Read an Excerpt
Frommer's California 2004
By Erika Lenkert Matthew Richard Poole David Swanson
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-3871-3
Chapter OneThe Best of California
by Erika Lenkert, Matthew Richard Poole & David Swanson
In my early 20s, I took the requisite student pilgrimage to Europe, exploring its finer train stations and sleeping on park benches from London to Istanbul. I was just another tanned and skinny, blond and blue-eyed American lugging around 60 pounds of backpack. That is, until I crossed over into the former Eastern Bloc.
The reaction was dramatic. I would wander through the streets of Prague and people would stop, stare, and sidestep. It wasn't until a man who spoke faltering English approached me that I discovered the reason for my celebrity status.
"Eh, you. Where you from? No, no. Let me guess." He steps back, gives a cursory examination followed by pregnant pause. "Ah. I've got it! You're from California, no?" There's a gleam in his eyes as I tell him that, yes, he's correct. "Wonderful! Wonderful!" A dozen or so pilsners later with my new friend and it all becomes clear: To him, I am a celebrity-a rich, convertible-driving surfer who spends his days lazing on the beach, fending off hordes of blondes while I argue with my agent via my portable phone. I am the Beach Boys. I am Baywatch. Hollywood has done what no NATO pact could achieve-they've leapfrogged the staid issues of capitalism versus communism by offering a far more potentnarcotic: the alluring mystique of sunny California, of stars strolling down Sunset Boulevard, of beautiful women in tight shorts and bikini tops roller-skating along Venice Beach. In short, they've bought what we're selling.
The allure is understandable. It really is warm and sunny most of the year, movie stars do abound in Los Angeles, and you can't swing a cat by its tail without hitting a rollerblading babe in Venice Beach. This part of the California mystique-however exaggerated it may be-does exist, and it's not hard to find.
But there's more-a lot more-to California that isn't scripted, sanitized, and broadcast to the world's mesmerized masses. Beyond the glitter and glamour is an incredibly diverse state that, if it ever seceded from the Union, would be a productive and powerful nation. We've got it all: redwood forests, an incredibly verdant Central Valley, the Sierra Nevada mountains, deserts, a host of world-renowned cities, and hundreds of miles of stunning coastline.
And despite the crime, pollution, traffic, and earthquakes for which California is famous, we're still the golden child of the United States: America's spoiled rich kid everyone else either loves or loathes. (Neighboring Oregon, for example, sells lots of license-plate rims that proudly state, "I hate California.") But, truth be told, we really don't care. Californians know they live in one of the most diverse and interesting places in the world, and we're proud of the state we call home.
Granted, there's no guarantee that you'll bump into Arnold Schwarzenegger or learn how to surf, but if you have a little time, a little money, and-most importantly-an adventurous spirit, then Erika, David, and I will help guide you through one of the most fulfilling vacations of your life. The three of us travel the world for a living, but we choose to live in California, because there's no other place on earth that has so much to offer. -Matthew Richard Poole
1 The Best of Natural California
Redwood National & State Parks: Come see the world's largest and most majestic trees at this arboreal Eden. More than 300 bird species and 100 mammals can also be seen, many of them year-round. How-land Hill Road is a must-do. See "Redwood National & State Parks" in chapter 7.
Lake Tahoe: One of the world's most magnificent bodies of fresh water, sparkling Lake Tahoe is famous for its pure, azure water and incredible volume. In fact, it's so deep that the water it contains-close to 40 trillion gallons-could cover the entire state of California to a depth of 14 1/2 inches. See "Lake Tahoe" in chapter 8.
Yosemite National Park: You're in for the ultimate treat at Yosemite. Nothing in the state-maybe even the world-compares to this vast wilderness and its miles of rivers, lakes, peaks, and valleys. With 3 out of 10 of the world's tallest waterfalls, the largest granite monolith in the world, and some of the world's largest trees, Yosemite is one of the most fantastic natural places on the planet. You'll have a sweeping 180° view of it all from atop Glacier Point, where a majestic High Sierra panorama unfolds at 3,200 feet. See "Yosemite National Park" in chapter 9.
