best vacation spots in California

50 Enchanting Landmarks in California + photos

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclaimer here. Always remember to be a responsible tourist. See this travel resources post to plan your next trip.

(Last updated on: 05/12/2022)

Which are the best landmarks in California? Which landmarks in California should be part of your travel itinerary? Why are these landmarks in California worth visiting? I have all of the answers to these questions and more in this article. Ready to learn more> Keep reading…

Landmarks in California

Did you know that California is also known as the Golden State? Ever wondered why? Well, let me answer it for you.

California is home to some of the marvelous landmarks that continue to draw millions of tourists every year. Yea, that’s right. The vibrant cities, geological and historical offerings, and iconic spots make California a hub of precious gold landmarks.

So, whether you want to view majestic sites, have thrilling experiences at amusement parks, explore contemporary buildings, and have fun hiking adventures, California should be on your bucket list.

In this article, I’ll briefly list 50 must-see landmarks in California that are a sight to behold. But first, a little about California: it’s one of the most populous states in the US, home to over 39 Americans. The State is known for its monumental and thrilling cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco Bay. Furthermore, plenty of notable celebrities prefer living in California, primarily due to its scenic landscape, high-peak views, and entertainment options.

Want to learn more about beautiful landmarks in California? Without any further ado, let’s get started.

1.    Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Landmarks in California

Let’s start with one of the fun-filled landmarks in California: the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk. Located on the Northern Shore of Monterey Bay, you encounter a classic American seaside amusement park featuring the most beautiful boardwalks in the world.

The Park dates back to 1907, when it was first opened as a bathing beach and a small amusement park. Since then, the place has been rebuilt and expanded several times and has become a popular laid-back tourist destination.

You get a bohemian feel about the place, which allows you to engage in watersports such as sailing, surfing, and paddle boarding. That’s not all! The amusement park is home to an arcade, games, stalls, and some joyous carnival rides.

Indeed, it’s a treat to visit Santa Cruz Boardwalk, also otherwise rightly known as “the Surf City.”

2.    Disneyland Park

Landmarks in California

A list of California landmarks is not complete without giving Disney a mention! Disneyland park is the childhood dream of many people. Who doesn’t know about it? Well, it has grown to be an attractive landmark in California that’s still operating vibrantly even after 70 years.

The Park is located in Anaheim, California, and was designed in 1955 under the supervision of Walt Disney himself. The Park has even undergone several renovations, with the Project Stardust announcement being the most recent one.

The glorious Park is open year-round, but the admission fees might be high during peak season. Hence, it’s better to visit Disneyland during less crowded months.

3.   La Brea Tar Pits

Landmarks in California

If you’re a fossil seeker, this landmark is for you. Located in Los Angeles, you can find a series of tar pits that features exuberant fossils of animals, including saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, and mammoths.

The pits excavation is ongoing to this day, and over 100,000 have been discovered until now. However, did you ever wonder how these pits were formed? Well, it’s because of the mixing of underground natural petroleum with water and asphalt.

4.    Cesar e Chavez National Monument

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org

It’s a 116-acre site home to one of the prominent figures in American History: Cesar Chavez. He was an American labor leader and civil rights activist who founded the National Farm Workers Association and spent most of his life fighting for farmworkers’ rights.

His efforts led to significant favorable reforms for farm workers, including the farmer unions contract. The site was Cesar’s home and Association’s HQ from the 1970s.

However, now it’s Cesar’s gravesite and an inspirational monument for people who believe in bringing change to society. You can explore the vibrant gardens and a rich collection of arts and artifacts on the monumental site.

5.    California State Capitol

Landmarks in California

State Capitol is one of the prominent political landmarks in California, which serves as the governor’s office and houses of the Bicameral state legislature.

The prime aspect of this building is the neoclassical architecture consisting of a central rotunda displaying portraits of important Californian figures. Furthermore, the building has an in-house museum that contains exhibits on California’s history and culture.

