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California in April: 17 Best Places to Visit for a Spring Vacation!

California in April is simply breathtaking. The Golden State is gorgeous any time of year, but in our opinion, spring is the best time to enjoy the best of California’s renowned natural beauty.

California’s hills turn a beautiful bright green in the spring. Wildflower displays can range from good to sensational. Wide-ranging opportunities for outdoor recreation, generally fog-free days along the coast, and pleasant daytime temperatures in many parts of the state mean that you have plenty of choices when it comes to enjoying California in April.

Bush lupine in bloom at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in California
Bush lupine blooms in the spring in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Savor the freshest of spring produce in California’s farm-to-table restaurants. Chase raging waterfalls or colorful wildflowers. Take a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway. Go skiing in the Sierra Nevada. Admire spring bloom in the Golden State’s many gardens.

We can’t think about April in California without the urge to get out and explore every single day, even if it’s just a local drive or hike! It’s just that beautiful a month in the Golden State.

Planning to visit California in the spring? Read on to discover what to see and do in California in April, plus the most famous events you can attend in April in California!

Citrus in bloom in Monterey, California, in April
Citrus wafts its heavenly scent in a Monterey garden in April

Big Sur in April

If you are a nature lover or outdoor enthusiast, plan a visit to Big Sur in April. On clear spring days, the coast that’s legendary for its beauty is even more jaw-dropping, and it’s enormously uplifting to drive the coast, do some Big Sur hikes, or even simply be in Big Sur.

In the spring, the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean is a riveting dark blue, the coastal cliffs of Big Sur are alive with color, and the Santa Lucia mountains are draped in a fresh bright green. While you may have a sprinkling of rainy days in wet years, you’re more likely than not to have clear dry days in Big Sur in April.

Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, California
Beautiful spring morning in Big Sur

The Big Sur coast features a string of lovely state parks, each one of which is a magical place to explore. Hike the easy and scenic trails in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, drink in the wild beauty of Big Sur in Garrapata State Park (where you may see the Calla Lily Valley in bloom!), or do the short trek to McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

For a stroll among towering coastal redwoods, head to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, where you can also picnic by the Big Sur River or hike to Pfeiffer Falls. A little south of the park, you will find Pfeiffer Beach, where you can snap photos of the stunning Keyhole Rock or look for purple sand.

Even if you are just planning to drive through Big Sur, April is a beautiful month for a Big Sur road trip. Waterfalls are in great flow, and bush lupine, poppies, and other spring wildflowers put on a brilliant show of color on cliffsides and along trails. Out in the ocean, you may see whales spouting and sea birds flying over the water.

Calla Lily Valley in Big Sur in bloom in the spring
Calla Lily Valley in Garrapata State Park in the spring

If you enjoy long distance running, the Big Sur International Marathon happens in April each year. It’s a very popular event, so register early if you want to participate.

Monterey in April

Monterey is a super popular getaway in California, no matter the time of year. But as locals, we love exploring Monterey in April, when lupines and poppies adorn hillsides, grape vines in the region are budding, and clear days allow for enjoying Monterey’s many beautiful beaches.

The coastal trail at Asilomar on the Monterey Peninsula in California
Walking the pretty coastal trail at Asilomar

Since the towns of the Monterey peninsula are clustered close together, it’s easy to zip from Monterey to Carmel-by-the-Sea or Pacific Grove, do the 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach, or enjoy wine tastings in Carmel Valley, all in one weekend! But it’s also a region where you can enjoy a longer spring break, with lots to see and do.

While whale-watching is spectacular in Monterey year round, April-May is peak season for seeing killer whales in Monterey Bay. You may also see humpbacks, gray whales (perhaps even babies, since adults and calves are on their way to the Arctic at this time of year), dolphins, and other marine life.

