10 Bucketlist Things That You Can't Skip While in California

Photo of 10 Bucketlist Things That You Can't Skip While in California by Sinchita Sinha

California, the land of eternal sunshine and boundless adventures where dreams become reality and the mundane fades into a kaleidoscope of extraordinary experiences. From the vibrant streets of Los Angeles to the majestic Redwood forests, this captivating state holds the power to steal hearts and ignite the imagination.

With its celebrated coastline, expansive heartland, and majestic Sierra peaks, California beckons travelers to a lifetime of unforgettable vacations within the boundaries of one remarkable state. Spanning such vast diversity, this golden paradise has something for everyone and more, ensuring that a single visit will never be enough to quench your thirst for its wonders. Imagine sun-kissed beaches where surfers ride the waves, vibrant cities bursting with culture and entertainment, and awe-inspiring parklands and vistas that surpass even the wildest dreams found on any bucket list. California's star quality shines brighter than any other, offering a treasure trove of experiences that cater to every whim and fancy.

Fun Facts:

• Were you aware that California holds the distinction of being the most populous state in the United States, boasting a staggering population of over 39 million residents?

• During the mid-19th century Gold Rush, California earned its enduring nickname, "The Golden State," as countless adventurers swarmed its hills in pursuit of precious metals.

• California, the birthplace of Hollywood and the thriving hub of the worldwide film industry, stands as the eminent epicenter.

1. Yosemite

Photo of Yosemite National Park, California by Sinchita Sinha

Prepare to be spellbound by the treasures that await within this nearly 1,200 square miles of pure natural splendor.

Embark on unforgettable hikes to witness the iconic waterfalls, including Yosemite Falls, where cascading waters plunge from great heights, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. Since its protection in 1864, this breathtaking sanctuary has captivated visitors with its expansive landscapes, including majestic valleys, sprawling meadows, towering ancient sequoias, and an untouched wilderness that beckons explorers from around the globe. Traverse the diverse terrain and marvel at the geological marvels, such as El Capitan and Half Dome, that defy gravity and challenge climbers from around the world. With its harmonious blend of majestic landscapes and geological anomalies, Yosemite National Park stands as a testament to the beauty and power of the natural world, captivating all who are fortunate enough to wander within its boundaries.


a. Yosemite Falls (2,425 ft)

Flows: approximately November through July, with peak flow in May.

Photo of 10 Bucketlist Things That You Can't Skip While in California by Sinchita Sinha

Experience the awe-inspiring Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, featuring three magnificent sections: Upper (1,430 ft), middle cascades (675 ft), and Lower (320 ft). Look for the stunning ice cone during winter and witness the powerful runoff from April to June. Enjoy panoramic views from Yosemite Valley and take a one-mile loop trail to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall. For the adventurous, tackle the strenuous all-day hike to the summit. Yosemite Falls is a natural wonder not to be missed.

b. Sentinel Falls (about 2,000 feet)

Flows: approximately March through June, with peak flow in May.

Photo of 10 Bucketlist Things That You Can't Skip While in California by Sinchita Sinha

Situated on the southern side of Yosemite Valley, slightly to the west of Sentinel Rock, lies a majestic waterfall composed of numerous cascades. The heights of these cascades span from 50 to 500 feet.

To catch a glimpse of this captivating waterfall, you can visit certain spots along Southside Drive, such as the Sentinel Beach Picnic Area or the vicinity of the Four Mile Trailhead. Another option is to admire it from across Yosemite Valley near Leidig Meadow, or while embarking on the adventure of hiking the Upper Yosemite Fall Trail.

c. Ribbon Fall (1,612 feet)

Flows: approximately March through June, with peak flow in May.

Photo of 10 Bucketlist Things That You Can't Skip While in California by Sinchita Sinha

As you approach Yosemite Valley and pass the turn for Bridalveil Fall, you'll catch a glimpse of Ribbon Fall from the road. Convenient parking is available in designated turnouts.

d. Horsetail Fall (1,000 feet)

Flows: approximately December through April.

