Skip to Content

15 Jun 2023

Fly direct to San Francisco!

United Airlines’ new Dreamliner 787 service will start on 8 December and fly three times a week for four months. Getting to the USA’s wonderful west coast has never been easier!

Ready to explore the stunning city of San Francisco and beyond? The west coast of America is brimming with incredible sights and experiences. From big city thrills to relaxed communities, natural wonders to adrenalin fuelled adventures there’s so much to discover. And better yet, from 8 December to the end of March, you can access it all with just one easy flight from Ōtautahi Christchurch.

We’ve curated some of our favourite West Coast highlights below, so you turn your California dreaming into California doing!

San Francisco: Weird and Wonderful

San Francisco is known and loved for its vibrant neighbourhoods, artsy vibe and picturesque architecture. While iconic tourist attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island are sure-fire favourites, the city is also home to a range of quirky experiences for those who enjoy something a little out of the ordinary.

  • Wave Organ – This unusual sculpture uses the ocean’s natural movement to create music. It creates especially fascinating soundscapes at hightide.
  • Musee Mecanique – Love vintage? Discover a huge collection of antique coin-operated games, mechanical musical instruments, fortune tellers and pinball machines at this playful arcade museum.
  • Hidden Staircases – Discover secret staircases hidden amongst San Francisco’s steep streets, like the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, adorned with beautiful mosaics and boasting fantastic views from the top.
  • Camera Obscura – This optical technology from photography’s early days projects a panoramic view onto a concave screen using nothing but lenses.
  • Seward Street Slides – Race the kids to the bottom on this exhilarating downhill ride!
  • Mission District Murals – Check out the city’s highest concentration of street art with a stroll down Balmy Alley, Clarion Alley, or along the 24th Street Corridor. See colour and culture come to life.
  • Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory – Ever wondered how fortune cookies get made? See it for yourself at this c.1962 family-owned shop and have fun creating your own custom fortunes.

Yosemite National Park: Natural Beauty

Explore over 3,000 square kilometres of pristine wilderness filled with breathtaking waterfalls, sheer cliffs, glacial valleys and towering redwoods. It’s the perfect place to reconnect with nature and enjoy activities for all ages and abilities.

  • HikingYosemite’s extensive trail system has something for every hiker. Try the Half Dome hike, Yosemite Falls trail, Mist Trail and Tuolumne Meadows, or walk a section of the famous Pacific Crest Trail. Dabble for a day or gear up for a multi-day trek.
  • Rock Climbing – The park’s famous granite cliffs make it a world-class rock-climbing destination. There are climbing schools for beginners and iconic routes like El Capitan or Cathedral Peak for experts.
  • Biking – Rent bikes in Yosemite Valley and enjoy scenic rides along the valley floor.
  • Wildlife Viewing – See if you can spot Yosemite’s diverse range of wildlife. Black bears, deer, coyotes, bobcats, and many bird species all call the park home (be sure to maintain a safe distance!)
  • Photography – Capture the beauty of the park through your own eyes. Breathtaking landscapes and iconic landmarks provide endless opportunities for keen photographers.
  • Ranger Programmes – Ranger-led programmes and guided tours offer the opportunity to learn more about the area’s impressive natural and cultural history.
  • Stargazing – Yosemite's dark skies are ideal for stargazing. Join a ranger-led stargazing programme or simply find a secluded spot and admire the constellations overhead.

Lake Tahoe: Winter Wowzer

America’s colder months are the perfect time for a trip to Lake Tahoe, California’s mecca for winter sports. From active outdoor adventures to a relaxing hot spring soak, there’s no shortage of experiences at the Lake.

  • Skiing and Snowboarding – Lake Tahoe is home to a number of world-class ski resorts which all offer a variety of exciting terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels.
  • Snowshoeing – For a more peaceful outdoor experience, try snowshoeing Lake Tahoe’s many trails, including the Tahoe Rim Trail, the Donner Pass Trail, and the Castle Rock Trail.
  • Snowmobiling – Looking for an adrenalin rush? Hop on a snowmobile and head out into the backcountry. Several companies in the area offer guided tours and rentals.
  • Ice Skating – Glide across the ice on one of Lake Tahoe’s outdoor ice-skating rinks, including the Heavenly Village Ice Rink and the Northstar Ice Rink.
  • Hot Springs – Relax, refresh, and rejuvenate at one of Lake Tahoe's natural mineral hot springs. Soak under the stars and marvel at Tahoe’s winter beauty by moonlight.
  • Winter Hiking – Many of Lake Tahoe's hiking trails are open year-round and offer stunning winter views.
  • Apres Ski – Relax and unwind at the end of a winter’s day with live music, happy hour specials, and other events at Lake Tahoe’s many hotels.

Sonoma: Tastes Sensational

If you enjoy wine tasting, relaxing and outdoor recreation, Sonoma is the place for you. This charming town lies about an hour north of San Francisco and is known for its sustainably managed, award-winning vineyards, historic landmarks and laid-back atmosphere.

  • Wine Tasting – With over 400 wineries in the area to choose from, your tastebuds will be spoilt for choice! Popular wineries include Benziger Family Winery, Ravenswood Winery and Buena Vista Winery.
  • Sonoma Farmer’s Market – This community market is a bustling feast for the senses. Held on Tuesdays and Fridays, it offers farm fresh produce, artisanal cheeses and other local delicacies.
  • Hot Air Balloons – Take in beautiful views of Sonoma from the air as you glide peacefully over vine covered hills. Rides are offered daily and piloted by experienced guides.
  • Cycling and Walking – Take in the stunning countryside by foot or bike. Sonoma boasts beautiful cycling routes and hiking trails that put you on the doorstep of local vineyards.
  • Sonoma Plaza – Feel the buzz in the heart of town at the historic Sonoma Plaza. Explore nearby shops, restaurants and historic sites while you take in the beautiful scenery.
  • Olive Tasting – Grapes aren’t Sonoma’s only famous crop! The region is also known for its olives, with many local growers offer olive oil tastings and tours.

Whatever your travel appetite holds, America’s west coast offers an endless array of breathtaking sights and memorable experiences. With United Airline’s Dreamliner taking you straight there from Christchurch for four months every year, there’s never been a better time to make your California dreams come true.

United Airlines is a major American airline based in Chicago, a member of the Star Alliance which Air New Zealand is also a member of, and flies to more than 210 destinations in the USA and more than 120 destinations internationally, operating more than 4000 daily flights across five continents.