• Segway In Solvang: A new and unique way of seeing the architecture of the only Danish city in the west. Highlights include a trip across the Santa Ynez River Sanctuary. Solvang.
• Monterey Bay Aquarium: The Monterey Bay Aquarium restaurant has a brand new name, look and farm-to-table menu. Monterey Bay.
• El Encanto: The El Encanto has been meticulously restored to capture the vintage glamour that makes it a Santa Barbara favourite. Original architectural features have been carefully restored, including the historic trellised-lined arbor and lily pond.
• The Oaks Hotel: After extensive renovations, the Oaks Hotel in Paso Robles is now open for business. Paso Robles.
• Catalina Express: The Catalina Express is celebrating the city of Avalon’s 100th anniversary by offering a ‘Free Round Trip on Your Birthday’ promotion.
• SpringHill Suites by Marriott: Construction is now underway of the 149-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott. The US $40 million project is slated to open in January 2014. The five-storey hotel will boast a modern design aesthetic and include a street-level seafood restaurant and a rooftop swimming pool.
• The LA Hotel Downtown: The LA Hotel Downtown has joined the Hyatt family and is now undergoing a US $20 million transition to become a Hyatt Regency. Los Angeles.
• Hotel Indigo: Newly opened in downtown Santa Barbara’s thriving arts district, Hotel Indigo blends historic splendour with the architectural sophistication for a style-minded clientele. Santa Barbara.
• Guided Boating Adventures: Fun Factory rentals offers tours of all five lakes in the Shasta Cascade region. Water activities include tubing, wake boarding, and fishing, plus just soaking up the sun. Guided tours aboard a 2011 Sanger V215 Wake Series model power boat can accommodate up to 10 people comfortably, and are available by the hour, half-day, or full-day and can be customized to fit every need. Shasta Cascade.
• Disneyland Park: Disneyland features more than 60 attractions in eight themed lands. Nearby, Disney’s California Adventure includes eight themed lands (Buena Vista Street, Paradise Pier, Grizzly Peak, Condor Flats, Pacific Wharf, Hollywood Land, A Bug’s Land, Cars Land). In addition to rides, both theme parks have numerous restaurants and shops. Anaheim.
• Universal Studios Hollywood: Experience the sights, sounds and excitement of the movie capital of the world with a tram ride through the backlots, and adventure rides like Transformers The Ride – 3D. Los Angeles.
• Motion Picture Hall Of Fame: Honours film legends and educates the public about movie making. Los Angeles.
• J. Paul Getty Museum: Home to a world-class collection of European and American art. Los Angeles.
• Knotts Berry Farm: 65 hectares of rides, shows and family attractions in five themed areas. The coaster collection appeals to first-time riders as well as seasoned ride warriors; Camp Snoopy was the first-ever theme park area dedicated solely to kids; live shows include the Wild West Stunt Show, Camp Snoopy Theatre and the all new Snoopy’s Starlight Spectacular. Anaheim.
• Alcatraz Island: Tour the infamous maximum-security prison and enjoy spectacular views of the city. San Francisco.
• The Tech Museum Of Innovation: Interactive exhibits and unique floor programs showcase not just how technology works, but how it affects daily life. Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater. San Jose.
• Charles M. Schulz Museum: Contains nearly 6,000 of his original comic strips and several hundred preliminary sketches for Peanuts. Exhibits and programs illustrate the scope of Schulz's multi-faceted career. The Museum also features a Tribute Art Collection – tribute art that pays homage to Schultz from cartoonists around the world. Santa Rosa.
• Skiing & Snowboarding: California boasts elite downhill skiing and boarding regions including the High Sierras with the Lake Tahoe Ski Area, South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly, Kirkwood and Sierra-At-Tahoe mountain resorts on the south side and Northstar, Sugar Bowl, Mt. Rose, Alpine Meadows and Boreal on the north; the Central Sierras with Bear Valley, Dodge Ridge and Mammoth Mountain; Mt. Shasta Ski Park in northern California; and Snow Summit and Bear Mountain resorts a few hours from Los Angeles and San Diego.
Visit California• Hearst Castle: This palatial estate built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst is now a State and National Historic Landmark. Open for public tours. San Simeon.
