California is the third largest state and the most populous of any in America. This western coastal region is a major draw for domestic and overseas tourists and has seen visitor numbers peak at 251 million in recent years. The Golden State excites, interests and amazes in equal measure whether you are travelling as a family or as adults looking for historical, scenic, cultural, educational or park-based attractions.
1. The Golden Gate Bridge
The often fog-embraced bridge spans the 1.7 mile Golden Gate strait linking Marin County to San Francisco. Over 10 million tourists come here annually to see one of America’s most iconic landmarks. The new Golden Gate Bridge Visitor Center has exhibits, interpretative merchandise and displays charting the history of the bridge which will be celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2017.
2. The Getty Center
The Getty Center is part of the Getty Museum – an institution promoting ‘understanding and preservation of the world’s artistic heritage’. Discover more about Richard Meier’s architecture and the design of the Getty Center in one of many tours. Van Gogh’s Irises is one of many fabulous European oil paintings on show. The Central Garden is 134,000 square-feet of tree-lined displays designed by Robert Irwin and is a riot of color and scents, and well worth a walk. And while you’re seeing the sights inside the grounds don’t forget to spare some time to admire the views from the Center – the Los Angeles skyline is truly spectacular. Oh and to top it off, entry to the Center is free!
3. Griffith Observatory
Perhaps not the most obvious place to site an observatory, the Griffith is home to astronomical attractions including the public 12-inch refractor Zeiss telescope and the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. The planetarium uses a state-of-the-art Zeiss star projector coupled to a digital projection system housed in a beautiful aluminum dome that welcomes 290 visitors each session. There are several shows each day and all are hosted by a live narrator.
4. The Huntington
Gardens, art galleries and a library comprise the Huntington experience. The galleries showcase 650 paintings and 440 sculptures of European and American art going back 500 years. There are 12 botanical gardens with some 15,000 species of plants. The nursery has some exotic specimens for sale but if you’re intending to take any out of the States it’s a good idea to check with your country’s regulations first.
5. Disneyland Park, Anaheim
Now into its seventh decade Disneyland Park has seven themed ‘lands’ spanning 85 acres. The eighth land currently under construction is Star Wars themed and one attraction will be the Millennium Falcon ride. Adventureland harks back to an imaginary jungle theme of Africa and South America where the Indiana Jones ride is rightly famous. A trip to Tomorrowland isn’t complete without going on the Space Mountain ride accompanied by an exhilarating score by Star Trek and Jurassic World composer Michael Giacchino. Meanwhile, the Matterhorn Bobsleds of Fantasyland’s newly upgraded animatronics and soundscape make your ride down the mountain scarier as you hear the Abominable Snowman chasing you every step of the way. It goes without saying that this isn’t one of your cheaper experiences and you also need to be prepared for queuing during the busier times.
6. Universal Studios Hollywood
Out of all the attractions at Universal Studios I’d pick The Walking Dead, the Studio Tour and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as my favorites. The Walking Dead experience is fully immersive and you are chased by hordes of terrifyingly made-up ‘walkers’ through the streets – not one for the kids! The Studio Tour takes you on a journey of 13 famous (infamous?) blocks of movie and TV history such as Jaws, Desperate Housewives and of course the award-winning immersive 3D King Kong experience! At the Wizarding World you can visit the shops and eateries inspired by Harry’s world. Pop to the Three Broomsticks, Hogsmeade, Honeydukes and – of course – the personalized wand fitting at Ollivanders.
7. The New Children’s Museum
A trip to the museum is usually met with groans from your kids but at the New Children’s Museum its aim is to involve your kids with interesting and creative experiences to fire their imaginations. It’s very hands-on and kids will love the chance to work with paints and clay (dress appropriately!) all day. For cleaner fun there are interactive educational games like the Desert Derby where your kids can push carved wooden cars across a 3D track representing the freeways and aqueducts that provide drinking water to 21 million of California’s 23 million residents. The museum also has a shop with stuffed toys, books and educational games and the Green Bellies Café. The café prides itself on its natural produce that avoids processed sugar, processed white flour and unhealthy additives. You can also order your food to go.
