15 Best Cities in California

There’s a reason California is one of the most popular states in the US. Its Mediterranean-like climate, diverse landscape, and endless list of things to do make it a perfect destination for all types of travelers. And while California is home to some of the most well-known cities in the world, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, there are plenty of other great towns to visit. In this post, I’ve compiled a list of the 15 Best Cities in California you need to add to your travel itinerary.

Best Cities in California

1. Los Angeles

I’m sure you won’t be surprised that Los Angeles is one of the best cities in California. After all, it’s the entertainment capital of the world and home to Hollywood. LA is a huge metropolis, so it would take weeks or even months to see everything. That’s why I’m just going to focus on a few of the top places to visit.

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Los Angeles is Universal Studios Hollywood, which combines a working movie studio with a theme park. The top attraction is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where you can explore Hogwarts Castle and ride exciting rides such as the Forbidden Journey and Harry Potter. Other top attractions include Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, The Simpsons Ride, and Transformers: The Ride-3D.

Adjacent to Universal Studios Hollywood is CityWalk, a pedestrian-only outdoor complex with shops, restaurants, movie theaters, and live entertainment venues.

If you want to see where the movies are actually made, you can take a studio tour at Warner Bros. Studios, Paramount Pictures, or Sony Pictures Studios.

No visit to Los Angeles would be complete without seeing some of the famous movie stars’ homes. You can take a tour of Beverly Hills to see where the rich and famous live. The tours typically last about two hours and include stops at Rodeo Drive, the Beverly Hills Hotel, and Greystone Mansion.

Los Angeles is also home to many world-class museums, including the Getty Center, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).

Other top attractions in Los Angeles include Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Sign, Santa Monica Pier, and Venice Beach. And don’t forget to visit Disneyland, the world-famous theme park located in Anaheim. Visitors come from all over the world to experience the magic of Disneyland.

These are just some of the top things to see and do in Los Angeles. And with so much to see and do, you’ll need to plan your trip carefully to make sure you don’t miss anything.

2. San Francisco

You can’t talk about the best cities in California without mentioning San Francisco. This city is world-renowned for its Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and hilly streets. San Francisco is home to many famous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Ghirardelli Square.

Make sure to visit the Golden Gate Bridge. This world-famous bridge spans 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate Strait, making it one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. You can walk or bike across the bridge or take a tour to learn more about its history and construction.

Alcatraz Island is another must-see attraction in San Francisco. This island was once home to a notorious prison, and today it is a popular tourist destination. You can take a ferry to the island and tour the prison or explore the island’s nature trails.

Fisherman’s wharf is one of the best places in San Francisco to eat seafood. There are dozens of seafood restaurants to choose from, as well as souvenir shops and street performers. Ghirardelli Square is also a popular shopping destination, home to Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory and many other stores and restaurants.

Other top attractions in San Francisco include the California Academy of Sciences, the Museum of Modern Art, and Union Square.

With so much to see and do, San Francisco is a city that you could spend weeks exploring. But even if you only have a few days, you can still pack a lot into your trip.

3. Napa

If there’s a city in California that’s synonymous with wine, it’s Napa. Located in the Napa Valley, this city is home to more than 400 wineries. Napa Valley is one of the most famous wine regions in the world and produces some of the best wines.

The best way to experience Napa is to take a wine tour. There are many companies that offer wine tours, and they typically last about four hours. During the tour, you’ll visit three or four different wineries and learn about the wine-making process. You’ll also have the opportunity to taste some of the wines.

In addition to wine tours, there are many other things to do in Napa. You can visit the Napa Valley Museum, which tells the story of the area’s history, or the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, which features art from more than 2,000 artists.

The highlight of my trip to Napa was definitely the hot air balloon ride. I went with Napa Valley Aloft, and it was an incredible experience. The ride lasts about an hour, and you’ll get stunning views of the Napa Valley. And if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, Napa is the perfect place. There are many luxurious resorts and spas, and the restaurants are some of the best in California.

I recommend visiting Napa Valley in the spring or fall when the weather is mild, and there are fewer crowds. This is definitely one of the best cities to visit in California. And no matter when you go, you’re sure to have a memorable trip.