6.    Palm Springs Aerial Tramways

Landmarks in California

It’s a thrilling transportation system that takes you to an elevation of over 10,000 feet – to Mount San Jacinto’s Summit.

It was built in 1963 to visit Mount Jacinto for scientific research purposes. This aerial tramway operates all year round and offers you the chance to take spectacular views of the surrounding scenic Coachella valley and mountains.

7.    San Francisco Presidio

Landmarks in California

San Francisco Park, otherwise known as The Royal Fortress of Saint Francis, was established in 1846, and it served as an army post for over 200 years. Now, the Park is part of the Golden gate recreation area and home to plenty of historic buildings, including the Palace of Fine Arts, Crissy Fields, and Fort Point National Site.

Furthermore, there are hiking trails, a Yoda statue, and several activities, including a trampoline park, golf courses, and a bowling arena.

8.    Death Valley National Park

Landmarks in California

Death valley park is known for its extreme temperature and diverse landscape, which includes dunes, salt flats, badlands, and canyons. The Park offers miles of hiking trails and scenic awe-gazing views.

The best thing is, there are campsites in the Park where you can go out with your friends and spend quality time in a wonderful spot. Death Valley is three hours from Las Vegas, accessible from Highway 190 west road.

9.    Granda’s Prisbrey Bottle Village

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/

Here’s one of the inspiring landmarks in California attributable to one sweet lady’s hard work. Located near Simi Valley, you can find a small village constructed entirely from recycled plastic.

An old lady started scraping and constructing walkways, shrines, and buildings out of plastic, and soon she formed a small village. It’s an inspiring example of California’s 20th folk art and deserves a visit.

10.Santa Monica Pier

Landmarks in California

Who doesn’t fancy the idea of visiting the world-famous pier that is known for a gigantic and iconic red Ferris wheel? I’m talking about Santa Monica Pier – a full-service solar-powered amusement park.

The park entry is free, and you only have to pay for rides and food that costs a mere $5-12. The Park offers a fun experience by providing a laid-back environment, adrenaline-boosting roller coaster rides, souvenir shops, and mouthwatering food from stalls and restaurants.

If you’re lucky, you might even witness pleasant live music, which turns magical due to the crashing water waves in the backdrop.

11.The Getty Museum

Landmarks in California

The Getty is one of the most impressive structures and landmarks in California, exhibiting a vast art collection. However, you can’t just walk in. You have to park your vehicle and get on a tram that takes you on tour to this large property offering incredible views and rich art exhibits.

Plus, the museum offers different workshops, including painting and photography courses, throughout the week. If you’re in town, make sure to sign-up for one of them. The entry is free, but you must pay a small fee ($15) for car parking.

12.Walt Disney Concert Hall

Landmarks in California

Located in Los Angeles Downtown, no one can miss the shiny exterior and dramatic curves of this modern architectural building that continues to draw visitors all year round. Lilian Disney commissioned the hall in 1987 to create a venue for local performances and, above all, pay tribute to the legendary Walt Disney.

The hall has a seating capacity of 2265, and you can hire a tour guide or just walk around and explore the fascinating place. This place is even featured in several iconic TV shows and movies, including the famous Iron Man 1 and Furious 7.

13.Walk of Fame

Landmarks in California

If you’re in LA, you can’t just miss the walk of fame – the world-famous sidewalk. This celebrated sidewalk has stars representing an eternal tribute to the dedicated celebrities for their contributions to the entertainment industry.

The fun fact? Even animated fictional characters like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and the Simpsons also have their stars. The first star was dedicated to the Academy Award-winning actress Joanne Woodward; today, the number of stars has grown to 2600.

So, while visiting LA, don’t forget to click some crazy snaps by your favorite celebrity star.

14.Runyon Canyon

Landmarks in California

Located on the eastern side of Santa Monica, you’ll find Runyon Canyon – a park featuring diverse vegetation and wildlife. The Park is significant because you’ll find A-lister celebrities’ residences right across from the Park.

