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California See And Do

Ahmanson Theatre & Mark Taper Forum
The Music Center
135 N. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 213 628 2772

The 2,000-seat Ahmanson Theatre and 750-seat Mark Taper Forum are two of L.A.'s most important performing venues. Both are affiliated with the Center Theatre Group. The Ahmanson has featured everything from the ballets of Matthew Bourne to restoration comedies to avant-garde productions by Robert Wilson. The smaller Mark Taper Forum has a thrust stage that's surrounded by audience on three sides, and specializes in more experimental work (it was, for instance, the place where  Angels in America made its debut).

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San Francisco , California

Surrounded by icy water and treacherous currents, Alcatraz was an ideal site for a high-security prison, and unsurprisingly, nearly all of those who tried to escape were caught, shot, or drowned. Enjoy a chilling tour of the jail, closed in 1963, and while strolling the exercise yard, imagine how the dazzling view of San Francisco must have tantalized inmates. The ferry departs several times daily from Pier 33. In peak season, book in advance by calling 415-981-7625, or go to

Angel Island
San Francisco , California

The largest island in the Bay, Angel Island was home to the Miwok Native Americans before being taken over by the Spanish, and it was later used as an immigration and quarantine station. The hiking is gorgeous, despite a 2008 wildfire that charred half the island. Come between February and April for the best wildflower displays. You can tour the immigration station year-round. Climb to the top of 800-foot Mount Livermore to enjoy a picnic while contemplating the spectacular view. The ferry to the island departs from the Ferry Building and Pier 41 (415-705-5555;—Updated by John Vlahides

Los Angeles , California

The Los Angeles Conservancy, a preservation society founded in 1978, operates weekly walking tours of downtown L.A.'s architectural landmarks, from the much-filmed 1893 Bradbury Building to the elaborately gilded twenties and thirties movie theaters on Broadway (213-430-4219;; $10 for non-members). The L.A. chapter of the American Institute of Architects also conducts tours of architecturally significant houses at least twice a year (213-639-0777; At the downtown Visitors' Center, you can pick up free itineraries guiding you on 30-minute walking tours, which include Rafael Moneo's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Frank Gehry's stainless-steel Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the museums and California Science Center in Exposition Park ( If you're interested in modernism, CA Boom Design Expositions offers tours series, visiting case houses and other significant homes (310-394-8600;

Notable buildings that are worth making specific pilgrimages to see are the MAK Center for Art + Architecture, the former West Hollywood home of famed modernist Rudolf Schindler; tours are held midday on weekends (323-651-1510; Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Park in the Hollywood/Los Feliz area can once again be visited after extensive restoration (323-644-6269;, as can his Ennis House, in Los Feliz (323-660-0607; Of Pasadena's many craftsman bungalows, the most famous is the Gamble House, designed by Charles and Henry Greene in 1908 (626-793-3334;

Architecture Tour
Palm Springs , California

Palm Springs is the epicenter of Space Age modernist (a.k.a. Googie) architecture from masters William Cody, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, and Albert Frey, many of whom were commissioned to design the millionaire homes of stars like Frank Sinatra when they settled in the desert during the 1930s and 1940s. The Palm Springs Modern Committee publishes a map and driving guide to 66 historic buildings. It's available for $5 at the Palm Springs Visitor Information Center (2901 N. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-778-8418; The map includes descriptions of the buildings and short biographies of the best-known local architects.

Artesa Vineyards & Winery
1345 Henry Road
Carneros , California
Tel: 707 224 1668

If you're coming from San Francisco, begin or end the day at Artesa, one of the closest wineries to the city. Dug into a hilltop high above the Carneros District, the 127,000-square-foot winery has one of the most dramatic approaches in wine country: a sweeping staircase surrounded by fountains, cascading waterfalls, and architectural glass sculptures by artist-in-residence Gordon Huether. At the top terrace, there's a 360-degree view of the Napa Valley and the pastoral Carneros District, with the San Francisco skyline looming on the horizon, provided it's not foggy. The chardonnays and pinot noirs are beautifully balanced, with lots of big fruit. The tasting room has the look and feel of an art gallery—the perfect backdrop for savoring an end-of-the-day glass of wine. Tasting fee; no appointment necessary.

Open daily 10 am to 5 pm.

Balboa Park
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 239 0512

As Central Park is to New York City, Balboa Park is the center of this out-of-doors city: Its 1,200 landscaped acres hosts 85 attractions, including 15 museums, gardens, restaurants, and the Zoo. The best bets are the San Diego Museum of Man (1350 El Prado; 619-239-2001;, the IMAX theater at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (1875 El Prado; 619-238-1233;, and the San Diego Museum of Art (1450 El Prado; 619-232-7931; Most Tuesdays, at least one attraction offers free admission.

Barbary Coast Trail
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 454 2355

When San Francisco was a bustling port, the colorful neighborhood of brothels, saloons, and lodging houses frequented by sailors was known as the Barbary Coast. The Barbary Coast Trail connects 20 historic sites, including the birthplace of the Gold Rush, the U.S. Mint Building, the oldest Asian temple in North America, and a Silver King mansion. Begin this 3.8-mile trail at Mission and Fifth streets and follow the path marked with bronze medallions set in the sidewalk. Maps and official trail guides can be purchased at visitor centers and local bookstores, and the San Francisco Historical Society sponsors various tours of the trail.

Bay to Breakers

Founded in 1912, Bay to Breakers once held the Guinness record for the world's largest footrace, with 110,000 participants. It's no longer the biggest, but these days, nearly 80,000 athletes from the Bay Area and around the globe still make the trek, on the third Sunday in May, from the Ferry Building to Ocean Beach. Such wide appeal might seem surprising considering the difficult 12K course, which runs over San Francisco's notoriously steep hills. But since 1940, when the event's first woman runner participated in drag, Bay to Breakers has been something akin to a circuit party, with competitors showing up in all manner of costumes—or without any clothing at all—often toting portable bars stocked with beers and mixed drinks. Live bands play along the course, while a big-name act (in the past, Bonnie Rait and Better Than Ezra) plays a gig at the finish line in Golden Gate Park.

Los Angeles , California

The Beach Boys weren't lying: this part of California is all about the sun, sand, and surf. Venice Beach, with its street performers, outdoor cafés, and pedestrian traffic, still has that quintessential Californian combination of liveliness and laid-backness. You can grab a bike at one of the many rental stands; there's a bike path that heads all the way south to Redondo Beach. Santa Monica has Surfrider Beach, one of the best breaks long the coast, and also a pier with an amusement park that's lots of fun for kids. Malibu is a bit on the impenetrable side (a wall of houses lines the beach), but just up the Pacific Coast Highway at Zuma Beach there's plenty of parking and lots of sand. Walk north, and you'll pass the celebrity-owned houses of Broad Beach. Drive a bit farther up the Pacific Coast Highway and you'll find Neptune's Net, the famed fish-shack with a parking lot full of motorcycles.

San Diego , California

With 70 miles of coastline, San Diego County is home to more than a dozen beach areas, each with its own distinct personality. Here's a quick look at the sandy highlights from south to north:

Imperial Beach: Bordering Tijuana, Imperial Beach (locals call it IB) is one of the quieter beach towns—except in July, when it hosts the U.S. Open Sand Castle Competition. There's good fishing off the pier, but be careful of powerful surf and the sometimes-polluted waters here.

Coronado: Connected to the city by bridge, Coronado is the closest beach to downtown. Behind the Hotel Del Coronado, there's a family-friendly, wide sandy beach that's good for swimming. For more privacy, head south to Silver Strand State Beach.

Ocean Beach: Known to locals as OB, this is a funky little town still stuck in the '60s. The main drag, Newport Avenue, dead-ends at the pier, where there's good surfing and fishing. Bonfires and alcohol are both allowed on the beach.

Mission Beach/Pacific Beach: During the summer, the beaches of Mission and Pacific are crazy-busy with tourists and the 20-something party crowd, making for some of the best people-watching around. Stroll, Rollerblade, or bike along the sand-side boardwalk from Mission to the edge of PB.

La Jolla Shores: Just north of La Jolla are the broad tan sands of La Jolla Shores. It's a popular family beach and a great spot for novice surfers. Bonfires are allowed in provided containers. The shore arcs and bends to the south, where you'll find breathtaking La Jolla Cove and its tide pools and sea caves.

Black's Beach: Sandwiched between Torrey Pines State Beach and La Jolla Shores is Black's Beach, a top local surf spot and one of California's most famous nude beaches. Its north end is a favorite of the local gay population.

North County: The beaches of North County, including Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff, Encinitas, Leucadia, and Carlsbad, are characterized by steep cliffs that lead down to thin stretches of sand that dwindle even more at high tide. They're popular with experienced surfers and families. Locals know to look for public access stairways that lead to almost-hidden pocket beaches.

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Bella Vineyards
9711 W. Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg , California
Tel: 866 572 3552 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 473 9171

The mood is upbeat and fun at Bella, a family-run Sonoma winery where tastings are conducted inside the barrel cellars, within giant caves dug out of the hillsides. With vines on the estate dating back more than a century, here one can experience the luxuriously concentrated flavor for which old-vine grapes are prized. All of Bella's reserve-vineyard, small-lot syrahs and zinfandels have a depth of flavor unattainable with young fruit, with lush raspberry and smoky chocolate overtones. If you're lucky enough to visit in the spring, be sure to pick up a bottle of dry rosé (50% zin, 50% syrah) before it sells out—it's the perfect back-porch wine on a hot day. Despite the seriousness of the wine, there's no pretense at Bella. The youthful staff is not only gregarious and charming, they also know their stuff. Tasting fee $5, no appointment necessary.

Open daily 11 am to 4:30 pm.

Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills , California

Beverly Hills is famous for the designer-driven shops of Rodeo Drive and the Golden Triangle, and the recent upsurge of teardowns in favor of mega-mansions. It's a great place for strolling and window-shopping (if you can't afford the stores), and there's excellent people-watching to be had from the many sidewalk cafés. Landmarks include City Hall and the Post Office, as well as the I.M. Pei–designed Creative Artists Agency (CAA). The well-manicured public gardens along Santa Monica Boulevard are a lovely oasis, as well as a popular place to jog.

