Published on September 14, 2020

Yosemite National Park is one of the top places to visit in California, and Mariposa County offers a full complement of unique places and distinctive things to do in and around Yosemite. If you’re looking for cool places to visit in California, no need to look farther than Mariposa County. From soaring above Half Dome to sipping estate-pressed olive oil and riding into the sequoias on horseback, here’s an insider’s list of unique places to visit in California.

Sierra Foodie: Unique Places to Visit in California for Foodies

Butterfly Creek Winery

Butterfly Creek Winery
The beautiful Butterfly Creek Winery in Mariposa is a great place to sample local wine, but also take in some gorgeous southern Sierra views. (Photo by: Charles Phillips)

Wine tasting is a cool thing to do in California, and Mariposa County’s Butterfly Creek Winery produces wines that perfectly express Sierra foothill terroir. Wine making isn’t reserved for just Napa Valley, and visitors to Butterfly Creek can attest. Start with 200 acres of granitic Sierra loam soil, add mountain spring water plus crystal-clear air, and fine wine is the natural result.  Set in the picturesque Snow Creek area north of Bootjack, Butterfly Creek’s tasting room is open Tuesday ““ Sunday 11 to 5, and by appointment.  In Mariposa, find Butterfly Creek wines at Pioneer Market or raise a glass at Charles Street Dinner House.

Sierra Cider

This Mariposa cidery in the heart of California gold country creates liquid “gold” from estate-grown heritage apples.  Visit the big red ranch house (it’s the one with solar panels up top) to taste the flavorful Farmhouse Style (tasting notes: English Bittersweets) or Early Harvest (honey and apple blossom, extra-sparkly and great with food). One of the more unique places to visit in California if you’re into beverage-making, Sierra Cider offers a true taste of the Golden State. Sip artisan cider in a one-of-a-kind, only-in-Mariposa setting.

CostaLivos Mountains Gold olive oil
Pair Costa Livos’ Mountain Gold Olive Oil tasting with one of their home-cooked Italian meals for a great date night.

CostaLivos Mountain Gold Olive Oil

Olive oil tasting is another one of the unique things to do in California.  At CostaLivos estate, the heritage olive grove is warmed by the California sun and watered by fresh glacial underground mountain springs. The Costa family carefully tends their olive trees to produce the highest quality fruits, which are hand-picked and cold-pressed to yield most flavorful extra virgin olive oils.  The CostaLivos Mountain Gold Olive Oil Tasting Room is located on Highway 140 in Mariposa.

What a Thrill: Cool Places to Visit in California for Adrenaline Junkies

Skydive Yosemite

The only skydiving center in the United States with amazing views of Yosemite National Park, Skydive Yosemite is one of the top places to visit in California. The Yosemite Skydive from 14,000 feet delivers a birds-eye view of El Capitan and Half Dome.  Not to mention one of the most cool and curious company logos ever! Skydive Yosemite is located at the Mariposa-Yosemite Airport.

Exchequer Mountain Bike Park

700 acres of crunchy, chain-stretching joy, Exchequer overlooks the northwestern shore of Lake McClure and has great access from the cabins, camping, and facilities at Barrett Cove Recreation Area. For a nature lover, this means you can take a spin on your mountain bike and swim in a Mariposa County lake, all before lunch!

Splash-n-Dash Aqua Park

Lake McSwain's Splash and Dash aquapark
Serious water fun at Lake McSwain’s Splash and Dash Aquapark

Splash-n-Dash Aqua Park is an impressive flotilla of inflatable obstacles with three routes and four levels of liquid challenge floating on Lake McSwain near Coulterville.  Imagine an aquatic ropes course, with massive inflatable features like the High Roller and Wiggle Bridge.

Fantastic Beasts: Top Places to Visit in California for Equestrians


Whether you take a five-hour trip through the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias or the one-hour Big Creek crossing, Yosemite Trails Horseback Adventures offers unique journeys into the woods and back in time. Just off Highway 41 near Fish Camp, the Yosemite Trails ranch is close to Yosemite National Park’s south entrance and Tenaya Lodge.

Family Time: Unique Places to Visit in California for the Whole Family

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite in Fish Camp is a Four-Star Resort that is both highly family and pet friendly.

Maybe the Sierra’s most heralded all-family resort, Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite has the right stuff for parents and kids alike. The Kid’s Adventure Course, archery lessons, rock wall, flashlight hikes, and pools everywhere make Tenaya pure paradise for kids, while the Ascent Spa offers next-level bliss for Mom and Dad. Located on Highway 41 in Fish Camp, it’s just two miles from Yosemite National Park’s south gate.

Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is a throwback excursion located 10 minutes from the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park off Highway 41 near Fish Camp. This all-aboard attraction offers rides on two historic steam engine locomotives along the narrow gauge right-of-way of the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company. The on-site museum details the local logging legacy; open April ““ October.

Goat Meadow Snow Play Area

Here’s your under-the-radar sledding hill, located just off Highway 41 in the Sierra National Forest between Fish Camp and Yosemite National Park. Tubing, sledding, and all-around snow play are featured.  Since it’s located at just over 5,000 feet elevation, cooler temperatures and low snow levels are required conditions, so be sure to check the snow report.

Prospect Yosemite

Mariposa County was a Gold Rush hub, with rich veins of ore and history intertwined. The legacy lives on at Prospect Yosemite, where guests join old-time miners to seek their fortune at a historic mining site. Riverside gold panning is also offered for groups of six or more. If you’re looking for unique things to do in California that history buffs will love, you’ll strike gold here!

Art Lover: Top Places to Visit in California for Museum Dwellers

Sierra Artists’ Gallery

The Sierra Artists’ Gallery is a cooperative gallery displaying works by local artists located in downtown Mariposa.  Works include paintings, photographs, ceramics, jewelry, cards, and gifts, all tastefully displayed and available for purchase.

Ansel Adams Gallery

Ansel Adams is photo laureate of the American West. The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley is the singular showcase of the Yosemite Sierra “Range of Light” that Adams captured in his famous Hasselblad camera. The gallery has the most extensive collection of his original photographs for sale in the world, not to mention beautiful photo books and prints for the more modest budget.

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top places to visit in California's Mariposa County

Ready for full Yosemite Mariposa immersion?  Here’s the full list of 100 Things to Do in Mariposa County.

Categories: Family and Kid Friendly, General Travel Tips, Itineraries, Outdoor Activities, Restaurants and Dining, Things to See