Five Unconventional Things To Do In California

California is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of America, and not without good reason. This is the home of Disneyland, and the Golden Gate Bridge, and Hollywood. It’s called ‘the Golden State’ for a number of reasons; the bridge is one of them, but there’s also the gold poppies, the golden sand of the beaches, and the California Gold Rush of the 19th century. These days, it could even be taken as a reference to the state’s riches; it has the fifth largest economy in the whole world; bigger than any other state in the USA, and even bigger than the whole of the United Kingdom.

Everything about California is big – including its size. Only Alaska and Texas cover more land. As a tourist, that can pose something of a problem. When you’re going on holiday to a place that’s bigger than most countries, and the attractions are spread out over that area, how do you get around it all? How do you know what to prioritize over a one or two-week stay? You can’t possibly get around it all, so how do you know what to leave out?

That’s where we step in. We know California like the back of our hand, and we’re familiar with a few of the sights that you might not automatically consider. For the purposes of these suggestions, we’re going to disregard Hollywood and Disneyland. Everyone knows they’re there, and if you were traveling to see them, you don’t need us to point them out to you! Here are some of the other delights California has to offer to visitors.

Head Out To Death Valley

Despite the foreboding name, Death Valley is actually a stunning place to visit if you can stand the heat. The location got its name from a group of pioneers who attempted to cross it without adequate provisions during 1849, and the extreme heat was too much for one of them, who didn’t make a trip. A member of the surviving party turned around as they left the area and said ‘farewell, death valley,’ and the name stuck. Don’t let any of that put you off though – nor the fact that the highest temperature ever recorded on the surface of the Earth occurred here – you just need to visit at the right time of day, with a tour guide and provisions. The extreme temperatures and weather conditions have shaped the valley to look like nothing else on the planet. Traveling to Dante’s View in the early hours of the morning will provide you with spectacular photo opportunities, and a landscape that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Go Gold Mining

The California Gold Rush may have ended now, but its enduring influence on our culture and way of life lives on. Did you know, for example, that the phrase ‘the Luck of the Irish’ originates from the perception that Irish miners came across gold more often than anyone else did? The idea of digging for gold and finding a fortune is still a dream many people have, as evidenced by the popularity of online casino games like ‘Gold Rush.’ There are actually two different games with the same name, both of which have a loyal base of players brought to them by the theme! Casinos or their informative index partners such as allow players the chance to dig a virtual mine and win real money – which is cleaner than getting your hands dirty in the rock – but as you’re in California, you should give it a try yourself. Various operators provide guided tours of old gold mining hotspots like Alleghany County, Eagle Mine, and the Kennedy Mine. You can even try panning for gold in the rivers of Sacramento, where the first gold in the state was found, sparking the entire gold rush!

Ski Or Sail Across Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is really just a lake in name alone. When you’re standing on its banks, it feels more like an ocean. The enormous expanse of water was formed more than two million years ago, while the Earth was in the grip of an ice age, and sits just at the point where California meets Nevada. You might not think that an outdoor attraction is a great place to visit in winter, but at Lake Tahoe, you’ll find skiing and snowmobiles on offer to tourists in the area. Come during the warmer months, though, and you can try your hand at kayaking and jet-skiing. If there is a group of you visiting, you might instead want to give white water rafting a try, with a company such as American Whitewater Expedition. The scenery here, with the snow-topped mountains drifting away into the distance, is hard to beat.

Escape To Alcatraz

Once upon a time, breaking out of Alcatraz was the dream of every notorious criminal who was housed inside the prison. Now, visitors can come and go as they please! The island is notorious for having its own weather conditions, which are often completely different to the mainland. The famous prison only operated for thirty years, but many of the fixtures and fittings are still inside, along with the ghoulish tales of the inmates who called it home. The prison is only one part of the fascinating history you’ll find here – long before it was a prison it was actually the very first lighthouse to be constructed on the west coast of the USA. It’s full of character and dramatic scenery, and feels a little like stepping into a different world.

Stay On The RMS Queen Mary If You Dare

This massive ocean liner is worth a visit at any time of year, but if you’re heading to California close to Halloween, you’d be doing a disservice if you didn’t pay it a visit. The vessel is long retired, after spending its career out at sea between the 1930s and the 1960s. Long Beach is its permanent home now, but the luxury facilities that it offered to its well-heeled guests during its time on the waves are still available in the present. That includes unforgettable dining experiences in magnificent surroundings. You can even stay in the cabins if you wish – although it can be a little expensive to do so. Guided tours operate all year round, giving you a full appreciation of the ship’s storied history. As for why you should visit at Halloween – that’s when the Dark Harbour tours happen, and the ghosts and ghouls come out to play. After all, the RMS Queen Mary is the most haunted ship in the world…