California Bucket List: Best Things To Do In The Golden State

Looking for things to add to your California bucket list? This comprehensive guide has The Golden States top destinations and must do things.

California is one of the top USA bucket list destinations for many AND a top travel bucket list destination throughout the world. So you know there is going to be some incredible things to see and do when you visit.

No matter what you decide to do, a visit to California will be memorable. You could go from mountains, to crystal clear lakes, to out of this world National Parks, iconic sites, and beaches .. all in a day!

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california bucket list

Ultimate California Bucket List

1. Visit Salvation Mountain

This man made mountain is a must see on your California bucket list! Created over 28 years and is made up of over half a million gallons of paint. But not just any paint, latex paint.

Editorial credit: Nagel Photography /

2. Window shop on Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive is one of the most famous streets in all of Los Angeles, and it’s because it’s home to tons of luxury designer stores. It stretches on for two miles and meets up with Sunset Boulevard in 90210. Even if you can’t afford to shop here, it’s fun to peruse the streets and window shop. You might even run into a celebrity!

3. Hike up to the Hollywood sign

This California bucket list would not be complete without at least mentioning the Hollywood sign! One of the best things to do in California is to hike up to the iconic sign located in Los Angeles. The 3.3-mile trail to the top only takes about two hours, and the view from the top is impeccable.

There are so many fun things you can add to your Los Angeles bucket list!

california bucket list

4. Take a trip to Alcatraz

Alcatraz is located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco and was a prison until 1963. Since then, it’s served as a popular tourist destination. Guests can go on a boat tour from San Francisco to the island, where they’ll be able to learn more about Alcatraz’s history.

This is just one of many things you can add to your San Francisco bucket list.

5. Visit the Kelso Dunes

The Kelso Dunes should be on your California bucket list! Located in the Mojave Desert, the sand dunes cover 45 square miles. There are hiking trails that will bring you through all of their glory. Try to visit at sunset for a truly remarkable view!

6. Have a burger from In-N-Out, animal style

Even though In-N-Out Burger is a fast-food restaurant in California, it’s often considered to be a staple by locals. So, why not try it out when you visit? Be sure to order one of their burgers “animal style,” which includes extra additions to your burger like mustard put on the patty before it’s cooked.

7. Explore Joshua Tree National Park

California is home to many beautiful national parks, with Joshua Tree just being one of them. It’s located in Southern California and is filled with beautiful Joshua Trees and hiking trails. It has quickly become one of the most iconic parks to visit in the whole state, which is why it should be part of any California bucket list.

california bucket list

8. See the geothermal pools in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Situated in northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is truly breathtaking and scenic. There are tons of trails throughout the park, as well as lakes and mountain ranges that look like they belong directly on a postcard. When visiting, be sure to check out the unique geothermal pools.

california bucket list

9. Embrace your inner child at Disneyland

Did you know that California has its own Disney park? It’s true! While it’s not as big as the theme parks in Florida, Disneyland, located in Anaheim, is truly a great place to visit. From the delicious food to the thrilling rides, if you have the time, embrace your inner child and head to Disneyland!

10. Take a photo at The Painted Ladies

You may recognize The Painted Ladies, which were iconically used in the TV show Full House, a hit ‘90’s sitcom. These beautiful Victorian houses are located in San Francisco and seem to not fit in with the rest of the city, but that’s what makes them unique and worth visiting.

11. Visit Venice Beach

Venice Beach is a trendy district located in Los Angeles. A lot of the shops here are hipster, and there’s fun street art everywhere. If you’re looking for an artful area to visit in California, then this is your place! Plus, it’s located right along the water.

12. Explore Paramount Ranch

Paramount Ranch is probably one of the most unique things you can do on this California bucket list. It was famously used as a filming location for films like American Sniper and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Now it’s filled with walking trails and fun buildings that you can visit!

13. See the picturesque Glass Beach

Glass Beach is located in Fort Bragg, California. What originally was a spot where people threw their trash soon turned into a beautiful beach filled with glass. Now, it’s incredibly picturesque and is a top place to visit in California.

14. Take photos at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park

Badwater Basin is most well known for being the lowest spot on the whole continent. It is essentially equivalent to the salt flats in California and is very breathtaking, especially in person. Visit at sunset for an even better experience!

california bucket list

15. Catch the sunset at the Sunset Cliffs

The Sunset Cliffs are a popular viewpoint in San Diego. It’s surrounded by beautiful beaches and is most well known for its iconic sunsets. While it can get quite busy here at night, especially in the summer, you have to add seeing the sunset at the Sunset Cliffs to your bucket list.

