Best California Attraction: Balboa Park!

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park comes in second place

The state of California stretches along the Pacific coast for some 900 miles; its attractions – both natural and man made – are as big and diverse as the state itself. We asked a panel of California travel writers to nominate the top attractions on their must-see lists, and for the past four weeks, our readers have been voting daily for their favorites. 

  • Lassen Volcanic National Park

    Protecting 165 square miles of alpine meadows, forests and other-worldly volcanic landscapes in Northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to all four types of volcanoes found on the planet: shield, plug dome, cinder cone and composite. Highlights of this highly underrated park include numerous geothermal features – boiling pools, volcanic vents and bubbling mud pots.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Lake Tahoe

    Shared by California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a four-seasons playground for skiing, fishing, swimming, sailing or simply relaxing on the scenic shores. The largest alpine lake in North America is known for its cobalt waters and excellent recreational opportunities. 
    Photo courtesy of Visit California/Myles McGuinness

  • Sequoia National Park

    Sequoia National Park is truly a land of giants. Home to the largest giant sequoia trees on the planet – trees that can live up to 2,500 years and reach heights of nearly 300 feet – Sequoia and neighboring Kings Canyon have 842 miles of trails with less than half the number of visitors as nearby Yosemite, making it a favorite among those looking to avoid crowds.
    Photo courtesy of Visit California/Carol Highsmith

  • Death Valley National Park

    Death Valley may not sound like a very hospitable place – and it isn't – but this arid landscape in the Nevada/California desert is made all the more beautiful by its extremes. The sun-scorched below-sea-level basin with its record temperatures, blistered expanses and waving sand dunes gives way to snow-capped mountain peaks. It's the largest national park outside of Alaska and a place of deep silence and stunning scenery.
    Photo courtesy of Visit California/Max Whittaker

  • Disneyland Resort
    Anaheim

    Park-goers at California's famed Disneyland Resort have two theme parks to choose from, the classic family favorite Disneyland Park and the newer, Golden State-themed California Adventure. With iconic rides paired with new and innovative entertainment options, it's no wonder they call this attraction "The Happiest Place on Earth."
    Photo courtesy of Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

  • Pacific Coast Highway

    Drivers along the Pacific Coast Highway enjoy jaw-dropping Pacific views to one side and the dramatic cliffs of the Central California coast to the other. The 123-mile stretch between Monterey and Morro Bay takes travelers through Big Sur and past worthy stops like artistic Carmel-by-the-Sea, Hearst Castle and the must-photograph Bixby Bridge.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Hearst Castle
    San Simeon

    Hearst Castle sits perched above the village of San Simeon, overlooking the Pacific Ocean along the Central California coast. This 165-room mansion by the sea was the dream dwelling of William Randolph Hearst, who with architect Julia Morgan, built the castle over the course of 28 years.
    Photo courtesy of Visit California/Blaise

  • Yosemite National Park
    Yosemite Valley

    Protected since 1864, Yosemite is one of the nation's most treasured national parks – a land of waterfalls, vast meadows, granite peaks and ancient sequoia trees. Several of the park's highlight could themselves be considered California's top attractions, including Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Glacier Point and El Capitan.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

    Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest of California's state parks, occupies a wide swathe of the California desert where colorful wildflowers put on quite the show each spring. Throughout the year, visitors have the chance to explore palm groves and fields of cacti, on the lookout for golden eagles, roadrunners, mule deer, bighorn sheep or the occasional kit fox.
    Photo courtesy of Steve Bier

  • Balboa Park
    San Diego

    Encompassing 1,200 beautiful acres, San Diego's Balboa Park comprises several smaller attractions, including performing arts venues, 17 museums, numerous gardens and recreational trails. A free tram takes visitors around the complex, now listed as a National Historic Landmark.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

The top 10 winners in the category Best California Attraction are as follows:

  1. Balboa Park - San Diego
  2. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
  3. Yosemite National Park - Yosemite Valley
  4. Hearst Castle - San Simeon
  5. Pacific Coast Highway
  6. Disneyland Resort - Anaheim
  7. Death Valley National Park
  8. Sequoia National Park
  9. Lake Tahoe
  10. Lassen Volcanic National Park

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Tom Bricker (TravelCaffeine.com), Skip Descant (The Desert Sun), Joanne DiBona (Scenic Photos), Katie Dillon (La Jolla Mom), Jessica Doll (Hej Doll), Geneva Ives, Josh McNair (CaliforniaThroughMyLens.com), Tom Molanphy, Wendy O'Dea, Jenny Peters and Joe Truskot (The Salinas Californian) were chosen based on their knowledge and experience of travel in California.

Congratulations to all these winning attractions!

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Tom Bricker

Tom Bricker

Skip Descant

Skip Descant

Joanne DiBona

Joanne DiBona

Katie Dillon

Katie Dillon

Jessica Doll

Jessica Doll

Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives

Josh McNair

Josh McNair

Tom Molanphy

Tom Molanphy

Wendy O'Dea

Wendy O'Dea

Jenny Peters

Jenny Peters

Joe Truskot

Joe Truskot