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(2012 - Fall Issue)


When the time comes to explore The Golden State, keep this snapshot handy for the extra special places, north to south.

Sonoma County

An iconic gateway to more than 300 award-winning wineries, Sonoma is at the helm—and it is also host to a dozen local breweries. Come for wine and beer as well as for the 122 kilometres of Pacific Ocean coastline; rejuvenating body treatments at 40-plus spas; year-round golf; redwood forest exploration; world-class hospitality; the finest foods; and even an African safari. sonomacounty.com


Known as the City of Trees, the revitalized city core of Sacramento—with its newest residential loft projects and open-air entertainment complex—creates a government town with considerable flair. The 11-hectare Old Sacramento riverfront is a permanent tribute to frontier times complete with wooden sidewalks and the clip-clopping of period horse-and-buggy. History museums here preserve frontier artifacts as well as folklore about its 19th-century paddlewheeler and the California Gold Rush. discovergold.org

Half Moon Bay

Choose this beach location as a base for daytrips to San Francisco and to explore nature in four distinct locales: the North Coast, Half Moon Bay, South Coast and the Redwood Region. Cuisine excels with fresh food from the sea and the farm so plentiful. At Half Moon Bay go horseback riding on the beach; take birdwatching excursions to remote hideaways; or play a game of golf with the Pacific Ocean visible in all directions. visithalfmoonbay.org


In a region east of San Francisco, an authentic taste of the Old California awaits in the Tri-Valley with its historic cities of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, San Ramon and Danville. Here in the forested hills and vineyards—and on the golf courses—you get to walk in the footsteps of the tribal Ohlone people; touch the remnants of the Spanish missions; relive memories of the gold rush and the completion of the nationwide railroad; and discover the actual birth of California movie-making and wine-making right here in Tri-Valley. trivalleycvb.com


Yet another California experience: the city of Visalia sits deep in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Scenery is the draw, but the arts culture is filled with entertainment and creativity—and that includes its artistic farm-to-fork cuisine. Go hiking, cycling, river rafting, or even on a snowshoe adventure. Visalia is so close to three national parks—Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite—you can explore them all in just three days. visitvisalia.org

Paso Robles

Drive U.S. Hwy 101 inland to Paso Robles, a sunny grape-growing region, 340 kilometres south of San Francisco. Paso Robles is touted as the hottest new wine centre in the west—a piece of colonial history in the heart of 10,520 vineyard hectares—and with award-winning cuisine to match. The ancient hot springs deliver natural spa treatments and when you meander among the farm activity of hard-working cowboys and cowgirls every day, you’ll experience a slice of California life different from any other. travelpaso.com

Central Coast Drive

It’s a California Dreamin’ drive: Set out on U.S. Hwy 1 to drive the coast 565 kilometres from San Francisco to Los Angeles. But no rush: do stop to savour central coast experiences in places like the Monterey Bay Region, home of Carmel; in San Luis Obispo, home of Hearst Castle; Santa Barbara, the American Riviera; and in the Channel Islands region for recreation in Ventura and the Ojai Valley. Then, after a lot of surfing, shelling, sunning and swimming, head straight into L.A. for even more fun. tourthecentralcoast.com

Los Angeles

Downtown L.A. is all polished up now as a choice residential area, making the city core a vibrant hub for cultural, historical, culinary and entertainment exploration. Every district has its own allure and, for visitors, this Entertainment Capital of the World delivers with dazzling venues like LA Live, an 11-hectare sports and concert centre; the Nokia Theatre with some of the best-known music acts; the GRAMMY Museum; plus a wide range of restaurants, clubs and informal festive spots. Check out citypass.org to skip ticket lineups and for deeply-discounted entrance fees. discoverlosangeles.com

West Hollywood

Ideal for strolling, shopping and a wide variety of entertainment, West Hollywood is often touted as “the authority of Los Angeles nightlife,” upholding its reputation from the Roaring Twenties when speakeasies, gambling and other banned activities turned Sunset Boulevard into the lawless Sunset Strip. Today, the nightlife here is still so dense—with chic lounges, rooftop pools, comedy clubs, dive bars and exclusive hideaways—even the tallest stilettos, they say, can navigate the scene with ease. visitwesthollywood.com

Santa Monica

In just 20 minutes westbound from downtown L.A., you could be arriving at a spectacular beach. Walk out to see the impromptu entertainment on the Santa Monica Pier then go boogie boarding, swimming, people-watching, or grab a bicycle for self-guided exploring. Later, stroll the pedestrian-only Third Street Promenade for the nighttime fun of street performers, movie theatres, galleries and refreshments. santamonica.com

Temecula Valley

Southern California produces award-winning wines too. The sunny Temecula Valley spreads out over 14,160 hectares of rolling hills and vineyards, just a two-hour drive south of Santa Monica. Along with your wine tours and tastings at no fewer than 35 wineries, sample the outdoor recreation, the bed-and-breakfast hospitality, the luxury resorts and award-winning cuisine. Self-guided wine tours are highly recommended on the valley trails and so is hot-air ballooning at sunset. temeculacvb.com

Surf City USA

This 14-kilometre stretch of beach delivers the most consistent waves on the entire coastline, thus it is dubbed Surf City USA. Showcased here are four fabulous spots to join all the bronzed beach boys and girls: Huntington City Beach, Bolsa Chica Beach park, Dog Beach and Huntington State Beach. Join them in the waves and for barefoot strolls, late-night bonfires, sandcastle-building lessons, surfing lessons, and for interpretive discoveries of the whales, dolphins and coastal wetlands. surfcityusa.com

Hornblower Cruises

With 35 vessels, ranging from custom-designed catamarans, to sternwheelers, to lavish dining yachts, Hornblower is the go-to cruise company for California marine expertise. On day-trip itineraries explore the coast and waterways in San Francisco, Berkley, Sacramento, Long Beach, Marina del Rey and San Diego. Take a dinner dance cruise, a champagne brunch outing, a whale- and dolphin-watching voyage, riverboat trips, and harbour highlight tours. Your host captain and crew will add an interpretive dimension to everything you see. hornblower.com

San Diego

Why go to San Diego? It’s the California rainbow pot of gold. Go for the beach, 113 kilometres of it; golf courses, 90 of them; sunny days per year, 263; average daily temperature, 21 C. Go for the yachting, surfing, kayaking, sport fishing, diving, whale-watching, thoroughbred racing, casino gaming, for trend-setting nightlife—and for SeaWorld (seaworldparks.com). Its marine-themed rides, shows and exhibits include special experiences with dolphins, belugas, penguins, sea turtles, stingrays and sharks. On October weekends go for the trick-or-treat costume events called the Halloween Spooktacular.sandiego.org

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