Killer whales in the ocean
Look for killer whales on a boat tour in Monterey Bay in April

April (and May) are also when you are most likely to witness the “magic carpet” of wildflowers in Pacific Grove: at its peak, the display of pink-purple flowers is a sight to behold. April is a wonderful time to walk the coastal Asilomar trail and to enjoy water activities such as kayaking in Monterey Bay.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine offers a weekend of tastings, cooking demos, and dinners by famous chefs. It’s an event no foodie wants to miss! The Sea Otter Classic, a four-day cycling event generally held in April each year, draws cycling enthusiasts from all over the world.

San Diego in April

With near-perfect weather (daytime temps in the high 60s and low 70s and mostly sunny days!) and lots to see and do, San Diego is one of the best places to visit in California in April. Hiking, sightseeing, water activities, a great food scene and more make San Diego a fun destination, whether you are traveling solo, as a couple, or as a family.

Wildflowers at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve just north of San Diego, CA
A riot of wildflowers at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

If you are looking for spring bloom in San Diego, head to Balboa Park, the museums and gardens complex in downtown San Diego. Among the dozen or so Balboa Park gardens to discover, the Japanese garden, with its magnolias and cherry blossom, and the rose garden, with its many varieties, are especially beautiful in the spring.

A few miles north of San Diego, ogle the brilliant color displays at the Carlsbad Flower Fields. With over fifty acres of ranunculus in many different colors, the fields are sensational in April. If you are traveling with kids, Carlsbad is also where you will find LegoLand, and u-pick strawberry fields at Carlsbad Strawberry Company.

Ranunculus in bloom at the Carlsbad Flower Fields in California
Colorful ranunculus at Carlsbad Flower Fields

Cabrillo National Monument, located on the Point Loma Peninsula, and Torrey Pine State Natural Reserve in La Jolla, offer hiking trails with views, marine life viewing and birdwatching, and spring wildflowers. Enjoy the balmy spring weather at one or more of the many beautiful beaches in the region.

Spring is a wonderful time to kayak the waters of La Jolla Shores. Visit the famous La Jolla Sea Caves, and look for leopard sharks in the water! You can bring your own craft or join a tour. If you love ogling unique vehicles, you’ll want to visit the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance, held each April. The event includes music, food, and dancing!

Lake Tahoe in April

April is a great time to visit Lake Tahoe. The crowds of winter have left, but many Tahoe ski resorts stay open until some time in April (and even beyond, depending on snowfall levels), so you can still get in some great winter sport action, while enjoying the sensational views in relative solitude. Plus, accommodations around Lake Tahoe tend to be cheaper at this time of year.

East shore of Lake Tahoe
The Nevada side of Lake Tahoe in the spring

No matter when you visit Lake Tahoe, a sightseeing cruise on a paddlewheeler is a great idea! It’s a relaxing way to take in the spectacular beauty of your surroundings, and you can pick from a daytime cruise or a sunset cruise. In April, the mountains around the lake will still be covered in snow, making for a magical experience.

Kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding are other options for getting out onto the water to soak in the scenery. Especially in the mornings, the lake surface is like glass, and you can see right down into the depths. It’s a surreal feeling. Spring mornings in Tahoe are quietly beautiful, ideal for a reflective paddle.

Waterfalls in California are at their majestic best in the spring. If you enjoy hiking, put the trail to Eagle Falls on your April itinerary for Lake Tahoe. The trailhead is close to South Lake Tahoe, and the hike isn’t very long. The scenery along the trail is spectacular. In North Lake Tahoe, the scenic Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Loop is short and family-friendly.

Eagle Falls near South Lake Tahoe in California
Lower Eagle Falls at Lake Tahoe

Enjoy scenic drives? Do the loop around the lake, with stops to view picture-perfect Emerald Bay or to enjoy the boardwalk trail and beautiful beach at Sand Harbor, on the Nevada side. The adventurous can try a helicopter tour for breathtaking aerial views of the lake and the surrounding peaks.

