Explore Top Things to Do in Central California

things to do in central california

Welcome to the heartland of the Golden State! Central California offers a diverse range of attractions and activities that will captivate and delight visitors of all interests. From the stunning coastlines of the Central California coast to the cultural hotspots in the Central Valley, this region is a treasure trove of unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, historical landmarks, or indulging in delicious food and wine, Central California has it all.

In this article, I will be your guide as we explore the top things to do in this captivating region. Get ready to discover the hidden gems, must-see landmarks, and unique attractions that Central California has to offer.

Key Takeaways:

  • Central California is the perfect destination for outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and culinary delights.
  • Be prepared to be wowed by the stunning coastlines, charming towns, and historical landmarks that define Central California.
  • Explore the unique attractions such as Capitola Village, Forestiere Underground Gardens, Cannery Row, Old Fisherman’s Wharf, and Hearst Castle.
  • Immerse yourself in the natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture of Central California.
  • Central California offers endless opportunities for exploration and unforgettable experiences.

Cruise through Capitola Village in Santa Cruz County

Located in Santa Cruz County, Capitola Village is a charming seaside town that exudes Mediterranean-inspired charm. With its colorful buildings, picture-perfect views, and numerous boutiques and galleries, it’s the perfect place to spend a leisurely day.

When visiting Capitola Village, be sure to take a cruise through the town in a vintage car shuttle and soak in the delightful coastal scenery. As you leisurely explore, you can also indulge in some window-shopping at the fabulous boutiques and galleries that line the streets.

Home decor enthusiasts will find plenty to love in Capitola Village, with its array of unique shops offering stylish and one-of-a-kind pieces. Whether you’re looking for coastal-themed accents or modern designs, there’s something to suit every taste.

Capitola Village is truly a hidden gem among Central California getaway destinations. Its relaxed and picturesque atmosphere, coupled with its boutique shopping and stunning beach views, make it a must-visit when exploring the region.

Capitola Village

Explore the Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno

One of the most unique places to visit in Central California is the Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno. This underground maze of patios, gardens, and grottos was created by Baldassare Forestiere, an Italian immigrant who settled in Fresno.

Over the span of four decades, Forestiere meticulously built this underground oasis, which consists of 65 rooms and three levels. Visitors can stroll through the intricate passageways and marvel at the native and exotic fruit trees that thrive in this subterranean setting.

forestiere underground gardens

The Forestiere Underground Gardens are truly a hidden gem in Central California, offering a one-of-a-kind experience for those seeking to explore the region’s rich history and unique attractions. This underground maze showcases the creativity and determination of Baldassare Forestiere, providing visitors with a glimpse into his remarkable vision and craftsmanship.

Whether you’re a history buff or a nature lover, the Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno are sure to captivate and inspire. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover this remarkable hidden treasure during your visit to Central California.

Visit Cannery Row in Monterey

A must-visit destination in Central California is Cannery Row in Monterey. Made famous by John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name, this historic sardine-canning street has transformed into a vibrant hub of restaurants, shops, and cultural attractions.

Take a leisurely stroll along the row and soak up the charming atmosphere, admire the turn-of-the-century buildings, and explore the boutiques and galleries. Cannery Row is the perfect representation of the laid-back and cultural vibe that the central coast getaways are known for.

Cannery Row in Monterey

Exploring Cannery Row

  • Indulge in delicious seafood at one of the many waterfront restaurants
  • Discover unique boutiques offering local artwork and trendy fashion
  • Immerse yourself in the history and culture of the sardine-canning industry
  • Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a world-renowned marine sanctuary
  • Take a scenic bike ride along the beautiful coastline

Whether you’re a fan of John Steinbeck or simply want to experience the charm and history of Cannery Row, this iconic destination in Monterey is a must-see on your Central California itinerary.

Have an Offshore Adventure at Old Fisherman’s Wharf

For a true Central California experience, head to Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey. This fishing hub is lined with unique stores and restaurants, offering a delightful blend of shopping and dining experiences. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the freshest seafood or sign up for a thrilling whale watching tour with Monterey Bay Whale Watch. Old Fisherman’s Wharf is a must-visit attraction in Central California for seafood lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike.

Shop and Dine at Unique Stores and Restaurants

Old Fisherman’s Wharf is home to a variety of unique stores and boutiques, perfect for finding souvenirs or treating yourself to something special. Explore the shops and discover locally made crafts, artwork, and gift items. After a day of shopping, satisfy your cravings at one of the world-class seafood restaurants that line the wharf. Indulge in the freshest seafood dishes, from succulent crab and shrimp to mouthwatering clam chowder.

