8 Unique Ways to Experience the Best of California

The famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. Now you can tour the city by e-bike or in the sidecar of a motorbike
The famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. Now you can tour the city by e-bike or in the sidecar of a motorbike | © Sarah.Camille / Alamy Stock Photo
No trip to the Golden State would be complete without seeing the likes of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, or LA’s iconic Hollywood sign. Now we’re bringing you imaginative new ways to experience these famous attractions and more.

If heaven were a place on earth, there aren’t many who’d bet against it being California. A land of sun, sand, surf and opportunity – with outstanding natural beauty, and cities where dreams are fulfilled. Can you count the number of start-ups in San Francisco? Or how many blockbuster movies are in the works in Hollywood? Unlikely. But with a local guide by your side – or at the wheel – you can now discover a side to California that you never knew existed.

ToursSan Francisco Love Tour
From $69 per person
2 hours
5 (259)
Peace and love are the foundations of San Francisco, and this unique sightseeing tour captures that spirit perfectly. Driven around by a knowledgeable local guide, you’ll see the city’s most famous landmarks from the neon-blue seats of a 70s-era VW campervan – painted in rainbow colors like a true hippy wagon. Wind through neighborhoods such as Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, the Castro, the Mission and Chinatown as your driver provides a running commentary. Music legends Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix were San Fran residents once upon a time, and your tour will take you right past their former homes as a playlist laced with 60s and 70s classics provides a fitting soundtrack.
AdmissionHollywood Sign E-Bike Tour, Los Angeles
From $95 per person
2 hours
Escape the crowded boulevards and explore Hollywood’s network of hilly trails on a state-of-the-art electric bike. Your guide will lead you through the Hollywood Hills, keeping you entertained with interesting facts and anecdotes along the way, while your e-bike does all the work for you. Once at the top, there’ll be plenty of time to take in the sweeping views of the San Fernando Valley – and of course pose for a selfie with the Hollywood sign glinting in the background. The tour will include all necessary equipment and a few light refreshments.
ToursAlcatraz and Craft Beer Combo Walking Tour, San Francisco
From $129 per person
9 hours
5 (43)
Between 1934 and 1963, Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, was the home of America’s most notorious maximum-security prison – for anyone other than prisoners and guards, it was a no-go zone. Today, the old penitentiary is a popular tourist attraction, and this guided tour recounts tales of its grim past and infamous inmates, including mob boss Al Capone. But that’s just the start. After you’re safely back on the mainland, your guide will lead you to a few local bars in Fisherman’s Wharf for the chance to try some of San Fran’s locally brewed craft beers. Each sample will be paired with a snack, and you’ll learn all about the ingredients and brewing process behind each beer that passes your lips.
AdmissionLos Angeles Sidecar Tour
From $327 per person
120 to 150 minutes
On this tour, you’ll feel like the superhero’s sidekick as you race around LA’s streets passing famous landmarks along the way. Sadly, you won’t get to ride the motorcycle – that’s the guide’s job – but with no driving to worry about, you and your fellow sidecar passenger will simply have to hold on tight and watch the sights pass you by. Venice Beach, the Hollywood sign and the Malibu Mountains are all covered – just be sure to grab your leathers before you go and give passersby a wave when you whizz past.
ToursSan Francisco Vista Grande Helicopter Tour
From $280 per person
30 minutes
5 (308)
This thrilling experience gives you the chance to fly sky-high over the Golden City and all of its most famous landmarks. From Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf to Coit Tower and the Golden Gate bridge, you’ll soar over the lot – and even under in the case of the latter, as your pilot squeezes the chopper through the gap between the bridge and the water below. Your 30-minute trip will continue towards Sausalito, Tiburon, Angel Island and the Marin Headlands, treating you to more spectacular views, while your pilot provides in-flight commentary and a soundtrack of American pop and rock classics.

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ToursSan Francisco Movie Sights City Tour
From $59 per person
3 hours
5 (49)
The reason so many of San Fran’s sights are familiar to us is because they feature relentlessly in Hollywood movies and TV shows. On this tour, departing from Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll discover the city through its many filming locations – from blockbusters like San Andreas to family favorites like Mrs Doubtfire. To set the mood, as the tour bus makes its way across the city you’ll be shown famous movie clips featuring the sites included in your itinerary. And if there’s anything you ever wanted to know about the city or the movies featured on the tour, your informative actor-turned-guide will be on hand to answer all of your questions.
ActivitiesHalf-Day Los Angeles Tour and Scavenger Hunt
From $81 per person
5 hours
2 (2)
Add a bit of excitement to your sightseeing experience of LA with this competitive and far-reaching scavenger hunt. Whether you’re traveling solo or as part of a group, it makes for a fun way to explore the City of Angels and make new friends. You’ll be racing against other teams, so you’ll need to work together to solve all the riddles and clues as quickly as you can. Your group will start in either Hollywood or Santa Monica, and there are snacks and beverages on the way, plus a tour escort and transport provided during the race. Best of luck!
ToursPainted Ladies Wine Country Tour
From $138 per person
8 hours
5 (16)
If wine is high on your most quaffable list, then this day trip will help you on your mission. Departing from San Francisco, you’ll be taken on a tour of California’s Sonoma Valley – one of the state’s oldest and most renowned wine-producing regions – in a vintage VW campervan, no less. There will be time to stop at the Golden Gate bridge as you make your way out of the city, before visiting the first winery of the day. Here, you’ll learn about the winemaking process and sample a glass or two while exploring a wine cave, before going on to discover two more wineries. There will also be time to refuel on an Italian lunch, served alongside yet more Californian wine in a winery restaurant. Now that’s a lot of wine.