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Cable Car Rides
San Francisco , California

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964, the San Francisco cable cars are crowded but worth riding at least once for the gorgeous views and one-of-a-kind experience. Of the three routes, Powell-Hyde (over Nob and Russian Hills to Aquatic Park) and Powell-Mason (over Nob Hill to Fisherman's Wharf) are the most scenic, but they're also the most crowded, as they carry passengers to and from Fisherman's Wharf. If you can't stomach the long queues or want to find someplace off the tourists' radar, ride the California Street line (over Nob Hill toward Pacific Heights; closed for construction until mid-June 2011) from its terminus at Market Street to the end of the line at Van Ness Avenue; from there, walk to Lafayette Square, in Pacific Heights, for a hilltop picnic, followed by window shopping along swanky upper Fillmore Street. (Tip: For a great photo on the California cable car, shoot east downhill as you approach Stockton Street; the Bay Bridge tower is briefly framed just right between downtown skyscrapers.) For all lines, board at the beginning/end of each circuit or hail the car along the route from one of the stops marked with brown-and-white signs. Purchase tickets at turnarounds or from the conductor ($5; MUNI transfers not accepted). Service is frequent, with special schedules on weekends—check for details. —updated by John A. Vlahides

California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 379 8000

Among the world's largest natural-history museums, the California Academy of Sciences is as renowned for its collection—over 26 million specimens gathered over the past 150 years—as it is for the building that houses them. Opened in late 2008, the Renzo Piano–designed museum earned a LEED Platinum certification for its eco-sensibility. Vast expanses of glass, crisscrossed by recycled-steel beams, allow the sun to shine inside the exhibits, which include a knockout four-story rain forest dome filled with towering tropical trees, colorful birds, and fluttering butterflies. The glass elevators that descend from the rain forest to the Steinhart Aquarium double as a viewing window into the enormous tank, its coral reefs teeming with candy-colored fish. Be sure to pick up tickets for the hourly shows at the state-of-the-art Morrison Planetarium, the world's largest all-digital planetarium; sit up high for the best perspective on the 75-foot-diameter dome. And don't miss the 2.5-acre roof, another green feature, planted with native grasses, trees, and flowers; the idea was to give the illusion that a slice of earth had been lifted up to install the museum beneath it. Even on a foggy day, when mist twirls in the treetops, the park views from atop the roof are stupendous. To avoid hordes of schoolchildren, consider coming on Thursday evenings, from 6 to 10 pm, when the museum hosts Nightlife, an over-21 event with cocktails and DJs in the atrium; the entire museum is open for viewing at this time. This event nearly always sells out, so make reservations.—John Vlahides

Open Mondays through Saturdays 9:30 am to 5 pm, Sundays 11 am to 5 pm.

Carmel-by-the-Sea , California

Originally founded as an artists' colony in the early 20th century, Carmel (also known as Carmel-by-the-Sea) has the look and feel of a Christmas snow-globe village—without the snow. Streets are paved with cobblestones, giant Monterey pines make whooshing sounds in the sea breeze, and the houses resemble picturesque Mediterranean villas and miniature castles. The artists have long since been priced out, and major celebrities (Doris Day, Clint Eastwood) have taken their place, but you'll still find more galleries per capita than perhaps anywhere else on the California coast. Head to Dolores Street between Fifth and Sixth for the best gallery-hopping. Stop into the Carmel Art Association, the only gallery that exclusively shows local works (831-624-6176;; Masterpiece Gallery, which has a collection of early Californian and American paintings (831-624-2163;; and Gallery Sur, specializing in landscape photography (831-626-2615; The best time to visit Carmel is midweek; avoid coming on Saturday in summer, when it gets overrun with oohing-and-aahing tourists. If you want to meet locals, head for the beach in the early evening; the whole community seems to turn out to watch the sunset.

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Carmel Mission
3080 Rio Road
Carmel-by-the-Sea , California
Tel: 831 624 1271

Though currently surrounded by ranch-house subdivisions, the Carmel Mission was once the only building for miles around. Spanish missionary Father Junípero Serra established the mission in 1771 to convert Native Americans to Christianity. Today, it's still an important site for Catholics—primarily because Father Serra's remains are interred under the altar—but even nonbelievers will find it worth a visit. The primitive statuary and ornately carved altar are beautifully preserved, as are unexpected details like the charming cherubs peeping from behind the pipes of the organ loft. Adjoining the church are the living quarters of the missionaries. One of the most interesting rooms is the tiny library (California's first), where you can peer through a glass doorway at decaying leather-bound texts frozen in time. Outside in the courtyard, baseball-size roses grow in the lovely gardens. (Shutterbugs: One of the best spots to pose for pictures is behind the Basilica, beneath the bell tower.)

California's missions were positioned one day apart by horseback, so you can see several in a day traveling by car. If you're heading south on Highway 1, it's easy to make a detour to Mission San Antonio de Padua, in the middle of nowhere near the tiny town of Jolon (Mission Rd.; 831-385-4478). It provides a glimpse of how the missions looked before modern-day civilization grew up around them.

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Castello di Amoroso
4045 N. St. Helena Highway (Hwy. 29)
Calistoga , California
Tel: 707 967 6272

Napa Valley's newest, grandest winery is not a contemporary architectural monument but a recreated European castle, complete with moat, secco fresco murals, and a torture chamber. Built entirely by hand over the course of 14 years, Castello di Amoroso is the brainchild of Daryl Sattui, owner of the nearby V. Sattui Winery and lover of medieval history. Every detail is perfect, right down to the damp, cold catacombs (bring a sweater), which double as one of the castle's many barrel rooms. Complete wine production takes place inside the castle using grapes from the surrounding 30 acres of vines. The wines are Italian in style and remarkably good. Go for the super-Tuscan, a soft but sturdy blend of cabernet, sangiovese, and merlot; the Il Brigante, a merlot blend, goes well with acidic tomato sauces and pizza. But the most impressive thing here is the castle itself. Book well ahead; this is one of Napa's hottest new properties. Tasting fee; appointment required.

Open daily 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.

The Castro

The Castro, America's favorite gayborhood, has few tourist sights, but is unmatched for people-watching. The area is crammed with out-and-proud bookstores, bars, and clubby restaurants—hit Lime at brunch for all you can drink mimosas. The glass-walled Twin Peaks Tavern is famous as one of the first gay bars that did not hide its identity. Catch a movie at the Castro Theatre, a historic landmark and one of the few 1920s movie palaces still in operation today.

Charbay Winery & Distillery
4001 Spring Mountain Road
St. Helena , California
Tel: 707 963 9327

When you've had it with crowds, cabernet, and the pretense of the major wineries, book a tasting at Charbay Winery, a folksy throwback to the days when Napa's wineries looked like farms, not monuments. Founded by a 13th-generation master distiller from Serbia, Charbay has a cult following for its spirits and aperitif wines. Giant copper stills lie outside the garage-like tasting room, which doubles as the barrel room. During the sit-down tasting at a plastic table and picnic chairs, you'll sample unusual fortified and still wines. If you secretly add ice to your wine, you'll be delighted by Charbay, a Mendocino-grown chardonnay enriched with house-made brandy; serve it straight up as a dessert wine, or add ice and a twist for a smart and elegant aperitif. Do the same for the berry-rich rosé, and it tastes just like sangria. But the spirits are what make Charbay famous. California law won't allow you to taste them on-site, but trust us: The vodkas are fabulous, and some come flavored with bright fruit like blood orange, raspberry, or Meyer lemon.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 9 am to 5 pm.

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San Francisco , California

Chinatown is a prime tourist destination, but it's also a bustling residential neighborhood, where dim sum scents the air and grocery stores sell chicken feet and Chinese greens. You'll find stores that seem to sell everything, from slippers and cheongsams to gorgeous fish-shaped kites. Admire the ornate balconies of Waverly Place then climb up to the Tien Hau Temple (125 Waverly Pl.), lavishly decorated in gold and vermilion.

Chinese New Year Parade
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 391 9680

Invented in the 1860s by Chinese immigrants as a way to share their culture, this is the largest parade of its kind in the United States. Giant dragons and lions, local dignitaries, marching bands, and costumed dancers snake through downtown, and the newly crowned Miss Chinatown USA and her court wave coyly from their float. Dress warmly and find a spot to watch early along the route (the sidewalk gets more crowded as you approach Chinatown) or spring for a $30 bleacher seat. The event takes place between January 21 and February 21. Chinese New Year dates vary; check the Web site for schedule.

Cole Valley
San Francisco , California

A stroll in Cole Valley, to the south of the Upper Haight, is a pleasant way to escape that area's crowds. Admire the Victorians on Ashbury Street, or go up Shrader Street, passing the "Angel of Hope" in front of #1591, carved from a cypress trunk after the tree fell in a 1997 storm. Turn left on Belgrave Street to enjoy the glorious vista from Tank Hill.

Condor Express (Whale Watching)
301 West Cabrillo Boulevard
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 882 0088

"Whale watching with a guarantee" is the motto of Condor Express—that's what they all say. But the waters off Santa Barbara are home to one of the world's largest concentrations of migrating blue and humpback whales, plus orcas, minke whales, dolphins, and other finned mammals throughout the year. Best time to see blues and humpbacks: May through September. Dolphins can be seen throughout the year, and orcas surface occasionally between late February and March. Catch the gray whales during their winter migration to Mexico between December and March, or between February and May, when they head north with their newborn calves. Condor Express offers two-hour coast cruises and half-day tours of the Channel Islands, depending on whale migrations. The only time that spotting a whale is not guaranteed is during the fall.

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Cornerstone Gardens
23570 Highway 121
Cornerstone Place
Schellville , California
Tel: 707 933 3010

The first gallery-style garden exhibit in the United States, Cornerstone's nine-acre grounds showcase 20 different walk-through gardens by famed landscape architects and designers. Among the current highlights are a children's garden by Moore Iacofano Goltsman and woven eucalyptus screens by Walter Hood. The garden plot called Earth Walk, designed by Pamela Burton, descends into the grounds, through Mexican feather grass, to a meditation bench by a koi pond. Inspired? Head to the adjacent shops for garden-related wares, including outdoor furniture and sculpture, architectural salvage pieces, tools, plants, and books. Fuel up on coffee and sandwiches at the on-site Blue Tree Café before heading north to the Sonoma County wineries.

Open daily 10 am to 4 pm.

Crissy Field
603 Mason Street
San Francisco , California

This broad, grassy meadow between the Palace of Fine Arts and Fort Point was formerly the site of a U.S. Army post but is now a public park with a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. You'll see many devotees of the Californian cult of fitness, from joggers and bikers to kite-surfers and Rollerbladers. Take a picnic so you can soak in the vista, stroll, and people-watch, or buy a cheap kite in Chinatown and meditate as it floats on the breeze.

Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard
Del Mar , California
Tel: 858 755 1141

Every summer, San Diegans go horse-crazy and flock to Del Mar to bet on thoroughbreds. One of the nation's top horse-racing venues, the historic Del Mar Thoroughbred Club first opened in 1937. Races are presented six days weekly from mid-July through mid-September. On Fridays, a free concert series with big-name rock acts—Flaming Lips, Violent Femmes, Pinback—follows the races.

