Whenever people think of California, they think of the three largest cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. Los Angeles has the stars of Hollywood, San Francisco has the fog and the Golden Gate bridge, while San Diego has the sun and the surf. However, there are beautiful alternatives to those famous large cities up and down the 1,264-mile coastline. Here are some charming places to explore in California, ranging from Gold Rush-era towns to seaside golf havens to rustic mountain gateways.

Nestled in Hearst Castle’s shadow, Cambria offers a nice break in the drive between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This out-of-the-way beach town is quiet and quirky, home to a variety of antique and art shops. It’s a perfect balance for people looking for a quiet beach getaway without the crush of tourists.

Next door to the world-famous Napa Valley is the less-visited Sonoma Valley. In the heart of this quiet cousin to Napa is Healdsburg, a picturesque wine country city straight out of a fairy tale. Featuring access to hundreds of affordable and beautiful wineries, Healdsburg is also home to a delicious selection of bars and restaurants. The valleys extend on either side of the quaint town along the Russian River, an idyllic scene from which to explore wine.

Three Rivers
This mountain is tucked deep in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas just to the southeast of Fresno. Three Rivers is a great springboard for hiking the various trails while also exploring nearby Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. This outdoor-lovers dream offers a welcome reprieve from Yosemite National Park’s popularity without sacrificing any of the natural wonders. The town also proffers hearty selections of beer and food to quench your lively treks into nature.

Who knew that there was a way to experience Scandanavia without having to leave California? Solvang is a small town along the Central Coast that was inspired by Denmark’s aesthetic, windmills included. This is matched in the cuisine, with plenty of Danish pastries and cheeses to complete your experience. It is magical in the holidays, decorated to recreate the cozy and warm feeling of its inspiration. You might not see snow in California over Christmas, but in Solvang, you can at least pretend.