16. Eat a donut at California Donuts

California Donuts is one of the most popular donut shops in the entire state. Located in Los Angeles, this bakery serves up fun specialty donuts with flavors like Fruity Pebbles, Lemonberry Crumble, and Blueberry Toast Crunch. Most donuts start at $2.50 USD.

17. Learn how to surf in San Diego

San Diego is one of the best places to go surfing in all of California, so if you don’t know how now’s the time to learn! Some of the top places to learn how to surf in San Diego include Mission Beach, Tourmaline Beach, and the La Jolla Shores.

There are tons of great things to add to your San Diego bucket list!

18. Walk (or drive) across the Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges in all of the United States. Located in San Francisco, this suspension bridge was built in the early twentieth century and is exceptionally picturesque no matter the time of day.

19. Explore Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park located in Borrego Springs is one of the most unique natural wonders in the state, which is why it deserves a spot on your California Bucket List. It’s filled with exciting mountains and rock structures that you won’t want to miss.

20. See the picturesque Alabama Hills

The Alabama Hills are located right near the border of Nevada in California. They’re incredibly scenic and don’t even look like the rest of the state’s natural spots. They’ve also been featured in many films, including Iron Man, Django, and The Lone Ranger.

21. Try an acai bowl from Banzai bowls

Banzai Bowls is one of the most popular smoothie bowl places in the whole state, with multiple locations in places like Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, and Laguna Beach. They have a wide variety of flavors, and each one is amazing.

22. Take a trip around Napa Valley

Napa Valley is most well known for being California’s wine country. It’s located right outside of Sacramento, which is a great place to stay while you tour the vineyards. For a fun time, be sure to check out the Napa Valley Wine Train!

23. Go skiing in Big Bear

Yes, you can go skiing (or snowboarding) in Big Bear! Located in Southern California, this is one of the top destinations to visit in the wintertime. If you happen to visit in the summer, this is a great place to go hiking instead. No matter when you visit, these are fun things to do in California.

24. Hike one of the trails in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is located within the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is truly breathtaking. It’s home to great cliffs, museums, and landscapes that will leave you breathless. The best time to visit the park is in the summer! Sometimes the trails can be closed during the colder months, something to keep in mind when working on your California bucket list.

25. See the most crooked street in the world in San Francisco

Lombard Street is a genuinely crooked street located in San Francisco. It’s beautifully designed with bright flowers and greenery, but it can be pretty hard to drive down if you’re not careful! If you don’t have a car, consider walking up the street to feel what it is is really like.

26. Take a road trip along Big Sur

Big Sur is one of the most beautiful parts of California. There’s no better place to explore in the state than by going on a road trip along it. There are lots of natural areas to explore, including fun hiking trails and state parks that you’ll be able to discover along the road trip.

27. Swim in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is an absolutely breathtaking lake that’s situated right between Nevada and California. It has crystal blue waters, and it’s great for swimming. If you’d rather explore another way, be sure to check out the walking trails that surround the lake for more great views and scenery.

One way to explore California is to get out in nature and Lake Tahoe offers just that.

28. Go kayaking in La Jolla

One of the best things to do on this California bucket list is to go kayaking in the La Jolla Caves. There are many fun tours with local guides that will bring you through the caves and the surrounding area for a great time.

29. Explore Redwood National and State Park

Redwood National and State Park is home to some of the world’s tallest trees you honestly won’t want to miss. There are four different parks here, so you can choose whichever one interests you most. Usually, most people need at least a few days to explore them all!

california bucket list

30. Visit the beautiful Burney Falls

Burney Falls is a truly beautiful waterfall in California’s McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. There is a hike to get to the waterfall, but it’s well worth it. It’s a 1.3-mile loop hike, so it shouldn’t take long at all. In fact, no matter your experience with hiking, you should enjoy (and be able to do) the trek!

When it comes to adventures in California, you won’t want to miss this!

31. Go to Monterey Bay to go whale watching

One of the most fun things to do on this California bucket list is to go whale watching. There’s no better place to do that than in Monterey Bay! There are many tours that will take you on this fun excursion, but they happen more often during the warmer months.

32. See the stars at Glacier Point

There is no better place in the whole state than Glacier Point to see the stars! It’s located inside Yosemite Valley, and while you do have to hike ten miles round trip to get to it, the views at the top will make you not regret your decision.

33. Take a trip to Slab City

Slab City is a lawless area of California. Because it’s lawless, that means that it can be dangerous, but it’s still one of the most popular places to visit on this California bucket list. Historically, it used to be a military base but has since become a popular spot to visit due to its unique art.

34. Have fun on Santa Monica Pier’s Pacific Park

Pacific Park is a fun theme park located on the Santa Monica Pier. It’s filled with fun rides, carnival games, and delicious food. Plus, the views are truly breathtaking everywhere you look. What better way to spend some time in California than by the beach?

california bucket list


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