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Destination Guides


California

General   Weather   Airports   Attractions   Activities  

Introduction

Golden Gate Bridge ©RyanJWilmot

The legend of California, the embroidered image portrayed by Hollywood's worldwide film and television industry, really does exist. Days are warm and sunny, the mansions of Beverley Hills are the height of luxury, beautifully-sculpted bodies roller-blade along the beachfront boardwalks, blonde-haired surfers compete for waves and the allure of Hollywood's fame and fortune is as strong as ever.


Everyone either adores or despises the Golden State, the 'spoilt kid' of the USA, who brushes off the barbs of envious resentment with indifference, confident in the knowledge that California offers one of the most varied and exciting places to live in America. The world-renowned cities of the West Coast are strung along miles of magnificent coastline with cliffs, soaring redwood forests and beaches. The high snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and the magnificent glacier-carved valley of Yosemite National Park contrast with the shimmering heat of spectacular desert landscapes and the neat rows of leafy vineyards in the Napa Valley, one of the world's best-known wine growing regions.


The Golden Gate Bridge, steep roller-coaster hills and the formidable island of Alcatraz are instantly recognisable images of San Francisco, while the welcoming beach lifestyle and family-fun attractions make San Diego a popular vacation destination. Undoubtedly the city with the most razzle-dazzle is Los Angeles, a high-energy conglomeration of wealthy neighbourhoods, beaches and excessive standards of living. It lives up to its reputation as 'the entertainment capital of the world' presenting the attractions of Hollywood, Universal Studios and Disneyland, as well as first-class shopping, fine restaurants and a lively nightlife.


As the most populous state in the USA, California is blighted by pollution, congested freeways, crime and overcrowded attractions, but it remains a leader in social tolerance, as well as being a forerunner in the film, entertainment and music industry. The state also lives with the constant threat of earthquakes, being cut through by the San Andreas Fault. Despite the ever-present fear that 'the big one' will strike, California remains one of the most popular states in which to live, work and play.


Climate Info

The weather in California is temperate and pleasant for most of the year. In general, summers are hot, winters are mild and humidity is low. Offshore breezes keep the beach communities of Los Angeles and San Diego cooler in summer and warmer in winter than those further inland. Generally the weather is warm and dry in all seasons, with 354 days of sunshine a year. Temperatures in the summer can get well over 90°F (32°C) and smog can become a problem. The desert winds known as the 'Santa Anas' bring dry, sandy air to southern California in the summer. In winter temperatures get down to around 55°F (12°C) and rain is a possibility. San Francisco, a little further north, is a little cooler and breezier and there is regularly fog over the harbour until about midday. Winter weather in San Francisco can require a warm coat.


Getting Around

The public transport system in San Francisco is known as MUNI and operates buses, electric trolley buses and the famous cable cars as well as metro streetcars (underground trains that become street cars when they emerge above ground). MUNI offers access to all parts of the city; exact change is required, and the same fare applies to all services except the cable cars, which are more expensive. Note that the cable cars are very popular and crowded. They can be tough to get onto, and slow in getting to your destination. MUNI trains and buses run 24-hours a day, with a more limited service after midnight; buses late at night are not always safe to use.


The other transport system, known as BART, is a fast and economical subway/rail network that connects the city to the East Bay as well as the airport. Taxis are also available in the city but can be hard to find, especially during peak hours. During the day the best option is often to walk, as many of the locals do. However, be prepared to climb a few hills.


Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

LocationThe airport is situated 16 miles (26km) southwest of Los Angeles.
Time DifferenceGMT –8 (GMT -7 from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November).
Contacts

Tel: +1 310 646 5252.

Transfer terminals

A free shuttle bus carries passengers between terminals.

Getting to city

A free shuttle bus service runs to the Metro Rail Green Line Aviation Station from the lower level of each terminal. Another shuttle connects to the Bus Center, from where city buses serve the Los Angeles area. Prime Time Shuttle and Super Shuttle are both shared-ride van services; reservations are recommended. Some hotels also offer transport.

Car Rental

Car rental companies include Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz and Thrifty. Vehicle rental sites are located off the airport property, but travellers can request a free shuttle pick-up to reach the rental car sites.

Airpor Taxis

There are taxis available outside the lower level of the airport. Passengers receive a ticket stating the typical fare to major destinations. Airport authorized taxis display an official seal and passengers who use an unauthorized taxi service do so at their own risk.

Airport Facilities

Passenger services at the airport include ATMs and currency exchange, a business centre, baggage storage, shops, restaurants and bars. Cell phones can be rented in Arrivals.

Car Parking

There are eight central car parks offering long and short-term parking that are connected to the terminals by the LAX shuttle bus. There is also a Cell Phone Waiting Lot. Parking is charged at $3 for the first hour and $2 per half hour thereafter, up to $30 per day. The Economy Lot is $4 for the first hour and $4 per hour after that up to $12 per day.

Websitewww.lawa.org


San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

LocationThe airport is situated 14 miles (23km) south of San Francisco.
Time DifferenceGMT –8 (GMT –7 from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November).
Contacts

Tel: +1 800 435 9736.

Transfer terminals

The AirTrain light rail service operates on two lines: the Red Line connects all terminals, garages and the BART Station; and the Blue Line connects to the rental car centre. However, the AirTrain does not provide service to the airport's long-term parking lot.

Getting to city

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Rapid Rail service connects the airport to the city centre, and provides a connection to the Caltrain commuter rail service at Milbrae Station, from where trains leave regularly to downtown San Francisco and San Jose. SamTrans Service, bus 292, leaves every 30 minutes for the city centre and suburbs. There are also shared vans, which provide a door-to-door service and are cheaper than taxis. Reservations are sometimes needed for service after 11pm.

Car Rental

The AirTrain links the terminals to the rental car centre. Car rental companies include Alamo, Avis, Budget, National, Thrifty and Hertz.

