Top 10 Most Famous California Landmarks Travelers Talk About

Known for wine and surfing, California is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire world. It’s an immense state that offers coastline, desert, islands, mountains, forests and more. There are a great many famous California landmarks for visitors to explore, and even multiple trips here would not afford visitors enough time to see them all. However, past travelers have picked their favorites, and ten of them shouldn’t be missed, especially for first time visitors to the state known for its perfect weather, stunning landscapes and wildlife diversity.

1. Hollywood Sign: Just what is it about this sign, perched high atop a hillside, which draws millions of viewers each and every year? Well, perhaps it’s the fact that the sign is one of the most iconic of all California landmarks, even though many people don’t know much about it. The forty five foot tall letters were originally erected in the early 1920s as a sort of advertisement for a local real estate development. However, the sign was left to remain long after serving its intended purpose, and is now a well loved and treasured local landmark that is known the world around and is regularly featured in television and film.

2.Golden Gate Bridge: Internationally recognized as a marvel of the modern world, the three mile long reddish suspension bridge that connects San Francisco to the Marin county is not only one of the most well known of all California landmarks, it’s famous the world over and is one of the most photographed bridges in the world. Spanning the Golden Gate strait, it’s a testament to the ingenuity and dedication of those who designed and built it. Over four years, the bridge was built, at the cost of eleven
perished workers and thirty five million dollars.

3. Alcatraz Island: For thirty years, this isolated prison situated on an island near San Francisco, housed some of the most notorious criminals in history. Undoubtedly one of the most unique of all California landmarks, both the institution’s past and unusual location, perched on a rocky outcrop miles from shore, the former prison turned State Park draws thousands upon thousands of visitors each year. Although the prison is now abandoned, the lighthouse that sits near it is still functional and is the oldest of its kind on the west coast of the United States.

4. San Diego Balboa Park: This San Diego park is actually more of a sprawling, urban mega-complex that contains the world famous zoo (one of the most well known of all California landmarks) several theaters, green spaces, walking paths, museums and more. It’s a tourist’s delight because on top of the multiple man made and natural attractions, amenities like restaurants, shops and activities keep visitors coming. An art museum, botanical building, veterans’ memorial, athletic complex and cultural center are just some of many things found at Balboa.

5. Redwood National Park: Although breathtakingly beautiful, there is a surprisingly dark history surrounding the ancient trees that comprise this National Park, some of the oldest of all California landmarks. Originally, it was the promise of gold that brought early settlers to this two million acre large area, and when getting gold didn’t quite “pan out,” they turned instead to the trees for a source of revenue as they were a hot commodity for the construction of nearby cities. It wasn’t until nearly ninety percent of the population of massive trees was decimated that conservation efforts began, salvaging just a small fraction of what once stood in the northern part of the state. Today, visitors enjoy the natural serenity of the area and also a chance to witness a National Park that almost wasn’t.

6. Yosemite National Park: Though around three quarters of a million acres are included in the World Heritage Site and National Park known as Yosemite, it’s a seven square mile area found within known as Yosemite Valley that draws a great majority of the parks’ visitors. Here, stunning natural California landmarks like sheer cliffs and cascading waterfalls draw guests seeking splendid serenity, and an incredibly diverse array of plants and wildlife give animation to the abundance of granite that the park is known for. Considered both a national treasure and a jewel amidst the Sierra Nevada mountain chain, Yosemite is loved by both first time guests and repeat visitors alike.

7. Death Valley National Park: Interestingly enough, this barren and even desolate region located in southern California is actually the biggest National Park in the contiguous 48 states. Characterized by badlands, dry mountain peaks, salt flats and desert landscapes, it’s just about everything one would think of opposite an oasis. Yet, while dry and deserted, the park remains one of the most visited of all California landmarks, typically by guests eager to see the second lowest point in the western hemisphere and one exquisite example of an almost alien landscape.

8. Sequoia National Park: Like the towering redwoods, the sequoias found in this National Park are known for both their age and their size. The park is home to one of the biggest trees on the planet and one of the most well known of all California landmarks, General Sherman. And, while this militarily named tree draws its fair share of onlookers, the entire 400,000 acre park is worth exploring fully. Both Mount Whitney and King’s Canyon are stunning, natural sites and worth a stroll away from the Forest of Giants. But, whether coming for the trees or the treks, even numerous visits don’t allow for enough time to truly appreciate Sequoia.

9. Big Sur: What draws visitors to this part of California is its coastline, a ninety mile stretch that includes some of the most stunning views in the entire country. It’s here where the sharp Santa Lucia mountains seem to literally jut straight up out of the Pacific Ocean. These natural California landmarks are a big tourist attraction, and the area is littered with luxury hotels, activities, dining and shopping as a result. While the entire stretch is breathtaking, it’s the single, mile high Cone Peak that really draws a crowd, the largest coastal mountain in the lower 48 states.

10. Channel Islands: Eight islands found in the Santa Barbara Channel comprise this tourists delight, and the waters that they are situated in are part of a marine sanctuary. It’s no surprise then that the wildlife found in the waters and on land here at the islands are what make them one of the most treasured of all California landmarks. Some species found here such as the island fox are found nowhere else, and the waters teem with unique life forms like the bat ray and Spanish shaw. Whether on dry land or below the water’s surface, there is much to do and see in this bay area reserve.