counties in california

Best 15 Counties in California to visit for Vacation (updated)

For many people, vacations are an opportunity to relax and enjoy some quality time. However, for those with a love of the outdoors or looking to visit new places, vacationing can be more than just relaxing. It can be an opportunity to see things they have never seen before and experience life differently.

For those interested in these types of adventures, there is no better place than California because it has so much diversity that you will find something that interests you regardless of your tastes.

This article highlights 15 counties that would make great trips to get out of the city, but I don’t know where you should go. 

1. San Francisco County, California

San Francisco County, California

The city by the bay is one of the most iconic cities in America. San Francisco has a fascinating history filled with stories of seaports, gold rush days, and much more. The city itself is well known for its steep hills that are lined with Victorian-style homes.

San Francisco is a popular tourist destination for many reasons. The most popular attractions include the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Lombard Street. While there, visitors can enjoy various activities such as sightseeing, shopping, dining, and more.

2. Alameda County, California

Alameda County, California

The first thing that comes to mind for many people when they think of Alameda is the island known as Alcatraz, but there is so much more to do and see in this county. For those interested in learning about California history, places like Mission San Jose and Niles are some of the best examples of what life was like during the early days of American settlement.

Popular tourist sites such as Chabot Space & Science Center and the USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum. The attractions here vary from museums to outdoor activities, which has something for everyone regardless of your tastes, so it’s an excellent place for a family vacation or a romantic getaway.

3. Amador County, California

Amador County is a great place to visit if you are looking for a quiet and peaceful vacation spot that still has plenty of things to do. Some famous attractions in Amador County include Marshall Gold Discovery State Historical Park, the Fiddletown Opera House, Shenandoah Valley Wine Country & Tasting Room, Sutter Creek Victorian Walk or Drive Touring, Wines by Joe Tasting Room, Horseback Riding at Wrights Stables, Mountain Bike Rentals at Woodward Reservoir Trail Head, etc

4. Merced County, California

Merced is a great place to visit if you are looking for fun activities that are just outside of the city. Some of the top attractions include Yosemite National Park, Happy Isles Nature Center, The Giant Sequoia National Monument, etc…

These are only some of the more popular attractions in this county, but there are many more so you can be sure that there is something for everyone no matter what your interests may be. 

5. Monterey County, California

Monterey has long been considered one of the best places to stay in California, and it’s easy to understand why when you think about all that it has to offer. The area is famous for its spectacular beaches as well as Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center, Cannery Row, etc…

There are also many parks, including Natural Bridges State Beach, Point Lobos State Reserve, and Pedro Mountain Road Trail System, where visitors can go hiking or enjoy nature in general. There are so many activities to do here that it would be impossible to list them all, but the key is there is something for everyone.

6. Napa County, California

If you are looking for world-class dining and some of the best wine country views in the United States, then Napa should be on your list of things to do while on vacation. Some top attractions include Culinary Institute of America at Greystone Restaurant, Castello di Amorosa, Artesa Vineyards & Winery, Castello di Amorosa, The Culinary Institute of America, etc…

The choices here are almost unlimited, which is why Napa County attracts so many visitors every year. There are also plenty of outdoor activities like hiking and biking for those who enjoy nature, or people that want wine tasting can tour the various wineries in the area.

7. Sierra County, California

Sierra has long been known for its gold rush days and some of the most beautiful mountains in the state – if not all of North America. There are many things to see and do, including shops, restaurants, museums, and art galleries, but the main reason to visit this county is to experience what life was like during the gold rush days. Some popular attractions include Bridgeport Covered Bridge, Sierra Historic Cemetery, Bodie State Park, Gold Bug Mine, etc…

8. Mono County, California

Mono is a relatively unknown place to most visitors. Still, it has many unique features that make it worth visiting, like Lake Crowley and June Lake Loop Trail System or The Southwest Museum of Engineering, Telecommunications, and Transportation. There are also plenty of other activities, such as skiing at Mammoth Mountain during winter months and exploring Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve at any additional time.  

9. San Bernardino County, California

San Bernardino is another place that gets overshadowed by its more famous neighbor (Los Angeles), but if you want to explore an urban city, then this is where you will find it. So why would anyone visit San Bernardino if they could just as quickly go anywhere else? The reason is there are many things to do and see, and most of these attractions are pretty unique to the area, so here is a list: California Center for the Arts, Escondido Village, Crafted at the Port Market, Rialto Theatre, etc…

10. Yolo County, California

Yolo has always been considered one of the more laid-back places in California, but that doesn’t mean that this place isn’t worth visiting. There are several attractions that most visitors don’t know about, such as Whale Watching with Doran’s Ocean Adventures, fishing with Kenyon Fishing Charters, or even enjoying a meal at The Rock Bluff Grill & Marina.

11. Tulare County, California

Tulare is the last place you would expect to find some of the finest wineries and tasting rooms in California, but it does, so there you have it. If you want to enjoy wine grapes, then this is where you need to be as the county has hundreds of acres of vineyards that produce a wide variety of award-winning wines, including Syrah, Pinot noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Some top attractions include Visalia Historic District, Agri-Culture Museum, Mulchfest, Esplanade Park, etc…

12. Shasta County, California

Most people have never heard of this place. Still, if you are looking for some outdoor activities to do during your next vacation, then this is where you should go as there are several lakes and mountains nearby as well as a long list of fishing guides and resorts that can help you enjoy the great outdoors. Some top attractions include Lakehead Resort & Casino, McCloud River Campground, Howard Slough Fish Hatchery, etc…

13. San Joaquin County, California

If you were on a road trip from Los Angeles down the coast to San Diego, this would be an excellent place to stop for an afternoon or even overnight, depending on the time of year.  

This county has several unique things to see and do, such as Eagle Ridge Wildlife Area, Castle Crags State Park, The Filippi’s Mustard Museum, and Madera County Speedway.

14. Santa Barbara County, California

There is no shortage of unique things to see and do in this county, such as Montecito Wine Country, Butterfly Grotto at Toro Creek Winery & Gardens, Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, etc…

15. Orange County, California (Anaheim)

Although some may argue that Anaheim is part of Los Angeles, tourism often treats it as its area. So why would anyone visit Anaheim? Well, suppose you are on vacation in southern California. In that case, chances are you will be traveling on the famous Routes 66 or 1, which runs right through here, so stopping by for a few hours or more is highly recommended, especially if your kids want to go to Disneyland.


Well, there you have it, 15 hidden gems in California that most people don’t know about. Of course, I could have listed 100’s of other places to see and do, but this is more than enough for someone looking to plan their next vacation.  

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