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Long synonymous with all things forward-looking and creative, California is one of the world’s foremost destinations for arts and culture. Multiple elements help make the Golden State such a hotbed for creativity, including its unmatched diversity, a famously entrepreneurial spirit, rich history, and a sunny climate ideal for year-round events. One thing’s for sure: No matter where you travel within California, you can experience a unique and vibrant cultural scene.  

The most concentrated hubs of theater, music, museums, street art, and dance in California are, of course, its major cities. Head to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to explore 1,000 acres of greenspace dotted with institutions, including the de Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Japanese Tea Garden. For live performance, visit the beloved San Francisco Ballet, watch a gravity-defying aerial dance show from Oakland’s Bandaloop, or listen to a big-name musician at the Greek Theatre, Berkeley’s exquisite outdoor venue.

Southern California boasts similarly expansive offerings. Learn more about the history of moviemaking in Los Angeles at the new Academy of Motion Pictures Museum. Let the Getty Center’s tram transport you high above Downtown L.A. to the Richard Meier wonderland that houses works of artists from Giacomo Manzu to Van Gogh. Head to one of West Hollywood’s rollicking clubs to get a sense of L.A.’s rock-and-roll past and present. In San Diego, you could spend weeks exploring the 17 museums and cultural institutions in Balboa Park, plus you’ll find Broadway-bound new works and time-honored classics at the La Jolla Playhouse and The Old Globe

Thanks to more than 1,000 museums across the state, experiences are everywhere. Learn about California’s fascinating Gold Rush past in Sacramento where you’ll find the impressive State Capitol Museum, preserved correspondence from 1850s miners at the Sacramento History Museum, and a riverfront historic area still paved with cobblestones. Uncover the history of California’s official state sport at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum and head to the Anza-Borrego Desert to find massive metal sculptures by self-taught artist Ricardo Breceda. California’s designated Cultural Districts provide an opportunity to experience art and culture in situ, as well: Visit Truckee to see high-alpine makerspaces or Eureka to find public art among the redwoods. 

In Palm Springs, you can see how the open blue skies and desert’s clean lines influenced the work of mid-century modern architects who developed the city’s signature look. Find out why an open-air festival celebrating art has gone strong for nearly 90 years in Laguna Beach and get a firsthand look at some of California’s earliest Spanish roots at the 21 missions that dot the coast from the Mexico border all the way up to the modern-day Bay Area.

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