California is known for its sunshine, beaches and palm trees.

Small-town getaways, snowy adventures, fine food and wine, Indigenous culture and unique natural encounters can be found in the Golden State.

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Some of the best things to do in California can be found in this primer.

1. Seek winter adventures in the mountains

The highest peaks in California are easy to find in the winter. Cross-country skiing, night skiing and snow tubing can be had on Mt. Shasta in the far north of the state during the winter months.

The High Sierras receive an average of 30ft of snow per season. It's a good place to strap on snowshoes or go dog sledding. Bed down in some of America's ski lodges and resorts at the end of the day.

If you want to snowboard in the state's freestyle capital, Big Bear, you can take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of Mt San Jacinto. You can take a scenic drive through cedar, pine, and fir trees at Palomar Mountain.

2. Dine at award-winning restaurants

California is home to a third of the nation's fruit and nuts, as well as top-notch local meats and seafood, making it a great place to eat. There are a variety of dining options across the state.

San Francisco and Los Angeles are both home to many food awards. It shows that California is a great place to eat.

A young couple walk through a vineyard in California
Exploring wine regions such as the Russian River Valley is a California dream © Jayme Burrows / Stocksy United

3. Follow California's wine trails

The state of California is home to more than 130 distinct, federally recognized American Viticultural Areas. The Russian River Valley in Sonoma County is home to Sonoma-Cutrer's delicious pinot noir and chardonnay wines.

Lodi in the Central Valley is known for its zinfandels, but the region is emerging as a top destination for lesser known grape varieties such as albario and vermentino.

Desparada Wines is located in the Tin City food and wine market in Paso Robles. Between LA and San Diego, there is a perfect syrah-growing country called Temecula.

4. Learn about California's Indigenous cultures

Visitors can learn more about the tribes of California through innovative cultural centers, sacred sites, learning spaces, and hands-on arts and crafts experiences.

The Karok, Hupa, Wiyot, Yuki and Shasta are some of the California tribes that were impacted by miners and settlers.

The Folsom History Museum has exhibits about the area's Indigenous peoples and Gold Rush history.

Basket-making and other crafts classes are offered at the Nuui Cunni Native American Intertribal Cultural Center. The Owens Valley Paiute Shoshone Cultural Center is located in Bishop, a small town that is a favorite of climbers, mountain bikers and fishing enthusiasts.

Rock art is believed to have been painted by the Chumash people in the 1600s. The Haramokngna American Indian Cultural Center shows the history and culture of the Chumash, Kitanemuk, Serrano, and other tribes.

The cultural plaza is being built by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in the valley. The hot spring that Native Americans have used for healing and spiritual purposes for hundreds of years will be included in the center's plans.

The area now covered by the Mission Trails Regional Park was important for the Indigenous Kumeyaay and Luiseo people. It is a great place for hiking, mountain biking, trail riding and camping.

Exterior view of Hearst Castle, California
Hearst Castle near Cambria is one of America's most lavish homes © Abbie Warnock-Matthews / Shutterstock

5. Experience American culture in California's small towns

The best of the US can be found in small towns. It is a good sign when looking for great food in California's northeast if you are a college student. The town's Bidwell Park is a great place to hang out. The Museum of Northern California Art is a great place to see work by local artists.

Dunsmuir is a well-loved fly fishing destination and a noteworthy stop for US railroad history. There are many spas in the area that offer soothing mineral waters. There are some that are optional. Cambria is a seaside town with inns. The former home of William Randolph Hearst is located there.

It's easy to get to Ojai from Los Angeles and it's also a good place to stay if you're looking for a relaxing place to stay. An annual outdoor jazz festival is held in the mountain town of Idyllwild, which is close to 30,000 acres of the San Jacinto Wilderness.

A humpback whale breaches in Monterey Bay, California
Spot whales along the California coast © Chase Dekker / Shutterstock

6. Witness remarkable natural events

Natural phenomena are seen in California every year. If the timing is right, you can catch the annual bioluminescence events in San Diego.

During the day, the ocean takes on a reddish-brown hue from algal blooms, and these same organisms make the ocean light up at night The red tides are best observed from land as they can cause irritation for people with asthma and other conditions.

The annual monarch butterfly migration starts in November and runs through March, bringing huge numbers of these distinctive butterflies to the Central Coast. The number of butterflies is impressive, but western monarch butterfly numbers have plummeted since the 1980s due to climate change, habitat loss and other factors.

During the winter months of December to April, gray whales migrate between Alaska and Mexico, making it a good time to visit northern California. Humpback whales are spotted year-round. Monterey Bay is famous for whale watching.

7. Shop for products made by California artisans

California's creativity can be seen in locally made goods. Black-owned businesses and Bay Area makers are highlighted in the month of July. Johanna Howard Home is a producer of self-care products.

Alta Baja Market is located at 4th Street Market in Santa Ana. It is a great place to find wines from Mexico.

A wine shop, florist, produce market and restaurants can be found in Downtown Los Angeles.

8. Don't forget the obvious California experiences

As well as going off the beaten track, you'll want to spend time on California's beaches, soak up the big city buzz of Los Angeles and San Francisco, and enjoy the thrills in the state's fantastic theme parks. There are many outdoor adventures in national parks such as Death Valley.

The article was first published about a year ago.