Frommer's California From $ 60 A Day (1999)

Overview

"Clearly the work of knowledgeable locals." ?San Francisco Chronicle-Examiner "Written by travel veterans with a nose for comfort?. Accuracy: high." ?Details magazine Everything You Need for an Unforgettable?and Affordable?Trip!
  • Inviting places to stay, from cozy Napa Valley B&Bs to family-friendly motels at the beach?for as little as $25 per person a night!
  • Great dining at unbelievably low prices, from cafes serving up cutting-edge ...
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Overview

"Clearly the work of knowledgeable locals." —San Francisco Chronicle-Examiner "Written by travel veterans with a nose for comfort…. Accuracy: high." —Details magazine Everything You Need for an Unforgettable—and Affordable—Trip!
  • Inviting places to stay, from cozy Napa Valley B&Bs to family-friendly motels at the beach—for as little as $25 per person a night!
  • Great dining at unbelievably low prices, from cafes serving up cutting-edge California cuisine for $12 to authentic Chinese and Mexican specialties for less than $4
  • A complete budget sightseeing guide, from Gold Country towns to the San Diego Zoo—plus spectacular coastal drives, cable car rides, wine tastings, Hollywood TV tapings, and more
  • All the details on California's fabulous beaches, natural wonders, and national parks—plus the best budget golf, skiing, and whale watching
  • Detailed, accurate two-color maps Frommer
Frommer's. The Name You Can Trust. Find us online at www.frommers.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780028625775
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/26/1999
  • Series: Frommer's Dollar-a-Day Guides Series
  • Edition description: 2ND BK&MAP
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 688
  • Product dimensions: 5.11 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 1.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Erika Lenkert
About the Authors Combining the only three things he's good at—eating, sleeping, and criticizing—Matthew R. Poole has found a surprisingly prosperous career as a freelance travel writer. He has written and coauthored more than 20 travel guides to California and Hawaii, including Frommer's San Francisco from $60 a Day and Frommer's Portable California Wine Country. A native northern Californian, he currently lives in San Francisco but spends most of his time on the road. A native San Franciscan, Erika Lenkert spends half her time in Los Angeles and the other half traveling to San Francisco and throughout the state. She's currently a contributing writer for Los Angeles magazine, coauthor of dozens of guides to California, the restaurant editor for California Homes magazine, and has contributed to Brides, Cosmopolitan, and Time Out. Erika is pleased that she actually gets paid to force her opinions onto others—something she'd done pro bono for years. Her next challenge? To convince San Franciscans that L.A.'s actually kind of cool. A native of Los Angeles and an avid traveler, antiques hound, and pop-history enthusiast, Stephanie Avnet Yates believes that California is best seen from behind the wheel of a little red convertible. Prior to becoming a travel writer, she worked in the music business, but now prefers to hit the road exploring the Golden State. Stephanie also writes Frommer's Los Angeles, Frommer's San Diego, and the getaway guide Wonderful Weekends from Los Angeles (Macmillan Travel).
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Table of Contents

List of Maps.

1. The Best of California for the Frugal Traveler (Erika Lenkert, Matthew R. Poole, Stephanie Avnet Yates).

2. Planning an Affordable Trip to California (Stephanie Avnet Yates).

3. For Foreign Visitors (Erika Lenkert, Matthew R. Poole).

4. San Francisco (Erika Lenkert, Matthew R. Poole).

5. Side Trips from San Francisco (Erika Lenkert, Matthew R. Poole).

6. The Wine Country (Erika Lenkert, Matthew R. Poole).

7. The Northern Coast (Erika Lenkert, Matthew R. Poole).

8. The Far North: Lake Tahoe, the Shasta Cascades & Lassen Volcanic National Park (Erika Lenkert, Matthew R. Poole).

9. The High Sierra: Yosemite, Mammoth Lakes & Sequoia/Kings Canyon (Erika Lenkert, Matthew R. Poole).

10. Sacramento, the Gold Country & the Central Valley (Erika Lenkert, Matthew R. Poole).

11. The Monterey Peninsula & the Big Sur Coast (Erika Lenkert, Matthew R. Poole).

12. The Central Coast (Erika Lenkert, Matthew R. Poole).

13. Los Angeles (Stephanie Avnet Yates).

14. Side Trips from Los Angeles (Stephanie Avnet Yates).

15. The Southern California Desert (Stephanie Avnet Yates).

16. San Diego & Environs (Stephanie Avnet Yates).

Appendix: Useful Toll-Free Numbers & Web Sites.

