California Guide

Beach Boys songs and countless films have created the California dream and the reality is just as good. This sun lover’s, celebrity paradise offers a magical holiday experience for all.

In Southern California, Los Angeles is the place to be seen. You’ll find the homes of Hollywood legends, plus beaches and theme parks for all the family. Or soak up the sun in San Diego and Palm Springs.

Northern California is home to San Francisco, a laid back city of hills, with its iconic ‘street cars’ and Golden Gate Bridge. Away from the city you’ll find pretty seaside towns, vineyards and Yosemite National Park.

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San Francisco & Northern California

Home to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz IslandSan Francisco is a stunning landscape of hilly streets with beautiful Victorian architecture, diverse neighbourhoods and a vibrant historic waterfront.  This compact city is easy to navigate on foot or aboard its iconic cable cars.

For the best shops, restaurants and entertainment head to Union Square, whilst lively Fisherman’s Wharf provides family friendly dining along the water’s edge, with great views of the famous bridge.

The California coast is a delight of small towns and seaside resorts and is a perfect self drive destination. Santa Cruz boasts 29 miles of white sand beaches and Monterey styles itself the Sardine Capital of America.

Inland the scenery is a mix of vineyards, fruit groves and forests and the state is bordered on the east by the magnificent Sierra Nevada mountains and the beautiful Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

Things to do in San Francisco & Northern California

  • Walk, cycle or drive across the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Cruise and visit the infamous Alcatraz Island
  • Shop and dine in bustling Union Square
  • View the Bay and bridge from Golden Gate Park
  • Visit the largest Chinatown in the USA
  • Take a selfie with a sea lion at Pier 39 Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Navigate the steep turns on Lombard Street
  • Head to the mountains of the Sierra Nevada
  • Dine out on California’s superb seafood and wine
  • Explore the seaside towns on a self drive to Los Angeles

Getting There

By Road – Los Angeles 380 miles; Las Vegas 570 miles; Portland 630 miles

By Rail – From Los Angeles and Seattle and aboard the California Zephyr from Chicago

By Air – Direct flights from the UK and most major cities

Getting Around

San Francisco may be one of America’s biggest tourist destinations but it’s surprisingly compact and easy to get around by public transport. Most of the popular attractions are within walking distance of the city centre but riding the San Francisco’s famous cable cars is a must!

For Alcatraz or even a Bike Tour see our experiences, bookable before you go.

Hotels & Experiences

Our California hotels are chosen for their location and value for money. Don't forget to pre-book your day tours and activities.

Los Angeles & Southern California

Number one for most Los Angeles visitors is Hollywood, home to America’s film, television and music industries. Here you can follow the star studded Walk of Fame or visit an active film studio. In nearby Beverley Hills you will find the luxurious homes of the stars, as well as the fabulous shops and restaurants of Rodeo Drive.

For Baywatch fans, the trendy beach resorts of Santa Monica, Laguna and Venice Beach are well worth visiting, or head to the lively surf town of Santa Barbara on the coast north of LA.

To the south, the sun drenched cities of San Diego and Palm Springs depict the classic California lifestyle, with Spanish style architecture, fine parks and gardens and plenty of activities for a day out.

Things to do in Los Angeles & Southern California

  • Shop till you drop on Rodeo Drive
  • Walk along Santa Monica’s famous boardwalk and pier
  • Enjoy a free day out at the superb Getty Center
  • Look out for celebs and their houses in Beverley Hills
  • Book a tour to Universal Studios® Hollywood
  • Climb to the Griffith Observatory for a view of the city
  • Enjoy family fun at Disneyland Park
  • Experience the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego
  • Play golf at one of Palm Springs’ famous courses
  • Hit the surf beach and cocktail bars of Santa Barbara

Getting There

By Road – San Francisco 380 miles; Las Vegas 270 miles

By Rail – From San Francisco and Seattle

By Air – Direct flights from the UK and most major U.S. cities

Getting Around

You can use the Metro system or taxis to get to most of LA’s top attractions. However, with a good system of toll-free freeways, a car is usually more convenient, particularly if you are exploring out of the city.

Tip: Rush hour traffic is from 07:00 to 09:00 and 15:00 to 19:00, so to make the most of your trip, it’s best to spend each day in a specific area to minimise travel time.

Discover the West of America

Go West! Hollywood to the Hoover Dam, there's so much to see in West USA.

America - More Holiday Options

Discover America your way. Combine a self drive with a city stay or an escorted tour with a cruise.

San Francisco