The third-largest state in the United States is a place of enormous diversity. From the Redwood forests in the north to the sunny beaches of the Pacific Coast, the Sierra Nevada mountains and Central Valley, visitors will be spoiled for choice. The question travellers should ask themselves before booking cheap flights to California is not what to do, but where to start?
The four biggest cities in California are Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco. Each of these cities has more than enough to occupy visitors, between museums, galleries, shopping, world-class dining and exciting nightlife. Outside these bustling metropolises, natural wonders are in abundance.
The beaches of Orange County contrast with the national parks of High Sierra (Yosemite, King’s Canyon and Sequoia). Wine country (Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley) reaches into the Redwood forests and trails of the North Coast.
One of the best-kept secrets in California is the Shasta Cascade region in the far north of the state. Covering 20 per cent of California, this uncrowded region of national forests, parks, lakes, rivers and waterfalls offers the chance to refresh and recharge before heading back to the work-a-day world.
California insider information
November is harvest season for the Dungeness crab. Catch your own off the Pacifica Municipal Pier at Sharp Park Beach, just south of downtown San Francisco. There's no fee or license. Just bring your own equipment or rent it nearby.
The waters of La Jolla Cove in the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve have some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving in the San Diego area. Underwater visibility can exceed 9 metres. There is an abundance of sea life including rockfish, stingrays, moray eels, harbor seals, and occasionally blue sharks.
The Central Valley is California's agricultural heartland. The northern half is the Sacramento Valley, its southern half the San Joaquin Valley . It's a foodie's paradise. Farmer’s markets, roadside produce stands, and food festivals dot the area. The local specialties include cheese, wine, tomatoes and asparagus. The valley's major cities include Bakersfield, Fresno and Stockton.
On the border with Nevada is Lake Tahoe, which is surrounded by world-famous ski resorts. In the off-season, ie, summer, there are arts and music festivals. Snowfest takes place in February/March for ten days with events and activities for all ages. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival takes place in the summertime.
When planning cheap flights to California pencil in some whale-watching. You'll be able to see these majestic creatures almost right through the year. Grey whales travelling southbound from Alaska to Mexico can be seen December through February. They travel northbound - from Mexico to Alaska - February through April. Blue and humpback whales can be seen along the Big Sur coast and around the Channel Islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara) between June and October. Humpback whales swim along the central coast between April and early December.
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