8. The Hess Collection Visitor Center
Situated in Napa are California’s premier vineyards where some of the world’s finest wine is produced. Keen to show their environmentally-friendly credentials, 2015 saw the American Canyon vineyards join Hess’s Mount Vedeer vineyards and winery in being certified as sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. The visitor center in the Mount Veeder appellation has a menu of tasty organically grown seasonal produce complemented by excellent Hess wines to tantalize your taste buds. The three-course lunch recipes are created by Executive Chef Chad Hendrickson and presented in their recently refurbished dining room with marvelous views. I’d advise asking for one of their renowned Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnays.
9. Yosemite National Park
If you’re after your break being more adventurous then look no further than the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Yosemite National Park. This stunning glacially-carved granite environment takes in five vegetation altitude zones from oak forest to alpine and it’s little wonder that almost a quarter of California’s plant species are found here. For backpackers there are day walks or the full-on several days’ camping excursions. There are 800 miles of paths and these are graded between gentle and arduous which is great to know if perhaps you’re encouraging your kids to get into backpacking or if you’re a seasoned hiker looking to test yourself. You can also hire mountain bikes and hit some of the amazing MTB trails.
Rock climbing became classed as a sport thanks to the Camp 4 campground where climbers would hang out for months. Experienced and well-equipped climbers can try the vertical-faced 3,300 ft high El Capitan. If you prefer to stay a little closer to the ground then you can try bouldering – where you ascend boulders that are no higher than 30 feet but your only equipment are high-grip shoes and chalk dust for your fingers. Ensure you have adequate gear like hydration backpacks for hiking.
10. Death Valley
Hiking is nothing if not a varied pastime. Where Yosemite is characterized by sheer cliffs, verdant undergrowth and is often alpine in altitude, Death Valley is sparse, arid and its Badwater Basin is 280 feet below sea level. Death Valley is a land of extreme heat where summer temperatures rise over 110 °F. In fact more than half the year the daytime temperatures average 90 °F. Despite its name there is wildlife and vegetation here – perhaps you’ll see the real-life Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner! Hiking is best when it’s cooler between October and April. There are few official trails to follow, most of it is cross-country following ridges and canyons so it is important that you acquaint yourself with the ranger station locations and hire the services of a guide if you’re not an accomplished backpacker. Taking an adequate supply of water is essential if you’re going to meet the challenges that Death Valley will throw at you. Many of the natural water sources are too salty or otherwise unsuitable to drink. Walking here is a journey through the starkly beautiful environment with your survival never far from your thoughts.
11. The Old Globe
Based on the London theater made famous by Shakespeare’s plays, The Old Globe is a modern, 600-seat reconstruction in Balboa Park, San Diego. Its aim is to advance American theater by ensuring diversity and balance in programming and to produce great entertainment to benefit actors and thrill audiences. No fewer than 15 productions and 600 performances are presented each year on three stages in The Old Globe. The park has many other attractions too: the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater which has shows for pre-schoolers and older kids, the San Diego Youth Symphony with its concerts, and the San Diego Natural History Museum. There are eateries, shopping areas and sports centers that all add up to a great day of fun and performing arts adventure.
12. General Sherman
Standing in the Sequoia National Park, Tulare County is the magnificent giant sequoia named General Sherman. It’s currently the tallest single-stemmed tree in the world, a sky-grazing 275 feet into the air. The circumference at the ground is a staggering 103 feet and its estimated weight is nearly 2,100 short tons. This sequoia is between 2,500 and 2,700 years old (the Italian City of Pompeii was being founded, Rome was in its infancy and the Greeks were colonizing parts of the Mediterranean).
Seeing it in person is an awe-inspiring, humbling experience and one which you’ll not easily forget. Many people come here to get their photograph taken so don’t be surprised if you have to line up for your opportunity. The site has had a lot of work done to it to make it family -friendly and there is also parking available for those with mobility problems. It takes about 20 minutes to walk down from the main car-park although it will take you longer to walk back up. The disabled parking area is closer and the paths are paved to improve accessibility. To find out more about the giant sequoias in the forest I’d recommend visiting the Giant Forest Museum and ask about a ranger-led tour – you’ll learn a lot from their experienced staff.
