As the most-visited state in the United States, California has plenty to offer to the millions of tourists that visit each year. With its spectacular beaches, vibrant green valleys, and picturesque coastal cliffs, visitors to the state are overwhelmed with options when it comes to choosing where to go.
Although the southern region of California boasts the glitz and glam of Hollywood, along with a sunnier, hotter climate, Northern California is full of incredible sights with a variety of options sure to please any visitor. Here are five of the best places to check out when visiting Northern California.
1. Russian Hill, San Francisco
There’s no better way to start this list than with the iconic City by the Bay, San Francisco. While many tourists can name the city’s top attractions off the top of their head—the Golden Gate Bridge, China Town, and Fisherman’s Wharf, to name a few—the beautiful Russian Hill neighborhood is often missing from these lists.
Home to the classic Lombard Street, this neighborhood also boasts a series of eclectic restaurants and shops, from SF originals like Swensen’s Ice Cream to new, lively spots like Stones Throw. However, be sure to come prepared for the magnificently steep hills for which the neighborhood is named—the views may be breathtaking, but so is the incline!
2. East Peak, Mt. Tam
If you’re looking for one of the best sunsets in the Bay Area, look no further than the East Peak of Mount Tamalpais, a beautiful hilly area within Mt. Tam State Park. When the sun goes down, the sky transforms in stunning hues of purples, pinks, and oranges, making panoramic views of the SF Bay Area even more spectacular.
East Peak is quite easily accessible by car, with many pullout spots along the road leading up. For those looking to get some extra steps in while admiring the view, visit the Verna Dunshee Trail, a 0.7 mile paved loop often frequented at dusk.
3. Downtown Carmel, Carmel-by-the-Sea
If you’re looking for a quiet, charming spot to pass the day, the small beach town of Carmel-by-the-Sea is the place for you. Located on California’s Monterey Peninsula near Pebble Beach, Carmel is a magical place to visit. Here you’ll find spectacular coastal views and a quaint, local feel.
Despite its small size however, there are plenty of things to see in Carmel, especially in the downtown area. There you’ll find countless restaurants, boutiques, and artisanal shops. Whether you seek out cozy cafés and souvenir shops or high-end art galleries and an elegant steakhouse, downtown Carmel has got you covered.
4. Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, Yosemite National Park
Known for its flowing waterfalls, majestic mountains, and granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park encompasses nearly 1,200 square miles of jaw-dropping marvels of nature. One of these is the canopy of giant sequoia trees that towers over the park, attracting troves of visitors eager to snap a photo of these huge trees.
Tuolumne Grove is one of the two open groves in the park where you can walk amongst these incredible trees and is a great place to get a picture under the some of the tallest trees in the world.
5. Napa Valley, California Wine Country
One of the world’s leading wine regions, California Wine Country is not only home to countless famed vineyards, but also many, many miles of beautiful countryside. Although its prized wineries are its claim to fame, Napa offers plenty of other sights to see for visitors looking to enjoy an alcohol-free trip or for those traveling with kids.
From relaxing at the Calistoga hot springs to taking a “foodie” tour in downtown Napa, there won’t be a dull moment in wine country. And if you’re still looking for a more wine-oriented trip, you won’t have to look very far to find the premier wineries of Napa Valley, amassing to over 400 unique spots.
Edited by Brianne Recker.