By Maximus McCabe- Abel
Nicknamed the ‘Golden State’, California immediately induces images of sandy beaches, palm trees and the famous Hollywood sign looming over buzzing Los Angeles. My visits to California have been remarkable, and to provide some temporary escapism from the UK’s quarantine enforcement, here are my top picks for places to visit in California – when we’re allowed to venture a little further afield than our own gardens, obviously.
- Hearst Castle
The phrase ‘castle in the clouds’ is the only one to describe Hearst Castle, and it remains one of the most amazing places I have every visited. Known as ‘The Enchanted Hill’ and formerly owned by publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst, the castle attracted Greta Garbo and Cary Grant, as some of many Hollywood stars of the period. Measuring more than 90,000 square feet, the castle absolutely towers over rural California, providing absolutely breathtaking views. The Neptune Pool looks so enticing that you want to dive straight in, complete with its Grecian-style temple and crystal-clear water. The Spanish inspired exterior of the castle itself contrasts sharply with its neo-Gothic interior, complete with a private velveteen cinema, a great hall and a striking indoor swimming pool. With sweeping terraces, gold and marble statues, and more varieties of flowers you will likely ever see, the 20-minute meandering drive up the mountain is truly worth it. Capturing glimpses of the castle as you drive through the enormous private zoo, keep your eye out for a zebra or two as you travel up to the castle in the clouds.
2. Griffith Observatory
Probably known by most as the setting for Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s planetarium waltz in 2016’s ‘La La Land’, the Griffith Observatory is a place that any visit to California would be incomplete without. Existing as a functioning observatory and planetarium, the views from here are not to is not fruitless. Go at the right time, and you’ll catch sunset over Los Angeles – it’s also got one of the best views of the famous Hollywood sign. Filming location for not only ‘La La Land’, but also the iconic 1955 movie ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ starring James Dean – to whom a statue overlooking the Hollywood sign has been erected – the night-time views from the Griffith Observatory over the buzzing Los Angeles are unforgettable.
3. Golden Gate Bridge
It seems obvious to recommend the Golden Gate Bridge as a place to visit, but this San Francisco landmark truly deserves to be seen in person. Unfortunately, San Francisco’s unpredictable weather means that the iconic red bridge is frequently shrouded in fog, but catch it on a sunny day, and it really is eye-catching. There is a designated walk and cycle path up to the bridge, where the views across the bay are spectacular when the weather permits. Hire a bike at the nearby Fisherman’s Wharf district, and you can cycle up to, and across the Golden Gate Bridge from one side to the other. Its bold colouration means it stands out from miles around and will really give you that San Francisco feeling.
4. Rodeo Drive
Set in the heart of Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive is also certainly a location to tick off the bucket list. Serving as the filming location for the most iconic scene in 1990’s Pretty Woman, a trip down this ritzy street is well worth it. Expect gold Ferrari’s, more luxury branded shops than you can shake a stick at, and the bizarre sensation that you are walking, severely underdressed, down the most exclusive road in California. Its overwhelmingness means you won’t want to stay for too long, but a take a walk down Rodeo Drive and keep your eyes peeled for who you might see!
5. Film Studio Tours
No tour of California would really be complete without dipping your toe into the surface of the Hollywood film studios. Book onto one of the many studio tours – whether you want to sit on the Central Perk sofa in the genuine set of Friends at Warner Bros, or hold a real-life Oscar at Paramount, take your pick of the many studio tour opportunities. Walk round the sights of your favourite movies, and again, keep your eyes open for who you might bump into!
Images: @JakeBlucker, @PalmSpringsDon, @VentiViews & @mvdheuvel via Unsplash