Cultural Experience | San Francisco

California Dreaming

Top 10 Things to do in California

I moved to California almost 3 years ago now when I started school at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Moving from the East Coast, I was so excited to see what the West Coast had to offer, especially California. I have taken many short trips to places throughout the state and quickly found my favorites. So here it is, starting from the bottom of the state: the top 10 things to do in California!

1. San Diego

San Diego is an obvious destination. However, it is just so big to say just one thing to do. I have done a different activity every time I have been and have never been bored. Seeing the seals in La Jolla, sailing in Mission Bay, whale watching off the coast, hiking potato chip rock are just a few of my favorites!

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Potato Chip Rock – Mt Woodson – San Diego!

2. Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park is a great place to spend a weekend in the desert. Where the Mojave and the Colorado collide, the national park has a very unique landscape. Well-known for their Joshua trees, there are also some very surreal geological features such as Skull Rock and Arches. The national park is very popular within the rock climbing community but also has some amazing day hikes for those, like me, who aren’t as intense.

Joshua Tree image

Bouldering in Joshua Tree

3. Catalina Island

Catalina Island is a fun weekend getaway. Located a couple hours off the California coast the island offers a wide range of activities. My favorites being snorkeling with bright orange Garibaldis and watching huge wild buffalo from a distance. Catalina is it’s own small paradise!

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Wild Buffalo on Catalina Island!

4. San Luis Obispo

I am a little biased for this one since I go to the beautiful school of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. However, Oprah called this town the “Happiest place in America” for a reason! The town has the best boutiques, food and beaches on the central coast. Bishops peak is a classic hike that gives 360-degree views of the entire area. There is also Avila Beach, Montana de Oro and Morro Bay that I have spent hours at!

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Central Coast Sunset in San Luis Obispo!

5. Big Sur

If you are driving between Northern California and Southern California and have time to spend, taking Highway 1 through Big Sur is the way to go. Liking photography, I think I stopped at every single viewpoint the first time I made the drive. The road runs directly parallel to the ocean winding back and forth. There are also amazing campgrounds and hikes including McWay Falls and Salmon Creek that are worth a quick stop.

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Salmon Creek, Big Sur

6. Monterey

Monterey is a destination for all of the coastline attractions. Everything including kayaking, scuba diving, surfing, whale watching and beach-going. I made the journey up to Monterey for the sole purpose of visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was definitely worth it. Monterey is a cute little town with shops and small restaurants, a great place to spend a relaxing weekend.

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Octopus at Monterey Bay Aquarium

7. Yosemite

Yosemite is a must-see national park for anyone that wants to explore the outdoors. The beautiful valley is known for its waterfalls, granite faces and giant sequoias. The national park attracts millions of tourists every year but the wide expanse leaves plenty of room for people of all level to explore!


View of Half Dome, Yosemite

8. Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain very quickly became one of my favorite ski spots in the entire state. With long runs, great snow and blues skis (most of the time), there is not much else I could ask for in a ski resort. If you’re lucky, you can even spend part of your day with Wooly the Mammoth!


Wooly the Mammoth, Mammoth Mountain

9. San Francisco

San Francisco is an amazing city to wander to explore but again, it is so big there are hundreds of things to do. Seeing the golden gate bridge is a must for the first time in the city. Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are also definitely worth going to! The Musee Mechanique was one of my favorites, seeing the old arcade games.


Graffiti in San Francisco

10. Tahoe

Tahoe is a stunning place to visit at any time of the year. There are several high-ranking ski resorts that are open all winter and there is everything from hiking and mountain biking to fishing watersports in the summer. Nothing says summertime like being on crystal-clear Lake Tahoe.



Lake Tahoe

Sam Corio

California Polytechnic State University | 8 stories

Hi I'm Sam! I'm a junior at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. I'm a Graphic Communication major with a concentration in Web and Digital Media. I love to travel, hike, go to the beach and scuba dive! I had the opportunity to study abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand this past summer and traveled to Cambodia and Bali after our program. I can't wait to explore more!

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