Yosemite National Park in April

One of the best places to visit in California in April is Yosemite National Park. The park’s legendary waterfalls are flowing powerfully at this time on account of snow melt, and the weather is usually good, although it can still snow or rain in April in Yosemite.

Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park CA
Waterfalls at Yosemite are in full flow in the spring

Plan your spring sojourn in Yosemite National Park well in advance: it’s one of the most popular times to visit the park, and accommodations in Yosemite Valley, where you would ideally want to stay, can fill up months prior. Although the park can feel crowded in April, the valley looks its best then. Plan on early wake-up times to beat the crowds!

You will want to view Yosemite’s major waterfalls on an April visit, from Yosemite Falls, which tumbles close to 2,500 feet down the cliff face, to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, accessed via the famous Mist Trail. Bridalveil Fall is another popular Yosemite waterfall. If you aren’t up for hikes, or trails aren’t open yet, many of Yosemite’s waterfalls can be seen from viewpoints.

Hiking opportunities in Yosemite in April tend to be limited to lower elevation trails. Mirror Lake or the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail offer excellent views of Yosemite’s towering granite faces, such as Half Dome and El Capitan. The Hetch Hetchy area is generally open for hiking in April.

Half Dome in Yosemite NP
Half Dome looks majestic!

If you do happen to run into bad weather on an April visit to Yosemite National Park, the Yosemite Museum is a great place to learn about the park and the region. It is the first ever structure built as a museum in the national parks system. The Ansel Adams Gallery in the park houses many of the famous photographer’s original works.

Solvang in April

The cute Danish-themed town of Solvang is one of our favorite spring destinations in California. Downtown Solvang is very walkable, and features photogenic facades and planters bursting with colorful tulips and other spring blooms. The Santa Ynez Valley, of which Solvang is a part, is extremely scenic in the spring.

A street in Solvang with a view of a windmill
A windmill in downtown Solvang!

Daytime temperatures in Solvang and the Santa Ynez Valley tend to be in the high 60s in April, making it a wonderful time to wander outdoors. Explore the historic Old Mission Santa Inés, one of California’s 21 Spanish missions. The grounds are beautiful and offer expansive views of the valley.

Solvang, and other valley towns like Santa Ynez and Los Olivos, offer lots of choices for dining and sipping. While each town has tasting rooms, there are also many lovely wineries in the countryside around the towns you can tour. And the region is famous for its restaurants, many of which feature farm-fresh locally sourced ingredients.

The Figueroa Mountain area, a wilderness area near the Santa Ynez Valley, is well-known for wildflowers in the spring. California poppies, lupines, buttercups, wallflowers, bush lupine, blue dicks, and numerous other varieties can be seen here, and the displays are gorgeous in a good bloom year.

 California poppies in bloom
Poppies provide a burst of color in the spring

Nearby Nojoqui Falls flows most powerfully in early spring, so be sure to include the waterfall in your April itinerary for Solvang. The 80-foot waterfall can be accessed via a short hike, just 0.65 mile round trip. From downtown Solvang, the drive to the falls is about 6.5 miles.

Sonoma in April

Sonoma County is one of the best places to visit in California in the spring. In April, you will find the countryside a fresh bright green, with grape vines budding and wildflowers everywhere: along country lanes, in local parks, and on the hillsides.

The Sonoma Mission in downtown Sonoma, CA
The historic Sonoma Mission on a beautiful day

If you love gardens, rejoice! You will find many beautiful gardens to tour in Sonoma County, some that are especially stunning in April. Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve, located just south of Gualala on the coast, dazzles with pink blooms in the spring: walk the loop trail to view the blooms and take in all the wildflowers as well.

Sonoma Botanical Garden in Glen Ellen features lots of rare wild roses, many of which bloom only once, in the spring. Enjoy many other Asian species in the park, some rare and endangered. In Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Rose Company is a must-visit in April (and May) for their fragrant Perfume Harvest Tours!

