Destination Guide to California

California – America’s Golden State

21. Feb 2022
by Sugato Mukherjee

From a spellbinding Central coastline to the majestic High Sierra, from the stunning blue Lake Tahoe to the giant monoliths of Yosemite, California never fails to catch the imagination of the intrepid and the discerning with its natural wonders, opulent metropolises and the fairytale world of Hollywood.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Death Valley, California 

Mediterranean climate with abundant sunshine, ample adventure activities, a glorious culinary map and thriving metropolises oozing style and character, California is an enthralling destination. No less than nine national parks call the Golden State their home with wide biodiversity and gorgeous natural wonders, the highlights being the iconic Yosemite National Park with its jaw-dropping beauty and Death Valley with its arid salt pans, Badwater Basin and extreme weather that attracts both travellers and scientists.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Yosemite National Park

Sunny beaches and a unique surf culture dominate the pretty towns and counties of the Californian Central Coast. There are hiking opportunities galore amid the rocky and craggy mountains, and you will have perfect bragging rights if you complete the High Sierra Trail, the challenging 100-kilometre trek from Crescent Meadow to Mount Whitney. For the not-so-intrepid, there are spectacular lakes like the shimmering Lake Tahoe to engage in water sports activities or the pine-fringed Big Bear Lake to wander into its surrounding wilderness and the serene beauty of the turquoise-blue waters of Shasta Lake with the snow-covered Mount Shasta forming a majestic backdrop.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Lake Tahoe - California and Nevada

California offers some of the most amazing theme parks on earth. Thrilling roller coaster rides, live theatrical performances, family fun-zones, beachfront carousels, the best-in-class parks deliver something for everyone, whether it is the iconic Disneyland and the world-renowned Universal Studios Hollywood or the smaller, relatively lesser-known Pacific Park in Santa Monica.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Sparkles in Disneyland

Home to hundreds of hillside vineyards offering exceptional wine tasting sessions, the verdant valleys of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino dot the North Coast of California for a leisure-filled getaway from city life into the lush green countryside with a glass (or two) of finest wine. The gastronomic scene is equally indulgent with hole-in-the-wall joints whipping up lip-smacking fare to Michelin-starred outposts constantly redefining the quintessential “California Cuisine” with innovative twists.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Sonoma County

And the icing on the Californian travel pie is its pulsating urban space. Soak in the thriving counter-culture vibe and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco, keep your camera ready at the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in the driveway from Sunset Strip to Beverly Hills in Los Angeles for some celeb-spotting, or even skip the big city crowds in favour of one of California’s storybook small towns like Avalon and Julian for an authentic flavor of resident Californian culture.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
The Golden Gate Bridge


Boutiques and bargains, vintage and boho-chic, shopping is an art when you are in California. Home to celebrity designer boutiques, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is your ultimate destination for designer labels and haute couture fashion.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State

Head slightly east of Beverly Hills to The Grove, famous for its meticulously-crafted rustic atmosphere packed with leafy cafes and a curated collection of fashion-forward stores and ever-changing pop-up shops.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Shopping! Shopping! Shopping!

Perched right in the middle of San Francisco, Union Square is the preeminent hub for California luxury shopping. Walk the streets, hunt down and tick off your wishlist at the iconic superbrands and clink your martini while exchanging notes at a sultry bar or a Beaux art-style restaurant like Westin St. Francis.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Union Square

Shopping meets art in the Palm Springs area with its plethora of artist-owned galleries and studios at the Backstreet Art District, and Palm Desert’s artwork-filled street known as El Paseo packs a neat punch of trendy stores, boutiques, luxuriant gardens and galleries to earn the sobriquet “The Rodeo Drive of the Desert”.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
El Paseo - Palm Springs

Restaurants & Bars

You cannot go much wrong in culinary matters in the Golden State. While San Francisco remains a top-of-the-line food destination, Los Angeles’ epicurean reputation has skyrocketed in recent years. “California cuisine” has its signature appeal throughout US, especially when it comes to healthier food.

