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About California


 
We believe there is only one state in this country where you can find a warm beach, live in the mountains, and see a desert. This fantastic state, is California. Located on the West Coast of the United States, and is the third largest state by area. With its stunning coastline, dramatic deserts, and rugged mountains, California offers wide-open spaces for everything from scenic road trips to adrenaline-fueled adventures.
 
From sunny beaches to Surfers in the waves, there are many spectacular hot spots along the coast of California which will attract generally from the popular Muscle beach Known as "The Birthplace of the Physical Fitness", located on the south side of Santa Monica Pier, to the Big Sur which is a sparsely populated region that contains vast wildernesses and breathtaking views as it stretches 90 miles along the rugged Pacific.

Indulge in everything San Francisco has to offer! San Francisco is one of the most vibrant, cosmopolitan, and innovative cities in the United States. 'A food lover's haven'Fisherman's Wharf boasts some of the best dining in the world. Enjoy fresh Dungeness crab served steaming hot at outdoor stands or in a variety of gourmet recipes at the Wharf’s many seafood restaurants. Bike the Golden Gate Bridge on a wide bike path with awesome views! Visit the infamous Alcatraz Island, the former prison home of some America’s most notorious criminals.
 
Ever dreamt of driving down the west coast in a Red Convertible Mustang? Speak to one of our expert travelplanners today who can tailormake that once in a lifetime Vacation. 'Hop in the car and drive into the sunset.'
 
Why not enjoy a visit to the Magnificent Yosemite National Park on route. Nothing prepares you for what you see when you get to Glacier Point.
 
Come to Los Angeles to discover what you can't see anywhere else! Where the stars live! The city also includes the famous shopping district Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Rodeo Drive embodies all the glam of the big screen. Flagship locations for some of the most prestigious brands in the world. A trip to LA would not be complete without a walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Learn more about the world's most famous sidewalk and the celebrities it honors!
 
Discover the secrets behind finding good food. On almost every other street corner and every exit on a California expressway is a fast food restaurant called In-N-Out. In-N-Out makes all its food fresh, which means that while you are waiting for your food, you can watch the patties being made and the French fries being peeled from the potato itself.
 
You won't want to miss the chance to hit some of the seven best theme parks in California for some fun in the sun. Explore Americas first Theme park, Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park not far from Disney. From sky-high roller coasters like Six Flags Magic Mountain's Goliath to good old-fashioned family fun at amusement parks like Disneyland, Universal and Seaworld. You can easily find the theme park that fits the fun you seek!
 
A visit to California would not be complete without a stay in San Diego. Approximately 120 miles south of Los Angeles and immediately adjacent to the border with Mexico. For families ready to get out and explore the wonders of the world you can't beat a visit to the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego.
 
 

San Diego

"Beachside Attitude with Big City Excitement!” 

San Diego is referred to as "Americas Finest City", and for good reason! The city is known for its gorgeous hotels, beautiful weather, 112km of pristine beaches, abundance of entertainment, and its friendly, laid back people. San Diego is a holiday favourite travel destination for visitors across the globe, and is able to capture a perfect blend of nature, city, suburbia and tourism.

San Diego holidays are a chance to explore one of the sunniest cities in California. Kids and adults alike will love the outdoor experiences of the region – including kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, harbor or whale-watching cruises, hiking and more!
 
With a multitude of attractions in town, San Diego is perfect for families! If your family enjoys animals, be sure to spend time at SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park or SEALIFE Aquarium. The majestic USS Midway aircraft carrier museum is also high on many visitors’ list – where kids can climb aboard jet planes and helicopters and have their very own audio-tour! LEGOLAND California is perfect for the fun-loving builders in your family. And if you’re visiting in the summer months, be sure to cool off at SeaWorld’s Aquatica Waterpark or LEGOLAND’s water park.

The Gaslamp Quarter is San Diego's dining, entertainment and urban shopping district and has over 16 blocks that feature over 200 restaurants, bars and nightclubs. This is a fun, urban, colorful neighborhood of Downtown. Be sure to check out one of the Gaslamp Quarter’s famous rooftop bars, speakeasys or restaurants. 
 
San Diego is also known as the “Craft Beer Capital of the USA”. With over 120 breweries & micro-breweries in the region, visitors can sample some of San Diego’s innovative and tasty beer scene just about anywhere. For true beer lovers, why not try a Beer Tasting Tour that will take you to multiple breweries?
 
While San Diegans love their burritos, the culinary scene has been on fire lately and you absolutely need to sample their local cuisine - which is referred to as Cali-Baja style. Utilizing the flavors and ingredients of nearby Baja, Mexico and the multitude of small farms in eastern San Diego, Cali-Baja style food combines the best of both worlds to create fresh, delicious dishes.
 
For local trips, trolleys and buses are cheap and run regularly and Uber is very popular. To travel further afield, your hire car is perfect.
 
San Diego's great location means that it is only 2 hours south of LA, making it a perfect twin centre, however many people make the mistake of thinking 3 nights is long enough to see everything. The city is very well spread out and there are plenty of attractions, neighborhoods, beautiful beaches and entertainment facilities to keep you busy - even a week isn’t long enough! 

Our insider tip would be to visit Old Town – a neighborhood that contains one of California’s most popular State Parks, a collection of historic museums, shops featuring curios imported across the border from Mexico and a number of delicious Mexican eateries! This fun and historic neighborhood combines some interesting San Diego history and culture along with delicious foods and great shopping.
 
Give yourself and your family the gift of a lifetime - a holiday spent in San Diego. Don’t miss out!! Make sure to see all the great attractions San Diego has to offer. We can start planning your San Diego trip today with the best deals on flights, hotels and attraction tickets, everything you need for your perfect holiday.

Click here to see some fantastic deals to San Diego

Los Angeles

'Where the Stars Live' 

Welcome to the famous, the glamorous, the one and only Los Angeles. Los Angeles is divded up into many neighbourhoods, you may recognise the names such as Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Downtown LA, Long Beach, Santa Monica, Anaheim, Sunset Strip and Malibu to name a few.

Each destination has its own unique identity, whether its the star studded beverly hills, the film famous Hollywood or the hang out with the beautiful people around Santa Monica Pier. No matter where you stay in LA you are close to the action and equally as close to relaxation with an abundant of white sandy beaches to choose from. The stunning beaches of Santa Barbara and beautiful mountainous landscapes surrounding Palm Springs are also less than 2 hours away.
 
Most places of interest are easily accessible. While there's no real centre to Los Angeles, Downtown serves as the central business district and hub of LA's freeway system. To the northwest sits Hollywood, its chic neighbour West Hollywood and dazzling Beverly Hills, while over on the Westside, affluent Bel Air and beach towns like Santa Monica and Venice beach. Got wheels? Cruise past the Sunset Strip's fabled clubs for an introduction to LA life or visit some impressive beaches some, just 30 Minutes outside Downtown Los Angeles. With no shortage of attractions it is easy to forget that the Los Angeles beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. We would strongly encourage a trip to Malibu where you can re-enact the famous Bay Watch and feel like a movie star in the sun. 

