It doesn't take a lot of convincing when it comes to California. Palm trees, sunshine, the Pacific, and laid back culture means that every time I go, I pretty much have to be dragged home. It's my favourite left coast. Of everything in the state, there are a few spots outside of the big cities that you're going to want to explore. You may have heard of some of these, but let me remind you why you should go.
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It's no secret that Orange County has some of the state's wealthiest communities. While it may not be something we're familiar with, spending time here gives you the chance to experience how the other half lives. With stunning beaches, marvellous marinas, world-class golf courses and that perfect Mediterranean-type of weather, this is a great place to relax. I highly recommend beach towns of Seal Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach. While staying along the coast may get expensive, consider a hotel like the La Quinta in the town of Santa Ana. Don't forget as well that Catalina Island is merely a high-speed catamaran ride away.
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The little kid inside of me has a soft spot for this quintessential theme park that Disney built. One of the biggest misconceptions about the park is that you really only need to go here once. The incredible part about this theme park's 60-year history is how they're continuously able to reinvent themselves while also maintaining the classics. Where else can you go from surviving the Indiana Jones Adventure ride to zipping through Space Mountain to shopping at Downtown Disney to covering your ears to the tune of “It's a small world.” Rumours are that they also plan on building a Star War-themed section soon, so look out for that as well. When looking for a place to stay here, look to ALO Hotel for great amenities, reasonable prices, and close distance.
Image by Flickr I Luv Cameras
Go a little farther east and you find yourself at the desert oasis of Palm Springs. Nestled at the base of San Jacinto Mountain, it's a melting pot of hipsters, artists, modern architecture, and just about anyone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Beyond a vacation destination, Palm Springs comes alive in April when Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival begins and a frenzy of cultural activities ensue. Beyond that, you have the wildflowers of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the downtown streets lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and museums. While you're here, the Riviera Palm Springs is the perfect resort to kick back and relax.
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As North America's largest alpine lake, be ready to be surrounded by overwhelming beauty whether you're here in the summer or winter. In the summer, this area is the perfect place to plan your adventures around hiking, camping, and boating. It's in this High Sierra region that you'll be able to truly connect to nature and that pristine cobalt-blue lake. In the winter, those snow-capped mountains make for powder-filled days of slopes that are suited for all experience levels. True to the region, being able to stay in a wooden cabin like 3 Peaks Resort makes for a nice cozy place to come back to after a full day of activities.
Image by Flickr Jeff Chan
Sure, there may not be a whole lot of attractions in Silicon Valley, but I think of this area as the best place to nerd out. With giant tech companies like Google and Apple headquartered here, it's always fun to see where all the magic happens. While you won't be able to get in without a friend on the inside, Apple has a special store accessible to the public where you can get your hands on one of those coveted Apple logo T-shirts. At the Googleplex, I always love checking out the Android lawn statues, which are literally giant-sized representations of every version of the Android operating system. You won't be able to resist a couple of photos here. Sunnyvale is a great place to base yourself while you're here with the Maple Tree Inn as a highly recommended hotel where Silicon Valley meets chic.