Selling California

Photo Myles McGuinness

California is a dream destination for everyone. 
For Canadian residents, California is a chance to escape the harsh winters and visit warm sunshine and amazing beaches. Outdoors are a big draw – with Yosemite National Park and festivals, like Coachella – topping the list. Canada also has a strong segment of luxury travelers who enjoy spas, retreats, Michelin dining, celebrity golf courses – and many other top notch accommodations that California offers.

From thrilling theme parks and beautiful beaches to luxury golf courses and legendary wine country, there are endless experiences for every age, interest, personality and budget. The diversity of the state is what makes it so unique and we encourage you to create your own personal California Dream Vacation by including the things you love the most. 
  • Beaches - The Golden State’s beach towns stand out for their relaxed, inviting spirit, their beauty, and their boundless ways to play.

  • Festivals - From gourmet food and wine to iconic music festivals like Coachella, Californians know how to throw a party. 

  • Outdoors - California’s expansive state parks are a collection of natural treasures that include wild beaches, fascinating Gold Rush mines, lush forests, booming falls, and expansive deserts. 

  • Wine - With more than 4,000 wineries statewide, California lets you sample award-winning wines almost anywhere you go.

  • Theme Parks - From Disneyland classics to beachfront carousels, the Golden State’s best-in-class theme parks deliver something for everyone.

  • Golf - Stunning luxury golf courses combined with nearly perfect weather year round makes California a golfer’s paradise.

  • Road Trips - There is no better way to explore California then cruising along a coast-hugging roadway, in a convertible with the top down.

For additional California imagery, Click the Slideshow icon to the right.

Getting Here

Horseback riding at the Hollywood sign - photo Myles McGuinness

California is big - there’s no denying that. With over 800 miles of coastline stretching from Oregon to Mexico, and an average of 200 miles across, there is a lot of ground to cover.

Fortunately California also has a lot of airports, making travel in and around relatively easy. Easy airport access also makes fly/drive vacations a convenient option, as well.

In total, California boasts 13 international airports, many that rank as destinations in themselves, such as:
  • In Northern California, The San Francisco Bay area has three main international airports, Oakland (OAK), San Francisco (SFO), and San Jose (SJC).

  • Central California also has three international airports, Fresno (FYI), Sacramento (SMF) and Santa Barbara (SBA) airports.

  • And in Southern California, international travelers have seven additional options and can fly into Bakersfield (BFL), Burbank (BUR), Long Beach (LGB), Los Angeles (LAX), Ontario (ONT), Orange County (SNA), and San Diego (SAN).
There are a number of Canadian airlines that fly direct to California from major Canadian cities, like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. You can also reach California via US air carriers that will connect through major US cities. The most popular and well serviced California gateways are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Palm Springs, Anaheim and San Diego.
Driving to California from western Canada is a great alternative to flying, especially for longer stay vacations and snow birds. On average it takes about 15 hours to drive from Vancouver to San Francisco.

Timing a Visit

Mobius Arch in the Alabama Hills - Visit California/Max Whittaker

The beauty of California is it is a year-round destination, whether you’re a sun worshipper or a snow bunny. 

So when it comes to nailing down the “best” time to visit, it’s really all up to your clients and what they are looking to do.
Most of California maintains a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. On the coast the average daily high temperature hangs around 70 degrees and up, but can reach up to 80 or more on summer days. It’s rare for temperatures to ever drop to freezing in California. Along the coast, the legendary California fog blankets the coast from Monterey north. Inland, summers are hot and dry, while winters and cool and wet.
  • Many travelers make their way to California in the summer months, from June to August. During this time expect the biggest crowds and the highest season rates. If your destination is the high country, you might need to wait until the summer to access the highest roads and trails through the Sierra Nevada, as well as routes into wilderness areas around Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak. Spring,
  • March through April, is one of the most beautiful times of year in California. It can still be chilly at higher elevations, but expect hillsides to be blanketed in fresh green grass and wildflowers. During the Spring, California’s deserts pop with paintbrush, poppies, and other desert blooms. Fall is peak foliage season, especially in the High Sierra.
  • Autumn is the best time to visit wine country, since grape harvest time is generally August to October.
  • For skiers and snowboarders, winter is fantastic in California, when snow coats the mountains from November to march, with some resorts staying open into April or beyond.

If you want to easily share this information with clients, you will find a nice info-graphic for Timing a Visit within Fast Facts.

The Lay of the Land

Zeek Yan at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park - photo Max Whittaker

California is big and diverse.

