The Northern California city of Redding is on the doorstep of Mount Shasta, and surrounded by beautiful landscapes, waterways and historic buildings. There’s no shortage of things to do in Redding.
And yet, before we started planning our honeymoon road trip through California, I’d never even heard of Redding. It’s either a massive oversight on my part, or Redding is a bit of a hidden Northern California gem. I’ll let you decide.
TIP: If the attractions you’re planning to visit are close, it helps to do a quick drive or walk to them to see if they’re “as described”, and if it’s still a place you want to visit on your trip.
I did a quick reconnaissance mission on the first morning of our stay, and within a half hour drive, I’d seen 15 different attractions in Redding that I wanted to go back to and visit.
The best thing about Redding is that it gets 300 days of sunshine each year, so whenever you plan to visit, you’re almost guaranteed at least one sunny day! It’s the second sunniest city in the US, surpassed only by Yuma in Arizona.
Things to do in Redding
Redding is a great spot for adventurers and lovers of the outdoors – there are so many hikes, parks, and natural spots and trails to explore that you’re spoiled for choice. Did I mention that it is also known as the “trails capital of California” for its plethora of hiking trails?
But Redding is also a supremely kid-friendly vacation spot. The younger members of your family definitely won’t have any reason to be bored.
Whether you’re looking to slow down from the regular hustle of San Francisco, or just want to do a short road trip to get away from it all, Redding is the place for you. Here’s our list of great things to do in Redding.
Walk (or ride) across the Sundial Bridge
The Sundial Bridge is a great example of beautiful modern architecture that functions on a few different levels. Construction was completed in 2004 and it was built for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Sacramento River in Turtle Bay.
It is a fully functioning sundial, and towering at 66 metres (217ft), it is one of the largest working sundials in the world. Standing beneath it’s sundial spire made me feel like an ant. I can understand why it took 11 years of construction to finish and cost $24 million.
Now, onto the beauty factor – the bridge was designed by Spanish architect and structural engineer Santiago Calatrava, who designed it to be part of the landscape, which reminded him of Valencia in Spain. It was constructed with concrete, steel, and glass, and Calatrava has described the bridge as a “goose in flight”, with the sundial pylon representing the goose’s wing.
If you’re a little scared of walking on a glass “floor”, you might want to steer clear of crossing Redding’s Sundial Bridge, because it is paved with 2,245 glass panels. During the height of summer, those panels can reach 65.5°c (150°f).
It can hold the weight of 6,000 people, but don’t worry, the bridge doesn’t have enough space to carry that many people, so there’s no danger to anyone.
Where to find the Sundial Bridge: Sacramento River Trail, Redding, CA 96001
Parking: 844 Sundial Bridge Drive, Redding, CA
Spend the day at Turtle Bay Exploration Park
Summer Hours: Wednesday-Friday, 9am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday, 10am-5pm
Bike on the Sacramento River Trail
Immerse yourself in the Victorian era at Behrens-Eaton House Museum
Get your fill of the frills and fancies that the Victorian era had to offer at Behrens-Eaton House Museum.
The house used to be home to Judge Richard Behrens Eaton who was a local historian as well as a judge in Shasta County. He was also a collector of historical memorabilia and when he died in 2003, he created a trust to share it all with the public.
The museum contains Victorian furniture, antique clothing and books, war memorabilia, and local history.
Address: 1520 West Street, Redding.
Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday: 10am-4pm, Saturday, 1pm-4pm
Cost: Free, donations appreciated.
Splash around at WaterWorks Park
As we drove into Redding, fresh from a trip to Burney Falls (see below), we passed WaterWorks Park, which was packed-to-the-gills with excited kids of all ages.
I’m still a little (OK, very) disappointed that we didn’t have time to get to WaterWorks Park ourselves, but that is not going to stop me from recommending it to you and any kids you may have.
The park has eight different rides and slides that include flumes, and will be sure to get your heart pumping. I really want to try The Cyclone – an enclosed flume ride for a single or double tube that drops you five storeys into a 40 foot (12 metre) bowl that spins you round and sucks you into a tube, spitting you out on a waterfall into the cyclone pool.
Also, you can’t miss giant slides like the Corkscrew, Bucking Bronco or the Whipper Snapper.
Address: 151 N Boulder Drive, Redding.
Monday – Friday Cost: People over 48″ (1.2 metres), $22.95 all day, $15.95 for twilight; Under 48″ (1.2 metres), $18.85 all day, $13.95 for twilight; 0-2 years, free; 63 years and over; $8
Saturday & Sunday Cost: People over 48″ $26.95 all day, $15.95 for twilight; Under 48″ (1.2 metres), $22.95 all day, $16.95 for twilight; 0-2 years, free; 63 years and over, $8
Stare, in absolute awe, at Burney Falls
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT go to Redding (or Northern California) without stopping at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. You will kick yourself forever if you do.
You can probably tell from my excitement, that the falls are pretty popular, so I’d advise visiting at certain times of the year, otherwise you’ll have to wake up pretty early to get guaranteed entry. You can find out all about it in this post.
I cheated a little, because Burney Falls is actually an hour’s drive east of Redding, but as I said earlier, it’s worth the trek. While you’re there you can book a campsite, go fishing, horse riding, go on a short hike, go out on a boat, or do some water sports.
Now, to the Falls themselves. The water that cascades over the falls, dropping 129 feet (39 metres), begins at underground springs that feed Burney Creek. The sound of the falls is mesmerizing, and that’s probably because it falls at 4.4 metres cubed each second, into Lake Britton.
The park is also a stop along the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), so it has a general store for supplies and treats, and you might be lucky enough to meet a through-hiker.
Address: 24898 CA-89 Scenic, Burney
Cost: $10 per vehicle, $10 for each extra vehicle, $10 boat launch fee, $9 senior citizen day use, $9 dump station fee, $20 for over sized vehicles
Driving distance from Redding: One hour west.
See the aftermath of volcanic eruptions
It’s cool. The lava, I mean. Lava Beds National Monument is the site of volcanic eruptions of the Medicine Lake Shield Volcano over the last 500,000 years.
The lava flow created more than 800 caves over the centuries, and the area was used by Native Americans to create rock art. The National Monument also has historic battlefields and campsites to explore!
If you plan to go caving, you’ll need to stop by the visitor’s center to be screened for White-nose Syndrome, a fungal infection that is fatal to bats and can be spread by humans throughout their roosting sites within the caves. Many of the caves have trails, stairways and ladders to assist in navigating your way through.
Those making a quick trip and wanting to get the best out of the experience should explore Mushpot Cave – the only lit cave at the National Monument.
Back in 1872 about 60 Modoc Indians at the Lava Beds, were attacked by a US Army force that vastly outnumbered them. The war stretched into 1873, and it was one of the most costly wars in US history. It was the only war where a US General was killed.
By the time the war ended in May, 53 US soldiers, 17 civilians, two Warm Springs Scouts, five Modoc women and children, and 15 Modoc warriors had died. The battles ended when the Modoc tribes broke into smaller groups and one of those groups surrendered.
Address: 1 Indian Well Headquarters, Tulelake
Hours: Visitor’s Center is open 9am-4pm daily
Cost: $25 per vehicle
Driving distance from Redding: Two and a half hours north east
Go Fishing in Redding
Apart from all the other accolades heaped upon Redding, the city was also named one of America’s best fishing towns by Forbes magazine, which referred to it as “Cali’s trout capital”.
“Serious fly anglers rate some of the waters in this area (like the trout-laden Lower Sacramento River, the technically challenging Hat Creek, and the steelhead magnet Trinity River) right up there with other western icons like the Colorado, the Yellowstone, or the Snake,” according to the magazine.
FUN FACT: The Fly Shop, in Redding, is the largest fly fishing business in the world.
So it’s no surprise then, that Redding’s trout waters are famous. They include the Lower and Upper Sacramento Rivers. The area is also surrounded by renowned fishing waters such as McCloud, Hat Creek, Pit River, Fall River, Manzanita Lake and Trinity River.
For more information on fishing in the area, go to Visit Redding’s fishing page.
Get a gold rush at Shasta State Historic Park
The historic site of an old gold mining town, that includes a museum AND a jail (that’s how you know it was a proper gold mining town), is about six miles west of Redding.
During California’s gold rush era, the town of Shasta was a destination for socializing, shopping, and banking. Now the half-ruins of the town remain – cottages, cemeteries, and roofless buildings stand testament to a time before cars.
If you do stop for a visit, you can meander through the restored County Courthouse, which has been returned to all its 1861-glory. You’ll find historical exhibits and artworks inside.
Address: 15312 CA-299, Redding.
Hours: Thursday-Sunday, 10am-5pm
Hit the powder at Mt Shasta Board & Ski Park
Speaking as someone who has never skied or snow boarded, I can’t personally attest to the slopes of Mt Shasta’s board and ski park. But I can say that it’s a great alternative to the always-packed Lake Tahoe slopes.