The French Laundry, the flagship outpost of the legendary chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller, is a Napa Valley institution. Keller champions hyperlocal ingredients, and his trademark sustainability ethos are reflected in the myriad design elements of French Laundry’s Louvre-inspired architecture. Maintaining a fine balance between the classic and the contemporary, and infusing the refined French culinary culture into  robust American cookery, Keller amazes his patrons with touchstone delicacies in his enclave, which was dubbed as the “world’s best restaurant" by none other than the late Anthony Bourdain.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
The French Laundry

A gorgeous Michelin-starred hotspot nestles itself comfortably deep inside San Fran’s Chinatown. Mister Jiu’s unassuming exterior does not really prepare you for its cheery interiors with dramatic brass lotus chandeliers hanging overhead. The food that has the unmistakable aroma of haute Cantonese is sometimes spiced up with Sichuan flavours, but unwaveringly remains organic, seasonal and served home-style. There is a sleek bar in the front zone and a retro-style Lounge to enjoy some delectable cocktails and delicious bites.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Mister Jiu's

Beverly Hills, the swankiest zip code of Los Angeles, has no dearth of splashy dine venues, but Matsuhisa on La Cienega Boulevard denotes the epitome of fine dining culture. The global culinary empire of Nobu Matsuhisa started here before it spanned over 40 locations across five continents. His flagship outpost retains its low key décor since it opened its doors in 1988, but the ever-changing menu continues to elevate and delight the connoisseurs’ palate with innovative blends of Japanese cuisine with Peruvian fare.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State

Founded in 2002, Manresa is another flagbearer of California Cuisine. This three Michelin-starred is one of the world’s best restaurants, where renowned masterchef David Kinch collaborates with the region’s most revered biodynamic growers to baseline his ingredients and carve out masterful culinary compositions such as Monterey Bay spot prawns and satin carrot accented with citrus and exotic spices or tender striped bass in a saffron bouillabaisse topped with a crisp wafer of brioche. The wine list is exemplary. Just remember not to miss those vanilla-bean caramels offered on your way out.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State

A luxe revert to the 1940s, Bootsy Bellows is dubbed as the “decadent playground of the adults.” The luxury nightclub, frequented by Hollywood A-listers, oozes a cosy and intimate charm in the daytime with cabana-style recliners around a turquoise pool. Nights turn zesty and festive with live performances and local performances. Whenever you go, an advance reservation is a must.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Bootsy Bellows

Entry is a privilege and not a right at the iconic Oxford Social Club, San Diego’s most distinct nightclub. The avant-garde nightclub in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter is the mecca for the well-heeled and boisterous, where unlimited bottle services match VIP treatment to its patrons. Eclectic music and conceptual lighting creates the mood for a refined and playful vibe on the dance floor to cut loose and shed off the norms.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Oxford Social Club


Museums & the Arts

Situated in Wilshire Boulevard between the ocean and downtown Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a diverse body of art collection dating from antiquity to the contemporary, encompassing the entire history of art and also the geographical world. It showcases Asian and Latin American art, has a significant collection of Islamic art and hosts pre-Columbian masterpieces. The museum's photography department has more than 15,000 works and hosts courses, film screenings and concerts.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State

The J.Paul Getty Museum, commonly referred to as the Getty, is split into two campuses. Getty Villa, the original Getty Museum, located in the Pacific Palisades neighbourhood of Los Angeles showcases ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, Renaissance masterpieces, and ornate 18th-century furniture of European royalty and aristocracy. Located in Brentwood, Los Angeles, the Getty Center is renowned for its vast collection of photographic works from its inception till present times, besides pre-20th-century European paintings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts and objet d’art.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
The awesome J. Paul Getty Museum