De Young Museum
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 863 3330

Damaged by an earthquake in 1989, the de Young opened its strikingly angular new building—clad in a perforated copper skin—in Golden Gate Park in October 2005. Locals love it or hate it: Some say it looks like a dragon; others, like something aliens built in the night. The permanent collection comprises American, African, Oceanic, American Indian, New Guinea, Maori, and Filipino art and includes some notable works by Frida Kahlo. The below-ground galleries house temporary exhibitions of varying quality. When it's clear out, the spectacular view from the nine-story observation tower is a stunner. On Friday evenings, the museum stays open late for its "Friday Nights at the de Young" program, when you can sip cocktails as you take in anything from poetry to performance art.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Tuesdays through Thursdays 9:30 am to 5:15 pm, Fridays 9:30 am to 8:45 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays 9:30 am to 5:15 pm.

Di Rosa Preserve
5200 Carneros Highway
Carneros , California
Tel: 707 226 5991

When you see the tongue-in-cheek cut-out sheep dotting the hillside just outside of Napa, you've arrived at di Rosa Preserve, one of the largest regional art collections in the country. More than 2,000 works by Northern California artists are assembled in three galleries and a sculpture meadow. In the di Rosa residence gallery, paintings cover every available surface, including the ceiling, while the Gatehouse and main galleries are more contemporary in layout. Among the works by 900 artists, there are some real gems, including paintings by William Wiley, a subterranean video installation by Paul Kos, and sculptures by Robert Hudson, Mark di Suvero, and Robert Arneson. While the Gatehouse Gallery is open on a pop-in, pop-out basis, you'll need to sign on to a tour in order to see the rest of the property. The guided one-hour tours can feel rushed, and visitors are not permitted to explore on their own. If you want extra time for wandering, book a two-hour tour or come on Saturday for an in-depth two-and-a-half-hour tour (April through October only). The estate also hosts its own First Friday art party every month during the summer and autumn tourist seasons.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 9:30 am to 3 pm.

1313 S. Harbor Boulevard
Anaheim , California
Tel: 714 781 4000

Just a 45-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles, Disneyland is mandatory if you have children (and even if you haven't, don't you want to experience it once, just to get that big dose of Americana?). These days there are even some hotels with character and an increasing number of good spots for food.

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Domaine Chandon Winery
1 California Drive
Yountville , California
Tel: 707 944 2280

One of the first French-owned wineries in California, Domaine Chandon opened with a splash in 1975 and is best known for its wide range of sparkling wines, including brut, blanc de noirs, extra-dry, and rosé varieties. Regularly scheduled tours guide visitors (up to 30 at a time) through the process of crafting and bottling bubbly. Purchase a flight of tastings and take your glass (included in the tasting fee) out to a café table on the terrace for majestic views of the surrounding Napa Valley countryside. There's also Étoile, a formal restaurant that's great for lunch (reservations essential). Although you'll find better sparkling wines at Schramsberg, Domaine Chandon provides more amenities, and it has one of the area's only late-night drinking permits. When the rest of the valley shuts down, drop by the Étoile wine lounge for drinks and entertainment (summer only). Tasting fee, no appointment necessary.

Open daily 10 am to 6 pm; wine lounge open Thursdays through Saturdays 6 to 11 pm, summer only.

Douglas Family Preserve
Linda Road
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 564 5418

A hefty donation from actor Michael Douglas saved the Santa Barbara Coastal Bluffs—now called the Douglas Family Preserve—from being developed into housing. The 70-acre grassy mesa sits above the popular Arroyo Burro Beach, and a walking trail meanders from the entrance on Linda Road to a bluff overlooking the water. Dogs are permitted off-leash within designated areas, making it a favorite for local dog lovers.

Open sunrise to 7 pm.

Downtown Los Angeles
Los Angeles , California

Downtown Los Angeles has been reputedly making a comeback for 25 years now, but the loft explosion over the past few years has made that notion seem truer than ever. There's lots of sightseeing to be done here, neighborhood landmarks include MOCA, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, ornate former movie palaces on Broadway, and the kitschy Mexican tourist attraction known as Olvera Street. There's also Chinatown—which is becoming an avant-garde multiculti art destination—and Little Tokyo.

3601 Lyon Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 397 5673

Unlike the exhibits at most museums, those at the Exploratorium are designed for tinkering with, climbing on, and crawling through, so as to teach you about science and perception through play. Adults as well as kids will enjoy blowing giant bubbles or entering a tiny room that scrambles one's sense of perspective. Don't miss the Tactile Dome, where during an intense 15-minute odyssey through pitch-blackness, you encounter hundreds of different shapes, temperatures, and textures; advance reservations for the Tactile Dome are essential.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 10 am to 5 pm.

Fillmore Jazz Festival

Twenty years before Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead transformed the Haight into hippie haven, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Count Basie were claiming Fillmore Street as an international jazz capital. In a tip of the hat to San Francisco's rich musical tradition, the Fillmore Jazz Festival was founded in 1985. Ever since, nearly 90,000 fans fill the street during Fourth of July weekend, all ears for predominantly local talent including San Francisco favorites, the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra. The event brings artists from around the Bay Area to show their works, and it remains the biggest free jazz fest on the West Coast.

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Frog's Leap
8815 Conn Creek Road
Rutherford , California
Tel: 800 959 4704 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 963 4704

Frog's Leap provides a playful counterpoint to Napa Valley's stuffier wineries. Built around a big red barn, Frog's Leap feels like exactly what it is: a farm. Outside the tasting room, wander past a frog pond through meandering organic gardens of heirloom vegetables and flowers, and pluck sun-warmed fruit right off the trees (come in August, when the peaches ripen). All of the wines are made with organically grown grapes. Though the winery produces some very respectable and long-lingering merlot, its sauvignon blanc is the star of the show: Delicate, with bright fruit overtones, this is one of Napa's best-known wines. Because of legal restrictions, you'll have to take the full tour to sample the juice, but the light-hearted staff and magical gardens will make you glad you did. Tasting fee, appointment required.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 4 pm.

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Gay Pride
San Francisco , California

As befits this gay mecca, San Francisco has one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world, drawing nearly a million attendees on the last weekend of June. Celebrating the birth of the gay rights movement, the event is a giant fiesta where you can drink frozen margaritas all day long, boogie to thudding dance music, and admire the spectacularly costumed attendees, from eyelash-batting drag queens to stilt walkers in rainbow caftans, traveling west along Market Street from Beale Street to Eighth Street. Check the Web site for times and details.

Geffen Playhouse
10886 Le Conte Avenue
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 310 208 5454

Housed in a beautiful old stone building with a shrub-lined courtyard, the 522-seat Geffen Playhouse celebrated its tenth anniversary last year with a $19 million renovation that included upgraded seats in a gentle stadium slope, state-of-the-art acoustics, and an additional new 120-seat theater for more intimate productions. The offerings range from the classics to the debut of new works, and in the past have included such names as Sam Shepard, David Mamet, and Steve Martin.

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Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 310 440 7300

This is architect Richard Meier's masterwork, a stunning 110-acre modernist complex in the Santa Monica Mountains housing the Getty Museum and other foundation buildings. When it was commissioned in 1984, the white travertine came from a quarry near Rome, and a special guillotine method for slicing it had to be developed for the construction. The Getty Museum is a symphony of light, with pools, fountains, and walls of glass bricks. The painting galleries are entirely illuminated by natural light filtered to protect the art. The Getty has had some financial and identity problems in recent years, but finally hired Australian Michael Brand in August 2005 as its new director and is at work shoring up its image. As you'd expect from an institution with a $5 billion endowment, the Getty has some big-ticket pieces, including works by Titian and Rubens, Cezanne's Still Life with Apples, and Van Gogh's Irises. The collection of decorative arts is wonderful, and now that the Getty Villa (see below) has reopened, the area once occupied by antiquities has been remodeled to house the renowned photography collection. Guests can choose from a self-service café, the sandwiches and salads of the Garden Terrace Cafe, or the Restaurant, which is open for lunch daily, but for dinner only on Friday and Saturday nights (reservations are advisable: 310-440-6810).

Closed Mondays.

Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu , California
Tel: 310 440 7300

After nine years of renovations and additions, the Getty Villa, the hilltop Malibu site of the original Getty Museum, reopened in January of 2006. The museum's antiquities collection—some 44,000 different works, concentrating on the ancient Greeks, the Etruscans, and the Romans—is housed in a reproduction of the Villa dei Papiri, one of the most lavish houses in Herculaneum, destroyed in A.D. 79 by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. The villa and gardens are actually quite lovely, in spite of the obvious kitsch factor. Among the additions is a 450-seat amphitheater, where in summer audiences can enjoy open-air productions of Greek and Roman masterpieces. The Villa Theater Lab also presents experimental interpretations of the classics by local groups like the Latino comedy ensemble Culture Clash. Tickets are free, but must be booked in advance by calling ahead or visiting the website.

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Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco , California

Opened in 1937, Golden Gate Bridge is named after the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. Its color, "international orange," was selected to enhance its visibility to ships in the fog. Perhaps the world's most beautiful bridge, it is also its leading suicide location: More than 1,200 have jumped to date. Plastic-wrapped notes found in the jumpers' pockets include the lines "Survival of the fittest," "Adios—unfit," and "Absolutely no reason except I have a toothache." Instead of driving or cycling (or jumping), walk across the bridge to savor the majestic views—but be sure to dress appropriately. It can get chilly up there, and favorite hats have been known to sail away in the gusting wind.

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Golden Gate Park
San Francisco , California

This lovely park, created by Scotsman John McLaren toward the end of the 19th century, is so lush and blossom-filled that it's hard to believe it was built on barren dunes. Lounge on the grass among the gorgeous flowerbeds in front of the Conservatory of Flowers, the oldest existing conservatory in the Western Hemisphere. Take tea in the teahouse in the Japanese Garden, with its carp-filled ponds, dainty bridges, and bronze Buddha. And if you're feeling energetic, hike Strawberry Hill or an island in Stow Lake, or rent bikes (try Golden Gate Park Skate & Bike, 3038 Fulton St.; 415-668-1117) and head for Ocean Beach.

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Pebble Beach , California

The marquee course at Pebble Beach, Pebble Beach Golf Links (pictured) is every bit as gorgeous as it looks in the hundreds of pictures you've seen of it. It's tough to get a tee time, and you'll pay through the nose once you do—upwards of $450 per player—but this is the quintessential California golf experience (1700 17-Mile Dr.; 800-654-9300; If you can't schedule a tee or stomach the fee, take heart: You can still have drop-dead water views from the Links at Spanish Bay, a traditional Scottish course on the same peninsula, where greens fees are $200 lower. There's also Pebble Beach's third course, Spyglass Hill, where only the first nine holes overlook the ocean; the second half of the course moves inland among forested areas. Greens fees are about the same as at the Links at Spanish Bay.

