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Explore Fascinating Attractions in Northern California
Bucket-list attractions lure travelers from across the globe to this appealing part of the Pacific Coast. Snap selfies at world-famous landmarks. Discover enchanting neighborhoods and historic waterfronts. Be wowed by lavish mansions and laugh at frisky animals. From an infamous island prison to the quintessential California boardwalk, be captivated by the most exciting attractions in Northern California.
Golden Gate Bridge: Wonder of the Modern World
Travelers and locals alike marvel at this instantly recognizable icon. It’s a symbol of American progress and engineering prowess, a graceful masterpiece of spectacular beauty. The famous bridge links San Francisco to Marin County across the Golden Gate, a one-mile-wide strait that connects the Pacific Ocean to the San Francisco Bay. Painted bright red and often shrouded in fog, it’s truly an awe-inspiring sight. Driving or walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is a thrill, and you’ll find plenty of excellent photo opps at vista points on either side like the Presidio.
Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, and the San Francisco Bay
Encounter a colorful parade of coastal life on San Francisco’s beautiful waterfront. Brightly painted boats sail past historic piers and sea lions bask in the sun. The morning’s catch is hauled in for the city’s seafood restaurants. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of this unique neighborhood. It’s filled with things to do: shops, museums, restaurants, boat tours, and trolley car rides. One of the most popular attractions is just offshore: Alcatraz Island. Board a ferry and sail out to this famed former prison. The secrets you’ll learn are almost as exciting as the views of San Francisco Bay.
SF Neighborhoods: Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury, and the Mission
You can walk for five minutes and pass through four completely different neighborhoods in San Francisco, each with a distinct personality and population. Wander past gleaming skyscrapers in the Financial District and warehouse parties in SoMa. Shop at hippie boutiques in Haight-Ashbury and at herbal shops in Chinatown. Find beatnik coffee lounges in North Beach and gay bars in the Castro District. From the colorful taquerias of the Mission to vintage barber shops of Nob Hill – San Francisco’s neighborhoods showcase the city’s impressive diversity.
Sunny Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Let the laid-back California lifestyle fill your soul at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Situated just south of the Bay Area and north of the Monterey Peninsula, this vintage boardwalk is lined with amusement rides and carnival games. Ride a wooden roller coaster or an easygoing gondola. Pick up a hand-dipped ice cream cone and walk along the beach in the sunshine.
Monterey Peninsula and Monterey Bay Aquarium
Cradled on three sides by the Pacific Ocean, the windswept Monterey Peninsula is a real charmer. Cruise the incredibly scenic 17-Mile Drive between artsy Carmel-by-the-Sea and quaint Pacific Grove, and then head to historic Monterey. Enjoy the fun shops and waterfront restaurants at Cannery Row, but save plenty of time to explore the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Pet bat-rays and be wowed by glow-in-the-dark jellyfish. Meet charming sea otters and psychedelic seahorses. Marvel at the wonders of the ocean world.
San Simeon’s Charming Elephant Seals
Discover two only-in-California attractions tucked at the south end of Big Sur on the Central Coast. No drive up the Pacific Coast Highway is complete without a break to see the elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas Rookery in San Simeon. You can see the playful creatures year-round on the beach from a boardwalk, getting up close and personal with the wildlife without disturbing their natural habitat. Watch pups and adults wriggle across the beach, bark and bray, swim and fight and eat. It’s a magical wildlife experience.
Historic Sites and Hearst Castle, a Palatial Hilltop Estate
Connect with Northern California’s past. Visit Spanish missions, ghost towns, and Gold Rush hotspots. Glimpse living history with horse-drawn stagecoach rides in Old Sacramento. Near the coast you’ll find Hearst Castle, the legendary hilltop mansion of the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Opulent doesn’t begin to describe the gardens, pools, and fountains of this palatial estate with panoramic views of the sea. Book ahead for tours of the castle’s interior, which is filled with luxurious furnishings, fine art, and rare antiques.
Relaxing Train Rides and Hot Air Balloon Floats
Experience California’s beautiful countryside with moving attractions like vintage train rides and hot air balloons. Numerous restored train cars follow historic routes through Northern California, especially Gold Country. Find scenic train rides around Sacramento, Yosemite, Donner Pass, and the Sierra Nevadas. Prefer a sky-high adventure? Hot air balloon flights are surprisingly serene. Float over gorgeous vineyards in Wine Country, farmland in Sacramento, and wilderness in the Lake Tahoe region.
Popular Attractions in Northern California
Apple Hill Orchards
Apple Hill Orchards is a community of over 50 ranches that offers family-friendly activities and visits to orchards, wineries, breweries, spa resorts, and more.
Calistogas Old Faithful Geyser
In the heart of California's wine country, Calistoga's Old Faithful Geyser is one of only three in the world. Visit and see the steam and boiling water erupt about every half hour. While you are waiting, enjoy the petting-zoo featuring Tennessee Fainting Goats, Jacob's Four-Horn Sheep and Guard Llamas.
Bring a picnic lunch, there is plenty of room on the grounds and facilities for an enjoyable family outing. Make the most of your next visit to Calistoga and the the North Coast of CA by adding California's Old Faithful Geyser to your itinerary.
Kennedy Gold Mine Tours
From 1860 to 1942, the Kennedy Gold Mines generated a little more than $34 million in gold. Found in Jackson, this is also one of the deepest gold mines in the world. The next time you visit the Sacramento Gold Country, be sure to embark on one of the Kennedy Gold Mine Tours.
Tour the mine to see the Head Frame, one of the tallest existing today, the mine office building, the stamp and recovery mill, steam boiler, tailing wheels and the room where the miners changed into their mining gear. Browse the Kennedy Gold Mine Gift Shop for clothing, books, memorabilia and the historic video.
El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Site
A former military installation, the Presidio of Santa Barbara is one of the city's most significant landmarks. Just off of Main Street, at the corner of Santa Barbara Street and East Canon Perdido Street, visitors can see two of the original sections of the Presidio quadrangle.
You won't want to miss out on a tour of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Site, a top destination near Santa Barbara and the central coast of CA.
An active archeological dig continues at the site as well as on-going reconstruction of the original layout of buildings. The original El Cuartel section of the Presidio is Santa Barbara's oldest building and the second oldest in California. Escape the hustle and bustle of busy Santa Barbara for a visit to this state historic park and enjoy a look into California's past.
Fillmore & Western Railway
You'll choo-choo-choose the best of Los Angeles area attractions with a visit to Fillmore and Western Railway. It's located in historic downtown Fillmore. Take a train ride through rural Ventura County on Southern Pacific's Santa Paula Branch line. Choose from a variety of theme rides or regularly scheduled excursions through the Heritage Valley.
The youngsters love the Day out with Thomas featuring the Thomas the Tank Engine. Adults enjoy the Murder Express, Scenic Excursions and Margarita Madness – there is fun for everyone. For holiday travelers check out rides like the North Pole Express, Pumpkinliners and the Firecracker BBQ Dinner Train.
Arrive early to enjoy Fillmore's historic downtown – and bring your purse many of the excursions stop in Santa Paula for shopping. You'll always find excellent attraction in the Los Angeles area.