Embark on an Unforgettable Whale Watching Tour

One of the highlights of visiting Old Fisherman’s Wharf is the opportunity to go on a whale watching tour. Join Monterey Bay Whale Watch, a reputable tour operator, and set sail on an unforgettable adventure in the Pacific Ocean. Marvel at the majestic sights of whales breaching and dolphins dancing in the waves. With its rich marine biodiversity, Monterey Bay is a premier destination for whale watching, offering sightings of humpback whales, gray whales, orcas, and more.

Sample the Freshest Seafood

While at Old Fisherman’s Wharf, be sure to treat yourself to the freshest seafood Central California has to offer. From succulent Dungeness crab to pristinely grilled salmon, the local seafood restaurants at the wharf are known for their culinary expertise and commitment to serving the best seafood dishes. Whether you prefer a casual seafood shack or an upscale dining experience, you’ll find a wide range of options that will satisfy your taste buds and leave you craving for more.

Old Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular attraction in Central California, beloved by locals and visitors alike for its unique blend of dining, shopping, and natural beauty. So grab your camera, appetite, and sense of adventure, and discover the treasures that await you at Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey.

Tour Hearst Castle

No visit to Central California is complete without a tour of Hearst Castle in San Simeon. This opulent mansion, designed by renowned architect Julia Morgan, was the private residence of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. With its lavish design, terraced gardens, and breathtaking views of the Central Coast, Hearst Castle is a true architectural marvel. Explore the 165 rooms, wander through the stunning gardens and fountains, and immerse yourself in the grandeur of one of Central California’s most iconic landmarks.

As you step into Hearst Castle, you’ll be transported back in time to an era of immense wealth and luxury. Each room showcases intricate craftsmanship, stunning artwork, and opulent furnishings, providing a glimpse into the extravagant lifestyle of the Hearst family. Marvel at the Gothic Study, with its intricately carved woodwork, or the Neptune Pool, a stunning outdoor oasis complete with Roman-inspired sculptures.

The gardens and fountains that surround the castle are equally impressive. Take a leisurely stroll through the lush grounds, adorned with vibrant flowers and meticulously designed landscaping. The breathtaking views of the Central Coast serve as the perfect backdrop for a peaceful and serene experience.

Highlights of a tour at Hearst Castle:

  • Explore the 165 rooms of the opulent mansion.
  • Admire the intricate craftsmanship and stunning artwork.
  • Marvel at the terraced gardens and beautiful fountains.
  • Take in the stunning views of the Central Coast.
  • Learn about the history and legacy of the Hearst family.

A visit to Hearst Castle is a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you have a passion for architecture, history, or simply enjoy immersing yourself in grandeur, this Central California landmark is sure to leave a lasting impression.


Central California offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. With its charming seaside towns like Capitola Village and the vibrant Cannery Row in Monterey, visitors can immerse themselves in the region’s unique blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage. From the underground marvels of the Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno to the opulent Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Central California never fails to captivate and delight.

Whether you’re a nature lover, history enthusiast, or simply seeking a relaxing vacation, Central California has something for everyone. Experience the thrill of whale watching tours off the Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, indulge in the freshest seafood, or take a leisurely stroll through terraced gardens, all while basking in the stunning views that this region has to offer.

So why wait? Pack your bags and embark on an unforgettable journey through Central California. Discover the hidden treasures, enjoy the vibrant attractions, and get ready to create lasting memories. Explore Central California and let its charm and beauty leave you mesmerized.


What are some things to do in Central California?

Central California offers a plethora of attractions and activities, including exploring the charming beach towns of Capitola Village and Cannery Row, touring the underground oasis of Forestiere Underground Gardens, visiting the historic Hearst Castle, and enjoying an offshore adventure at Old Fisherman’s Wharf.

Where is Capitola Village located?

Capitola Village is located in Santa Cruz County, Central California.

What can I do in Capitola Village?

In Capitola Village, you can take a cruise through the charming seaside town in a vintage car shuttle, browse the boutiques and galleries, and shop for new home decor.

What is unique about the Forestiere Underground Gardens?

The Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno are a maze of underground patios, gardens, and grottos created by Italian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere. Visitors can stroll through the passageways and marvel at the native and exotic fruit trees that thrive in this subterranean setting.

Where is Cannery Row located?

Cannery Row is located in Monterey, Central California.

What can I do in Cannery Row?

In Cannery Row, you can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the historic sardine-canning street, admire the turn-of-the-century buildings, explore the boutiques and galleries, and indulge in the local restaurants and cultural attractions.

What can I do at Old Fisherman’s Wharf?

At Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, you can explore unique stores and restaurants, enjoy the freshest seafood, and sign up for thrilling whale watching tours with Monterey Bay Whale Watch.

Where is Hearst Castle located?

Hearst Castle is located in San Simeon, Central California.

What can I do at Hearst Castle?

At Hearst Castle, you can tour the opulent mansion designed by Julia Morgan, explore the 165 rooms, wander through the stunning gardens and fountains, and enjoy breathtaking views of the Central Coast.

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