4. San Diego

Anybody who’s been to California knows that San Diego is a must-visit city. This beautiful city is located on the Pacific coast, about 120 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

San Diego is best known for its beaches, which are some of the best in California. The most popular beaches include Coronado Beach, Mission Beach, and La Jolla Shores. If you’re looking for a more secluded beach experience, try one of the many hidden coves or secret beaches.

In addition to its beaches, San Diego is also home to a world-famous zoo, the San Diego Zoo. The zoo is located in Balboa Park and is one of the largest zoos in the world. It’s home to over 3,700 animals, including lions, tigers, elephants, and gorillas. Other top attractions in San Diego include SeaWorld, the USS Midway Museum, and Old Town San Diego.

This city has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation or an action-packed adventure, San Diego is the perfect place for you.

5. Long Beach

While Los Angeles may be the best-known city in California, Long Beach is quickly becoming one of the best places to live. Located just south of LA, Long Beach is a diverse and vibrant city with plenty to offer tourists and residents alike.

One of the best things about Long Beach is the weather. The city enjoys warm temperatures year-round, making it a great place to visit any time of year. In addition, it is also home to a number of excellent beaches. The best-known beach is probably Alamitos Beach, which is popular with locals and tourists alike. Other top beaches include Belmont Shore Beach and Junipero Beach.

If you’re looking for things to do, you’ll find plenty of options in Long Beach. The Aquarium of the Pacific is a must-see for animal lovers, and the Queen Mary is a historic ship that’s now a hotel and museum. For those interested in art, the Long Beach Museum of Art is a great option. And if you’re looking for a place to take the kids, they’ll love the rides and attractions at Adventure City.

Long Beach is also home to many excellent restaurants, bars, and cafes. And with its excellent location, diverse attractions, and great food, it’s no wonder Long Beach is one of the best cities in California. So if you’re planning a trip to California, don’t forget to add Long Beach to your list.

6. Santa Barbara

I took a trip to Santa Barbara recently, and it instantly became one of my favorite California cities. One of the best things about Santa Barbara is its location. It’s situated right on the coast so you can enjoy beautiful ocean views throughout the city. And with its Mediterranean climate, Santa Barbara is one of the few places in the world where you can find palms, cypresses, and eucalyptus trees growing side by side.

The best way to see Santa Barbara is by taking a leisurely stroll through its historic downtown area. Start at Stearns Wharf, the oldest working wharf in California, and then walk along State Street, the city’s main thoroughfare. Make sure to stop and explore the many shops, restaurants, and art galleries along the way.

Make sure to stop by the Santa Barbara Mission, an active Catholic church that was founded in 1786. The mission is home to a beautiful rose garden and a small museum with artifacts from the mission’s history.

If you’re looking for a place to relax, head to one of Santa Barbara’s many beaches. The most popular beaches include West Beach, East Beach, Leadbetter Beach, and Butterfly Beach. And no visit to Santa Barbara would be complete without taking a wine tour. The Santa Ynez Valley is home to more than 120 wineries and is just a short drive from the city. So if you’re looking for a beautiful California city to visit, be sure to add Santa Barbara to your list.

7. Sacramento

Sacramento is the capital of California and the fifth-largest city in the state. It’s located in the northern part of the state, about 90 miles from San Francisco.

Sacramento is best known as the state capital, but it’s also a great place to visit in its own right. The city has a vibrant arts and culture scene, with many museums, theaters, and music venues. There are also plenty of parks and outdoor activities to enjoy.

Old Sacramento is the city’s historic district, and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon. There are dozens of shops and restaurants, as well as some interesting historical sites. The California State Railroad Museum is also located here, and it displays a large collection of locomotives and railroad artifacts.

Other top attractions in Sacramento include the California State Capitol, the Crocker Art Museum, the Sacramento Zoo, and Fairy Tale Town.

Sacramento is also a great place to visit if you’re interested in California history. The city was founded in 1848, and it played a significant role in the state’s development. And with so much to see and do, Sacramento is a great place to visit for a weekend or longer.

8. Monterey

Monterey has been a popular tourist destination for years. This quaint town is located on Monterey Bay, and there are plenty of things to do in the area.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the top tourist attractions in the area. The aquarium is home to more than 35,000 animals, and it is one of the largest in the world. Visitors can see all sorts of marine life, including sharks, jellyfish, sea otters, and penguins.