Wine tastings are always fun in Sonoma County, but even if you do not much enjoy wine, there are many beautiful wineries in Sonoma to tour for their architecture and gardens. Ferrari-Carano Winery in Healdsburg is famous for their spring display of several thousand tulips. Many wineries have produce gardens to browse as well.

Gardens and chateau at Chateau St. Jean Winery in Sonoma County CA
The beautiful chateau and gardens at Chateau St. Jean Winery

One of the best things to do in Sonoma County is eat! Sonoma restaurants are known for incorporating all the bounty of local farms, dairies, and other food producers into their menu offerings, and in April, you’ll enjoy the best of what spring has to offer in the county. The salads we have eaten in Sonoma are some of the most flavorful ever.

There are always events to attend in Sonoma County, and April is no exception. Battle of the Brews in Santa Rosa is a one-day event featuring dozens of food and beer vendors. In Sebastopol, the two-day Apple Blossom Festival has a parade with floats and marching bands. Apple trees in bloom around the little town are a sight to savor as well!

Mammoth Lakes in April

Although the mountains are covered with snow, you will likely have lots of bright sunshine when you visit Mammoth Lakes in April. Other than the occasional spring snowstorm, the days are usually dry, with highs in the mid to high 50s, so as long as you pack and dress smart, you will love being outdoors in Mammoth Lakes in April.

Crimson columbine in bloom on the shore of Convict Lake in Mammoth Lakes, CA
Crimson columbine in bloom at Convict Lake

Mammoth Mountain still has tons of snow in the spring, so you’ll be able to enjoy winter sports in Mammoth Lakes in April, from downhill skiing to snowboarding, snowshoeing, and more. In some seasons, the Mammoth Bike Park is open in April, allowing you to experience some of the biking trails.

Lower elevation trails start to open up in April, so you may be able to enjoy hiking in Mammoth Lakes in April as well! Locals call this season “swinter”: a delicious mix of winter and summer when snow is still on the ground but wildflowers are peeking out by the sides of roads and trails and on hillsides.

Highway 395 south of Mammoth Lakes is fun to drive in the spring. Just south of Mammoth Lakes you will find Convict Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in California. You can drive right up to the lake and walk around its shore. Also make a stop to see the beauty of Hot Creek Geological Site.

Do a day trip to the little town of Lone Pine, where April is a great month to explore the rock formations of the Alabama Hills. It’s an incredibly beautiful area. The Movie Road drive is super scenic and the Mobius Arch loop hike is short and family-friendly. Bishop, along the way, has a lively downtown, with a famous bakery for sweet treats, and lots of unique murals to admire.

A view of the Sierra peaks from the Alabama Hills in California
The Sierra Nevada, seen from the Alabama Hills

Morro Bay in April

While we’ve chosen Morro Bay for this round-up, you really can’t go wrong with any of the charming little Central Coast towns for a spring vacation: San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, or even tiny Cayucos or Cambria make for great April getaways in California.

The towns of the Central Coast are set close enough together that you can make one your base and explore others as you wish. Montana de Oro State Park in Los Osos, just south of Morro Bay, is a must-visit in the spring, when a variety of coastal wildflowers bloom. Walk the super scenic Bluff Trail for fabulous views, both of the ocean and the swathes of wildflowers.

Wildflowers and ocean views along the Bluff Trail at Montana de Oro State Park in California
Wildflowers in profuse bloom at Montana de Oro State Park

We love Morro Bay for the fabulous wildlife viewing and birdwatching opportunities. Even walking the Embarcadero, you will see cute otters playing in the waters, or water birds looking for food in the shallows. You can hear sea lions barking as they catch the sun, and raptors flying or roosting overhead. Be sure to pack your binoculars or zoom lens when you visit!

There are many easy hikes in and around Morro Bay, with beautiful views and birdwatching. In the spring, you will see wildflowers as well. Hike the Marina Peninsula Trail to snap photos of the harbor. Just south of Morro Bay, the Elfin Forest in Los Osos makes for a scenic and easy walk: the pale blue blooms of the bush lupines at Bush Lupine Point are stunning.

