Things to Do in California - page 5
Since it was founded in 1776, the Presidio of San Francisco has had many lives, from a Spanish military site to an American Army post to a National Park Service location. Today, it draws visitors for its cultural sites, hiking trails, public art, restaurants, and views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay.
Oxbow Public Market—with dozens of restaurants, food stalls, and shops—brings the bounty of Napa’s famed wine, food, and organic produce under a single roof. Open all day, it’s a one-stop shop for great food, to quickly experience the best of Napa Valley, or relax for a moment at this local gathering place before exploring the region.
Open since 1934, the Los Angeles Farmers Market, aka the Original Farmers Market, draws both locals and visitors to its 100-plus food stalls, grocers, eateries, and other vendors that sell everything from fruit, meat, and baked goods to skincare, candles, flowers, and housewares. You can easily spend a couple of hours here eating, browsing, and people-watching.
One of the world’s largest collections of vintage airplanes from World War II fill the hangars at the Palm Springs Air Museum.
Wartime memorabilia, combat photography, murals, uniforms and documentaries provide educational insights into aviation and combat history.
Planes in the museum’s three hangars focus on Army and Navy aircraft, and the mighty B17.
If you visit on a Saturday you might catch demonstration flights and World War II audio-visual displays.
There are flight simulator games for kids, and a children’s calendar of events and activities.
Though not as well known as Yosemite’s famous Half Dome, at 4,150 feet high a climb up Sentinel Dome offers some incredible 360 degree views of the national park. The 2.6 mile hike up is well-marked with signs and is easy to follow. From the gently-rounded top you can see the whole of Yosemite Valley, including Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The trail is mostly flat, except for the granite slope to the summit.
Sentinel Dome first became known for the lone Jeffrey Pine tree that grew from its peak. The tree is no longer there, but was well-documented by photographer Ansel Adams. The dome is a sight in itself, but the real rewards are the views from atop. It’s a good alternative to the often crowded viewpoints of Glacier Point, and is particularly scenic during the sunset hours.
The first US version of Europe’s popular dungeon attractions, the San Francisco Dungeon takes you on spooky journey through the city’s gruesome past, from Gold Rush fever to Alcatraz escapes. During this immersive theatrical experience, live actors and special effects bring 200 hundred years of San Francisco’s history to life.
One of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks, the Ferry Building is a port of entry and transit hub, marketplace, and farmers market. Food merchants, specialty shops, wine bars, and restaurants line the historic building’s hallways, making it a one-stop shop for experiencing the diverse culinary flavors and master retailers of San Francisco.
With 17 miles of coastline, San Diego is known for its scenic beaches. Everyone has their favorites, making it hard for visitors to choose. But if you’re a surfer, or just like to watch them in action, save time for a trip to Windansea Beach.
It’s one of the more crowded beaches, but for a good reason. Most locals agree it provides the area’s most consistent surfing conditions. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, a guy or girl, surfing is a part of life in San Diego.
Underwater reefs help create the surf breaks that surfers enjoy here. Swimming is also allowed at the beach, but swimmers need to be careful. Windansea Beach is also known for its moderate to severe shore break. That means there can be hard breaking surf near the shoreline, so swimmers need to use caution when getting in or out of the water.
Jacuzzi Family Vineyards have been run by the same family for generations, ever since owner Fred Cline spent time with his grandfather in vineyards in his late childhood. Its heritage wines are highly influenced by the culture and wines of Italy, and the property itself has a beautiful courtyard and an Italian stone villa filled with elegant Italian art, fountains, and handmade furnishings. The barrel room has vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, adding to its elegant atmosphere. The Jacuzzi family makes a variety of Italian varietals, including Pinot Grigio, Barbera, and Sangiovese. An olive oil press and balsamic vinegar tastings round out the experience.
Uniquely, the winemakers do not use any synthetic pesticides on the vineyards. Efforts for sustainable winemaking practices are essential to the process. They’re generous with tastings of both the foods and wine made here, including their specialty: a chocolate cup filled with Pinot Noir.
One of the most iconic hikes in Yosemite, the Mist Trail leads hikers to not one, but two of Yosemite's standout waterfalls: Vernal and Nevada Falls. You can reach the Vernal Fall footbridge (the best view of Vernal Fall) in about 1.5 mile (2.6 km) round-trip; be prepared for a three mile (4.8 km) to reach Vernal Fall. The hike isn't difficult if you stop at the footbridge, but if you continue up to Vernal Fall, be prepared for steps cut into the cliff side.
Pushing on to Nevada Fall will take your total up to a seven mile (11 km) round trip, but it's worth it for some of the finest views in all of Yosemite, encompassing Nevada Fall, Liberty Cap, and the back side of Half Dome. You'll get close enough to the falls that you’ll feel the spray kiss your face and clothes, so wear proper clothing and exercise caution when hiking on the slick rocks.