To combine both a tour of the world’s largest movie studio and to also see some of your favourite movies come to life with some superb rides and attractions then Universal studios Hollywood is a real treat for movie buffs and theme park aficionados alike, this is why it is called the entertainment capital of LA.
 
LA is a real see it to believe it; there are hundreds of tourists attractions to choose from, including world famous theme parks: Universal studios, Hollywood, Disneyland California and Six Flags Magic Mountain, and there are just as many VIP Studio Tours you can take such as Warner Bros, Sony Pictures and Paramount Pictures.

'Hollywood's walk of fame has your name all over it' 

A town famous for its bold personality and tight-knit community, the selection of bars, dance clubs and fine restaurants has made the area a must see for decades. As long as you come with an open mind and comfortable shoes, West Hollywood is a guaranteed good time. Los Angeles is home to the hottest clubbing and live music scene's on the west coast. With guaranteed celeb sightings, dress to impress! If you just want a drink, some of the best bars in Los Angeles can be found inside hotels. Unique, diverse and unapologetic, West Hollywood is a city with a life of its own. Don't be thrown off by the spirited locals and one-of-kind shops, bars and restaurants, this town takes partying seriously.
 
From classic steakhouses and seafood shacks to vegan sanctuaries, Los Angeles have got it covered. Dont miss out!! Call today for our best deals on flights, hotels and attractions.

San Francisco

'It’s Invigorating and Optimistic'

San Francisco is one of the world's most attractive and vibrant cities. There is so much to see and do in this incredible city including The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Napa Valley, Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf and The Castro to mention a few.

For over 150 years San Francisco has been a magnet for fortune seekers, immigrants, artists and poets. Rich in culture, San Francisco is well known for its liberal views, openness and acceptance of all cultures, religions, sexuality and lifestyles. The cities relaxed atmosphere and open minded lifestyle is what makes it such a unique destination to anywhere else in America.

There is so much to do on holidays in San Francisco. See the electic sights of the city or hire a car and drive along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway.

Ride a historic cable car down to Fisherman’s Wharf. See the sea lions basking in the sunshine at Pier 39 or hear the infamous tales of Alcatraz on an unforgettable sightseeing tour. To the inmates who were confined to Alcatraz prison, their punnishment was not only captivity but also psychological torture. An undoubted highlight of a visit to San Francisco is the chance to explore Alcatraz Prison. 

Luxury holidays in San Francisco can be spent shopping in designer boutiques around Union Square or relaxing with a sumptuous spa treatment.Treat yourself to a sophisticated afternoon tea at the Fairmont San Francisco or sample the finest contemporary Californian cuisine at Taj Campton Place's award-winning restaurant. Spend your evening at the San Francisco Ballet or sipping Champagne in the Financial District.

Our carefully selected hotels are located throughout the city and will provide the perfect base for your unforgettable stay in San Francisco.

San Francisco is quite hilly however, transport is easy. San Francisco is one of the easiest cities in the world to negotiate. Public Transportation options abound, including our world-famous cable cars. Getting around has never been this fun.

Don’t miss out!! Make sure to see all the great attractions San Francisco has to offer. USAirtours can start planning your San Francisco trip today with the best deals on flights, hotels and attraction tickets, everything you need for your perfect holiday.

California Beaches

"Gorgeous Beaches and Breath-Taking Cliffs"

Newport Beach - For the trendsetters, jet-setters and beach lovers, don't miss out! Newport Beach has a classy Harbor most people only dream of docking in. You won't be disappointed with the shopping district which makes Rodeo Drive look discounted. With the only harbor in Orange County, and the largest recreational harbor on the west coast, Newport Beach offers eight miles of extraordinary fishing, swimming, surfing and aquatic sports activities. Sit by the pier and gaze in to the blazing sunset...Yes you are in paradise! 

Santa Monica - Cycling, movie shoots, beach volleyball games, and the finest of people-watching all happen here, and it's no wonder. People love to gather at this California beach, partially because it's immaculate. With 3.5 miles of Southern California beaches and over 300 days of sunshine, the Santa Monica Beach is a prime piece of California coastline and a welcome retreat for vacationers and locals alike with a range of activities for everyone.There’s never a shortage of seaside fun at Santa Monica Pier where the beach meets the boardwalk in a festive display of amusement park rides, aquarium wonders and festival food. It’s free to stroll the historic boardwalk and browse through the goods, and even if you don’t go for thrill rides, there’s no charge for the show-stopping sunset at the end of each day. 

Laguna Beach - Laguna Beach features seven miles of soft sand and the sound of the surf is a year round retreat. Laguna is one of Orange County's most fashionable towns, as well as one of the most culturally rich. The water at Laguna is generally clean and calm, though occasionally the Pacific tends to be cool with strong tides. Clean, white and warm, Laguna's sands are perfect for strolling, volleyball matches or simply unwinding on a blanket. 

Venice Beach - No beach in the world is like Venice Beach. Other California beaches have sand, surf and sunshine but, they do not have a 3-ring urban street circus, complete with philosophizing artists, trash-talking hoopsters, preening weightlifters, barefoot sand sculptors and more. All of this frenetic activity happens on Ocean Front Walk, a 3/4-mile concrete boardwalk with stores, fast-food spots, flea markets and artists.

Malibu Beach - The Malibu Lagoon is where Malibu Creek meets the Pacific Ocean. Malibu's Surfrider Beach has been long standing as a premier surfing beach. On the east side of Malibu Creek Bridge, the famous Malibu Pier allows for excellent saltwater fishing. On the west side of Malibu Creek Bridge, visitors will find picnic tables and a nature area, excellent for bird watching and the study of a unique eco-system, a Southern California saltwater marsh. 

Long Beach - Long Beach is a very special place, known for its white sandy beaches and its iconic boardwalk. Long Beach Island is a beach lover’s paradise. Even at the widest point of this 18-mile-long island, you’re never more than half a mile from the other side. Long Beach has transformed itself into an upscale tourist resort, with many waterfront attractions, including a new aquarium with a fabulous shark exhibit, two excellent art museums, charming shops, public golf courses, the annual April Grand Prix international auto race and lots of recreational activities along its eight-mile stretch of beach. Take the kids to the waterfront entertainment complex with rides and live performances or to the farming demonstrations at Rancho Los Alamitos. Cruise the canals of Naples in a genuine Venetian gondola. Tensions and stresses dissolve in this laid-back, friendly city. 

Pismo Beach - "One of the best family beach destinations in the country". Enjoy the delightful Pismo Pier for sightseeing, walking, fishing and seeing the great sunset. This classic beach town is located on California's famous central coast and offers long white beaches for taking a refreshing stroll or for just enjoying the spectacular views of the Pismo Beach sunset. Visitors enjoy numberless activities including golfing, bicycling, walking,tennis, horseback riding, scuba diving, bowling, hiking, miles of beautiful and clean beaches, exploring tide pools, coves, and caves. 