If even that's too rich for your blood, try the independent Poppy Hills Golf Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. The course sits slightly inland, near the other Pebble Beach courses, and lacks the spectacular ocean views of its neighbors. Greens fees hover around $200, however, which is the best you'll find in Pebble Beach (3200 Lopez Dr., at 17-Mile Drive; 831-625-2035;

Golf in this area isn't limited to Pebble Beach, of course; Quail Lodge and Carmel Valley Ranch are two top-rated resorts in Carmel Valley, and Bayonet was built by the U.S. Army at Monterey's old Fort Ord. For more information, visit

San Diego , California

Thanks to the year-round idyllic weather, there are more than 90 public and private golf courses in San Diego county. Topping the must-play list of courses open to the public: Torrey Pines Golf Course, one of the top municipal courses in the country and home of the 2008 U.S. Open (; Poway's Maderas Golf Club, an 18-hole championship course designed by Johnny Miller (; and Aviara Golf Club, an Arnold Palmer–designed 18-hole, 7,007-yard course at the posh Four Seasons Resort in Carlsbad (

Golf Resorts

With streets named for Gerald Ford, Dinah Shore, and Bob Hope, you know the Coachella Valley is obsessed with golf. The city of Palm Desert is golf central: Classic Club hosts the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic each January, but novice players are equally at home. Instead of standard-issue palms, look for pine, olive, and pepperwood trees and flower beds lining the fairways. A 65,000-square-foot Tuscan-style clubhouse is due for completion in summer 2007 (75-200 Northstar Resort Pkwy.; 760-601-3600; Marriott's Shadow Ridge, designed by Nick Faldo (there's a Faldo Golf Institute on site), is playable for all levels, even if some of the bunkers are challenging (9200 Shadow Ridge Rd.; 760-674-2700; Nearby, Desert Willow receives raves for its two photogenic, environmentally friendly courses: The Mountain View course has wide fairways, while the tougher 7,056-yard Firecliff Course has more than 100 bunkers with dramatic desert landscaping (38-995 Desert Willow Dr.; 760-346-7060; Down valley, there's the Golf Resort at Indian Wells. The Celebrity Course opened November 2006, designed by Ryder Cup member Clive Clark. Rolling waters and wildflowers lend a botanical-garden look (44-500 Indian Wells La.; 800-874-8190; In La Quinta, the Arnold Palmer–designed SilverRock Resort has tees suitable for all levels of play. It's at the base of the majestic Santa Rosa Mountains, surrounded by 100 acres of natural desert landscape (79-179 Ahmanson La.; 888-600-7272;

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Griffith Observatory
2800 E. Observatory Road
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 213 473 0800

This 72-year-old Greek Revival landmark on a hilltop in Griffith Park is one of L.A.'s most recognizable icons, forever enshrined in the zeitgeist by the movie Rebel Without a Cause. The observatory finally reopened in fall of 2006, after an extensive $93 million renovation, including an addition and repairs to the façade. Most of the 40,000 square-foot addition is underground, and includes the new 200-seat Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater. The Samuel Oschain Planetarium has added all the latest digital bells and whistles, including a state-of-the-art new projector; astronomy shows are held in the planetarium every hour. The Observatory is also known for its hiking trails. However, trails to the north and east of the Observatory remain closed because of damage from wildfires. Only the trail from Fern Dell to the Observatory, which offers sweeping views past the Hollywood sign to the ocean, remains open.

Guided Tours
Palm Springs , California
Tel: 760 416 7044

Five miles south of downtown are four palm-studded canyons, stewarded by the Agua Caliente Indians and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Most popular are the 15-mile-long Palm Canyon (end of S. Palm Canyon Drive) and the sacred Tahquitz Canyon (500 W. Mesquite, just west of Palm Canyon Drive) with its 60-foot waterfall, rock art, and ancient irrigation systems. Both locations have free hiking maps and rangers available for guide tours at the canyon entrances ($8 for adults; an extra $3 per person to have a ranger show you the way).

Hayes Valley

Home to stylish clothing boutiques, furniture stores, and art galleries, Hayes Valley is the perfect place for window-shopping. Nearly every business is homegrown and unique (residents campaigned to stop a Starbucks from moving in). Salivate over the handmade shoes at Paolo, or the 220-plus sakes at True Sake. Recharge at cult favorite Blue Bottle Coffee with a rich, organic Gibraltar (a shot of espresso with a short pour of steamed milk).

Hearst Castle
750 Hearst Castle Drive
San Simeon , California
Tel: 800 444 4445 or 805 927 2010

Publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst's monument to himself is by far the best-known attraction on the California coast. Perched high atop La Cuesta Encantada (the enchanted hill) and modeled after the grandest European châteaux, it really is a castle, occupying a whopping 90,000 square feet, with 56 bedrooms and 61 bathrooms divided between four buildings. You can't possibly see it all in one day, but for most people, one of the five different tours suffices. If you've never been here, take Tour No. 1 to get an overview. (Make reservations well in advance; spots are limited.) If you're staying in Big Sur or Monterey, plan for a long day trip. It takes two to three hours to make the one-way trek, depending on traffic, and you'll want to spend at least a few hours at the castle. If you want to break the visit into two days, note that San Simeon has notoriously lousy lodging (the nicest place is the Best Western). For greater selection, head to nearby Cambria instead, which has better food, some cute B&Bs, and several passable seaside motels, but nothing that we believe merits a write-up here.

Henry Miller Memorial Library
Highway 1 (¼ mile of south of Nepenthe)
Big Sur , California
Tel: 831 667 2574

The brilliant and controversial writer was a native New Yorker, but his archive is here, in the town where he lived for 18 years and wrote some of his best work. If you like Miller, or think you might after having seen Henry & June, check out the library. It's a coffeehouse and cultural center of sorts, with open-mike nights and an outdoor film series in summer (call ahead to see what's on the calendar). The wooded grounds and funky little sculpture garden are lovely places to curl up with a book, and you're welcome to linger as long as you like. There's even Wi-Fi access, as well as an old blue iMac on an outdoor deck where you can check your e-mail.

Open Wednesdays through Sundays 11 am to 6 pm.

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Highway 1

Craggy cliffs plunge a dizzying 1,000 feet to the crashing surf along California's most famous stretch of coastline. Highway 1 between Big Sur and San Simeon isn't an easy drive, but oh, the views! Plan to stop at pullouts and overlooks along the way, especially at the famous Bixby Creek Bridge, just south of Carmel, which you'll recognize from countless car commercials. Just north of San Simeon, you can pull off near Point Piedras Blancas to spot scores of elephant seals lazing in the sand. Tip: Fuel up before heading south; gasoline in Big Sur costs a full dollar more per gallon than in Carmel or Monterey. Plan two to three hours for the one-way trip.

Big Sur , California

The best hiking in Big Sur isn't right along the coastline. Because the cliffs here tower a thousand feet high and drop precipitously to the pounding surf below, there are countless rocky coves and tiny sand beaches that are entirely inaccessible; the land is just too steep for trails.On the inland side of Highway 1, though, it's a different story. Here, the terrain is manageable enough that you can get those stunning views—without plummeting to your death. For major visual impact and only minor physical output, head to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, south of the town of Big Sur. Take the flat Waterfall Trail (about a half mile, round-trip), which leads to a fabulous overlook with a year-round waterfall. Hardier souls can reach the tops of the coastal ridges via the Tan Bark Trail, a 6.5 mile round-trip hike into the hills.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, abutting the town of Big Sur, has lots of great trails, including Pfeiffer Falls, an easy 1.4-mile round-trip walk through redwood groves to a 60-foot waterfall. Serious hikers should continue into the adjacent Ventana Wilderness, part of Los Padres National Forest. Be prepared for some intense elevation gains: Some of the mountains rise nearly 5,000 feet within two miles of the coast. This is rugged country—you'll need proper hiking boots and physical stamina. You should also bring water and wear layers you can remove. Although it may look foggy near the water in all these hiking areas, once you climb high enough, you'll emerge into the blazing-hot sun.

Los Angeles , California

Nobody walks in L.A., but they do hike. There are great trails along the Santa Monica Mountain bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the forested Angeles Crest. Or you can head uphill into Hollywood's Runyon Canyon, where somewhat disheveled celebrities can often be glimpsed walking their dogs off-leash. In Beverly Hills, there's Franklin Canyon. For information and maps of these and other trails, check out, or contact the Sierra Club (213-387-4287; for information about its organized walks.

Los Angeles , California

Hollywood is the same sun-blasted mecca for celebrity worshippers it's always been, but trees now line the main drag, Hollywood Boulevard. At night, the club-crawlers come out to play, even though the A-list spots come and go at warp speed (see our Nightlife section for help). The Kodak Theatre hosts the Academy Awards and other splashy events, which means that several blocks of the Boulevard near Highland Avenue are perpetually closed off to traffic. There's still no great shopping (unless you're looking for T-shirts or platform sandals in men's sizes), but lots of hip restaurants and bars. Hollywood is filled with ornate Mediterranean and Art Deco buildings, all gradually getting face-lifts. Thai Town and Little Armenia occupy the eastern end, with great ethnic markets and restaurants, like the famed Palms Thai, where a Thai Elvis-imitator performs nightly.

Hollywood Bowl
2301 N. Highland Avenue
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 323 850 2000

Open from late May through early October, this famed outdoor venue hosts jazz, rock, and country performers, along with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The shell was originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and later updated by Frank Gehry. There are 18,000 seats—the boxes are jealously reserved, but (shhh, don't tell the A-listers) the acoustics are actually better in some of the cheap seats.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery
6000 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 323 469 1181

The "resting place of Hollywood's immortals" is L.A.'s answer to Père Lachaise in Paris; here, loyal fans can visit the tombstones of everyone from Rudolph Valentino to Johnny Ramone. Among the palm trees and mausoleums, there are even video screens that show Life Stories (like mini bio-pics put together by the families of the deceased). Occasionally in the summer, the public is invited to charity screenings: You can take a picnic dinner and a blanket and watch a movie in the graveyard. Hey, that's showbiz!