Big Sur: Rock-strewn beaches, towering cliffs, and redwood forests combine to form what may be the world's most dramatic coastal panorama. Our favorite vantage point for taking it all in is Garrapata State Park, a 2,879-acre preserve that lords over 4 spectacular miles of coastline. See "The Big Sur Coast" in chapter 11.
Cachuma Lake: On mountainous and scenic Calif. 154, halfway between Solvang and Santa Barbara, is this winter home to dozens of American bald eagles. Loons, white pelicans, and Canada geese are some of the other migratory birds that call this glassy lake home part of the year. See "The Central Coast Wine Country: Paso Robles & the Santa Ynez Valley" in chapter 12.
Channel Islands National Park: Paddle a kayak into sea caves; camp among indigenous island fox and seabirds; and swim, snorkel, or scuba-dive tide pools and kelp forests teeming with wildlife. The channel waters are prime for whale-watching, and winter brings elephant-seal mating season, when you'll see them sunbathing on cove beaches. See "Channel Islands National Park" in chapter 12.
Joshua Tree National Park: You'll find awesome rock formations, groves of flowering cacti and stately Joshua trees, ancient Native American petroglyphs, and shifting sand dunes in this desert wonderland-and a brilliant night sky, if you choose to camp here. See "Joshua Tree National Park" in chapter 15.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: The largest state park in the lower 48 attracts the most visitors during the spring wildflower season, when a kaleidoscopic carpet blankets the desert. Others come year-round to hike more than 100 miles of trails. See "Anza-Borrego Desert State Park" in chapter 15.
2 The Best Beaches
Drake's Beach: This is a massive stretch of white sand at Point Reyes National Seashore. Winds and choppy seas make it rough for swimmers, but sun worshippers can have their Marin County tan for the day. If the rangers say it's all right, beach driftwood can make a romantic campfire in the early evening. See "Point Reyes National Seashore" in chapter 7.
Sonoma Coast State Beaches: Stretching about 10 miles from Bodega Bay to Jenner, the beaches attract more than 300 species of birds. From December to September, look for osprey. Seal pups can be spotted from March to June, and the gray whale from December to April. See "Along the Sonoma Coast" in chapter 7.
Santa Cruz's Beaches: Santa Cruz has 29 miles of beaches that are varied enough to please all comers: surfers, swimmers, fishers, sailboarders, the sand-pail-and-shovel set, and the bikini and biceps crowd. For starters, walk down the steps from the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to the mile-long, white sand Main Beach, complete with summer lifeguards and golden oldie tunes drifting over the sand from the boardwalk's live concerts. See "Santa Cruz" in chapter 11.
Pfeiffer Beach: This is one of Big Sur's best-kept secrets. It can be accessed via an unmarked paved road on the right-hand side of Calif. 1, 1 mile south of Pfeiffer State Park. There are no signs, so you'll have to do some sleuthing, but once you've parked behind the trail of cars on the side of the road and made it to the beach, you'll know why locals want to keep this spot all to themselves. See "The Big Sur Coast" in chapter 11.
Santa Barbara's East Beach: This wide swath of white sand hosts beach umbrellas, sand-castle builders, and volleyball games. A grassy, parklike median keeps beachgoers insulated from busy Cabrillo Boulevard. On Sundays, local artists display their wares beneath the elegant palm trees. See "Santa Barbara" in chapter 12.
Hermosa City Beach: Our favorite beach in L.A. county, this wide white-sand beach offers plenty of street parking, restrooms, lifeguards, volleyball courts, a fishing pier, playgrounds, and good surfing. It also includes "The Strand," a wide, smooth pedestrian lane that runs its entire length. See "Exploring the City" in chapter 13.
La Jolla's Beaches: La jolla means "the jewel," and the beaches of La Jolla's bluff-lined coast truly are gems. Each has a distinct personality: Surfers love Windansea's waves, harbor seals have adopted the Children's Pool, La Jolla Shores is popular for swimming and sunbathing, while the Cove is a top snorkeling spot, your best chance to spot the rare California state fish, the garibaldi. See "Beaches" in chapter 16.
