Santa Barbara: The American Riviera
With oceanfront views, cinematic festivals and fine wine, Santa Barbara has been called the "American Riviera" -- with a twist. The coastal city also comes with a down-home style all its own.
stearns wharf ty warner sea center santa barbaraStroll along Stearns Wharf, California's oldest working wharf. In between wine tasting, fine restaurant and fish market detours, check out Ty Warner Sea Center to see some friendly leopard sharks! 960 1280
Yosemite FallsDiscover the highest waterfall in North America -- and the sixth largest in the world: Yosemite Falls. At 2,424 feet, the waterfall is a major attraction in the park, located in the central Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. It’s best viewed in late spring when snowmelt flows most vigorously. 960 1280
Tuolumne MeadowsDiscover this meadowy section of Yosemite along the Tuolumne River. Wild, wonderful plant and tree species to explore include Ross’s sedge, Lodgepole Pine and dwarf bilberry. The area also offers day-hike and camping opportunities (the park service campground is open July through late September). 960 1280
El CapitanRock climbers will find few vertical rock formations as challenging as El Capitan (left, background). At one time “El Cap,” which stretches roughly 3,000 feet from base to top, was considered impossible to climb. Today, the most popular route to tackle is The Nose, which follows the rock’s huge projecting front. 960 1280
Valley ViewThank the 145-mile-long Merced River: It’s responsible for carving out the glacial valley known as Yosemite Valley. The valley is about 8 miles long and a mile deep, with an amazing vantage point offered at Valley View. This turnout is located near the park exit, traveling west on Northside Drive. 960 1280
Cathedral PeakThe Cathedral Range of mountains stretch through Yosemite -- and Cathedral Peak is their star attraction. At a height of 10,911 feet, the granite peak was first scaled in 1869 by naturalist John Muir -- perhaps the first person to undertake a class-4 climb anywhere in the Sierra Nevada range (of which Cathedral is a sub-range). 960 1280
Bridalveil FallLooking to meet someone special? Head to Yosemite’s Bridalveil Fall. The 617-foot waterfall owes its name to a legend from the Ahwahneechee Native American tribe: They believed that inhaling the mist of the waterfall would improve one’s chances of getting married. 960 1280
Nevada FallWithin a small glacial valley (Little Yosemite Valley), you’ll find Nevada Fall. The 594-foot waterfall owes its name to its location – it’s the nearest waterfall to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Meanwhile, the Native American name for it is Yo-wy-we, meaning “wormy” water, signifying the twists of the falling water. 960 1280
Coronado BeachJust 5 minutes from San Diego, this family-friendly beach boasts wide stretches of sand, mostly calm surf and ideal whale watching (January through March). The lifeguards on staff, nearby public facilities and free parking along Ocean Boulevard add to its convenience -- and popularity. Couples can take a romantic walk to the luxury beachfront Hotel del Coronado and sip cocktails on its patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 960 1280
La JollaYou’ll have to leave the surfboards and boogie boards behind, but trust us it will be worth it. La Jolla Cove is the most desired area for swimming, snorkeling and diving; it is ecologically protected, making it a safe home for the bright orange Garibaldi fish (among others species) in the crescent-shaped cove. Called “the jewel” of San Diego, this beach is small, but you’ll find more room to stretch out on the mile-long La Jolla Shores to the north. 960 1280
Sonoma CoastSonoma Coast State Beach comprises 13 miles of coastline, stretching from Blind Beach to Bodega Head. It’s dotted with nothing save hidden beaches tucked between the rocky coves and tall bluffs. Follow the Sonoma Coast Trail to visit these secret beaches and take postcard-worthy pictures, #nofilter necessary. 960 1280
Pismo BeachPismo Beach, founded by the Chumash Indian Tribe, is located in central California, between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Whichever direction you travel from, there’s plenty of activities to keep you here: fishing on the 1,200-foot-long pier, strolling through the Monarch Butterfly Grove, horseback riding along private trails, and exploring tide pools and caves, to name just a few. 960 1280
Main Beach in Santa CruzFor most beachgoers in Santa Cruz, Main Beach is where the action is -- complete with restaurants, shops, surfing spots, beach volleyball courts and, of course, a scenic boardwalk and bandstand. If you ask us, it’s just the right amount of Americana. 960 1280
Huntington Beach PierWith a location at the end of Main Street and a nickname like “Surf City, USA,” Huntington Beach evokes a time gone by. The pier (one of the longest on the West Coast), the year-round surf (thanks to ocean swells around Catalina Island) and Ruby’s Diner (the milkshakes are a must) will continue to draw crowds here for years to come.