What comes to your mind when you think of California?
Palm trees? Sandy beaches? Hollywood celebrities? All these images flashed in my head when I didn’t even dream about possibility of visiting California less living in the state of sunshine and beautiful people.
I was born far away in a family who didn’t travel. (That sounds like a beginning of a sad story that you already know is about to change. )
So for me California was always a mystical far away land of everything beautiful and exotic.
My husband and I met in Germany and when we decided that we want to spend our lives together we came across some difficulties in terms of being two “Ausländer”, that is German word for foreigners, in the land with many rules. It was a big dilemma what to do and at the end we decided to get married in the U.S. (I should mention he is an American citizen) and lucky for us my husband’s company offered him a transfer to an office in California! I was ecstatic to just think of the life in California! We got married in 2005 in NC and did cross country drive to the golden state!
I fall in love with it as soon we crossed the border. I saw palm trees reaching the blue sky and orange sunset kissing the Pacific ocean good night every evening.
We lived in many places from Tustin in OC to San Diego, from Foothill Ranch (OC again) to Rancho Palos Verdes (near LA) to Marin County in Bay Area near San Francisco. Some places I liked more than others. Of course my pink glasses didn’t last and as with any place no matter how amazing it is in reality, day to day life puts a dent in a perfect image you had before. High real estate prices and generally high living cost, a very visible gap between classes and general love for materialism all that is less appealing part of California. But regardless of all these I still love this state. I love its climate and beautiful nature, I love general attitude in regards of healthier lifestyle and its multicultural population!
Speaking about climate, one might think it’s always warm in California. Well, I have to say, it’s not that warm during winter and it will depend on where in California you are! Since the state stretches along the Pacific Ocean for 840 miles (1,350 km) climate is quite different between Southern and Northern California. Of course it is nearly not as cold in the winter as any other places I previously lived, for example shopping for Christmas gifts during first year was a bit surreal… instead of Christmas trees I saw Palm Trees decorated in festive lights and some people wearing flip flops. It was different but fun… Yet I did miss the atmosphere of approaching holidays you get at a Christmas market in Europe. When it’s chilly and you can quickly warm up with a glass of glue wine… As I found out sipping on a glue wine, with temperature of 60-65 F , is not the same and it makes you sweat more than needed!
But if you want real winter you still can find it in California, just go to Big Bear Lake or Lake Tahoe and enjoy winter wonderland! The beauty of it is that if you had enough of cold and snow there is a choice of escaping back to much milder weather along the coast. That’s what I call beautiful life when you can choose your weather!
There is even such thing as microclimate! I had no idea it existed until we moved to Marin County in Northern California.
The temperature and the weather can be drastically different: Sausalito (the very first town after GG bridge) can be gloomy and cool meanwhile 10-15 min in land in Corte Madera or Novato it can be sunny and 20 degrees warmer.
So if you feel too hot, then go to a beach on a bay, if you’re too cold then in less than 30 min drive in land and you can feel warm and toasty.
California is very diverse in its terrain and landscapes. If you love mountains there are many beautiful mountain ranges with amazing mountain lakes, of course it is famous for sandy mile long beaches in the South and rocky cliffs in the North, it has desert and forests…. You can visit quite few world famous National Parks like Sequoias National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Redwood Forest and of course the Yosemite! Plus many more less known nature preserves and state parks like Muir Woods National monument. You can also find geysers and hot springs in Napa Valley and not far from it be amazed by petrified forest. California will satisfy nature lovers of all types.
If you are more after city destinations then some of the most interesting cities in the U.S. are located in the golden state! The big stars of the state are San Diego and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. They all have their own vibe , and might even surprise you of how different they are in terms of architecture and culture. But don’t disregard charming smaller towns like Santa Barbara or Palm Springs, Half Moon Bay or Carmel, Sausalito, Bodega Bay or Mendocino and not to forget California’s famous wine region Napa Valley!
Knowing the best time to visit certain places will make your trip more enjoyable. For example one would think summer months in San Francisco are the best time, but reality is quite different : it can be pretty chilly, foggy and gloomy. The best time to explore Fog City is September or October. San Francisco’s annual event Fleet week takes place in October as well. Blue Angels’ display their precision and amazing skills of flying over the Bay and Golden Gate is something worth seeing!
In Los Angeles and Orange County however September and October is the time for high wind called Santa Ana as well as official fire season.
I suggest you consider researching such matters wich can effect your experience.
I am so grateful for we having the opportunity to live in California for 10 years because it would be so hard to limit yourself with only a few destinations as a tourist but I would take whatever if only I could see any part of it.
So if you plan to visit California you probably know exactly what you would want to explore.
Be that big city cultural submersion, exploring Gold Country or loosing yourself in abundance of California’s beautiful nature. It’s a hard choice to make if you have to limit yourself to only few choices, but hope what ever your heart desires you will find it and experience true California dreaming.
Please follow me on Instagram and share your California adventures. And if you have questions I will be happy to help you if I can!