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California Regions

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Brasil Central Valley Central Valley North Coast North Coast Shasta Cascade Shasta Cascade Gold Country Gold Country High Sierra High Sierra Central Coast Central Coast Mato Grosso San Francisco Bay Area Desert Desert Los Angeles Country Los Angeles Country Orange Country Orange Country Inland Empire Inland Empire San Diego Country San Diego Country
California is home to 12 distinct regions encompassing world-class cities and quaint small towns sprawling across deserts, valleys, beaches and mountains. While differing from one another in their climate, location and offerings, each is an important facet of the whole and contributes to the beautiful diversity that defines the Golden State. The individual profiles below provide a glimpse into what visitors can expect when traveling in the different regions along with helpful maps and contact information.

Central Coast

In this narrow strip of coastal hills and valleys, discover romantic towns like Carmel-by-the-Sea, historic Monterey and elegant Santa Barbara, nicknamed “the American Riviera.” The region’s classic drive along Highway One, linking San Francisco to Los Angeles, visits Big Sur, Hearst Castle, wine country, and kick-back surf towns.

Central Valley

Running right down the middle of California, this broad region contains some of the most productive farmland in the world. The wine country around Lodi features big, bold reds. Further south, the Fresno area has a lively arts scene.

Desert

The dramatic desert region fills the southeastern half of California with remarkable parklands to explore, including Death Valley, Joshua Tree and Anza-Borrego. Complementing the sun-drenched environment is the oasis-like allure of Palm Springs, three hours northeast of San Diego and offering resort-style getaways complete with golf, tennis, spas and high-end shopping.

Gold Country

The western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Range, defining California’s eastern border, are known as the Gold Country, named after the rich Mother Lode discovered here in the mid-1850s. While gold is still found in the region, new riches include top museums and art in Sacramento, the state capital, plus whitewater rafting, tucked-away towns, farm-fresh dining, and award-winning wines.

High Sierra

Nicknamed “California’s backbone,” this region of towering granite peaks defines much of the state’s eastern boundary. Visit Yosemite Valley, Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes and the giant trees of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks — all within a day’s drive of either San Francisco or Los Angeles. In winter, enjoy snow sports; in summer, go hiking, mountain biking, fishing or boating.

Inland Empire

This Southern California destination is best known as the capital of the entertainment industry. Here, movie stars really do work in Hollywood, play in the surf at Malibu, and shop in Beverly Hills. Looping freeways make the car king, but the region also has a surprisingly good network of buses and light rail — a hassle-free way to explore.

Los Angeles County

This Southern California destination is best known as the capital of the entertainment industry. Here, movie stars really do work in Hollywood, play in the surf at Malibu, and shop in Beverly Hills. Looping freeways make the car king, but the region also has a surprisingly good network of buses and light rail — a hassle-free way to explore.

North Coast

With crashing waves and soaring redwood trees blanketing miles of uncrowded parkland, this is one of California’s most spectacular regions. The largest city, Eureka, is roughly a five-hour drive north of San Francisco where travelers can see lush wine country, charming hamlets, spouting whales and breathtaking sunsets.

Orange County

Tucked between San Diego and Los Angeles Counties, this region is known for flawless beaches and “The Happiest Place on Earth,” Disneyland Resort. Anaheim, the theme park’s home, offers a hip vibe in a refurbished downtown. Newport Beach has dazzling yachts, Huntington Beach has iconic surfing, and Costa Mesa beckons with top shopping.

San Diego County

This sun-and-surf region is known for some of the best weather and warmest water in the state. San Diego, the state’s second-largest city, is home to the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, one of the world’s great urban parks. For family fun, play at SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California. Inland, discover surprising mountain towns like Julian, known for orchards and apple pie.

San Francisco Bay Area

On the western oceanfront of Northern California at the state’s distinctive bend along the coast lies this breathtaking region. It’s framed by an unforgettable gateway — the iconic Golden Gate Bridge — spanning the mouth of San Francisco Bay. Explore diverse cities, picturesque hamlets, family friendly beaches, coastal parklands and wine country, including Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, one-and-a-half hours north of San Francisco.

Shasta Cascade

California’s northeast corner is known for mountains, forests, waterfalls and amazing, safe-to-visit volcanoes. The region, a three-hour drive north of Sacramento, gets its name from the rugged Cascade Mountains and their signature peak in state, 14,180-foot-tall Mount Shasta.

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