The Cannery Row area is another popular tourist destination. This historic district was once home to many canneries and fish processing plants. Today, it’s a bustling area with shops, restaurants, and galleries. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is located in Cannery Row. Other popular attractions in Monterey include 17-Mile Drive, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Point Lobos State Reserve.

These are just some of the reasons why Monterey is one of the best cities in California. So come prepared to have a great time and create some wonderful memories.

9. San Jose

San Jose is mostly overlooked by visitors to California as it doesn’t have the same star power as Los Angeles or San Francisco. But San Jose is a great city in its own right and definitely worth a visit.

San Jose is the capital of Silicon Valley, so it’s no surprise that it’s a major center for technology companies. In fact, many of the world’s leading tech companies are headquartered in San Jose, including Adobe, Cisco, and eBay.

San Jose is also home to a number of interesting museums, including The Tech Interactive, which is a hands-on science and technology museum. The Children’s Discovery Museum is another great option for families, as it has interactive exhibits on a variety of topics.

If you’re a sports fan, you’ll be happy to know that San Jose is home to the San Jose Sharks of the NHL. You can catch a Sharks game at the SAP Center, which is also home to the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer.

And if you’re looking for some outdoor fun, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Alum Rock Park, which is the oldest municipal park in California. The park features hiking trails, a playground, and a scenic overlook. So if you’re looking for the best cities to visit in California, San Jose should definitely be on your list.

10. Palm Springs

Palm Springs is a desert oasis located in Southern California. The city is best known for its luxury resorts, which offer visitors a chance to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Palm Springs is home to many famous celebrities, who often retreat to the city to escape the paparazzi. You might even spot a celebrity or two while you’re visiting! The city is also known for its mid-century modern architecture, which you can see on a self-guided architectural tour.

There are many things to see and do in Palm Springs. One of the most popular attractions is the Aerial Tramway, which takes visitors to the top of Mt. San Jacinto. The views from the tram are incredible, and there are several hiking trails at the top of the mountain if you’re looking for more strenuous activity.

Another popular attraction is the Palm Springs Art Museum, which features a collection of contemporary art. If you’re interested in architecture, be sure to visit the Palm Springs Architecture and Design Center.

Of course, no visit to Palm Springs would be complete without spending some time at one of the many luxury resorts. The resorts offer a variety of amenities, including swimming pools, golf courses, and spa services.

And if you’re looking for a fun and unique experience, be sure to check out the Palm Springs Cultural Center. The center offers a variety of cultural events and activities, including art exhibits, concerts, and dance performances.

These are just some of the top things to see and do in Palm Springs. Plan your trip carefully so you can experience everything this desert oasis has to offer.

11. Oakland

Oakland is one of the best cities in California if you’re looking for a mix of urban and outdoor activities. The city has a vibrant downtown with a lively arts and music scene. There are also plenty of parks and green spaces to enjoy, making it the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Start your visit to Oakland at Lake Merritt, a large urban lake located in the center of the city. The lake is surrounded by parks and is a popular spot for walking, biking, and picnicking. There’s also a large playground and a swimming beach. Nearby, you’ll find Oakland Zoo, a world-class zoological park with over 700 animals. The zoo is especially well-known for its African Savannah exhibit, which is home to lions, elephants, and giraffes.

If you’re looking for a more urban activity, head to Uptown Oakland. This hip neighborhood is home to trendy restaurants, bars, and shops. There’s also a lively nightlife scene.

Oakland is also home to many world-class museums. The Oakland Museum of California is dedicated to the history and art of California. Another one is the African American Museum & Library at Oakland, which is dedicated to preserving and sharing the African American experience.

For outdoor enthusiasts, there are plenty of parks and green spaces to explore in Oakland. Redwood Regional Park is a great place to hike, bike, and picnic. Joaquin Miller Park is another popular spot for hiking, with beautiful views of the Oakland hills. And if you’re visiting Oakland with kids, be sure to check out Children’s Fairyland, an amusement park with rides, shows, and puppet theaters.