Spanning 150,000 square miles and running just over 800 miles long from south to north, California is the third-largest state in the U.S. Nature has left her mark here in beautiful ways, with glaciers creating enormous granite monoliths trimmed by waterfalls in Yosemite National Park. Towering volcanoes jut into the sky in the state’s northeastern corner. Dramatic deserts like Death Valley and Anza-Borrego stretch across the state’s southeastern corner, while the jagged Sierra Nevada range forms a granite backbone near the Nevada border. This is a land of extremes, with the continental U.S.’s tallest mountain, Mt. Whitney, and lowest point, Death Valley’s Badwater, located only 100 miles from each other, as the crow flies.

  • Southern California is home to sun-drenched coastal destinations like San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles.

  • The Desert Region offers the polished glamour of Greater Palm Springs contrasted by quirky, character-rich small towns and the Route 66 destinations of the Inland Empire.

  • The pace of life is a bit slower on the easy-going Central Coast, home to destinations like Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey.

  • A distinctly Northern California vibe permeates the Bay Area communities of Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Marin County, Sonoma County and Napa Valley.

  • Heading inland, Gold Country is home to the state capital of Sacramento, also the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America, while the 450-mile long Central Valley is the “Bread Basket of the World” with its hundreds of farms and ranches.

  • The High Sierra region spans from Lake Tahoe down to Mammoth Lakes and includes a trio of top-rated national parks.

  • The northernmost parts of California are the North Coast and Shasta Cascade regions, which are lesser-known but stunningly beautiful with vast stretches of open space and dramatic scenic landscapes.

Getting Around

California's Death Valley National Park - photo Visit California/Max Whittaker

California is not a small place. In fact, it’s rather massive. If your client’s were to drive the length of the state on Interstate 5 it would take an estimated 15 hours with little or no traffic to get from Oregon to Mexico.

At the end of the road trip they would have driven about 800 miles.  But in between there are fantastic self-drive loops and opportunities that are much more manageable.  If road tripping is your client’s style, you’ve come to the right place.
  • Downtown San Diego is less than 20 miles north of the Mexican border and about 130 miles south of Los Angeles.

  • From Los Angeles, it’s 385 miles north to San Francisco, and from there another 90 miles northeast to Sacramento.

  • It’s another 190 miles from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park.

  • And, about 600 miles from Los Angeles to Mount Shasta in Northern California.

Click on the Map icon to better understand the distance between most major points in California.

Travel Within California

Historic San Francisco Streetcar No. 1015 - photo Tai Power Seeff

California’s major gateways for international travellers are San Francisco International (SFO) in the north and Los Angeles International (LAX) and San Diego (SAN) in the south.
Other major gateways with international service or interstate connections include Oakland (OAK), Sacramento (SMF), and San José (SJC).
A large number of other airports have interstate flights or provide quick hops to other parts of California, including Fresno/Yosemite (FAT), Santa Barbara (SBA), Burbank (BUR), LA/Ontario (ONT), Long Beach (LBG), Santa Ana/Orange County (SNA), and Palm Springs (PSP). Reno/Tahoe International Airport (RNO) serves Lake Tahoe; the airport is in Nevada, about 40 miles east of the lake. Also in the High Sierra, Mammoth Lakes (MMH) has newly expanded year-round air service.
For buzzing around within the state, check schedules and service offered by American, United/United Express, Southwest, Alaska, Horizon, and JetBlue. Rates tend to be best if made online and well in advance. Charter flights can also be arranged, but tend to be very pricey.
National bus operator Greyhound runs a number of services between towns and cities throughout California. While buses are generally safe and dependable, they aren’t a very elegant way to travel and trips can take a long time as routes aim to connect scattered rural communities. A typical trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco should take 7.5 hours without delays. L.A. to San Diego takes about 2.5 hours.
Visitors without cars can turn to public buses to go from urban areas to the most popular parks and scenic destinations.
Another alternative is train travel, which is a relaxing way to get around California. Long-distance passenger service is offered by Amtrak, which also services much of the U.S. except Alaska and Hawaii. Three classic routes start and end in California, and in fact privately run excursion and dinner trains are another option for taking in the sights.
  • The Capitol Corridor runs from San Jose to Auburn via Sacramento.

  • The Pacific Surfliner links San Diego to Paso Robles with stops in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

  • The San Joaquin rolls through the Central Valley from Bakersfield to Sacramento, then continues west to the San Francisco Bay Area.


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