Photo of 10 Bucketlist Things That You Can't Skip While in California by Sinchita Sinha

Horsetail Fall gains renown for its mesmerizing spectacle of resembling a blazing inferno as it mirrors the radiant orange hues of sunset during the period from mid- to late-February. Cascading down the eastern face of El Capitan, this phenomenon is most effectively observed from a vantage point located just east of the magnificent rock formation. For optimal viewing, visitors are encouraged to park either at the El Capitan picnic area (situated on Northside Drive to the west of Yosemite Valley Lodge) or utilize turnouts located in close proximity to the picnic area. The waterfall can be easily observed from the roadside.

e. Bridalveil Fall (620 feet)

Flows: all year, with peak flow in May.

Photo of 10 Bucketlist Things That You Can't Skip While in California by Sinchita Sinha

Bridalveil Fall is typically the first waterfall that greets visitors upon entering Yosemite Valley. During spring, it produces a thundering cascade, while the rest of the year showcases its distinctive gentle and swaying flow.

To catch a glimpse of Bridalveil Fall, you can position yourself near the tunnels on either the Wawona Road (Highway 41) or Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120). Additionally, there is a designated parking lot along the route to Yosemite Valley where you can also enjoy the view. If you're up for a short but steep climb, you can reach the base of the waterfall within a few minutes via a trail boasting gradients of up to 24%..

f. Nevada Fall (594 feet)

Flows: all year, with peak flow in late May.

Photo of 10 Bucketlist Things That You Can't Skip While in California by Sinchita Sinha

Nevada Fall, visible from Glacier Point, can be observed from a distance. The road leading to Glacier Point is typically accessible from late May until sometime in November. During this period, a trail that accommodates wheelchairs is provided to reach the viewpoint. Additionally, if you're up for a challenging hike, you can venture past Vernal Fall and continue to Nevada Fall on a steep trail.

g. Vernal Fall (317 feet)

Flows: all year, though by mid to late summer, it narrows and separates into one, two, or three falls as water flows decrease; peaks in late May.

Photo of 10 Bucketlist Things That You Can't Skip While in California by Sinchita Sinha

Vernal Fall can be observed from Glacier Point, albeit from a distance. The road leading to Glacier Point typically remains accessible from late May until sometime in November. When the road is open, there is a wheelchair-accessible trail available that leads to the viewpoint. Additionally, if you're interested in hiking, there is a steep trail that leads to Vernal Fall.

h. Illilouette Fall (370 feet)

Flows: all year, with peak flow in late May.

Photo of 10 Bucketlist Things That You Can't Skip While in California by Sinchita Sinha

Although hikers often come across this waterfall while trekking towards Vernal Fall, the optimal vantage point for viewing it lies on the Panorama Trail, located a few miles away from Glacier Point. The waterfall cannot be seen from any road and requires hiking along challenging trails in order to catch a glimpse.

i. Wapama Falls (1,400 feet)

Flows: all year, with peak flow in May.

Photo of 10 Bucketlist Things That You Can't Skip While in California by Sinchita Sinha

Only a small number of individuals venture to Hetch Hetchy Valley with the purpose of witnessing the impressive cascade of this waterfall. During certain spring seasons, the water from the fall surges over the footbridges located close to its foundation. Observing this majestic waterfall is possible either from the parking lot at O'Shaughnessy Dam or by embarking on an uneven trail that leads to a spot near its base.

j. Chilnualna Falls (about 2,200 feet)

Flows: all year, with peak flow in May

Photo of 10 Bucketlist Things That You Can't Skip While in California by Sinchita Sinha

Situated in Wawona, this waterfall remains concealed amidst the meandering contours of the rock, making it impossible to behold the complete cascade in a single glance. Viewing this enchanting spectacle is not feasible from any road, as the sole access to its summit involves undertaking a challenging hike along a steep trail. For a compilation of Wawona day hikes, refer to the provided list.

2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Nestled along the stunning coastline of California, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area stands as a testament to the beauty of nature. This expansive park, spanning over 80,000 acres, is a treasure trove of captivating sights and enchanting landscapes. Within its boundaries lie a myriad of interesting places waiting to be discovered.

a. Marvel the iconic Golden Gate Bridge

Photo of Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point, San Francisco by Sinchita Sinha

An engineering marvel that connects San Francisco to Marin County. Explore the rugged coastal trails, where breathtaking vistas of crashing waves and rugged cliffs unfold before your eyes. Discover the historic military fortifications at Fort Point, transporting you back in time to the Civil War era.

b. Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Visitors can embark on this incredible journey without having to worry about entry fees, making it accessible to all. However, certain attractions within the park may have separate fees, such as Alcatraz Island, which requires a separate ticket for access.