Airpor Taxis

Taxis cost from about $47 to $67 for a half hour's ride to the city centre, although these rates are very dependant on traffic. Airport employees are available at the taxi pick up area, outside all terminals, to help passengers. Taxi drivers will expect a tip.

Airport Facilities

There are banks, bureaux de change and ATMs available. Facilities for the disabled are very good. Other facilities include baggage storage, a medical clinic, bars and restaurants, duty-free, shops, childcare and baby changing facilities, mailboxes, wifi, tourist information and hotel reservations. There is also a museum, library, art gallery and an aviation history museum within the terminal.

Car Parking

Rates for short-term parking start at $2 per15 minutes and increase to $36 per 24 hours. Other daily rates available range from $36 per day in the international parking area to $25 per day in the long-term lot.

Websitewww.flysfo.com


San Diego Lindbergh Field Airport (SAN)

LocationThe airport is situated three miles (5km) northwest of San Diego.
Time DifferenceGMT -8 (GMT -7 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Contacts

Tel: +1 619 400 2404.

Transfer terminals

A free Airport Loop shuttle service operates between the terminals at frequent intervals.

Getting to city

Amtrak and Coaster community train services connect San Diego International Airport to the city centre as well as neighbouring cities. Public bus Flyer Service number 992 leaves the airport for the city centre every 15 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes on weekends between 5am and 11.30pm, and regular fare costs $2.25, with concessions available. It goes directly to the airport, and also connects with train services. A host of shuttle and taxi companies are available for rides into downtown; shared shuttle vans offer door-to-door services and are usually a cheaper alternative to taxis.

Car Rental

All car rental pick-ups and drop-offs take place at the Car Rental Center. There is a free shuttle that travels between the Car Rental Center and all of the terminals. Car rental companies include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise and Hertz.

Airpor Taxis

A variety of taxi companies service San Diego Airport, departing from the Transportation Plazas, which are indicated by signs in the airport.

Airport Facilities

Lifts, bathrooms and telephones cater for the disabled. Currency exchange and ATMs are available. Other facilities include bars and restaurants, ATMs, shoeshine services, shops, several airport club rooms and lounges, spas, tourist information and bicycle lockers.

Car Parking

Parking rates range from $2.50 per half hour to daily rates of between $13 and $40, depending upon which parking option you choose. Shuttles are available from all lots to the airport.

Websitewww.san.org


Bob Hope Airport (BUR)

LocationThe airport is situated three miles (5km) from Burbank and 12 miles (19km) from Los Angeles.
Time DifferenceGMT -8 (GMT -7 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Contacts

Tel: +1 818 840 8840.

Transfer terminals

The terminals are within walking distance of each other, in the same building.

Getting to city

The Metrolink and the train station are linked to the main terminal by a free shuttle service, which leaves from in front of the terminal building. The airport is also on the MTA and Burbank Bus routes, which go to Burbank as well as downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood. Taxis are available in front of the airport and car hire counters are located in the Regional Intermodal Transportation Centre.

Car Rental

Car hire companies represented at the airport include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz and National.

Airpor Taxis

Taxis available on the islands in front of the airport terminal include City Cab, United Taxi and Checker Cab.

Airport Facilities

Facilities include ATMs, wifi, a pet rest area, shops and an information desk. There is a restaurant and a variety of other food and beverage options, as well as a few retail shops.

Car Parking

There are several parking options available at the airport. The parking structures are well-marked and easy to locate. Short-term parking is $3 for 30 minutes, $5 for an hour, and $13 for two hours. Long-term parking in economy lots A, C and E is $3 for one hour and $5 for two hours; $10-$24 per day. Valet parking is available for $24 per day.

Websitewww.burbankairport.com


Oakland International Airport (OAK)

LocationThe airport is situated around 10 miles (16km) from Oakland.
Time DifferenceGMT -8 (GMT -7 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Contacts

Tel: +1 510 563 3300.

Transfer terminals

The terminals are with easy walking distance of each other.

Getting to city

The Oakland Airport BART station is located across from Terminal 1 and a short walk from Terminal 2. A shuttle service links the airport to Coliseum Station in just 8 minutes, with fares depending on the final destination. A journey to Downtown San Francisco will cost $10.20 and to Downtown Oakland will cost $7.95. AC Transit bus line 73 connects passengers to the Coliseum/Oakland Airport BART station every 15 minutes, while Line 805 connects the airport to Downtown Oakland every hour between 12.35am and 4.30am. Local bus fare is $2.10 for adults and $1.05 for children and seniors.

Car Rental

The Rental Car Center is open 24 hours (operating on an 'on demand' basis in the later hours) and has all rental companies in one location, including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Firefly, Fox, Hertz, National and Thrifty. A rental car shuttle bus ferries passengers between the terminals and Rental Car Center every 10 minutes. Prior booking is recommended.

Airpor Taxis

Taxis, limos and a shuttle service are available from outside the airport. Taxi services are provided by Friendly Cab and Veteran's Cab.

Airport Facilities

ATMs, shops (including duty-free), restaurants and bars are available in both terminals. Passengers with disabilities are well catered for, but those requiring wheelchairs should contact their airline in advance.

Car Parking

There are four parking options at Oakland International - the premier, hourly, daily and economy lots. The premier lots are closest to the terminal and cost $4 for every half hour and $38 for 24 hours. The hourly lot is the next closest car park and is probably best for short-term or overnight parking. It costs $1 per 12 minutes, or $34 for 24 hours. The daily and economy lots are farthest from the terminal. Daily parking costs $5 per hour for the first two hours and $24 as a daily maximum, while the Economy Lot has a flat rate of $16. Shuttle services to the terminal from the further parking lots are in operation.