Horseback Riding
Andrew Molera State Park , California

If you can't commit to a hike but want to go where cars can't, consider hitting the trail on horseback. Molera Horseback Tours runs guided rides that wind through Andrew Molera State Park to the beach; some pass through forests of redwood and oak, and along the mouth of the Big Sur River. Group rides last from one to 2.5 hours; prices for most rides are between $25 and $60. You can also book a private guided ride for as little as $36. (831-625-5486 or 800-942-5486;

Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino , California
Tel: 626 405 2100

Aside from its renowned art collection and rare antique books—which include one of the two earliest-known editions of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales —the main draw of this property is its magnificent botanical gardens. There's a three-acre rose garden with more than 1,200 varieties of bloom (as well as a lovely tea room), a remarkable 12-acre desert garden, English gardens, and Japanese gardens. A new Chinese garden, which due to be completed in 2008, will include a lake with carved-stone bridges, and pavilions and walkways set among rock gardens and native Chinese flora.

Closed Mondays.

Indian Springs Resort & Spa
1712 Lincoln Avenue
Calistoga , California
Tel: 707 942 4913

Before Napa became famous for wine in the late 1970s, the valley was best known for the boiling hot springs bubbling up through volcanic mud in Calistoga. The little main-street town was founded in the 1850s by Sam Brannan, an East Coast entrepreneur who envisioned a California version of New York's Saratoga. (Legend has it he was a drunk and declared the town the "Calistoga of Sarafornia.") Opened by Brannan himself, Indian Springs is the granddaddy of the town's mud-bath emporiums. There's nothing fancy about the utilitarian 19th-century spa building, but this is the real deal. You get buried in mud, soak in a tub of clear hot-spring water, then take a eucalyptus steam before drifting away in a blanket wrap; tack on a massage and facial for the full treatment. The effect is glorious: you'll feel both relaxed and detoxified. Afterward, take a swim in the gigantic, hot spring–fed swimming pool. The resort also rents cozy 1940s cottages and hotel rooms with Frette linens.

Open daily 8 am to 9 pm.

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Jack London State Park
2400 London Ranch Road
Glen Ellen , California
Tel: 707 938 5216

Carve out a couple of hours of non-wine time for a visit to Jack London State Park, named for the author who once owned the land. London constructed an enormous dream home here in 1913, known as the Wolf House, and on the day before he was to move in, the house burned to the ground. The foundation still stands today, as does the house London's widow built after his death—the House of Happy Walls, which now doubles as a museum about the author. Look for the peephole above the living room; during parties, the reclusive Mrs. London used to spy on her guests from the second floor. Hiking around the park ranges from easy to moderately difficult, through ancient redwood forests; some trails ascend as high as 2200 feet above the valley floor, providing stunning views of the bucolic landscape. If you'd rather see the park by horseback, contact Triple Creek Horse Outfit (707-887-8700;

Monterey , California

Monterey Bay supports one of the world's most diverse ecosystems and spans a whopping 5,300 square miles. A National Marine Sanctuary since 1992, it's an absolute must to explore by water, with frolicking sea lions and sea otters, low-flying pelicans, and giant orange starfish common sights.

If you've never gone kayaking, don't worry: It's fairly easy—assuming you're in reasonable shape and you stick to relatively sheltered areas (if you head out to sea, you're on your own). Monterey Bay Kayaks provides rentals, instruction, and tours for all levels; most tours last three hours and cost about $60 (800-649-5357; ) . If you want real drama, take a sunset paddle, or time your trip by the lunar cycles and take a full-moon tour.

Kayaking La Jolla Cove
La Jolla
San Diego , California

Kayaking is a good way to explore La Jolla Cove's cliffs and dramatic sea caves. La Jolla Kayak rents tandem and single sit-on-top kayaks and offers guided tours (2199 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla; 858-459-1114; Bring snorkel gear (or rent it) and watch for bright orange garibaldi fish, bottlenose dolphin, sea lions, and (harmless) leopard sharks below the waves.

Kids' Stuff
Los Angeles , California

Aside from—obviously—Disneyland, there are lots of other sights and activities in L.A. that are geared toward kids. They'll be wowed by the La Brea Tar Pits, in mid-Wilshire, a site where asphalt bubbled up out of the earth about 40,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch—the last of four Ice Ages—trapping mammoths, giant sloths, and sabre-toothed tigers (way post-dinosaur-age). The remains of these animals have been retrieved since 1906 and are now on display. The adjacent George C. Page Museum has one of the world's most famous collections of fossils and bones, and during summer months there is an observation deck from which visitors can watch paleontogists carefully digging through the black muck (5801 Wilshire Blvd.; 323-934-7243;

Universal Studios adds to its tour and park attractions whenever a blockbuster warrants it. Right now the tours are narrated by Whoopi Goldberg and include TV-show sets from Crossing Jordan and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (how scintillating is that lineup?). Some of the park attractions are "The Fast and the Furious: Extreme Closeup," and a Fear Factor audience-participation attraction. A recent fire destroyed the 20-foot high King Kong as well as the studios New York streets, but Universal says it will rebuild the Big Apple and add a new attraction to replace the giant ape (100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City; 800-864-8377; More subdued is the Warner Bros. VIP tour, better for older children who love the movies and who are interested in visiting the sets and soundstages of the studio (4000 Warner Blvd., Burbank; Another venue best for older children is Six Flags Magic Mountain, which has the Guinness World Record for the most roller coasters in one place (26101 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia; 818-367-5965;

Legion of Honor
Lincoln Park
34th Avenue at Clement Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 863 3330

This magnificent Beaux Arts building commands dramatic views of Golden Gate Bridge. Inside, its collection of ancient and European art spans 4,000 years, including more than 70 Rodin sculptures representing every phase of his career. Don't miss The Thinker and the bust of the artist by his lover, Camille Claudel.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 9:30 am to 5:15 pm.

Legoland California
Carlsbad , California
Tel: 760 918 5364

This 128-acre theme park, made up of 15,000 LEGO models built from more than 30 million LEGO bricks, sounds kitschy, but it's actually pretty cool. The rides, shows, and waterpark playgrounds are best for families with children aged 2 to 12. There are also a few roller coaster–style attractions to keep teenagers from dragging their feet.


It has been said that San Francisco, the birthplace of a generation of Beat authors, is a city in love with two things: books and booze. Once a year, local literati—Armistead Maupin, Dave Eggers, Amy Tan, Michelle Tea—and their fans celebrate this happy, drunken marriage with a festival of readings and panel discussions. Sound boring? In any other city, it might be. Litquake, however, draws literary-minded hipsters to dive bars, swank lounges, and even laundromats with honeyed words and drink tickets. The weeklong festival, which opens the first weekend in October, culminates in a Saturday night three-hour LitCrawl through various bars in the Mission, with more than 300 authors giving readings on topics ranging from food and pets to war and sex.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 323 857 6000

LACMA's permanent collection of over 100,000 works includes everything from extraordinary Asian antiquities to period costumes to contemporary artworks. It also hosts a steady series of temporary exhibitions, some so popular the museum has been forced to stay open into the late night. The various buildings on the museum's 20-acre campus have gone up at different times, in disparate styles; Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano won the commission (over Rem Koolhaas) to unify the museum, adding a 20,000-square-foot glass entrance pavilion, as well as a covered concourse linking the open spaces between buildings. The renovation included an expansion of the Ahmanson Building with a skylighted hall for music and art performances, lectures, and other public events.

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Marin Headlands
Marin County , California

A 30-minute drive directly north of San Francisco, the rolling hills and dramatic cliffs of the Marin Headlands offer the perfect respite from city bustle. The wildflower-covered hillsides bear the occasional ruin of an Army gun emplacement, and the sea breeze may bring the bleat of foghorns, each with its own distinctive pattern. Lizards dart across the path, and you may be lucky enough to see a deer. Pack a picnic and sunscreen, drive to Rodeo Beach/Fort Cronkhite, then follow the trail up from the beach to explore the headlands.


Less than a half-hour drive from downtown, Tijuana (abbreviated to TJ by locals), especially the area around Avenida Revolución, is dirty, loud, cheesy, and touristy to the extreme, but it can be entertaining. More upscale dining and nightlife can be found at Plaza Fiesta in the heart of TJ's Zona Rio ( Giving Tijuana a run for its tourist money is the small, casual resort town of Rosarito, 17 miles farther south via the Rosarito–Tijuana toll road ( Slightly farther still is Puerto Nuevo, a tiny fishing village that's famous for its local lobsters served with beans, rice, and fresh tortillas. Driving across the border can be daunting, so take the San Diego Trolley to the border at TJ, then catch a shuttle from there straight to Rosarito Beach Hotel ( If you do decide to drive, make sure you buy Mexican auto insurance, either from your rental car company or one of the many agencies near the border, before leaving the U.S.; then stick to the toll road and try not to do much driving after dark.

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The Mission

Home to the city's Latino community and popular with artists and yuppies, too, the gritty Mission District has taquerías and thrift stores, hip bars and upscale design boutiques—don't miss Monument for glam midcentury furniture and accessories (573 Valencia St.; 415-861-9800). In the streets around Mission and 24th, you'll find colorful Latino murals, especially in Balmy Alley. Visit the lovely old Mission Dolores, which gave the area its name (3321 16th St.; 415-621-8203). Your tour would be incomplete without a burrito: Locals favor El Farolito for its knock-out carne asada (2779 Mission St.; 415-824-7877).—Updated by John Vlahides

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Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey , California
Tel: 831 648 4800

This aquarium is one of the best in the world, and the top reason to visit touristy downtown Monterey. Press your nose against the glass of a million-gallon tank,the world's largest,for a window into the sea life that dwells in the bay, including hammerhead sharks and translucent jellyfish. You can also watch otters performing their daily ablutions and see divers feeding swarms of hungry fish in the giant kelp forest tank (daily at 11:30 am and 4 pm). Other exhibits and events cover everything from tide pools to cooking demonstrations. Kids get their own special activities and educational programs, with penguins and touch tanks and patient staff members to keep things entertaining. Education is a big deal at the aquarium. Pick up a copy of the Seafood Watch: Sustainable Seafood Choices brochure, which tells you which edible fish are endangered. To avoid having to wait in long lines to enter, particularly on weekends and in the summer, book tickets ahead of time, by phone or online (some hotels also sell tickets). If you prefer the swishing of fins to the patter of thousands of little feet, call ahead to ask about adult-only visiting hours.

Open daily 10 am to 6 pm.

Mountain Biking
Los Angeles , California

Mountain-biking trails run through the Santa Monica Mountains from Griffith Park to the Pacific. On any given day, you'll see purple-faced actors with washboard abs pumping furiously up canyons as if starring roles were being handed out on the peaks. Check or for routes. Two of many bike-rental companies are Hollywood Pro Bicycles (323-466-5890) and Spokes 'n Stuff Rental in Santa Monica (310-395-4748).

