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Where is the best place to go in California?

The iconic cities of San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego each offer a totally different Californian experience, from the glamour of Hollywood to offbeat and bohemian. But they all have one thing in common – the laidback beach life is never far away.

For its stunning coastline, San Francisco’s dramatic peninsula won’t disappoint. The hilly streets provide striking glimpses of the sparkling bay and the famed Pacific Coast highway creates one of the most scenic drives. For its booming economy, San Jose offers a glimpse into Silicon Valley’s wealth. It is also an ideal gateway to the forests and mountains of Yosemite National Park. For its vibrant social scene, Santa Monica’s lively promenade is the place to go, while the up-and-coming West Hollywood – with its hip designer boutiques, sidewalk cafes and renowned Sunset Strip always delivers. For its beaches, San Diego has the best summer climate – perfect for taking full advantage of limitless water sports and a unique surf-inspired culture. For its family-friendly vibe, kids will love to get up close with sea lions, dolphins, beluga whales and turtles at the SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment. And for its incredible landscape - the wild splendour and towering forests of redwoods or the epic grandeur of the Southern Californian deserts will always satisfy.

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Which holiday will you choose in California?

See more on a fly-drive
See more on a fly-drive.

The best way to see the wide array of California's offerings is on a fly-drive holiday. Scenic Highway 1 stretches from the cool fog of San Francisco to the warm sunshine of Los Angeles. While Highway 395 showcases the amazing contrast between fiery Death Valley's deserts and the crisp alpine air of Mammoth Lakes. Take Highway 405 from Los Angeles to San Diego and head straight to the beautiful beach neighbourhood of La Jolla. Or take the epic 101 from San Jose all the way down to LA and Pasadena.

Find inspiration in our travel articles

LA: where to soak up the sun.

LA: where to soak up the sun

Glorious weather is one of LA’s most reliable assets – it is one of the US’s sunniest cities, after all, with temperatures balmy enough for year-round jaunts to the beach. But there are other ways to enjoy the al fresco Angeleno lifestyle beyond California’s golden coast. Here are six insider ideas.

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San Francisco: seven things to do.

San Francisco: seven things to do

For a city that’s only seven miles by seven miles, San Francisco can feel larger than life with its colourful neighbourhoods, thriving foodie scene and must-see museums – not to mention the fact that California’s wine country is right on its doorstep. Here are seven reasons to visit the City by the Bay.

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A Californian literary road trip.

A Californian literary road trip

People flock to California for sunshine and star gazing, but the state’s coast-hugging cities also have a rich literary heritage that will keep book nerds busy from LA to San Francisco.

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A shopping guide to San Francisco.

A shopping guide to San Francisco

Heading to San Francisco for some retail therapy? High Life asked some of the city’s top shopping and style experts to share their favourite boutiques and shops, from high-end concept stores to vintage antique treasure troves.

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