With a predominantly Mediterranean-like climate, California is a proper year-round destination, although the vast majority of people visit in the summer high season months of June, July and August. You’re guaranteed warm, dry weather, but whilst sea breezes make the heat more palatable on the coast, temperatures in the big cities can regularly top 30 degrees Celcius; in 2018, Death Valley averaged over 42 degrees throughout July, making it the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. Los Angeles can be covered in smog, San Francisco can be shrouded in fog (though it often burns off by midday), but despite all this, it is still probably the best time of year for families to visit California – even if it is also the busiest, with the highest prices. On the flip side, this is the best time to visit California’s High Country, and all of Yosemite National Park’s trails will be open for hiking.


The months either side of summer are California’s shoulder season. In April, May, September and October, you’ll find fewer visitors (and therefore shorter queues at theme parks) and better rates. The Easter Holidays are a beautiful time to visit California, with lush landscapes in the High Sierra and warmer days marking the start of the beach season in Southern California. The waterfalls of Yosemite are at their most impressive at this time of year, although several sections of the park usually remain closed until May. Autumn is equally pretty, and is the best time to visit San Francisco, which is often sunniest in September and October. Shoulder season is also a good time to explore Los Angeles, when it’s less crowded and the lower temperatures make for more comfortable sight-seeing.


Outside of Christmas, hotels are at their cheapest during the low season winter months (November to March). Los Angeles can see fine, sunny days and you may catch sight of grey whales as they migrate past Monterey, although San Francisco will be cold, the coast will likely be misty and wet and many attractions will be closed. Snowfall makes large parts of Yosemite National Park (Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road) inaccessible from November onwards.