California is an unforgettable place. With its rugged coastline, lush forests, and picturesque cities, California offers something for everyone – no matter their age or interests.
Whether you’re looking to take a weekend getaway with friends along the Pacific Coast Highway or planning a deeper dive into history, art, and culture in one of California’s many vibrant urban centers like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
There are countless ways to experience the Golden State’s outdoor adventures and cultural attractions. But if you’re wondering when is the best time to visit California?
The answer will depend on what type of activities you want to do while in-state – so read on for all your need-to-know information about visiting this special state.
What’s the best time to visit California?
The best time to visit California depends on what you want to do and see during your trip, as the state has diverse attractions and weather conditions. Here are some general recommendations:
- For beach vacations and coastal activities: Late May through October offers the warmest and sunniest weather, with July, August, and September being the peak months.
- For sightseeing in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego: Spring (March to May) and Fall (September to November) are ideal, with mild temperatures and fewer crowds.
- For wine tasting in Napa Valley and Sonoma County: September and October are the best months for experiencing the grape harvest, while Spring (March to May) is also lovely with blooming wildflowers and mustard plants.
- For outdoor activities and national parks (Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon): Late Spring (May and June) and early Fall (September and October) are ideal, with comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds. However, if you want to visit when waterfalls are at their peak in Yosemite, consider going in May or June.
- For winter sports in Lake Tahoe and other ski resorts: December through February, with some resorts remaining open until April, depending on snow conditions.
Best time to visit california to avoid crowds
California is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and can become quite crowded, particularly during the peak summer season (July, August, and September).
To avoid crowds and save money on hotel prices, consider traveling in Spring (September through May) or Fall (September to November), as well as late May through October for coastal activities. These times will offer milder temperatures, fewer crowds, and better hotel deals.
When planning a trip to California, be sure to check local events so you can plan your vacation around festivals or other special events that may bring in large crowds.
15 Best Things to do in California
With so many attractions, natural wonders, and exciting activities, choosing which ones to explore can be challenging. Here are the top 15 things to do in California and a brief overview of each place.
Visit Yosemite National Park:
This iconic national park is renowned for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, and giant sequoia trees. Highlights include Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls. For the best experience, visit in spring or fall to avoid crowds.
Explore San Francisco:
This eclectic city is known for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and hilly streets. Take a ride on the historic cable cars, explore Fisherman’s Wharf, and indulge in the diverse food scene.
Discover Los Angeles:
The entertainment capital of the world offers countless attractions such as Hollywood, Universal Studios, and the Griffith Observatory. Stroll along the Walk of Fame, visit the Getty Center, or catch a show at the Hollywood Bowl.
Drive the Pacific Coast Highway:
This breathtaking coastal route stretches for 600 miles from San Diego to San Francisco. Must-see spots include Big Sur, Monterey, and the Hearst Castle.
Experience San Diego:
With its beautiful beaches, diverse neighborhoods, and the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, this city has something for everyone. Don’t miss Balboa Park and the USS Midway Museum.
Visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks:
These parks are home to the world’s largest trees, the giant sequoias. Visit General Sherman, the largest living tree on Earth, and explore the underground world of Crystal Cave.
Taste Wine in Napa Valley:
This famous wine region offers numerous wineries and vineyards to explore, along with picturesque landscapes. Tour wineries, enjoy wine tastings, and dine at award-winning restaurants.
Located in Anaheim, Disneyland is the original Disney theme park. With multiple themed lands, thrilling rides, and beloved characters, it’s a must-visit for families and Disney fans alike.
Visit Death Valley National Park:
This otherworldly landscape is the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in the United States. See the colorful badlands at Zabriskie Point, hike the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and explore the park’s unique geology.
Explore Joshua Tree National Park:
Known for its namesake Joshua Trees and unique rock formations, this desert park offers hiking, rock climbing, and stargazing opportunities. Don’t miss the famous Keys View for panoramic vistas.
Relax on Santa Monica Beach and Pier:
Enjoy the sandy beach, take a ride on the iconic Ferris wheel, or grab a bite at one of the many eateries on the historic Santa Monica Pier.
Visit the Channel Islands National Park:
Comprising five islands, this park boasts unique ecosystems, rugged coastlines, and secluded beaches. Accessible only by boat, visitors can enjoy hiking, snorkeling, and wildlife viewing.
Explore the California State Railroad Museum:
Located in Sacramento, this museum showcases the history of rail travel in California with interactive exhibits and vintage train cars.
Hike in Redwood National and State Parks:
Home to the tallest trees on Earth, these parks offer scenic hiking trails, beautiful coastlines, and diverse wildlife. Be sure to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Grove and Fern Canyon.
Tour Hearst Castle:
This historic estate in San Simeon was built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Visitors can tour the opulent mansion, beautiful gardens, and luxurious pools, getting a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of the early 20th century.
10 Most popular tourist attractions in California
From Hollywood to the Golden Gate Bridge, the state is home to some of the world’s most famous tourist attractions.
Look at the 10 most popular tourist attractions in California, each of which has its unique charm and appeal.