Websitewww.oaklandairport.com


Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)

LocationThe airport is located three miles (5km) northwest of San José.
Time DifferenceGMT -8 (GMT -7 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Contacts

Tel: +1 (408) 392 3600.

Transfer terminals

A courtesy shuttle connects Terminals A and B and the parkings lots, running every 7 to 10 minutes from 2.30am to 1am.

Getting to city

The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) operates a special Airport Flyer service, on Route 10, which links the airport to the Metro Light Rail Station and the Santa Clara Caltrain Station. It runs every 15-30 minutes between 5am and 11.30pm. There are two Route 10 bus stops, one is located at the Ground Transportation Island across from Terminal B, while the other is located at the Ground Transportation Center across from the International Arrivals Building. There are also limousines and taxis available, and several hotels offer door-to-door shuttles for their guests.

Car Rental

Car rental companies can be found at the Rental Car Centre, which is serviced by a blue shuttle bus from Terminal A, and is within short walking distance from Terminal B. Companies represented at the airport include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, Fox, National, Payless, Thrifty and Zipcar.

Airpor Taxis

Both on-demand and pre-arranged taxi services are available from San Jose airport, from both terminals. Expect to pay a minimum fee of $15, which includes the first three miles (5km) and the airport surcharge of $1.50. Beyond that, the metered rate is $3 per mile.

Airport Facilities

Facilities at the airport include several restaurants and cafés, wifi access, a gift shop, ATMs, bureaux de change, lounges, massage chairs and phones. Facilities for the disabled are good.

Car Parking

Short-term parking at San José International Airport starts at $2 per 20 minutes and goes up to $30 per day. Daily parking has a flat rate of $22 per 24 hours, and Economy Lot 1 has a flat daily rate of $15.

Websitewww.flysanjose.com


Sacramento International Airport (SMF)

LocationSacramento International Airport is located 10 miles (16km) northwest of downtown Sacramento.
Time DifferenceGMT -8 (GMT -7 from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November).
Contacts

Tel: (916) 929 5411 Email: air-market@saccounty.net

Transfer terminals

An interterminal shuttle is available for travel between terminals A and B. Walking time is 10 minutes and is recommended as the faster option.

Getting to city

Affordable public transport to the Sacramento Airport goes by the name Yolobus. This service offers daily routes throughout the region, including downtown, Davis, Woodland and beyond. Services to downtown run from 5.30am, Monday to Friday, and from 8.20am on the weekends. Last buses depart from downtown and the airport shortly after 10pm. Regular fare is $2.25 for a single journey, with concessions available. Limousine and shared shuttle services are also available from the airport.

Car Rental

A separate car rental terminal on airport grounds hosts all the rental agencies. A shuttle runs between the main terminal buildings and the car rental building around every 15 minutes. Available agencies include Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz and National.

Airpor Taxis

Taxis, serviced by the Sacramento Independent Taxi Owners Association (SITOA), can be located outside the baggage claim area. Rates start at $3, with an additional $2.50 per mile. A round trip to the airport from downtown will cost roughly $66.

Airport Facilities

Facilities include a wide range of restaurants, bars, shops, a shoeshine, ATMs, a massage bar and free wifi access in all public places. Disabled facilities are also available. Travellers requiring assistance should contact their airline prior to departure.

Car Parking

The parking at Terminal B comes at a rate of $2 per half-hour increment, with a daily maximum of $29, and is desgined for short stays. The covered garage parking for Terminal A and Terminal B charges $2 per half hour or $17 per day. For long-term parking, the best option is the Economy Lot at a daily rate of $10 or the Daily Lot at $12 per day. A shuttle from the airport is available to get to these lots. There is also a free waiting area/cell phone lot for picking up passengers. Cars here must remain attended at all times in the free waiting area.

Websitewww.sacramento.aero/smf


Ontario International Airport (ONT)

LocationThe airport is just over two miles (4km) from downtown Ontario, and 35 miles (56km) east of downtown Los Angeles, in California.
Time DifferenceGMT -8 (GMT -7 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Contacts

Tel: +1 (909) 937 2700.

Transfer terminals

The terminals are all located adjacent to one other. A free shuttle runs between the terminals at regular intervals of around five to 20 minutes depending upon time of day.

Getting to city

The best way to get into town from Ontario Airport is to take Omnitrans bus No. 61. It runs at 15-minute intervals and costs just $1.75.

Car Rental

A free shuttle transports passengers to the Consolidated Rental Car Facility (ConRAC) from which most major rental companies operate, including Alamo, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Thrifty.

Airpor Taxis

Travellers can find metered taxis on the curb outside baggage claim in both Terminals 2 and 4.

Airport Facilities

ATMs, baggage cart rental, payphones, pet relief areas, wifi, retail outlets, duty-free shopping and restaurants are all available at Ontario International Airport.

Car Parking

Short-term parking is best at daily Lots 2 and 4, which are close to the terminals. Rates start at $3 for the first hour and $2 per hour thereafter, up to a daily rate of $18. Long-term parking is available in Lot 5 and costs $9 per day. It is connected to the terminal via a free shuttle service.

Websitewww.lawa.org/welcomeONT.aspx


Palm Springs International Airport (PSP)

LocationThe airport is two miles (3km) from downtown Palm Springs.
Time DifferenceGMT -8 (GMT -7 from mid-March to first Sunday in November)
Contacts

Tel: +1 (760) 318 3800.

Getting to city

A shuttle bus transports passengers between the airport and the Amtrak station in town. The Morongo Basin Transit Authority (MBTA) provides a bus service to Palm Springs. Taxis and rental cars are also available.

Car Rental

Car rental companies offering services at the airport include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Desert, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz and National.

Airpor Taxis

A number of taxi companies operate at Palm Springs International Airport.

