Guide to California for First Time Visitors

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California Here We Come

Located on the west coast, and with almost 40 million residents, California is the most populous state. It does not matter what kind of vacation you have on your mind, because California has it all, from deserts to beaches, mountains, and forests. This state has two main international airports, LA and SF,  but in total it has over 140 airports, which eases traveling around the state but also makes it accessible from any other part of the country. 

Travel Tips For First-Time Visitors

  • Bear in mind that this is not a small state, it takes 7+ hours of driving to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco… and San Francisco is still near the middle of the state. Driving from San Diego on the Mexican border to Crescent City near the Oregon border will take you more than 13 hours. So if your plans are ambitious and you want to see as much as possible in one visit, you will need to plan a longer trip. However, it is always easy to combine several must-see places such as Yosemite, Big Sur, and San Francisco in one quick round.
  • If you have more time, we suggest going on a road trip to get the feeling of a real California. Although flights are cheap, renting a car and driving down the Pacific coast, or creating your custom route is a unique experience. We suggest heading from Los Angeles to  Palm Springs or driving around the northern coast.
  • You have probably heard about the famous Napa Valley, but if you want to avoid the crowds and give a chance to some other vineyards, California has several different wine regions waiting for you. Napa is also the most expensive, so we recommend exploring Amador Country, Placer County, Paso Robles, Livermore, or Mendocino County.

  • If you are not a fan of driving, or you do not fancy road trips, LAX and SFO are connected with multiple daily flights, and the flight duration is one hour and 30 minutes. If you do your research on time, you can find a ticket for less than $150, and visit both cities in a short amount of time. 
  • Do not worry about the food, California is among the largest producers of fruits and vegetables, so you can be sure that your ingredients are fresh. San Francisco and Sonoma are known for their offer of restaurants that use local products, which makes them an ideal destination for every foodie.
  • Pick your clothes wisely. Much of California is sunny, but the weather can surprise you there, strong winds and fog are a common thing on the coast. Yosemite National Park always has a lower temperature, so make sure to pack enough clothes for all weather conditions, bring layers, pants, and light sweaters. They sell a lot of sweatshirts in San Francisco in the summertime.
  • If you have in mind a beach vacation, you are probably wanting to head to the beaches of Southern California. The beaches further north from Santa Barbara are more cool and foggy (except for Santa Cruz in September). Also, the currents in Southern California come up from Mexico while those in the north come down the coast from Alaska. Even with that don’t expect the same warm water you would find on the east coast of the U.S. because the waters off the coast of California are much deeper.

Road Trip Suggestions

If you feel secure behind the wheel, you can custom tailor your road trip around the state according to your preferences, or you can rely on some of the well-known road trip routes. But, be prepared, because road tripping is not cheap, on average for gas, car rental, accommodation, entry tickets, food, and drinks, you will need from $100 to $180 per day. Hotels will be more during summer at popular destinations.

For those travelers who do not have enough time to do the research, or are trying to go on their first road trip, here are some of the possible options.

  1. San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada will surprise you with scenic routes, and you will need to seclude at least one week for this journey. (SF, Muir Woods, Yosemite National Park, Oakland, Napa, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe)
  2. Eastern California has a lot to offer; hence, you will need at least ten days to make a proper tour around this area. (Alabama Hills, Death Valley, Lake Mono, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lake Tahoe, Bishop)
  3. A trip around Southern California is probably the shortest road-trip you can take, and it can last around five days, perfect for travelers who are on a short stay. (Los Angeles, Malibu, Santa Barbara, Echo Park, Santa Catalina Island, Channel Islands, San Bernardino Mountains, Sad Diego)
  4. Pacific coast road trip, this scenic route is packed with places and activities that are on the bucket list of many travelers; hence, we suggest considering to go on a road for two weeks. (LA, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Big Sur, San Luis Obispo, SF, Redwoods National Park, Marin Country)

Recommendations for Foodies

Tasting new food is an inevitable part of every journey, but people can sometimes hesitate to try new stuff when traveling because there is always the risk that you are not going to like it, or that it will make you feel sick. California’s cuisine is a bit specific because it incorporates the influence and the taste of Latino, Spanish, and Asian cuisine. But generally, their meals are based on fresh and light ingredients, often including seafood and organic products.

For example, Northern California has a lot of wine regions; hence, their food is influenced by Italian and French cuisine. On the other hand, the southern area is full of drive-ins and fast-food restaurant chains. So, whether you are always into trying out new tastes, or you carefully pick what are you going to eat, here are our recommendations which will satisfy the appetite of every foodie traveler.

  • For the lovers of Italian cuisine, we strongly recommend the Godmother sandwich, which can be found in Santa Monica, but besides that, a lot of Italian-like foods can be found at Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery. Take a seat and enjoy your piece of Italy on a plate, or order to go and enjoy your meal along the Santa Monica Pier or on the beach.
  • Baseball fans have undoubtedly heard about the San Francisco Giants and their former pitcher Matt Cain. Matt deserved to get a sandwich named after him, hence along the Southern California and the Bay Area in Ike’s Place, you can find the Matt Cain sandwich. To give you a sneak peek of its taste, this sandwich is a mix of roast beef, salami, sauce, provolone cheese, and turkey.
  • If you fancy burritos and french fries, in California you can get 2 in 1 because they serve fries in burritos, and the best place to try this is called California burrito right outside of Sacramento.
  • This state loves burritos so much that they invented one with sushi, called sushirrito. That is right, sushirrito is local food, and it is a burrito filled with all kinds of sushi. So if you were ever in doubt between these two, now you do not have to make a choice, and for those who are a bit skeptical about trying this, trust us, it is worth the risk.
  • Brunch is a much here, late-morning meals are a favorite thing of many locals, so be sure to grab your place on time at some of brunch hot spots such as Blue Jam in LA. If you like to sleep in, do not worry, they serve breakfast during the whole day, and have gluten-free and vegan options too.

  • Seafood lovers should not miss trying oysters, because here they have a particular taste, probably due to the higher temperature of ocean water in southern California. You can find locals favorites in Marshalls restaurant or at Hog Island Oyster Co.
  • Vegans will not stay hungry in this state, because here you can even find plenty of options and even vegan mac and cheese. This can be your main meal or side dish, its creamy, thick, and it will not leave you disappointed. If you are near Oakland, stop by to try the one from Souley Food.
  • Among the typical American desserts, apple pie has a distinguished place. But California’s apple pie is something special, and Julians Pie Company offers various twists of this traditional American sweet.
  • If you are looking for chicken, skip over KFC, and treat yourself with some quality dry fried chicken wings. The most famous ones you will find at San Tung restaurant in San Francisco, where they serve them with ginger, garlic, and roasted red peppers.
  • For Hamburger fans, many visitors will make a pilgrimage to the famous In-N-Out Burger chain, but if you do be aware that they have a secret menu. Get your burger animal style (with secret sauce and grilled onions) and your fries well-done.

When to Visit California

Check out the post When to Visit California
Travel Tips For First-Time Visitors to California #travel #trip #vacation #planning #itinerary #tips

Selena Thomas

by Selena Thomas

Selena Thomas is a content writer who loves sharing tips on healthy lifestyles. She loves traveling and inspires people on her blogs.

2 Responses to “Guide to California for First Time Visitors”



What documents do I need to travel from Dubai to California?

Chris Christensen


That depends on your citizenship. Check with the U.S. State Department website.

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