More Things to Do in California
A wide swath of beach in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area backed by restored wetlands is just part of Crissy Field’s story. An integral part of San Francisco’s waterfront, Crissy Field hosts a yacht harbor, a tidal marsh, and Crissy Promenade—a popular bike and pedestrian path that climbs from the beach to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
Hearst Castle, perched along California’s Central Coast, is the ostentatious creation of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan. This 90,000-square-foot (8,361-square-meter) estate comprises 165 rooms and 127 acres (51.4 hectares) of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways—all now open to the gawking public.
From the Hills to the Sign, the Los Angeles neighborhood of Hollywood has become synonymous with the entertainment industry—and, often, its glamorous appeal. Match your handprints and footprints to those of Hollywood stars on the Walk of Fame; look out for celebs in Tinseltown; and visit famed theaters, such as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre—now the TCL Chinese Theatre—and the Egyptian.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from the coastal bluffs of La Jolla, Torrey Pines Golf Course is not only a scenic spot to play a round of golf, but also one of the top courses in the country, having hosted the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour since the 1960s, among other tournaments. The municipally owned Torrey Pines is, in fact, home to two 18-hole courses, the north and the south courses, both designed by legendary course architect William P. Bell. Of the two, the south course is the most challenging and in demand among expert golfers; however, hole No. 6 on the north course is Torrey Pines’ signature hole.
The largest natural island in San Francisco Bay, Angel Island—a California state park—is often overshadowed by the much smaller Alcatraz Island. Yet with an equally interesting history as a West Coast version of Ellis Island, Angel Island also offers hiking, biking, and picnicking, all with views of the San Francisco Bay, city skyline, and Golden Gate Bridge.
Santa Catalina—widely known as just Catalina—is a beautiful Southern California island just off the coast of Los Angeles. With rocky terrain, blue waters, and Mediterranean flair, it’s an idyllic escape from the City of Angels, and hard to believe that it’s only a 1-hour ferry ride away. Catalina’s only small town, Avalon, is home to boutique shopping, oceanfront dining, and harbor views. There are plenty of chances to get in or on the island’s stunning waters as well—if you can drag yourself of off the beach.
Acting as both the waterfront and major road along the eastern edge of San Francisco, the Embarcadero stretches from Fisherman’s Wharf to South Beach, passing through some of the city’s most popular destinations. It attracts visitors and locals with its restaurants, bars, hotels, tourist attractions, event spaces, bay cruises and ferries, and a wide pathway for walkers and joggers.
Whether it’s hiking or horseback riding, biking or busing, there are plenty of ways to explore the well-heeled neighborhood of Hollywood Hills. Its famous bright white Hollywood sign has become an iconic California image and its panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley have made it worth venturing outside the city for tourists hoping to capture the perfect sunset picture.
Travelers can climb to the top of Mt. Hollywood or wander through scenic Griffith Park. John Anson Ford Theater, the Hollywood Bowl, the Hollywood Reservoir and Forest Lawn Memorial Park are also popular sites on a visit to this famed high-rent neighborhood, but visitors would do just as well to drive around the quiet streets taking in some of the most classic (and impressive) residential architecture in California.
Once considered the world’s greatest naval ship thanks to its powerful weaponry, heavy armor, and advanced fire control systems, the USS Iowa served the U.S. Navy during World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War. Today it’s docked in Los Angeles Harbor in San Pedro, California.
What began as the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory in the 1890s is now a multilevel retail square across the street from San Francisco’s Aquatic Park. The red brick structure is recognizable by its clock tower and large “Ghirardelli” sign, which make excellent photo backdrops for visitors who come to shop, dine, and eat ice cream.
Home to the San Diego Padres major league baseball team, Petco Park opened in 2004, replacing the old Qualcomm Stadium with a new venue whose design reflects San Diego’s coastal setting. Visitors can enjoy modern amenities, views of the city skyline, and even behind-the-scenes tours.
Located in the eastern section of Yosemite National Park, Toulumne Meadows provides an alternate view from the popular Yosemite Valley section of the park. A gently rolling, sub-alpine area near the Tuolumne River, the Meadows is home to a wide variety of wildlife, several alpine lakes, hiking trails and plenty of rock climbing.
Try the easy hike to Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge or trek up to Gaylor Lake for spectacular high-country views. Less crowded than the Valley, Toulumne is worth the approximately two-hour drive from the Yosemite Valley to experience this idyllic setting.
One of San Francisco’s prettiest neighborhoods, the Marina District enjoys a prime perch on San Francisco Bay with pastel-colored, low-rise architecture, stylish shops, and upscale restaurants. Surrounded on three sides by either green space or water, the area draws active locals who enjoy walking, running, and biking with bay views.
Within the Badwater Basin, the area called Devil’s Golf Course sits slightly higher than the lowest point at Badwater, so the saltpan stays dry, allowing the wind and weather to wear the mineral deposits into jagged shapes. The name Devil's Golf Course comes from a 1934 guide to the park that said “only the devil could play golf” here. In the early 1900s, before the area became protected by the National Park Service, the Pacific Coast Borax Company drilled holes here, finding that mineral deposits extend up to 1000 feet below ground.
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- Things to do in Los Angeles
- Things to do in Yosemite National Park
- Things to do in Long Beach
- Things to do in San Francisco
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