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California Dreaming: The Top 5 Places to Visit on the West Coast

California is a backpacker’s paradise. With hot summers, mild winters and iconic tourist attractions, it’s no wonder that the West Coast is one of the most visited states in the USA by both domestic and international tourists.

Its beauty lies within its diversity – there are not many places in the world where you can find deserts and glaciers, farmland and cities and beaches and mountain ranges all in one state. Each city, town and district has its own identity, from the bustling streets of San Francisco to the mellow vibes of Venice. So wherever you go in California you will always see something new and sense a fresh dynamic. Here are some places you should try and visit while backpacking around the West Coast of America:

Los Angeles

Made up of 80 districts and neighbourhoods, Los Angeles (nicknamed The City of Angels) is the second largest city in the United States and is a hub of activity. As the home of the district of Hollywood, LA is renowned for its celebrity culture and entertainment business with iconic landmarks such as the Walk of Fame and the infamous Hollywood sign drawing in crowds. Visitors can take bus tours into the Hollywood Hills and around nearby Beverly Hills to see these landmarks up close and view the homes of the rich and famous who reside in the area. But typically of California, the city of LA is exceptionally diverse and just down the road from the glamorous, bustling streets of Hollywood is Venice– a beachfront district with a much more chilled out vibe. Famous for its tranquil canals and circus-like boardwalk, there is always something out of the ordinary to see in Venice.

San Diego

The birthplace of California, San Diego is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and boasts mild year-round climates. This, along with its several beaches, makes San Diego a major tourist resort that attracts more than 30 million visitors each year. There are also several tourist attractions in the city including Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego.

Sacramento and the Central Valley

Sacramento is the capital city of California and is located in the northern portion of Central Valley. This large, flat valley dominates the vast majority of central California and is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the United States. At least half of the fresh fruit grown is the USA comes out of California and it also leads in vegetable production too. The vast areas of farmland that make up Central Valley are impressive to witness and the city of Sacramento is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States – yet another example of the diverse nature between bordering areas in California.

San Francisco

San Francisco is well known as being a city at the heart of liberal activism in the United States. As the home of the first lesbian rights organisation in the US and the place where the first openly gay man ran for public office, it has a large gay, lesbian and transgender population that has created and sustained a political and cultural presence in the city over the years. Democrats head the city’s politics, nudity is legal and the city was at the heart of the social changes during the Swinging ‘60’s. Its free-thinking history, along with landmarks such as The Golden Gate Bridge, cable car network, Alcatraz prison and Chinatown make it one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada is a mountain range that is part of both California and the state of Nevada. It is approximately 70 miles long and 400 miles wide and is home to three national parks, numerous glacially-scoured canyons and the famous Lake Tahoe. This freshwater lake is a major tourist attraction in both California and Nevada with several ski resorts surrounding it. Yosemite National Park is also an area of interest with 3.5 million visitors flocking there each year to experience the granite domes, waterfalls, hiking trails and numerous lakes and ponds.

It is surprising to think that an area of wilderness, glaciers, ski resorts and mountains can exist in the same state that tourists visit for beach holidays and warm weather. But this is the nature of California and one of the reasons why a visit to the West Coast can bring a wealth of different experiences.

—— Jenny Harrison is a freelance writer from England. She grew up in New York but started travelling almost as soon as she reached adulthood visiting five continents in the end. Having settled into her career she now writes on behalf of a number of good causes as well as businesses such as car hire firms and auto manufacturers.

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