What’s more? The diverse range of flora and fauna emanates the natural scenic beauty of the Park, where hikers-lover can go on long hiking trails around the Park.

Moreover, one-mile trails are also available, which only take up to 20 minutes. There is no entrance fee, and the Park remains open Monday through Sunday from sunrise to sunset.

15.Hearst Castle

Landmarks in California

It was once a private estate that has now turned into a historical museum housing thousands of artworks from around the globe. Located along Cal’s coastline and 1600 ft above sea level, you can spot this castle from miles away.

It’s one of the prominent landmarks in California and the castle comprises over 165 exquisite rooms, beautiful gardens, and an on-site museum with lucrative artwork. You can choose from several tour options, including upstairs suites, grand rooms, and seasonal tours.

However, the tour is not free and costs around $25 for adults and $12 for kids.

16.Alcatraz Island

Landmarks in California

Alcatraz is a small island in the San Francisco bay, offering several tour options. The most noteworthy facts about this island are the fortification, lighthouse, and the maximum-security prison enacted in 1934, where criminals like Al Capone and George Kelly have served time.

However, the jail was shut down in 1963, and during the operation period, there were nearly 36 prison break attempts, but none were successful.

The most popular tour available is “The Rock,” which involves visiting the prison cell house and the Recreation yard. Furthermore, other attractions include the dining hall, lighthouse, warden’s home, and social house ruins.

To reach Alcatraz, you must take a boat ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to the island.

17.Twin Peaks

Landmarks in California

Twin peaks is a famous trail, extending to an elevation of 922 feet at the top. You get spectacular views of the entire city, diverse landscape, and wildlife from the top.

People go out for a scenic drive on this trail, while some individuals even prefer walking or road biking on this marvelous hill. Oh, and it can get chilly, so dress appropriately.

18.Ferry Building

Landmarks in California

The ferry building was opened in 1898 and was the main city port for ferry boats in San Francisco Bay. The notable features of the area include a clock tower, skylights, and repeating arches. However, the place lost its purpose after the construction of the Golden Gate bridge.

In 2003, the area was restored and converted into a lively food market. In fact, it has become one of the food hall landmarks in California. Here people can roam freely and try mouthwatering dishes, including the farmhouse grilled cheese and secret sundaes from the notable stalls.

Visit the place anytime between 7 AM and 10 PM and gulp in savories while admiring the nearby buildings.

19.  Main City Hall Building

Landmarks in California

It’s one of the fascinating landmarks in California that’s known for the Beaux art style architecture. Located in the center of San Francisco city, it’s a site for public gatherings, demonstrations, and celebrations.

The structure is even 42 feet taller than the United States Capitol, and the interior court is a sight to behold. The central rotunda and the grand case are striking features in the building, perfect for Instagrammable snaps.

The city hall was rebuilt after the 1906 disastrous earthquake, and it has become a popular place that’s even been staged in several movies.

20.Golden Gate Bridge

Landmarks in California

It goes without saying that the Golden gate is remarkably one of the most famous landmarks in California that’s open to both cyclists and pedestrians. The red-suspension 2.7 km long bridge is located on the San Francisco bridge and was opened in 1937.

It’s a major tourist attraction, drawing almost 14 million visitors annually. The bridge is also on the list of Modern Wonders of the World.

21.Fisherman’s wharf

Landmarks in California

San Francisco undoubtedly is a city of various experiences. On one side, you have old-fashion Victorian houses, while on the flip side, you can witness skyscrapers and billion-dollar corporations. Similarly, Fisherman’s wharf is another district offering a traditional experience for visitors.

You may decide to go on cable cars and view exciting landscapes or go down to Pier 39 from the wharf. The town dates back to 1849, and fishermen inhabited the place, hence the name. You can even spot the descendants of these fishermen catching crabs at Pier 45. This is for sure one of the most interesting landmarks in California.

