The legend of California, the embroidered image portrayed by Hollywood’s worldwide film and television industry, really does exist. Days are warm and sunny, the mansions of Beverley Hills are the height of luxury, beautifully-sculpted bodies roller-blade along the beachfront boardwalks, blonde-haired surfers compete for waves and the allure of Hollywood’s fame and fortune is as strong as ever.
California offers one of the most varied and exciting places to live in America. The world-renowned cities of the West Coast are strung along miles of magnificent coastline with cliffs, soaring redwood forests and beaches. The high snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and the magnificent glacier-carved valley of Yosemite National Park contrast with the shimmering heat of spectacular desert landscapes and the neat rows of leafy vineyards in the Napa Valley, one of the world’s best-known wine growing regions.
Millions of visitors arrive each year in Los Angeles eager to experience for themselves the epitome of the American Dream: to find the self-indulgent living soap-opera lifestyles, experience firsthand the images that are strangely-familiar thanks to the ‘big screen’, and walk in the footsteps of the stars. The fantasy worlds of Disneyland and Hollywood, the famed extravagance of Beverley Hills and Malibu, and the sun-soaked beach culture are just some of the attractions within this ‘City of Angels’.
Underneath the huge ‘Hollywood’ sign on the crest of the Hollywood Hills, the high energy and pleasure-seeking atmosphere, bold billboards, sun worshipers, bright lights and fancy cars are images of a city that everyone loves to hate; but whether one likes what one finds or not, Los Angeles must be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
The most attractive of American cities and regularly voted the best city in the USA, San Francisco is adored because of its colourful history, dramatic setting and its laissez-faire atmosphere. It is a regular trendsetter in everything alternative, from flower-power to ‘free love’ and gay liberation; it prides itself on being individualistic, down-to-earth and cultured.
Streets rollercoaster up and down the hills, and when not swathed in the city’s trademark fog, there are superb vistas of San Francisco Bay, spanned by one of the world’s most famous sights, the Golden Gate Bridge. Surrounded by hills and urban development, traversed by bridges, dotted with sails and 14 small islands, including the notorious Alcatraz, the bay is the largest inlet on the Californian Coast. Fisherman’s Wharf at the edge of the bay is a popular place to eat, stroll and shop, with its resident seals a favourite photographic subject.
San Diego characterises a typical Southern Californian beach city: with year-round sunshine and surf, a superb coastline with miles of sandy-white beaches, easygoing inhabitants, and a wide variety of world-class family attractions tourists, long-time vacationers and would-be residents can’t help but be drawn to ‘America’s finest city’.
The city is a vibrant collection of colourful neighbourhoods and communities. It has award-winning restaurants, trendy shopping districts, attractions such as the world-renowned San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld, and a dynamic downtown district that includes the city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter. There are numerous indications of its Mexican and Spanish heritage in the traditional architecture, typical Mexican cuisine, and strong links with the town of Tijuana just across the Mexican border.
San Diego is also rich in art and culture, and the city boasts the largest urban cultural park in the US, with beautiful gardens and Spanish architecture featuring 15 museums, art galleries and theatres to be found in Balboa Park. More than 70 miles (113km) of beaches around the city offer superb surfing and beach activities and provide the perfect introduction to this accessible and laid-back city.
Palm Springs, a city in the Sonoran Desert of southern California, is known for its hot springs, stylish hotels, golf courses and spas. It’s also noted for its many fine examples of midcentury-modern architecture. Its core shopping district along Palm Canyon Drive features vintage boutiques, interior design shops and restaurants. The surrounding Coachella Valley offers hiking, biking and horseback riding trails.