California is a huge state and the unique activities and adventures are mind-boggling. There are so many unbelievable experiences in California that I wanted to create a short list of unique experiences, destinations, and adventures that you might not know about otherwise. Rather than just taking my word for it, I asked dozens of writers and journalists and we came up with 10 new items for your California bucket list.
10 Unique Items for Your California Bucket List
Number One: Surf in Surf City, USA
Ten uninterrupted miles of wide open sandy beaches make Huntington Beach a paradise for awesome outdoor adventure. Voted the Best California Beach by USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice 2018, Huntington Beach is an active, energetic town filled with activities, views, and attractions to check off your bucket list.
Trademarked and true “Surf City USA”, a visit to Huntington Beach isn’t complete without surf lessons from 1960s surf legend Corky Carroll or former pro surfer Rocky McKinnon. Huntington Beach exudes surf culture, while hosting over 50 world renowned international surf competitions a year including the legendary US Open of Surfing.
Number Two – Experience Aerobatics in a T6 Warbird
The T6 Warbird lesson in California isn’t a mere ride! You’ll spend an incredible hour learning to perform a variety of aerobatic maneuvers. The lessons are limited only by what your stomach can handle.
During my T6 Warbird lesson, we flew toward the mountains and within minutes we were already doing barrel rolls.
We topped 220 mph and over 4 G’s. We flew through the mountains sideways and upside down.
CAF – Southern California Wing has a special program to introduce the public to the thrilling realm of experiencing flight in an authentic warbird!
Number Three – See all 4 Types of Volcanoes in One Place Near Redding
Less than an hour’s drive from Redding, Lassen Volcanic National Park is the only place in the world to see all four different kinds of volcanoes, cinder cones, composite volcanoes, shield volcanoes, and lava domes.
It boasts incredible mountain scenery reminiscent of Yosemite as well as fascinating thermal wonders similar to Yellowstone with just a small fraction of the visitors.
Lassen offers three of the four different types of geothermal features, including steam vents, mud pots, and hot springs; all four types of volcanoes and all types of naturally occurring lakes! Near the peak of Mount Lassen, the road reaches 8,512 feet, making it the highest elevation road in the Cascade Mountain range.
Lassen Park is open year-round; however, access is usually limited from December to May. Excellent cross-country skiing is available, as well as interpretive snowshoe tours led by park rangers. During the warm summer months in Redding, enjoy hiking, stargazing, biking, swimming, and more.
Number Four – Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
California has a lot of parks but you can cross two off your bucket list at once by visiting Sequoia & Kings Canyon. Famous for their giant sequoias, towering mountains, vast canyons, and roaring rivers, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park have plenty to see.
Sequoia is home to the largest tree in the world, General Sherman. Redwoods are taller, but giant sequoias win for sheer mass.
When measured by volume, the General Sherman Tree is the biggest on the planet: 275 feet tall and a 36-foot-diameter base. General Sherman is easily reached via a short paved trail in Giant Forest.
Sequoia also boasts Mount Whitney, the high point of the John Muir Trail.
In Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest, you can still drive through an opening in the Tunnel Log, the remains of a giant, 275-foot tree that tumbled down in 1937.
A stone and concrete stairway leads to the top of a granite dome called Moro Rock. From the top, enjoy sweeping views of the hills below and the wilderness to the east. Moro Rock offers vast panoramic views. The trail is half a mile round trip. To get to the trailhead, turn off the Generals Highway at Giant Forest Museum and head east on Crescent Meadow Road. After 1.5 miles, turn right and continue to the parking area beneath Moro Rock. There are only fourteen parking spaces at the trailhead so if you arrive later in the day, take the free shuttle.
Kings Canyon National Park is home to Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the country, dropping down more than 2,500 m, carved out of solid granite by glaciers during the last ice age.
Number Five – Trans Catalina Trail
See the lesser-known side of California on the Trans-Catalina Trail. Catalina Island’s more than 165 miles of trails and roads, maintained by the nonprofit Catalina Island Conservancy, beckon all levels of hikers. An assortment of loop trails gives day hikers a great glimpse at a variety of Island locales, but there are incredible opportunities for multi-day adventures.
The Trans-Catalina Trail, a multi-day, 38.5-mile trail, traverses the entire Island.
The backpacking trail begins at Avalon, stretches out to Parson’s Landing on the West End and loops back to Two Harbors for the finish.
The unique location provides the opportunity to see rare and endemic animals such as the Catalina Island fox, which is only found on the Island and nowhere else in the world.