Airport Facilities

Palm Springs International Airport passenger facilities include a range of restaurants, a selection of shops, public telephones, a travel agent, a USO Service Club, a kid's play area, ATMs, currency exchange services and free wifi.

Car Parking

Parking rates at Palm Springs International Airport start at $1 per 20 minutes and go up to $14 per day. Cell phone waiting lots are also available.

Websitewww.palmspringsairport.com


John Wayne Airport (SNA)

LocationThe airport is located in Orange County, California, just 14 miles (23km) from the Disneyland Resort.
Time DifferenceGMT -8 (GMT -7 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Transfer terminals

It is possible to walk between the terminals, but parking shuttles are provided.

Getting to city

Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) buses, and the iShuttle service John Wayne Airport. Additionally, an express bus runs to the Disneyland Resort on a set schedule. Taxis and rental cars are also available. Most ground transportation services pick up travellers in the Ground Transportation Center (GTC).

Car Rental

On-site rental car companies include Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz and National.

Airpor Taxis

Taxis are available from the Ground Transportation Centre at John Wayne Airport. Metered service is available but it is also possible to negotiate a flat rate for certain destinations. There is no charge for additional passengers.

Airport Facilities

John Wayne Airport is well equipped with airline club lounges, a wide variety of restaurants from fast food outlets to sit-down dining and pubs, a broad selection of shops for basic necessities and gifts, ATMs, currency exchange, power outlets, lockers, pet facilities and art exhibits.

Car Parking

Parking fees at John Wayne Airport start at $2 per hour and peak at $20 per day. The four parking lots are located directly opposite the main terminal building. Curbside valet parking for $10 per hour, up to $30 per day, as well as washing services, are also available.

Websitewww.ocair.com


Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT)

LocationFresno Airport is located more than 60 miles (97km) south of Yosemite National Park, on California State Route 41 in eastern Fresno.
Time DifferenceGMT -8 (GMT -7 from the mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Getting to city

Tour buses, shared shuttles, taxis and buses that connects to Yosemite and downtown Fresno are all available from in front of the terminal building.

Car Rental

Car rental services are available from the airport, from companies including Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz and Alamo. Pre-booking is always recommended.

Airpor Taxis

Taxi cabs operate from the curb in front of the terminal building. Visitors should expect to pay about $30 from the airport to an address in Fresno's city centre.

Airport Facilities

Amenities in Fresno airport include a tourism and information center, a newsagents, a sports bar, fast food outlets, a pub, and a barber shop.

Car Parking

Fresno Airport has three parking options for visitors: a free 'pick up' area, where patrons are required to remain with their car at all times while waiting for their guests to arrive; a short-term lot, charging $1 for up to 20 minutes of parking, $2 for 40 minutes of parking, $3 for an hour, and so on up to a daily maximum of $12; and a long-term lot with a flat rate of $8 per day. The lots are located to the east of the airport terminal.

Websitewww.flyfresno.com


Long Beach Airport (LGB)

LocationThe airport is situated three miles (4.8km) northeast of Long Beach City, in Los Angeles County.
Time DifferenceGMT –8 (GMT –7 from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November).
Getting to city

Long Beach Transit bus routes 102, 104 and 111 service the airport. Regular bus fare is $1.25. Taxis, shuttles and rental cars are also available at the airport.

Car Rental

Car hire companies represented at the airport include Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, Budget and National/Alamo.

Airpor Taxis

Long Beach Yellow Cab taxis are available at the taxi stand outside the terminal. A taxi to downtown Los Angeles costs roughly $72 and a taxi to Disneyland costs about $45.

Airport Facilities

The terminal has recently been renovated at Long Beach Airport and passengers should be able to find everything they need. Airport facilities include ATMs, gift shops, cafes, fast food outlets and a restaurant.

Car Parking

An hour of free parking is allowed in the Cell Phone Waiting Lot. The hourly rate in all other parking lots is $2, with the first 15 minutes free, but daily rates do vary slightly, with Parking Lot B slightly cheaper than Parking Lot A. Valet parking is available.

Websitewww.lgb.org


Golden Gate Bridge


The rust-coloured towers, graceful suspension and supportive cables of the Golden Gate Bridge make this famous symbol of San Francisco the most photographed bridge in the world, and visible from almost any high point in the city, although it is often shrouded in rolling fog. Spanning the
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Golden Gate Bridge ©Rich Niewiroski Jr.



Alcatraz


Out in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island, or 'The Rock', is one of Golden Gate National Recreation Area's most popular destinations. The notorious escape-proof island with its dreaded maximum-security prison once held the likes of Al 'Scarface' Capone, George 'Machine Gun'
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Alcatraz Island ©D Ramey Logan



Fishermans Wharf


Some people love the bustle of Fisherman's Wharf, while others make a conscious effort to steer well clear of it. But for better or worse it is massively popular, attracting more visitors than any other city sight, with Pier 39 the commercial tourist epicentre. The Wharf was once a fishi
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Fishermans Wharf ©EyOne



North Beach


Between Russian and Telegraph Hills, North Beach is San Francisco's 'Little Italy', that has long been the central hub for anyone with alternative inclinations. During the 1950s the pleasure-seeking, non-conformist lifestyle of the Beat Generation and their rebellious literature contribu
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North Beach ©Maxbatt



Golden Gate Park


Of the many open green spaces in San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is the biggest and the loveliest stretching from The Haight to the Pacific Ocean, featuring gardens, lakes, numerous sporting facilities and museums. On Sundays the main drive is closed to traffic and becomes the playground
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Golden Gate Park ©Stan Shebs



Cable Cars


One of San Francisco's most endearing attractions is its network of 130-year-old cable cars, the only mobile National Historic Landmark in the country, and the world's only surviving system of cable cars. Many cities adopted the system, but all have since been replaced by more practical
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Cable car in San Francisco ©Daniel Schwen