If you enjoy beautiful drives, California Highway 1 north and south of Morro Bay is incredibly scenic in the spring, with wildflowers brightening up lush green hillsides and gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. California Highway 46 is also very picturesque, with lots of vineyards on either side of the road, and ample wildflower viewing.

On bright and sunny April days, Morro Bay’s many pristine beaches are irresistible. Walk Morro Strand Beach, or explore the rocks and go tidepooling at North Point Beach. The annual Morro Bay Kite Festival happens in April, and is fun for the whole family.

A view of Morro Rock from North Point Beach in Morro Bay CA
A view of Morro Rock and the beach

Pro Tip: If you visit Morro Bay or SLO in a spring superbloom year, pack a picnic lunch and head out to Carrizo Plain National Monument for a few hours, for a wildflower show like you’ve never seen anywhere. April is generally when peak bloom occurs at Carrizo Plain.

Napa Valley in April

April is one of our favorite months to visit Napa Valley. Daytime highs are in the high 60s and low 70s, and the winter rains have all but gone, making it near-perfect from a weather standpoint. Evenings are still a little cool, ideal for enjoying outdoor wine tastings by the heat of a patio lamp, or indoors by a cozy fireplace.

Many Napa Valley wineries boast beautiful gardens, and spring is a great time to view the bloom. Far Niente, for example, offers 13 acres of lush gardens, with spring color from tulips and azaleas. Deciduous trees are putting forth bright green leaves at this time, and vines are budding.

Rose garden in bloom in Yountville, CA
The pretty rose garden in downtown Yountville in Napa Valley

If you enjoy walking in nature, try the trails in Boothe-Napa Valley State Park, where the flowing creek and spring wildflowers make for very enjoyable hiking in April. For a more challenging adventure, try the Stevenson Memorial Trail to the top of Mount St. Helena for fabulous 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside, lush and green in the spring.

Drive the scenic Silverado Trail through the valley. Pack a picnic to enjoy in a local park or at a winery. Enjoy a spa day in Calistoga, renowned for its restorative mud baths and mineral springs. Take in the public art in the towns. For an aerial view of the valley in the spring, the adventurous can book a hot air balloon ride.

Sculpture in downtown Napa, California
One of many art pieces in downtown Napa

Napa Valley is famous for its focus on farm-to-table cuisine, and many area restaurants develop spring menus around the fresh flavorful seasonal produce. In some cases, the veggies, flowers, and herbs are grown on farms or gardens right at the restaurants, and you can stroll the gardens before or after your meal.

April is Arts Month in the Napa Valley. Wineries, galleries, and museums offer up lots of art events to enjoy, with the focus on a different Napa Valley town each weekend in April. CampoVelo is an annual weekend-long event that combines good food, wine, and cycling.

Joshua Tree National Park in April

April is one of the best months to visit Joshua Tree National Park, one of the nine incredible national parks in California. April highs in Joshua Tree are generally in the 70s to low 80s, and lows in the 50s, making it great weather to hike or go rock climbing in the park. If you plan to camp inside the park, reserve well in advance!

Wildflowers in bloom at Joshua Tree NP in Southern California
Wildflowers in bloom at Joshua Tree National Park

Although wildflower bloom in the park tends to vary by year, you can generally expect some wildflower bloom in April at higher elevations in the park. Ryan Mountain Trail is an excellent hike for wildflower viewing in April. Keys View Road and Lost Horse Valley are other wildflower spots to visit at Joshua Tree in April.

The southern part of the park, near Cottonwood Springs, is a good place to look for wildflowers in the early part of April: you can sometimes see large swathes of beautiful purple mat in this area. Ocotillo, which you can see along Pinto Basin Road, throw out brilliant red flowers in the spring. Yucca (and other succulents) may be in bloom at this time as well.

