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Travel recommendations and information

Whether you dream of riding the waves (maybe for the first time), relaxing at a winery, doing your laps at a well-known amusement park attraction, or strolling among majestic sequoias, you will have your perfect California vacation. What you will find here are useful tips so that this dream vacation runs as smoothly as possible.

With this information, you'll find out everything you need to know about traveling in the Golden State - best times to travel, transportation, accommodations and camping, even what to consider when cycling. With this knowledge, you can plan your trip at your leisure, and you will also find out where you can get additional useful information and insider tips once you are here. Have fun!

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California - Distances and Travel Time

California - Distances and Travel Time
The Golden State is a huge destination - an understanding of distances and details will help you on your next trip

California is huge in every way. The third largest US state covers more square kilometers than many countries in the world: It comprises a land mass that is more than three times the size of Greece and four times the size of Iceland.

To see much of California in one trip, you should be strategic. From north to south, California is nearly 1,450 kilometers long, from the northern border with Oregon to the southern border with Mexico. If you hit the tube, you can go north to south in 15 hours (roughly the same distance from New York City to Jacksonville, Florida). Driving west to east across the narrowest part of the Golden State will still take you almost a day. It is 355 miles from Santa Barbara to Needles, California.

Even in California's metropolitan regions, the distances are great. Planning a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles? You need a full day to cover the almost 650 kilometers. Driving through Southern California on an amusement park road trip? The route from Universal Studios Hollywood to SeaWorld San Diego is 200 kilometers long. Want to see the many beaches of Los Angeles and Orange County's? Count on a 145 kilometer stretch from the Malibu coast to the rocky bays in Laguna Beach.

And if you long for California's majestic desert parks: 370 kilometers separate the exciting Death Valley and the surprising rock formations in the Joshua Tree.

California's largest county, San Bernadino, covers more than 51,800 square kilometers - more than the US states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Even in smaller counties, the places are widely scattered. Within the boundaries of the Sonoma County wine region, the artist cafes at historic Sonoma Plaza are about 136 kilometers from the laid-back beach village of Sea Ranch - where the ocean climate can quickly drop temperatures a few degrees on summer days. On the eastern side of California, in Inyo County, there is deep, powdery snow in the mountains of Bishop in winter, but the desert at Furnace Creek heats up under the summer sun.

These geographical differences lead to wide and varied landscapes. Find your favorite landscape on over 1,350 kilometers of coastline, in 64,700 square kilometers of desert, or around snow-capped volcanoes. Stand among the tallest trees in the world in Northern California or visit the hottest and driest place in North America not far from the state's eastern border. Explore the Sierra Nevada Mountains, 643 kilometers of peaks that enclose Lake Tahoe, one of the world's largest alpine lakes, and Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the United States outside of Alaska at 4,421 meters.

Our conclusion: California is great in every way. Give yourself enough time to wander into the distance. Here are some time and route overviews to help plan your next visit. (Note: Travel times are estimated and depend on when you are traveling.)

San Diego to Anaheim: 95 miles / 153 km (2 hours)

San Diego to Los Angeles: 120 miles / 193 km (2.5 hours)

Anaheim to Los Angeles: 27 miles / 43 km (1 hour)

Los Angeles to Palm Springs: 105 miles / 169 km (2 hours)

Los Angeles to Santa Barbara: 95 miles / 153 km (2 hours)

Yosemite National Park to Sequoia National Park: 160 miles / 258 km (4 hours)

Yosemite National Park to Death Valley National Park: 250 miles / 403 km (5 hours)

Sacramento to Redding: 160 miles / 258 km (2.5 hours)

Sacramento to San Francisco: 90 miles / 145 km (2 hours)

Reno to San Francisco: 218 miles / 351 km (4 hours)

San Francisco to Napa: 50 miles / 80 km (1 hour)

San Francisco to Sonoma: 45 miles / 72 km (1 hour)

San Francisco to Yosemite: 200 miles / 322 km (3.5 hours)

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Find the latest California travel advice

Travel advice: COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which began at the end of 2019, has now spread to numerous countries around the world. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the health risk is assessed to be low for much of the general population in the United States.

Visitors and residents should take the same sensible precautions as with the flu - frequent hand washing, avoiding the sick, etc.

People who are at increased risk of developing the disease should follow the California Department of Health's recommendations to protect themselves. People 65 and older should stay at home as much as possible.