Wine Country


The Napa and Sonoma Valleys are at the heart of the Californian wine country, producing wines that are praised by connoisseurs worldwide, from a perfect climate of sunny days and cool nights. The area is a forerunner in the latest grape-growing techniques and wine making, and many indivi
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California wine country ©Nick Kinkaid Follow



Hollywood


Los Angeles is the film and entertainment capital of the world and the name 'Hollywood' is the embodiment of glamour, success and money; the place where films are made, television shows are recorded and stars take up residence. The famous Hollywood sign on the hills above the city has be
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Hollywood Sign ©Thomas Wolf



Universal Studios Hollywood


One of the most popular attractions in Los Angeles is Universal Studios Hollywood, reputedly the world's biggest film studio and theme park. The main attraction is the Studio Tour, a narrated tram ride that traverses the huge complex, passing stars' dressing rooms and famous back-lot set
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Universal Studios ©Anthony Georgio



Warner Bros Studios


The tour at Warner Bros offers a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at an authentic working studio and provides more of a technical slant than the Universal Studios tour, focussing on the authentic filmmaking procedure. The informative two-hour tour takes visitors to view the sets, pro
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Warner Bros Studios ©?LiAnG?



Disneyland Resort


Claiming to be 'The Happiest Place on Earth', Disneyland is an integral part of an American childhood and was the world's first mega theme park designed for the family by Walt Disney in 1955. It is one of America's most famous attractions and despite competition from other similar parks
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Paradise Pier ©Hubert Yu



West LA


West LA is famous for its trend-setting style; the place where the 'stars' live, shop and go out on the town. The area includes some of the most prestigious neighbourhoods in Los Angeles, particularly Beverly Hills and Bel Air. Home of the rich and famous, and one of the world's most exp
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Beverly Hills ©Morn the Gorn



Beach Communities


The miles of sandy beaches along the Pacific Ocean are a celebration of the Californian lifestyle with distinct neighbourhoods and oceanfront walks linking the communities. Malibu is popular with the privacy-seeking rich and famous and their mansions line strips of privately-owned shorel
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Venice Beach ©SameerKhan



Balboa Park


Balboa Park contains one of the biggest groups of museums in the USA, many of them housed in magnificent Spanish-Mexican buildings, in addition to more than 85 Performing Arts and International Culture Organisations including theatres like the internationally acclaimed Old Globe Theatre,
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Balboa Park Botanical Building ©Bernard Gagnon



San Diego Zoo and Safari Park


The San Diego Zoo is one of the city's biggest attractions and has a worldwide reputation for its enlightened management program, worldwide conservation efforts, natural animal environments and most notably its success in breeding endangered species in captivity for reintegration into th
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San Diego Zoo ©Norvy



SeaWorld


* Due to recent concerns regarding animal welfare, the description for this attraction is being withheld for the time being.



Downtown San Diego


The bustling downtown area of San Diego makes for a compact hub of activity and is an easy walk. It includes the business district, the historic Gaslamp Quarter, the post-modern Horton Plaza mall famed for its pastel colours, and the waterfront Embarcadero with boardwalk shops, museums a
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Gaslamp Quarter ©Judith Duk



San Diego Beaches


Epitomising Southern California lifestyle, the beaches and seaside suburbs are the heart and soul of the city, with bikini-clad bodies, sun-tanned surfers, and a plethora of little shops, coffee houses, cafes, and restaurants. The 70 miles (113km) of sandy coastline attracts swimmers, su
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Pacific Beach ©Alex Healing



Coronado Island


The isthmus of Coronado contains an upmarket resort community with several beaches, including the award-winning Silver Strand State Beach, hotels, outdoor dining, boutiques and the Museum of History and Art dedicated to the history of Coronado. A naval station occupies the western end of
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Coronado Hotel ©Dirk Hansen



Yosemite National Park


One of the country's premier national parks, Yosemite receives millions of visitors each year with more than four million people visiting the Yosemite Valley alone. It is home to the biggest piece of exposed granite in the world, some of the highest waterfalls, and giant redwoods that ar
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Yosemite National Park ©David Iliff



Death Valley National Park


The name itself suggests images of all that is harsh, inhospitable and hellish, and it is not by chance that many of the park's features have names like Coffin Peak, the Funeral Mountains, Dante's View, the Devil's Golf Course and Furnace Creek. These are the topographical features of a
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Death Valley National Park ©specchio.nero



Tijuana, Mexico


A typical border town, Tijuana is not suited to everyone's taste, with plenty of noise and frenetic activity. Its location on the American/Mexican border and proximity to San Diego ensures a steady stream of curious day-trippers and souvenir hunters from up north, as well as students in
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Tijuana Skyline ©IFCM



Monterey


One of the most beautiful cities on the central California coast, Monterey was originally the state capital of California and has a rich Hispanic heritage. Set on a stunning coastline of sandy beaches and rocky cliffs, Monterey is a relaxing place to enjoy outdoor activities like golf, b
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Monterey Bay Aquarium ©Meij.kobayashi



Sausalito


Located at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito is a half hour ferry ride from Fisherman's Wharf. The panoramic view of San Francisco Bay is spectacular, and Sausalito's sunny, inviting outdoor cafés and small shops overlooking the city are simply charming. One of the chie
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Sausalito ©Squirrel 22



Exploratorium


Named San Francisco's best museum, the Exploratorium is a fun, quirky museum of science, art and human perception that features some 650 'please touch' exhibits. Located inside the Palace of Fine Arts, many of its exhibits are created by visual and performing artists as well as scientist
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The Exploratorium ©Petr Grolmus



Aquarium of the Bay


The Aquarium of the Bay features 300 feet (91m) of crystal clear acrylic tunnels through which over 20,000 aquatic animals can be viewed. The aquarium offers visitors the opportunity to come face-to-face with the Bay's largest predator, the seven-gill shark, as well as touch leopard shar
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Bat Ray at the Aquarium of the Bay ©Noahudlis



