5 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in California

1. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park in Northern California is one of the United States' most scenic and famous national parks. The mountains, valleys, rivers and huge waterfalls have drawn visitors and artists here throughout the decades. Ansel Adams' photographs of the park have famously captured some of the beauty and awe that has inspired visitors and photographers over the years.

Yosemite Valley, carved by glaciers during the last ice age, is located at the center of Yosemite National Park. Granite domes and many powerful waterfalls, including Upper Yosemite Falls which drops 1,430 feet at one point, rise above the forest covered floor.

One of the most famous sites in the park is the sheer rock face of El Capitán. Other must see sights in the park are the Cathedral Spires, Sentinel Dome and Sentinel Rock, Half Dome, the lookout from Glacier Point, and the beautiful view of Yosemite Falls from Eagle Peak, the highest peak of the Three Brothers. For a look at some huge trees, the Mariposa Grove, located in the southern part of the park, features the largest stand of giant sequoias in the park.

2. Catalina Island

This charming island is located approximately 22 miles (35 km) across the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles. It is both a favorite day trip for visitors to L.A., as well as a popular vacation and honeymoon spot. Santa Catalina is a small island with two main centers of population, Two Harbors and Avalon. Most travelers to the island stay mainly in the Avalon area. Surprisingly, the island even boasts a small population of American bison that were brought to the island during the filming of a movie. Travelers can reach the island by private boat, ferries, helicopters or small planes. Once on the island, transportation is limited to bicycles, taxis and golf carts.

3. Golden Gate Bridge

Perhaps among the most recognizable landmarks in the United States, the Golden Gate Bridge spans the water between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Opened in 1937, it replaced the ferry system that was originally used to get people between San Francisco and Marin County. When it opened, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, a record it held for nearly 30 years. Its engineering has led it to be considered one of the Wonders of the Modern World.

4. Sacramento

Sacramento is California’s state capitol, but there’s more than just government offices in this north-central California city. It has gotten to be known as one of the state’s top art cities, with museums, architecture, and galleries to satisfy any art lover. Performing arts are also a big deal here, so check out a theater performance or comedy show during your stay. Make sure to spend some time in Midtown, a trendy neighborhood with modern restaurants, bars, and boutique shops.

5. Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park

Another curiosity of the Dead Valley is its dunes. No matter that a desert in its sandy context is nowhere to be seen in close proximity, suddenly there is this swath of land covered by the most picturesque sand dunes ever. They are no competition for the Sossusvlei monsters and if one has recently visited Namibia this place would be an understatement. At the same time the juxtaposition with the lofty mountains in the background and the thought that yet another natural phenomenon has been packed into this tiny space in geographical terms makes Goosebumps crawl up your neck.