Hiking on an island, backpackers are treated to truly stunning views of the ocean and the mainland. The Trans-Catalina Trail beckons backpackers with exceptional vantage points and opportunity to feel like they are a world away, even though it is still technically Los Angeles County.
The Trans-Catalina Trail is a very popular route and requires camping. Camping, whether as part of a multi-day hiking experience or as an adventure all on its own, is a great opportunity to escape into the wilderness.
Because of its popularity, we recommend securing campsite reservations in advance, which run about $30 per person per night.
Catalina Island Conservancy permits are required for all hikers. They are free of charge and are available online or can be obtained at the Trailhead visitor center, Airport in the Sky, and Two Harbors Visitor Information Center.
Number Six – King for a Day at the Sawyer Hotel
The Sawyer Hotel in Sacramento, CA, offers guests the ultimate over-the-top package, King (or Queen) for a Day, paying homage to their home team, the Sacramento Kings.
Hotel guests can now live that VIP life with this new California bucket list experience while indulging in upscale accommodations, behind-the-scenes access on game day, and more.
The offer includes:
Two courtside seats to a Sacramento Kings game
Pre-game access to the Golden 1 Center lounges
Pre- and post-game access to court
Penthouse Suite accommodations at the Sawyer for two nights
Sacramento Kings welcome amenity
En-suite culinary experience for up to 4 people hosted by Executive Chef Patrick Prager
It is the ultimate sports lovers’ over the top package, allowing for NBA fans to get the behind-the-scenes experience in addition to getting as close to the actual game as possible! All while experiencing the luxury the players get to at the Sawyer hotel.
Number Seven – Sonoma Treehouses Adventure
The Sonoma Treehouses Adventure is a two-day, one-night fully guided off-the-grid experience high up in the redwood tree canopies of Sonoma County.
Adventurers will learn about the redwood forest in an interpretive forest hike, experience world-class ziplines, and spend the night in a rustic treehouse, all the while being treated with outstanding hospitality.
The “village” includes five treehouses with breathtaking views of the redwoods and surrounding territory. Each treehouse has accommodations for up to four people with skywalks and ziplines for ascent and descent from the trees.
Guests will start their day with a Forest Flight zipline tour that leads them up to their treehouse for their overnight stay.
With bathroom accommodations, snacks upon arrival, a full gourmet dinner, and a delicious breakfast, guests don’t even have to leave their treehouse.
The following morning, guests will experience the Tree Tops zipline tour before completing their eco-tour.
Number Eight – Blu Reverie Catamaran Cruise
The 3-day, 2-night all-inclusive cruise aboard BluReverie Catamaran in San Francisco is one of a kind. Guests will experience sailing on a catamaran in the San Francisco Bay, 360 degree views of the San Francisco skyline, hiking, biking, or relaxing on the beach at Angel Island (only accessible by boat), and spending a peaceful night in their private cabins at anchor.
If guests feel up for it, they have the opportunity for an insider tour of the inner workings of the boat and even participating in a few tasks hands-on.
While San Francisco is a seafaring port, it lacks the typical weekend away out and back cruises you may see in other similar cities.
BluReverie Catamaran is a new California bucket list experience perfect for friends and families.
Number Nine – Fly Like an Eagle with Eagle Paragliding
Eagle Paragliding is known as the best choice for all levels of paragliding training in California.
The sense of accomplishment I gained by controlling my own flight increased my confidence and had a positive influence on my professional and personal life. It was only during paragliding that I finally felt complete accomplishment, control and freedom.
They specialize in paraglider pilot training and paragliding continuing education. Their educational programs in Santa Barbara are renowned for their organization and execution.
They continually bring together the top paragliding instructors in the sport. This team has been educating and guiding pilots safely since the early days of the sport. They strive to continue raising the bar for what is available and possible with respect to paragliding service and education.
Guests can fly solo on their first day of flight!
Number Ten – Marvel at The Festival Art Show in Laguna Beach
As one of the nation’s oldest and most highly acclaimed juried fine art shows, the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts has offered a breathtaking showcase for artists and art lovers for 85 years.
Set in a beautiful open-air gallery, this highly acclaimed juried fine art show features the work of over 100 award-winning Orange County artists. From paintings, glass, ceramics, photography and more, the Festival showcases a variety of mediums and artwork styles for avid collectors and festivalgoers to browse and purchase directly from the artists.
From early July through the end of August, the Festival of Arts opens its doors daily for visitors to not only enjoy the award-winning work of exhibited artists, but also art demonstrations, live music performances on select days, opportunities to meet the artists and more.