April is a great month for hiking in Joshua Tree National Park. The park has trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels. Hidden Valley Trail and Barker Dam Trail are our favorite nature trails at Joshua Tree: they are short and very scenic. If you plan to do some of the longer, more strenuous hikes, be sure to start early in the day and carry plenty of drinking water.

Hidden Valley Nature Trail in Joshua Tree, California
Cactus in bloom along Hidden Valley Trail

Rock scrambling and climbing are fun things to do in Joshua Tree no matter when you visit. Learn about the area’s history by touring historical sites like Keys Ranch. If you stay overnight in the park or nearby, be sure to return after dark to observe the night sky. On clear cloudless nights, night sky gazing in Joshua Tree is spectacular.

Los Angeles in April

Los Angeles is an exciting California destination all year long, and April is no exception. With gardens, museums, beaches, and parks to explore, shopping, and great dining, the LA area is one of our favorite California spring break destinations. It’s spread out, so pick a part of the LA metropolitan area to visit, to avoid spending lots of time sitting in traffic.

LA gardens are bursting with bloom in the spring. The Huntington in Pasadena, Descanso Gardens, the gardens at Getty Villa and the Getty Center, and the Japanese Garden in Van Nuys are all magnificent in April, with wisteria, roses, and numerous other varieties of spring blooms.

Descanso Gardens in the spring
Gardens in Los Angeles are a riot of colors in April! PC: Lata

As the entertainment capital of the world, LA offers a huge number of options when it comes to entertainment in April, from musical performances and theme parks to comedy, theater, film, and sporting events. Knott’s Berry Farm celebrates Boysenberry Fest for three weeks in March and April, fun for kids and adults alike. Disneyland in a super popular California spring break destination.

Area botanic gardens and parks are great places to view spring wildflowers. In a superbloom year, it’s worth making the drive to Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve to see the spectacular wildflower show. Eight miles of trails traverse the rolling hills, allowing you to view the bloom and snap photos. Peak bloom varies by year, but April is a good time to visit.

Poppies in bloom at Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in Southern California
Poppies in bloom at Antelope Valley in a superbloom year

The L.A. Times Festival of Books is held annually in April on the USC campus. Authors and literary groups put on talks and performances, and lots of booksellers offer sales. Food trucks are on hand so bring your appetite! The town of Lancaster (near the poppy reserve) hosts the California Poppy Festival in April. Pasadena hosts an art fair in April, and Newport Beach a boat show.

Palm Springs in April

April is a fun time for a Palm Springs getaway. Daytime highs can get into the 80s, but mornings and evenings are very pleasant from a weather perspective, making it possible to still enjoy a variety of outdoor pursuits, such as hiking and horseback riding. And April is perfect for lounging by the pool at your hotel or vacation rental.

In good bloom years, you can see wildflowers blooming in canyons and oases in the Palm Springs area in early April. Cacti and succulents bloom in the spring as well, so plan a visit to the Sunnylands Center & Gardens in Rancho Mirage. There is a wildflower meadow here as well, and plenty of birds to observe.

Wildflowers bloom near Coachella Valley Preserve in Palm Springs, CA
Wildflowers on the way to Coachella Valley Preserve

Take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to Mount San Jacinto State Park, where the temperature is often 30 degrees cooler than on the desert floor and you will likely still see snow on the ground. Drive the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway for more wildflower and wildlife spotting opportunities.

Downtown Palm Springs is fun year-round. Stroll Palm Canyon Boulevard, enjoy shopping or browsing at numerous boutiques and art galleries, and savor outdoor dining at some fabulous eateries. For more downtown fun, head to El Paseo in nearby Palm Desert. Enjoy a spa day at one of many area spas.

