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What to do in California's hottest neighbourhoods

By Anna Sarjeant ​- House of Travel

1. Go Californian glamping
If you’re someone who likes idyllic outdoor locations but can only give camping “a real shot” for about 48 hours, before moaning incessantly about insufficient lighting, WiFi shortage and intolerable long drops, well my little princess, it’s time you indulged in glamping. And Californian glamping is some of the finest on earth. Across the state you’ll find wooden cabins and treetop houses, luxury beachside tents and timber huts hidden in secret forests. Wake up to the beach right outside your door, or go to sleep beneath a beautiful starlit sky. With the added bonus of fully equipped kitchenettes, proper bathrooms and if you’re really lucky, a steaming hot tub.    

California Glamping

2. Rock climbing in Yosemite National Park

“Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman.”

You’re in the realm of giants now, my friend. But that’s okay because if poems are to be believed, they only crush ​pommy bones anyway.  

But don’t be fooled; standing in the formidable Yosemite National Park is far more intimidating than an old English fairy tale: A real land of giants, this glacier-carved canyon is home to the most gargantuan granite monoliths, and sequoia trees that tower - like Jack and his cloud-reaching beanstalk – high into the sky. Home to the kingpin of rock climbing walls, if you’re a professional climber, you can scale some of the most challenging cliff faces in the world. Even if you’re a total novice, you can call the Yosemite Mountaineering School & Guide Service, and sign up for one of their seven hour rock climbing courses; beginners welcome. And if all that sounds a little too strenuous, sit at the bottom of El Capitan Meadow. Take a pair of binoculars and observe the veteran climbers cling to the granite wall - like flecks of dust on mammoth walls.  

HOT tip: For convenience, park your car in the valley and take advantage of the park’s free visitor shuttle buses.

Yosemite National park

3. Run wild at Lassen Volcanic National Park
Okay, so you might find it a trifle rich that we’re about to promote an area of geothermal volcanic activity to an audience of kiwis. Lava practically runs through Aotearoa veins. But, Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California is hands-down…wait for it….magical.

A wild and sulphur-soaked strip of volcanic land, the almost lunar landscape is as eerie as it is beautiful. With all your volatile faves: spluttering mud pools, steaming sulphur vents, boiling springs. And the oh so familiar scent of Rotorua (you know it!) Admire the Lassen Peak volcano from a sparkling Lake Helen, or climb to its summit and peer into a gargantuan volcanic mouth. Lassen National Park is a geological playground. At
the very least, you’ll feel right at home.

Lassen Volcanic Park USA

4. Go rooftop bar-ring at Venice Beach
On any given day, Venice Beach is awash with people watching splendour. From the kids in roller blades to the muscle men enjoying an outdoor workout, you'll spot cyclists and surfers, skateboarders, sun worshippers, and if you're really lucky, a strutting Hollywood celebrity. 

In the words of Rihanna… “This is what you came for.”

One of the best places to observe all these hijinks, is High Rooftop Lounge at Hotel Erwin. There’s a surprisingly sparse amount of rooftop bars in LA and this is the only one you’ll find at Venice Beach, so we recommend booking. Along with the epic people watching, plan your visit around a Venice Beach sunset, complete with cocktails and an elevated position over the sashaying palm trees.  

Venice Beach California


5. Blow your bassoon in Laguna
So you might already know that Laguna has a beautiful Atlantic-fronting beach, but did you know it’s also full of bassoons?

What’s a bassoon, you ask… A native animal? An insult for disrespectful tourists? Neither. It’s a woodwind instrument. And every second Thursday of the month Music collaborative, Laguna Beach Live! partner with Laguna Art Museum to present an evening of art and rhythm. Talented musicians play a medley of mesmerising instruments, the bassoon included, for one solid hour between 7pm and 8pm. And what’s more, it’ll only set you back $7USD each. Keep your fingers crossed for a full moon and you can complete the night with a post-concert stroll along Laguna’s picture-perfect beach.

Laguna Beach California


6. Paddleboarding on Lake Tahoe
When most people think about California they tend to envisage beach beach beach, and yet it’s Lake Tahoe that provides some of the most spellbinding water vistas in the state. First off, it’s staggeringly beautiful. With crystal clear water (when you’re in it) and a dazzling emerald hue when you’re observing it from afar, it’s fringed by forest and bordered by snow-capped mountain peaks. It really does take the award for WOW. Secondly, it’s a lot calmer than the Pacific-thrashed coastline, so if you’re into SUP boarding, you won’t find a more picturesque, and placid, venue than Lake Tahoe. If you haven’t packed your SUP board, you needn’t worry – there are ample rental companies dotted around the lake’s perimeter.       

Lake Tahoe California


7. Get baked in Los Alamos
We’re talking about carbs.

And if there's one person in LA who you can trust with your bread, it's Bob.

Bob Oswaks (and his wife) run Bob’s Well Bread Bakery in Los Alamos, Santa Barbara. A quaint but cheery French style café, located on the village strip - with croissants that crumble and coffee that ​has a kick. Open Thursday through to Monday, and with breakfast served until 3pm, you don’t want to miss Bob’s infamous Egg-in-a-Jar. Quite literally a mason jar filled with runny eggs, purple potato purée, gruyère cheese, bacon lardons, chives and crème fraiche. With a side serving of buttered soldiers, obviously. Mmm we’ll take two please, Bobby. Perfect for a sleepy Sunday morning, or, if you arrive early and there's still a misty morning chill in the air, sit outside and throw a blanket over your knees. Afterwards, you can peruse Los Alamos’ main drag, with its antique stores and scattering of wine tasting rooms… Take one of Bob’s gooey cakes for the walk!


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