8 epic, must-see sights on the West Coast

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Adding our favorite sightseeing spots to Edible Feast’s Left Coast food and drink tour

Edible Feast recently took readers on a West Coast local food and drink tour, highlighting the best places to whet your palate in eight regions ranging from San Diego to Seattle. Their gastronomic guides revealed delectable gourmet grub in West Coast destinations, including homemade kombucha on the MESAVERDE menu in Santa Barbara and heavenly treats at San Francisco’s bean-to-bar chocolate factory.

Now that you’ve noted some of the tastiest nosheries in each region on the epicure adventure, Expedia Viewfinder wanted to show you where to work up an appetite. There are so many noteworthy attractions to see in these cities, but if you’re short on time, eat your heart out and visit some of our favorites along the way:

San Diego, California — La Jolla Shores

Boasting the nickname America’s Finest City, San Diego has a ton of top-rated attractions competing for your attention, but La Jolla Shores promises to make a lasting impression.

The view alone is worth the 15-mile trek north of downtown, as the clear water gently laps against the shoreline, surrounded by jagged, sandy cliffs. Shaping ideal waves for beginner surfers, the beach also features calmer spots that offer excellent snorkeling and scuba diving conditions. For a remarkable experience, snorkel or kayak around the southern end of the shoreline between late June and early December to spot leopard sharks. These bottom-feeding, harmless, 5-foot sharks flock to the shallow water each season. Look, but don’t touch, and maintain a respectful distance to keep from disturbing their habitat.

Santa Barbara, California — Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Usually you might consider a visit to the courthouse a snooze fest, but the Santa Barbara County Courthouse is something of spectacular proportions.

Forget the stuffy images you’ve conjured up in your head, and embrace the colorful mosaic staircase that puts ordinary steps to shame. Built in 1929 to resemble a Spanish Colonial Revival palace, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse demands your attention with its hand-painted ceilings, iron chandeliers, and mural masterpieces. Aside from its impressive architecture, the courthouse is an integral part of the community as it continues to carry out judicial affairs. Take a free docent guided tour to learn about the building’s history, or absorb the epic coastal views from the clock tower observation deck.

Monterey Bay, California — Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Monterey Bay gets a lot of attention for its aquarium, but its naturally occurring underwater playground is where the real magic occurs.

Home to the largest kelp forests in the county, the Monterey Bay National Sanctuary attracts 525 species of fish, 34 kinds of marine animals, and more than 180 bird varieties. Though the marine sanctuary technically stretches from Golden Point in Marin County to Cambria in San Luis Obispo County, you don’t need to venture far from Monterey harbor and Fisherman’s Wharf to relish this marine park. Launch a kayak and glide above the sea life or plunge below the surface at the dive spots such as San Carlos or McAbee Beach.

Tahoe, California and Reno, Nevada — Galena Creek Park

When the next leg of your trip brings you to the Tahoe-Reno region, stop at Galena Creek Park—a halfway point between the two cities. Part desert and part alpine, this park is enveloped by the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

In the warmer seasons, trot along the Upper Whites Creek Trail on horseback or mountain bike on the Upper Thomas Creek Trail. Hike the Dry Pond trail to see if it’s filled with water, or for some more challenging terrain, work your way up the 9.2-mile Jones-Whites Creek Loop Trail, which creeps roughly 2,000 feet in elevation. Alternatively, if you’re visiting during the cooler months, you’ll find that these dusty trails disappear under mounds of snow, so swap out your hiking boots for some snowshoes.

San Francisco, California — Golden Gate Park

 

If you always thought Golden Gate Park was just a well-manicured lawn, it’s time to prove yourself wrong.

Housing a herd of bison, manmade waterfalls, and art exhibits, the park confirms it’s more than just a picnic spot. Get a sense of the Wild West at the Bison Paddock, where the buffalo roam, hike to the rushing water in Strawberry Hill, and explore the masterpieces at the de Young Museum. You’ll come across meticulously arranged flowers in the Rose Garden, Conservatory of Flowers, and Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers, and discover peaceful mediation areas in the Japanese Tea Garden and Golden Gate Pavilion. From the California Academy of Science to Mothers Meadow, you could get lost in this park for days.

Marin County, California — Marin Headlands

Relish the views at Marin Headlands, located in the southern end of Marin County, just north of San Francisco.

This region features both natural and historic landmarks, and on a clear day, it showcases brag-worthy views of the Bay Area, Alcatraz, and the Farallon Islands. Stroll over to Kirby Cove to gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge, or search for river otters at Rodeo Lagoon. For a peek into the nation’s military past, venture to Fort Cronkhite and Battery Townsley. If you’re exploring the Headlands during the fall, head to Hawk Hill to witness the raptor migration, when thousands of birds flock to the region.

Portland, Oregon — Portland Art Museum

Rain or shine, visit the Portland Art Museum between meals in Rip City.

Founded in 1892, the museum is the oldest one in the Pacific Northwest, but its artifacts and art pieces date back much further. The exhibits house more than 5,000 prehistoric artifacts from native tribes, in addition to mid-Victorian silver tea sets and European artwork from the Classical Antiquity. Comb through the Northwest masterpieces and admire the newer contemporary works of art. The museum features more than 42,000 ancient and modern pieces, so give yourself plenty of time to meander through the Asian art and hunt for Vincent Van Gogh’s “Cart with Black Ox.”

Seattle, Washington — Puget Sound

 

It seems nearly everyone who visits Seattle views the city from the Space Needle, but so few see it from the Puget Sound.

When you finally arrive in the eighth and final destination, board a ferry on the sound to receive a different perspective of the coast. These sightseeing cruises soar along the waterfront, showcasing the urban skyline. Join a tour that highlights Seattle’s fishing industry and steers around the Ballard Locks, or hop on a ferry that stops at Bainbridge Island. Glide around the harbor, learn the story behind the house boats and docked ships, and search for the iconic outline of Mount Rainer in the distance. Whether you’re looking for a unique means of transportation or simply a different view of the coastline, a ferry ride will tick off all the boxes.

Sip and chew your way through these eight cities, but make time to absorb the attractions, too. Use #eatlocalwestcoast to join the conversation, and check out Edible Feast’s roundup, The Best of the West: Our Favorite Local Food and Drink Spots Along the Coast.

What other attractions belong on this list?

Viewfinder Tip: For more wildlife in San Diego, head to nearby La Jolla Cove to see seal lions basking on rocks.

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Chloe Mulliner

As a staff writer for Expedia, Chloe Mulliner is dedicated to providing top travel tips for your jaunts around the world. She believes there are adventures to be had on every inch of the globe from surf spots on the Peruvian coast to the charming villages of the English countryside. Chloe specializes in showcasing all the must-see attractions on your travel wish list. She lives by the belief that every adventure is a story worth sharing.

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