Index.

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First Chapter

[Maps are not included in this sample chapter]

Frommer's California from $60 a Day, 2nd Edition

- 1 -

The Best of California for the Frugal Traveler

by Erika Lenkert, Matthew R. Poole, and Stephanie Avnet Yates


We know what you're thinking: How could anyone possibly enjoy a vacation in Californiafor as little as $60 a day? After all, the average room rate alone is $123 a night--notincluding taxes, tipping, and taxi fare.

But if there's one thing we underpaid travel writers know better than anyone,it's how to live large and spend little. So we've pooled our collective wisdom intowhat we firmly believe is the best budget guide to California. We live here, we knowthis state, and we know how to have a lot of fun without spending mounds ofcash--in fact, we do it every day. Some of our advice is obvious skip the Ritz,even more comes from experience go for the bargain fixed-priced menus at the hotrestaurants--and all of it is geared to making sure that you will have a fantasticCalifornia dreamin' vacation regardless of your tax bracket.

Yes, California has plenty of options for the traveler who wants to stay at ultra-luxurious$300-per-night hotel rooms and dine at blow-your-bank-accou nt restaurants, but that'snot how the majority of locals including us experience the state--the big cities,the small towns, the natural wonders, and the spaces in between. Traveling on a budgetin California means doing what most of its denizens do every day: eating at someof the many affordable restaurants, exploring funky neighborhoods or off-the-beaten-tracktowns, and taking advantage of the wide variety of free or inexpensive attractions,from spectacular national and state parks to the miles and miles of fabulous coastline.Granted, you won't be sleeping on satin sheets or dining on caviar, but you're definitelymore likely to experience the real California than those taking limos from theirpenthouse suite to five-star restaurants and back.

But the best advice we can give you about California is to just go. Enjoythe cool blast of salt air as you stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge. Experiencethe grandeur of Yosemite National Park. Check out the kaleidoscope of humanity atVenice Beach. Hit the slopes, pierce your nose, see a play, spot a celebrity--thelist is endless and always affordable. It's all happening in California, and everyone,whether rich or in the red, is invited. All you have to do is arrive with an openmind and a sense of adventure--the rest is waiting for you.

1 The Best of Natural California

  • Point Reyes: This extraordinarily scenic stretch of undeveloped coast and wetlands is one of the best wildlife-viewing regions in California. Numerous shorebirds, waterfowl, and hawks reside here, as well as elk and sea lions. You might even catch a glimpse of migrating whales from the Point Reyes Lighthouse. See chapter 7.
  • Redwood National Park: Come see the largest of all living things, the mighty Sequoia sempervirens. Within the old-growth redwood forests that line the northern California coast are acres and acres of unbelievably massive and majestic redwood trees, all of which shade a thick, lush canopy of huge ferns, mosses, and wild orchids. It is truly one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders in the world. See chapter 7.
  • Mt. Shasta: One of the most spectacular sights in all of northern California is the mighty volcano Mt. Shasta, a solitary tower of rock and snow rising thousands of feet above the valley floor. And if you're in fair shape, it makes for an exhilarating climb as well. See chapter 8.
  • Lake Tahoe: One of the world's most magnificent bodies of fresh water, Lake Tahoe is famous for its 99.997% pure 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 chapter 8.
  • Yosemite National Park: There's no question about it, Yosemite is one of the most amazing places on the entire planet, with its miles of rivers, lakes, peaks, and valleys; 3 out of 10 of the world's tallest waterfalls; the largest single granite monolith in the world; and some of the world's largest trees. It's best seen by making a quick trip through the tourist-laden valley then high-tailing it into the backcountry wilderness for a day or overnight hike. See chapter 9.
  • The Elkhorn Slough Safari: When you're sick of schlep ping your way through Monterey's hordes of tourists, take a 20-minute drive north and embark on a safe and friendly voyage best described as stepping into the pages of National Geographic. The tour isn't exactly cheap, but the upclose views of "rafts" of otters, harbor seals, and hundreds of bird species are absolutely priceless. See chapter 11.
  • Point Lobos State Reserve: Take Calif. 1 about 4 miles south of Carmel to view harbor seals, sea lions, and sea otters at play. From December through May, gray whales pass by on their migration south. The area is filled with nature walks. See chapter 11.
  • Cachuma Lake: Situated on mountainous and scenic Calif. 154, halfway between Solvang and Santa Barbara, Cachuma Lake is the stunning 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 chapter 12.
  • Channel Islands National Park: This is California in its most natural state. 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 May brings the elephant-seal mating season, when you'll see them and their sea lion cousins sunbathing on cove beaches. See chapter 12.
  • Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve: California's state flower, the poppy, blooms between March and May, carpeting the hillsides in brilliant hues of red, orange, and gold. This reserve, in the high desert near Los Angeles, is one of the poppy's most consistent natural growing sites. The fields extend for miles around--it's not uncommon to see motorists along Calif. 14 pull to the side of the road to marvel at the breathtaking spectacle. From Los Angeles, take I-5 north to Calif. 14; you'll know when you've arrived. For driving directions and information, call Tel: 805/724-1180; for information on the annual California Poppy Festival in Lancaster, call Tel: 805/723-6000. See the "California Calendar of Events" in chapter 2.
  • 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 chapter 15.
  • Death Valley National Park: Its inhospitable climate makes it the state's most unlikely tourist attraction. But the same conditions that thwarted settlers create some of the most dramatic landscapes you'll ever see. Mesmerizing rock formations, ever-changing dry lake beds, and often stifling heat provide the setting for relics of hardy 19th-century borax miners and foolhardy dwellers from the 1930s. See chapter 15.
  • Torrey Pines State Reserve: Poised on a majestic cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this reserve is home to the rare torrey pine and numerous hiking trails; hang gliders soaring overhead get a bird's-eye view. At the base of the cliffs you'll find tide pools, and just offshore is a unique Underwater Park for diver s. See chapter 16.
  • 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 floor. Others come year-round to hike the more than 100 miles of designated trails. See chapter 16.

