Without doubt, America contains some the most infamous landmarks and attractions in the world. California is a goldmine in terms of amazing sights and unforgettable experiences. After travelling the state with my family, these would be the most enjoyable activities that a gap year student could do.
1.) Alcatraz Prison
Situated on its own remote island off the city of San Francisco, Alcatraz Prison is a truly remarkable piece of history. It features an exceptional and individual audio tour process that clearly guides you around the whole complex whilst informing you about the history of the inmates and attempted escapes. This makes it a fantastic encounter to have. Furthermore, as the compound is essentially untouched since the closure of the actual prison it accurately gives an account of what being a convict would have been like. I personally found my trip to Alcatraz the most fascinating and most stand out day of my entire California trip as it is a riveting and unique experience and not something that can’t be done anywhere else. For a gap year student looking for something to do in San Francisco, I would thoroughly recommend visiting Alcatraz as it is without a shadow of a doubt a once in a lifetime trip.
Featuring 748,036 acres of iconic beauty there is no better place to enrich your understanding of the natural world than Yosemite. Playing host to wildlife including Grizzly Bears and multiple breeds of snakes, there are numerous unique features to the park alongside the astonishing landscape. The amount of incredible views to be found within the park is phenomenal; the natural waterfalls were my personal favourite as well as the vast majestic mountains as they brilliantly represent the true magnificence of the entire park. On countless occasions my family and I felt blown away by how unbelievable the sights were and how we could enjoy the views whilst kayaking or watching an on-site documentary on how Yosemite came to be what it is. Furthermore, the park features wonders such as trees as tall as city skyscrapers! A gap year student would be insane to travel California and not visit Yosemite as it truly echoes how amazing the untouched areas of nature can be.
For those who enjoy films then Hollywood’s Universal Studios is a perfect day out. With films such as Jaws, Jurassic Park and TV’s CSI being partly shot at the studio, it is a captivating location. Universal is also a theme park like no other containing rides ranging from a Simpsons simulator experience to 3D King Kong and the Jurassic Park Ride, which features an 80 foot drop for rollercoaster enthusiasts. My personal adrenaline has never been more activated than when we went on the Revenge of the Mummy ride! Recently the Studios opened an enhanced special effects show to recreate some of the most iconic scenes from the movies. Universal offers the experience craved by those who enjoy thrill and adventure. I can also safely say that it is the perfect place to buy novelty gifts for family members!
Whilst less publicised than the Orlando Park, the San Diego Park is still an amazing complex where happiness and joy reign supreme! Ranging from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride to the Haunted Mansion, the park caters for people of all ages and is a fantastic way to sample true America. There is something for everyone to enjoy at Disneyland and effectively reawakens your childhood! In addition to this the site puts on an unbelievable firework display every evening which is the perfect way to end the Disney experience, as well as providing on site hotels and shuttlebuses to local campsites to provide easy and stress free access. For a gap year student touring California, Disneyland is a no-brainer for activities to do as the whole experience oozes excitement and bliss.
The 17-Mile Drive is a route going through Pebble Beach, noted for its picturesque scenery and famous landmarks, the most notable being the Lone Cyprus Tree. It’s the most photographed tree in North America and is over 250 years old, located on the cusp of the sea which creates a truly scenic view. Furthermore, the drive features the Spanish Bay Boardwalk which is effectively a walk along the exquisite oceanfront, the ultimate place to relax on vacation, particularly at dusk. Spyglass Hill also offers the chance to view sea lions in their natural habitat as well as some of the more exotic bird species. During my visit to the 17 mile drive I was lost for words at how relaxing the whole environment was, as it felt like complete serenity and provided some views that certainly cannot be offered elsewhere.
By Euan Smith - Voices for the Future
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