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Things to Do in California - page 5

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Yosemite Valley
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Yosemite Valley is the heart of Yosemite National Park and the place to see all of the iconic sights, from El Capitan and Half Dome to Bridalveil and Yosemite Falls. The valley is also a paradise for outdoorsy travelers; visit for endless opportunities to enjoy hiking, climbing, photography, and other types of adventures.

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USS Hornet (USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum)
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The USS Hornet (USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum) may now be docked in the San Francisco Bay as a National Historic Landmark, but the massive air carrier once fought the Pacific battles of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War, in addition to taking part in the Apollo program that recovered astronauts returning from the moon. The vessel served many functions, from combat training to leading heavy bombing attacks, and finally as the primary recovery ship for Apollo 11. The carrier underwent air attacks 59 times without damage, earning nine battle stars in the process.

Today visitors can tour the flight deck and ship compartments, as well as the USS Hornet museum. Everything from a NASA exhibit with moon exploration mission items to retired naval aircraft and information about contemporary carriers is on display here. Visitors can get up close and personal with historic helicopters, jets, and propeller aircraft and the flight and hangar decks. There is even a flight simulator for those who want a fully immersive experience.

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Windansea Beach
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With 17 miles of coastline, San Diego is known for its scenic beaches. Everyone has their favorites, making it hard for visitors to choose. But if you’re a surfer, or just like to watch them in action, save time for a trip to Windansea Beach.

It’s one of the more crowded beaches, but for a good reason. Most locals agree it provides the area’s most consistent surfing conditions. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, a guy or girl, surfing is a part of life in San Diego.

Underwater reefs help create the surf breaks that surfers enjoy here. Swimming is also allowed at the beach, but swimmers need to be careful. Windansea Beach is also known for its moderate to severe shore break. That means there can be hard breaking surf near the shoreline, so swimmers need to use caution when getting in or out of the water.

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Solvang
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Just over the hill from sunny Santa Barbara lie the Santa Ynez Valley and the small, Danish-style town of Solvang. Founded in 1911 by a group of Danish teachers, Solvang (Danish for “sunny field”) is now a bustling hub of activity, ripe with wine-tasting rooms, a fairy-tale-esque downtown, and all sorts of quirky shops.

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Oxbow Public Market
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Oxbow Public Market—with dozens of restaurants, food stalls, and shops—brings the bounty of Napa’s famed wine, food, and organic produce under a single roof. Open all day, it’s a one-stop shop for great food, to quickly experience the best of Napa Valley, or relax for a moment at this local gathering place before exploring the region.

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Jacuzzi Family Vineyards
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Jacuzzi Family Vineyards have been run by the same family for generations, ever since owner Fred Cline spent time with his grandfather in vineyards in his late childhood. Its heritage wines are highly influenced by the culture and wines of Italy, and the property itself has a beautiful courtyard and an Italian stone villa filled with elegant Italian art, fountains, and handmade furnishings. The barrel room has vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, adding to its elegant atmosphere. The Jacuzzi family makes a variety of Italian varietals, including Pinot Grigio, Barbera, and Sangiovese. An olive oil press and balsamic vinegar tastings round out the experience.

Uniquely, the winemakers do not use any synthetic pesticides on the vineyards. Efforts for sustainable winemaking practices are essential to the process. They’re generous with tastings of both the foods and wine made here, including their specialty: a chocolate cup filled with Pinot Noir.

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Union Square
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Union Square is the city’s main dining, entertainment, and shopping district. Visitors can shop at department stores and designer boutiques; stop into various art galleries; grab a bite to eat at any of a number of restaurants; and see a live performance at a nearby theater.

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Pebble Beach
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The community of Pebble Beach, California, is best known for the Pebble Beach Golf Links and other high-end golf courses along the Pacific Coast between the towns of Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s certainly a golfer’s heaven, but it also draws visitors for its coastal scenery and fine restaurants and hotels.

