Click on a section of the map to learn more about each part of California.
Wind-carved sand dunes, night skies glistening with stars, and posh resort towns beckoning like modern-day oases -- this region overflows with both natural wonders and naturally wonderful retreats. Here are some of the state's most dramatic parklands, including Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks, and California's largest state park, Anza-Borrego. Whether you want to rock climb by moonlight, swing a golf club, or relax poolside under the palms in Palm Springs, there’s a desert experience to suit your style.
Imagine some 70 miles of sun-drenched coastline and days that hovering around 70°F, and you've got a region that's almost too good to be true. But San Diego County is 100-percent real, with Shamu splashing at SeaWorld San Diego, pandas romping at the San Diego Zoo, kids laughing at Legoland California, and sailboats skimming across sparkling Mission Bay. Culture ranges from contemporary art in posh La Jolla to bustling nightclubs in the Gaslamp District, and a Latin Quarter jazzing it up with food and music from nearby Mexico.
Exploring this region is like getting in on a secret, with undiscovered gems and surprising wilderness in bustling Southern California. Explore the pristine alpine beauty of the San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains, where you can splash in lakes in summer, ski and snowshoe in winter). Wine taste at friendly vineyards in Temecula Valley, watch NASCAR racing in Fontana, and shop for bargains in Ontario.
It's a surfboard slung under a tanned arm along Huntington Beach, a pair of Mickey Mouse ears on a child's head, a sunset framed by luxurious yachts in Newport Beach. It's "The O.C.," one of California's -- make that the country's -- most iconic destinations, and it's easy to figure out why, with spectacular theme parks, beach towns, top shopping, sand between your toes, and a year-round smile on your face.
The question in this one-of-a-kind urban mecca isn't what to do, it's how to fit it all in. Start with some star-watching -- in the surf (Matthew McConaughey), in Beverly Hills boutiques (the Kardashians), on a movie set at Universal Studios Hollywood or Warner Bros. back lot tours, or just grabbing a latte around town (Reese Witherspoon). Slip into your own celeb lifestyle with cocktails on a Santa Monica rooftop at sunset or at the symphony in stunning Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Here's the kind of place where you end up with one thing on your mind: how can I move here? This achingly beautiful region -- a longtime magnet for artists (Edward Weston) and writers (Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, John Steinbeck) -- stretches for some 400 miles along the coast, with picturesque hamlets like Carmel-by-the-Sea, jagged sea cliffs along Big Sur, the incomparable Monterey Bay Aquarium, and elegant wine country. Come romp on a beach, hike a trail, or relax in Santa Barbara, justly nicknamed 'The American Riviera.'
Welcome to California's heartland, an agricultural powerhouse stretching over 400 miles through the center of the state. Follow country roads to farm stands overflowing with fresh produce, or wine trails linking lush vineyards. Stop in at friendly towns, with handsome Victorians and classic California bungalows lining sun-dappled streets. Visit the region's major cities, including Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton, and Lodi, with museums, country music, and leafy parks and gardens.
Trimming California's eastern border, the Sierra Nevada ranks as one of the world's great mountain ranges, with 10,000-foot peaks blanketed by snow in winter and wildflowers in summer. Here you can hike to a waterfall at Yosemite Valley, see giant sequoia trees at Sequoia/Kings Canyon, dive into lapis-blue Lake Tahoe, ski at top resorts like Squaw, Heavenly, Northstar, and Mammoth Mountain, or curl up in a cozy cabin, while the wind blows through the pines outside your window.
With elegant Victorians, cable cars, chic boutiques, top restaurants, and the world's most beautiful bridge, San Francisco stands out as one of the world's great cities. Walk in Golden Gate Park to visit museums including the extraordinary California Academy of Sciences; sample other cultures and lifestyles in Chinatown, the Mission, and the Castro district. Beyond the City by the Bay, head east to Oakland and Berkeley, with nightlife, arts, and a cross-cultural vibe. Tour elegant wine country in the Napa and Livermore valleys; have beach-y fun in Santa Cruz, and experience the tech-savvy Silicon Valley and San José, where lunchtime chats turn into the next brilliant invention.
Whether you want to pan for gold or dig through California history, this history-rich region delivers. Explore a historic mining town, watch laws made in the state capitol of Sacramento, tour an art museum, sip Zinfandel at a winery in the Sierra foothills, sample innovative farm-to-table cuisine, then raft the American River -- all in the same weekend.
Escape to this romantic dreamscape, where ocean fog twists inland to cool the world's tallest trees in a string of redwood parks. Fishing boats bob in harbors, whales spout offshore, and festivals brighten almost every weekend. Here's the home of artists, as well as a new generation of farmers, chefs, and winemakers in places like the celebrated Sonoma Valley who focus on preserving the land as well as producing great food and wine.
Dotted with volcanoes like snow-capped Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak, with protected wilderness laced with trails and sprinkled with campsites, this region in California's northeast corner is an outdoor-lover's paradise. Enjoy uncrowded parks, blue-ribbon fishing, incredible hiking and biking, and house boating on idyllic lakes. Friendly towns invite you to set a spell, and talk about that trout that just got away.