• Aquarium Of The Bay: Walk through crystal clear tunnels surrounded by the marine creatures that live in the San Francisco Bay and nearby waters. Exhibits include: The Lair of the Giant Pacific Octopus; The Mesmerizing World of Jellies; and PG&E Bay Lab, an interactive climate change exhibit. San Francisco.
• Top 10 Sinatra Sites: Free, detailed list of Frank Sinatra’s favourite haunts. Includes Twin Palms Estate, his former home with Ava Gardner; Frank Sinatra Drive; Melvyn’s, Riccio’s and Lord Fletcher’s, Sinatra’s favourite hangouts and Desert Memorial Park, the final resting place of Ol’ Blue Eyes. Palm Springs.
• Museum Of Flying: Featuring nearly two dozen aircraft chronicling the beginning of flight – from a replica Wright Flyer, to the jet age, with the BD-5 micro jet and the FedEx 727 nose section. Santa Monica Airport.
• Golfing: The state is filled with internationally renowned public access courses like Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, PGA West and Torrey Pines. Highlights include Sierra Star Golf Course with the highest elevation course in California; The Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch with its peaceful setting and a stout test of skills. Pasatiempo Golf Club, in Santa Cruz, is listed on Golfweek’s Best Top 100 golf courses while The Course at Wente Vineyards, east of San Francisco, hosts the Nationwide Tour Wine Country Championship.
• San Diego Wild Animal Park: “Flightline,” is a 1.5-hour zipline experience across the Asian and African field exhibits. Covers about 1.6 kilometres in total. Two-hour Wilderness Ridge Mule Rides through the Park’s coastal sage scrub habitat allow visitors to experience backcountry trails containing more endangered species than any other county in the US.
• LEGOLAND Water Park: World’s first LEGO-themed waterpark located inside of LEGOLAND California. Highlights include a Build-A-Raft river where visitors can construct their own LEGO raft; water slides; a 14-metre high tower playground; two sandy beach wading areas and Clutch Powers 4-D Adventure, a combination of wind and rain topped with 3-D effects in a 10-minute action-packed film. San Diego.
• Napa Valley Wine Train: Journey through the beautiful wine country of Napa Valley in restored vintage rail cars aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. Also provides a culinary experience featuring seasonal menus prepared to order. Special events include wine tasting dinners, lunch with a local vintner and a Murder Mystery dinner theatre.
• GLBT History Museum: Houses exhibits that reflect fascinating stories spanning nearly a century of GLBT life. San Francisco.
• Tournament of Roses Parade (January), Pasadena.
• Return of the Swallows Festivities (February-March), San Juan Capistrano.
• Santa Barbara Whale Festival (May).
• Santa Maria Strawberry Festival (April).
• Stockton Asparagus Festival (April).
• Amgen Tour of California (May).
• Pismo Beach Classic Car Show (June).
• San Francisco Gay Pride Parade (June).
• Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival (May/June), Winchester.
• Lights on the Lake (July 4), Lake Tahoe.
• US Open Sandcastle Competition (July), San Diego.
• Gilroy Garlic Festival (July), Gilroy.
• Central Coast Shakespeare Festival (July/August), Avila Beach.
• Old Spanish Days Fiesta (July/August), Santa Barbara.
• Annual Steinbeck Festival (August), Salinas.
• California State Fair ( July), Sacramento.
• Monterey Jazz Festival (September).
• Danish Days (September), Solvang.
• Civil War Revisited (October), Fresno.
• California Avocado Festival (October), Carpinteria.
• San Francisco Bay Area: First-class attractions, celebrated wineries, cultural diversity, remarkable skylines and breath-taking views make this region one of the world’s most popular destinations.
• Los Angeles County: Ever since filming began in Los Angeles in 1913, the world has been fascinated by moviemaking and Hollywood’s great dream factories. Wide range of activities available – snowboarding, surfing and hiking deep into the wilderness just off a busy freeway.
• Central Valley: One of the world’s most productive farming areas. This thriving region includes a wealth of culturally diverse communities, historic sites, exceptional outdoor recreation, abundant wildlife and the California Delta – a unique 1,600-kilometre waterway fed by five major rivers.
