1. San Francisco
The best city in the US and one of the best in the world. It has among the most beautiful natural settings of any city I’ve been to (Istanbul is the only one that comes close) and one of the most diverse populations in the world.
San Francisco is definitely a great city for musicans and artists. It has much to offer them. – Horvath211
2-9 aren’t really in any particular order, just the first places to spring to mind.
2. Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks
Yosemite is great too, don’t get me wrong, but the crowds in the Valley are just too much for me. These parks are perfect for any activities you might want to try out in the Sierra Nevada back country.
The biggest Sequoia tree is the General Sherman and it is…never mind, you need to visit the park and find out! – Hillaryjoseph
3. The central coast, especially Big Sur
It provides some of the most spectacular coastline in North America. Pretty much anywhere you go from Ventura to Santa Cruz is going to be amazing. My personal favorite experience is sea kayaking in Morro Bay and being approached to within about two feet by curious sea otters. Otters are awesome.
Big Sur is a 90-mile stretch of coastline that is a stunningly beautiful hiker’s paradise. We thought the drive from L.A. to Cambria was nice but it didn’t compare to this. – Meganandkevin
4. Death Valley National Park
Stark, forbidding, hot as hell and absolutely beautiful. Very few places outside of the Sahara can beat it for experiencing true desert.
Badwater was our first stop. It’s the lowest point (below sea level) in the USA. It’s also the saltiest freeking thing I’ve ever seen. – Cmart
5. The redwoods
Most tourists head for either Muir Woods or the Redwood National Park but these trees, the tallest in the world, grow along the coast in a belt stretching all the way from Santa Cruz to southern Oregon. Old growth redwoods are incredible but in a way that you can’t really understand until you actually see them. I had a roommate once from Vermont who couldn’t understand why everyone was telling him he had to go see “some trees.” Then he actually went, he got it then.
We also drove across the landmark Golden Gate bridge to Marin County, where we had an hour to wander through Muir Woods (which has some of the oldest and tallest redwood trees in the world). – Canadianjulie
6. Napa and Sonoma
Internationally recognized as producing some very, very good wine.
Everywhere you look, there are grape vines–different types, some vineyards flat, some lining steep hills. – Jimmyrh
7. San Diego
At any given time of the year the odds are pretty good that it’s 75 degrees fahrenheit and sunny in San Diego.
I was thoroughly amused by the seaport village: a strange amalgam of architecture: some Cape Cod, some Monterey, some Caribbean colonial … I guess something for everyone. – Ahartry
8. The Coast Range
It doesn’t get the same attention as the Sierra or the coast itself but the mountains and valleys separating the coast from the Central Valley are full of cool little towns and the best Mexican food you’re likely to find outside of Mexico (OK, all of California is full of the best Mexican food you’re likely to find outside of Mexico).
It’s this amazing place that truly makes me feel one with nature, on the edge of the world, and entirely insignificant in the grand scheme of things… – Missyjoymel
9. The Channel Islands
Santa Catalina is the best known but all of them are cool. A string of isolated islands full of wildlife that’s not found anywhere else. Island foxes are adorable and I imagine the smaller than average island mammoths that they’ve found fossils of were probably pretty cute in their day.
There are no roads on any of the islands. But you will find beautiful ragged cliffs, hikes with awesome views and much marine wildlife. – Becsher
10. Los Angeles
In the spirit of full disclosure I don’t actually like LA that much but I couldn’t in good conscience leave it off the list. LA is a microcosm of the United States and the world. What I said earlier about San Francisco’s diversity goes double for LA. My only real problem with the city is that it’s so spread out that you really need a car to get anywhere or do anything. Other than that, LA’s pretty cool.
We got waylaid by comedian Freddy Young (claim to fame being in Hancock with Will Smith) to go on a tour of Hollywood and Beverley Hills in a ramshackle van with no glass in the windows! – Mikebrookedavis
So yeah, California’s got some nice stuff.