Whether you are interested in history, architecture, nature, or entertainment, these attractions offer a glimpse into the best that California has to offer.
So, let’s dive in and discover the magic of these top-rated destinations.
Disneyland Park is a theme park located in Anaheim, California, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in California.
It opened in 1955 and has since become a cultural icon and a symbol of American entertainment. The park features numerous attractions, including roller coasters, themed areas, and a variety of restaurants and shops.
Disneyland Park attracts millions of visitors each year and is a must-visit destination for families and Disney enthusiasts.
Golden Gate Bridge:
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world and is a prominent landmark in San Francisco, California.
It spans over 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate Strait and connects San Francisco with Marin County.
The bridge offers breathtaking views of the city and is a popular destination for tourists and photographers.
Visitors can walk or bike across the bridge, take a guided tour, or simply enjoy the views from a nearby park or lookout point.
Universal Studios Hollywood:
Universal Studios Hollywood is a movie studio and theme park located in Los Angeles, California.
The park features rides and attractions based on popular movies and TV shows, as well as studio tours that allow visitors to see behind-the-scenes of some of their favorite productions.
Universal Studios Hollywood is a popular destination for families and movie lovers and offers an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.
Hollywood Walk of Fame:
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, that features over 2,600 stars honoring famous celebrities from the entertainment industry.
Visitors can walk along the sidewalk and see the stars of their favorite actors, musicians, and performers.
The Walk of Fame is a must-visit destination for movie and TV enthusiasts and provides a unique opportunity to experience the glamour and history of Hollywood.
Alcatraz Island is a former federal prison located in San Francisco Bay.
The prison is no longer in use but has become a popular tourist attraction and a National Historic Landmark.
Visitors can take a ferry to the island and explore the prison and its surroundings, including the famous Alcatraz Lighthouse and the stunning views of the San Francisco skyline.
San Diego Zoo:
The San Diego Zoo is one of the largest and most famous zoos in the world and is located in San Diego, California.
The zoo is home to over 3,500 animals and features numerous exhibits and attractions, including a safari park and a giant panda exhibit.
The San Diego Zoo is a must-visit destination for animal lovers and families and offers an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.
Yosemite National Park:
Yosemite National Park is a natural wonderland located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
The park features stunning waterfalls, towering granite cliffs, and a variety of wildlife, including bears and deer.
Visitors can explore the park by hiking, biking, or horseback riding, and can also take guided tours to learn more about the park’s history and natural beauty.
Santa Monica Pier:
The Santa Monica Pier is a historic landmark located in Santa Monica, California, and is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
The pier features a variety of attractions, including an amusement park, an aquarium, and numerous restaurants and shops.
Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica coastline, and can also participate in a variety of activities, such as fishing or rollerblading.
Napa Valley is a world-renowned wine-growing region located in Northern California.
The valley is home to hundreds of wineries and vineyards, and visitors can enjoy wine tasting, tours, and gourmet dining experiences.
Napa Valley is a must-visit destination for wine lovers and offers a unique opportunity to experience the beauty and flavor of California’s wine country.
The best time to visit California depends on what type of activities you’re looking for during your trip. From beach vacations and coastal activities, to sightseeing in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, to wine tasting in Napa Valley and Sonoma County, there are plenty of options available depending on the season.
Spring (March-May) and Fall (September-November) are ideal for sightseeing in cities, while late May through October offer the warmest and sunniest weather for beach activities.
Late Spring (May and June) and early Fall (September and October) are good times to visit national parks like Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia.
Finally, December through February are great for skiing in the mountains. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation, an adventuresome outdoor experience, or just want to explore the cities and attractions of California, there is something for everyone.
What is the cheapest month to visit California?
The cheapest time to visit California is during the winter months of December, January, and February. During these months, hotel prices and airfare are typically cheaper than other times of the year.
What is the best time to go whale watching in California?
The best time to go whale watching in California is from late December through April, when the ocean is relatively calm and whales can be seen migrating along the California coast. Other good times to go whale watching include late June through August (for blue whales) and October and November (for gray whales).
What is low season in California?
Low season in California is generally from September through March. During this time, hotel and airfare prices are typically lower than other times of the year. Many attractions may be closed or have limited hours during this period. Low season can also vary depending on location, so it’s best to check ahead before planning a trip.
Is California busy in July?
Yes, California is typically busy during July. Since it’s the peak of summer vacation season, many tourists from around the world come to take advantage of the outdoor activities and attractions that California has to offer. As a result, hotel prices may be higher and crowds are often larger than usual.
What time of year is the best weather in California?
The best weather in California is typically between late May and early October. During this period, you’ll experience warm temperatures and sunny skies throughout the entire state. It’s also a great time to take advantage of outdoor activities like hiking, camping, swimming, and surfing.
Is California worth visiting in winter?
Yes, California is worth visiting in the winter. While temperatures may be cooler and there’s usually less sun, you can enjoy many indoor activities such as shopping at local markets and boutiques, exploring museums, and enjoying the nightlife of California’s cities.