6 Best Things to Do in Northern California

California is a beautiful state with plenty to see and do. While the lower half of the state boasts some of the nation's best beaches and shopping, don't count out Northern California. Here you'll find the state capital, gorgeous natural and wooded areas, and several must-see attractions. Check out some of the best things to do during your next visit to NorCal.

Hiking in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park includes nearly 1,200 square miles of land, boasting the High Sierra Mountains, waterfalls, deep valleys, ancient sequoias, and grand meadows.

Best Things To Do In Northern California

Daybreak at El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California. Photo by Pexels via Pixabay

If you're up for an adventure, bring your hiking boots and hit the trails. You can find options within the park for every skill level, whether you prefer a flat, paved path, or a steep trail with challenging switchbacks and climbs. If you plan to hike Half Dome, you will need to reserve a permit in advance. Campsites, vacation lodging, and cabin rentals within the park also require advance reservations.

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Some of the top attractions within Yosemite National Park include Wawona, which houses the Pioneer Yosemite History Center and the historic Wawona Hotel, and the Tuolumne Meadows, a large open area surrounded by a winding river.

Mariposa Grove has more than 500 massive and mature sequoia trees, making it the largest sequoia grove in the park.

Best Things To Do In Northern California

Mariposa Grove is the largest sequoia forest inside Yosemite National Park. Photo by Art Turner via Pixabay

Wine Tasting in Napa Valley

Napa Valley sits about 75 miles north of San Francisco and 70 miles west of Sacramento in Northern California. This small area of the state is home to hundreds of wineries and vineyards, where you can sample wines that incorporate local fruit and flavors.

Best Things To Do In Northern California

Schedule a wine tasting in Napa during your visit to Northern California. Photo by bedrck via Pixabay

Most of the wineries in Napa are family-owned, so guests often feel like part of the family as they taste different wine options. You can schedule a tasting appointment or check out the tasting room hours of the winery you plan to visit.

Sightseeing in San Francisco

San Francisco is Northern California's cultural, financial, and commercial center, boasting a big city vibe with all kinds of fascinating attractions.

San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf is one popular place to visit on a trip to the city, where you can sample the traditional fare, like clam chowder in a freshly baked bread bowl.

Best Things To Do In Northern California

You must try clam chowder in a bread bowl when you visit Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. Photo by PDPhotos via Pixabay

Alcatraz Island is one of the more notorious attractions near San Francisco, a prison that once held Al Capone and other infamous prisoners during its stint as a federal prison.

San Francisco

Alcatraz sits just off the coast of San Francisco. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

When you think of the San Francisco skyline, Golden Gate Bridge is likely one of the first sights that comes to mind. You can stroll across the bridge, which spans 1.7 miles and features sidewalks that are open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic during the day.

Nearby Golden Gate Park includes more than 1,000 acres and provides stunning views of the bridge as its backdrop. If you're traveling to NorCal with kids, they'll enjoy spending some time at the playgrounds within the park.

botanical gardens

Enjoy picnics and fun in the parks at San Francisco Botanical Garden inside Golden Gate Park. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Beachgoing in Monterey

If beaches are a must-see on your NorCal itinerary, spend some of your time in Monterey, a city located on the state's rugged central coastline.

small towns to visit in the United States

Monterey, California is a perfect laid-back destination.

Monterey was once the center of the sardine packing industry, although you may recognize it from the works of John Steinbeck, an author who praised Monterey for its natural beauty.

You can also visit any of the beaches in or near the city limits, like Del Monte Beach, a hidden gem mostly frequented by locals.

Try Monterey Municipal Beach if you're looking for water sports. McAbee Beach, located in the heart of the city's Cannery Row area, offers delicious food, and great shopping.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a tourist-friendly spot with white sand and picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean.

Best Things To Do In Northern California

Carmel-by-the-Sea is an enchanting village near Monterey. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

You can also venture indoors at The Monterey Bay Aquarium to learn more about the aquatic life that calls this area home.

Exploring Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park houses some of the tallest trees you can find on the planet. This natural area of Northern California is protected by both federal and state parks services, ensuring that the land is managed to preserve its stunning beauty. In addition to massive redwood trees, this park houses oak woodlands, wild and winding rivers, vast prairies, and close to 40 miles of California coastline.

Best Things To Do In Northern California

Redwood National Park in Northern California. Photo by 12019 via Pixabay

Plenty of wildlife call the park home, so you may spot deer, elk, moose, or bears during your visit. Leashed pets are welcome in certain areas of Redwood National Park, and campsites and backcountry exploration areas are available to visitors who want to spend more time in the park.

If you're planning to hike, you'll be happy to know that the park has more than 200 miles of hiking trails that weave through all types of environments, including beaches, old redwoods, and prairies.

Skiing at Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a gorgeous body of water that sits in both California and Nevada. On the California side, the mountainous region boasts some of the best skiing you can find in the state.

Best Things To Do In Northern California

Lake Tahoe is a gorgeous year-round resort on the California/Nevada border. Photo by mroppio via Pixabay

The main resorts in the area include Heavenly Ski Resort, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Northstar California Resort, Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, and Palisades Tahoe/Alpine Meadows. The ski season in Lake Tahoe typically runs between mid-November and early April, although the elevation of the resort impacts how much snow it receives and when it typically opens.

Where to Ski in Spring

Diamond Peak sits in the heart of North Lake Tahoe’s Incline Village. Photo by Catherine Parker

Heavenly Ski Resort is one of the more unique ski resorts in the state, boasting impressive views of the sparkling blue lake. With 20 percent of its trails suited for beginners, there is definitely a place for those who've never skied. For Palisades Tahoe/Alpine Meadows, both areas offer 25 percent beginner-friendly terrain for you to try out. And if you're more experienced, both Heavenly and Palisades Tahoe/Alpine Meadows have plenty of powder for you to traverse.

Northern California has many of the most impressive and must-see attractions, natural areas, and parks. Using Next Vacay, you can score a great deal on a flight to any of the major airports in Northern California and explore these fascinating attractions and sights for yourself. Keep an eye out for price alerts that allow you to get to the northern half of the state to enjoy all it has to offer.

California is a beautiful state with plenty to see and do. While the lower half of the state boasts some of the nation's best beaches and shopping, don't count out Northern California. Here you'll find the state capital, gorgeous natural and wooded areas, and several must-see attractions. Check out some of the best things to do during your next visit to Northern California.

Written by Susan Lanier-Graham

Founder and publisher Susan Lanier-Graham has traveled the world for the past twenty years, filling a passport or two along the way. She has wandered through the jungles of Thailand, explored the mysteries of the Great Pyramids, and shared the night with a leopard in Zambia. She sailed in the Mediterranean, sipped her way through Burgundy canals and Champagne caves. She followed Rembrandt’s footsteps through Amsterdam. Susan found her center on the red rocks of Sedona and soaked up an exquisite sunset over the Indian Ocean in Bali. Susan is always looking for wow moments around the world or across the street to share with adventure lovers everywhere. She has authored more than 75 books and hundreds of magazine articles. Susan is an award-winning travel writer and member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). She is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). Susan's work still regularly appears in print and online. Susan is an award-winning travel writer, a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). Susan has worked as an ambassador for Travelocity and is currently a travel ambassador for Rocky Mountaineer. Her work regularly appears in print and online in a variety of publications. These include various AAA publications, Postcards for Travel Leaders, Alamo.com, Hotels.com, Fairmont.com, So Scottsdale, Uptown, Green Living AZ, Life Refined, Modern Luxury, Marriott.com, WHERE Arizona, WHERE Traveler Phoenix + Scottsdale, and more.

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