22.Belmont Park

Landmarks in California

California is all about a fun experience, and Belmont Park in San Diego just promises you that. It’s an amusement park founded in 1925 on the OceanFront and is known for the crazy rides, especially the Giant Dipper roller coaster. This is one of the most fun landmarks in California, especially for kids.

The full day pass is priced at $56 for people taller than 48 inches and $46 for shorter individuals.

23.Coronado Island

Landmarks in California

Near San Diego Bay, you can spot Coronado island – a white sandy beach and one of the historical landmarks in California.

You can indulge in several water sports activities such as kayaking, surfing, and sailing. But that’s not it! The ferry landing park on the island hosts several souvenir shops, restaurants, art galleries, museums, and theaters.

In short, the island is a complete bundle of fun, making it the perfect vacation destination.

24.Napa Valley

Landmarks in California

It’s the famous wine region in California, where you can view lush vineyards and wineries awaiting your arrival. With a small deposit and a prior booking, you can taste wine at any wineries.

There are several wonderful restaurants as well. Hence, it’s a great place to visit where you can eat and drink the famous Artesa, Maroon wines, and Auburn James while gazing at the expansive vineyards.

It’s suggested to stay in the valley for a day or two to explore it completely. If you rare a wine drinker, then this is definitely one of the best landmarks in California for you.

25.Big Sur

Landmarks in California

If you want to see California in its rugged natural glory, visit Big Sur –  one of the noteworthy landmarks in California known for its natural scenery and diverse landscape, including cliffs, redwood forests, and the surreal Mcway Falls.

Along with the scenic viewpoints, there are countless hiking opportunities. You can visit Big Sur as part of a day trip, and it’s accessible from Monterey, Carmel, and San Francisco.

26.Lake Tahoe

Landmarks in California

Let’s talk about one of the heavenly landmarks in California: Lake Tahoe. Located 200 miles from San Francisco and situated high in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, the lake is a popular travel destination for tourists.

From hiking in the mountains to paddling and kayaking in the turquoise water at Emerald Bay, it’s a prime laid-back place to visit.

Other activities include horse riding and mountain biking in the high peak mountains. Oh, and when it’s winter, you can have fun skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, and snowkiting activities.

This is one of my favourite landmarks in California and is well worth a visit.

27. Yosemite Valley

Landmarks in California

It’s a magical spot that was carved out from glaciers, yes that’s true. From driving down in the valley to witness the half-dome to taking in the breathtaking views of Yosemite falls, it’s one of the best adventurous places in California. Hiking on difficult trails and the cold winds can be a challenge, but still, it’s worth it.

Are you an adventurer? Then this is surely one of the best landmarks in California for you!

28.Devil’s Postpile National Monument

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org

Near the mammoth lakes in the Eastern Sierra region of California, you can spot a unique hexagonal structure: the devil’s post pile.

The monument features thousands of basalt columns formed after volcanic lava flowed and cooled down to crack. You can access the basalt columns by doing a short hike and admiring nature’s actions. While you’re there, don’t miss rainbow falls, a 101-foot curtain of water where a rainbow forms during sunny weather.

29.Badwater Basin

Landmarks in California

It’s the lowest point in North America, nearly 282 feet below sea level, and situated at the southern end of the Death Valley. The place is known for the incredible salt flats stretching over 200 square miles that formed over time.

Despite the salty lakes, plenty of organisms still survive in the region. If you are in search of something unique and a little bit different, then this is one of the best landmarks in California for you.

30.Sequoia National Park

Landmarks in California

This National Park is known for Sequoia trees – the wildest and third-longest living species, with the oldest being over 3200 years old.

Furthermore, the Park has amazing trails for anyone, whether a beginner or a hiking maestro. If you’re starting, begin your hiking journey from Congress Trails or General Sherman Trails and reach the top of the Sierra mountains for some stunning views.