Mount San Jacinto at palm Springs, CA
Snow-capped Mount San Jacinto towers over Palm Springs

The Greater Palm Springs area offers two acclaimed music festivals in April, held over three consecutive weekends: the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and the Stagecoach Country Music Festival. These mega-fests draw huge crowds to the area, so books accommodations and dinner reservations well ahead of your visit.

Sacramento in April

An underrated California travel destination, Sacramento is a joy to visit in the spring, with dozens of parks, the Sacramento River, and many landmarks. Daytime temperatures are generally in the 70s or low 80s, great for wandering outdoors.

The International World Peace Rose Garden is a must-visit in Sacramento in April. The half-acre garden at the California State Capitol features dozens of varieties of roses and is a wonderful place for a morning stroll. The UC Davis Botanical Garden, just a short drive from downtown Sacramento, is another great place to visit for spring blooms, including wildflowers and spring-flowering trees.

Roses in bloom at the Capitol Rose Garden in Sacramento, CA
Roses in bloom at the Capitol Rose Garden

Old Sacramento, with its historic buildings and unique shops, is fun to explore. Sacramento River cruises depart from here as well. In Midtown, visit Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, where you can tour historic buildings and the park museum. Midtown is also home to a thriving entertainment and dining scene.

Visit the Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park with its opulent interiors and gorgeous gardens. Museum buffs will want to head to the Crocker Museum of Art to view the impressive collection of California art and more. Railroad enthusiasts can take a ride aboard a vintage train at the California Railroad Museum.

Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park in Sacramento, CA
The Leland Stanford Mansion in Sacramento

About an hour and a half away is North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, perfect for an April day trip. In good bloom years, you’ll see vast swathes of wildflowers here, in yellow, orange, gold, purple, pink, and white. Bring a picnic lunch, lather on the sunscreen, and enjoy the show!

San Francisco in April

San Francisco in April is beautiful, and usually fog free! Daytime temperatures are generally in the 60s, perfect for sightseeing. With area gardens in bloom, hiking trails to enjoy, and lots of events to attend, you will love the City by the Bay in the spring.

The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset from Marshalls Beach in San Francisco, CA
The Golden Gate Bridge viewed on a fog-free day!

Head to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park to see cherry blossom in bloom! It is one of the best Bay Area gardens you can visit. In the early part of the month, you may still see tulips in bloom at the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden. Also be sure to stop by the stunning Conservatory of Flowers, and take in the display of rhododendrons at the San Francisco Botanic Garden.

There are lots of places to go hiking in the spring, in and around San Francisco. The short downhill hike to Marshall Beach is perfect if you want to snap photos of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. North of San Francisco, Mount Tamalpais State Park is lush in the spring, with lots of wildflowers, bubbling creeks, and roaring waterfalls, and the park offers both hiking and mountain biking.

Spring is a great time to visit Muir Woods National Monument, just north of the city, for a quiet walk among the redwoods. Point Reyes National Seashore, also just north of San Francisco, features lots of trails and spectacular wildflower displays in good bloom years. The short Chimney Rock hike is known for wildflowers in the spring.

Female tule elk at Tomales Point in the spring
Female tule elk at Tomales Point in Point Reyes in the spring

In the city, take a ride on a historic San Francisco cable car, have a picnic on the grassy green at Alamo Square (home to the famous Painted Ladies), and sample spring menus at city eateries. Brunch in San Francisco presents the delicious dilemma of having to pick from a plethora of topnotch places, no matter when you visit.

For two consecutive weekends in April, you can celebrate Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown in San Francisco, with a parade, music, dance, tea ceremonies, and food. The San Francisco International Film Festival, also an April event, is the longest-running film festival in the Americas.

Santa Barbara in April

There’s no bad time of year to visit beautiful Santa Barbara, but you may be able to score less expensive accommodations in early spring. With gardens in bloom in and around the city, lots of wildflower-fringed trails to explore, and seasonal dining, Santa Barbara in April is magical!

