Plum’s Favourite Places to Visit in California
From a crochet museum in the desert to a 100 year old rollercoaster, here’s where to discover the best of the Golden State.
If, like the Mamas and the Papas, you’re California dreamin', here are the corners of the state you need to check out. From beachy groves filled with surfers to glittering cities filled with stars, Plum Guide has scouted out the best places to visit in California – and the best homes to stay in once you arrive.
The city of Los Angeles never accepts second billing, which is why it just had to be top of our list of places to visit in California. Whether you’re here for stargazing around the hundreds of celebrity homes and haunts or a rather more astronomical version of the activity at the stunning art deco style Griffith Observatory, La La Land is sure to bring in 5 star reviews. Of course, our home critics are more discerning than any casting agent, so you’ll feel like you’re in a film set even once your day of sightseeing is done with a stay in this glamorous Plum home. The City of Angels is also heaven for food lovers. Our top pick for breakfast is Squirl, which serves up luscious brunches including innovative rice and egg bowls and homemade jam so good you’ll resent having to go back to supermarket jars for the rest of your life. The proximity to the US border also means there’s a wealth of Mexican restaurants to discover; a particular favourite is Guelaguetza, which serves up Oaxacan specialities (don’t miss their legendary mole) that are as vibrant as the decor.
Apart from the obvious attractions of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, there’s plenty to recommend San Francisco and it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular places to visit in California. It’s home to the Castro, one of the first real gay villages in the US and the epicentre of the city’s LGBTQ culture today – take a walking tour or visit the GLBT Historical Society Museum to discover more about the history of the area and San Francisco’s LGBTQ community. Make reservations at two-Michelin-starred Acquerello to dine on gourmet modern Italian that makes the most of local produce, or simply grab a bite to eat from chic cafe Outerlands as you explore the city. Those with a sweet tooth should pay a visit to Polly Ann, where there are over 50 innovative flavours made in house to try; indecisive folks can spin the “wheel of fortune” for a random selection.
Celebrity favourite Malibu may be the obvious choice of destination on the Cali coastline, but if you’re looking for places to visit in California where you’re less likely to get papped in your pyjamas we recommend the quieter, quirkier Newport Beach. There’s a definite surfer-chic vibe to this town (honed to perfection in this beachy Plum home) and we recommend hiring a board to try it yourself on the swells of popular surf spot Wedge. If you prefer to keep dry (and avoid the embarrassment of wiping out – yes, there’s a technical term for falling off) the Crystal Cove State Park is a lovely stretch of sand perfect for a leisurely walk. End the day with seasonal, sustainable ceviche and a selection of California’s finest wines at Lido Bottle Works for a proper taste of the seaside.
We’re slightly in love with Joshua Tree – no, not the U2 album, though it does admittedly have a couple of good tunes. No, we’re talking about the national park that’s just over two hours from LA but may as well be in a different world. It’s one of the most unique places to visit in California, with a vast desert wilderness interrupted only by strange rock formations and the namesake trees twisting towards starry skies. One of our favourite homes in the area is this chic Californian hideaway, chosen by our home critics for the sleek design and the desert views from those floor-to-ceiling windows.
We love a city with a bit of character, and San Diego just screams idiosyncratic coastal charm. You’ll probably be screaming something with fewer syllables from the top of the wooden roller coaster Giant Dipper, which has been the centrepiece of the delightfully kitsch Belmont Park for almost a century. (Don’t worry, the safety features have been updated since then. We think). This isn’t the only slice of history in San Diego; just a short drive from the main city spread you’ll find Warwick’s, the oldest running family-owned bookshop in the country, and the Old Town is filled with historic buildings. But the thing that makes San Diego one of our favourite places to visit in California is the enormous green space in the heart of the city, Balboa Park; as well as the famous zoo, it’s home to 16 museums displaying natural history, modern art, and a staggering array of aircraft (if you’re into that sort of thing). We’ve even managed to find a Plum home right on the edge of the park, with ridiculously good views and that quintessential San Diego style.