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Carmel Mission
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Part church, part museum, the Carmel Mission is a US National Historic Landmark in the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. It draws visitors who are interested in Spanish colonial history and architecture, religious pilgrims who come to worship, and those those who simply stop by while passing through Carmel.

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Mist Trail
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One of the most iconic hikes in Yosemite, the Mist Trail leads hikers to not one, but two of Yosemite's standout waterfalls: Vernal and Nevada Falls. You can reach the Vernal Fall footbridge (the best view of Vernal Fall) in about 1.5 mile (2.6 km) round-trip; be prepared for a three mile (4.8 km) to reach Vernal Fall. The hike isn't difficult if you stop at the footbridge, but if you continue up to Vernal Fall, be prepared for steps cut into the cliff side.

Pushing on to Nevada Fall will take your total up to a seven mile (11 km) round trip, but it's worth it for some of the finest views in all of Yosemite, encompassing Nevada Fall, Liberty Cap, and the back side of Half Dome. You'll get close enough to the falls that you’ll feel the spray kiss your face and clothes, so wear proper clothing and exercise caution when hiking on the slick rocks.

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More Things to Do in California

Shoreline Park

Shoreline Park

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Shoreline Park is a 15 acre coastal park west of Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara, CA. It is a popular place to come for picnics and has individual picnic tables, a group picnic area, barbeques, park benches, a playground, sidewalks, and stairs that access the beach. Many people also come here to walk, jog, roller blade, and play Frisbee. The park offers spectacular views of the Santa Barbara coastline, the city itself, the Channel Islands, and the Santa Ynez Mountains. If you're lucky, you might even see some whales or dolphins.

Mesa Beach, which is connected to Shoreline Park, is narrow and rocky, and it is often covered due to the tides, especially during the winter months. During the winter, the waves often crash against the cliffs which has been eroding the shoreline. During the summer, there is more packed sand and the beach sees more visitors. Free parking lots are located near the park.

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Leadbetter Beach

Leadbetter Beach

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One of the most beautiful beaches near downtown Santa Barbara, Leadbetter Beach is often filled with windsurfers, joggers, and sunbathers. Its light surf makes its an excellent spot for low-key and beginning surfing. It’s one of the more scenic spots close to the city, with an expansive golden sand beach and grass lawn. There are also facilities for picnicking and barbecue, as well as public restrooms and showers.

Often sailboats can be seen cruising just off the coast from Leadbetter, as it’s located next to the Santa Barbara Harbor. Lifeguards are on duty during daylight hours. For these reasons, it is one of the more popular public beach areas. Though it can be crowded, it is often bustling with activity compared to other spots on the coast. It’s considered by many to be one of the most beautiful beaches in California.

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Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium of the Bay

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Discover the creatures that call the waters of Northern California home with a trip to San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay. Marvel at the wonders of jellyfish or tunnel under sharks to view the true underbelly of marine life in the immersive exhibits.

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Asilomar State Beach

Asilomar State Beach

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Located on Monterey Peninsula, Asilomar State Beach is scenic stretch of sandy coastline offering unparalleled Pacific views. Visitors enjoy the pedestrian Coast Trail, a dog-friendly beach, and self-guided walking tours. This mile-long beach is a local favorite for surfing, and it's a top spot for tide pooling.

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Crissy Field

Crissy Field

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A wide swath of beach in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area backed by restored wetlands is just part of Crissy Field’s story. An integral part of San Francisco’s waterfront, Crissy Field hosts a yacht harbor, a tidal marsh, and Crissy Promenade—a popular bike and pedestrian path that climbs from the beach to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

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San Pedro

San Pedro

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Maritime history runs deep in the waterside community of San Pedro, home to the heavily trafficked Port of Los Angeles. Seafaring is a central attraction theme, from an old battleship and lighthouse to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. With its uptick in shops and restaurants, the area is gaining popularity as a hip waterfront destination.