Alamo Square


Anyone who has ever seen an episode of the 90s sitcom 'Full House' will know what Alamo Square looks like. It is a residential neighbourhood and park in San Francisco, frequented by tourists, neighbours and dog-owners. The park features a playground as well as a tennis court. A row of Vi
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View from Alamo Square ©Yair Haklai



Chinatown


A dragon-draped archway at the intersection of Bush and Grant streets marks the entrance to Chinatown in San Francisco, the oldest Chinatown in the United States and the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. Chinatown draws more tourists than the Golden Gate Bridge with its streets teeming
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Chinatown San Francisco ©chensiyuan



Lombard Street


Known as the 'Crookedest Street in the world', Lombard Street features eight sharp hairpin turns. The road was designed in 1922 in order to reduce the 72 degree slope of the hill and make it more usable for cars as well as pedestrians. The speed limit is a mere 5mph (8km/h) on the crooke
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Lombard Street ©Ramgeis



Los Angeles Zoo


Located within the Griffith Park area, the Los Angeles Zoo is a large facility boasting 1,100 animals from around the world. The Zoo is currently adding naturalistic habitats for the animals, making the facility more attractive to both visitors and occupants. It is also a botanical garde
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Los Angeles Zoo ©Gareth Simpson



La Brea Tar Pits


One of the world's most significant fossil sites, the tar pits in central Los Angeles have revealed fossils of plant and animal life preserved in the pits for tens of thousands of years. The fossils themselves are on display in the Page Museum on the site, while replicas of some of the a
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La Brea Tar Pits ©MoToMo



Griffith Park and Observatory


The Griffith Park extends for 4,210 acres (17 km²) of well-kept public grounds and is often referred to as the 'Central Park' of Los Angeles. Rent a bicycle, take a hike or have a picnic under the iconic Hollywood sign. Within the park is the Griffith observatory, which apart from being
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Griffith Park and Observatory ©Marcy Reiford



Walt Disney Concert Hall


It's worth heading into downtown Los Angeles to see this strange Frank Gehry-designed concert hall. The silver-plated building can be described as art deco meets surrealism, and while it derives mixed admiration from visitors, its uniqueness is never argued. A walking tour with an explan
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Walt Disney Concert Hall ©Jon Sullivan



Magicopolis


Fantasy and illusion come alive at Magicopolis, where magic, music and special effects inspire awe and wonder. The shows at Magicopolis run between 90 minutes and two hours and feature comedy, magic, music, illusions, special effects and audience participation. Magic trick kits can be pu
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Magicopolis ©Gentleman of Sophistication and Refinement



Castle Park


A great attraction for kids in Los Angeles, Castle Park has a number of enticing entertainment options to offer adventure-seeking children. The arcade boasts hundreds of games including Ghost Blasters, Time Crisis 3 and Dance Dance Revolution, with fun prizes to be won and a snack bar. T
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Merlin's Revenge at Castle Park ©Martin Lewison



Peach Tree Pottery


For kids who really want to get their hands dirty, Peach Tree Pottery offers children's pottery lessons in a friendly, relaxed environment. Aside from learning to use a potter's wheel, children will also be shown how to make pinch pots, coil pots and tile trivets - a world of ceramic fun
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Pottery kids ©Aine D



Ripleys Believe it or Not! Museum


Visitors at the Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Museum can be mystified and thrilled at the rare, the bizarre and the totally unexplained in the many interactive and state-of-the-art exhibitions throughout the museum. Exhibits range from a vertigo-inducing spinning tunnel to shrunken heads f
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Ripley's Believe It Or Not ©Phalinn Ooi



Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk


Voted the world's best seaside amusement park, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk offers fun for all ages with its collection of carnival rides, classic arcade games, and active pursuits like mini golf, bowling and laser tag. Founded in 1907, Beach Boardwalk is also California's oldest amusement
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Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk ©baynk



Oakland Zoo


Boasting a menagerie of over 300 wonderful animals, the Oakland Zoo is a must for animal lovers and children. Highlights include a children's park, picnic area, wildlife theatre, carousel and a miniature railway. The children's zoo allows kids the opportunity to get close to the animals
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Lemurs at the Oakland Zoo ©Treehgr



Randall Museum


The Randall Museum, also known as the Science and Nature Museum, provides plenty of enjoyable and exciting learning opportunities and experiences for children of all ages. The museum also features animals, such as birds, mice and snakes and children can even get to handle these critters
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Randall Museum ©Zen Skillicorn



Childrens Fairyland


This ten-acre entertainment park on the shores of Lake Merritt features carousel rides, puppet shows, friendly animals and displays of story-book sets from well-loved characters like Johnny Appleseed, Peter Rabbit and Alice in Wonderland. Children of all ages will love a trip to Children
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Children's Fairyland ©Ted Eytan



Ghirardelli Square


Just as you'll find gold at the end of the rainbow, there is surely chocolate at the end of the cable car line in San Francisco. Ghirardelli Square, located on Fisherman's Wharf, is occupied by shops, restaurants, art galleries, and of course the famous Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. Whi
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Ghirardelli Square ©Ryan U



Anaheim


Located approximately 25 miles (40km) southeast of Los Angeles and founded in 1857 by grape farmers and wine makers, Anaheim (meaning 'home by the Santa Anna River' in German) is known as the home of California's Disneyland. This Orange Country town farms walnuts, lemons, and, of course,
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Sleeping Beauty's Castle ©Tuxyso



Knotts Berry Farm


When Walter Knott began selling berries, berry plants and pies from a roadside stand beside State Route 39 in the 1920s he could never have known what his stand would eventually become. As the highway developed over time, so did his stand, becoming a roadside eatery with entertainment an
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The Silver Bullet ©The Phoenix Enforcer



