California Vacations for Every Traveler

For over a century now travelers have been drawn to the state of California, but with it being the most populated area that is not its own country on the continent of North America, it can be tough to decide where to visit. Thankfully, this curated guide of California vacation ideas, as written by the travel blogger The Points Guy, makes the decision a whole lot easier.

As it’s the third-largest United State by land size alone, California is certainly huge, but it’s also incredibly populated. It’s the 34th most populated state in the world with well over 39 million residents living on its over 163,000 square miles of surface land. This is also not to even mention that on that massive expanse there are internationally-renowned theme parks, metropolises, movie studios, resorts, spas, national parks, and 900 miles of Pacific Ocean-adjacent beach property.

With that being said, booking a trip to the Golden State can be overwhelming even for the more accomplished traveler, so here are a few suggested trip proposals depending on your vacation style.

Looking for Aesthetics?

When you spend a full season of Winter in New England or the frigid Midwest, suddenly the sunny beaches and palm trees of the California Coast are calling your name. If postcard-worthy sites are what you’re after, then look no further than the city of Palm Springs, California. Known as a fashionable location for tourists and Southern California Residents alike, this city has magnificent sights to be seen inside and out. For instance, one needs only to walk through the Moorten Botanical Garden or feed a literal Giraffe at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens to see both the flora and fauna of this amazing city. If in town, be sure to pack some “athleisure-wear” for your hike up Tahquitz Canyon so that you can partake in a real-life waterfall oasis in the middle of a desert or see the wonderful state of California from above on an aerial gondola ride that takes you over Coachella Valley in an unforgettable canyon-hugging ride of your life.

Looking for Recreation?

Have you truly been to California if you don’t visit an amusement or theme park that the state is famous for? Whether you’re traveling with loved ones, extended family, coworkers, or just friends, there’s plenty of fun to be had by anyone in the city of Anaheim, California. Home to the internationally-famous Disneyland, it’s almost impossible to imagine California without the iconic characters and attractions of the Walt Disney Corporation and their truly magical theme park experiences. Taking a walk through Downtown Disney or the state’s very own sister park, California Adventure,are the obvious choices that are guaranteed to help you regain any lost sense of childlike wonder. If you want to find more mature attractions, so to speak, then look no further than the world-famous Angel Stadium, home to the Los Angeles Angels or make the day trip to Catalina Island or Huntington Beach to soak in the sunny rays that the state is known for.

Looking for Extravagance?

Movie stars, top athletes, and some of the most successful people on the planet reside in California for its catering to a higher class of living. That being said, the city of San Francisco and its surrounding bay area are perfect for those wanting decadence on their vacation. This famed city is home to one of the most expensive properties owned by the Ritz-Carlton brand, and it’s for good reason. The property, known as the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, is one of the finest, most luxury-filled resorts on the planet with its decadent accommodations overlooking a cliff-side ocean view and its countless amenities such as its championship golf courses or award-winning yoga studios. While staying in the area, be sure to spend a day at the MoMa and breathe in the arts and culture of some of the most accomplished artists at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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American Bucket List Activities

International travel is assuredly enticing, unforgettable, and unique, but it has a tendency to be expensive, which is why many are turning to their “own backyard,” as it were, and rediscovering the once-in-a-lifetime wonders of the United States. One such company is the premium email-subscription service, Scott’s Cheap Flights, which had its extensive survey results of the “Most Popular Bucket List Activities in Each U.S State” featured recently on Travel Pulse’s blog.

The list is a culminating result of a sample size of 3,000 people who answered the question: “what activities and experiences are at the top of your USA bucket list?” Predictably so, the results revealed some obvious “greatest hits” of California and Hawaii topping the list, but the data set also gave interesting insight such as approximately 70% of all bucket-list activities chosen by travelers taking place outdoors, whether it be exploring the Denali National Park in Alaska national park in or visiting the white-sanded beaches of Georgia’s Jekyll, Cumberland, and Tybee Islands.

Lastly, before diving into a small sampling of the enticing events, it should be remembered that a “bucket list destination” is special because it’s a trip that’s unique to the area that it’s located in for one reason or another while also teeming with memories that could last a lifetime. The bucket list aspect doesn’t need to be grim or morbid, but it should be seen as a goal in which you can perceive some of the more exquisite and spectacular sights, activities, and wonders of nature or man that this world has to offer, while we’re here.

Gazing at the Wild Ponies of Assateague Island National Seashore

Located in close proximity to Ocean City, Maryland & Chincoteague Island, Virginia is a 37-mile beach, inland pine forest, and salt marsh that has stood as a National Park and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuge and State Park for several decades. Besides being stunningly gorgeous, this beach is unique due to its over 300 free-roaming wild ponies and horses that have been trotting down the beach and surrounding areas since the 17th Century. Locals believe that the ponies originally came to the island from a sunken Spanish Galleon ship, which was recently discovered offshore, but no matter the cause, the free-roaming ponies are a truly rare sight that one should demand to see with their own two eyes.