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Lovers Point Park

Lovers Point Park

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Lovers Point Park is a picturesque green space in the heart of Pacific Grove that offers up plenty of outdoor fun, with easy access to ocean waves that are idea for swimming, surfing, kayaking and more. Travelers can rent bikes and cruise along the coastal drive where urban landscapes meet salty sea. Visitors can pack a picnic lunch and relax on stretches of sandy beach or break into a sweat at one of the popular beach volleyball courts. There’s a children’s swimming pool to keep the little ones happy and a lush green lawn is perfect for a game of Frisbee or unwinding in the shade of one of the park’s towering trees.

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Palm Springs Air Museum

Palm Springs Air Museum

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One of the world’s largest collections of vintage airplanes from World War II fill the hangars at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

Wartime memorabilia, combat photography, murals, uniforms and documentaries provide educational insights into aviation and combat history.

Planes in the museum’s three hangars focus on Army and Navy aircraft, and the mighty B17.

If you visit on a Saturday you might catch demonstration flights and World War II audio-visual displays.

There are flight simulator games for kids, and a children’s calendar of events and activities.

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Fort Point National Historic Site

Fort Point National Historic Site

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Sitting just below the massive Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point is a National Historic Site that once served to defend the entrance to San Francisco Bay. The brick fort can still be explored on foot today, with the opportunity to learn about the area’s history and the fort’s former military use.

The fort was in operation from the Gold Rush era through World War II, a fascinating time in San Francisco’s history. A visit to the site offers extraordinary, close-up views of San Francisco’s most famous landmark — the Golden Gate Bridge. It is one of only three third-system brick forts on the west coast of the United States. Due to its location and protection of the coastline, it is also known as the “Gibraltar of the West.”

Visitors have the chance to explore Civil War era uniforms, weaponry, and historic photographs on display. With its many floors and wide brick arches, it stands as an excellent example of American military architecture.

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Ferry Building

Ferry Building

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One of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks, the Ferry Building is a port of entry and transit hub, marketplace, and farmers market. Food merchants, specialty shops, wine bars, and restaurants line the historic building’s hallways, making it a one-stop shop for experiencing the diverse culinary flavors and master retailers of San Francisco.

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Catalina Island

Catalina Island

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Santa Catalina—widely known as just Catalina—is a beautiful Southern California island just off the coast of Los Angeles. With rocky terrain, blue waters, and Mediterranean flair, it’s an idyllic escape from the City of Angels, and hard to believe that it’s only a 1-hour ferry ride away. Catalina’s only small town, Avalon, is home to boutique shopping, oceanfront dining, and harbor views. There are plenty of chances to get in or on the island’s stunning waters as well—if you can drag yourself of off the beach.

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Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

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Hearst Castle, perched along California’s Central Coast, is the ostentatious creation of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan. This 90,000-square-foot (8,361-square-meter) estate comprises 165 rooms and 127 acres (51.4 hectares) of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways—all now open to the gawking public.

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American River

American River

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Beginning in the high Sierra Nevadas not far from Lake Tahoe, the American River has three forks: the South, Middle and North. They converge east of Sacramento, but each offers great whitewater rafting, with varying levels of challenge and corresponding class of rapids. For those seeking calmer waters, kayaking is also popular.

The South Fork offers the best rapids for beginners, whereas the North Fork is recommended only for experienced rafters and runs only seasonally. The South Fork of the American River is one of the most popular whitewater rafting destinations in the United States.

There are also more than 100 miles of trails along scenic, historic California Gold Rush sites that are immersed in rich natural forests and native wildlife. Hikers and mountain bikers can explore the area’s tall granite canyons or enjoy the foothills of the Gold Country.

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Point Pinos Lighthouse

Point Pinos Lighthouse

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Lighting the way for sailors for more than 150 years, Point Pinos Lighthouse is tucked into the picturesque shoreline of the Monterey Peninsula. The lighthouse still operates today, and its beacon reaches 17 miles out to sea. Visit to take in the scenic location, ocean views, and beautiful lantern room, complete with original lens.

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