2 The Best Beaches

  • The Sonoma Coast State Beaches: Stretching approximately 10 miles from Bodega Bay to Jenner, these pristine and rarely populated beaches are perfect for exploring tide pools, bird watching, or simply enjoying a quiet day of sunbathing. From March through June, seals giving birth to pups are a common sight, as are migrating gray whales from December through April. See chapter 7.
  • Drake's Beach: At this massive stretch of white sand at Point Reyes National Seashore, west of Inverness, 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 chapter 7.
  • Sand Dollar: The best Big Sur beach lies beyond Pacific Valley; it's ideal for swimming and surfing, with a panoramic view of Cone Peak, one of the coast's highest mountains. See 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 s ide of the road and made it to the beach, you'll know why locals want to keep this spot all to themselves. See chapter 11.
  • Santa Barbara's Cabrillo Beach: This wide swath of clean, white sand hosts beach umbrellas, sand-castle builders, and spirited volleyball games. A grassy, parklike median keeps the happy beachgoers insulated from busy Cabrillo Boulevard. On Sundays local artists display their wares beneath the elegant palm trees. See chapter 12.
  • Malibu's Legendary Beaches: Zuma and Surfrider beaches are the stretches of sand that were the inspiration for the 1960s surf music that embodies the southern California beach experience. Surfrider, just up from Malibu Pier, is home to Los Angeles's best waves. Zuma is loaded with amenities, including snack bars, rest rooms, and jungle gyms. In addition to some of the state's best sunbathing, you can walk in front of the Malibu Colony, a star-studded enclave of multimillion-dollar homes set in this seductively curving stretch of coast. See chapter 13.
  • Hermosa Beach: This is one of Los Angeles's top beaches for family outings. It's also popular with the volleyball set. It offers wide sands, a paved boardwalk "The Strand" that's great for strolling and biking, and loads of amenities, including plenty of parking. See chapter 13.
  • La Jolla's Beaches: La Jolla means "the jewel," and the beaches of La Jolla's cliff-lined coast truly are gems. Each has a distinct personality: Surfers love Windansea's waves; Torrey Pines and La Jolla Shores are popular for swimming and sun bathing; and Black's Beach is San Diego's unofficial and illegal nude beach. See chapter 16.
  • Coronado Beach: On the west side of Coronado extending to the Hotel del Coronado, this beautiful beach is uncrowded and great for watching the sunset. Marilyn Monroe romped in the surf here during the filming of Some Like It Hot. See chapter 16.