Traversing Nevada’s Valley of Fire

Survey respondents placed experiencing Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park ahead of touring Las Vegas and all its commercial wonders, so that tells you that there’s something special about the breathtakingly panoramic landscapes. Named for its 40,000 acres of strikingly red Aztec sandstone found alongside limestone, the Valley of Fire is also home to ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs that date back over 2,000 years ago. The landscapes that make up the crimson valley serve as the ideal backdrop for your outdoor excursion, as the State Park is home to dozens of trails for walking, viewing, biking, and hiking. Make it a point to drive down the winging Valley of Fire Highway the next time you need a color compliment to the monotonous, dull hues in your neck of the woods.

View the Natural Wildlife of South Dakota’s Badlands

Reconnect with the early settlers and take in unforgettable sights in the “Land of Stone and Light,” found in the rugged topography of the Badlands. This National Park is home to geological formations that resemble mosaic paintings, one of the world’s richest fossil beds, and approximately 244,000 acres to explore. What’s special about this area is that it is not only home to untold beauty but also countless species of wildlife unique to the area. From Wild Turkey to Buffalo to Kangaroo Rats, the expanse of the Badlands has a unique sight for every visitor on every visit.

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This Spring’s Top Cities for Outdoor Activities

It’s hard to overstate the benefits of outdoor activities in 2021, but with the spring solstice finally past, it might be a good idea to plan your Spring vacation around one of TravelPulse’s “Best U.S. Cities for Outdoor Activities.”

The data comes from a study conducted by LawnStarter, a national lawn care provider that also conducts in-depth, location-based studies. The study compared the 200 largest cities in the United States across 17 key analytics metrics, which ranged from the number of publicly-available trails, campsites, and gardens to the springtime rainfall percentages and amount of sunshine received.

It all resulted in an extensive ranking of all 200 cities, which details the location’s rank in outdoor activities, visitor friendliness, and spring climate. Outside of the objective rankings, many unique facts were learned about the studied cities such as Washington D.C. being the nation’s “most walkable” city or Metairie, Louisiana hosting the second-rainiest spring season in the entire United States.

Top 20 of the Best Cities for Outdoor Activities in Spring 2021

  1. San Francisco, California
  2. Portland, Oregon
  3. Honolulu, Hawaii
  4. Mesa, Arizona
  5. Washington D.C.
  6. Tucson, Arizona
  7. Los Angeles, California
  8. Long Beach, California
  9. Huntington Beach, California
  10. Las Vegas, Nevada
  11. Lincoln, Nebraska
  12. Salt Lake City, Utah
  13. New York City, New York
  14. Seattle, Washington
  15. Oakland, California
  16. Tempe, Arizona
  17. Fort Collins, Colorado
  18. Miami, Florida
  19. Riverside, California
  20. Lexington, Kentucky

#1 San Francisco, California

The Golden City tops off the list with its high-ranking walkability score, as the west coast city is known for its high number of public trails, outdoor vendors, and bicycle paths. Besides the truly iconic Golden Gate Bridge, visitors should take a leisurely cruise on the San Francisco Bay by way of an Alcatraz ferry ride, sailboat, or powerboat excursion. Though, if the water’s not your thing, then simply go for an outdoor foray into the hidden, idyllic Muir Woodsand its ancient, towering Coastal Redwoods. Alternatively, hike to the top of Mt. Tamalpais to see the famed city from a picturesque viewpoint or try out horseback riding on one of the winding trails of Fort Funston.

#2 Portland, Oregon

This delightfully unique gem of the Pacific Northwest boasts some of the most decadent gardens publicly-accessible in the country. If visiting the city in the Spring months, be sure to make it a point to check out the Portland International Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Lan Su Chinese Garden, or the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden for some of the most unforgettable plantlife, sculptures, and scenery around. In a similar vein, Portland abounds with parks for you to walk, bike, or hike; Washington Park, Forest Park, Mount Tabor Park, and Silver Falls State Park are just four that come to mind in terms of postcard-worthiness.

#3 Honolulu, Hawaii

Admittedly, this one might seem like a no-brainer, but Spring may just be the optimal season to visit Hawaii instead of Summer. This is due to its optimal weather ranging from 70ºF to 79º, beating not only the Summer heat but the crowd as well. Spring also has a bountiful supply of indigenous and non-native plants blooming in Honolulu’s various rainforests and gardens, such as Oahu’s Foster Botanical Garden, featuring trees planted as early as the 1850s.Outside of weather and scenery, springtime in Honolulu means that it’s time for the seasonal visits from Humpback whales on the southern shores of Oahu. Honestly, where else can you whale watch in April?

