There's never a bad time for a California vacation, but springtime in the Golden State may be one of the most exciting times to visit. Winter temperatures in California already feel like spring in most other parts of the country, and by April temperatures are warm enough to take a stroll on the beach or camp out under the redwoods. Wildflowers across the state are in bloom, adding a vibrantly colorful pop to the green backdrop of the hills.
If the California sunshine isn't enough to entice you, April is also packed with events across the state for all tastes and pleasures, whether you're looking for a music festival, something outdoors, cultural and art activities, and more. You can visit any part of the state from north to south and find something to do throughout April, so you can't go wrong. The best way to enjoy all that California has to offer, however, is to rent a car and drive through as much of the state as you can.
California Weather in April
California is a huge state with all types of climates and springtime is notoriously fickle, so the weather can vary drastically from city to city and day to day. In general, the weather is comfortably warm across the state in April with little rain and a chance of snow only if you go to higher elevations. Coastal areas will be chillier than inland cities—especially as you go farther north—and even more so at night.
|Average High||Average Low||Average Rainfall|
|San Francisco||63 F (17 C)||50 F (10 C)||1.5 inches|
|San Jose||65 F (18 C)||47 F (8 C)||10.7 inches|
|Los Angeles||70 F (21 C)||50 F (10 C)||0.8 inches|
|San Diego||68 F (20 C)||55 F (13 C)||0.7 inches|
|Yosemite||61 F (16 C)||39 F (4 C)||1 inch|
|Lake Tahoe||64 F (18 C)||36 F (2 C)||0.8 inches|
Southern California cities, like Los Angeles and San Diego, will have the warmest weather and smallest chance of rain. However, it likely won't be hot enough yet to fully enjoy the local beaches and go for a swim, so if you're looking for a beach vacation you may have to wait another couple of months. As you travel north toward San Francisco and the Bay Area, temperatures will drop a bit compared to Los Angeles and nights can be particularly chilly. But if you're coming from a colder region of the world, then you'll likely find that even San Francisco temperatures in April are delightfully pleasant.
Yosemite National Park is at a higher elevation and you may still find snow on hiking trails or even in the valley if it's a particularly cold year, but usually by April the weather has warmed enough that the snow has started to melt and the waterfalls are at their most magnificent. If you head to Joshua Tree National Park in the desert, April is one of the best times of the year to visit before the scorching heat of summer arrives.
What to Pack
In a state with as much geographic diversity as California, your packing list will vary depending on where you go and what you're doing. In April, water and air temperatures at the beach will limit most people to oceanside strolls. The beach areas are always colder than inland, and they get even chillier when the sun goes down. Since it's California and you never know, you might still want to pack a swimsuit or other beachwear, just in case you visit during a warm spell.
If you plan to spend time outdoors camping or hiking, pack layers to stay warm and covered. Nighttime temperatures in national parks like Yosemite or Joshua Tree can drop to near freezing temperatures, so if you're sleeping outside you'll want to be prepared.
No matter where your plans take you, pack plenty of sunscreen. Even if the sun isn't shining, its UV rays can reflect off water and snow and you'll still end up with a sunburn.
April Events in California
In a state with as many people as California, you can always find some type of event going on regardless of where you are. April sees two of the biggest music festivals in the country: Coachella and Stagecoach. Spring is also when wildflowers are in bloom across the state, and it's a perfect time to see the dazzling orange fields of California poppies.
- Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Indio: One of the largest music festivals of its kind (held over two weekends) it’s the place to see the year's most popular groups. Besides an eclectic musical lineup, Coachella attracts some innovative food makers and exciting visual artists.
- Toyota Grand Prix, Long Beach: It’s like a live version of a fast-driving video game, with Indy-style race cars zipping through the streets of downtown Long Beach at more than 200 miles per hour. If you’re starstruck, check out the celebrity race where you can see big names like Ricky Schroeder and Olympic medalist Dara Tores take a turn behind the wheel.
- California Wildflowers: Throughout the state, you can see all types of flowers in bloom in April. From Death Valley in the south all the way up to Humboldt County near the Oregon border, it's an incredible sight to see. You'll see plenty of bright orange California poppies, the state flower.
- LA Brewery Art Walk: In what is considered the world's biggest art complex, resident artists hold an open studio weekend. You can get a chance to speak to artists directly, purchase a fabulous new piece of art and even grab a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant.
- Del Mar Horse Show: This three-week event is held April through May. It's one of the most significant equestrian events in Southern California, featuring examples of both Western riding and dressage and is a must-see event for horse lovers.
- Stagecoach Festival, Indio: Billed as California's Country Music Festival, with scores of performers and crowds of music-lovers. It's held near Palm Springs toward the end of the month.
- Pacific Coast Dream Machines Show, Half Moon Bay: This event is an opportunity to see all kinds of motorized vehicles, from motorcycles to racing cars to monster trucks to planes. If it has wheels, motors, or propellers, it most likely will be on display.
- Lyrid Meteor Shower: The best places to see the meteor shower's light show are far away from city lights and where there are few trees. The dark skies at Joshua Tree or Lake Shasta are excellent choices.
- Whale Watching in April: Still migrating north this month, there may be a few gray whales. Humpback whales and orcas also start to appear around this time.
- Watch a Yacht Race: The Newport to Ensenada race kicks off in late April and watching them take off is fun, even if you don't get to see the ending of the three-day event that's been going on since 1948.
April Travel Tips
- Coachella sells out far ahead of time. In fact, your best bet for tickets is to buy them when they're first released and before they announce the next year's lineup, which is about a week after the previous year's festival ends.
- If you're planning to camp in Yosemite, Joshua Tree Park, or any of the other many campsites in California, make sure to reserve a space as early as possible. Campsites fill up quickly in national parks and the very popular state parks as well and must be booked months in advance.
- If you're driving through California and on a tight schedule, you can take highway 5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco for the quickest route. If you have more time, you should use highway 101 and highway 1—nicknamed the Pacific Coast Highway. The views of the ocean are unbeatable, and you'll drive through charming coastal towns such as Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey.