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Bixby Bridge, Big Sur, California

When is the best time to visit California?

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur, California

The best time to visit California is during its warm, sunny summers, when temperatures sit between 19°C and 30°C.

Much of the state attracts a pleasant Mediterranean climate, with temperatures rarely dropping below the mid-teens. Given the size of the region, there are variations, with some areas attracting more extreme weather changes than others.

Along the coast, the temperature rarely dips below 20°C, although even the hottest summer days are cooled by sea breezes.

Inland, the weather follows a more typical seasonal cycle, with dry summers, a colourful autumn, cold winters, and bright, temperate spring months, ideal for exploring the outdoors.

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Month-by-month guide for travelling in California

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Visiting California in January - March

The Californian winter months do vary from cooler coastal temperatures in San Francisco and the Bay Area to fine sunny days in the south of the state in Los Angeles and San Diego. This is a more affordable time of year to travel and many of the regional highlights are quiet with fewer visitors, though certain attractions do close. At higher altitude the snowfall creates ideal conditions for winter sports.

Events & Festivals

  • Migrating grey whales pass through the bay of Monterey.
Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park

Visiting California in April - May

As temperatures increase, the snowmelt on higher ground reveals hiking trails, forest canopies and wondrous national parks with Yosemite perhaps the best known and most popular. At this time of year waterfalls are at their most impressive with fierce, fast flowing water rushing over granite boulders then dropping into lush valleys below. Elsewhere, the beaches and theme parks of Southern California benefit from the onset of warmer days.

Events & Festivals

  • The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Palm Springs is now established as one of the biggest music events in the US.
  • The Tour of California is an internationally recognised cycle race that loops through many of the state's most spectacular locations.
Santa Monica beach

Visiting California in June - August

Summer in California is consistently hot and sunny with all major attractions and sites open for business. In major cities the temperatures can reach over 30°C (86°F) so visits to the beach are recommended. Additionally, Lake Tahoe, in the north of the state, has perfect conditions for kayaking, rafting and a cooling swim in the stunning clear water at this time of year. Although the weather is good, this period is also the busiest as it coincides with school holidays bringing crowds and peak season prices.

Events & Festivals

  • The Castroville Artichoke Festival of food and wine on the central coast is a hugely popular local event with tastings, demos and a colourful parade.
  • This Comic-con event has evolved into one of the largest pop culture festivals in the world, and takes place in San Diego.
Napa Valley vineyards

Visiting California in September - October

The autumn period attracts a lovely mild climate and in some parts of the state, spectacular foliage. This is a great time to visit California's wine regions during the grape harvest time, known as 'the crush'. The San Francisco and North Coast regions, often shrouded in fog during the summer, typically see some of their sunniest days during the 'Indian summer'.

Events & Festivals

  • The annual grape harvest is in full swing in vineyards across California.
  • A two-week foodie festival promoting fresh local produce in Sacramento.
Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

Visiting California in November - December

The start of the winter period can be changeable with an increase in inclement days in certain parts of the state and lingering sunny days in others. Travel inland to the desert around Palm Springs for example and this is arguably one of the best times to visit. There are beautiful clear warm days while a visit to the central Californian coast would mean misty and cooler conditions.

Events & Festivals

  • Across the state, towns and cities prepare for the holiday seasons with numerous festive light shows and decorative displays.

California Climate Guide

Destination Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Los Angeles 20°C 88mm 21°C 92mm 21°C 77mm 23°C 24mm 24°C 6mm 26°C 1mm 29°C 0mm 30°C 4mm 29°C 9mm 26°C 8mm 23°C 37mm 20°C 53mm
Monterey 15°C 110mm 16°C 75mm 16°C 60mm 17°C 39mm 18°C 10mm 19°C 3mm 19°C 1mm 19°C 1mm 21°C 6mm 20°C 10mm 18°C 52mm 16°C 76mm
Napa Valley 14°C 153mm 17°C 116mm 18°C 94mm 21°C 42mm 24°C 14mm 28°C 4mm 30°C 1mm 30°C 3mm 29°C 8mm 25°C 39mm 18°C 98mm 14°C 117mm
Palm Springs 21°C 25mm 24°C 20mm 25°C 15mm 29°C 5mm 34°C 1mm 38°C 1mm 42°C 5mm 41°C 8mm 38°C 10mm 32°C 4mm 25°C 14mm 21°C 17mm
Sacramento 12°C 97mm 15°C 74mm 18°C 66mm 22°C 32mm 27°C 8mm 31°C 3mm 34°C 1mm 33°C 2mm 31°C 8mm 25°C 25mm 17°C 67mm 12°C 67mm
San Diego 19°C 58mm 19°C 48mm 19°C 56mm 20°C 21mm 21°C 5mm 23°C 2mm 25°C 1mm 26°C 1mm 26°C 5mm 24°C 9mm 21°C 31mm 19°C 36mm
San Francisco 14°C 127mm 15°C 96mm 16°C 91mm 17°C 40mm 18°C 9mm 20°C 5mm 20°C 1mm 20°C 2mm 22°C 7mm 21°C 39mm 17°C 93mm 14°C 98mm
Santa Barbara 17°C 105mm 18°C 106mm 19°C 79mm 20°C 34mm 21°C 6mm 23°C 1mm 26°C 0mm 26°C 1mm 25°C 5mm 24°C 11mm 21°C 54mm 18°C 68mm
Yosemite National Park 5°C 139mm 6°C 124mm 7°C 113mm 10°C 62mm 14°C 28mm 20°C 16mm 24°C 9mm 23°C 12mm 20°C 24mm 15°C 40mm 9°C 110mm 6°C 116mm

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Travel advice

Practical tips for travelling to California, from social protocols to guidance on money matters, with a link to the latest FCDO travel advice.

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