3 The Best Walks

  • Golden Gate Park: This walk in the park allows you to escape the bustle of San Francisco and venture through an array of attractions, including the stunning exterior of the 1878 Conservatory of Flowers, splendid museums and a Japanese Tea Garden, a 430-foot-high artificial island with a great view, Strawberry Hill, and breathtaking flora and fauna along the way. End your walk by renting a rowboat and taking it for a spin. See chapter 4.
  • Point Reyes National Seashore: If you like day hikes, you'll love Point Reyes National Seashore. In fact, many of the region's best--and least crowded-- highlights can only be approached on foot, such as Alamere Falls, a freshwater stream that cascades down a 40-foot bluff onto Wildcat Beach, or Tomales Point Trail, which passes through the Tule Elk Reserve, a protected haven for roaming herds of tule elk that once numbered in the thousands. See chapter 7.
  • Mendocino Headlands State Park: Between Mendocino and the Pacific is one of the most scenic nature trails in the north. From December through March, the California gray whales pass by on their migration from the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea to Baja California, and the sunset vista s are incredible. See chapter 7.
  • Yosemite National Park: It's a relatively short and easy hike to Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in North America and the fifth highest in the world upper falls at 1,430 feet, or to Bridalveil Fall, a ragged 620-foot cascade that can be wind-tossed as much as 20 feet from side to side. A more strenuous option is the 31/2 -mile Yosemite Fall Trail, which rises to a height of 2,700 feet for one of the most panoramic vistas in the West. See chapter 9.
  • The Beachfront Trails at Big Sur: Combine towering cliffs, rock-strewn beaches, and a backdrop of redwood forests, and you have one of the most dramatic stretches for coastline hiking in the world. Begin your adventure about 8 miles south of Point Lobos. See chapter 11.
  • Cabrillo Peak: Morro Bay State Park offers a terrific day hike that culminates with a fantastic 360° view of surrounding hills and the distant ocean. There are hiking trails, but the best way to reach the top is by bushwhacking straight up the gentle slope. See chapter 12.
  • Beverly Hills's "Golden Triangle": Defined by Wilshire Boulevard, Crescent Drive, and Santa Monica Boulevard, this is a window-shopper's fantasyland of tiny shops with picture-perfect displays and sky-high price tags. It even boasts a cluster of shops built to resemble an Italian plaza, with its own faux cobblestone "streets." Despite what you've heard about Rodeo Drive tariffs it's all true, don't worry: There are plenty of down-to-earth shops and eateries, plus an elegant Moorish- Mediterranean city hall that's worth a look. See chapter 13.
  • The L.A. Conservancy's Guided Walking Tours of Downtown Los Angeles: The Conservancy conducts a dozen fascinating, information-packed tours of historic downtown Los Angeles, seed of today's sprawling metropolis. The most popular is "Broadway Theaters," a loving look at movie palaces; other intriguing ones include "Marble Masterpieces," "Art Deco," "Mecca for Merchants," and tours of the landmark Biltmore Hotel and City Hall. See chapter 13.
  • Griffith Park: This wooded enclave linking Hollywood with the San Fernando Valley has something for everyone. Be on the lookout for golf carts crossing near the picturesque Wilson and Harding golf courses, and for horseback riders from the nearby Equestrian Center. The L.A. Zoo and the Autry Museum lie at the northeast corner near I-5; the hills are loaded with hiking trails and picnic areas, and kids love the merry-go-round and pony rides. See chapter 13.
  • From Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach South to the Jetty, and then North Along the Bay Side to the Catamaran Hotel: During the first part of this walk, you'll share the sidewalk with joggers, cyclists, and in-line skaters, and surfers will be testing their skill on the waves to your right. After you cross over to the Mission Bay side of Mission Boulevard, you'll experience the more subdued side of things: quiet water lapping onto white-sand beaches and the local resi- dents tending their gardens. It's a lovely way to spend the day in San Diego. See chapter 16.
  • From the San Diego Convention Center to Harbor Island: This delightful stroll takes you around the waterfront of San Diego Bay. Along the way you'll pass Seaport Village, Tuna Bay, the cruise-ship terminal, the Embarcadero, and the Maritime Museum. The foot and cycle path offers a great view of Coronado and the ships plying the harbor. See chapter 16.