The alpine ski park features two triple chair lifts and a surface tow, as well as more than 300 miles (482 km) of groomed trails for cross-country skiing and anyone who wants to jump on a snow mobile. You can even rent a backcountry cabin to stay closer to the action.
There are a variety of runs, 20 per cent are for beginners, 55 per cent are intermediate, and 25 per cent are advanced. The mountain sees about 275 inches of snowfall annually.
Mt Shasta dominates the landscape at 14,161 feet (4,316 metres) above sea level and is popular with climbers who attempt to summit the fifth highest mountain in California.
Address: Hwy 89/Ski Park Rd, Mt. Shasta.
Winter Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9am-4pm; Friday, 9am-7pm; Saturday, 9am-6pm; Sunday, 9am-4pm.
Cost: See website for cost details
Driving distance from Redding: 1.25 hours north
Breathe the fresh air at Lassen Volcanic National Park
Want to experience the beauty of Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks but don’t want to deal with the crowds? Lassen Volcanic National Park is the place for you!
Just an hour’s drive from Redding, the park offers breathtaking vistas of mountainous terrain, and some amazing geothermal spectacles such as hot springs, four types of volcanoes, mud pots, and steam vents. The jewel of the park is Lassen Volcano, which stretches 8.512 feet (2,594 meters) into the sky and is most often capped with snow.
TIP: Stay on the trails and boardwalks when visiting hydrothermal areas. What looks like solid ground can actually be a thin crust covering boiling mud or acidic water
In summer go hiking or camping, and in winter take a snowshoe tour or dust off your skis. If you happen to make it to Manzanita Lake in the warmer months, you can fish for rainbow, brown, and brook trout.
Address: See maps.
Cost: Vehicle $30, Motorbike $25, Individual $15
Placate your inner-geologist at Lake Shasta Caverns
Get your geology hats on and join me at Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark. Does anyone else think that some of these names are an unnecessary mouthful?
Anyway, at Shasta Caverns you can take advantage of a scenic catamaran cruise across the lake and tours of one of the most beautiful limestone caves in the US. The crystal and calcite formations in the underground caves date back almost 250 million years, so don’t touch!
You’ll need to take a bus ride to the cave itself, and along the way you may see wildlife such as bald eagles, black bears, and mountain lions. The tours, including the 10 minute lake cruise and 10 minute bus ride, takes about two hours, all up.
Address: 20359 Shasta Caverns Road, Lakehead
Cost: 3-15, $18; 16 and older, $30; Babies under 2, Free.
Summer Hours: Memorial Day Through Labor Day, 9am-4pm
April, May and September: 9am-3pm
Tours, October to March: 10am, 12pm and 2pm
Driving distance from Redding: About 20 minutes
See a film in an authentic Art Deco Theatre
When I’m on vacation, I love to kick back and watching a show without having to worry about work or “life”. If you’re like me, you have to visit the beautiful Cascade Theatre in Redding to experience the height of 1930’s opulence.
First opened in 1935, the cinema was touted to have “an interior rich in beauty and fitted with all the latest discoveries of science”. Judge Richard Behrens Eaton, who we mentioned above, was impressed that of all the buildings in Redding, the Cascade Theatre was the only one to pay special attention to its outer design.
The Cascade was the place to be seen back in its heyday, and it has been restored and is listed on the national register of historic places. Not only can you see a show, or musical, in the theatre, but you can also catch a movie.
Address: 1731 Market Street, Redding
Where to stay in Redding
Our trip to Redding was fantastic, in part because we chose to stay at the Americana Modern Hotel in the heart of the city. Before you furrow your brows, no we were not paid to stay there, and we didn’t mention that we’d write about our stay if it was a pleasant one.
We travel on a budget and generally don’t splash out for the high-end hotel rooms, especially since we’ll spend most of our time out exploring. So I love an affordable hotel, and I know that lots of them are tired, shabby, and sometimes downright uncomfortable. The Americana Modern Hotel is none of those things.
It was refurbished in May 2019, the beds are super comfortable, the rooms are spacious, and the toiletries available are pretty swanky. There’s even a laundry room for those who are on a road trip and want to get some washing done. See our review of the Americana Modern Hotel for more details.
Address: 1241 Market Street, Redding
Last tip for things to do in Redding
If I could give you one last tip that would definitely help you to plan a trip to Redding, it would be to direct you to the Visit Redding website. It is a treasure trove of information about the city, its surrounds, and it’s got tailored itineraries for all kinds of vacations.
A big thanks to the Redding Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for being kind enough to provide some stunning photos of places that I was not able to take stunning photos of.
**Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of these links you don’t pay a cent more, but I receive a small commission, that is put towards the running of this blog.