13. The Last Bookstore
The ironically-titled Last Bookstore is one of the largest independent bookstores in the world. They buy and sell new and secondhand books over two floors of a building that used to be a bank. Shelves upon shelves contain over 250,000 books but they also incorporate books as art installations. Arches made of damaged books create impressive spaces you won’t find anywhere else. The store has an annex of rare books, a vinyl records selection numbering in the thousands and a section devoted to graphic novels. The Last Bookstore also hosts special talks and events of the literary, theatrical and musical nature in its 6,000 sq ft audience area so it’s worth checking their calendar before you visit. Oh and one series of books you’ll never find there is the Twilight Saga – they’re not keen on those (sigh).
14. The Wave Organ
California’s appeal as a tourist destination can partly be attributed to the sheer diversity of its attractions. The Wave Organ is on a jetty built from reclaimed granite and marble in San Francisco’s Marina district. 25 organ pipes made from PVC tubing and concrete twist and curl from the waters’ edge up to different levels. As the Pacific Ocean tide rises and falls the impact of the waves generate notes and harmonics producing a unique, ever-changing melody. Naturally the best visits are at high tide!
15. San Francisco Opera
My last choice – there are so many sights to see and things to do in California it’s always a challenge to narrow them down – is the San Francisco Opera. This is an amazing cultural experience and if you’re a traveler from the UK you may have avoided due to cost and the class stigma. Well if you find yourself in Frisco then with tickets starting from as little as $10 I’d recommend you seeing what you’ve been missing. The SFO puts on great shows in a beautiful venue with modern seating and frills. Recent productions have included the Czech opera The Makropulos Affair and Madame Butterfly. Upcoming productions include Wagner’s entire Ring cycle over the course of a single exhausting week! An ideal first opera is Verdi’s Aida and if you arrive an hour before curtain goes up you will be entertained by the pre-opera talk which helps put the story into context and demystify what you’re about to see and hear. Your first opera is a powerful and emotionally charged experience – why not give a go?
1. Independence Seaport Museum
This anchor attraction is Philadelphia’s home to its maritime history and features artefacts and archive materials documenting the Greater Delaware Valley and the timeline of the Port of Philadelphia. It’s also where you will see the USS Olympia, victorious Admiral Dewey’s flagship and the only ship to survive the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War.
2. Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of American Independence and the abolition of slavery. Originally shipped in from the UK, the bell cracked during its first sounding. Subsequent recasts added copper, lead and tin but the bell sounded dull and then cracked again. The Liberty Bell Center has free admission, informative videos and boards detailing the extraordinary history of this troubled but emblematic bell.
3. Christ Church
William Penn was baptised here and the very same font is still in use today! It was constructed in the 1720s in a Georgian style harking back to the architecture of Sir Christopher Wren. Christ Church’s 60 m tower held the record for the tallest structure in the US until 1810. Its congregation included notables George Washington, Robert Morris, Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross and there are brass plaques on the pews where they once sat.
4. Independence Hall
Completed in 1753, Independence Hall is the focal building of the Independence National Historical Park. This is where the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and signed. Architecturally interesting, it’s built from red brick in the Georgian style and was the original home of the Liberty Bell.
5. Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier
This war memorial commemorates the thousands of fallen soldiers who fought in the American Revolutionary War. In 1976 an eternal flame was lit, watched over by a bronze statue of George Washington. The park is open to the public and there are many seating areas provided. No-one knows exactly how many bodies are buried in this location and a visit here serves as a sobering experience.
6. Reading Terminal Market
Philadelphia’s original public market has evolved dramatically over two centuries. A not-for-profit organisation runs the Reading Terminal Market and, today, it’s one of the States’ most successful public markets featuring over 75 independent small businesses that cater to all tastes with an array of fresh and prepared foods, specialist eateries and shops.