Entry Timing: Open throughout the year, remember to check the specific operating hours for attractions within the park, as they may have different timings.

3. Disneyland Resort

Photo of Disneyland Resort, Anaheim by Sinchita Sinha

This enchanting destination offers a plethora of captivating places to explore. This is where you can relive your favorite childhood memories alongside beloved Disney characters. Hop aboard thrilling rides like Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean or immerse yourself in the whimsical charm of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Next, venture into Disney California Adventure Park, where imagination knows no bounds. Experience the exhilaration of Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! or take a stroll down Pixar Pier, a vibrant land filled with beloved Pixar characters.

Entry Fee: Disneyland Resort offers several ticket options.

The one-day single park ticket starts at approximately INR 6,000

The one-day park hopper ticket allowing access to both parks starts at INR 8,000.

Entry Timing:

Disneyland Park 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM, while

Disney California Adventure Park - 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

P.S. - It's always a good idea to check the official website for the most up-to-date information on timings and any special events.

4. Universal Studios Hollywood

Photo of Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City by Sinchita Sinha

Welcome to the magical world of Universal Studios Hollywood in sunny California! This iconic theme park offers a delightful mix of thrilling rides, captivating shows, and enchanting attractions that will leave you in awe.

Step into the mesmerizing Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where you can explore Hogwarts Castle, sip on butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks, and even take a thrilling flight on the incredible Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.

For adrenaline junkies, make sure to experience the heart-pounding excitement of Jurassic World - The Ride, where you'll come face-to-face with awe-inspiring dinosaurs. And don't miss the opportunity to join the Autobots in a battle against the Decepticons on the mind-blowing Transformers: The Ride 3D.

Entry Fee: INR 3,000/person

Entry Timing: 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM on weekdays

9:00 AM to 10:00 PM on weekends

5. Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz Island

Photo of Alcatraz Island, San Francisco by Sinchita Sinha

Welcome to the vibrant and historic Fisherman's Wharf in California, a place that exudes charm and excitement at every turn. With its stunning waterfront views and a myriad of attractions, this bustling district has something for everyone. Explore the iconic Pier 39, where you can witness adorable sea lions basking in the sun, indulge in delicious seafood delicacies, and shop for unique souvenirs.

Just a short ferry ride away lies the infamous Alcatraz Island, a former maximum-security prison that housed some of America's most notorious criminals. Step foot onto this rocky island and immerse yourself in its intriguing history with a captivating audio tour. Marvel at the chilling cells and hear tales of daring escapes.

Entry Fee:

• Pier 39 is around INR 500, where you can savor the freshest seafood and enjoy the local ambiance.

• The entry fee for Alcatraz Island, including the ferry ride and audio tour, is approximately INR 1,500.

Entry Timing:

• Both attractions operate during specific timings. Fisherman's Wharf is open throughout the day

• Alcatraz Island, however, has specific departure times for the ferry, usually starting in the morning. It's advisable to book your tickets in advance to secure your spot and plan your visit accordingly.

Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz Island stand as iconic landmarks, offering a perfect blend of history, culture, and coastal beauty. So, set sail for adventure and discover the captivating allure of these remarkable California destinations.

6. TCL Chinese Theatre and Walk of Fame

Photo of TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles by Sinchita Sinha

Nestled in the heart of Hollywood, California, the TCL Chinese Theatre and Walk of Fame stand as iconic symbols of the entertainment industry. Stepping into this historic landmark is like embarking on a captivating journey through the silver screen's golden age.

The TCL Chinese Theatre, renowned for its opulent architecture and rich cinematic history, offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the magic of Hollywood. As you walk through its grand entrance, you'll be greeted by an array of fascinating attractions, including the world-famous Forecourt of the Stars, adorned with handprints and footprints of legendary actors.

Adjacent to the theatre lies the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame, a sprawling sidewalk etched with the names of beloved celebrities from the past and present. Strolling along the Walk of Fame, you'll discover the stars of luminaries like Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, and Audrey Hepburn, forever commemorating their contributions to the world of entertainment.

Entry Fee: INR 500

P.S. - The ticket prices may vary, and it's recommended to check the official website or contact the venue for up-to-date pricing information.

Entry Timing: Both the TCL Chinese Theatre and the Walk of Fame are open to visitors from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm daily.