Always be sure to check with the latest CDC-recommended travel guidance before traveling to any of the notable cities listed in the full data set.

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Top Staycation Spots to Consider this Spring

Though many places are starting to see restrictions lifted and travel picking back up, many are looking to book a spectacular “staycation” this upcoming spring break, and with TravelPulse’s curated list of the best spots for staying in, it’s never been more tempting.

Though the full list pairs each of America’s states with the ideal “hunker down” destination, it’s always a recommended practice to check with local advisories, rules, and restrictions, as things are constantly changing throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Homer, Alaska

While it may be far from home, the quaint, charming town of Homer has both cultural attractions and cafés to rival the hippest, modern cities of the continental United States. If you’re planning to venture out for Spring Break, then you would be in luck, as the cozy town is actually known for having a very pleasant climate, making it an ideal spring destination.

Red Wing, Minnesota

Located on the “Mighty Mississippi,” the location, legacy, and aesthetic of the historic river town of Red Wing makes it perfect for a spring break staycation. Whether you’re walking river-side, taking a ferry ride, or exploring the nearby dramatic hills and bluffs around Red Wing, there’s plenty to love. Minnesota’s larger cities get the acclaim and the tourists, but only Red Wing has the niche wealth of interest-specific museums awaiting your patronage.

Overland Park, Kansas

The KC Metro area is known for many things, but during spring break, it’s typically a hotspot of tourists, so why not stop into the nearby Kansas City suburbs known as Overland Park? This gives you the perfect home base from which you’re in a prime location to explore the attractions of both the Kansas and Missouri side of the KC Metro area. Explore unforgettable attractions like the architecturally-stunning Museum at Prairiefire Entertainment District, such as the Overland Park Museum of Natural History. Afterwards, be sure to stop downtown and visit the stunning National World War I Museum and Memorial, the American Jazz Museum, and (of course) stop to feast on some of the finest barbecue the country has to offer.

Ocean City, Maryland

To many, there’s nothing more ideal or serene than a beach that’s practically all to yourself, and with the Maryland climate, you might just be that lucky when visiting Ocean City. The beaches typically run chilly, so you and your group might need a sweater for those early evening walks, but that just means that there will likely be more space to enjoy. After spending your time at the coast, stop by the nearby small town of Berlin to partake in its attractions ranging from the unforgettable landscapes of Assateague State Park to the Calvin B Taylor House Museum.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Stop in and stay awhile once inside the city limits of one of the most historic cities in America. When visiting or having a staycation, you’ll be surrounded by the spectacular Southwestern scenery that has given comfort to generations of travelers before you. Stop by the classic Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to acquire a new appreciation for the legendary artist before you trek on a local hike and blaze your own path forward. Before heading out of town, be sure to treat yourself to a tried-and-true New Mexican meal at one of the southwest’s most distinctive and authentic cuisines around.

Letchworth Falls State Park, New York

Start manifesting it now, you don’t need to busy yourself with the city that never sleeps just because you find yourself in New York, so leave the bustling Big Apple behind and truly reunite with nature and the fantastic spectacle of Letchworth State Park’s tranquil woods and rushing waters. Watch closely as the Genesee River traverses jagged rocks and ultimately cascades over three majestic waterfalls. Live in a postcard for a little while during this staycation, once you book at Letchworth.

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Skip the Beach for the Mountains on Your Next Spring Trip

The beach isn’t the only spring trip destination, despite it often being the location most often associated with Spring Break. Though, thanks to TravelPulse, there are plenty of non-beach alternatives to choose from when planning your next springtime-foray.

As always, it should be noted that when traveling, especially in 2021, you should regularly check the CDC recommendations and travel advisories whenever traveling while in the midst of a pandemic. State and local health department websites are your best resource. Keep in mind that restrictions can change rapidly depending on local conditions. Check back for updates as your trip gets closer.

Coastal cities, sand-laden beachfronts, crystal-clear waters are often synonymous with springtime vacations, be it a “Spring Break” or even just a weekend getaway. In addition to it being an optimal location for recreation, it even allows for plenty of social distancing room and wide-open spaces for families to stay together while still having fun. Despite these benefits, it’s always fun and even a good idea to think outside the box, branch outside of your comfort zone, and set your sights somewhere less sunny and possibly more northbound with the following locations, as suggested by TravelPulse.