Santa Barbara - This stretch of coast along southern Santa Barbara County is sometimes referred to as "The American Riviera". With gorgeous beaches, breathtaking cliff views, mouth-watering restaurants, world-class hotels and a vibrant arts community, how could Santa Barbara not be on this list? In a flash you could imagine you're on the Riviera. Perfect for a weekend escape from Los Angeles or a holiday that gives you the best of California in one spot.

Yosemite National Park

Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite National Park is best known for its breathtaking waterfalls.  Explore deep valleys, spectacular granite cliffs, thousands of lakes, clear mountain streams and giant sequoia groves, over 1170 square miles.  One of the first wilderness parks in the USA there is so much to see at Yosemite National Park, visitors return year after year to witness this spectacular landscape.
 
Nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, Yosemite’s peaks soar to over 13,000 feet above sea level.  There are endless activities and ways to sightsee for all ages and all levels of skill.  Experience the park at your own leisure, walking and hiking; take a tranquil evening stroll, camera ready to capture the essence of this incredible natural landscape.  Activities and programmes are designed from young kids to downhill skiing and extreme climbing; there is a wide range of seasonal activities depending on the time of year.  
 
Park events are scheduled throughout the year including holiday activities, anniversary events, Nordic Holiday Race, Yosemite Winter Club, Earth Day in Yosemite and much more.  Try your hand at rock climbing, golfing, biking, rafting, swimming, fishing, art classes and ice skating to name just a few.  Sit back and enjoy the passing scenery on a guided bus tour and enjoy browsing the gift shops for souvenirs.  Free shuttle transport links various parts of the park.
 
Visits usually start in the Yosemite Valley, in the centre of the park, which is reached from the El Portal gate.  The Merced River flows across the valley’s flat floor 4,000 feet above sea level.  The valley is surrounded by steep, almost vertical, granite cliffs including El Capitan monolith, Glacier Point, and Half Dome.  Beautiful waterfalls tumble into the valley, the most photographed being Yosemite, Bridalveil, Vernal, Nevada and Silhouette.
 
At an altitude of more than 10,000 feet in parts a stunning road crosses the park between the Tioga Pass and Buck Meadows.  This National Scenic Byway encompasses some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the park.  Yosemite’s most famous grove of giant redwoods is Mariposa Grove, whilst two smaller groves, Tuolumne and Merced are located near Crane Flat, all well worth a visit.
 

Death Valley

Death Valley National Park offers something for everyone with 140 miles of raw natural beauty, a wide variety of wildlife, historic mining operations and the allure of ghost towns.
 
From bighorn sheep to mountain lions, Death Valley is home to incredible wildlife of which you may be lucky enough to spot on your journey through the wilderness.
 
In 1933 Death Valley was named a national monument and became a national park.  Rich in beauty and pioneer history, Death Valley was known as a prosperous mining Mecca for decades.  The last mining operation ceased in 2005, until then, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc and more was mined for many years.
 
The largest national park south of Alaska, Death Valley is known for extremes.  North America’s driest and hottest spot with less than two inches of annual rainfall and temperatures reaching 134 degrees!  The park sees nearly a million visitors each year.  The incredible landscape features sculptures rocks, mudstone hills, canyons, luminous sand dunes, lush oases and a 200-square-mile salt pan surrounded by mountains.  Spring rain triggers more than a thousand varieties of plants.
 
The highest mountain in the park lies only 15 miles from Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the U.S.  The vertical drop from the peak to the Basin is twice the depth of the Grand Canyon.  
 
A striking National Park, not to be missed.  Rich in cultural history and with acres of wilderness it’s definitely a place to visit during any trip to this part of the United States.
 

Sonoma

A dream place to visit, Sonoma is one of the top spots in California with miles of rugged Pacific coastline to explore. Close proximity to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge makes Sonoma a great destination to combine with the city sights.
 
The birthplace of wine-making in California, more than 500 wineries adorn the Sonoma region with tasting rooms ranging from the simple and rustic to the sophisticated. Visit during late September and see the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival, California’s oldest celebration of its winemaking heritage. Go beyond the wine and discover more than 50 pristine nature parks featuring miles of cycling and hiking trails through towering redwoods or oak-studded hills. Enjoy the beautiful rivers by swimming, canoeing or kayaking. For the more adventurous try a ropes course, zip line or hot-air balloon ride.
 
Escape the hustle and bustle and see nature at its best, enjoy local markets and annual festivals. Stroll around the historic town plaza, a remnant of the town’s Mexican colonial past and the largest plaza in California. Visit the city hall and choose from over thirty restaurants including Italian, Irish, Mexican, Portuguese, Mediterranean, French and more. A central tourist attraction the eight acre plaza holds a local weekly Farmer’s Market in the summer months and many festivals including a film festival.
 
Hot dry summers and cool, wet winters follow typical Mediterranean weather so choose which you prefer and pick the dates you want to visit. With something for everyone Sonoma is a beautiful place to visit on your journey of California.
 

Amazing California Theme Parks

Amazing Theme Parks
From Disneyland classics to beachfront carousels, the Golden State’s best-in-class theme parks deliver something for everyone. Take a tram ride to tour movie back lots at Universal Studios Hollywood, or ride on a beachfront carousel in Santa Cruz. Find out what’s in store at these family fun-zones, with insider tips on new rides, classic favorites, and best entertainment.
 
Disneyland Resort
The undisputed granddaddy of theme parks has been leading the way since 1955, inviting visitors to spend the day in the ultimate land of make-believe. This beloved Anaheim institution serves up vintage icons like the Matterhorn Bobsleds as well as new innovations, like laser lights and soaring fountains in the nightly show World of Color, or mystical mouse antics in Mickey and the Magical Map. The resort, which consists of the original Disneyland Park and the adjacent Disney California Adventure Park, has themed “lands” with related rides, shows, and attractions.
 
Universal Studios, Hollywood
Movie magic, mega attractions - If Hollywood is the land of make believe, then this is your chance to step into that fantasy world. On a sprawling complex on the east side of the Hollywood Hills, this movie studio/part theme park blends behind-the-scenes tours with rides that swoosh, swoop, and dive through movie-themed worlds. An adjacent, neon-lit complex of shops, eateries, and entertainment spaces known as Universal CityWalk lets you stretch out the experience beyond the park.
 
Legoland California
It's hard to say who enjoys LEGOLAND more: the little ones running around in a magical world created by 60 million LEGO plastic bricks, or their parents who get a kick out of it too. Walk through Miniland USA for a visual and structural jaw-dropper: expansive miniaturized recreations of Washington D.C., New York, and San Francisco, as well as scenes from Star Wars. There’s also a chance to go behind-the-scenes to look at the soundstage and models used during the The LEGO Movie. While the focus here leans towards making little ones smile, there’s plenty to entertain older visitors too: the park has more than 60 rides, shows, and attractions, including three rollercoasters.
 