Woodland Meadow at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in bloom in the spring
The woodland meadow at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Daytime temperatures tend to be in the high 60s or low 70s in April, with lots of sunshine. With a light (but warm) jacket for breezy times by the water and for early mornings and late evenings, you’re all set to explore Santa Barbara in the spring.

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden contains a wildflower meadow with views of the Santa Ynez mountains. When the meadow is in peak bloom in the spring, it’s a stunning sight. The rest of the garden is lovely as well, with manzanitas, redwoods, and succulents. Many succulents bloom in the spring as well.

Cycling Cabrillo Boulevard is a fun activity for the whole family. Enjoy beach time at one or more of many beautiful beaches, from the large East Beach to Butterfly Beach in Montecito. Explore the harbor in a kayak, or take a sightseeing cruise. Tour historical sights, like the Presidio and the Santa Barbara Mission.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse in Santa Barbara CA
Santa Barbara County Courthouse on a beautiful day

Take a day trip to the Santa Ynez Valley, where you will find spectacular wildflower displays on Figueroa Mountain in good bloom years. Closer to the city, hiking trails above Montecito and Summerland also offer wildflower viewing in April. Drive out to Lompoc to see cultivated flowers in bloom.

April is National Kite Month, and Santa Barbara has a kite festival in April to celebrate. The one-day event offers prizes, food, and fun for adults and kids alike. If you enjoy local history, check out the Santa Barbara Founding Day Festival, a one-day April event at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park.

Pinnacles National Park in April

Celebrate spring in California with a visit to one of the Golden State’s smallest and least-visited national parks! Pinnacles National Park has a wealth of wildflowers to admire in the spring, and daytime temperatures at the park in April are generally in the 70s, making it a wonderful time to be outdoors.

Pinnacles National Park in California
Volcanic rock formations at Pinnacles National Park

Peak wildflower bloom season at Pinnacles National Park in March to May, and in April, you are very likely to see over 80 percent of the park’s many plants in bloom. The variety of flowers you can see here is amazing: on a single hike in April a couple years ago we saw more than 25 distinct wildflower varieties, in yellow, red, pink, blue, white, and purple.

Although you may see a few small carpets of flowers in Pinnacles as you hike, the best part of hiking here in the spring is that you can see many individual blooms up close. Flowers grow right beside the trails and on ledges and rock surfaces that overhang the trail, so you can examine them closely without stepping off the trail.

Shooting stars in bloom at Pinnacles NP in Central California in the spring
Beautiful shooting stars at Pinnacles National Park in April

Located in Paicines, about a two-hour drive south of San Francisco, Pinnacles National Park features several miles of trails that showcase the park’s signature volcanic spires and talus caves. There is no road that runs through the park, so wear comfortable trail shoes and come prepared to walk or hike!

Pinnacles National Park is home to many wildlife species and birds, so bring your binoculars or zoom lens. If you are lucky, you may see a roosting California condor at higher elevations in the park, or see the majestic creatures flying overhead. You will likely see hummingbirds hovering over wildflowers, and bees buzzing about in the spring.

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Discover the best places to visit in California in the spring. Chase wildflowers and waterfalls and visit vibrant cities, charming towns, and beautiful parks.

Dhara

Dhara loves to explore her home state of California. With her husband Kishore, she has done numerous road trips in the state in every season. She hopes to share her love of the Golden State with you, and help you find your own exciting experiences here.

2 thoughts on “California in April: 17 Best Places to Visit for a Spring Vacation!”

  1. Thanks Dhara – we’re planning a three week trip to the San Francisco area (from the UK) in April 2023 and your blog has given us lots of inspiration. We’ve now just got to work out what we can fit into three weeks! So, many fabulous places to visit – it’s going to be an immense challenge to make any decisions.
    Kind regards
    Christine & Nigel

    Reply
    • Spring is an absolutely gorgeous time to visit California, so I am glad you are planning to visit then! I do understand how difficult it must be to choose where to go, but whatever your ultimate itinerary, you will have a wonderful time.

      Reply

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