• Central Coast: Dramatic seascapes and coastal resorts, together with the pastoral atmosphere of its inland agricultural communities, make this tranquil expanse between San Francisco and Los Angeles an idyllic destination. Just a few of the highlights: Monterey, home of the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row; Salinas, birthplace of John Steinbeck and site of the National Steinbeck Center; the romantic town of Carmel-by-the-Sea; the dramatic coastline of Big Sur; Pismo Beach, gateway to Hearst Castle and the Oceano Sand Dunes, the most extensive coastal dunes remaining in California; Santa Maria, home to family-friendly attractions like the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum and the Museum of Flight, as well as several wineries that welcome visitors; Santa Barbara, the “American Riviera”, where travellers can go whale-watching, step into the past at the Santa Barbara Mission, visit vineyards; Solvang, which boasts the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, and the nearby Old Mission Santa Ines.
• California’s Islands: California’s many islands include Santa Catalina, near Los Angeles; Channel Islands National Park, located off Santa Barbara; Coronado Island, directly across the bay from downtown San Diego; Negit and Paoha Islands in the middle of Mono Lake, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Range; and Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.
• Golden Gate National Recreational Area: The largest urban park in the world and the largest single open space in San Francisco.
• Huntington State Beach & Bolsa Chica State Beach: Eight kilometres of sandy recreation south of Los Angeles with wildlife-watching in the adjacent, ecologically sensitive wetlands.
• Orange County: Since the opening of Disneyland in 1955, Orange County has become the ultimate family vacation destination, with sunny beaches, luxurious resorts, theme parks and unlimited opportunities for shopping and dining.
• North Coast: Stretching along more than 640 kilometres of coastline from San Francisco to primeval redwood forests at the Oregon border. The region also offers lush vineyards and quaint villages filled with antique shops inland.
• Ventura: Dubbed “The land of endless summers” by early Spanish settlers, Ventura is the place to discover the Real California. Just an hour north of Los Angeles, the city boasts abundant arts and cultural activities, lush farmlands and ocean beaches. Channel Islands National Park lies just off shore, the Los Padres National Forest is found in Ventura’s foothills and two of California’s longest flowing open rivers help form the city’s boundaries.
• Fairfield: Located between San Francisco and Sacramento; home to the Jelly Belly Candy Company, where free tours attract nearly 500,000 visitors a year; Budweiser Brewery tours; produce markets; wineries in Suisun Valley; Suisun Marshes, the largest in the Western United States; and plenty of golf on local courses.
• Inland Empire: Soaring mountains, alpine lakes, historic sites, lush vineyards and colourful entertainment.
• Deserts: California’s deserts are a study in contrasts: soft sand dunes and deeply eroded cliffs, golden poppies and spiny cacti, creeping tortoises and soaring eagles, and snow-capped mountains and glittering resort cities.
• Shasta Cascade: This outdoor lover’s paradise is a beautiful and unspoiled region boasting towering mountains, lush forests, crystal-clear lakes and thundering waterfalls. The perfect base for the region is Redding, home to plenty of great attractions. Must-sees include the spectacular and car-free Sundial Bridge, a 213-metre long, glass-floored suspension bridge over the Sacramento River; and the 121-hectare Turtle Bay Exploration Park, which includes an art and history museum, arboretum and gardens, a butterfly house, logging and ecology exhibits and an aquarium filled with river life.
• Oceanside: Considered the gateway city between metropolitan San Diego and Los Angeles, the near-perfect climate invites you to relax on 5.6 kilometres of white sandy beaches, or step back in time by visiting the historic Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, the “King of the Missions”, and Heritage Park. Other attractions include one of the longest wooden recreational piers on the West Coast, golf at four local courses and the California Surf Museum.
• San Diego: Always sunny, and more than 110 kilometres of beach head the list of San Diego attractions. Others include Mission Bay and SeaWorld San Diego; Balboa Park with 15 museums, gardens and the San Diego Zoo; the beaches of Coronado Island; Mexican heritage and culture of Old Town; and of course San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
• Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve: A few miles north of the hustle and bustle of downtown Huntington Beach, this 480-hectare reserve boasts one of the country’s most diverse nesting grounds, with more than 200 species of birds documented.
• Free Friday Night Bands on the Beach: Warm sand, a panoramic view of Monterey Bay and the music from a fun-loving band on Friday nights. Santa Cruz.
• Fresno County Fruit Trail: Find out where locals go to get the very best fruits, berries, and nuts direct from the family farms in eastern Fresno County.
• Point Loma Tidepools: Home to flowery anemones, scampering shore crabs, elusive octopuses, spongy deadman’s fingers and many other magnificent creatures of the sea. The best time to visit the tidepools is during winter and spring low tides. The Cabrillo Monument offers ranger-guided tidepool walks at most low tides.
• Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: Takes passengers from Valley Station (806 metres elevation) to Mountain Station on the edge of the wilderness, elevation 2,596 metres. At the top are a restaurant, gift shop, snack bar, visitor centre, the Long Valley Ranger Station, picnic area, ski centre, a self-guided nature trail and Desert View Trail.
• Davis Farmers Market: Long considered one of the finest farmers’ markets in the state, the market, between 3rd and 4th Streets, boasts a festive atmosphere fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, baked goods and handmade crafts. Davis.
• Palm Canyon Drive: Hugging the base of the San Jacinto Range, the Drive boasts a fine collection of Mid-Century Modern boutiques, consignment dealers, art galleries and antique shops. Aim to hit Villagefest on Thursday nights, when locals and tourists alike shop the farmers’ market and listen to live music. Palm Springs.
• Palm Desert: The El Paseo Shopping District is a 1.6-kilometre street locals dubbed the “Rodeo Drive of the desert”. Browse through an amazing array of inviting restaurants, art galleries, clothing boutiques, bistros, and bakeries. There’s also the Gardens on El Paseo, home to Saks Fifth Avenue, Ann Taylor Loft, Pottery Barn, Brooks Brothers, Tommy Bahamas, Talbots, Williams-Sonoma, and Tiffany & Co. (that’s the short list). In fact, there are over 20 jewelers, plus home furnishing, and restaurants serving steak, seafood, wood-fired pizza and fine Italian. And Westfield Palm Desert is a cool retreat in summer with 176 stores and a multi-screen cinema.
The Original Road Trip
If you’re looking for the real California then come experience “The Original Road Trip” and explore the Central Coast.
In the heart of California between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Central Coast stretches more than 480 kilometres from Santa Cruz, two hours south of San Francisco, down to Oxnard, about an hour north of Los Angeles.
The Central Coast features major attractions such as Hearst Castle, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, National Steinbeck Center, Channel Islands National Park, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, more than half of California's 21 historic missions, and a dizzying array of wine tasting and culinary opportunities.
Starting from San Francisco, the regions are Monterey Bay, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura. There are miles of rocky shoreline, dreamy beaches for swimming and surfing, and panoramic views of the Pacific. But these regions also extend far inland and take in both towering mountains and rolling hills.
The Monterey Bay Region, the most northerly of the Central Coast’s areas, ranges from the rugged coastline of Big Sur all the way to communities on the southern edge of the San Francisco Bay area. Carmel is one of California’s gallery centres, the city of Monterey is home to the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Santa Cruz is part beach town and part college town – and always independent in spirit.
The San Luis Obispo Region is roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and lets you explore everything from vintage beach towns to celebrated wine regions. The city of San Luis Obispo offers a walkable, historic downtown while north along the coast, you’ll find the legendary Hearst Castle and wild, unspoiled beaches.
The Santa Barbara Region has been dubbed the American Riviera thanks to the Mediterranean architecture, incomparable beaches, and the dramatic mountain backdrop of its namesake city. The region also extends beyond the city of Santa Barbara and into the north county, where you can taste your way through several wine regions that are winning international acclaim.
The Ventura Region is home to the coastal beach cities of Ventura and Oxnard including the spectacular Channel Islands National Park and two thriving harbours. Backed by rugged mountain terrain, the artsy Ojai Valley looks like a vintage orange-crate label come to life while the region’s Heritage Valley is a fertile agricultural area of small towns, citrus packaging companies and historic railways.
Head out on the Original Road Trip along California’s Central Coast.
Did You Know?
State Motto: Eureka!
State Flower: Golden Poppy
State Bird: California Valley Quail
America’s Byways: Arroyo Seco Historic Parkway-Route 110, Death Valley Scenic Byway, Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway, Route 1-Big Sur Coast Highway, Route 1-San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway, Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road, Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.
Direct Flights: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Northwest Airlines, United Airlines, WestJet
Cruise Lines: Alaska Sightseeing/Cruise West, Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Clipper Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line Ltd., Hapag Lloyd, Holland America Line, Japan Cruise Line, Mitsui OSK, Norwegian Cruise Lines, NYK Cruises, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Seabourn Cruise Line, Silversea Cruises, Trans Ocean Tours
Info: Visit California