If you want challenging trails, the 72-mile high Sierra trail from Crescent Meadows to the top of Mt. Whitney is something you should go for.

This is one of the most popular landmarks in California for those seeking the great outdoors.

31.Redwoods National Park

Landmarks in California

Another one of the most popular landmarks in California for those who love the great outdoors, this park was once part of highway US-101 until a freeway bypass was built in 1960. Since then, it’s been an alternative scenic road known as State Route 254, featuring lush redwood forests along the road trip. You can enjoy several hikes throughout the forest. While there, don’t forget to check out Founder’s grove, a quick hike for the largest trees in the forest.

32.John Muir Historic Site

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org

One of the most historical landmarks in California is the John Muir Historic Site.

It’s a 14-room Italian-styled estate owned by the author and nature lover John Muir. The estate even has a 325-acre area consisting of woodlands and grasslands.

John was an important figure who advocated for preserving wildlife and made significant contributions to the West Coast.

33.Harada House

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org

It’s one of the historical landmarks in Lakeside, California. The house was under the application of an Alien land law of 1913, which prevented the original owners (who were foreigners) from owning the home.

However, the Haridas won the case and retained the property thereafter. The site was created in 1884 and was declared a historic place in 1990.

34.Lake Shasta Caverns

Landmarks in California

It’s a system of caves consisting of a lower and upper level located near the Mccloud arm of Shasta Lake, California.

The upper cave is a series of rooms and passageways that stretches about 1.5 meters. On the other hand, the lower cave is a single chamber measuring 0.5 miles and has an underground lake.

You can take boat rides to the caverns and hire a tour guide for the caves.

35.Carrizo Plain National Monument

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org

It’s the largest single grassland in California, in San Luis Obispo County. The 246812-acre region consists of archaeological landmarks known as painted rocks. Furthermore, the plain is home to endangered species, including pronghorn antelopes, San Joaquin kit fox, kangaroo rats, California condor, and tule elk.

Pronghorn is an exotic species that can grow 5 feet tall, run at a mindblowing speed of 55 mph, and have unique mating rituals such as prancing to attract mates.

36.San Diego Zoo

Landmarks in California

San Diego Zoo is one of the most popular landmarks in California. Located in Balboa Park, the San Diego zoo consists of over 3700 animals belonging to 650 species. The zoo was founded on December 1st, 1916, by Harry Wegeforth and became the world’s largest private zoo in 1919.

The zoo has several endangered animals, including Sumatran tigers, pandas, and condors, which draw millions of tourists.

37.Marshall Gold Discovery State Park

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/

It’s where James Marshall first discovered gold, sparking the gold rush. Now, it’s a historic park that features a monument dedicated to James and an interactive museum featuring mining equipment and Goldrush-related artifacts.

38.The Old Custom House

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org

Situated in Monterey, this building is the site where US commodore, John Drake Sloat, raised the US flag and California part of the US. This significant event makes it one of the first historical landmarks in California.

Built in 1827, it is among the oldest government buildings in California that were built in 1827. After paying the small admission fee, you can explore this beautiful place.

39.Telegraph Hills

Landmarks in California

If you want to get a 360-degree view of San Francisco, you cannot miss out on Telegraph Hill – one of the awe-gazing landmarks in California and one of seventh hill in San Francisco.

The unique feature of Telegraph Hills is the 378 steps; the one who climbs to the top can get a 360-degree view of the bay’s area. Indeed, it’s a magical spot to enjoy the fantastic scenery.

In addition, this place is home to many free parrots, specially Cherry-headed Conure.

40.The Famous Hollywood Sign

Landmarks in California

Let’s talk about one of California’s iconic sights and favorite landmarks: the Hollywood sign overlooking the Hollywood town in Los Angeles. Situated on Lee Mountain, the sign was initially used as a real estate agency advertisement.