One of the most prestigious institutions in the US, the California Academy of Sciences is a research institute and one of the largest natural history museums in the world. The iconic buildings suffered a near-complete destruction during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, and since been rebuilt with the same orientation, grouped around a central courtyard. The Academy has been steadfastly following its robust legacy of combining exhibition space, education, conservation and research within its sprawling 37.000 sq. m complex, located inside the Golden Gate Park.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
California Academy of Sciences

Exclusive Experience

A bespoke experience cut out for A-listers is the newly introduced Jet-a-way package where a private plane will whisk you to one of the impeccable suites of Rosewood Miramar Beach in Montecito, the most luxurious oceanfront resort of Southern California. The package includes roundtrip private jet transfers between San Francisco, L.A. or Dallas and Montecito.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Rosewood Miramar Beach in Montecito

Side Trip

Follow the footsteps of legendary photographer Ansel Adams to the iconic spots of Yosemite National Park. A time-honoured testimony to human foresight, the indomitable spirit of life, and the tranquil wonders of the High Sierra, Yosemite will blow you away with its grand waterfalls, expansive meadows, ancient giant sequoias and vast wilderness. Camp in for a few days, and don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the raw, uncluttered beauty of America’s most famous National Park.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Yosemite National Park

Hidden Gem

Sculpted by wind, snow and sand over millions of years, Alabama Hills is one of California’s best kept secrets. Just a couple of hours away from Los Angeles, it offers myriads of hiking and biking trails into the wilderness and easy access to geological wonders such as Boot Arch and Mobius Arch. Free camping sites with the iconic Mount Whitney in the backdrop, you can stargaze through the night or embark on exciting explorations of the rugged, windswept landscape that has witnessed filming of more than 400 Hollywood movies in this other-worldly location.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Alabama Hills


For spectator sports fans, there is plenty of cheering to do in California. Staples Center is a multi-purpose arena in Downtown Los Angeles that is home grounds for the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association and Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League. The state-of-the-art venue houses 160 luxury suites, including 15 event suites, on three levels between the lower and upper bowls and hosts the Annual Grammy Awards.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Music and basketball

Major League Baseball (MLB) has 5 teams in California. RingCentral Coliseum is a multi-purpose stadium in Oakland and Oracle Park is the iconic baseball park along the San Francisco Bay Area, which also hosts both professional and postcollegiate American football games.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" ...

San Diego is better known as a relaxing, kick-off-your-shoes beach destination, but an ideal climate juxtaposed with seventy miles of coastline and diverse topography draw outdoor enthusiasts to San Diego where you will find plenty of adventure sports opportunities including jet-skiing, kayaking, scuba diving, and surfing.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Pacific Ocean fun at the beach

Must Buy Souvenir

Theme park souvenirs (consider those Mickey Mouse ears!), jades and shells, photographs and art, you are spoilt for choice when you have made some room in your suitcase for California collectibles. But a great souvenir from California is a bottle of wine that you sampled in that vineyard in Napa or Sonoma, or maybe even in Monterey County.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Take home a bottle of Opus One ... 


The Golden State’s hospitality bloodstream encompasses a diverse range of styles and ideals. From early 20th-century Georgian-style farmhouses and manors revitalized into plush properties with a spin on the country aesthetics to super glamorous resorts of Hollywood; from design-focused creative enclaves of L.A.  wto the eclectic beachfront stays of Santa Monica, California’s hotel scene is as exciting as it gets.

The guide to the best hotels in California: 

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

Getting Around

Almost all the large cities and towns in California have one or more international airports and very reliable and interconnected local bus and rail network and subway systems. Many cities are bike-friendly, with designated cycling lanes. Bike routes in California include the Los Angeles River bicycle path and the San Francisco Bay Trail. Additionally, many public transportation vehicles are bike-friendly.

Destinations Articles - California – America’s Golden State
Bike around - it's healthy and happy! searches hundreds of travel sites at once to help you find the best premium travel offers for both flights and accommodation in California.

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