4 The Best Budget Golf Courses

  • Lincoln Park Golf Course San Francisco: The only problem with playing this course is that the views are so stunning, they may distract your game. For $23 to $27, you can tee off with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop. If you want to play a few holes before sunset, nearby is the casual, but equally beautiful, 9-hole Golden Gate Park Course, where you can get 9 in for a mere $10 to $13. See chapter 4.
  • Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course: In an area where most golfers cough up $200 to swing their clubs, this course offers golf at a price any duffer can afford. For a mere $25 to $30, you can play 18 holes overlooking the same beautiful ocean landscape that Pebble Beach does. See chapter 11.
  • Santa Barbara Golf Club: Unlike many municipal courses in California, this 6,009-yard, 18-hole course is well maintained and was designed to present a moderate challenge for the average golfer. Greens fees are $24 weekdays, $28 on weekends $17 for seniors. The driving range is an added bonus. See chapter 12.
  • Rancho Park Golf Course Los Angeles: Although budget golf is almost an oxymoron in Los Angeles, Rancho Park, located smack-dab in the middle of the west side, offers a private-course atmosphere at public-course prices. Greens fees are $17 Monday through Friday, $22 on weekends. See chapter 13.
  • Palm Springs Country Club: The oldest public-access golf course within the city limits, this uniquely laid-out course is especially popular with budget- conscious golfers. With greens fees of only $40 to $50 including cart, this is about as cheap as it gets in the desert. See 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; the rest of the year these popular municipal courses are open to everybody. Greens fees are $48 weekdays and $52 weekends, with twilight fees of only $26. See chapter 16.
  • Coronado Municipal Golf Course San Diego: This 18-hole, par-72 municipal course overlooking Glorietta Bay is located to the left of the Coronado Bay Bridge. It's the first thing you see when you arrive in Coronado--a fabulous welcome for duffers. Greens fees are $32 $20 to walk, with a 50% twilight discount. See chapters 2 and 16.

5 The Best Offbeat Experiences that Won't Cost You a Fortune

  • Taking a Mud Bath in Calistoga: It's one of the most relaxing experiences in California: getting buck naked and covered in this town's famous volcanic-ash mud mixed with mineral water. At a dozen or so places you can immerse yourself in the mud bath, followed by a mineral-water shower and a whirlpool bath, then a steam ba th. See chapter 6.
  • Panning for Gold in the Gold Country: In the southern Gold Country, you can dig into living history and pan for gold. Several companies, including Gold Prospecting Expeditions Tel: 800/596-0009 or 209/984-4653 in Jamestown, offer dredging lessons and gold-panning tours. You'll quickly learn that this is back-breaking labor, although an adventure. And who knows? You might get lucky and launch a new gold rush. See chapter 10.
  • Riding the Amtrak Rails along the Southern California Coast: Relive the golden age of train travel and see the natural beauty of California, avoiding the crowded highways at the same time. Spanish-style Union Station, a marble-floored Streamline Moderne masterpiece, is the Los Angeles hub. Trains run between Los Angeles and the romantic mission towns of San Juan Capistrano, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. The scenery includes lush valleys, windswept coastline, and the occasional urban stretch. Call Amtrak at Tel: 800/USA-RAIL www.amtrak.com for information.
  • Discovering Downtown Los Angeles's Public Art: The wealth of public art on display in downtown Los Angeles is one of the city's best-kept secrets. Some works are political or social commentaries such as the black experience as represented by the life of former slave Biddy Mason in a multimedia exhibit between Broadway and Spring streets just south of 3rd Street, or the provocative evolutionary chronicle installed outside the Central Library. Others are abstract and open to a variety of interpretations. Pers hing Square, a formerly untended eyesore bounded by Fifth, Sixth, Olive, and Hill streets, has been reincarnated as a modern-sculpture garden. See chapter 13.
  • Exploring Forest Lawn Memorial Park: America's most famous cemetery is a wacky 300-acre park with more stars in the ground than Hollywood's Walk of Fame. In addition to Hollywood's most dearly departed, the cemetery contains 1,000 full-scale reproductions of Renaissance statuary, the enormous Great Mausoleum with its oversized stained-glass reproduction of The Last Supper, and the Church of the Recessional, where Ronald Reagan married his first wife, Jane Wyman. See chapter 13.
  • Strolling Venice Beach: All of humanity, for better and worse, is represented on a boardwalk framed by broad sands, swaying palms, and the sparkling blue Pacific. The day's carnival might include well-tanned body builders, outrageous street performers, scantily clad beach bunnies bimbos and himbos, roving gangs of teens, psychedelic-era hippies, and much more. Experiment with style at the cheap-sunglass stalls, grab an exotic dog at Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom, and make your way to the Santa Monica Pier to check out the historic photo gallery and carousel. See chapter 13.
  • Going to the Movies, San Diego-Style: Imagine sitting on the deck of the world's oldest merchant ship and watching a film projected on the "screen-sail"; floating on a raft in a huge indoor pool while a movie is shown on the wall; watching a silent movie accompanied by the San Diego Symphony; or sitting on the beach watching a movie that's projected on a fl oating barge. Only in San Diego! See chapter 16.
  • Experiencing a San Diego Christmas: Although visions of sugar plums don't dance in most people's heads when they think of San Diego, the area does offer a variety of unusual Christmas traditions. These include Christmas on the Prado in Balboa Park, and the Mission Bay Boat Parade of Lights, where decorated boats of all sizes and types are the focus of attention. And it wouldn't be Christmas without the annual reading of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas at Loews Coronado Bay Resort. See chapters 2 and 16.