7. Schuylkill River Trail
There are many opportunities for outdoors exercise, running, cycling, rowing and dragon boat racing. The Schuylkill River Trail extends some 130 miles although only 60 miles have been completed to date. The Kelly Drive Loop is a four mile circuit running alongside the river – it’s here that the country’s oldest collegiate boat race – the Dad Vail Regatta – takes place.
8. Barnes Foundation Art Collection
The Barnes Art Collection was founded in 1922 with its aim of promoting the ‘advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts’. At the Philadelphia campus you will find one of the greatest private galleries of impressionist, post-impressionist and early-modern paintings. Take the time to browse through over 3,000 amazing works by Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso and Van Gogh.
9. Ghosts of the Mansions Tour
The original Ghost Tour in Philadelphia boasts two spooky mansions in the old district known as Society Hill. A nocturnal, candle-lit tour by a costumed guide will start at the eerie Strangers Burial Ground and take you to the colonial-era Powel House or Physick House where documented reports of ghostly activity have been recorded for over 70 years! The would-be ghost hunter will be given the use of an electromagnetic field meter (think of Ghostbusters’ handheld PKE ghost detectors) to help locate any paranormal goings-on!
10. Please Touch Museum
The Please Touch Museum was the first museum aimed at young children, particularly the under-sevens. Recently celebrating its 40th anniversary, the museum prides itself on self-directed, experiential, content-rich attractions that promote skills which help shape a child’s success in school and in life. Among the exhibits are interactive displays and features of historical toys from its collection numbering around 25,000!
11. The Franklin Institute
Founded in 1824 in honour of America’s first scientist, Benjamin Franklin, the institute is among the oldest science centres in the country. A visit here puts you in good company – many scientists have demonstrated groundbreaking new technology at the Franklin Institute. Their newest exhibits are based around robots, their intelligence, abilities, cooperation and locomotion. Did we mention you can test drive a Google self-driving car?
12. Sesame Place
Philadelphia is home to the States’ only theme park based on the much-loved children’s programme Sesame Street. Across this 14-acre site you’ll find choreographed stage shows, roller coaster, water attractions and fun rides. Now approaching its 37th year, Sesame Place continues to delight children young and old with their seasonal attractions. This year’s ‘A Very Furry Christmas’ has transformed the Park into a winter wonderland full of magical lights, Christmas decorations, shows and festive savoury menus. Aside from all the active play areas suitable for toddlers and older children, there are themed shopping areas and the chance to see Santa in his special ‘Furry Workshop’!
13. Longwood Gardens
This expansive area of some 1,000 acres is the idyllic setting showcasing one of the US’s most exciting horticultural display gardens. It has 20 indoor gardens and its Conservatory contains 4,600 species of plants and trees. There are educational, hands-on experiences all year round and November’s extravaganza is an intensively cultivated display, featuring more chrysanthemums than ever – the largest Thousand Bloom Mum grown outside of Asia!
14. QVC Studio Tour
One of Philadelphia’s more modern attractions is a tour of the world famous shopping channel – QVC. The studio is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017 and what better time to visit than when there is a palpable buzz of excitement of celebration? Experience how experience how QVC products are sourced, tested, brought to life on air, and delivered to millions of QVC customers.
15. Philadephia Zoo
The Philadelphia Zoo opened in 1874 and its 42-acre site goes from strength to strength being home to nearly 2,000 animals including gorillas, orang-utans, lions, jaguars and – of course – the famous tigers which roam above you in mesh-enclosed aerial walkways. No trip here is complete without seeing Princess, the amazing Andean condor. The educational ‘Unless’ project brings to life the habitat loss due to deforestation by our increasing use of palm oil.
Anaheim is the most populous city of Orange County in the metropolitan area of Los Angeles, California. A $5 billion regeneration programme has reinvented the city’s heart as the Anaheim Resort district, a stunning 1,100 – acre urban facility that makes the city a must-go-to tourist destination. Big travel companies like CLC World have seen the opportunity here and looking to expand their operations into the area.
The Hamptons (NY) is a wealthy area New York, east of New York City. The area is where wealthy New Yorkers have their second homes to escape the city. The Hamptons is packed with top end end resturants, shops and hotels and well worth a visit.
