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This Fairytale Road Trip Will Lead You To 13 Of California’s Most Magical Places

California is a stunning state with so much beauty to explore.

But did you know that California is home to many places that look like they’re straight out of a fairytale?

Yep, from elaborate castles that look like Cinderella’s palace to charming old-style cottages that Snow White would happily call home.

(And no, we’re not talking about Disneyland)

In this guide, we’ll be revealing the ultimate fairytale road trip that will take you to all of these magical places that genuinely don’t seem real.

But they are real and you can visit them for yourself!

Ready for an adventure?

1. Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena is a famous winery located in the beautiful Napa Valley which is known around the world for its amazing vineyards and wine. 

This winery is especially famous for its Chardonnay wine, which actually won a big competition in Paris in 1976. This historic win put California wines on the map. 

The winery itself looks like it’s from a fairytale because of its stunning castle surrounded by gorgeous gardens and a peaceful lake. 

The castle has small turrets and is covered in green ivy, making it look like it’s from a storybook. 

When you visit, you can take a tour of the vineyard to see where the grapes grow and learn how the wine is made. 

There’s also a tasting room where you can try different wines and find your favorite. People love taking pictures here because it’s so pretty. 

It genuinely looks like it’s out of a dream!

2. Cypress Tree Tunnel

The Cypress Tree Tunnel is located in Point Reyes and is one of the most magical places you can visit in the state.

It’s famous for the tall cypress trees that line both sides of a small road, creating a natural tunnel that looks like an enchanted fairytale forest.

These trees were planted just over 90 years ago and have grown to form a beautiful canopy overhead.

Walking through the tunnel feels like entering a different world, where everything is quiet except for the sounds of birds and the wind whispering through the trees. 

People come here to take stunning photos, enjoy a peaceful walk and soak in the magical atmosphere. 

There’s not much to do in terms of activities but the sheer beauty and peacefulness of the place are more than enough reasons to visit.

3. Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument is a magical forest located just north of San Francisco.

This special place is famous for its towering old-growth redwoods which are actually some of the tallest trees in the world. The trees here reach up to 250 ft tall!

Walking through Muir Woods feels like stepping into a fairytale because of how massive these trees are. 

They reach up so high, it looks like they’re touching the sky. 

Most of the trees here are actually super old, ranging between 400 to 800 years old!

The sunlight filters through the leaves which creates a soft, green light that makes the whole forest seem enchanted. 

Visitors can explore the park by walking along the paths and wooden boardwalks that wind through the trees. It’s so easy to enjoy the quiet and beauty of the forest. 

There are various different trails for all levels of hikers from easy walks to more challenging hikes that offer breathtaking views. 

Along the way, you might see animals like deer, squirrels and birds that call this forest home. 

4. Japanese Tea Garden

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco is a beautiful and peaceful spot located in Golden Gate Park. 

It’s famous for its traditional Japanese design which comes complete with beautiful flowers, stunning bridges and winding paths. 

This garden looks like it came out of a Japanese fairy tale because of its bright colors, peaceful ponds filled with koi fish and the iconic tea house.

It’s actually pretty old and was built back in 1894 as part of the World’s Fair, making it the oldest public Japanese garden in the entire US.

The garden features many gorgeous structures including pagodas and a large, arched drum bridge that you can walk over.

You’ll get the chance to explore the garden and see all the different plants and trees, some of which change colors with the seasons. 

Taking a walk through this garden feels like stepping into another world, one that’s quiet, beautiful and just a little bit magical. 

5. Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming little beach town located on the Monterey Peninsula in California. 

It’s famous for its stunning white sandy beaches and beautiful fairy tale-like cottages.

The town looks like it’s straight out of a storybook, with its charming old-style cottages and shops that seem to blend into nature. 

I’m sure Snow White would feel very at home here!

If you visit, you’ll enjoy walking around the town, browsing the art galleries, boutiques and tasting the delicious food at cozy restaurants. 

The beach is a big draw too with its soft white sand and clear blue waters. It’s the perfect place to relax!

If you love exploring the outdoors then you’ll find lots of walking paths and gardens to explore in Carmel.

Carmel-by-the-Sea also has a historic mission, Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, which adds to the town’s old-world charm. 

Related Reading: 15 SoCal Beach Towns That Are TOO GOOD To Ignore

6. Forestiere Underground Gardens

The Forestiere Underground Gardens is a unique underground garden complex located in Fresno.

These gardens were created by a man named Baldassare Forestiere over a hundred years ago.

He actually dug them out by hand to escape the hot summer heat. It took him over 40 years to complete!

This underground world is famous for its intricate network of tunnels, rooms and courtyards which have all been built beneath the surface of the earth. 

Walking through the gardens feels pretty magical as you’ll see fruit trees, vines and plants growing all around with the light filtering down from above.

You can wander through the beautiful archways and stone walls which definitely look like they belong in a storybook castle. 

You can actually take a guided tour if you want to explore the underground gardens and learn about how they were made.

The gardens have different areas including a living room, bedroom and kitchen which were all built underground in the early 1900s. 

It’s fascinating to see how Baldassare Forestiere lived in this cool, underground oasis that he created. 

7. Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park is a breathtaking place located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains of California. 

It’s famous for its gigantic sequoia trees, including the General Sherman Tree, which is the largest tree on Earth by volume.

Walking amongst these towering trees feels like being in a fairytale, with their massive trunks reaching high into the sky and their branches creating a green canopy overhead. 