Yosemite National Park

The famed park, located in California, offers its patrons an environment that’s not necessarily as warm as Sandals, Jamaica during a spring trip, but the sights taken in are simply inspiring. Once inside the forest’s enclosure, you’ll be greeted by nature itself as well as utterly massive, prehistoric trees that you’ll struggle to capture with your camera. Though, it’s likely that you’ll simply be awe-struck by their majestic stature.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Up north there is a majestic city near the Upper Peninsula that blends together nature and modern conveniences, it goes by the name of Salt Lake City, Utah. Set the GPS today and make your first stop at the Great Salt Lake State Park. Alternatively, you’ll be able to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats and take in the iconic sights of the 12-by-5 mile expanse that emcompasses 300,000 acres. The salt crust has been around since the latest Ice Age, making it a truly unforgettable experience.

Sonoma Valley, California

This location is perfect for two travelers who want to get a little off-path from the beach but still in the California sun during a spring trip. Here, you’ll see the lovely splendor of wine country, and once you set your sights on those gallant hilltops lying beneath a sunrise or sunset, you’ll likely assume you’ve booked a vacation inside a postcard.

San Antonio, Texas

See the lush greenery of this southern gem in March or April before it gets too hot in later months. San Antonio holds a lot of history within its limits, but it also stands tall as a living testament to the culture of its modern-day inhabitants. Take in the shops, eateries, and attractions along the riverfront, and you’ll begin to see why this southern town just north-of-the-border is often called the Venice of Texas.

Denver, Colorado

In the heart of the United States is the modern, bustling metropolis of Denver. The air is clean, the city is large, and frankly, the people don’t seem at all bothered. Stop by City Park for some lovely sights and space to move around or head out of town to a nearby hiking trail. The downtown scene is always home to a new recreation-based business venture like virtual reality or indoor puzzle rooms, so there’s always plenty to do in this strikingly vibrant city lying on the forefront of modern spectacle.

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Top Rated San Diego Attractions

Known as the oldest town in California, San Diego is the gem of SoCal, and with Planetware’s curated list of the top-rated tourist attractions in the city, you’ll never find yourself in the least bit bored.

Located not too far off from the Mexican Border in Southern California, the City of San Diego holds within its limits a combination of natural beauty, mild Mediterranean climate, an abundance of sunshine, and a wide selection of unforgettable metropolitan attractions. Ideal for outdoor adventures sprinkled throughout your trips to the various museums and gardens that the city has to offer, you’ll never be without an exciting adventure. Of course, be sure to check local CDC recommendations, travel advisories, and local city mandates to ensure that your time in San Diego is spent as efficiently and safely as possible.

Set your sights on Balboa Park’s Spanish Colonial-style architecture, the Midway Aircraft Museum, or the world famous San Diego Zoo. If you’re looking for sunshine, San Diego houses several beaches with over 68 miles of coastline in and around the city limits, making it perfect for sunning, swimming, and even surfing.

San Diego Zoo

This zoo is famous, as it is one of the largest and most notable zoos to be found in the United States. Get ready to plan an entire day here, as you’ll be dying to get the most out of your visit once admitted. Visitors of the zoo are given a wide selection of exotic animals to observe, though the San Diego Zoo’s most famed residents are the giant pandasthat have been successfully bred in the zoo. Outside of the pandas, zoo attendees have the opportunity to see amazing habitats that enclose grizzly bears, koalas, gorillas, leopards, bonobos, polar bears, rhinos, and sloths, just to name a few favorites.

If you’re interested in spending more time with your favorite furry friends, the San Diego Zoo offers an upgraded experience that includes behind-the-scenes, close-up experiences with the animals. The grounds themselves are spread out along a landscaped canyon that houses an expansive botanical collection of over 700,000 plants from around the globe. Though, if your feet begin to get sore, you can always hop on the Kangaroo Express Bus to speed up your ground traversal or you can glide over exhibits from above in the Skyfari Aerial Tram.

The nonprofit San Diego Zoo Global operates the zoo itself as well as conservation organizations, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which is located about 40 minutes north of downtown San Diego. The Safari Park offers more of an observation experience similar to that found on an African Safari with free-roaming animals on a large acreage of land, making San Diego’s entire zoo experience a truly memorable one!

Balboa Park

Tourists and locals have a lot to love with the 1,400-acre Balboa Park and its encompassing historical buildings,numerous museums and bountiful gardens. The Panama California Exhibition of 1915-1916 caused the creation of the park, and the buildings have remained ever since with their predominantly Spanish-style architecture and low-rise buildings that blend in with the natural surroundings. This disguising blend of architecture and nature make it almost seem as though lush vegetation has overtaken this palace.

Besides the sheer sight of the park itself are the botanical gardens, lily pond, Museum of Man, Museum of Natural History, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the Fleet Science Center; all of which are can’t miss experiences housed in the park. If you ever make it out of Balboa Park, feel free to visit the other top rated attractions from Planet Ware during your visit.

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