Yosemite National Park is one of the country’s premier vacation destinations, attracting millions of vacationers every year. It covers Northern California’s Tuolumne, Mariposa, and Madera counties, but many people view Yosemite as its own city, due to the park’s massive size. Yosemite is famous for its incredible natural beauty, which includes mountains, glaciers, granite cliffs, lakes, streams, and forests of giant sequoia trees. Finding a place to stay in the heart of Yosemite can be difficult, as the housing tends to be reserved for employees and their families. Fortunately, there are plenty of exciting towns and cities nearby where you can stay. Book your vacation rental at the Yosemite National Park area today. That said, here are the most unforgettable places to visit in and around Yosemite.

1. Fresno

fresno zoo
Source: Flickr/Anita Hart

Fresno is the closest major city to Yosemite, so it’s perfect if you want a vacation rental with modern conveniences. The city also has plenty of family-friendly attractions to explore when you’re not at Yosemite. The Fresno Chaffee Zoo is a wonderful place to spend the day with the whole family viewing over 190 species from all over the world. Island Water Park is another family-friendly attraction, offering pools, slides, and other water rides. Be sure to check out the Forestiere Underground Gardens, a unique underground mansion brimming with grapes and fruit-bearing trees.

2. Groveland

groveland
Source: Flickr/daveynin

Groveland is a charming town located just 24 miles from Yosemite. If you book your vacation rental between May and October, you can talk to a designated range at the Groveland Visitor Center, who can provide park passes, as well as detailed information on the park’s many attractions. When you’re not exploring Yosemite, head to Groveland’s Mary Laveroni Community Park where you can grill hamburgers at the picnic area while the kids play on the playground.

3. Oakdale

oakdale
Source: Flickr/Lukáš Lalinský

Known as “The Cowboy Capital of the World,” Oakdale is the place to go if you want a real taste of the Old West. While the town features plenty of modern amenities, the historic downtown really provides a unique glimpse into the past. Popular attractions include a train ride on the restored High Noon Express, and the Oakdale Cowboy Museum.

4. Tuolumne County

tuolumne grove
Source: Flickr/Ronnie Macdonald

Tuolumne County is home to roughly half of Yosemite National Park, so it’s a very convenient place to seek out vacation rentals if you’re planning to spend a healthy amount of time at the park. This historical area is known for its role in the California Gold Rush. Pan for gold at the Columbia State Historic Park, or bring the family to Covers Apple Ranch for a relaxing day apple picking. If you’re feeling adventurous, head to the Tuolumne River for some white water rafting.

5. Madera

madera
Source: Flickr/David Prasad

Madera County’s northeast is home to the southeastern section of Yosemite National Park, so it’s a great place to look for vacation rentals. In addition to providing easy access to the park, Madera has some fun attractions of its own to offer. Explore the Fossil Discovery Center, where you can view thousands of fossilized specimens spanning 39 different animal species. Take a trip down the Madera Wine Trail, where you can experience some of Northern California’s most exquisite wines.

6. Bass Lake

bass lake
Source: Flickr/mst7022

Located just 15 miles from Yosemite’s southern gate, Bass Lake is a wonderful place to seek out a vacation rental within close proximity to the park. As you might guess by the town’s name, the area is a haven for anglers. Charter a private boat and spend a day on the lake with the family, or explore the scenic rural trails by foot.

7. Mariposa

mariposa grove
Source: Flickr/brian washburn

Although it’s small in size, Mariposa is large in spirit. Another Gold Rush town, Mariposa is known for its California State Mining and Mineral Museum, where you can learn all about the area’s mining history and view the largest remaining intact mass of crystalline gold from the California Gold Rush, the 13.8-pound Fricot Nugget. Head to Epic Alpacas, California’s largest alpaca farm, where you can buy products made from genuine alpaca wool.

8. Merced

merced river
Source: Flickr/Ryan Park

Often called the “Gateway to Yosemite,” Merced is roughly a two-hour drive from Yosemite to Yosemite on the east, and it also has some beautiful beaches available to the west. Applegate Park & Zoo is a great place to bring the kids. Not only does it have a zoo, outdoor theater, BBQ area, a skateboard park, and multiple sports courts and fields, but the Kiddieland amusement park even has a small train for the kids to ride around the park. The area is also known for its natural beauty, so be sure to visit Merced River for a day in the sun.

9. Midpines

midpines
Source: Flickr/Laurent Goujo

Enjoy the pine-scented air in this quaint and beautiful area. Located just 23 miles from Yosemite’s West entrance, it’s a fantastic location for vacation rental hunting. Spend the day rafting on the Merced River, or explore the picturesque nature from up in the air at Yosemite Ziplines and Adventure Ranch. While you’re there, don’t forget to try your luck panning for gold!

10. Mono County

lake george
Source: Flickr/Don Graham

Located a mere 12 miles from Yosemite’s East entrance, Mono County is a gorgeous area that’s perfect for vacationers of all ages. The county’s most popular towns include Lee Vining and Mammoth Lakes. Take a gondola ride 11,056 feet into the air at Mammoth Mountain, and then visit Mono Lake’s fascinating limestone formations. Known for its natural beauty, Mono County offers plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, boating, horseback riding, fishing, and biking.