Santa Barbara


Santa Barbara is known as the "American Riviera", thanks to its gorgeous weather, clean air, and beach-centred lifestyle. This attractive and historic coastal town is framed by the Pacific Ocean and San Ynez Mountains, and is located just off Highway 1, 80 miles (120km) north of Los Ange
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Mission Santa Barbara ©tkksummer



Coit Tower


This 210 foot tall (64m) tower in North Beach is the best vantage point in the city, and a great way for new arrivals to get their bearings. The art deco tower is the centrepiece of Pioneer Park, and was a bequest of Lillie Hitchcock Coit with the intention of adding beauty to the city s
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Coit Tower ©Goodshoped35110s



Haight Ashbury


Legend has it that the 1960s hippy movement and resulting American counter-culture kicked off in the Haight Ashbury area. That was more than 50 years ago, but the bohemian atmosphere of this area prevails, with plenty of shops selling vintage clothing, hemp based accessories, vinyl recor
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Waller Street ©Urban



Union Square


This central plaza is the modern face of San Francisco, surrounded by Macy's, Saks, Bloomingdale's, and the Levis flagship store, plus iconic hotels and quaint historical buildings. Along the west side, up the steep incline of Powell street, the famous cable cars run down to Fisherman's
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Union Square ©BrokenSphere



San Francisco MOMA


The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is one of the country's premier modern art centres, featuring important works of Diego Rivera, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Henry Matisse, Paul Klee, Jeff Koons and iconic photography from Ansel Adams. With the recent donation
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San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ©Naotake Murayama



Asian Art Museum of San Francisco


San Francisco has close ties with Asia, a legacy reflected in its sizeable Chinese and Japanese communities. The Asian Art Museum collection was funded and developed to honour this heritage. Housed in the magnificent former San Francisco city library building, this is the largest museum
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Asian Art Museum ©J. Ash Bowie



Muir Woods


The closest remaining stand of Redwoods to San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument is a great half-day excursion from the city to pay homage to these soaring giants of the forest. It's incredible to think that each tree grew from a seed no larger than that of a tomato's. Redwoods can
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Muir Woods National Park ©Richs5812



Six Flags Magic Mountain


Even with the stiff competition among Southern California theme parks, Six Flags Magic Mountain has a solid reputation for the biggest, baddest rides in the area. This world-class theme park was recently named Roller Coaster Capital of the World with 18 coasters, including Superman, the
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Six Flags Magic Mountain ©Jeff Turner



Joshua Tree National Park


Located in south-eastern California, Joshua Tree National Park is instantly recognisable for its vast desert expanses, spectacular sunsets, and peculiar Dr Seuss-like trees. The vistas are at times like something from another planet, and visitors can spot bighorn sheep, coyotes, bobcats,
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Joshua Tree National Park ©Graham



Getty Villa


Originally completed in 1974, then rebuilt in 1997, the Getty Villa is a faithful replica of a Roman villa that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79. Perched on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Villa was built to house the expanding art collection of oil t
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Getty Villa ©Bobak Ha'Eri



Getty Center


It is said that the Getty Center in Brentwood, Los Angeles is less a museum with artworks inside, than an artwork with a museum inside. Certainly the building, designed by Richard Meier and costing $1.2 billion to build in 1997, is celebrated for its architecture and gardens, while the w
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Getty Center ©Bobak



Celebrity Gravesites


Hollywood's celebrities are a major tourist attraction in Los Angeles long after they're dead. Several cemeteries in LA are known for their famous residents, and visitors flock to pay homage to their idols at their final resting places.


One of the most famous cemeteries in Lo
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Westwood Memorial ©Alan Light



Six Flags Discovery Kingdom


Located in Vallejo, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is an animal theme park that offers wildlife experiences with a range of creatures. Visitors can feed dolphins, sea lions, seals or giraffes, or watch trained dolphins and elephants perform in shows. The park's animals include tigers, kille
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Six Flags Discovery Kingdom ©Martin Lewison



Winchester Mystery House


One of the most bizarre attractions in northern California, the Winchester Mystery House was the residence of Sarah Winchester, widow of the inventor of the famous rifle. The house was continuously under construction for nearly 40 years, and it is popularly believed to be haunted by the
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Winchester Mystery House ©Gentgeen



Medieval Times


A wildly popular family attraction in Los Angeles, Medieval Times is a dinner event that combines food and entertainment. Guests are treated to a four-course 11th-century feast while being entertained by six knights competing in the joust and other contests. The castle features a tower,
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Medieval |Times ©Phil Guest



Aquatica by Seaworld


A great way to beat the heat in San Diego is a 32-acre water park located in Chula Vista, just outside San Diego. Water slides and other fun water attractions are on offer, with many new and exciting rides for adults and children alike. There are many fast-food stands throughout the park
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Legoland California


Legoland California is among the most popular attractions for families in San Diego. The first Legoland built outside of Europe, the park is divided into nine sections: The Beginning, Dino Island, Duplo, Village Green, Fun Town, Castle Hill, Miniland USA, Pirate Shores, Imagination Zone
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Legoland ©Coolcaesar



Redwood National and State Park


Redwood National and State Park is home to the world-famous redwood trees that tower up to 379 feet (115m) in the air. Home to 45 percent of the remaining old-growth redwood forests in the world, the park is the best place to see the magnificent trees. Aside from the redwoods, the park h
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Redwood National Park ©Michael Schweppe



San Diego Wine Country


While not as well-known as Napa Valley or Santa Barbara, the wineries in San Diego and neighbouring Riverside are growing in popularity as they produce excellent wines. A few of the most popular wineries to visit include Orfila Vineyards, Bernardo Winery, The Blue Door Winery, and Fallbr
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Vineyard ©MPerel



Hearst Castle


One of the most opulent mansions in the US, Hearst Castle was the residence of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Built between 1919 and 1947, the residence was originally envisioned as a modest bungalow, but ballooned to a massive Spanish Revival castle.