The Mountains
Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead
Big Bear , California

About two hours' drive northeast from downtown, Arrowhead has an Alpine village feel, while Big Bear is more rustic, with traditional log cabins. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, there's a whole menu of summer activities, from horseback riding to mountain biking, plus fishing and boating (909-866-7000,; or 909-337-3715,

Musée Mecanique
Pier 45
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 346 2000

Bring quarters (or dollars for the change machine) so that you can fully enjoy this bizarre collection of historic arcade games housed at this wacky museum on Fisherman's Wharf. At the entrance stands Laffing Sal, a gap-toothed six-foot mannequin whose raucous cackle will haunt you as you explore further. Perhaps you'll ask the Sex Appeal Meter to rate your attractiveness, or maybe you'll test your strength on the Arm Wrestle Machine. Kids will love the clockwork farm, where 50 cents activates a host of tiny moving people and animals.

Open Mondays through Fridays 10 am to 7 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 10 am to 8 pm.

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
700 Prospect Street
La Jolla , California
Tel: 858 454 3541

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) features art from 1950 to the present day in two locations, one on the beautiful coastline of La Jolla, the other in downtown San Diego in a converted loft (formerly the Santa Fe Depot baggage building). The galleries show edgy rolling exhibitions and include pieces from their collection of more than 4,000 works by the likes of Robert Irwin and Yoshitomo Nara. The La Jolla gallery is worth a visit for the dramatic cliff-side setting alone. While there, check out MCASD's X Store and stop off at the organic café.

Open Thursdays through Tuesdays 11 am to 5 pm, third Thursday of the month 11 am to 7 pm.

Museum of Craft + Design
550 Sutter Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 773 0303

This museum, sandwiched between the boutique hotels, bars, and shops just off Union Square, is much cooler than it sounds. Enter through a magnificent wrought-iron gate to a charming courtyard garden. Inside the unpretentious museum—the size of a gracious one-bedroom apartment—unexpected traveling exhibitions speak to the art of handmade design. Past showings have included a collection of artworks composed of common tools, as well as a study of wine label art. Pick up unique gift items—a "bubble wrap" vase or homespun scarf—at the funky museum store.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 am to 5 pm, Sundays noon to 5 pm.

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Museum of Latin American Art
628 Alamitos Avenue
Long Beach , California
Tel: 562 437 1689

This plucky new museum has big ambitions. Dedicated in 2003 with an initial gift of 60 pieces, its permanent collection has already expanded to some 850 pieces, making it the largest museum in the United States devoted to Latin American art. That art ranges from works by David Alfaro Siqueiros to contemporary artists like Claudio Bravo and Alejandro Otero. The sculpture garden now houses live performances as well.

Music Festivals
Big Sur + Monterey , California

The famous annual Monterey Jazz Festival brings in jazz and blues luminaries from around the world the third weekend in September. Past performers have included Bonnie Raitt and Dave Brubeck (831-373-3366;

The Carmel Bach Festival, which has been running since 1935, draws international artists to venues throughout the area; for maximum atmosphere, attend a performance at the 18th-century Carmel Mission (831-624-2046; The music performed is—obviously—Bach-centric, but pieces by other 17th- and 18th-century luminaries such Mozart and Vivaldi are also included.

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Nickel & Nickel
8164 St. Helena Highway (Hwy. 29)
Oakville , California
Tel: 707 967 9600

Nickel & Nickel is one of the Napa Valley's top cabernet producers. It also happens to be one of the most gentil and best-looking wineries along Highway 29. The restored farmstead includes two 1920s barns, an 18th-century barn brought piece by piece from New Hampshire, and an 1884 farmhouse with a wraparound porch, all surrounded by white fencing. After a quick tour of the grounds and production areas, guests gather in one of the farmhouse's Victorian-era parlors to taste the wine. The thing that's special here is the terroir: All of the wines are made with single-vineyard, single-varietal grapes. Each is produced by the same winemaker, using the same processes and techniques; the only thing that varies is the ground in which the grapes grow. The composition of the soil in Napa changes from district to district; here you can learn firsthand how these variations affect the outcome of the wine. Expect to sample four different cabernets, each from the same year but from different vineyards. Food-friendly, rich in fruit, and not overly tannic, these wines are balanced and elegant—well worth the hefty $40 tasting fee. Appointment required.

Open Mondays through Fridays 10 am to 3 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 10 am to 4 pm.

Nob Hill

First colonized by railroad magnates and silver barons, Nob Hill is now home to apartment buildings with wedding-cake facades and venerable hotels like the Fairmont. Observe the cable-car system's innards at the Cable Car Museum. Then visit the neo-Gothic pile of Grace Cathedral nearby, begun in 1927 and completed in 1964. Enjoy a walk on the terrazzo-stone replica of Chartres labyrinth in the church courtyard, designed to inspire spiritual meditation. For further relaxation, book an ultimate massage at award-winning Nob Hill Spa inside the Huntington Hotel.

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North Beach

Traditionally an Italian neighborhood, North Beach was also the hangout of Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder. A necessary stop for any bibliophile is City Lights Bookstore, the bookseller and publishing house founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, which first printed Allen Ginsberg's Howl. After browsing, grab a cappuccino at Caffe Trieste, where opera singers enliven Saturday afternoons. Stroll through Washington Square Park, where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio posed for wedding pictures in front of the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. After dark, there's no place like Tosca. Opened in 1919, this retro watering hole is a favorite stomping ground for local literary types and international celebs.

Norton Simon Museum
411 W. Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena , California
Tel: 626 449 6840

Amid beautiful gardens inspired by Monet's Giverny, this somewhat drab, boxy museum (built in 1969) had its interior spruced up by Frank Gehry in the late '90s. Inside, there's a treasure trove of European paintings from the 14th to the 20th century and a dazzling collection of Asian art. Degas is well represented, as is Picasso, and there's a fantastic series of French Impressionist galleries. The café, like so many others in Los Angeles, is run by Chef Joachim Splichal's Patina Group, and serves salads and sandwiches.

Old Globe
1363 Old Globe Way
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 234 5623

Built during the 1935 California Exposition in Balboa Park, the Old Globe is a Tony Award–winning theater that puts on world-class shows, some (like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Full Monty) before they hit Broadway. A season of 14 plays and musicals are presented year-round on three stages. It also hosts the highly regarded Shakespeare festival every summer.

Pacific Heights
San Francisco , California

Erected in the late 19th century, the elaborate Victorians here are now inhabited by millionaires. Notable houses include the Spreckels Mansion (2080 Washington St.), owned by novelist Danielle Steel, and the Haas-Lilienthal House (2007 Franklin St.; 415-441-3004), a restored Queen Anne Victorian. Enjoy the views from Lafayette Park and the steps at Broadway and Lyon streets, then head over to the ritzy Upper Fillmore for some shopping.

Paddle Sports of Santa Barbara (Kayaking)
117B Harbor Way
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 899 4925

See the flip side of Santa Barbara from a sit-on-top kayak. Paddle Sports offers a range of guided day trips along the coast; full-moon tours departing from the harbor just before sunset; kayak and bike combos; and day trips and multi-day kayaking trips in the Channel Islands, where you can paddle into mammoth sea caves and coves, encounter dolphins and seals, see spectacular blowholes, and even camp overnight at Scorpion Ranch on Santa Cruz Island.

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Palace of Fine Arts
3301 Lyon Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 567 6642

A mock-classical ruin erected for the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in 1915, the Palace of Fine Arts was originally fashioned from wood, plaster, and burlap and intended to be merely temporary. But when the exhibition finished, locals wisely decided the building was too lovely to destroy. Ravaged by the elements, it was eventually recast in concrete in the '60s. Watch for swans and turtles sunning themselves, as well as posing brides: The building is a popular backdrop for wedding pictures.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
One Tramway Road
Palm Springs , California
Tel: 760 325 1391

This ten-minute cable-car ride takes you 8,800 feet up Mt. San Jacinto (the next 2,000 feet to the top are under your own steam). The ascent goes from sandy desert to alpine snowfields, with a 30-degree temperature drop. Stay for dinner at the fine-dining Peaks restaurant or casual Pines Café. Adults $22, tram only; $35 for the ride and dinner at Pines Café.

Palm Springs Celebrity Homes Tour
4751 E. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs , California
Tel: 760 770 2700

Check out how the other half lives on this witty tour past the homes of Bob Hope, Goldie Hawn, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Elvis, and Dean Martin. Tours range from one hour ($30) to two and a half hours ($35).

Pasadena , California

Pasadena is famous for the Rose Bowl and Parade, and for the remarkably beautiful architecture, including landmark Greene and Greene houses. Old Pasadena once was a bohemian mecca, but though it's evolved into a collection of chain stores, it does still have Vroman's, the largest independent bookstore in town (695 E. Colorado Blvd.; 626-449-5320; The Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa (626-568-3900; is a landmark with a great high tea. Not far away is the beautiful Santa Anita Race Track, as well as the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Don't miss the Huntington Library + Gardens (see above); the generous-sized cactus garden, formal Japanese gardens, and English landscaped gardens are wonderful.

Pasadena Playhouse
39 S. El Molino Avenue
Pasadena , California
Tel: 626 356 7529

This Spanish-colonial landmark with its welcoming tiled central patio was built in 1917, and some of filmdom's most highly regarded actors, including Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman, trained here in the theater's heyday. Closed and nearly destroyed in the seventies, it was revived in 1986 following extensive renovations, and it now offers well-regarded productions ranging from the classics to musicals to new plays, starring an array of well-known faces from film and television.

Petco Park
100 Park Boulevard
San Diego , California
Tel: 877 374 2784 (tickets); 619 795 5011 (tours)

You don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate San Diego's new PETCO Park, a state-of-the-art baseball stadium in the newly revitalized East Village that holds 42,445 people and has seven restaurants. It was inaugurated by the San Diego Padres in the 2004 season. To avoid traffic on game day, park in Old Town and take the trolley to the game.

PlumpJack Winery
620 Oakville Cross Road
Oakville , California
Tel: 707 945 1220

A cult favorite, this medium-size boutique winery in Oakville is partially owned by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and billionaire Gordon Getty. PlumpJack doesn't do organized tours or allow limousines on the property, but it does have a whimsical Shakespeare-themed tasting room (PlumpJack is a reference to Jack Falstaff, the famously rotund character in Shakespeare's Henry IV). The staff pours between one and three featured varietals daily. The luscious cabernet has a rich mouthfeel and lingers long on the palate. There's also a worthwhile reserve chardonnay and a syrah rich with overtones of caramel. Unlike other Napa Valley wineries, you won't pay a fortune to taste here, just a mere $10. Don't be surprised when the tasting-room attendant opens a new bottle: PlumpJack is the winery largely responsible for the proliferation of screw tops on fine wines, claiming that these tops prevent spoilage. Tasting fee, no reservation required.

