A quick summary of California is difficult. Its variety and diversity—even its weather—are more extreme than most states and depending on the type of holiday you're after you'll have to choose which part of the state you'd like to visit before booking your California flight. “Extreme” could sum up California: Northern and Southern Californians each claim to be a different, and separate, state; the north has old redwood forests and towns almost too small to put on a map; the south has glitz, glamour, and Hollywood stars too big to put on a map.
The common thread through California is diversity. Geographically, California has redwood forests, the rich and fertile Central Valley, the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, deserts, and hundreds of miles of coastline. The creative traveller booking flights to California will be happy to learn that the state continues to produce a wealth of creativity in both the arts and sciences, and is home to some of the leading universities in the world. Movie stars abound in LA, as do rollerblading hotties in Venice Beach, and engineers in Silicon Valley. The state is home to world-renowned cities, and people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds continue to migrate to and settle in California.
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Due to its topographical extremes, California’s weather depends on where you are.Along the coast, the climate is mostly mild. Los Angeles is high desert, and the low humidity keeps the city comfortable year-round. About 28 miles south of LA, Anaheim can go up into the mid-20s (Celsius) or 30s in the summer, with cool evenings. Anaheim winters are mild with little rain. San Francisco is foggy with cool winds.Summer temperatures occasionally go above 20; autumn tends to have clear skies and temperatures in the mid-20s. Winter rarely goes below freezing. Sacramento’s summer days can reach 37 degrees, but then drop as much as four degrees at night. The rainy season runs from late autumn into spring, and winters are cold and foggy.
When to fly to California
The peak season for flights to California, especially LA and Anaheim, is the summer, as it is for San Francisco, and Napa Valley.
Winter is the low season for LA, Anaheim, San Francisco, and wine country. However, winter in San Francisco is when the ballet and opera seasons are in full swing. Wine country is also fun to visit in autumn, when the wineries are in production, and spring, when the flowers are in bloom.
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Getting around California
Driving is the best way to cover short distances in California, or if you enjoy long drives, for covering the entire state. Make sure to carry a map as not all road signs indicate a direction, just town or city names. If you're headed into the mountains, make sure to get antifreeze and tire chains.
Many freeways have carpool lanes called “diamond” lanes or high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Make sure to familiarise yourself with the regulations regarding the use of these lanes as some of them are monitored even during non-rush hour and fines are more than $270.
California has more than 15 airports, and given the number of small and large commercial carriers,flights in California are fairly easy.
For a scenic trip along the coast, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight has double-decker Superliners, gourmet dining car, carriages from First Class to Coach, and entertainment and games.
California insider information
- Los Angeles covers desert basin, mountain canyons, and coastal beaches. With its rich cultural diversity, LA offers countless attractions — catch a glimpse of the stars, hike the Hollywood sign, visit the La Brea Tar Pits, walk the boardwalk at Venice Beach, spend like a celebrity on Rodeo Drive, and enjoy free attractions like the Watts Towers or Getty Museum.
- The Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Castro, Mission District, and Haight Ashbury just skim the surface of San Francisco’s diversity and charm. A leader of US liberalism and gay capital of the world, the city also cherishes its past, restoring and reusing its historic buildings. The surrounding areas — Marin County, Oakland, and Berkeley — are as popular as the city itself.
- John Sutter’s trading post became the main supply point for gold miners, then western headquarters of the transcontinental railroad. Today Sacramento is growing, offering affordable homes to those seeking California weather. The capital city is known for its natural parkland and streets lined with fruit-bearing trees. Once the Gateway to Gold Country, Sacramento is now a gateway to the wine country.
- Most of California’s wineries are in NapaValley and SonomaValley. Hundreds of wineries invite you to enjoy their tours, tastings, restaurants, and spas. Napa Valley has more wineries and a higher volume of tourism, with more commercial tours and attractions such as hot-air ballooning. Sonoma Valley is lower key, with family-run wineries, fewer tourists, and relaxed ambience. Book flights to California's wine region and join a tour of the wineries.
- Anaheim is home to Disneyland, the original Disney theme park, and Knott’s Berry Farm. The Orange County coast offers miles of beaches, and the California Riviera is the stretch between Seal Beach and San Clemente. The area’s eccentric beach towns, Santa Ana Artists’ Village, Laguna Beach boardwalk, San Juan Capistrano Mission, and Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace attract tourists year-round.
- Some ambitious travellers book flights to California and then drive the coastline to the state's northern most cities. While the drive and landscape is beautiful, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time for the long drive north. It's advisable that you book outbound California flights from your destination point.