Group meetings have been postponed and some regions may have more specific health policies. Most bars, breweries, wineries, theme parks and ski resorts are temporarily closed. Some regions may have additional restrictions, including travel restrictions.

As soon as travelers plan to visit, they should contact their hotel and the local tourist office for more detailed information on the regions.

11 tips for a family vacation in California

11 tips for a family vacation in California
Use these family-friendly travel hacks to plan your vacation to the Golden State

Sun, sea, mountains and roller coasters: The Golden State is big and beautiful, whether you want to have fun on the beach, test all the rides in California's theme parks or camp in one of California's national parks. But because of the size and variety of things to do in California, taking a family vacation to the state also means thorough preparation. Here are eleven tips and family-friendly travel hacks to help you plan your family vacation, with special attention to keeping the fun rate high and missed opportunities to a minimum.

Are you planning a road trip in the Golden State? Also take a look at our great road trip tips.

1. Pack so that you can dress in an onion look. In Southern California, a sunny day at 21 ° C can feel like 27 ° C or more to outside visitors, but a cloudy day at 16 ° C can feel much colder thanks to the sea breeze. In Northern California - especially San Francisco - it can be foggy in the summer in the morning with temperatures not well above 10 ° C and only warmer in the afternoon. Across the state, layer it up and carry a sweater, sweatshirt, or light jacket with you.

2. Don't pack so much for the beach. You can probably borrow or rent beach toys and exercise equipment at your hotel. You can also get boogie boards - an easy way to play in the surf - for as little as $ 10 in any drugstore or discount store near the beach. In the same places you can also build sandcastles, sunscreen, hats and flip-flops cheaply.

3. Make the most of your time in theme parks. If you stay at a theme park in the associated hotel, you will often enjoy earlier access to the park - usually an hour earlier than everyone else. Sometimes it is even enough to buy your tickets online (for example at Universal Studios Hollywood) to enjoy an extra hour in the park and shorter queues. Also, check the park's website for express lane offers (such as the Fastpasses at Disneyland Resort) so you can make the most of your time all day.

4. You can expect (a few) discounts. Children and teenagers in the Golden State often get free or discounted admission to museums and other attractions. In San Diego, the Kids Free October program gives children free entry to many museums and other attractions, including SeaWorld and LEGOLAND. Otherwise, don't expect too much in terms of discounts at other theme parks or at other times. In some cases, you pay the full admission price for children over ten years of age.

5. Measure your children. Before deciding which amusement park to spend a day at, take a look at the rides page on their website. The respective minimum size is specified here so that you can be sure that there are enough offers that your children are allowed to drive. Also, take a look at the area on the online parking map in advance to plan your way through the park efficiently and avoid tired feet.

6. Book campsites in advance if possible. National parks such as Yosemite have firmly established schedules for reservations at the campsites there, and the most beautiful spots are often sold out quickly - sometimes six months in advance. If you need to make a last minute reservation, take a look at a campsite's online presence to see what's left.

7. Don't miss out on state and national park junior ranger programs. The free resources and activities available to children in California's national and state parks are a fun, active way to get around the park. For example, in Lassen Volcanic National Park, the activity booklet lists various hot springs and volcanic rocks that children can look out for and check off a list. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve, on the other hand, offers a nature bingo that motivates children to keep an eye out for lizards, meadow larks and beetles, as well as the California state flower, the poppy. Ask for documentation at the park's visitor center or download it from their website.

8. Plan a ski vacation that allows everyone to go their own pace. California ski resorts offer a wide range of age-specific courses and activities - some in the form of kids' clubs that last half a day or a full day, so everyone has plenty of time to ski and snowboard according to their own abilities. In Squaw Valley, for example, 65 percent of the slopes are suitable for beginners and advanced skiers, and Sierra-at-Tahoe has a 4.45-acre learning area called Easy Street. There are also plenty of off-piste activities on offer, such as Mammoth's popular Woolly’s Tube Park, Big Bear's nine-meter-high climbing wall and the Snow SummitBasecamp. In any case, you will still find snow in California if your children don't have a vacation until April.

9. Pack plenty of sunscreen. A high sun protection factor is not only required on the beach, but also when skiing. Californian ski resorts are known for their sunny snowy days, which of course also bring strong reflections on the white slopes.

10. You do not have to rule out wine tastings in principle. Not all wineries and craft beer breweries welcome children, but some even have games, play areas, and children's menus so the family can enjoy their visit together. Before you visit, take a look at the respective website of a winery or brewery to find out if children are welcomed and kept entertained.