How far is The Hamptons from New York?
According to Google the drive is around 2hrs.
Map of the Hamptons and orientation
As you can see from the above map, The Hamptons has a north and south fork, with most of the action being on the south fork. The north forks main areas are Mattituck, Greenport and Orient.
The south folk consists of the following hamplets:
East Hampton (confusingly not east!)
Sar Harbour (northern part of south fork)
There is also an island off the coast called Gardiners Island sitting in Gardiners bay. Gardiner Island is private and has been owned by the Gardiner family since 163 and is one of the largest private islands in the USA with an amazing history.
Shelter Island sits in between the 2 forks and can be visited using the South Ferry.
Hamptons Weather, When to go
Obviously the summer months are a great time to visit the Hamptons, but winter visits are becoming more popular. The region used to be dead in winter with the majority of places closing during the out of season months. Now many B&Bs and restaurants are staying open due to the steady rise in winter visitors. Roads and beaches are much quieter and you can pick up some great vacation rental deals over the Christmas period.
The Hampton’s NY Hotels
It is of course important that you know where all the best places to stay are when you are visiting in the Hamptons. There are some places that will be better-suited to certain types of people over others, which is why you will need to know what your options are like.
The Maidstone Arms is a beautiful Greek Revival inn that overlooks the town pond and has been widely regarded as one of the best accommodations in East Hampton for decades now. There is a great Swedish design to the building, and most of its 16 rooms and three cottages were inspired by famous Scandinavians, including Hans Christian Andersen as well as Arne Jacobsen. When you go just down the street you will find Baker House 1650, which has arts and crafts style rooms as well as two expansive outdoor pools to relax in.
One beautifully updated classic is the Inn and Quogue, which has some truly breathtaking but homey rooms that are perfectly suitable for a beach-type feel. The American Hotel, which is a red brick Victorian building, is located in the center of Sag Harbor and stands in stark contrast to many of the other buildings in the area. This place hasn’t changed a whole lot since 1846, but it definitely has a lot of charm and will make you feel like you are right at home.
There are a startling lack of nice hotels on the water in the Hamptons, but you will find that the White Sands Resort Hotel will provide you with some beautiful and clean accommodations for the duration of your stay. The Montauk’s hillside Panoramic View Resort & Residences is another great choice if you want a breathtaking ocean view.
The Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina is located on a small isle and is essentially a scaled-down replica of the town’s most famous lighthouse. With three pools, a spa, four tennis courts, and a marina, this hotel will most likely have just about everything you need.
Pet friendly Hotel options
The Hamptons has many pet friendly hotels to choose from. Kenny’s Tipperary Inn is a great choice with 549 positive reviews on Trip Advisor, prices are around $100/night. If you are looking for 4 star places then you could stay at the Hyatt Palace Long Island/East end.
Cheap Hotels in The Hamptons
We have trawled through every cheap hotel online to find the best value hotels with amazing reviews. The winner is The Sunrise Guest house in Montauk.
Where to Eat in The Hamptons
It’s also crucial that you know where to eat when you are in the Hamptons, as there are lots of different places to explore. It is very important that you look into some of these restaurants before making up your mind as to where you want to dine. Many foodies love to eat at Vine Street Café, which is located on Shelter Island and offers crisp calamari salad as well as a miso salmon that is absolutely to die for.
There are plenty of gourmet goodies on the menu at Robert’s, which is located in the very small town of Water Mill. This restaurant has some of the very best Italian cuisine that you will be able to find in the entire area, so it is definitely worth checking out. Mirko’s, which is run by a husband and wife, is another great place to go to when you get hungry, and they have a famous Croatian stuffed cabbage that you will absolutely love. Dish, which is a BYOB restaurant with just 16 seats, is a unique little restaurant where the owner must confirm your e-mail reservation while sending the evening’s prix fixe menu. Despite its quaint appearance, this restaurant is actually very popular and may take a while for you to get a reservation at.
