California — The Golden State

Published by Katrina Witherspoon on June 8, 2009

Only in California can you experience the magic of Hollywood, shoot through white water rapids, sample the world's finest wine and play through challenging golf courses.

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When you vacation in California – you are actually visiting several unique "worlds" – each with superb attractions and glorious scenery – the beach culture of Southern California – the wine country of Sonoma – the cosmopolitan San Francisco scene – the almond groves of Fresno.

For natural wonders, it's hard to beat the eerie beauty of Mono Lake, or the lovely rolling hills above the beaches of Malibu. Visit Mt. Whitney in the Sierra Nevada range, the tallest peak in the lower 48 -just 200 miles from Death Valley, the lowest spot in the nation.

Tourists and locals flock to man-made attractions like these perennial favorites: Disneyland in Orange County; Universal Studios and City Walk in Los Angeles; Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood; and of course, San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square.

Art lovers will thrill to California's eclectic collections: The Getty in West Los Angeles features a wide array of masterpieces including numerous impressionist paintings; its sister site, the Getty Villa in Malibu, specializes in ancient antiquities (admission is free). And don't forget the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits – where thousands of saber-toothed cats and mammoths met their doom during the Ice Age.

If nature is what you seek, you won't be disappointed. Northern California is home to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks – and one of the nation's newer national parks is just off the coast of Ventura County in Southern California – the Channel Islands – a nesting place for bald eagles and a playground for the sea lions.

California is a also a golfer's paradise, with incredible courses around the state including the incomparable Pebble Beach on the Monterey Penninsula in Northern California, or head south to San Diego – where you can find 92 golf courses!

For something a little different, head to Pasadena, just northeast of Los Angeles – to see 100-year old mansions and the famous Rose Bowl with its acclaimed flea market (antique jewelry, vintage clothing, one-of-a-kind collectibles).

And don't forget to visit Sacramento: you may catch a glimpse of the resident movie star, and tour Old Sacramento with its Gold Rush relics. And not far away is the American River – a terrific spot for white water rafting.

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California boasts major airline hubs in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, and scores of facilities nearly as large – click here for more information on your destination city's airport.

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