11. Don't be afraid to take your children with you to fine dining. In California, not all top restaurants are establishments with white tablecloths and many even offer great children's menus - such as the tamales and quesadillas in the acclaimed Border Grill in L.A. or the Prix-Fixe children's menu at Rintaro in San Francisco, which is from Bon Appetit was named one of the best restaurants in 2015. If in doubt, call ahead and ask when you reserve a table. Most hotels also keep lists of trusted babysitters at the front desk and can help you find someone to look after your children in the hotel room while you go out.

General information for travelers

General information for travelers

Do you want to change your watch? Make an emergency call? Find out information about accessible access? This general information sheet will help you plan your trip and will help you find the right places to ask for help when you arrive.

Time zone

California is in the Pacific Time Zone (UTC-8). From the beginning of March to the beginning of November the clock is set to winter time here.

State and municipal Taxes

The state VAT is 7.25%. Local taxes can add up to 1.5%.

Tip

As a rule of thumb, a tip of 15% to 20% for waiters, depending on the level of service, and a dollar per drink (beer, wine, simple cocktails, etc.) for bartenders, unless it is a more complicated cocktail specialty. Tip taxi and limo drivers 15% to 20% and tip Uber or Lyft drivers a few dollars.

Directory assistance

Dial 411 for local numbers, the area code followed by 555-1212 for long distance calls, and (800) 555-1212 for toll-free numbers.

Emergency call

You can call 911 from any public telephone free of charge to the police emergency number, the fire department or an ambulance.

Alcohol and Tobacco Laws

Alcohol is only sold to people over the age of 21 in all of California. 21 is the minimum age for alcohol consumption.

You must be at least 18 years old to purchase tobacco products. Smoking and e-cigarette use are prohibited in all public buildings (including restaurants, bars, and casinos) and indoors throughout California. A smoking ban also applies within six meters of the entrance of government buildings. Most large hotels offer special smoking rooms. If you smoke ask for one. Most hotels charge a fine for smoking in non-smoking rooms. Many California cities have a ban on smoking in public areas such as sidewalks and beaches. In addition, smoking is not permitted in some buildings and areas of national and state parks.

State size and travel times

California is big - really big. If you wanted to traverse the entire state lengthways on Interstate 5, it would take about 15 hours to get from Oregon to Mexico with light to no traffic. At the end of this road trip you would have covered around 1,400 km.

Downtown San Diego is around 30 km north of the Mexican border and a good 200 km south of Los Angeles. From Los Angeles it is 620 km north to San Francisco and from there another 145 km northeast to Sacramento. A drive from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park increases the mileage of your car by approximately 305 km and from Los Angeles to Mount Shasta in Northern California is approximately 965 km. Obviously California is made for road trips.

Travel with disabilities

Even visitors with physical or other impairments can experience a fantastic vacation in California. Special services are available at numerous locations and barrier-free access to platforms, buildings and attractions is constantly being improved. You can find a number of helpful sources here.

Wheelchair access

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that all public buildings must be wheelchair accessible and have accessible toilets. Most hotels and attractions today have wide entrance doors and wheelchair ramps. There are sunken sidewalks on more and more street corners in cities and a few public transport systems are equipped with a lift.Many state and national parks now also have completely barrier-free ADA trails. For more information, it is best to call travel destinations and service providers in advance.

Help for people with hearing or memory impairments

If your eyesight, hearing, speech, memory or movement are impaired in such a way that it affects your ability to make or answer calls, dial 711. With this relay service, specially trained communication assistants will help you with everything Your calls for the duration of your stay in California.

Many cinemas and stages offer special headphones as hearing aids. Ask for them when buying or collecting your tickets.

Transportation and rental cars

At large airports you can get help and aids for getting to and from the flight on site, including wheelchairs. Call your airline for information in advance. Some rental car companies offer special vehicle conversions that, for example, have a hand control, are accessible for wheelchairs or offer other driving aids. Amtrak's train service offers additional services for passengers with disabilities as well as a 15% discount on regular fares.

Weather and timing of your trip

Weather and timing of your trip
Learn more about the climate in California

California is a great travel destination all year round. The weather has something to offer for every taste and is suitable for sun worshipers and mountain hares alike. The best time will depend on what exactly your plan is. Here is some basic information so that you know what to expect.

