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Holidays in California

From the glamour of Las Vegas and majesty of the Grand Canyon, to New York’s iconic Statue of Liberty and the rhythm of the Deep South, take your pick from a million different adventures in America. Plan your perfect US holiday with Thomas Cook today and Tick the Box on your favourite US destinations and experiences.

California - from Lake Tahoe’s snow-capped peaks in the north to the shimmering sands of Malibu in the south, the Golden State of California is a cosmopolitan world all of its own. Where else could you hug Mickey Mouse and spot A-list celebrities, or snowboard and sunbathe? No wonder it’s so popular – the third biggest state in the USA, it offers an endless range of possibilities, and has a laid-back attitude that’s as sunny as its weather.

18-32 °C

Best time to visit California: In the summer, when you’re guaranteed warmth and sunshine.

11.5 hours

Each city has its own airport - Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and San Diego International Airport (SAN).

Self Drive Holidays

The Classical West Self Drive

Los Angeles | Palm Springs | Scottsdale | Grand Canyon | Lake Powell | Zion | Las Vegas | Death Valley | Yosemite | San Francisco | California Coast

What is included?

from

£869

Pacific Coast Explorer

Seattle | Portland | Redwood National Park | Mendocino | San Francisco | Monterey | San Simeon/Pismo Beach Area | Los Angeles

What is included?

from

£1868

California City & Beach

Suggested holiday

What is included?

from

£1915

Coastal California by Rail- 10 nights

Suggested holiday

What is included?

from

£2035

California Holidays

4* Crown Plaza Beverley Hills

Los Angeles

What is included?

from

£1369

3* Holiday Inn Fishermans Wharf

San Francisco

What is included?

from

£1140

Set on a peninsula on California’s north-west coast, the famously hilly San Francisco has a distinctive ‘village’ feel. There’s a vibrant social and theatre scene here, and foodies should head to the wineries of Sonoma and Napa Valleys. In southern California is the glamorous Los Angeles, home of red carpets and golden sands – think Laguna Beach and the iconic Malibu Beach (which inspired Baywatch). Further south of LA is sunny San Diego, which borders Mexico. Delight the kids with nature theme parks such as SeaWorld and San Diego Zoo, and enjoy its lively cultural hub Balboa Park.

From San Francisco’s hotels it’s easy to explore this vibrant and unpretentious city on foot, or by quaint cable car. Hop aboard the ferry to Alcatraz, aka ‘The Rock’, to see its infamous prison-turned-nature reserve; shop and hang out in the popular Pier 39 leisure complex.

Nicknamed ‘La La Land’, this is the ultimate place for stargazers. Stroll from your Los Angeles hotel to the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard; enjoy a tour around Universal Studios HollywoodSM, the world’s biggest working film studio. At Griffith Observatory you can see stars of the celestial kind.

The 8th largest city in the USA and oldest in California, San Diego is great for families and day trips. The popular Balboa Park is the USA’s biggest cultural park, and home to arts venues, museums and San Diego Zoo; kids will love its Discovery Playground and Skyfari Aerial Tram.

From the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean to jaw-dropping vistas, be ready to take in the awe-inspiring sights of California’s beaches and epic state and national parks. The Palm Springs Aerial tramway takes you soaring over desert and forests, and the Pacific Coastal Highway winds and twists down the coast alongside the Big Sur. Enjoy a Korean bubble tea or frappuccino on the soft white sands of Ocean Beach or Malibu Beach and fuel up on hearty breakfast pancakes - perfect for a day of people-watching, watersports, or a visit to SeaWorld, Disneyland Resort, or LEGOLAND.

If you choose only a few places to visit in California, make one of them a national or state park – the words ‘epic’ and ‘awesome’ definitely apply. Few things compare with the mountain and sky-filled vista at Yosemite Valley, and Death Valley is feared and renowned as the hottest place on Earth; hike over the rocky Pinnacles, and see Lassen’s volcanoes. The state parks are closer to urban centres, so the likes of Big Basin Redwoods near Santa Cruz, and Pfeiffer Big Sur near the coast, are perfect for unforgettable day trips into the great outdoors.

There are plenty of themed attractions in California to delight your inner child (and actual children). Drive up to Anaheim in Orange County to meet the iconic characters at the Disneyland Resort; say ‘hello’ to killer whale Shamu at SeaWorld. LEGOLAND awaits with its water parks and rides, and San Diego Zoo’s Skyfari Aerial Tram ride is worth the price of admission alone. The whole family will enjoy a visit to Universal Studios HollywoodSM. Explore the magic and excitement of a real live working movie studio, with dynamic animated characters, action heroes, roaring dinosaurs and lots of other surprises around every corner.

Of all the fabulous places to go in California, the beaches surely top the list. California boasts 1770km of coastline, from soft, sandy beaches to majestic cliffs. Visit San Francisco’s peaceful Ocean Beach for romantic strolls and meditation; Aquatic Park, near Fisherman’s Wharf, offers an urban escape onto soft sands. In Los Angeles, Malibu Beach (‘The Bu’ to the locals) is perfect for spotting off-duty celebs. Laguna Beach, between Los Angeles and San Diego, is chilled and cultured. In San Diego itself, Mission Beach comes complete with a classic boardwalk and wooden rollercoaster; the friendly Moonlight Beach is ideal for families.

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CALIFORNIA IS BEST FOR...

MOVIE LOVERS
Rub shoulders with off-duty A-listers in Hollywood.

THEME PARK FANS
Make childhood dreams come true in California’s epic theme parks.

ROAD TRIPPERS
Drive the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway for a real all-American road trip.


FAST FACTS

Language: The main language spoken in the USA is English.

Currency: The currency used in the USA is the American Dollar ($).

Local time: California is 8 hours behind GMT/UK time.

Fly to: Each city has its own airport - Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and San Diego International Airport (SAN).

Flight time from UK: 11.5 hours.

Tourist Information: Further California tourist information can be found here.

Visa & Health: Before you travel click here for recommendations and advice on visas and health for your holiday to the USA.


WEATHER & CLIMATE

Spring is a beautiful time of year to visit California, with mild daytime temperatures that are ideal for roaming, whilst summer is when you can enjoy the best swimming conditions and soaring highs of up to 32 (°C). For a more laidback experience, book your holiday during the grape harvest season in autumn. Or if you plan to ski, visit the mountains during the winter for the best snow conditions.  Temperatures vary from 8 (°C) in San Francisco to 15 (°C) in LA and San Diego during the peak of winter.


GETTING AROUND

By bus/metro: Buses and metros run in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

By tram/train: San Francisco has quaint streetcars; explore downtown San Diego on its bright red trolley.

By taxi: San Diego and San Francisco run metered taxis; remember the 15-20% tip.

By hire car: Hire a car for road trips and days out.

By horse-drawn carriage: Carriages and pedicabs are a great way to see San Diego’s seafront.


EVENTS

Film festivals On the must-see list are the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January, and September’s SoCal Independent Film Festival, in Orange County’s Huntington Beach.

Music and arts The ultra-cool Coachella Music & Arts Festival takes place in April. Look out for the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach from July-August, where clever performers and artists recreate artworks with staging, makeup and costume.

Sports Petrol-heads make their way to Fontana for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races in September. If you love your snow sports, head to Lake Tahoe for the U.S. Freestyle Championships at the end of March.


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