SeaWorld, San Diego
From swooshing and swooping rides to interactive shows and million-gallon aquariums, this is one theme park that truly makes a big, big splash. See and learn about the amazing undersea worlds of animals from around the globe, including walruses, sea lions, polar bears, and penguins. See (and touch) harmless rays and sharks, and be entertained by Shamu and other killer whales , as well as dolphins, in daily shows and presentations. Climb aboard a host of rides, too, including Manta, a high-tech coaster that has you twisting, diving and turning like a ray.
 
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Spend the day at this seaside charmer.  A wide beach and splashable waves are always inviting; add a colourful boardwalk with rides, games, and music - well, how can you say no? Not many people do - this popular waterfront boardwalk is a summertime ritual for countless California families, a wonderful way for you to relax and play just like the smiling locals. While there are countless attractions lining the boardwalk, the big star is the Giant Dipper, a burly wooden coaster first opened in 1924 and generating screams, squeals, and squinched-shut eyes for decades. 
 
Buena Park Playtime
Find family fun at Camp Snoopy plus pirates, Pig Pen, and more
Just northwest of Disneyland Park in Anaheim, the town of Buena Park offers more places to play. Knott’s Berry Farm features Camp Snoopy with kids’ favourites like Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies, and for adrenaline-seekers, sky-high thrills with Rip Tide and other exciting rides. The family classic Calico Mine Ride, the original main attraction of this park (opened in 1960), is still a charmer, with nearly 50 state-of-the-art animatronic humans and dozens more animals.
 
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Come nose to nose with otters and more. The only way to get closer to swirling sea life is to tug on a wetsuit and dive in. This unparalleled facility, with soaring, glass-walled tanks letting you feel as if you’re truly under the sea, defines the standard for aquariums. It’s also one of the best makeovers on the planet: in the early 1900s, the main building was a bustling canning facility for sardines, all chronicled in fascinating historical exhibits near the entrance. (Excellent behind-the-scenes tours shed more light on the aquarium’s history, as well as its remarkable inner workings.)

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Flip out on mega coasters and see exotic animals. There’s no hiding what’s the big draw at this popular attraction in the East Bay city of Vallejo. Even before you park your car you’ll see the giant loop-de-loops, spirals, and white-knuckle descents of the park’s trademark coasters and thrill rides, such as Superman Ultimate Flight and Tsunami Soaker. Get your fill of these adrenaline pumpers, then retreat to the calming beauty of the Butterfly Habitat. Once your blood pressure is back to normal, watch entertaining dolphin and sea lion shows, see African lions and Bengal and Siberian tigers and mountain lions in naturalized enclosures, ride an elephant, or feed a giraffe.

Smaller California Theme Parks

Historic oceanfront playgrounds, classic city-park charmers, boisterous adventures-smaller theme parks and attractions offer an array of ways to play. These smaller parks offer old-fashioned fun like ride-able model railroads, wild and barnyard animals, and classic children’s puppet theaters as well as rides and unique attractions. Many of these parks have fewer crowds than bigger fantasylands, and are scaled so they can be enjoyed in a day-especially nice when you’ve got young children in tow.

Santa Monica's Pier
Take a stroll along Santa Monica’s signature pier at sunset, that enormous sun sinking into the Pacific, and you’ll probably wonder if it can get much better than this. But wait; it can. Right here. First, there’s an amusement park-perched right on the pier-called Pacific Park, with not-too-scary roller coasters and classic carnie rides that make a nice mix even for little ones. Then there are incomparable views from atop the pier’s solar-powered Ferris wheel. On weekends, you can join free historical walking tours to learn more about the pier, which dates to 1909. And then there are those simple pleasures-a creamy thick shake, a simple necklace of seashells-at snack shacks and trinket shops lining the pier. And there are the local fishermen adding color to the scene; hang out for a while and you’re bound to hear some good yarns and watch some slippery fish reeled in. Find out what those fish might be by heading under the pier (directly below the turn-of-the-20th-century wooden carousel), to the inviting Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, with some 100 species of fish and aquatic animals, and lots of family-friendly educational displays.
 
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park, Central Coast
Specialty rides highlight the area’s agricultural roots. This non-profit theme park, owned by the city of Gilroy and dedicated to educating children about plants and gardens, is a real charmer. In addition to low-key rides and attractions geared especially for little ones, Gilroy Gardens is home to 25 “Circus Trees” by Axel Erlandson, whimsically shaped topiaries, which dot the grounds. Kids can also romp around themed gardens. As for rides, classics get a California-centric twist, such as the Artichoke Dip (think spinning tea cups) and the Garlic Twirl (a Gilroy-specific take on the classic tilt-a-whirl). Some of the gardens have specialized tours-like a relaxed boat cruise through the flower-filled Rainbow Garden. Or climb aboard a recreation of an antique Model-T car to tour the South County Backroads area, landscaped to show how this broad valley south of San Francisco was once almost exclusively farmland.
 
Children's Fairyland, Oakland
Old-fashioned fun with storybook characters. This park on the shores of Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland has been making kids smile (and delighting parents in the process) since 1950. In fact, the story goes that Walt Disney visited and incorporated elements of Fairyland, like guides dressed up as storybook characters, into his own Anaheim theme park. 
 
These days, the park is filled with climb-able, slide-able, explore-able tree houses, castles, pirate ships, and giant pumpkins, plus a small petting zoo, puppet shows, and several party venues for special birthdays, not to mention rides like a carousel and a trolley. Two of Fairyland’s biggest draws are its Storybook Puppet Theater and live-action children’s theatre. Need to refuel? Stop by Johnny Appleseed’s Café, or spread out a blanket in the Teddy Bear Picnic Grove. In summer, check Fairyland’s schedule for special family sleepovers.
 
Safari West, San Francisco Bay Area
Take an African-style adventure in the Sonoma Valley. The sheer amount of African wildlife at this park will amaze even seasoned safari-goers. Giraffes, rhinos, zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, bongos and other incredible animals roam rolling hills and woodlands in this expansive park, a 1½-hour drive north of San Francisco. Dozens of birds also call the park home, including cranes, flamingoes, ostriches, and storks. Guests board small vehicles to tour the park with informative guides, and you really don’t know what will be around the next corner. Visitors of all ages also enjoy closer encounters with some of the park’s animals. For an unforgettable experience (families welcome), consider an overnight stay in an ultra-tricked-up safari-style tent, with plush beds, private bathrooms, and a natural soundtrack outside that’s straight out of the Serengeti.
 
Sonoma Traintown Railroad, San Francisco Bay Area
All aboard this family favorite. This quarter-scale railroad park was the dream of Sonoma printer Stanley Frank. He filled the park’s 10 acres with scaled-down locomotives and train cars built as exact replicas of classic full-size versions, making TrainTown one of the most detailed sets of scaled trains in the country.
 
But kids don’t just get to look at these trains-they get to ride them too. A 20-minute tour winds through tunnels and over bridges before stopping at Lakeview, TrainTown’s own village that includes a petting zoo of barnyard critters and kid-friendly rides, including a carousel and Ferris wheel. 
 