Weather and seasons

Most of California has a similar climate to the Mediterranean; the summer is warm and dry, the winter mild and wet.
On the coast it is at least 21 degrees on average during the day, and on the hottest summer days the thermometer can rise to 26 degrees and more. It rarely gets really cold, not even in winter. Fog often hangs over the coastal regions, roughly from Monterey to the north, especially during the summer months. It usually disappears around noon and comes back at dusk. Further inland, the summers are hot and dry, and the winters are cool and wet. Every now and then there are blue skies or the puddles on the ground freeze, but it usually doesn't get worse. The four seasons are more pronounced in higher areas. There are wonderful summers here, autumn impresses with its impressive play of colors, and cold, snowy winters lead to snowmelt and many waterfalls in spring.

When looking around this website, also pay attention to the average temperatures of each season for the regions and places you plan to visit.

Timing your trip

Most travelers visit California during the summer months (June through August). This is the time when most of the people are out and about and the high season prices at the accommodations and resorts apply. But even in the middle of summer it is possible to move off the beaten path and have nature almost all to yourself.

If you get high, you may have to wait for summer to be able to use the highest roads and trails in the Sierra Nevada. This also applies to the area around Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak, the largest volcanoes in the state.

Spring (usually March to early May) is one of the most beautiful times in California. While it can still be cold high up, temperatures in the rest of the state are pleasant and fresh. The hills are covered with thick green grass and beautiful wildflowers. The California desert is much more beautiful to look at in spring than in hot summer. Poppies, castillejas and other desert flowers are definitely eye catchers. During these months you'll also find much shorter lines and better deals everywhere: many of the top tourist attractions are even less visited, and hotels often still charge low-season prices until June.

Autumn (September to November) is mild and spectacular foliage can be seen in some areas, especially in the High Sierra. A great time to learn about California's wonderful wine regions is during the grape harvest, also known as "The Crush" (August through October). The areas around San Francisco and on the north coast often disappear in fog during the summer and are usually sunniest during the "Indian Summer" (September to October).

If skiing is on your list, November to March is a great time when the mountains are covered in snow. Some resorts stay up until April or even longer. (When Mother Nature shows her capricious side, the snow is often made by machines.) There are downhill slopes for skiers and snowboarders, fun parks, cross-country and snowshoe slopes as well as areas for ice skating.

Flying in the Golden State is a breeze, thanks to international and domestic airports across the state

California is big - it's over 1,250 km from the Oregon border in the north to the Mexican border south of San Diego and the state has an average width of 300 km. Fortunately, California has a large number of airports too, so flying is really easy and is a great way to get around the state, especially if your time is limited. Thanks to the easy accessibility of the airports, a combined holiday with travel and flight routes is also an attractive option.

We'll feature 13 of the state's airports, ten of which offer non-stop flights to international destinations. Some of them are worthwhile travel destinations in and of themselves, for example because of their art installations that can rival a museum - take a look at the LAX Art Program, the Arts Program of the John Wayne International Airport in Orange County and the Public Art Program of the San Francisco International Airport. Many also offer excellent shopping opportunities, fine dining and even pampering with a spa treatment (waiting for your flight for a massage is simply better than sitting in a plastic chair).

When flying to Los Angeles, there are a few things to know: LAX is the largest and most famous airport in the area, but depending on where exactly in the city your destination is located, it may not be the best choice. Burbank, Long Beach, John Wayne and Ontario International Airports also serve the same region.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Oakland (OAK)

San Francisco (SFO)

San Jose (SJC)

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

Fresno Yosemite (FAT)

Sacramento (SMF)

Santa Barbara (SBA)

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Bakersfield (BFL)

Burbank (BUR)

Long Beach (LBG)

Los Angeles (LAX)

Ontario (ONT)

Orange County (SNA)

San Diego (SAN)

Find out more about fantastic accommodation options in the "Golden State"

Whether you dream of a noble suite with sea view, of a boutique hotel in the heart of the city, a hotel complex with every comfort or a quiet campground under the starry sky - California has the perfect accommodation for you. Book your nights at one of the major hotel or motel chains that are represented practically everywhere in the state, or find a hostel that is as distinctive as California itself - pretty mountain hotels made of wood and stone, restored hotels from the time of the “Gold Rush”, cozy inns and ultra-exclusive luxury hotels in a unique location. Plus there are tons of acres of unforgettable parkland where all you need is a tent, sleeping bag, marshmallows, and some good campfire stories (and possibly a reservation).

