10 Places to Visit in California (That Aren’t Los Angeles) • The Blonde Abroad


10 Places to Visit in California

Sure, Los Angeles is a superstar. From the glittery lights of the Hollywood Hills to the sun-soaked beaches, America’s second-biggest city has a lot to offer.

But it’s far from the only A-list city in California.

Explore the quaint towns of Mendocino County. Sample world-class vintages in the wine country of Napa Valley. Go on a luxe girlfriend getaway in Palm Springs.

Whether you need an off-the-grid digital detox or a serious pampering session, you can do it without crossing state lines.

Here is your guide to 10 places to visit in California (that aren’t Los Angeles).

Santa Barbara

I love the chic laid back beach town vibe of Santa Barbara. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, picture-perfect coastline, hopping nightlife, and wineries at your doorstep, you can absolutely have it all here.

Ready to start packing? Check out my Ultimate Guide to Santa Barbara for a quick rundown of everything that you’ve gotta know before you go.

How cool are those trees?

Joshua Tree

You’re going to love the eclectic desert vibe of the far-flung little towns that dot the space between the Colorado Desert and the Mojave. Explore the galleries then scale the mountains for sweeping vistas of Joshua Tree National Park.

One of my favorite things about Joshua Tree is the one-of-a-kind design aesthetic that you see in so many homes. There are Airbnbs out there that are destinations in and of themselves.


When it comes to soaking in the beauty of the great outdoors, it’s all about Yosemite National Park. Turn off your phone. Close that laptop. Grab your hiking boots and explore the backcountry of Yosemite.

San Diego

With 70 miles of beaches, renowned craft breweries, world-castles museums, the best Mexican food on this side of the border, and gorgeous weather 364 days per year, San Diego is one of California’s greatest cities.

San Diego is a huge, spread-out place with so many distinct neighborhoods that are worth checking out. To really scratch the surface and get to see the best of the city, I would highly recommend at least a long weekend, if not five days to pack it all in.

Be sure to read through the essentials on my San Diego guide to get oriented.

Mendocino Headlands


In the depths of Northern California, you will find the magical place called Mendocino.

Surrounded by dramatic mountain cliffs and dense forest, a visit to Mendocino County will show you another side of California: one filled with quiet little seaside towns, friendly locals, and first-rate seafood.

Steal some tips from a local, then get out there to canoe, hike, and fall in love with this stunning area.

Napa Valley and Sonoma County

If you’re a wine lover, I probably don’t need to tell you twice! What I think a lot of people don’t realize about Napa Valley and Sonoma County, however, is that it’s actually an incredible destination even if you’re not all that into wine.

The region is home to some of California’s best restaurants (which is saying a lot) amazing art galleries, and great live music.

There are so many things to do in Napa Valley that I’d still recommend going even if you don’t end up having a sip of wine.

Palm Springs

The Golf Capital of the World first became famous in the 1930s as the playground for the rich and famous. It’s still got a glamorous retro vibe that I adore (and it’s a must-see for any mid-century design fans).

I fell in love with the area during a girlfriend’s getaway to the Riviera Palm Springs, and I’d highly recommend it for a laidback break.

Carmel by the Sea

On the Monterey Peninsula, you’ll find a collection of fairytale cottages, a historic Spanish mission, impressive art galleries, and unique little boutiques in the little town of Carmel by the Sea. Less than 30 miles north of Big Sur, this dreamy spot is forever winning new awards.

One of the most romantic cities in the world, most beautiful small towns, and one of the best places to bring your dogs are just a few of the many accolades this impressive spot has earned.

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur

Big Sur

On the rugged central coast of California, I had a great stay at the Ventana Big Sur and the area immediately became one of my fave areas for a rustic retreat.

It is an ideal spot for hiking so grab a good pair of boots along with your camera and come prepared for stunning vistas. From beautiful beaches to stunning mountainscapes, it is amazing how diverse the natural beauty is here.

lake tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is another place that I had an amazing girlfriend getaway. Just between California and Nevada, nestled beside the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it is a nature lover’s paradise. Golf, swim, hike, and ski your way through this four-season favorite.

One thing I especially love about Lake Tahoe is that you can enjoy the great outdoors and get away from the whole wide world…then head in for a night on the town!

The area is filled with incredible bars, restaurants, cafes, and nightlife hotspots.

Ready for the ultimate adventure? Why not take a two-week road trip through California to see all the incredible sites.

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