6 The Best Places to Get Away from It All

  • The Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen Regions: The region around Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen is a remote yet beautiful swath of northern California, a place where you can wander away from everything and everybody. The best time to come is in the late spring when the wildflowers first burst into bloom and the trout are jumping. See chapter 8.
  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks: They have only a fraction of Yosemite's crowds and they're stunningly beautiful. This is a land of grandiose scenery separated by Kings Canyon, the deepest chasm in the continental United States. Virgin forests carpet the parks. Use them for hiking or wilderness camping almost unequaled in America. Autumn is our favorite time to visit. Almost everyone disappears, and you get to experience crisp, fall days and long, lingering Indian summers. See chapter 9.
  • The Ventana Wilderness Big Sur: The U.S. Forest Service maintains 167,323 scenic acres str addling the Santa Lucia Mountains. Cascading streams, waterfalls, deep pools, and thermal springs take you back to Eden. Bring your Adam or Eve so you won't get lonely in the midst of all this nature. See chapter 11.
  • Channel Islands National Park: Just off the coast of Ventura is a world removed from the bustle of southern California. The islands are a wild and storm-blown region of sharp cliffs, curving grasslands, and rocky coves punctuated by the barking of elephant seals and sea lions. Camping among the archipelago's many endemic plant species and fascinating array of animals including the endangered brown pelican and indigenous fox is a splendid way to steep yourself in the beauty of this untamed preserve. See chapter 12.
  • The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens near Pasadena: This Pasadena area getaway is many treats in one. The former estate of railroad baron Henry Huntington is a spectacular botanical garden whose highlights include Japanese and Zen gardens, an oft-filmed statuary lawn, a camellia garden, and tranquil lily ponds. The Italianate main house is a gallery of European paintings, and scholars flock to study at the Huntington Library, one of the world's finest collections of rare manuscripts and first editions including a Gutenberg Bible. A superb bookstore and delightful tearoom round out this peaceful retreat. See chapter 13.
  • The Pine Hills Area of Julian: A half-dozen bed-and-breakfast inns are located in this wonderfully quiet small town, where birdsong is the loudest sound you'll hear. Though Main Street is jam-p acked during apple harvest season, the surrounding hills never lose their serenity. See chapter 16.