Funderland Amusement Park, Sacramento
A small park for the small fry. This low-key attraction adjacent to the Sacramento Zoo and Fairytale Town lets little ones climb aboard vehicles of all sorts-boats, cars, trains, and planes, all scaled for the pint-size set. If you’ve got a knee-high daredevil in your family, head for the Flying Dragon Roller Coaster. Junior explorers love zooming around in Backroads Buggies. When summer temperatures rise, cool off with a ride on the classic Log Run. Even the littlest visitors can feel like they’re in on the action by stepping into a scene in a trio of adventure-themed photo ops. 
 
Pirate's Dinner Adventure, Orange County
Wraparound entertainment puts you in a Spanish galleon. Get your “arg” on at this undeniably entertaining indoor attraction in Buena Park. Performances take place within an enormous simulated lagoon, where you’ll be seated with other guests at one of six “ships.” Each one is led by a fearless pirate who, along with dozens of actors, singers, and stunt performers, takes you on a rollicking adventure on and around a meticulously detailed full-size replica of a classic 18th-century Spanish galleon (complete with 40-foot/12-meter masts, cannon blasts, and lots of fiery pyrotechnics). Guests-including kids-can join the fun as volunteers, assisting their pirates with challenges around the arena, from hoisting sails to battling ferocious sea dragons. It’s swashbuckling good fun, plus it includes a full-course dinner.
 
California's Great America, San Francisco Bay Area
Have a blast on thrill rides and water slides. This combo amusement-water park aims to make every age find a way to have fun. Older kids and adventure seekers can head for Gold Striker, the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in Northern California, with high-speed twists, turns, and drops at your-gonna-scream speeds of up to 54 miles/87 kilometers per hour. There’s also Flight Deck, a jet coaster that includes zero-gravity barrel rolls (probably best to do this one before lunch), and The Demon, including two 360-degree loops.
 
Once you have used up every ounce of adrenaline, or if you have little ones who want a tamer experience, take in the low-key rides in Planet Snoopy, with tot-friendly rides and attractions. When summer temperatures rise, head over to Boomerang Bay, a 13-acre/5-hectare complex with a swimming lagoon, a long and lazy river for inner tube lounging, a wave pool, and poolside cabanas for rent.
 
Belmont Park, San Diego County
Fun and thrills at the beach. This venerable classic, adjacent to the surf and sand of Mission Beach, features a 1925-vintage Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, bumper cars, and other old-time favorites. Teens will opt for stomach churners with names like Control Freak and Vertical Plunge, while little ones like to climb aboard decorated steeds on the Liberty Carousel-especially pretty when it lights up at night. It’s not all rides here-you can compete for a hole in one in the mini-golf area, or let the kids scramble up the climbing wall while you rent a beach chair and just chill out.
 
Balboa Fun Zone, Orange County
Play at a coastal Charmer. An appealing throwback to the classic coastal amusement parks of days gone by, this SoCal attraction makes add-on when visiting Newport Beach. Start the fun by riding the Auto Ferry to the park, then let the kids loose to take a spin on the waterfront Ferris wheel, tour a nautical museum, and test their skills on arcade games. Rally the troops to head for a stand selling the park’s signature ice cream treat, a chocolate-dipped Balboa Bar. 
 
This is also a popular place to rent bikes or take a scenic harbor tour with Hornblower Cruises.

California Food

Try the regional flavors, surprising ingredients, and classics with a twist that made our list of Golden State culinary trends. California has always been a trendsetter when it comes to the culinary arts-from its extraordinary array of ethnic fare to its cutting-edge, vegetable-forward, local-leaning food habits started decades ago. And the Golden State continues to push the boundaries. Here are eight trends that still make California the place to eat. Insider’s tip: During the annual California Restaurant Month in January, many restaurants serving the latest culinary creations offer special deals for diners.
 
Cali-Baja Style
Born in San Diego and Baja California, Cali-Baja marries the north-of-the-border emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients with south-of-the-border flavors like those of Baja-Med cuisine, a flavor profile that has taken on a life of its own. Much of the Cali-Baja rise in popularity can be attributed to chef Javier Plascencia, who melded his Mexican upbringing with his Southern California culinary education to create the distinct cooking style, which can be sampled at his Little Italy restaurant, Bracero Cocina de Raiz. Around San Diego, you might also find inventive dishes like Michelada-steamed mussels at Galaxy Taco or the Mexican Street Bowl-an in-season produce salad topped with spicy chili-at Puesto.
 
Evolving Ramen
Japanese noodle soup continues to heat up in the Golden State. It’s the perfect meal: hearty and warming and rib-sticking good. Combine pork belly, noodles, and a deep, flavorful broth in a bowl and it is no wonder ramen has created an entire West Coast state of soup slurpers. But the ramen joint has recently evolved: Santa Clara’s Orenchi Ramen continues to draw lines for its traditional noodle soup, but it also serves up new concoctions like a soup with pine nuts, miso broth, baby bok choy, and pork. And Oakland’s new Itani Ramen takes a spin around the regional ramen world of Japan, offering more than the usual noodles-and-pork-belly soup.
 
Poké with a spin
This sumptuous raw fish dish has spread from the Hawaiian Islands to California like a delicious tidal wave. Pronounced “poh-keh,” these cubes of raw fish are seasoned with garlic, soy sauce, and onion, and are sometimes sprinkled with rice or quinoa. Naturally, California has put its own spin on it, such as topping nachos with poké at Spin Fish in Los Angeles or adding plenty of gluten-free and low-carb options at Ohana Poke Co., which has locations in the Silverlake and Downtown sections of L.A.
 
Veggies as a main dish
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to take delight in all things fresh and veggie. At least not in California. Chefs in the state have recently shifted their menus to a more vegetable-forward approach, sometimes inverting the usual formula by making meat a side dish and vegetables the star of the plate. What started at legendary Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse in 1971 has fully grown up and is lauded at restaurants like Al’s Place in San Francisco, an acclaimed spot popular with carnivores and veggie lovers; first timers shouldn’t skip the hearty yellow eye bean stew to warm up on a chilly San Francisco night. Down south, Corona's Blackburns Farm to Table uses spaghetti squash to create its hearty vegan bolognese spaghetti dish. 
 
Matcha Mania
A couple of years ago, the mention of matcha would have been met with blank stares. Today, it inspires tea-sipping glee. This Japanese green tea has become all the rage in California as awareness of its health benefits and perky deliciousness have spread across the state. Even matcha-themed cafes have popped up everywhere from Shuhari Matcha Café in Venice to Matcha Love, the retail shops in Costa Mesa and San Jose.
 
Filipino Fare
The cuisine of the Philippines has long lagged behind other Southeast Asian nations, like Thailand and Vietnam, in popularity in California. But it’s quickly emerging as a new favorite. And why not? From the unctuous porky lechon to slow-cooked garlicky adobo, diners are finally discovering that Filipino fare is saliva-inducing delicious. Case in point: Check out RiceBar in Los Angeles, which focuses on heritage grains from the islands, or Gina’s Filipino Kape in Sacramento to find out for yourself.
 