Located near
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Hearst Castle ©Stan Shebs



Pinnacles National Monument


The stunning landscape of Pinnacles National Monument offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities like camping, hiking, rock climbing and birdwatching. The park gets its name from the eroded leftovers of half of an extinct volcano, which form the distinctive spires and cr
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Pinnacles National Park ©Brocken Inaglory



Santa Cruz


A small city at the north end of Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz is a fun weekend getaway with a bohemian atmosphere. Popular tourist attractions like the picturesque Beach Amusement Park and Boardwalk are great for families, and the beaches are some of the best along the California coast. One
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Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk ©the_tahoe_guy



Surfing

A lot comes to mind with California surfing, from Beach Boy serenades to the edgy skate style of Dog Town, or epic big waves of Mavericks. But what these all have in common is the wave-producing coastline of California. Northern California leaves surfers to the elements, with big storm swells and big storm weather. These are not ideal surfing conditions but seclusion and striking rugged scenery are the norm off the coast of Humboldt and Sonoma Counties. Central California is much more popular among surfers but has nothing near the surf culture to the south.


Santa Cruz is best visited during winter and unique surf spots can be discovered along Monterey. Southern California is the surf epicentre, although by no means a small one. From Santa Barbara to L.A. to San Diego, the coastline is a smorgasbord of tasty waves. The more popular areas push limits of how many can surf the same wave. For observers, Malibu is the place to soak in surf history and culture.



California surfer ©M@mad


Wine tasting

California's luscious Napa Valley is probably the second most celebrated wine-growing region in the world, after France's Bordeaux, and is the second biggest tourist draw to the state of California bringing in nearly five million tourists annually. Almost as famous is Sonoma Valley. Where the Valleys rule supreme, however, is the art of modern winemaking. Here the practice of cold and maloactic fermentation, and the use of heaters and wind machines to combat frost are commonplace. Some of the more popular grape varieties coming out of the over 300 wineries in this region include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot. Vineyards range from tiny to immense, and touring Napa and Sonoma Valleys offers a range of experiences from riding up a mountain in a gondola and learning about the process of winemaking on a vineyard tour to eating in a quaint restaurant and aintique shopping in one of the small towns in the area.



Napa Valley, California. ©Stan Shebs


Golf

Course designers have given the Californian desert a facelift. The difference between natural landscape and fairway is drastic with little chance to incorporate natural hazards into the game. But immaculate grooming and facial reconstructive surgery have created beautiful oases. Here, golf communities such as Palm Springs have mountain range backdrops but are otherwise golf resort/retirement towns in middle of unremarkable desert. Around the San Diego area Coronado Golf Course and Balboa Park are the best value.


The more rugged and coastal courses of mid and northern California are loved more for their personality. Ocean side courses are short drives from San Francisco including the Monterey Peninsula and the famous Pebble Beach. Majestic rocky coastlines reminiscent of Scottish links have similar seaside grass roughs. In contrast to the expanse of mid-Californian courses, northern fairways are often cut into dense walls of tall redwood forests. In the north, weather can become wet in fall and winter, making the best time to visit in spring and summer months when the south is too hot. Resort courses are an option but in California most areas are drivable from a city centre.



Coastal green ©ClatieK


Road trip from San Francisco to LA

One of the great American road trips is the journey down the coast of California, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and time-permitting beyond to San Diego. This is the most popular direction as you drive on the right-hand side of the road and can more easily take in the coastal scenery. Try to spend a few nights in San Francisco, there is plenty to see and lots of atmosphere to soak up. From here you can head up to Napa Valley for a day to enjoy some great scenery and the local wine before heading south.


The first must-see stop on Highway 1 is Santa Cruz, a small bohemian surfing-town about an hour south of San Francisco with good beaches, a vintage boardwalk and a vibrant downtown. Monterey, with its Hispanic heritage and famous aquarium is next up - spend some time here before heading into the Big Sur. There is not much civilisation along this stretch of coastline from Monterey to Santa Maria, but the scenery is glorious - it is by far the most beautiful stretch of coastline in California with redwood forests, craggy cliff tops and long empty beaches.


Things to do on this leg of the trip include a tour of Hearst Castle, near Paso Robles; renting a 4 wheeler and riding the sand dunes at Pismo Beach, and discovering the hills and wineries around San Luis Obispo.


Situated an hour and half north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is sandwiched between the Pacific Coast and the Santa Ynez Mountains. The town has a distinctly Mediterranean feel with red-tiled rooftops and white stucco buildings. There are some great hotels and restaurants in Santa Barbara and it is a comfortable place to spend a few nights. Not far from Santa Barbara is the Danish-style village of Solvang with windmills, timer-framed buildings and the historic old Mission of Santa Ines.


The urban sprawl of LA will be a shock after the peaceful road trip down Highway 1 and a good option is to stay in Santa Monica and dip into the city to see its many sights and delights. The beaches and boardwalks are San Diego's greatest attractions and it is also popular with families, with Sea World and its world-famous zoo. For a big city, San Diego has retained a resort feel and it is a pleasant place to spend the final days of your trip.


An alternative to the coastal drive is the inland route though the Yosemite National Park and taking in Sequoia and Kings Canyon. If you have enough time, you can do this trip on the way back. The drive to and from Yosemite is long and uneventful, but the park itself is truly breathtaking and it is well worth spending a couple of days there.


Another option for those on a fly-drive is to drive on to Las Vegas - 250 miles (400km) from LA - and taking in a day-trip to the Grand Canyon from there. Locals will regard the four-and-a-half-hour drive as long and boring, but for all others the straight roads and empty desert scenery is fairly dramatic.





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