Where to Shop
You will find that there are plenty of different places to go shopping while you are in the Hamptons, so you will therefore want to make a point of looking into some of the different options you have so you know exactly where to go when visiting this area.
Bridgehampton’s Channing Daughters Winery is a great place to visit if you have a passion for wine. These vineyards are lined with the owner’s own sculptures, and it makes for a truly beautiful and unique aesthetic to say the least.
Sagaponack’s Wolffer Estate Vineyard is yet another place that you will want to put on your list if you have an affinity for wine, and it hosts free Friday jazz at sunset overlooking the wines.
Bridgehampton, NY is found on the south folk of the Suffolk county peninsula. Bridgehampton things to do include the Hampton Classic Horse show, Sagg Main beach and Bridge gardens. Bridgehampton also has a fantastic children’s museum which runs many events through the year.
Lazypoint is one clothing store that you might want to stop in at, and is packed with sexy-but-sophisicated clothing options as well as jewelry found by the husband and wife on all of their travels around the world. Just down the street you will find Pink Chicken, which offers a wide variety of floral dresses as well as tunics for beachgoers.
In a converted Wainscott diner you will find Tomas Maier, which sells some of the most amazing swimwear in the entire area. Jennifer Miller Jewelry in Southampton and East Hampton you will find all kinds of stunning pieces that are sure to impress. If you have been looking for a particularly striking new ring or necklace, this is definitely the place to go.
Things to do the Hamptons
One of the best attractions in East Hampton is Guild Hall, which is a center for visual and performing arts. Alec Baldwin is known for hosting readings as well as theater performances here. The Parrish Art Museum is another place that you will want to stop by; it was first built in 1897 and has some truly amazing pieces that you won’t want to miss.
The Hither Hills State Parking Walking Dunes Trail is something that you won’t want to miss, especially if you are looking to take a little adventure with some truly breathtaking beauty. There is also the Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge, which offers some amazing nature as well. The Nature Conservancy’s Mashomack Preserve offers hiking trails through the various ecosystems and past kettle holes formed by glaciers millions of years ago.
Montauk is on the very far end if the peninsula (see map above), which is why residence call it ‘The End’. Montauk is much quieter that The Hamptons, especially during the summer months.
Montauk has a famous surf break, so you can spend time watching the surfers if you do not want to participate. If you want to give ‘Ditch Plains’ a go then just ask for the local surf shop and hire a board.
See Montauk hotel options, see Hampton’s hotels above.
Amagansett has a 2 mile beach called Hollow beach, which is regarded as one The Hampton’s best beaches.
Southhampton is another village in The Hamptons just as you arrive in the area. ‘Southampton Village‘ is the very wealthy part of the southern folk. The village has a modern art museum worth visiting, a decent golf course and the beach called ‘Coopers beach’. Coopers Beach is the only area of the 7 mile Southampton coast that is actualled manned with life guards in the summer months. You can also hire deck chairs here and you indulge in an ice cream.
Other beaches on this stretch of cost indude; Fowlers beach, Cryder beach, Old Town, Wyandanch beach, Little plains beach, Gin Lane beach and Halsey Neck Beach. To the east of Southampton Village lies Shinnecock Easy County Park with is a remote rugged beach with a campsite.
The Hamptons Transportation
East Hampton does have an airport but its mainly for private helicopers, private jets and sea planes. The nearest airport for commercial flights is Mcarthur, 50 miles from East Hampton. JFK airport is aproximately 80 miles away for international visitors coming to the area with fly drive.
You can get to Southampton from New york by train, using the Montauk line which takes 2 hours 40 min. You can also jump on the Cannonball Express which takes 95 minuites, but make you bookings early in the high season.
By Uber! We searched for a quote from Manhattan to The Hamptons and here are the prices as of Oct 2017.
Located in the mountain region of western North Carolina, Cold Mountain is the forth highest mountain in the eastern USA. Cold Mountain is one of the Great Balsam Mountains, a subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountains that form part of the Appalachian Mountain Chain. Originally owned by George Washington Vanderbilt II, the land and mountain were sold after his death to the United States Forest Service, forming the first national forest in the eastern United States.