12. Fresno

I didn’t know much about Fresno when I was planning my trip to California cities. But its central location, close to Yosemite National Park, made it an ideal base for exploring the area.

This city has a lot to offer visitors, from its many museums and art galleries to its lively nightlife. And with its central location, Fresno is the perfect place to stay if you want to explore all that California has to offer.

Fresno is home to a number of interesting museums, including the Fresno Art Museumthe Fresno Chaffee Zoo, and the Forestiere Underground Gardens. The Fresno Art Museum is home to a collection of more than 5,000 works of art, while the Fresno Chaffee Zoo is home to more than 600 animals. The Forestiere Underground Gardens are a series of man-made caves that were once used as living quarters by immigrants from Italy.

Fresno is a great city for outdoor enthusiasts. There are a number of parks and recreation areas in the city, including Woodward Park, Roeding Park, and Eaton Plaza. The city also has a number of golf courses, including the Sunnyside Country Club.

13. Healdsburg

Healdsburg is a small town located in Sonoma County. Its best known for its wine industry, as it’s situated in the heart of Sonoma’s wine country.

There are over 80 wineries located in Healdsburg, so it’s the perfect place to go for a wine tasting. Many of the wineries offer tours, so you can learn about the wine-making process. And if you get hungry, there are plenty of restaurants in Healdsburg where you can enjoy a meal paired with a glass of local wine.

In addition to its wine industry, Healdsburg is also known for its beautiful parks and gardens. Healdsburg Memorial Beach is a great place to go for a swim, and the Healdsburg Community Garden is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the outdoors. And if you’re looking for a unique shopping experience, be sure to check out Healdsburg Avenue. This street is lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and local businesses.

There are several bed and breakfasts located in Healdsburg, so it’s the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for a relaxing getaway. Many of these B&Bs are located in historic homes, so you can step back in time and experience what life was like in Healdsburg during the early days.

14. Santa Monica

Another one of the best cities in California is Santa Monica. This beautiful beach city is located just west of Los Angeles and is a popular tourist destination.

Santa Monica is best known for its 3.5-mile-long boardwalk, which stretches along the beach from Venice Beach to the Santa Monica Pier. The boardwalk is a great place to people-watch, go for a walk or jog, or ride a bike. There are also many shops and restaurants located along the boardwalk.

The Santa Monica Pier is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Santa Monica. It’s home to an amusement park, an aquarium, and a variety of shops and restaurants. The best time to visit the pier is at night when it’s lit up with colorful lights.

Another popular spot in Santa Monica is Palisades Park, which offers stunning views of the ocean, Santa Monica Beach, and the Santa Monica Mountains. The park is also a great place to people-watch or take a walk. I also recommend visiting the Santa Monica Farmers Market, which is held every Wednesday and Saturday from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm.

Take your time to explore all of Santa Monica’s best attractions, and you’re sure to have a great time! I suggest spending at least two or three days in Santa Monica if you want to enjoy everything the city has to offer.

15. Santa Cruz

My trip to Santa Cruz was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. The city is located on the Central Coast of California, about an hour south of San Francisco. Santa Cruz is a beautiful city with a laid-back vibe. The beaches are some of the best in California, and there’s plenty to do in the city itself.

Some of the top things to do in Santa Cruz include surfing, sunbathing, fishing, hiking, biking, and kayaking. Santa Cruz is also home to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a world-famous amusement park. The boardwalk has rides, games, arcades, and plenty of food options.

Another top attraction in Santa Cruz is the Mystery Spot, a curious gravitational anomaly that has been baffling visitors for years. The best way to experience the mystery spot is to take a tour, which lasts about an hour.

The Santa Cruz Wharf is another must-see attraction. The wharf is a half-mile long and home to restaurants, shops, and an aquarium. You can also take a ferry from the wharf to the nearby city of Monterey. And no visit to Santa Cruz would be complete without visiting the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). UCSC is a world-renowned research university with a beautiful campus. You can take a tour of the campus or simply explore it on your own.

Santa Cruz is a truly magical city that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. I had an incredible time on my trip, and I can’t wait to go back.

In summary

These are just some of the best cities to visit in California. There are many other great towns and cities, but these are definitely my favorites. And since you can’t go wrong with any of these destinations, I suggest just picking one and going for it.