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Best Time To Visit California (National Parks, Beaches, & Wineries)

Plan your perfect California getaway with our guide on the best times for national parks, beaches, & wineries. Find tips on weather, crowds & festivals.

Tobi Miles
July 12, 2022
Best Time To Visit California (National Parks, Beaches, & Wineries)

California is one of the top tourist destinations in the US. Between the beaches and the mountains, there is a world of adventure to explore. If you want to travel to this sunny state, you may be wondering when the best time of year to visit California is.

The best time of year to visit California is during the early autumn months. September and October are excellent times to travel this way because the weather is still warm for beach days, but the state is a lot less crowded. There are also several festivals that take place this time of year, like Desert Days and Artist Ohana Festival.

Are you thinking about booking a trip to California? You've come to the right page. Today, we will discuss some of the best times to visit this sunny state.

We'll also give you a month-by-month breakdown, so you know what's great about California all year round. Keep reading to find out when you should book a trip.

When Is The Worst Time To Visit California?

If you're planning your trip based on the weather, June is one of the worst months to travel to California because this is when the fog is the heaviest.

There are many days when an overcast in the sky results in a drizzle. Residents of California refer to this time of year as the June Gloom.

This is also the cloudiest time of year in California. You can expect chillier temperatures, around 68 F/ 20 C. While the temperatures are still nice enough to get out and go exploring, the June Gloom season isn't the best for enjoying days at the beach.

When Is The Cheapest Time To Visit California?

The average traveler spends over $1,300 for a one-week trip to California. If you're looking to save money while still getting to experience this sunny state, you should plan your trip during the shoulder season. The best time to save money on your trip to California is in January.

During the high season, the flights to California can be pricey. Depending on where you are flying from, a round trip could run you near $2,000 or more.

However, scoring a discounted rate for a January flight is much easier. There have been cheap flights as low as $23 for one way.

Best Time To Visit California: Month By Month Breakdown

California has something for everyone. Every month has something different to look forward to. Let's take a look a what California has in store for travelers each month of the year.

January: Best Month To Avoid Crowds

January is a great month to enjoy the tourist attractions in California without having to deal with large crowds or long line-ups.

The majority of the tourist attractions are open year-round, so you won't miss out on any of the fun by waiting until the off-season. January is also a great time to see wildlife since monarch butterflies arrive this time of year, and you can spot elephant seals and grey whales.

California has a diverse climate. If you're into winter-like weather, areas like Sacramento and the Sierra Nevada do get snow.

Areas like Big Bear Lake and Mount Laguna are tourist hotspots for winter activities. On the other hand, Palm Springs is the place to go if you want to avoid the snow.

  • Whale watching
  • Observe the Quadrantid Meteor Showers
  • Go shopping

Related Read: 40 BEST Things to Do in Solvang, CA

February: Best Month To Beat The Heat

February is the coldest month in California, but if you're from an area that regularly gets snow in the winter, you may find the California winter nice and mild.

Just because it's colder this time of year doesn't mean that it's boring. After all, February is when the Oscars and Grammys ceremonies take place, so you know there will be some great celebrations.

If you're in the mountain regions, you will need a warm jacket and boots to stay warm so that you can enjoy a day outdoors sightseeing.

When you need a break to warm up, you can head by one of California's cafes to grab a hot coffee and snack. However, if you stick to the desert locations, you'll get to enjoy mild weather.

This is also a great time to visit the Lake Tahoe area because the Alpenglow Mountain Festival takes place in February.

  • Chinese New Year celebrations in San Francisco
  • Visit mountain areas for skiing
  • Visit desert areas for surfing

March: Best Month To See Wildflowers

March in California is a beautiful sight because the state is covered in wildflowers blooming. A lot of people enjoy making a trip to California this time of year because winter has left and the temperatures are ideal.

Daffodil Hill is one of the most spectacular destinations from mid-March until April. Over 300,000 bright yellow flowers are covering the location.

If you're up for a scenic drive, we highly recommend you travel to Blossom Trail, where you can see beautiful pink and white blossoms.

Antelope Valley is another place worth checking out in March because there are bright orange California poppies everywhere. These are just a few of the locations in March that look as perfect as a postcard photo.

  • Whale Festivals (all over the state)
  • Cinequest Film Festival
  • Enjoy the last month of the lobster season at local seafood restaurants

April: Best Month For Arts & Music

The art and music scene in California is a very big part of the state's culture, and there are many events that take place in April that you can enjoy.

If you're a music fan, April is a prime month to spend in California because the Coachella festival takes place this time of year. You can enjoy some of your favorite music acts and may even spot a celebrity or two in the audience.

Napa Valley is another place to visit in April to soak up more of the art and culture of California. There are several art galleries and museums in this area that make it worth visiting.

  • Temecula Valley Bluegrass Festival
  • San Fransico International Film Festival
  • Visit Joshua Tree National Park

Related Read: 70 Things To Do in Orange County, CA

May: Best Month For Hiking

There are several national parks and trails throughout California, and May offers ideal weather for exploring these places. One of the great things about exploring what nature has to offer in spring is that the waterfalls around the state are most active this time of year.

