One of the best parts about being a professional intern in California is being able to spend your weeks in Los Angeles. You get the opportunity to be immersed in the center of the entertainment industry and explore one of the most exciting cities in the country. Sometimes though, that’s all people think California is. I have lived here my entire life, and I can tell you that California is more than just Disneyland and Hollywood.

As great as those places are, one of the amazing things about being an intern in California is having the opportunity to travel outside of Los Angeles and around the state to see all the other amazing things California has to offer. California is full of places so different from one another; you’ll forget it’s all the same state.

From my personal experience, I’ve found that travel guides are useful for anybody who is living in a new place. Since many professional interns are traveling to California from out of state, I thought it would be useful to compile a list of the top eight cities in California that I think professional interns should make time to visit during their internship.

  1. San Francisco
    If you are looking for an exciting city outside of Los Angeles, San Francisco is the place for you. San Francisco is one of the most diverse and vibrant places in the state. When you visit the city, you will see that there is so much to do.  One of my personal favorite places to go to is The Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can check out hundreds of sea lions relaxing on Pier 39 and indulge in, in my opinion, some of the tastiest seafood in the state. Additionally, the city is full of historical neighborhoods, with my favorites being Haight & Ashbury and China Town. China Town is a great place to learn about the Chinese culture and to eat some more delicious food. If you are looking for a little adventure, you can take a trip out to Alcatraz, an old high-security prison. And of course, you can’t leave San Francisco without visiting the famous Golden Gate Bridge. With some of the best public transportation in California, you will be able to do all these things and more during your time in the city.
  2. Catalina Island
    One of the best parts of living in Southern California is knowing that you don’t have to jump on a plane to travel to paradise. We have our own little slice of paradise located right off the coast of Los Angeles on Catalina Island. Catalina is one of the most relaxing places to visit in the state, which makes it a must-do for any hardworking intern. The travel time is relatively short, taking about an hour and a half to get to the island by boat. Once you are on the island, you can decide to camp or stay at one of the many hotels. The island is split into two main destinations, Avalon and Two Harbors, with Avalon being the larger and more popular of the two. There is plenty to do on the island including snorkeling, kayaking, hiking and my personal favorite, zip-lining. At night, you can catch a movie at the beautiful Avalon Theater or dance the night away with one of the local bands. The best part about Catalina is that the weather stays nice year-round, so no matter when you intern, you can visit paradise.Pro Tip: You can ride the boat to Catalina Island for free on your birthday!
  3. Big Bear
    If you are a mountain lover like myself, Big Bear is the place for you. Big Bear is a small and cozy town located just a couple hours away from Los Angeles, making it a great mountain destination for Southern Californians. You can drive there for the day or spend the whole weekend and play in the snow or in the lake, depending on the season. Some of the best memories I’ve had in Big Bear included snowboarding, sledding, and riding in a helicopter for my first time. Before you leave, make sure to take a walk around the Big Bear Village and eat at one of the many tasty restaurants there. With the close proximity to Los Angeles, Big Bear is a must for any intern.
  4. Palm Springs
    If you love the desert, golfing, hiking, music or even just relaxing, you need to visit Palm Springs. Palm Springs is an exciting desert destination located about two hours away from Los Angeles. My favorite time to visit this desert oasis is during the spring and summer, when the weather is nice and warm. However, you can visit year-round. During the cooler months, Palm Springs is an ideal place to be in nature, with many great hikes and canyons to explore. My favorite place to hike is the Palm Springs Indian Canyon Trails. In the warmer months, Palm Springs is a great place to rejuvenate and just relax by the pool. The town is full of many resorts, which make this perfect. Year-round you can practice your golfing skills at one of the many golf courses or check out awesome art at one of the museums in town. In fact, the whole town is kind of like a museum, with architecture you won’t find anywhere else in the state. Some of the most interesting, alternative lodging experiences are found in Palm Springs. Lastly, if you’re a music lover, Palm Springs boasts numerous events throughout the year, including Coachella and Stagecoach.
  5. Santa Barbara
    Located a couple hours north of Los Angeles is the beautiful Santa Barbara. This city is known most for their close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, as well as their beautiful mission-style architecture. While visiting, you must check out historical landmarks like The Santa Barbara Courthouse and Mission Santa Barbara.  In addition to the architecture, the city is bustling with natural beauty. Santa Barbara has miles of beautiful beaches and a harbor that’s great for boating and fishing. Santa Barbara also has the Santa Ynez mountains nearby, which make for some great hikes. In the Santa Ynez Mountains, you can find Knapp’s Castle, which holds the remains of a mansion that burned down in the early 1900s and provides one of the best views around. While you are there, make sure to get a bite to eat at the Cold Spring Tavern, an old restaurant that was built in the 1800s and has been well-preserved to this day. Once the sun goes down, take a walk down State Street for some of the best shopping and dining experiences around.
  6. Lake Tahoe
    Like Big Bear, Lake Tahoe is another great mountain getaway. Lake Tahoe is an amazing year-round destination that lies on the border of Northern California and Nevada and is home to one of the largest, bluest lakes in the state. During the summertime, you can enjoy many water activities, including boating, fishing and paragliding. In the winter, you can ski, snowboard or sled on one of the many slopes. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a hike up Mount Tallac (9.5 mi round trip) and see some truly breathtaking views. Although this destination is a bit further than the others, I recommend taking the drive and seeing for yourself why it is such a beautiful and serene place.
  7. San Diego
    Located only a couple hours south of Los Angeles is sunny San Diego. San Diego is one of the larger cities in California, and it offers many exciting things to do for practically anyone, so it is no wonder that it is one of the most popular places to visit in the state. If you are an animal lover, the town is full of animal life exhibits and parks. If you are a beach lover, the town is surrounded by warm, sandy beaches. If you are a history lover, you can visit the USS Midway Museum or the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Lastly, if you are a foodie, you will be excited to know that with the close proximity to Mexico, San Diego has some of the best Mexican cuisine in the state.  Once the sun goes down, San Diego has great nightlife in the famous Gaslamp district. The best thing about San Diego, though, is the year-round sunshine.
  8. Yosemite
    If you are looking for a weekend spent outdoors, Yosemite National Park is the place to go. Yosemite is well preserved and packed with fascinating history. Yosemite has many wonderful hikes (800 miles of trails!) and outdoor adventures for any skill level. My favorite thing about Yosemite? The beautiful waterfalls within. In fact, one of the tallest waterfalls in the world is in located at Yosemite. Other popular destinations in Yosemite include Half Dome, Glacier Point and the Merced River. The list of activities you can do in Yosemite is long, but some of my favorites include rock climbing, camping, stargazing, snowboarding/skiing, fishing, and kayaking. Yosemite is the full package and provides special views you must see while in California.

As you can see California is a very diverse and beautiful place. The state has just under 500 cities and towns, making it a state for practically everyone. These are just my favorite eight places, but there is so much more you can go explore. Grab your other intern friends and travel on!

CoriDisney Internships and Programs Communications team