Open daily 10 am to 4 pm.

Point Lobos State Reserve
Highway 1 (just south of Carmel)
Point Lobos State Reserve , California
Tel: 831 624 4909

This blustery jewel of a state park is famous for its wind-blown cypress trees clinging to the rocky cliffs, and for its hundreds of barking, braying, sunbathing sea lions. At low tide, tiny crabs and snails cling to the ink-black rocks and crawl in tide pools; you'll want to roll up your pant legs and explore. Harbor seals are born in the end of April and early May (bring binoculars if you want to see them from shore), and migrating gray whales pass by from December to May, making this a primo spot for whale-watching. There are several hiking trails; call ahead to ask about free guided walks. On weekends, though, be sure to show up early: Parking spaces are limited.

Preston of Dry Creek
9282 West Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg , California
Tel: 800 305 9707 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 433 3372

Preston is one of Sonoma County's flagship organic wineries. In 2000, Lou and Susan Preston cut their wine production from 25,000 cases to 8,000 in order to farm more sustainably. An agrarian Shangri-La, the little winery looks like a storybook farmstead, with a white picket fence surrounding the Victorian-era house that serves as the tasting room. Rhône varietals and blends are the standouts here. While not all of them are impressive, there are several noteworthy wines, including a sauvignon blanc with sparkly citrus overtones, the rich barbera, and the L. Preston blend of syrah, cinsault, carignan, and mourvèdre. The tasting room also sells homemade bread, olive oil, and organic homegrown vegetables, perfect for a picnic in the shade of the hundred-year-old walnut tree outside the tasting room. Tasting fee $5, waived with purchase; no appointment necessary.

Open daily 11 am to 4:30 pm.

Reserve Wine Tours
St. Helena , California
Tel: 707 953 1763

Before he began running private wine tours in his luxury SUV, owner Dan Dolen was a psychotherapist. He still prides himself on reading people well, deducing their tastes and interests, and crafting customized tours to suit everyone from the rank novice to the connoisseur. He knows every corner of Napa and Sonoma, and has a passion for introducing his guests to outstanding small producers—little-known family-run wineries that make fewer than 10,000 cases annually. During high season (May to October), it's wise to reserve at least a month in advance.

Russian River
Guerneville , California

The pleasant gay resort town of Guerneville, one of several along the Russian River, is about 90 minutes north of San Francisco up U.S. 101 (or, if you have half a day to spare, you can take gorgeous Highway 1 along the coast). You can swim at Johnson's Beach near the center of town, or hire a canoe and paddle upstream for an hour or two. The Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, 750 acres of towering redwood trees and trails, is two miles north at the top of Armstrong Road. Jonathan and Laura Ayers offer guided horseback tours (707-887-2939;

San Andreas Fault
555 S. Sunrise Way, Suite 200
Palm Springs , California
Tel: 800 514 4866

See what everyone's quivering and quaking about on this air-conditioned Hummer tour to the famous fissure and surrounding geological formations.

San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Drive
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 231 1515

No other local attraction is more synonymous with San Diego than the Zoo, a 90-year-old institution that lives up to its reputation. One hundred acres of lush habitats are home to more than 4,000 rare and endangered animals, representing over 800 species and subspecies. Among the crowd favorites are the koalas and giant panda cubs. In October, admission is free for children 11 and under. Less well-known is the Wild Animal Park, the Zoo's sister attraction. This wildlife sanctuary is built on 1,800 acres in the San Pasqual Valley near Escondido, some 35 miles north of downtown. More like an African safari than a zoo, many of the Park's more than 3,500 animals are housed together in huge shared enclosures to better simulate their real-life habitats (15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido; 760-747-8702;

San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival

June is Pride month in San Francisco. Rainbows flags disco-dance in the breeze along Market Street and there's a certain glitter in the air. But, before you dust off the ol' leather pants and hop a float in the parade, take in some culture at the world's most prominent LGBT film festival. Hosted by Frameline since 1977, the annual exhibition draws up to 80,000 viewers and a bevy of celebs such as Alan Cumming and Jennifer Beals for a lineup of films that range from gritty documentary to quirky indie romance to all-out queer comedy. Past hits have included Itty Bitty Titty Committee and Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
1212 Mission Canyon Road
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 682 4726

You don't have to be from the green-thumb club to love this 78-acre garden in the foothills of Mission Canyon. Wander more than five miles of trails through desert, mountain, redwood forest and arroyo habitats, or take a guided nature tour at 11 a.m. on the weekends and every day at 2 p.m. The garden also has a Japanese teahouse; retail nursery; garden shop; classes in such subjects as Japanese tea traditions and botanical illustration; nature cruises on Lake Casitas; and overnight field courses in the Channel Islands.

Open daily 9 am to 6 pm March through October, 9 am to 5 pm November through February.

Santa Barbara Courthouse
1100 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara , California

Rebuilt after the 1925 earthquake that destroyed much of downtown, this working courthouse with Spanish-Moorish architecture, hand-painted ceilings, wrought-iron chandeliers, imported tiles, painted murals, and a sunken tropical garden is a National Historic Landmark. Make sure to climb the steps to the 85-foot-high tower for a 360-degree view (it closes early, so arrive before 3:30 p.m.). Free guided tours of the courthouse are offered Monday through Saturday at 2 p.m., and Monday, Tuesday, and Friday at 10:30 a.m.

Santa Barbara Mission
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 682 4149

Even if you avoid church tours like the plague, head for this hilltop landmark—the view and historical experience are worth it. Built in 1815 after an earthquake destroyed the original building, this pink sandstone mission with red-tile roof and twin bell towers is the most beautiful of California's 21 missions, and the only one in continuous use since its founding in 1786. Tours are given daily.

Open daily 9 am to 4:30 pm.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1130 State Street
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 963 4354

Founded in 1941, this museum has a surprisingly strong permanent Asian art collection, which includes earthenware Chinese zodiac figures dating back to the sixth century. It also houses American and European art from the 18th century onward (including works by Matisse, Singer Sargent, and Picasso) as well as more contemporary works, from pop art to the current day. In addition, there's an interactive gallery for kids and a variety of visiting exhibits, which have included new photography and video from China, and "Garbo's Garbos," 90 vintage photographs from the actress's private collection.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 11 am to 5 pm.

Santa Barbara Natural History Museum
2559 Puesta del Sol Road
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 682 4711

On 11 acres in Mission Canyon, the museum covers the region with exhibits on local birdlife, insects, mammals, and marine life, plus Chumash Indian artifacts, planetarium shows, and nature trails. Outside the museum, a 72-foot-long skeleton of a blue whale gives you a sense of the giant mammals that migrate through Santa Barbara's waters. The maze of galleries can be difficult to navigate, so make sure to pick up the map.

Open daily 10 am to 5 pm.

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Santa Monica
Santa Monica , California

Santa Monica has its famous pier, the Third Street Promenade (now mostly chain stores, but still with a kid-friendly amusement park), and the famed Wednesday Farmers' Market where local chefs shop for produce. Main Street and Montana Avenue have great shopping in small, upscale boutiques. If you're a surfer, Surfrider Beach is a must; if you're an art-hound don't miss Bergamot Station, a former trolley station taken over by art galleries. It's part of the Santa Monica Museum of Art (2525 Michigan Ave.; 310-586-6488;

Scenic Drives
Los Angeles , California

One of the most dramatic driving routes in Los Angeles is Mulholland Drive, which follows the peaks of the Santa Monica Mountains from the Cahuenga Pass almost to Topanga National Park. The road is lined with mansions, and has spots where both the Los Angeles Basin and the San Fernando Valley are visible.

The Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) from the Santa Monica Freeway north through Malibu and all the way to Oxnard provides fantastic views of the Pacific, the Santa Monica Bay, and all the famed surfing spots to the north of Malibu. There are also lots of restaurants, from the hokey Gladstone's (where Sunset Boulevard meets the highway) all the way up to Neptune's Net, a shack with a parking lot jammed with motorcycles north of Trancas. At sunset, the PCH is glorious. To plan your driving trip, check out

The Angeles Crest Highway (Route 2) climbs 66 miles through the Angeles National Forest from La Canada-Flintridge into the San Gabriel Mountains, ending at Mountain Top Junction near Wrightwood, a popular ski area. The two-lane highway is a bit perilous, especially in bad weather (check the road conditions at, but it's better patrolled than in the past. Drive carefully and you'll have a beautiful mountain journey, with shaded picnic stops, campgrounds, and views. At points the highway reaches nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. Check out for a map and more information.

Schramsberg Vineyards
1400 Schramsberg Road
Calistoga , California

Napa and Sonoma have few fine sparkling-wine producers. Though some (such as Jordan in Sonoma and Domaine Chandon in Napa) are exceptional, nothing compares to Schramsberg, the first sparkling-wine producer in California to use traditional Champagne techniques and varietals. Served at the White House since 1972, Schramsberg's chardonnay-based blanc de blancs is this Napa Valley winery's signature. To sample it, you must take the tour, which includes fascinating historical details about the valley as well as a walk through caves dug 150 years ago by Chinese laborers (bring a sweater; the caves are chilly). Unlike at other sparkling-wine cellars, you'll not only sample the signature wine and a few low-end vintages, you'll also get to taste the entire flight of têtes de cuvées. Call at least a month in advance during high season. Tasting fee; appointment required.

Open daily 10 am to 2:30 pm.

Segway of Santa Barbara
24 E. Mason Street
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 963 7672

Hopefully you'll fare better than President Bush, who took a tumble during his first ride on a Segway, the self-balancing electric-powered human transporter. It's really a no-brainer, and the most fun way to tour downtown Santa Barbara. You can rent a Segway on a per hour or per day basis, or opt for a two- to three-hour guided tour of Old Santa Barbara or Montecito.

Open daily 10 am to 6 pm.

SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)
151 Third Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 357 4000

This architecturally arresting black, gray, and white museum, designed by Mario Botta and built in 1995, has five floors of 20th-century art, including works by Matisse, Pollock, Georgia O'Keeffe, Diego Rivera, and Ansel Adams. Regular free gallery tours help you wrap your head around the vast collection. If you prefer to explore on your own, start with the third-floor photography gallery and work your way up to the rooftop sculpture garden; then descend via the stunning staircase to hit the remaining galleries. Check the Web site to learn about upcoming—and always excellent—temporary exhibits.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Thursdays through Tuesdays 10 am to 5:45 pm.