Gastropubs go global
It’s not a coincidence that the craft brewery phenomenon and gastropubs-bars that serve inspired pub grub-both can be traced back to the early 1990s. And now that California is overflowing with its own great craft beer and the state is sprinkled with great gastropubs, it has never been a better time to visit your local spot. Especially because California has put its own organic spin on the gastropub. The new Dan Gordon’s in Palo Alto, for example, serves up fork-tender barbecue to go with its booze. Broken Spanish in Downtown L.A. is leading the way for the Mexican-accented gastropub movement, serving up Mexican craft brews with its menu of oxtail quesadillas and masa dumplings.
 
Döner Kebab craze
Southern California’s newest food trend comes from Turkey by way of Berlin. Meet the döner kebab. Think of it as a Middle Eastern version of the taco al pastor. Combine fresh Golden State-grown veggies, lamb or beef shaved off a rotating spit, and chili sauce-and then stuff it all into a piece of slightly toasted pita bread. The recently opened Berlins in Venice serves kebabs that overflow with Teutonic and Turkish goodness. Meanwhile, SpireWorks-just a pita’s throw from the UCLA campus-shaves off tender meat from a spit and serves it up to hungry college students and fans of Turkish cuisine. 

Tasting Olive Oil in California
Make your way to one of California's seven ranches, mills, and storefronts to sample the state’s best olive oils. Spanish missionaries planted California’s first olive trees in the late 18th century, at missions from Sonoma to San Diego. It was no divine intervention; the savvy padres knew that California’s warm, sunny climate—similar to the olive-producing regions of Spain, France, and Italy—was ideal for growing olives. By the mid-1800s, California had a thriving olive oil industry that led to the rise of olive oil tasting rooms across the state.
 
California accounts for 99 percent of all U.S. olive oil production, and has earned a reputation as a world-class producer. At least 75 different olive varieties thrive in the state’s microclimates, giving producers a wealth of flavor profiles to work with. “This expansive selection of olive varietals provides a range of oils and trademark blends that are unique to California,” says Lisa Pollack of the California Olive Oil Council.
 
Much like the state’s wineries, many olive oil producers and purveyors welcome visitors for tastings and tours at ranches, mills, and storefronts across California. “They offer more than just a different selection of olive oil, they’re great learning experiences,” says Nancy Ash, president of Strictly Olive Oil, a Berkeley-based olive oil consultancy. “You’re talking to someone about what you’re buying, and getting ideas for new ways of using it in your kitchen.”
 
When sampling olive oil, skip the bread and take a small sip of the oil on its own. “Hold it in your mouth for a bit, and then, with a little smile, suck in air through the corners of your mouth,” says Nancy Harmon Jenkins, author of the book Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil. Then, swallow. If you feel a peppery tickle at the back of your throat, it’s a sign of quality.
 
Almonds, tomatoes, and tomato leaves are all common descriptors for good olive oil, Jenkins adds, along with freshly cut grass and green apples. Want to try it for yourself? Here are seven destinations, listed from north to south, for sampling California’s golden nectar.
 
California Restaurant Month
Strike some amazing deals and try special menus at restaurants across the state throughout January. California is the No. 1 destination for food-loving travelers in America, and it's easy to see why. The Cobb salad was invented here. So too was the cheeseburger. The state produces 90 percent of the wine in the United States. And California is also responsible for the whole "locavore" trend, first brought to life by Alice Waters’ Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse, which opened in 1971.
 
Possibly more than any other place on the planet, California has turned eating into an art form. From farming to feasting and everything in between, the California food industry has shown the world that dining and cooking can be one of the great pleasures in life. January’s California Restaurant Month, now in its seventh year, puts the state’s amazing bounty on rich display. It makes feasting even more accessible than usual, with a legion of participating restaurants in cities and regions across the state offering deals and special menus at various times during the month.
 
And this year, more regions and cities are participating than ever-36 in total. From San Diego to Sonoma, Tahoe to Temecula, the month of January overflows with sunny deliciousness. Here’s how it works: Participating cities and regions have their own restaurant week—lasting anywhere from a week to 10 days—during the month of January. During each weeklong celebration various restaurants offer special deals, such as affordable prix fixe menus for lunch and/or dinner, or sizably discounted meals.
 
San Francisco
Revel in the flavors of the ultimate foodie city as San Francisco’s premier chefs-many of them movers and shakers in the sustainability movement—strut their stuff at this festival in the Golden Gate Recreation Area.
 
This August event has garnered its reputation not by bringing in outside global talent, but by keeping the focus very close to home. “We invite food and drink enthusiasts to connect directly with top local chefs and bartenders, and get a taste of what makes San Francisco a top-rated food city,” says Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the event’s sponsor, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. That means farmers, winemakers, distillers, artisanal food purveyors, and other culinary world leaders all converge to share their innovations and ideas-and you get to sample the results. “Attendees are surprised by the accessibility to Bay Area chefs and bartenders, who are actually on-site to hand out bites and interact on an intimate level,” says Borden. “There is such a plethora of local talent and trendsetters in one place, it creates an infectious energy.”
 
The weekend kicks off with the Taco Knockdown, a friendly competition pitting local chefs against one another using tortilla as their canvas. The rest of the weekend revolves around four Grand Tasting events that offer selections from more than 160 restaurants and 70 purveyors of wine, beer, and spirits. The Bay Bar at each tasting will showcase a rotating sampling of the area’s cocktail bars, such as Hard Water, Prizefighter, and Whitechapel. One elixir is offered regularly during the 2016 tastings: the beloved Irish Coffee from Buena Vista Café, a Fisherman’s Wharf mainstay for decades. In keeping with that theme, the last day’s event, the Legacy Tasting, celebrates other longtime San Francisco restaurants, like Scoma’s, Sutro’s at the Cliff House, Tosca, and Goat Hill Pizza. Nibble on sushi and pizza, and sip local wine and cocktails—all literally handed to you by the Bay Area’s great chefs and bartenders.
 
Latin Food Fest, San Diego
When this festival first launched in 2013, its inspiration was pretty local: the south-of-the-border Mexican cuisine of Baja California. But the four-day event—the largest of its kind in the U.S.-has expanded its culinary reach from South America to the Caribbean to Spain, serving up anything from Brazilian-style churrasco to Spanish paella and the Ecuadorian take on corn cakes, humitas.
 
“Tamales, ceviche, and tacos are typically what consumers think of when they think Latin cuisine in Southern California,” says Latin Food Fest director Richie Matthews, “but emerging dishes and types of cuisine are popping up everywhere in Southern California.” That’s why the festival diversified after 2013. “Instead of the ‘taco fest’ concept,” says Matthews, “our attendees experience things like Salvadoran pupusas, Cuban ropa vieja, and Bolivian salteñas.”
 