However, it got too popular and gained so much recognition that it was left as is. Climb to the top of it, and you’ll see 360 views of the entire LA. It’s better to start early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

41.TCL Chinese Theater

Landmarks in California

It’s one of the popular tourist attractions in Hollywood avenues and has been known for hosting movie premieres since 1927. Several notable celebrities have graced the theater with their presence, and at the forecourt of the stars, you can place your hands on the imprints left by notable names in the movie industry.

You can explore the forecourt for free, but holistic tours are available at a $10 cost per person.

42.Griffith Observatory

Landmarks in California

Griffith is a world-famous observatory with trails, skylines, and exceptional exhibits. Although parking and entry are free, it’s better to take a dash shuttle when the place is crowded. Try to visit late hours during weekdays and get a chance to view the cosmos using large telescopes.

You may explore all the exhibits and enjoy ticket shows easily within 3 hours that pass like a breeze.

43.Painted Ladies

Landmarks in California

Situated near Steiner Street across Alamo Square park, you can find a row of seven candy-colored victorian homes, otherwise known as seven sisters.

Painted ladies is a highly photographed spot featured in several shows, movies, and sitcoms. And for this reason, it is one of the most loved tourist destinations.

44.Forestiere Underground Gardens

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/

Baldassare Forestiere, an Italian immigrant, constructed these surreal underground gardens. The garden features a series of courtyards connected by tunnels and passageways.

The underground temperature is somewhat 10-15 degrees cooler, making it a perfect refuge spot for summers.

45.Salton Beach

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://www.tripadvisor.com/

It’s the largest sea in California that was, in fact, constructed by accident in the 1900s. The place was initially a salt flat, but it became a sea/beach after being flooded due to the irrigation from Colorado. Although the lake has become polluted and killed much marine life, it is still a beautiful spot to explore.

46.Burney Falls

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/

Located in Shasta County, Burney falls are a sight to behold. You can trail down to the bottom of the falls and relax while viewing the beautiful waterfalls overflowing and splashing the waters. Do you know what the best part is? You can even swim in the cold waters.

47.The Stagecoach Inn

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/

Here’s one of the scariest landmarks in California: the hotel turned haunted Stagecoach Inn. Initially, it was the grand union hotel in the 1880s, but now it’s one of the most haunted places in California. Even ghost researchers and psychics confirm the existence of three ghosts.

48.Slab City

Landmarks in California

Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/

This city has an off-grid living community situated at the bottom of Coachella valley, featuring colorful makeshift homes.

It is a great place to discover, but remember the site is off-grid, meaning there are no gas stations, electricity, sewers, or restaurants. The worst part is there aren’t any regular buses that visit the place.

49.Sutro Baths

Landmarks in California

Adolph Sutro built the largest living swimming facility in 1894 – the Sutro baths. The place featured temperature-controlled pools, swings, and diving platforms. Since it was located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the pools would fill up instantly. However, a fire destroyed the place, and it became part of the golden gate recreation area in 1973.

It’s still a protected area where visitors can trail, relax on cliff sites, and watch the magical sunset unfold in the dark. To date, Sutro bath remains a truly scenic spot.

50. Sonoma Plaza

Landmarks in California

Let’s end the list with one of the notable landmarks in California: Sonoma Plaza. It’s the largest plaza in California and was home to the Bear flag revolt – the force that led to the American – Mexican war.

Now, it’s a lovely picnic spot where families visit to unwind and have a memorable time.

Landmarks in California- Summing Up

After reading my list of fifty landmarks in California, you should be aware about the bounties this State has to offer.

So, planning to visit California and discover the energizing towns, including the Hollywood-centric city of Los Angeles and the thrilling San Francisco?

If yes, don’t forget to explore and witness the unparalleled beautiful landmarks of California mentioned above. Together, let’s make your trip a memorable one!

Did I forget any important landmarks of California? If so, let me know in the comments!

Oh, and if you have liked my list of 50 landmarks of California, give a read to the following exciting articles too-

[instagram-feed feed=1]
0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *