This is why California is the funnest place to have your vacation: three of the top ten funnest cities in America are in the Golden State. And if you really want to have a fun city vacation, the number one funnest city, Las Vegas, is just about 300 miles away, by car. From Downtown L.A to the center of the Las Vegas Strip is 303 miles, according to Google Maps. And most of those miles are on one interstate highway, I-15.
- Just out of curiosity: Does anyone still use Mapquest? Asking for a friend.
And let’s say the intrepid traveler has time and money to burn (a must out here), they can get off the highway and see some national parks, like Death Valley and Mojave National Preserve. Right outside of Vegas is Red Rock Canyon National Park. Photographers love to shoot scantily-clad and nude models at Red Rock Canyon … from what I’ve been told.
Of course, you don’t have to travel very far from Downtown Los Angeles to see photographers and models. From Sunset Cliffs and Black’s Beach in San Diego to Malibu near L.A. and nearly every beach in between, you will find Instagram influencers creating content for their accounts. From what I’ve been told.
Back to this study, done by Wallethub. California’s three entries in the top ten fun cities in America start with San Francisco, at #7, San Diego at #9 and Los Angeles at #10.
The City by the Bay is kind of a romantic setting. The Golden Gate Bridge, China Town, North Beach; old hippies would love to walk down memory lane at Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Park and maybe cross the Bridge to Marin County to visit Phil Lesh’s nightclub, Terrapin Crossroads.
San Francisco is a place you want to spend a few days exploring. I did it once between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when I wasn’t standing in line to attend a couple of Grateful Dead shows. There’s a lot to see in the Bay Area, which was ground zero of the counter cultures of the beatniks and hippie eras. You will definitely see people flying their freak flags — and rainbow flags — in the Bay Area.
If you are the literary type, you can check out the City Lights Book Store, founded by Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It’s one of the greatest hidden American treasures. For the travelers who are fans of author Dashiell Hammett there is the four-hour tour that bears his name. You’ll visit the approximate spot where Myles Archer, partner of private eye Sam Spade, met his end at the hand of Brigid O’Shaughnessy in the quintessential novel and Humphrey Bogart movie, The Maltese Falcon.
Down the coast a piece you’ll find some great spots to enjoy the beauty of nature. California has 840 miles of coastline, much of it you can explore. The Coastal Living website says Coronado Beach, off an island suburb of San Diego, is the best beach in the state. It is actually a very nice beach. La Jolla Shores, another San Diego suburb, is #2 on the list of top beaches. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Near San Francisco you’ll find Santa Cruz, which has the Natural Bridges State Beach, to Carmel Beach and even further Pfeiffer State Beach in Big Sur. If you’re afraid of heights, the Bixby Creek Bridge will scare the crap out of you.
If you’re heading down Highway 1 from San Francisco to numbers 9 and 10 on the list, you’ll hit #10 first: Los Angeles. What can we say about the City of Angels that hasn’t been said already? There’s all the nearby beaches: Malibu, Venice, Santa Monica, Will Rogers, and then further south, Manhattan, Huntington and Seal Beach, to name but a few.
Then there’s Hollywood and all of its touristy things, Griffith Park with the observatory and path to the Hollywood Sign, For the clubbers, the partiers, nightcrawlers, Los Angeles is filled with places to see and be seen, to hook up or just wish you could hook up.
Special Mention has to be made for the Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood. It is still providing live music most nights. It should be on the list of historic sites. Every major rock band of the last 55 years has played the Whisky, Well, the Beatles didn’t play there, but they did party at the Whisky.
If we mention that club, then we have to include the Troubadour and the Roxy. All three are historic West Hollywood night spots that still feature live music from new bands and old.
For the family: Universal Studios, Six Flags Magic Mountain, the La Brea Tar Pits, the Santa Monica Pier and the courthouse where O.J. Simpson went on trial. Back in the day there was an informal tour of the whole murder saga, from Bundy Drive to Rockingham. It’s still of interest, if the sites on the internet are to be believed. The good residents of Brentwood are probably not happy about that.
So, while driving down the Pacific Coast Highway to Sandy Eggo, #9 on the list of Ten Most Fun Cities, the happy traveler will pass through Orange County, home of several notable figures in history, some of whom ought to be forgotten. But, there are a lot of beaches that deserve some quality time. Two were previously mentioned, but there is also Laguna, Dana Point and San Clemente. And just south of there, in San Diego County, bordering Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, you’ll find San Onofre State Beach with the beautiful Trestles, an assembly of five great surf breaks.
Also in Orange County: The Happiest Place on Earth, the original Disneyland and the California Adventure, which has more traditional theme park rides. Don’t forget Knott’s Berry Farm. More rides and I think Jelly and Jam.
Some of these beaches, like the ones in Big Sur and Trestles, are truly off the paved path and barely have a beaten path, so be prepared for a hike. Oh, and Black’s Beach, which is just South of Torrey Pines Beach, about a mile from the parking lots, or is accessible by climbing down the cliffs from the glider port.
Once you get to Sandy Eggo, there’s a load of stuff for the family, from Coronado Beach to Sea World, the San Diego Zoo and it’s park in Escondido, the Scripps Aquarium, Belmont Park, Legoland … Who’d a thunk you could make an amusement park based on those little toy things?
From the amusing to the beautiful in Balboa Park to the flower farms in the coastal North County area; this is truly a family destination. Due to state law all the beaches are open to the public, with the exception of those on Camp Pendleton.
San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego are great vacation destinations, but heading east from any of those cities the traveler will find some of the greatest of natural wonders: Yosemite, Sequoia, Joshua Tree and Desolation Wilderness National Parks; among others, Off the coast are the Channel Islands and Santa Catalina Island.
For the travelers coming to California for vacation, you’ll have a lot of fun. You may need a lot of money if a family is tagging along, maybe more if it’s an adult-themed trip. Some parts of San Francisco and Los Angeles can be very libertine.
It’s California, enjoy our liberal and fun attitude. You just may decide to join us permanently.
Top photo: View of Los Angeles from Griffith Park, by Terri Gayzur
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.