That expansion of flavors is one reason why August’s San Diego event-located at downtown’s waterfront Embarcadero Marina Park North—has added a second, kid-friendly day of Grande Tastings, when you can wander the Culinary Pavilion for cookbook signings, demos, and lots of samples, from Brazilian feijoada (a stew of pork and black beans) to Dominican yaroa, the popular street food made with mashed plantain, strips of meat, and a layer of mozzarella. Past years have featured Aarón Sánchez (famous in part from TV’s Chopped), Colombian-American chef Ingrid Hoffmann, and San Diego’s Javier Plascencia, known for his Bracero Cocina de Raiz, which pays tribute to Mexican migrant workers. This year’s festivities will include chefs such as the Dominican Republic’s Martín Omar, Chef Claudia of MasterChef fame, and Mexican-fusion chef Martín San Román.
 
Sacramento
Farm To Fork Capital, Sacramento. With its proximity to local farms, Sacramento is at the forefront of fresh, seasonal cuisine sourced right from the city’s backyard. California is undeniably the land of plenty-the largest agricultural producer in the country. And it doesn’t get much more farmer than the region surrounding Sacramento. This fertile acreage, with remarkable soil and abundant sunshine, means Sacramento has incredible access to the juiciest fruits, freshest vegetables, and an ever-increasing array of artisanal, farm-based products. Area chefs take advantage of the bounty by forming close relationships with farmers and sourcing ingredients that will end up on diners’ plates that very same night. Taste the results at favourite eateries including Ella Dining Room & Bar, Mulvaney’s B&L, Waterboy, and The Kitchen Restaurant.
 
Dining in Santa Cruz
Outstanding seaside cuisine and some uniquely Santa Cruz favourites. Sure, you can get your fill of corn dogs and cotton candy down on the boardwalk, but tucked into historic buildings in town, and in nearby communities are surprising finds, with talented chefs and artisanal food makers tempting you to try their latest creations. First, let’s talk coffee. Warm up on foggy mornings with a richly flavourful brew at two local favourites, Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company and Lu Lu Carpenter's. For decadent pastries along with your java, try Kelly’s French Bakery, a happy find tucked among warehouses on the west side of town. For a lunch break from the beach, head to Zoccoli’s Delicatessen (we dare you not to love the hot tri-tip sandwich), and double-scoops of lively flavours (ginger snap or lemon poppyseed) at Penny Ice Creamery. Marianne’s is another favourite for ice cream, with innovative flavours such as spicy Mexican Chocolate or Northern Oregon Blackberry. 

California Wine

Urban Wineries & Wine Trails
Convenient and appealing options for in-town tasting. There’s nothing quite like driving the back roads of California’s wine regions and sampling local wines at the source. But a growing number of wineries and winemakers are opting for setting up shop in surprisingly urban settings. Tasting rooms are now concentrated in cities, towns, and communities, creating often pedestrian- and bike-friendly wine trails with an appeal all their own.
 
“Urban wine trails are definitely a growing trend across California,” says Nancy Light of California’s Wine Institute, with sometimes just a pleasant stroll between stops. Though these in-town tasting rooms “don't replace the experience of visiting beautiful wine country destinations,” notes Light, they do offer an intriguing new option, letting you ditch concerns about traffic and designated drivers. Here’s an introduction to California’s urban wine hubs, listed south to north.

L.A.’s San Antonio Winery
Head downtown for a surprising historic find. In 1833, Frenchman Jean-Louis Vignes established El Aliso winery in Los Angeles. By 1870, Los Angeles had become the center of California wine-making. The region might have retained that title, had it not been for the one-two punch of a vine disease that decimated L.A.’s vineyards in the 1880s, and Prohibition. Even so, an important piece of that history remains at downtown L.A.’s San Antonio Winery. Since 1917, the Riboli family has operated the winery at the same site on Lamar Street. While a modern wine-making resurgence has yet to materialize in L.A., San Antonio deserves a shout-out as one of California’s original urban wineries. 
 
Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail
“The American Riviera” plays host to in-town tasting rooms.Choose from more than two dozen wineries, most within walking distance from downtown and the beach, dotting the wine trail in this inviting oceanfront city. Settings range from the 360-degree views of the Conway Family’s Deep Sea Tasting Room on Stearns Wharf, to the six premium tasting rooms making up the Wine Collection of El Paseo, in the historic Presidio neighborhood. A large concentration of in-town wineries and tasting rooms cluster in an area known as The Funk Zone, a narrow band of warehouses between U.S. 101 and the beach that has become an enclave of tasting rooms, artists’ studios, surfboard makers, and bohemian-cool restaurants.
 
Carmel's In-Town Tasting Rooms
Sample great wines in an idyllic oceanfront village. This quaint European-style village along the Central Coast has long been known for its art galleries and white-sand beach, but it’s also got a nice collection of tasting rooms, all within easy walking distance and serving the region’s excellent labels. Before you stroll, stop by the Carmel Visitor Center and pick up a Wine Walk Passport, which grants you tastings at nine different wineries at a good savings.
 
San Francisco Wineries
Grapes from the countryside create big-city winners. Winemakers in San Francisco may not be growing their grapes in the city, but they can boast a long wine-making tradition. Before the great fire of 1906, there were several wineries based in the SoMa (South of Market) area, which used to go by the less lyrical nickname South of the Slot. That tradition has been revived in the past 20 years, fueled largely by grapes from Napa and Sonoma. JAX Vineyards, for instance, started in the 1990s with David Jackson’s Calistoga vineyard grapes, but his tech-sector son, Trent, was the one who started to make wines from them in his San Francisco garage. Come to their Brannan St. tasting room for happy hour Tuesday through Friday, and try their red-blend Taureau (named for a prized family bull), paired with charcuterie and cheese.
 
Wine Tasting in Oakland
Sample wines in the East Bay’s hipster-cool city. Oakland stands out as one of Northern California’s hottest, hippest places to be, with cool eateries, bars, and now urban wineries too, many housed in renovated warehouses. Taste your way through Jack London Square, a lively complex of shops, restaurants, and lodgings with its across-the-bay views of the San Francisco skyline. Start at Jeff Cohn Cellars. Cohn, former winemaker for Zinfandel specialist Rosenblum Cellars, now leans toward Rhône-style reds and experimental blends, and this bright and airy tasting room is a great place to explore the full lineup. A quick stroll along the Embarcadero will take you to Rosenblum, near the ferry terminal. The winery’s industrial-chic tasting room is right on the water, perfect for Zin tasting with a relaxing view. Now, stretch your legs on a flat 10-minute walk to the tasting room of Urban Legend Wine Cellars. Sample from an eclectic mix of wines, many from organically farmed vineyards, including the strawberry-kissed Grenache and deep, dark Teroldego. 
 
