WRITTEN BY Jane Norton
Jane Norton is a freelance writer, editor, and mother of two. She spent a decade in the travel industry, working in everything from hospitality, to guiding tours, to planning luxury trips. When she's…See full bio
California is certainly no stranger to tourism. For travelers, the appeal of California often lies in the wide variety of landscapes, from the lush, ancient forests to the pristine, sandy beaches. Thanks to the distinct regions and the eclectic communities in the Golden State, traveling doesn’t necessarily mean crossing borders—you can enjoy a memorable cultural experience right here. Whether you’re craving a taste of the Mediterranean or wanting to immerse yourself in the European lifestyle, here are the best places to have an international travel experience without leaving California.
While the Costa Brava might beckon, there’s no need to travel almost 6,000 miles to experience a slice of Spanish culture. Instead, take a road trip to like-minded cities such as San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento. Smaller cities that also feature a rich Spanish flavor include San Bernardino, Fresno, and Modesto. Additional places of interest that deserve a visit include the Mission District in San Francisco and Olvera Street in Los Angeles, which both boast Hispanic influences in their culture and architecture.
The beautiful beach and palm-lined streets are enough to bring hundreds of thousands of tourists to Avalon, a quaint town on Santa Catalina Island. Visitors who wish to have a truly Mediterranean experience will soon find themselves swept away by crystal clear waters and a range of water activities. Long summer days are filled with family-friendly experiences, including kayaking and hiking. It’s recommended that parents traveling with toddlers bring along a stroller, as Avalon offers a lot of walking for those who wish to ditch the car.
There’s more to the Danes than feta and pastries, and Solvang proves it. Located less than an hour from the oceanside city of Santa Barbara, this charming Danish town skyrocketed in popularity after a visit from Denmark’s Prince Frederick. Those who travel with the hopes of ramping up experiences and great photo opportunities will want to give this unique destination a visit. The Danish windmills, pristine architecture, and twinkling lights aren’t just pleasant to look at—they create an unforgettable travel experience.
Little Tokyo and Chinatown are two must-visit Los Angeles destinations for those wanting a California experience with Asian flair. Whether you’re keen on taking a stroll through meticulously maintained gardens or amped on tasting some of the best Asian cuisine the West Coast has to offer, a trip to L.A. simply won’t be complete without stopping by these neighborhoods. While they might be remnants from World War II, increased commerce and a concerted effort by activists and residents to promote these areas have transformed then into hot travel destinations. Be sure to peruse the local shops—especially those tucked away in the side streets—that offer more than souvenirs, and stop by the small cafés offering authentic Asian sweet treats.
Where will you go next? Let us know in the comments.