The California Welcome Centers and local tourist offices will be happy to recommend any type of accommodation, such as resorts, hotels, and motels.

Hotels & Motels:Hotels and motels are proven accommodations for most types of vacation - safe, clean, and comfortable places to stay. Here in California they play a big role, because this is where the motel was invented in the 1920s. Leading chains are represented across the state, often in large metropolitan areas and near tourist attractions or on major arteries. Boutique hotels offer a slightly more intimate and luxurious stylish ambience for travelers. In rural areas, independently operated accommodations are also possible, sometimes even in historic buildings.

Bed & Breakfasts: California has hundreds of so-called “B & B's,” often in historic homes and increasingly on family-run (and family-friendly) farms and wineries. B & Bs give you an impression of the character of a region, and the helpful innkeepers are happy to give you useful inside information for your trip. As the name suggests, breakfast is included in the price - just imagine: freshly baked milk rolls, freshly laid eggs or strawberries from your own garden! To reserve a stay at one of the nearly 300 B & Bs across the state, contact the California Association of Boutique & Breakfast Inns (CABBI).

Resorts:Certain regions of the state - the deserts, the coast and the mountains - are known for five-star luxury hotels, often with championship golf courses and tennis facilities, breathtaking swimming pools, fine dining and chic “spas” (which are often open to the general public and not are only accessible to hotel guests). In the much-vaunted wine-growing regions of California you will also find highly exclusive hotel complexes in romantic locations with unparalleled cuisine fresh from the farm and of course fabulous wine lists. Many of these hotel complexes also have special offers for children, such as movie and popcorn evenings, so that parents have a little time to themselves while the little ones are supervised by trained staff. Separate event rooms can be rented and exclusive catering services can be used for weddings or class reunions. The California Welcome Centers or local tourist offices will tell you the best resorts in the state.

RV:You can of course also rent a “house on wheels”. RVs (recreational vehicles, short RVs) can be parked in public and private campsites across the state. There are some sources of information below, but you can also check out the California Welcome Centers and local tourist offices.

Camping: In California, camping is the way it should be: pitch your tent at a campsite that smells of pine, under the stars, or near a mountain lake, in a desert oasis or on a breathtaking stretch of coast. If you're less into nature, give it a try glampingCamping outdoors in luxurious tents, huts or even yurts like the ones built by the Mongols.

Or rent a motorhome that is ready to drive away - but check before you leave to see if there are any restrictions on motorhomes at the campsite of your choice.

You can also backpack deep into the vast wilderness of California - but be sure to get a permit in advance (inquire about the applicable regulations).

Many state parks and national parks allow camping, but some very popular destinations such as Yosemite and Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Parks are often booked months in advance, so make reservations as early as possible. Federally owned land established by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife are managed, also have thousands of campsites, which are often not very crowded - even in the summer months. There are also many excellent private campsites across the state.

Driving in California

Driving in California
Go on tour with these helpful information and safety tips

California is made for road trips. An uncomplicated road network, which includes highways and freeways with a total length of over 80,000 km, connects pretty much every corner of the state and thanks to side roads, even more remote destinations are easily accessible. Some of these roads are famous, such as Highway One along the Pacific coast, legendary Route 66, and the Avenue of Giants (Highway 101 that winds its way through towering redwoods). Some, like Interstates 5 and 80, are workhorses who get car and truck drivers from A to B as quickly as possible in the state. But even these hard workers can lead you to surprising destinations.

No matter where you are, never ignore general traffic regulations. The laws in the following chart should be familiar to anyone behind the wheel in California, along with a variety of sources for the traffic information you need.

Mandatory personal safety measures

California law requires everyone in a vehicle to wear a seat belt and everyone on a motorcycle must wear a helmet.

Speed ​​limits

Speed ​​limits are in miles per hour (mph). The general speed limit on multi-lane freeways is 65 mph, and in some areas 70 mph. On two-lane highways, the speed limit is generally 55 mph. In urban areas, the speed limit is typically 35 mph, in residential areas and near schools it is generally at 25 mph.

Speed ​​control

Air speed controls are used in many areas of California. This means that exceeding the speed limit is measured by an aircraft that is not visible to you and then transmitted by radio to a police car, which will stop you in this case. There are also cameras for measuring speed on the roadside. It is advisable to always observe the speed limits.

Laws on alertness in traffic

It is against the law in California to write, send, or read text messages while driving. Drivers must use a hands-free kit when making calls while driving.

Lanes for carpooling