Tasting Rooms in Murphys, Gold Country
The “Queen of the Sierra” pours great wines in town. Known during the Gold Rush as a spot for some of California's richest gold finds, this Sierra foothills town has grown into a winery-rich destination with an Old West feel. “I think we are pretty close to 24 tasting rooms within walking distance on Main Street, but frankly I have lost count,” said Jeff Stai, owner of the town’s Twisted Oak Winery. You’ll need a car to reach all the spots on the wine trail, but there is a good concentration of tasting rooms lining the town’s pleasantly walkable main thoroughfare.
 
Downtown Napa Tasting Rooms
Car-free wine tasting in Napa Valley’s gateway city. Over the past few years, the city of Napa has invested millions in making its downtown core gleam with gourmet markets, outstanding restaurants, a pretty-for-strolling riverfront, and plenty of places to sample the region’s world-class wines. Walk the downtown grid of streets to enjoy outdoor art and dip into a variety of tasting rooms.
 
Start at Vintner’s Collective, housed in Napa’s oldest stone building, and focus on the best Napa Valley wines you’ve never heard of. Tasting flights change daily and may feature wines from any of more than 25 boutique producers. Next, check out Mark Herold Wines, adjacent to the popular Oxbow Public Market (a great place to graze and pick up gourmet picnic lunches). At Mark Herold, the decor is funky, the servers are engaging and ready to share their wine knowledge, and the wines are eclectic (try the Flux Blanc and Acha Red). Now head to Prime Cellars for a taste of the Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon, a great choice for that special occasion down the road. (Bonus: Trahan Winery shares the space with Prime Cellars, so you can sample wines from both producers with one stop.) The tasting room is intimate, and the winemakers themselves are often the ones pouring-a rarity in Napa Valley. 
 
Tasting Rooms in Sonoma
Visit a wine-country hub with nearly two dozen tasting rooms. Tasting rooms aren’t new to the city of Sonoma-a handful of in-town options have long been open around the historic town plaza. What is new to this pretty Sonoma Valley city is the explosion of options, with two dozen tasting rooms now tempting you to sample award-winning vintages without leaving town. Add Sonoma’s excellent restaurants and shops, and you can easily enjoy a car-free day or two just strolling from one inviting destination to another.
 
Start at WALT Wines, the sister winery of HALL Wines in Napa Valley. The homey, art-filled tasting room offers a diverse array of high-end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from vineyards spanning 1,000 miles of Pacific Coast. Just across the street is Hawkes, with its laser-like focus on delicious, well-balanced Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Having only a few wines to taste will leave you plenty of time to relax, sip, and people-watch from the patio. Now duck into Pangloss Cellars, a new tasting room that oozes rustic elegance, with exposed stone walls and comfy decor that look straight out of a perfectly styled furniture ad. Sample rich reds, including the built-to-last Moon Mountain Cabernet, which is even better when paired with upscale nibbles.

Santa Barbara

Adventure Overview
Santa Barbara’s year-round perfect climate allows outdoor activities to be something that one can take part of anytime of the year. Sailing, surfing, sea kayaking, biking, hiking, stand-up paddle boarding, whale watching, fishing, glider rides, paragliding are a few activities that are offered in Santa Barbara. But, make sure to take your camera; focal points don’t get much better than this.

Channel Islands
Hit the waters for the experience of a lifetime. Kayaking through Painted Cave — at 1,215 feet one of the longest sea caves in the world — should be on every adventurer’s bucket list. But, fear not! This is something anyone at any experience level can do. We do recommend booking a trip with an experienced guide, like those at Santa Barbara Adventure Company or Channel Island Outfitters.

One-Of-A-Kind
Channel your inner adventurer for a variety of rock climbing lessons. And for the equestrian in you, Santa Barbara Beach Horseback Rides offer daily treks on the sand or trails. Hang ten on welcoming beginner, intermediate, or our World Renowned surf breaks. From the rolling greens of Glen Annie Golf Club to Sandpiper Golf Course, which is just within earshot of the crashing surf, or at award-winning Rancho San Marcos Golf Course that winds through nearby ranchland on the backside of the rugged Santa Ynez Mountains, golfing in Santa Barbara is always a memorable experience. FROM THE AIR
Prefer to appreciate the beauty and serenity of the marine sanctuary from afar? Special helicopters are available with Santa Barbara Helicopter Tours and Nanco Helicopters. You’ll get the same sense of awe and wonderment while

Wine Country
Santa Barbara wine country offers the wine-curious traveler an authentic experience all its own. An easy 45-minute drive over the hill, though, reveals rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see, and a quintessential wine country experience marked by world-class wine, cuisine and hospitality. Amidst a buzzing downtown scene, the urban wine scene is electric, with dozens of tasting rooms and working wineries peppering the city.

Getting Crafty
Local beer lovers will fall head over heels for the two dozen brew labels we’re serving up and down the Central Coast. Head over to Telegraph Brewing Company in the new Lagoon District. Like a bite to eat with your beer? Enjoy lunch or dinner at Hollister Brewing Company in Goleta or father-son owned Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company in the Funk Zone where food orders from neighboring Lucky Penny restaurant delivers for free.

Tours & Classes
For more of a hands-on experience, treat yourself to a fun and educational cooking class or book a food or wine tour where you’ll go behind the scenes, meet the makers and find out why our restaurants and tasting rooms are so special.

Dining
With more than 450 different restaurants in the county to choose from, perhaps the hardest choice you’ll make is where to dine. Taste the best of the Central Coast in The American Riviera®; enjoy a five-star dinner at The Lark or try something new at Loquita, Convivo or Angel Oak, book private dining rooms at Wine Cask, and reminisce in one of Santa Barbara’s classic el fresco dining at Bouchon.

Shopping
In Santa Barbara, a day spent shopping could just as easily be billed as “exercise,” thanks to plenty of walking and fresh air. Then again, you could call it “sightseeing,” as the beautiful adobes of State Street and eclectic artistry of the Funk Zone, or you might call what you’re up to “exploring,” as you wander through Paseo Nuevo, one of Santa Barbara’s open-air malls. Continue to follow State Street and you’ll also find small, locally owned boutiques inside La Arcada. If you hit the water and just want to keep going, Stearns Wharf and the Santa Barbara Harbor are also home to several cute souvenir shops.

Historical Sites
The fantastic Spanish-Moorish-style Santa Barbara County Courthouse delights the eye with exuberant displays of brilliantly colored tiles and cinematic murals. Above it all the clock tower observation deck offers a spectacular panorama of the city, the mountains, and the harbor. Toward the hills are two pink-tinted towers of the centuries-Old Mission Santa Barbara, hailed as the “Queen of the Missions” for its iconic beauty. Along the way is the Presidio Neighborhood, named for the fort that became the heart of European settlement here.

Galleries & Gardens
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, one of southern California's finest art museums, features nationally recognized collections and special exhibitions of international importance. Connect with Nature at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center which is located on Stearns Wharf and fulfills the mission of the Museum to inspire a passion for the natural world. Lotusland features an enormous diversity of exotic plants from around the globe arranged 25 gardens, each distinctive in design but beautifully transitioned through fanciful displays premised on elaborate themes.

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