The Golden State is renowned for many things: glorious sunshine, epic coastal drives and travel icons or world-famous national parks aplenty. But it’s the things it’s NOT known for that we love. Interest piqued? Without further ado, here are nine things you didn’t know you could do in California:
Visit an art installation in the desert
Amid the wildflowers and dusty valleys of the Anza-Borrego Desert, just outside San Francisco, you’ll find something a little out of the ordinary: 130 full-size metallic sculptures created by artist Ricardo Breceda. But full-size what we hear you ask? Well on the slightly smaller scale there are scorpions and desert tortoises. On the gigantic size there’s a huge 350-foot serpent, several dinosaurs and a prospector sieving for gold – to name a few.
Walk through a tunnel of trees
The Cypress Tree Tunnel in Point Reyes is a secret, fairy tale spot, beloved by locals and intrepid tourists alike. This unusual row of trees is best visit at sunrise, when you catch the early morning rays piercing through the trunks, creating the perfect moment for a bit of landscape photography.
Gaze at a waterfall on the beach
Alamere Falls isn’t your conventional waterfall. In fact, it’s a ‘tidefall’, where a waterfall tumbles directly into the ocean, cascading over fragile shale cliffs and onto the sand below. Another gem in Point Reyes National Seashore, it’s accessible via the Coast Trail to Wildcat Camp as the old Alamere Falls trail has been closed indefinitely as a result of storm damage. Hike south down the beach until you see the falls – its beauty is impossible to miss.
Climb the stairs of Orange Country’s only lighthouse
The Tower in Laguna Beach, or “Pirate Tower” as it’s been dubbed by the locals, is unusual in its style and location. For one, it’s located atop some sea-battered rocks, stuck to the edge of a cliff. Secondly, the 60-foot structure, built in the 1920s, looks like something out of a children’s fantasy novel; most likely you’ll find Rapunzel or Princess Buttercup at the top.
Walk on a purple beach
Think black sand is cool? Wait ‘til you see purple sand. Cruise along the Big Sur and you’ll get your chance when you stop-off at Pfeiffer Beach, an inlet which is often scattered with a fairy-dust looking amethyst silica.
Set foot on a real-life movie set; and it’s not in Hollywood!
Back to dinosaurs again: Fern Canyon, near Gold Bluffs Beach, is where Jurassic Park: The Lost World was filmed. It’s easy to see why Spielberg chose this verdant gem for the big screen though; wander through narrow gorges of moss-clad walls, soaring skywards for 50, 60, 70 or even 80 feet. Lulled by the sound of water trickling through the ferns, you can hike the canyon trail and back year-round, just prepare to get a little wet.
Taste the best sourdough bread in the country
San Francisco is renowned for its sourdough – although if you’re not a huge bread lover this may have escaped your radar. Well no more! No trip to the City by the Bay is complete without chowing down on this crusty leavened masterpiece. Try the Boudin Bakery, Acme Bread Company or Sour Flour for a taste of the best.
…and some pretty delicious guacamole too
California is big on avocados. In fact, there’s even a festival, the aptly-named AvoFest. The state is home to nearly 5,000 avocado growers, most of them small, family-run and well-versed in utilised the sun-kissed Californian soil. And of course, with great avocado, comes great guacamole. Isn’t that what Spiderman says?
Hit the slopes
The state may be known for its UV rays, but visit at the right time of year and you’re also guaranteed some pretty impressive powder. Grab your skis between December and March and head for the Sierra Nevada range in the north, home to Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain and Squaw Valley, or the southern San Bernardino Mountains.