Our California Fave 5 from San Diego to the San Francisco Bay.
California is America’s playground. From the neon sex of the Sunset Strip to the knee-deep powder of the Sierra Nevadas, the Golden State offers up a smorgasbord of fun for travelers of all walks of life. Despite California’s diverse landscape—24 climates in all—and renowned metropolises, there is one drawback to the 31st state; it’s huge, 158,706 square miles to be exact (that’s 411,048 square kilometers for the international travelers).
As the third largest state in the Union, its size can be overwhelming. The sheer size and population of the state can leave travelers looking to capture the local feel perplexed, until now. With multiple flights to Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco, you can easily pick the region you want to spend time in.
Below are our top picks:
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, San Diego
Picture perfect sunsets, great walking/ hiking trials and private beach coves, Sunset Cliffs is the locals reprieve from the city’s crowded summer beaches. A short drive from Ocean Beach, Sunset Cliffs offers a wonderful place for a romantic afternoon, exploring tide pools or just lazing the day away. Ample free parking is available in the lots along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard as well as in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Labeled the “eighth wonder of the world,” the aerial tramway is a designated historic civil engineering landmark. Renovated in 2000 to incorporate rotating tram cars, the 47-year-old tram travels more than 8,000 feet from the desert floor to the evergreens of San Jacinto State Park in about 15 minutes. Riding the tram is a perfect afternoon activity offering travelers panoramic views of the Coachella Valley, or an excellent steeping off point for year round backpacking activities. A rustic lodge located at the top of the mountain contains two restaurants and a lounge.
Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl
For the price of a double cheeseburger at McDonald’s, you could enjoy one of the many summer evening concerts at the world famous Hollywood Bowl. (For those of you who don’t know that is only $1.) Set in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Bowl, which was built in 1919, is located only a few blocks from the bustling Hollywood Boulevard. Concert-goers are encouraged to bring their own picnic baskets filled with their favorite bread, cheeses and wine.
For the ultra budget traveler, daytime concert rehearsals for the summer series are free to the public. Additionally, the Hollywood Bowl and its grounds are open to the public at no charge during the daytime.
Specs Twelve Adler Museum Cafe, San Francisco
A hold over from the blue collar, bohemian days of San Francisco, Specs, as one regular and poet described it, is an “easy, funky place.” Located down a short alley in North Beach at 12 William Saroyan Place, Specs offers cheap drinks as well as crackers and cheese—sliced directly from wheel—for about $3. The walls are plastered with photos, maritime memorabilia, and other eclectic pieces gathered throughout the bars storied 32 year history.
Bridgette & Mike wandering at the Sugarloaf campground in Sonoma.
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Sonoma
Weekend wine tasting getaways are fun, but accommodations, even at the chain motels, can be costly. Car camping in Sonoma’s wine country offers a great way to experience the lush valley without the financial hangover. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park offers campsites for $30 a night. The campground is a short drive to downtown Sonoma and the surrounding wineries.
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