport

Golden Gate Transit buses towards Marin County and San Francisco Financial District and Civic Centre as well as Muni buses 28 and 76 stop at the bridge toll plaza.

Opens Access for pedestrians is on the east sidewalk during daylight hours only from sunrise to sunset (April to October 5am-9pm, November to March 5am-6:30pm). The bridge is open 24 hours for motorists.

Admission

$8 toll is collected from cars when driving south towards the city, the toll is reduced when carpooling.

Hollywood photo

Hollywood

Los Angeles is the film and entertainment capital of the world and the name 'Hollywood' is the embodiment of glamour, success and money; the place where films are made, television …

Hollywood

Los Angeles is the film and entertainment capital of the world and the name 'Hollywood' is the embodiment of glamour, success and money; the place where films are made, television shows are recorded and stars take up residence. The famous Hollywood sign on the hills above the city has become the enduring symbol of the movie industry and of Los Angeles itself - the 50-foot-high (15m) white letters can be seen from miles away. The historic heart of the movie industry is centred on Hollywood Boulevard where millions of visitors flock to see landmark attractions and museums.

The impressive Mann's (Grauman's) Chinese Theatre is famous for its courtyard where over 200 stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood and Frank Sinatra have set their signatures and imprints of their hands or feet in cement. For many years the theatre has been the spot for movie premieres and is modelled on a Chinese temple with columns, dragons and an ornate interior. Passing in front of the theatre is the mile-long Walk of Fame, the world-famous sidewalk embedded with the names of legendary television, film, radio, theatre and recording greats engraved within pink granite stars. More than 2,500 celebrities are honoured here, including Elvis Presley, Charlie Chapman, Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson.

The cylindrical Capitol Records Tower is one of the most recognisable buildings in the city and is supposed to resemble a 12-storey stack of records with a needle on top that blinks out 'h-o-l-l-y-w-o-o-d' in Morse code. Other attractions include the Kodak Theatre (designed to host the Academy Awards) and the Hollywood Guinness World Records Museum, as well as the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Ripley's 'Believe It or Not!' Museum.

Website www.hollywoodchamber.net

Disneyland Resort photo

Disneyland Resort

Claiming to be 'The Happiest Place on Earth', Disneyland is an integral part of an American childhood and was the world's first mega theme park designed for the family by Walt Disn…

Disneyland Resort

Claiming to be 'The Happiest Place on Earth', Disneyland is an integral part of an American childhood and was the world's first mega theme park designed for the family by Walt Disney in 1955. It is one of America's most famous attractions and despite competition from other similar parks in Florida, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai nothing can compare to the original. It is an enchanted kingdom of fantasy and imagination filled with magical entertainment and attractions.

The park is divided into different 'lands' and each one features its own rides, dining experiences and entertainment as well as daily live-action shows and parades. Adventureland, Fantasyland, Critter Country, Frontierland, Mickey's Toontown, Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square and Main Street USA offer such attractions as a boat trip through the underground caverns of Pirates of the Caribbean, an experience of the Wild West on the Thunder Mountain Railroad, a visit to Sleeping Beauty's Castle and flying with Dumbo the elephant, a giddy journey with Indiana Jones, a spooky tour of the Haunted Mansion, or the experience of a pitch-black rollercoaster ride inside Space Mountain, and a wet ride on Splash Mountain.

There is also a shopping, dining and entertainment district called Downtown Disney. Adjacent to Disneyland is California Adventure Park, a separate park minus the cartoon characters that offers further rides and rollercoasters, but an additional ticket is required. The parks are busiest during summer from mid-June to mid-September and during school holidays and there are usually long queues at the popular rides. The Fastpass system allows visitors to reserve a place in line at the park's busiest attractions. No day at Disneyland is complete without watching the nightly fireworks show with an appearance by Tinkerbell.

Address 1313 Harbour Boulevard, Anaheim

Website www.disneyland.com

Opens Both parks are open daily, but opening hours vary according to days and seasons; check the official website for up to date information.

Admission

Passes start at $72 and can be for three, four or five days.

Yosemite National Park photo

Yosemite National Park

One of the country's premier national parks, Yosemite receives millions of visitors each year with more than four million people visiting the Yosemite Valley alone. It is home to t…

Yosemite National Park

One of the country's premier national parks, Yosemite receives millions of visitors each year with more than four million people visiting the Yosemite Valley alone. It is home to the biggest piece of exposed granite in the world, some of the highest waterfalls, and giant redwoods that are among the tallest and oldest trees on earth. The Yosemite Valley was formed by glacial action that carved away the softer rock creating the almost-vertical 3,000ft (914m) granite cliffs that line the seven-mile (11km) long valley floor.

The towering cliffs are streaked with waterfalls and the valley floor is covered in meadows, rivers and forests that are the habitat of black bears, deer and coyotes. It is one of the world's most dramatic geological sights with granite monoliths like the 3,600ft (1,097m) piece known as El Capitan, and the sheerest cliff in North America, the Half Dome. Climbers on the granite faces are almost invisible to the naked eye and at night pinpricks of light halfway up indicate where they have tied themselves in for the night, ready for the next day's climbing.

The most spectacular views of the valley are from Glacier Point, the top of a sheer cliff perched high above the valley, with magnificent vistas of Half Dome and the mountains of the High Sierra in the distance. There are numerous trails in the valley and many lead to several of the incredible waterfalls that are at their most dramatic after the spring snowmelt, including the 2,425ft (739m) Yosemite Falls and the Vernal Falls that drenches hikers in rainbow-coloured spray. A loop trail takes walkers to the hundreds of towering redwoods in Mariposa Grove, one over 2,700 years old.

Although the park is big enough to absorb the crowds, 95 percent of the tourist activity is concentrated within the valley, and outdoor enthusiasts need only walk a little further along the trails to find all the solitude and wilderness they desire. Above the valley are the large open fields of Tuolumne Meadows that offer fantastic scenery, uncrowded camping and a haven for hikers with hundreds of miles of trails. Yosemite Village is the largest developed region in the Yosemite Valley and holds the main visitor's centre, restaurants and shops as well as nearby hotel accommodation.

Website www.nps.gov/yose

Transport

Shuttle buses are available between all areas of the park. There are bus services into the park from Merced, Mariposa and nearby communities, and from the Fresno-Yosemite Airport 90 miles (145km) from the south entrance.

Opens The park is open all year round, 24-hours, but some roads may be closed from October to June due to snow, such as the Tioga, Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove Roads. Chains may be required on the other roads during winter. The Yosemite Village Visitor Center is open daily 8am-6pm (June to September) and until 5pm in winter.

Admission

$30 per vehicle or $15 per individual, valid for seven days.

Chinatown photo

Chinatown

A dragon-draped archway at the intersection of Bush and Grant streets marks the entrance to Chinatown in San Francisco, the oldest Chinatown in the United States and the largest Ch…

Chinatown

A dragon-draped archway at the intersection of Bush and Grant streets marks the entrance to Chinatown in San Francisco, the oldest Chinatown in the United States and the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. Chinatown draws more tourists than the Golden Gate Bridge with its streets teeming with fish and vegetable stalls, herbal shops, temples and eateries. There are some fantastic Chinese and dim sum restaurants such as Hunan Home's and R&G; while the shopping is nearly unlimited as lucky cats wave from every doorway. Museums include the Chinese Historical Society of America and Chinese Culture Center, making Chinatown an absolute must-see.

Address Intersection of Bush and Grant Streets

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