7. Lake Tahoe

Photo of Lake Tahoe, United States by Sinchita Sinha

Welcome to the breathtaking beauty of Lake Tahoe in California, a paradise for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, this magnificent freshwater lake offers a plethora of interesting places to explore.

Begin your journey by visiting Emerald Bay State Park, home to the iconic Emerald Bay, where turquoise waters meet the towering granite cliffs. The entry fee is approximately 500 INR, and the park welcomes visitors from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM daily.

Next, head to Heavenly Mountain Resort, where you can enjoy thrilling activities year-round. Whether you're skiing down the slopes during winter or embarking on scenic gondola rides in the summer, this place never fails to impress. The entry fee for a day pass is around 2,000 INR, and the resort operates from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

For a glimpse into Lake Tahoe's rich history, visit Vikingsholm Castle, a stunning mansion showcasing Scandinavian architecture. Explore the grounds, stroll through the lush gardens, and marvel at the exquisite craftsmanship.

Entry Fee: INR 300

Entry Timing: Guided tours are available from 10:30 AM to 4:00 PM.

End your day with a visit to Sand Harbor Beach, renowned for its crystal-clear waters and golden sands. Enjoy swimming, kayaking, or simply basking in the sun, surrounded by breathtaking mountain vistas. Entry is free, and the beach is open from sunrise to sunset.

Click here to plan a 48-hours getaway to Lake Tahoe.

8. Balboa Park

Photo of Balboa Park, San Diego by Sinchita Sinha

Welcome to Balboa Park, a vibrant oasis nestled in the heart of San Diego, California. This sprawling urban park is a treasure trove of cultural, recreational, and natural attractions that will leave you enchanted. Begin your exploration at the renowned San Diego Zoo, home to a diverse array of animals from around the world. The entry fee for adults is approximately 1,500 INR, and the zoo is open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Next, immerse yourself in the wonders of science at the Fleet Science Center, where interactive exhibits and fascinating IMAX films await. Entry to the center costs around 1,000 INR, and it welcomes visitors from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Entry Fee: INR 700

Entry Timing: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Nature lovers shouldn't miss the enchanting Botanical Building and its adjacent Japanese Friendship Garden. Both attractions offer a tranquil respite amidst the bustling city. Entry to the Botanical Building is free, while the Japanese Friendship Garden costs around INR 400 to explore. They are open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

9. Muir Woods National Monument

Photo of Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley by Sinchita Sinha

Nestled just north of San Francisco, the enchanting Muir Woods National Monument beckons nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. This breathtaking redwood forest is home to towering trees that have stood the test of time, creating a serene oasis for visitors to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Within Muir Woods, you'll discover a network of well-maintained trails that wind through the ancient groves, inviting you to immerse yourself in the natural wonders. Don't miss the iconic Cathedral Grove, where beams of sunlight filter through the dense canopy, creating an ethereal atmosphere that feels straight out of a fairy tale.

Entry Fee: INR 500

P.S. - Advanced reservations are required to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Entry Timing: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM

10. Joshua Tree National Park

Photo of Joshua Tree National Park, California by Sinchita Sinha

Welcome to the mesmerizing realm of Joshua Tree National Park, a captivating oasis nestled in the heart of California. This otherworldly destination boasts a plethora of unique attractions that are sure to leave you awe-inspired. Wander through the enchanting Cholla Cactus Garden, where countless spiky sentinels create a surreal landscape straight out of a dream. Or venture to Hidden Valley, a hidden gem enclosed by colossal granite formations, perfect for rock climbers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Entry Fee: INR 1,500/ person

This fee is subject to change, so it's best to check the current rates before your visit

Entry Timing: 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM

California truly stands as a captivating destination that beckons travelers from all corners of the globe. Its sheer diversity, from breathtaking coastlines to towering mountains, vibrant cities to quaint towns, and awe-inspiring national parks to world-renowned entertainment hubs, makes it a must-visit place for every wanderer.

California's allure transcends the bounds of age, interests, and backgrounds. It offers something for everyone, be it a thrill-seeker searching for adrenaline-pumping adventures, a history buff yearning to delve into the rich past of the Gold Rush, or a foodie craving diverse culinary delights from food trucks to Michelin-starred restaurants.

So, pack your bags, embark on a journey, and let California work its magic on you. Immerse yourself in its diverse landscapes, embrace its cultural mélange, and discover the boundless opportunities for adventure and exploration. California will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on your heart and soul, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

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