12 Bucketlist Experiences You Can Only Have in California

A Ricardo Breceda sculpture in Anza-Borrego | © Rob Bertholf / Flickr
A Ricardo Breceda sculpture in Anza-Borrego | © Rob Bertholf / Flickr
Photo of Deanna Morgado
20 December 2017

There are certain experiences that a person can only have in California. It’s a state full of unique opportunities, including nature, wonder, adrenaline-inducing fun, and so much more. The following 12 special adventures are unique to the Golden State, which makes them even more remarkable.

Visit the oldest trees in the world

Soak in the historic majesty of the Ancient Bristlecone Forest. The oldest recorded living trees are still kicking in all of their gnarled beauty here. It’s a hauntingly inspired California place to find yourself.

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest | © Amit Patel / Flickr

Drive through a tree

You and your car can feel alone with nature when you find yourself driving straight through a giant redwood. Drive up Highway 101 to one of three different locations where a redwood tree, split down the middle, stands in the road. If you want the ultimate California experience, make the drive through all three trees!

Just Fit | © Kirt Edblom / Flickr

Tour the Jelly Bean Factory

Find out where all the magic happens at the Jelly Bean Factory. No matter if you’re young or young at heart, the Jelly Bean Factory is a great place to have a fun time. Eat as many jelly beans as your heart desires as you learn about the production of these little sweet treats.

Jelly beans | © Steven Lilley / Flickr

Explore the geothermal pools at Bumpass Hell

It’s like a small slice of Yellowstone, but Golden State style. This particular part of Lassen National Park is home to geothermal pools you have to see to believe. There are 16 acres of bubbling springs, mudpots, and steam vents coming from the earth. Better yet, this volcanic park has a boardwalk that takes you through the area.

Bumpass Hell boardwalk | © LassenNPS / Flickr

Sip wine at the state’s oldest winery

California’s oldest continuously running winery lies in none other than Sonoma County, the epicenter of wine country. Buena Vista Winery is over 150 years old. Its old stone estate is home to some of the best wine in the area and is even on the National Register of Historic Places; it’s as legitimate as it gets. Order a glass or two, sit back, and marvel at the grand piece of cultural history.

Buena Vista Winery | © Jeremy Thompson / Flickr

Try to find all the Metal Sky Art Sculptures in Anza-Borrego

Just south of San Diego is Anza-Borrego Desert State Park; this isn’t just any state park though, as there are over 100 metal sculptures scattered all over the land. The statues depict not only current creatures but also those that once roamed the desert many years ago. A gigantic scorpion, prehistoric mammals, dinosaurs, and even a massive dragon are among the incredible and photogenic sculptures.

Scattered over three square miles of desert surrounding the town of Borrego Springs is an installation of over 130 sculptures by artist Ricardo Breceda collectively known as Sky Art.

Tour Nitt Witt Ridge

Visitors will no doubt have a unique experience at Nitt Witt Ridge. The rag-tag mansion estate, built with trash, scraps, and art, lies in Cambria, and curious minds can take one of the tours offered a few times a week.

NO. 939 Twentieth Century Folk Art Environments (Thematic) -NITT WITT RIDGE - Nitt Witt Ridge, one of California's remarkable Twentieth Century Folk Art Environments, is the creation of Arthur Harold Beal (der Tinkerpaw or Capt. Nitt Witt), a Cambria Pines pioneer, who sculpted the land using hand tools and indigenous materials, remarkable inventiveness, and self-taught skills. A blend of native materials and contemporary elements, impressive in its sheer mass and meticulous placement, it is a revealing memorial to Art's unique cosmic humor and zest for life. Location: Nitt Witt Ridge, 881 Hillcrest Dr, Cambria Pines

Get your yo-yo on in Chico

If you’ve ever tried to master the timeless yo-yo, you know the struggle. If you’ve ever wondered how this classic game came to be, then you should head to Chico to the National Yo-Yo Museum. Nowhere else takes the yo-yo seriously like California, and you can see that firsthand at the museum. Check out the earliest yo-yos from the 1920s, as well as the world’s largest yo-yo, weighing in at 256 pounds.

Yo-Yo Tee | © _e.t / Flickr

Say “hi” to the elephant seals in Año Nuevo

Visit Año Nuevo State Park where you can admire the interestingly lovable-looking and protected elephant seal population in its natural habitat. Come here in the summer to hike to the part of the beach where these wonderful sea mammals bask, swim, and just hang out.

Elephant seal bending over backward | © Charles / Flickr

Watch the California state fish swim through the Golden Trout Wilderness

If you want to see beautiful golden trout, head to California’s Golden Trout Wilderness. At 10,000 feet above sea level, a special type of Californian grace seems to run through the high-altitude waters.

Golden Trout Wilderness lake | © California Department of Fish and Wildlife / Flickr

Observe the crazy banana slug

These curious looking slugs only live and thrive in small parts of a handful of places, including Santa Cruz. Here, you can find the banana slug while hiking the trails of Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Try looking under the redwoods and by damp stream beds to watch these bright yellow slugs that every Californian wants to catch in their slow-moving action.

Banana slug | © Jen / Flickr

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