7 The Best Things to Do for Free

  • Beaching It: It wouldn't be a true California vacation if you didn't hit at least one of the state's beautiful beaches. See each coastal chapter for beach highlights.
  • Walking the Golden Gate Bridge: Break out your windbreaker and walking shoes and venture across San Francisco's windy Golden Gate Bridge. On a sunny day, every view is spectacular. In dense fog, it can be bone-chilling, but still a mystical experience. See chapter 4.
  • Taking a Wine-Appreciation Class: Goosecross Cellars Tel: 707/944-1986, a Napa Valley winery near Yountville, gives a free class each Saturday morning at 11am. In the course of a few hours, they can turn anyone into a budding sommelier. Ignorance being bliss, you even get to taste all kinds of yummy wines while you learn.
  • Discovering Muir Woods and Point Reyes: If you're in or around the Bay Area and have wheels, indulge in this memorable side trip. Take Calif. 101 to the Stinson Beach exit and spend a few hours gawking at the monolithic redwoods at Muir Woods this place is amazing; continue on past Stinson Beach, then head up the coast to the spectacular Point Reyes National Seashore. Rain or shine, you won't be disappointed. See chapters 5 and 7.
  • Whale Watching: Gray whales travel along the California coast from late December to early February, and you don't need to get on a whale-watching boat to enjoy this amazing spect acle. Point Reyes Lighthouse is a particularly good on-shore whale-watching spot. See chapter 7.
  • Exploring Shasta Dam and Power Plant: Located near Mt. Shasta, the Shasta Dam and Power Plant offers one of the best free tours in the state and an entertaining way to beat the summer heat. Explore deep within the dam's many chilly corridors and below the enormous spillway. Call Tel: 530/275-4463 for details. See chapter 8.
  • Exploring Yosemite: Walk, hike, camp, or just drive in and catch some rays. Whatever you do in Yosemite, bring your camera, because the landscape is nothing less than astounding. If you're the sporting type, you can get up close and personal with some of the largest waterfalls on earth, climb a gargantuan granite monolith, or swim in fresh snowmelt lakes. There's a nominal charge to enter the park, but once you're in, it's yours to explore. See chapter 9.
  • Touring the State Capitol in Sacramento: Looking very much like a scale model of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., this domed structure is the city's most distinctive landmark. Free guided tours, offered daily every hour on the hour, shed light on the building's architecture and the workings of government. For information call Tel: 916/324-0333. See chapter 10.
  • Cruising Pacific Grove's Ocean View Boulevard: This coastal stretch, which starts near Monterey's Cannery Row and follows the Pacific Ocean south to Asilomar State Beach, offers views as spectacular as those of 17-Mile Drive, but without the $6.50-per-car entrance fee. See chapter 11.
  • S oaking Up the Sights and Sounds of SLO's Farmers Market: Spend a Thursday evening at the Farmers Market in San Luis Obispo to get the true flavor of this somewhat earthy, intimate community. There's usually live music, barbecues, demonstrations, discussions, and plenty of places to plop down and watch this small town rejoice. See chapter 12.
  • Checking out the Santa Barbara Crafts Fairs: Stroll along the promenade of East Beach by Stearns Wharf on a Sunday and you'll get a good dose of ocean air, sunshine, and fabulous art. Here dozens of arts and crafts vendors sell their wares. Don't bother paying $6 to park in the lot; if you continue south on Cabrillo Boulevard, you're likely to find free parking. See chapter 12.
  • Watching the Sunset from a Southern California Pier: Malibu, Santa Monica, Huntington, Newport, or Oceanside--nothing rivals the sensation of standing suspended over the swirling ocean, watching a glowing sun descend into the horizon. Wispy clouds reflect the reds, oranges, and pinks cast by the receding sun, and behind you waves crash upon meeting the sand. See chapters 13, 14, and 16.
  • Spending an Afternoon at Los Angeles's Central Library: The city is truly fond of the Central Library, for both its history and its architecture, and for the remarkable effort made by firefighters and philanthropists to save and restore it after a fire in 1986. Behind the familiar facade is a newly designed modern wing housing most of the library's countless volumes and a light-filled atrium with gigantic, whimsical chandeliers. Intriguing outdoor art adorns the front c ourtyard. Admission is free, of course, and weekend parking in the library's lot is just $2 with validation. See chapter 13.
  • Attending an Organ Concert in Balboa Park San Diego: Free 1-hour Sunday concerts are given at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, home of the world's largest pipe organ; from June through August you can also attend free evening concerts here as part of the city's "Twilight in the Park" festival. See chapter 16.