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Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles , California

Drive its length, from downtown to the Pacific Ocean. You'll pass Echo Park, where lotuses bloom in the lake; the funky shops of Silver Lake; Hollywood High School; Sunset Plaza and the Sunset Strip; residential Beverly Hills and Brentwood; Will Rogers State Historic Park, where you can catch celebrity-studded polo matches; the Pacific Palisades; Mandeville Canyon; and the new-agey Self-Realization Center. It all comes to an end at the Pacific Coast Highway opposite Gladstone's, where the food isn't all that great, but they'll wrap your leftovers in aluminum foil shaped like a swan.

Los Angeles , California

There are surf spots all along the southern part of the California coast; among the best and best-known are Surf Rider Beach in Malibu and Huntington Beach in Orange County You can check the surf conditions at these and many other breaks on and

If you're just learning, you can get lessons here that range from three-hour group classes to week-long surf camps. Try Learn to Surf L.A., which has locations in both Malibu and Santa Monica (310-663-2479;, or Malibu Longboards (310-467-6898;

Sutro Baths/Land's End
San Francisco , California

The Sutro Baths, once three acres of pools that could hold 25,000, closed in 1952 and are now nothing but crumbling walls and brackish ponds. These melancholy ruins, with the churning Pacific as backdrop, mark one end of the beautiful Coastal Trail around Land's End. Starting from the parking lot above the Baths (uphill from the Cliff House), the trail skirts the wooded promontory to offer stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the seaward side.

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Telegraph Hill/Coit Tower
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 362 0808

Telegraph Hill, once the site of a semaphore that signaled the arrival of ships during the Gold Rush, is now home to Coit Tower, a stark 212-foot monument completed in 1933 with money donated by Lillie Hitchcock Coit. Admire the WPA murals decorating the first floor and take the elevator to the top for the view. If you don't fancy the climb up Telegraph Hill, take the #39 bus (every 20 minutes). Descend via pretty Greenwich Stairway, which runs through terraced private gardens; if you're lucky, you might spot some of the wild parrots that live here.

Terra Valentine
3787 Spring Mountain Road
St. Helena , California
Tel: 707 967 8340

On the flanks of Spring Mountain, high above St. Helena and its madding crowds, Terra Valentine commands sweeping vistas of Napa Valley. Wood paneling and stained-glass windows, including an homage to wine god Dionysus, adorn the churchlike winery. After a 15-minute tour of the production area, guests sit down in the stately tasting room with an educator—a welcome respite if your legs are tired from standing at other area tasting bars. Cabernet is the specialty, and there are some good mid-price wines to choose from. The K Block cab is rich with mocha, cherry, and leather, with a velvety finish. The L Block is the deepest and biggest, but it needs to rest a few years. All are beautifully balanced. Book a late-morning appointment: You'll sample the wines with cheese and chocolate, a perfect snack before lunch. Tasting fee $20, appointment required.

Open daily 10:30 am to 2:30 pm.

Torrey Pines Gliderport
2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive
La Jolla
San Diego , California
Tel: 858 452 9858

Situated on a cliff high above Black's Beach, the Gliderport is a mecca for hang gliding and paragliding. Though it's entertaining to watch the action as the experts take off from the cliffs and land, it's infinitely cooler to try it yourself. Beginners can start with a 20- to 30-minute tandem flight with an instructor.

Twin Peaks
San Francisco , California

Repeatedly voted the city's best view by locals, Twin Peaks offers a stunning 360-degree panorama of the city, the bay, and the ocean. To get there by car, take Market Street out of town until it turns into Portola, then turn right on Twin Peaks Boulevard. Take a jacket, as it can get very windy at the top.

Ty Warner Sea Center
2011 Stearns Wharf
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 962 2526

A cross between an aquarium and a laboratory, the Sea Center, run by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, makes it possible to play marine scientist for a day. Volunteer staff show how to collect water and sea-life samples from the ocean's bottom (they lower oceanographic equipment into the sea through a trapdoor in the floor). You'll also learn to safely handle little sea creatures like starfish, sea urchins, and even miniature sharks in a special tank with wave action that mimics the ebb and flow of the tide.

Open daily 10 am to 5 pm.

Upper Haight
San Francisco , California

Although Haight-Ashbury was once the epicenter of the Summer of Love, little now remains of hippie counterculture other than shops peddling tie-dyed T-shirts and psychedelic bongs. Skirt-and-sweater matrons may find it vulgar, but teenagers in their Jim Morrison phase dig it. Wander past 710 Ashbury Street, the Victorian where the Grateful Dead lived, and stroll in the Panhandle, where Jimi Hendrix gave a free concert. These days, free love has yielded to costly clothing and shoe boutiques, although the amazing Amoeba Music is still beyond groovy.

Venice Beach
Los Angeles , California

Venice Beach is more interesting and bohemian than next-door Santa Monica. Abbot Kinney Boulevard has one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants, Beyond Baroque remains the best poetry venue in town (681 Venice Blvd.; 310-822-3006;, and the boardwalk is still covered with street performers, freaks, and places that sell eight-dollar sunglasses.

Vintners Collective
1245 Main Street
Napa , California
Tel: 707 255 7150

If you're short on time but want to sample some of Napa Valley's best small-production vintages, make a beeline to Vintners Collective. Located in an 1875 sandstone building—a former brewery and brothel—the tasting lounge features 18 lesser-known, boutique wineries. Standouts include a grapefruit-y sauvignon blanc from Vinoce Vineyards and several deep-fruit zinfandels from D Cubed Cellars. Choose a tasting of four or seven wines. For the grand treatment, call ahead to reserve the "private sensory tasting," which includes a full flight poured by a wine educator and paired with a charcuterie plate. Featured winemakers occasionally stop by to speak with visitors or to pour their own wines, especially on weekends. There are also monthly special events on Saturdays, ranging from release parties for new vintages to themed parties such as Slurp-and-Sip (pairing oysters with wine). Tasting fee; no appointment necessary.

Open daily 11 am to 6 pm.

Virginia Robinson Gardens
1008 Elder Way
Beverly Hills , California
Tel: 310 276 5367

This was the first Beverly Hills mansion (completed in 1911), built by the department store family on a hill overlooking the bean fields—an area that eventually became 90210. The five gardens—from the Italian Terrace Garden to the Kitchen Garden—include a stunning palm grove. The pool area is a Roman fantasy. Guided tours are by appointment only, and cost $10.

Walking Tours
Santa Barbara , California

After the 1925 earthquake destroyed downtown, Santa Barbara was rebuilt in Spanish colonial style, and these old landmarks are part of the town's charm. Start at the Santa Barbara Courthouse and follow the self-guided Red Tile Walking Tour via a map from the Santa Barbara Visitor Center (1 Garden Street; 805-965-3021;, with stops at 22 historic tile-roofed buildings in a 12-block area of downtown, including the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the 1870s-era Lobero Theatre, and late-18th-century sites from the Presidio. For guided historical walks, the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara leads tours on Saturdays at 10 a.m. (unless it's raining), departing from Plaza de la Guerra (805-965-6307;; downtown art and architecture walks start from the public library on Sundays at 10 a.m.

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West Hollywood
West Hollywood , California

West Hollywood is known as Boy's Town—on account of the big, vocally political gay population—but it's also home to a huge Russian community (and their delicious delis) and lots of great areas for shopping. Among these are Melrose Avenue (west from Fairfax Avenue) and Melrose Place, both home to upscale boutiques, antiques, and shelter shops. Third Street between Crescent Heights and La Cienega is packed with funky and of-the-moment chic boutiques, and lots of sidewalk cafés. Robertson below Melrose has antique and houseware shops; below Beverly there's an ever-growing number of cool clothing stores. Up on Sunset Boulevard, Sunset Plaza is a shopping and outdoor café haven popular with Europeans.

Winchester Mystery House
525 South Winchester Boulevard
San Jose , California
Tel: 408 247 2101

This fantastical Victorian mansion could be the creation of Dr. Seuss. It includes 47 fireplaces and 17 chimneys, not to mention staircases that lead nowhere and doorways opening onto sheer drops. Rifle heiress Sarah L. Winchester built the house after a medium told her that the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle were angry, and that the only way to appease them was to construct a house for them—without ever stopping. Work on the house continued for 38 years, until Winchester's death.

Wine Country
Santa Ynez Valley , California

Sideways put Santa Barbara's pinot noir in the spotlight, but let's not forget the award-winning chardonnays and great cabernet. Wine country is only 30 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, with 80-plus wineries to choose from—unless you have a willing designated driver, take a tour. Cloud Climbers' Back-Country Wine Tour has a terrific young staff and six-passenger open Jeep Wranglers that make vineyard-hopping fun and easy (805-646-3200; For the vine huggers out there, Sustainable Vine Wine Tours offers guided tours of organic and biodynamic wineries in a soybean-powered van (805-698-3911; Then there's Wine EdVentures, an educational safari of the Santa Ynez Valley in a plush van (805-965-9463; All pick you up in Santa Barbara and offer private tastings of six to eight vinos at a minimum of four different wineries each day, plus a gourmet picnic lunch. Don't have an entire day to devote to wine? You can always explore Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail on foot. The self-guided tour leads you through eight wineries and tasting rooms conveniently located downtown. Key stops include Cellar 205 Winery & Marketplace, Santa Barbara Winery, Jaffurs Wine Cellars, and East Beach Wine Company. There's even a tasting room on Stearns Wharf. Most wineries offer wine purchase drop-offs at local hotels as well as maps to guide you through your grape adventure.

Wine Tasting
Carmel Valley , California

If you can't swing a trip to Napa during your visit to northern California, don't sweat it: Monterey County produces some damn good wines. The cool and foggy coastal regions yield fine pinot noir; the inland valleys produce excellent heat-loving varietals like cabernet and chardonnay. Since the county is huge—3,322 square miles compared with Napa's 754—and the 75 wineries here are far apart, maximize your wine-tasting time by visiting the très civilized Carmel Valley Village. Tasting rooms here are spread across five blocks; park your car and you can walk between many of them along Carmel Valley Road. Among the wineries represented are Bernardus, famous for its stellar Bordeaux blends; Heller Estate, which makes excellent certified-organic reds; Talbott Vineyards, known for top-notch chardonnays across the board; Joullian, known for its sauvignon blanc and zinfandel; and Chateau Sinnet, which makes sparkling wine—a rarity in Monterey County—and also some heady dessert wines. But the prettiest is Georis, where you can sample merlot in a lush outdoor garden. To visit an actual winery, head to lovely Château Julien Wine Estate, where you can take a crash course in winemaking and sample some respectable reds. Tours are free but require reservations.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.