Destinations

What to do in California

Reading time: 7 minutes

From sunny beaches to forests and cities, California has something for every type of traveller. So, how do you decide where to go and what to do? To help you decide we’ve created this Californian guide separated out by different types of traveller.

We’ve then predicted which are going to be the must-sees for 2020 by looking at how many people have been searching for each attraction over the last year to see if there’s a trend. We then compared this rise or fall to the attraction’s TripAdvisor rating and number of Instagram hashtags, to see if it’s a) worth the trip and b) how popular it is.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, most of the attractions that appear top in our research are the two cities that hold many of California’s well-known activities – LA and San Francisco. While many travellers may be deterred from focusing their Cali trips on these metropolises, if they provide a strong promise of spotting the countries best-loved attractions, we’d consider leaving any misconceptions at the door.

What traveller are you? Click on a link below!

The Sightseer

Everyone knows this type of traveller – think Dad with his camera, pointing away, urging the kids not to miss a beat. They’re snap-happy, mad about the main attractions and are up and at ‘em with their camera in hand, ready to get things ticked off as soon as dawn breaks. They aim to see the classic, must-see sights that everyone knows about.

Here are the top five attractions in California for The Sightseer.

…and how our searching habits have changed:

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Gargantuan and, well, golden – the unique size and colour of this suspension bridge in San Francisco has stunned tourists for years, making for some epic photos and impressive scenery.

The Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular attraction among sightseers by far, with over 2.7million Instagram hashtags (2,069,477 more than the next attraction on the list), which indicates how many travellers are making this sight part of their trip (and social media profile). Over the past year, people have been steadily searching for it more and more. With a YOY increase of 50%, we’re sure the Golden Gate Bridge is going to keep stealing hearts for 2020.

The Walk of Fame, LA

A real family favourite. The Walk of Fame has honoured celebrities for decades. Cemented into the pavements of LA, tourists flock to these glinting stars to spot their favourite celebrities as they stroll through the city.

Despite its reems of hashtags, the Walk of Fame achieved the lowest TripAdvisor rating out of our sightseer attractions. However, the searches for this attraction have remained relatively consistent, rising by 22% over the past year, with a spike in August. With the likes of Julia Roberts, Chris Hemsworth, Billy Idol and 50 Cent in the line-up for the Class of 2020, we predict this star attraction will continue to rise.

The Hollywood Sign, LA

This 45-foot tall landmark has become an iconic attraction globally due to its endless appearances across popular culture. Sitting at the top of Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills, tourists aiming to get close to the sign will get a good view of the city from the lookout. For those who can’t make it to the top, the sign can be spotted from the centre of LA.

The Hollywood Sign has seen a 49% increase in people searching for the attraction in the last year, only 1% less than the Golden Gate bridge.

Disneyland Park, Anaheim

 

For many, this theme park – where both child and adult dreams come true – is the sole reason many people travel to California. Promising magic, rides and the chance to meet your favourite Disney characters, this park attracts visitors from all over the globe.

While monthly searches are usually around the 130k mark year-round, the searches shoot up to over 200k in August, which could be a possible indicator of more visitors. If these stats are anything to go by, sightseers who prefer the park to be slightly quieter should aim to go between October and December.

Alcatraz Island Tours, San Francisco

Located in San Francisco bay, visitors take tours to this island to learn about its fascinating history as a home to prisoners in the 1850s and later as a federal prison.

As the attraction with the lowest average monthly searches, the Alcatraz tours seem to be the lesser known tourist attraction amongst sightseers. Despite this, they have achieved one of the highest TripAdvisor ratings at 4.5.

The Culture Junkie

To get to know a place best, the Culture Junkie sets out to discover the country’s stance on all things creative, trendy and inspirational. To do this, they seek places where they can learn about its history, arts and cuisine, which includes places such as museums, galleries, street art, festivals and eateries. Family-friendly options make sure the kids can be entertained and learn, too!

The top five attractions Culture Junkies will love in California are…

…and how our searching habits have changed:

Griffith Observatory, LA

Surprisingly, the top spot for culture junkies is LA’s famous observatory, which houses public telescopes, a planetarium, science and space exhibitions and some of the most spectacular views of the LA basin. It’s also been featured in many movies!

Even though it has the most amount of average monthly searches of our top five list, it hasn’t experienced a year-on-year lift. Based on the stats, the most popular time to go is in July and August, as the monthly searches surged to almost 250k.

