Grand Princess sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

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The west coast is calling: Five unique things to do in California

Explore the best of the golden state, both Northern and Southern, with our must-dos

May 2020

The Golden State is brimming with breathtaking coastlines and bright city lights. Muscle Beach, the Golden Gate Bridge, wine country: the list of must-sees goes on and on, but if you're looking for more unique places to visit throughout California, we have a few ideas that will make your trip to the west coast of America even more memorable...

1. Visit Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park landscape California

Chris Ried/Unsplash

Straddling the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, this protected land about two hours' drive inland from Los Angeles is picture perfect thanks to clear blue skies, an arid landscape and the park's namesake whimsical Joshua trees that dot the horizon. Native to the area, they’re a striking feature that really do make for unrivalled photos. Many consider the park a spiritual destination – akin to the Britain's Stonehenge – and it's hard not to feel moved when surrounded by such a unique scene.

2. Ride a street car in San Francisco

A traditional San Francisco trolley scene

Thinkstock

The Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in fog, infamous Alcatraz looming in the distance, hairpin bends on Lombard Street, not to mention impeccable shopping and superb restaurants: San Francisco in Northern California genuinely has something for everyone. Climbing and descending the city’s world-famous hills, the iconic street cars are part of the last manually operated cable car system in the world – and one of the best ways to see the common sights in an uncommon way. The California Street line offers top views as it summits Nob Hill – home to the Gothic-style Grace Cathedral and charming Huntington Park. Take a seat, listen to the bells clang as this character-filled city passes by and wait for breathtaking waterfront panoramas to come into view.

3. Go wild at San Diego Zoo

A toucan at San Diego Zoo in california

James Lee/Unsplash

You could easily spend an entire day at this 1,800-acre site. With over 4,000 animals; a Skyfari aerial tram that offers a bird's eye view of the park; an on-site 4D cinema showing animal-focussed films that put you in the middle of the action; plus a gourmet restaurant, Alberts, where you can enjoy amazing food and wine in the heart of the forest – San Diego Zoo is more an experience than your average day pottering around the zoo.

4. Eat street food in LA

Papa Jakes Sub Shop Los Angeles Farmers Market

The Original Farmers Market.

For a real foodie experience right in the heart of Hollywood visit Los Angeles’ Farmer’s Market. There are dozens of types of food to choose from – you simply pick your favourite (from Japanese to Mexican to crab claws to pizza) and then try to find a seat in this bustling street food market. And once you’ve eaten you can step out into The Grove – an outdoor shopping mall with all your favourite US stores. You may just run into a movie star while you’re there as it’s a fave destination for celebrities too!

5. Visit a Japanese tea garden

People enjoying the Japanese Tea Garden in the Golden Gate Park San Francisco California

Fraser Hall/Robert Harding

Opened in 1894 and located right in the heart of Golden Gate park, escape the busy city life to spend a couple of serene hours exploring three acres of green space on this Princess shore excursion. You can’t help but feel connected to nature here, thanks to calming koi ponds and Zen garden plus a wealth of native Japanese plants including Japanese maples, pines, cypresses, flowering cherry trees, azaleas, magnolias, and camellias. There are also beautiful pagodas and stepping stone paths to explore. Keep your camera out to snap Treasure Tower, a five-storied Buddhist shrine and the Taiko Bashi, a highly arched pedestrian drum bridge.

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