The park isn’t just about the trees though. There are also beautiful meadows, rugged mountains and deep canyons to explore. 

You can go hiking on various trails that range from easy walks to challenging hikes but the one thing they all have in common is stunning views and the chance to see wildlife. 

It’s also possible to go camping under the stars, horseback riding and even snowshoeing in the winter months. 

The park’s clear night skies are perfect for stargazing which also adds to its magical feel. 

8. Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is an incredible mansion located on the central coast of California, in the town of San Simeon. 

It’s famous for being the grand home of William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper tycoon, and for its stunning architecture and extensive art collection. 

The castle is super magical looking with its elaborate buildings, lush gardens and sparkling pools. 

One of the pools, called the Neptune Pool, is especially magical. It’s surrounded with ancient-looking Roman-style columns and statues. 

If you visit, you can take a guided tour to explore the many rooms of the castle. 

Each room is filled with art, antique furniture and decorations from all over the world. 

The tours also take you through the gardens where you’ll be able to see beautiful flowers, fountains and even more statues. 

From high up on the hill where Hearst Castle is located, you get amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding countryside. 

It’s a castle fit for a King or Queen!

9. Solvang

Solvang is a charming little town located in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. 

It’s famous for its Danish-style architecture which makes visitors feel like they’ve stepped into a small village in Denmark. 

With its windmills, half-timbered buildings and horse-drawn carriages, Solvang definitely looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale. 

The town is also known for its delicious Danish pastries, which include butter cookies and æbleskiver, which you can find in the many bakeries here. 

There are also lots of unique shops where you can buy Danish crafts, clothes and souvenirs. 

You can also visit the museums to learn more about Danish culture and the history of Solvang or you can even take a bike ride around the beautiful countryside. 

Don’t forget to check out the miniature replica of Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid statue and the beautiful mission nearby. 

Related Reading: Stunning Towns In California That Look Like Europe

10. Spadena House

Spadena House, also known as ‘The Witch’s House’, is a whimsical and unique-looking building located in Beverly Hills. 

The house looks like a witch’s cottage from a magical story with its pointed, sloping roofs, tiny windows and crooked design. 

It also features a purposefully dilapidated design and comes complete with an enchanting garden filled with strange and beautiful plants. 

It was once described as the ‘quintessential Hansel and Gretal house’ by architect Charles Willard Moore.

Although it’s actually a private residence, people love to walk by and take photos of its fairy-tale appearance. 

The Witch’s House has appeared in several movies including the 1995 hit ‘Clueless’ and is a popular spot for those who enjoy quirky and unusual-style buildings. 

There’s not much to do in terms of activities since it is someone’s home but just seeing it is a treat because it’s so different from the other homes in Beverly Hills. 

Nearby, Beverly Hills offers lots of shops and restaurants to explore after visiting the house. 

11. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens is a wonderful research center located in San Marino, near Los Angeles. 

It’s famous for its extensive collection of books, art and beautiful gardens that spread over 207 acres. 

This place looks very magical with its stunning gardens that are divided into different areas, including the Japanese Garden, the Desert Garden and the Jungle Garden. 

Each garden is like stepping into a new magical world with beautiful plants, flowers, statues, bridges and sculptures. 

Inside the art museum, you’ll get the chance to see over 45,000 amazing pieces of artwork including paintings and sculptures from different times and places. 

Additionally, the library is home to over 12 million rare books and manuscripts. It’s a great place for history lovers.

There are also several educational programs and workshops for people who want to learn more about art, gardening and history. 

12. Kimberly Crest House & Gardens

Kimberly Crest House & Gardens is a picturesque estate located in Redlands, built back in 1897.

It’s famous for its stunning French château-style mansion and beautifully landscaped gardens that cover six and a half acres. 

The house itself looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale with its elegant design, pointed roofs, golden detailing and round tower. 

I imagine Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty would be happy to call this place home.

You can take a guided tour of the mansion to see its beautifully decorated rooms and learn more about its history and the incredible women who built it over the years. 

The gardens are a magical place to explore. They come complete with gushing fountains, statues and a variety of flowers and trees that create an enchanting atmosphere. 

There are also many special events throughout the year including tea parties and holiday celebrations. These are always a lot of fun!

13. Victoria Beach Tower

Victoria Beach Tower, also known as the “Pirate Tower” is a mysterious building that is located on Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach.

It’s famous for its tall, narrow structure made of stone and stands right at the edge of the beach, looking out over the Pacific Ocean. 

The 60 ft tower was built in 1926 and is known for its spiral staircase inside, though it’s not open to the public. 

It definitely feels very magical with its old-world design that makes it seem like a hidden castle tower where pirates might have kept their treasures. 

I also wouldn’t be too surprised to see Rapunzel letting her long hair down from the window!

People come to Victoria Beach not only to see the tower but also to enjoy the beautiful sandy beach, swim in the clear blue water and explore the tide pools. 

Taking photos of the tower, especially at sunset, is a great idea because it looks so magical against the changing colors of the sky. 

Whilst you can’t actually go inside the tower itself, its presence does add a touch of mystery and charm to a day at the beach. 

If you like all things fairytale then you might enjoy reading about these hidden castles in California.

Sophie Davis

Born and raised in the Bay area of California, Sophie is a California native. She joined our team in 2023 to create travel guides on California.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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