Napa Valley, Napa County – North of San Francisco

Lovers of wine, delicious food and bountiful views can’t help but fall for this part of the Californian countryside. Known as the state’s wine country, tourists will find vineyards, hot springs and the Napa Wine Train waiting for them in this region.

While Napa Valley’s average search volume is just under 200k, the number of people searching for this attraction shot up to nearly 300k in May. The term has also been tagged the most on Instagram compared to the other attractions, with over 1.7 million tags, so if you’re one for a photo opportunity, Napa is definitely the place!

Getty Center, LA

Boasting the accolade as one of the largest art organizations in the world, The Getty Center is a campus of the Getty Museum and is revered for its art, architecture and gardens. Visitors can enjoy tours, talks, performances, exhibitions, films and so much more.

The Getty has seen the biggest lift of all attractions in terms of search, at over 230%, potentially due to Solange Knowles presenting a personalized curation this year. It’s also the only attraction to achieve a 5 out of 5 on TripAdvisor. Two stats that make the Getty a sure-fire favourite for 2020.

The Broad, LA

Nothing says culture like contemporary art and The Broad has it in spades. The building’s impressive architecture alone is worth a visit, but when visitors learn they can browse over 2000 works from the likes of Jean‐Michel Basquiat and Jenny Saville for free this art museum becomes a must visit.

Those wishing to view it agree, as the sight has garnered over 300k hashtags and over 90,000 monthly searches on average.

The Ferry Building, San Francisco

As well as being grand and full of history, visitors of the Ferry Building Marketplace can get their local food and wine fix as countless merchants– both in and outdoor – offer produce either from a sit-down restaurant or within the farmers market. The historical trams that are synonymous with San Francisco also stop right outside. Despite looking like something out of a Wes Anderson film, the Ferry Building only has 1,288 Instagram hashtags to its name. New York’s Grand Central station, which rivals the Ferry Building’s architecture and food scene, has over 300k. Our verdict? This untapped gem will be getting some serious love on the ‘gram in 2020.

The Outdoorsy Type

California is awash with amazing open spaces that are perfect for breathing in some fresh air, admiring mother nature, soaking up the sun and dipping into adventure sports, like hiking.

For those who prefer to be outdoors than in, these are the best places to visit in California…

…and how our searching habits have changed:

Death Valley

As one of the hottest, driest and lowest in the world, this national park doesn’t exactly sound appealing, but this desert valley has some of the most surreal landscapes in the world. From salt flats and wildflowers to mysterious moving rocks, Death Valley is full of weird and wonderful natural phenomenon to marvel at.

With a 50% rise in people searching for these plains this year, its popularity is soaring, with searches reaching a huge 660k in July 2019 – over 200k more than any other month.

Sequoia National Park

If forests are more up your street, this national park promises the chance to walk amongst some absolute giants. The humungous sequoia trees that await you are the largest in the world, with mountains, foothills, canyons and caverns also making up the national park, creating a hiker’s and camper’s dream.

It would seem more and more visitors are picking this park over its competitor, Yosemite, as although its rival boasts over a million average monthly hits, the Sequoia National park has seen a greater uplift in the last year at 49% compared to 22%, strengthening our prediction as the national park to enjoy in 2020.

Venice beach, LA

For a chance to experience Cali’s bohemian side, head to Venice beach. Coastline lovers will relish the wide stretches of sand laden with sunbathers and volleyball players, the palm tree-lined boardwalks filled with cyclists and skaters and the surfers crashing through the waves.

Even though the beach has one of the lower average monthly searches, the attraction has the most Instagram hashtags out of our entire top five. With a lift of 20% and over 360k searches in July, be sure to head to its golden sands in the summer of 2020.

Golden Gate park, San Francisco

For nature lovers who are visiting the city, seek out this quaint and picturesque park of San Fran. The Golden Gate park has over 1000 acres of lawns, flowers and lakes to amble about in. Dotted amongst this expanse are museums, conservatories and even a tea garden.

The sight’s searches have seen a steady rise in the last year and with marathons and music festivals lined up for 2020 we foresee more and more visitors making a special appearance at this impressive strip of green.

Glacier Point, Yosemite

There are so many points within Yosemite it’s hard to pick which one to aim for if you only have a few days at the national park. But Glacier Point takes the cake for us. Not only does it command a view of the Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, the Falls and high country, but monthly searches have picked up by 7,400 in the last year.

And as the road is set to close to all traffic in 2021, next year is the best time to get a look in.


Author

TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.

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