If you enjoy hiking, this is the best time of year to visit places like Potato Chip Rock, Vernal and Nevada Falls, and Eaton Canyon Trail.

May is also a great time to visit amusement parks and festivals throughout the state. One of the most exciting events to catch is the Lightning in a Bottle music festival.

Another great thing to do in May is to book at day Disney California Adventure Park, as you'll get to enjoy this popular theme park with fewer crowds.

  • Hike along the Bridge To Nowhere
  • Scenic drive on the Pacific Coast Hiway along the Mexican border
  • Visit Palm Springs Ariel Tramway

June: Best Month For Exploring Wine County

We can't talk about California without mentioning wine county. June is one of the best months to take a visit to the places where some of your favorite wines are made.

Places like Napa Valley, Santa Barbara County, and Santa Cruz Mountains are absolutely stunning in June.

The days in June are longer, so you can see more attractions before the sun goes down. Another reason to consider visiting in June is that the heavy tourist season hasn't started yet. You can enjoy attractions without the summer vacation crowds.

  • Visit Vindemia Vineyards & Winery
  • Wineries and hot springs in Napa Valley
  • Visit Monterey Bay Aquarium

July: Best Month For a Summer Getaway

If you're dreaming of a getaway that involves relaxing in the sun on a beach and sipping refreshing beverages, July is the perfect time to book a trip to California.

It's no secret that the state gets hot this time of year, so if you're in the area, you're going to want to visit some of the top beaches in California.

Places like Laguna Beach, Malibu, and Santa Monica are beautiful destinations in the summer. If we could only choose one beach to recommend, it would be Laguna Beach.

This place is known as one of the cleanest beaches in California. It also has a fantastic art community.

  • Water activities
  • Camping adventures
  • Cool off with a frozen beverage

August: Best Month For Local Eats & Drinks

August is a very hot month in California, so after a day outdoors, you'll likely want to find somewhere to cool off and grab a bite to eat.

No matter where you travel in California, there is a selection of restaurants and bars to visit. August is one of the best times to get out of the sun and give your taste buds a treat.

Another thing to know about August in California is that it's the peak time for tourists. You can expect to run into more people wherever you go. This means that you'll always find new and exciting people to meet when you're visiting different bars and pubs in the area.

  • Summer-themed cocktails at Sunset Catina
  • Sing karaoke
  • Eat at Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland

September: Best Month For Ideal Weather Conditions

When you're planning to spend a good portion of your getaway outdoors, it helps if the weather is on your sideThat is why September can be one of the best months to enjoy a trip to California.

This time of year, you can enjoy the national parks, beaches, and theme parks without dealing with hot and humid conditions.

While the weather does cool down in September, it's still nice enough to enjoy water activities and swimming. It's also a great time for music lovers to make a visit because the CRSSD Festival and Desert Daze Festival happen this time of year.

  • Fantasmic cruise
  • Visit Balboa Park
  • 2-day Yosemite National Park Tour

Related Read: Top 20 Santa Cruz Hiking Trails

October: Best Month For Autumn Activities

October is a beautiful month to visit California, especially if you enjoy activities that make it feel like autumn is in the air. Most areas of the state are still relatively warm this time of year, so you will still get the enjoy the last of the nice beach days. However, the state is also preparing for the Halloween season.

If you enjoy autumn activities, like pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and apple picking, there are plenty of great locations throughout the state to keep you busy. It's also a great time to try different red wines at the local wineries.

  • Visit Cool Patch Pumpkins
  • Tour the Big Horse Corn Maze
  • Grab a pumpkin spice latte
  • Visit the Artist Ohana Festival

November: Best Month For Finding Deals

Off-season rates for travel usually start in November, so it's easier to find discounted rates on accommodations and tourist attractions.

Many of these places are getting less business now that the tourist season is over. They will offer discounts to attract more people.

November is very nice as far as the weather goes. However, it can be chillier, so we recommend having a jacket with you for outdoor activities.

  • Visit Venues on Sunset Strip
  • San Diego Sea World
  • The Great Dickens Fair

December: Best Month For Whale Watching

Whale watching and whale tours are top-rated in California, and December is one of the best months to see whales.

The grey whale season usually starts in December, and you can also see other whale species like humpbacks. California is one of the best states for whale watching because the whales migrate to the tropical water for the winter season.

California is also in full force for the Christmas season. This is a great time to grab a peppermint hot chocolate and view the decorations around the location you're visiting.

  • Newport Landing Whale Watching
  • Christmas shopping
  • Try seasonal meals at local restaurants

Related Read: 25 Romantic Getaways in San Diego

What Month Is The Most Crowded in California?

August is one of the busiest months for tourists in California. If you want to enjoy the sunny state but don't want to deal with crowds at every location, we suggest waiting a month and visiting in September instead.

July is another month that can be very busy because kids are out of school, so it's easier for families to plan vacations.

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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