Sick to death of top ten 'must-do' lists that include the same old attractions and activities over and over again? Get under the skin of California with our pick of The Golden State's more unique adventures and activities…​

Whenever we travel, especially  when it comes to the States, we're always looking to get under the skin of a place: so while we may hit the odd mainstream attraction once or twice during a visit, we find it's often better to skip the tourist traps and indulge in things that probably wouldn't occur to the casual tourist. So while at first glance you may think 'oh, not another Top Ten list', do read on. You won't find any of the usual suspects here (aside from a little nod to our favourite, lesser-known theme parks); just an assortment of distinctly-Californian exploits and places the locals love to love, with just a sprinkling of insider info.

​Go Car Tours

We can't begin to tell you how much you'll enjoy this adventure. And while you may be filled with fear when you first set eyes on these canary-yellow, three-wheeler, two-seater vehicles (the first-ever GPS-guided Storytelling car®), after just  a few minutes on the road, once this small car starts to navigate and tells you tales of the city's most amazing attractions, that feeling will disappear. Pedestrians and drivers are very courteous (they'll probably just laugh or wave at you); and like us, you may have some hair-raising moments, but if you fancy driving a yellow egg around San Fran and can stay calm when you get lost, then this is something you'll be talking about this for years!  ​

Giant Forest

The Giant Forest in the Sequoia National Park is just amazing. You can see a picture of these giant sequoia trees and understand that they're big, but until you're surrounded by them, you simply cannot comprehend their hugeness. You might find yourself feeling a little silly for taking lots of pictures of trees, but they are truly fascinating, and when you look back over your holiday snaps, you'll be transported back to the scents, sights and overall environment of being in this enchanting forest. If you make the jaunt downhill to see the General Sherman Tree (the largest tree on the planet), then avoid a chest-busting climb back by taking the free shuttle one-stop back to the top of the trail. ​

Eat an In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out will forever be linked to Southern California and remain an indelible part of its culture. But what's so great about it? Well for starters, it was California's first drive-thru hamburger stand when it opened in LA in 1948, it's still family-owned and never franchised. The service is great, the ingredients always fresh, and the burgers always made to order. No freezers, no microwaves, no heat lamps... ever. The menu is very simple but it's easy to customise with a secret menu too! We won't ruin it for you, because discovering all the different goodies on it is half the fun. All we'll say is "Double Double animal-style". You definitely won't be sorry (unless you're vegetarian).

​1000 Steps Beach

We can't say enough about this beach. Crystal-clear blue waters, tide pools and caves to be explored at your leisure; a backdrop of beautiful cliffside houses; and the brilliantly-artsy town of Laguna Beach perched above. Much less crowded and touristy than other Laguna Beach spots, it's really only 350 steps down to the beach, and well worth the climb on the way back too! Street parking is scarce, so get there early if you're going on a weekend. This place is a real hidden gem and rarely features in travel articles – so let's just keep it between us! ​

​Six Flags Magic Mountain

Do you like roller coasters? Thrill rides? We mean, really like them? Then why aren't you at Six Flags Magic Mountain right now? This is the park for roller coasters – 18 of them to be exact – and more than any other amusement park in the world. But don't think that quantity has taken the place of quality here. Magic Mountain's coasters are some of the most intense on the planet. Just an example: one of its larger roller coasters, Goliath, has an opening drop of 255 feet (78 m). Extreme enough for you?​

​Knott's Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm is a classic California amusement park with a whole lot of history and character. At first glance its theme seems to be that of an Old West ghost town, but it's so much more than that. Frankly Knott's doesn't seem to fit into a single category. There's stagecoach and train rides sure, but there are also modern thrill rides, a Roaring Twenties boardwalk, a Mexican-themed village and Camp Snoopy for kids. Besides its unique character, we think Knotts' other great selling point is its value. There are many quality rides and attractions here for an admission price that's usually well under half of what it costs to get into Disneyland.​



​Universal Studios Hollywood

There are a few Universal Theme Parks around the world, with more in the pipeline, but Universal Studios Hollywood is unique. It's the only Universal location that's actually a working studio, as in real movies and television shows are produced here on a daily basis. That's because it started out as a movie studio first (in 1915), and then added a theme park later; and why it's the only Universal park to offer a Studio Tour – roughly an hour-long tram tour of its backlot, and different every time, depending on what's being filmed. You may even see a celebrity or two.​

​​For further information on these or any of our other experiences, please call our Travel Directors on

01244 567 000

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