3 The Best Golf Courses
Pebble Beach Golf Links: The famous 17-Mile Drive is the site of 10 national championships and the celebrity-laden AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The nearby Pacific and a backdrop of the Del Monte Forest justify astronomical greens fees. See "Pebble Beach & the 17-Mile Drive" in chapter 11.
Poppy Hills (Pebble Beach): Golf Digest has called this Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course "one of the world's top 20 courses." It cuts right through the pines of Del Monte Forest. See "Pebble Beach & the 17-Mile Drive" in chapter 11.
The Links at Spanish Bay (Pebble Beach): The Links were also designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., with a little help from Tom Watson and former USGA president Frank Tatum. Their aim was to simulate the experience of playing golf on Scottish links. See "Pebble Beach & the 17-Mile Drive" in chapter 11.
PGA West TPC Stadium Course (La Quinta): The par-3 17th hole has a picturesque island green where Lee Trevino made Skins Game history with a hole-in-one. The rest of Pete Dye's 7,261-yard design is flat with huge bunkers, lots of water, and severe mounding throughout. See "The Palm Springs Desert Resorts" in chapter 15.
Torrey Pines Golf Course (La Jolla): Two gorgeous 18-hole championship courses overlook the ocean and provide players with plenty of challenge. In February, the Buick Invitational Tournament is held here; in 2008 the U.S. Open will be played. The rest of the year, these municipal courses are open to everybody. See "Outdoor Pursuits" in chapter 16.
4 The Best Californian Travel Experiences
Hot-Air Ballooning over Napa Valley: Sure, you have to rise at dawn, but there's no better way to view Napa Valley than drifting over the vineyards in a balloon. Flights are offered in the morning on clear days, when the air is calm and cool. Hotels throughout the valley can arrange a trip for you, or you can book one with Bonaventura Balloon Company (800/FLYNAPA) or Adventures Aloft (800/944-4408). See "Hot-Air Ballooning over the Valley" in chapter 6.
Taking a Mud Bath in Calistoga: Some might consider submerging yourself in a tub thick with mud as creepy. It is indeed a unique sensation, being suspended in the volcanic-ash mud mixed with mineral water. But for spa-lovers it's a must-try. You can book a treatment at a dozen or so places, which often include whirlpool baths and steams. See "Find the New You-in a Calistoga Mud Bath" in chapter 6.
Rafting Scenic Northern California Rivers: You can whitewater raft through thrilling cascades of raging Class IV water or float through tranquil vistas of blue skies, deep forests, and wildlife. The fastest flows are in the spring, naturally. Depending on the river and the time of year, some trips are okay for children over age 6. See chapters 7 and 8.
A Train Ride through the Redwoods: Where else on this planet would you get an opportunity to ride a historic steam train through a remote coastal redwood forest? The Skunk Train (800/77-SKUNK) in Fort Bragg once lugged logs and now takes tourists on an all-day outing through a redwood forest, an 80-mile journey that crosses over 31 bridges and trestles and through two deep tunnels. See "Fort Bragg" in chapter 7.
Exploring a Real Gold Mine: Don your hardhat, "tag in," board the mine shuttle, and experience what it's like to be a modern gold miner. The Sutter Gold Mine tour company (866/762-2837) takes you deep into a gold mine that's loaded with gold deposits. You'll even get an opportunity to sluice for some real gold and gemstones. See "A Modern Gold Mine Tour" in chapter 10.
Celebrity Spotting at L.A. Cemeteries: Okay, it's a rather morbid method for seeing stars, but we guarantee you'll get within 6 feet of many famous (and very former) celebrities. Los Angeles cemeteries such as Westwood Memorial Park and Hollywood Forever are the resting places for Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Walter Matthau, Alfalfa, and Douglas Fairbanks père et fils. See "Stargazing, Part II: The Less-than-Lively Set" in chapter 13.
Excerpted from Frommer's California 2004 by Erika Lenkert Matthew Richard Poole David Swanson Excerpted by permission.
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