8 The Best Family Vacation Experiences

  • San Francisco: Ride the cable cars that "climb halfway to the stars" and visit the Exploratorium, the California Academy of Sciences which includes the Steinhart Aquarium, the zoo, the ships at the maritime museum, Golden Gate Park, and much more. The City by the Bay is filled with unexpected pleasures for all members of the family and all ages. See chapter 4.
  • San Jose: You'd be surprised how much fun your family can have in San Jose. The whole gang will enjoy the Children's Discovery Museum, the Tech Museum of Innovation, and especially the architecturally bizarre Winchester Mystery House and Paramount's Great America. See chapter 5.
  • Lake Tahoe: Lake Tahoe has piles of family-fun things to do. Skiing, snowboarding, hiking, tobogganing, swimming, fishing, boating, waterskiing, mountain biking--the list is nearly endless. Even the casinos cater to kids while Mom and Pop play the slots. See chapter 8.
  • Yosemite National Park: Camping or staying in a cabin in Yosemite is a premier family activity in California. Sites are scattered over 17 different campgrounds, and the rugged beauty of the Sierra Nevada surrounds you. During the day, the family itinerary is packed with hiking, bicycling, white-water trips, and even mountaineering to rugged, snowy peaks. See chapter 9.
  • Monterey: It's been called "Disneyland-by-the-Sea" because of all its tourist activities, including those on Cannery Row and Fisherman's Wharf. Check out the state-of-the-art aquarium and have breakfast at the Bagel Bakery at 201 Lighthouse Blvd. the best family bargain in town. See chapter 11.
  • Big Bear Lake: Families flock year-round to this lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, and not just for the skiing. Horseback riding, miniature golf, water sports, and the Alpine Slide kind of a snowless bobsled are fun alternatives, and you can see and learn about native wildlife at the Moonridge Animal Park. The village has a movie theater, arcade, and dozens of cutesy bear-themed businesses. Most of the local lodging consists of clusters of woodsy cabins that are perfect for families. See chapter 14.
  • Disneyland: The "Happiest Place on Earth" is family entertainment at its best. Whether you're wowed by Disney animation come alive, thrilled by the roller-coaster rides, or interested in the history and hidden secrets of this pop-culture icon, you won't walk away disappointed. Stay at the nearby Disneyland Hotel connected directly to the park by monorail, a wild attraction unto itself, which offers appealing packages including multiday access to the park that can really save you some money. There's also a terrific extra bonus: On most days, guests of the hotel get to enter the park early and enjoy the major rides with no lines. But if the hotel tariffs are still too rich for your blood, don't worry; we've recommended plenty of comfortable motels nearby. Call ahead for the day's schedule. See chapter 14.
  • San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, and Sea World: San Diego boasts three of the world's best animal attractions. At the zoo, animals live in creatively designed habitats such as Tiger River and Hippo Beach. At the Wild Animal Park, 3,000 animals roam freely over 2,200 acres. And Sea World, with its ever-changing animal shows and exhibits, is an aquatic wonderland. See chapter 16.

9 The Best of Small-Town California

  • St. Helena: A small town in the heart of the Napa Valley, St. Helena is known for its Main Street, which is lined with Victorian storefronts featuring intriguing wares. In a horse and buggy, Robert Louis Stevenson and his new bride, the cantankerous Fanny, made their way down this street. But these days it's the thoroughfare for visitors who come for the finest in accommodations, shopping, and dining. See chapter 6.
  • Mendocino: An artist's colony with a New England flavor, Mendocino served as the backdrop for Murder, She Wrote. Perched on the cliff tops above the Pacific Ocean, it's filled with small art galleries, general stores, weathered wooden houses, and elbow-to-elbow tourists. See chapter 7.
  • Arcata: If you're losing your faith in America, a few days spent at this northern California coastal town will surely restore your patriotism. One of the best small towns in America, Arcata has it all: its own redwood forest and bird marsh, a charming town square, great family-owned restaurants, and even its own minor-league baseball team, which draws the whole town together for an afternoon of pure camaraderie. See chapter 7.
  • Nevada City: The whole town is a national historic landmark and the best place to understand gold-rush fever. Settled in 1849, it offers fine dining and shopping and a stock of multigabled Victorian frame houses of the Old West. Relics of the ill-fated Donner Party are on display at the 1861 Firehouse No. 1. See chapter 10.
  • Pacific Grove: Here you can escape the crowds that descend on Monterey, 2 miles to the west. Pacific Grove is known for its tranquil waterfront location and quiet, unspoiled air. Thousands of monarch butterflies flock here be- tween October and March to make their winter home in Washington Park. See chapter 11.
  • Cambria: Near Hearst Castle, Cambria benefits from a constant stream of visitors, who bring the right amount of sophistication to this picturesque coastal town. Moonstone Beach holds a string of seaside lodges, while the village itself is filled with charming B&Bs, artists' studios and galleries, and friendly shops. See chapter 12.
  • Ojai: When Hollywood needed a Shangri-La for the movie Lost Horizon, they drove 11/2 hours north to idyllic Ojai Valley, an unspoiled hideaway of eucalyptus groves and small ranches warmly nestled among soft, green hills. Ojai is the amiable village at the valley's heart. It's a mecca for artists, free spirits, and weary city folk in need of a restful weekend in the country. See chapter 12.
  • Ventura: This charming mission town is filled with colorful Victorians. It's also home to a pleasantly eclectic old Main Street lined with thrift and antique shops, used-record stores, friendly diners, and even old-time saloons operating beneath broken-down second-story hotels. Don't miss the historic mission or the deco-era Greek Revival San Buenaventura City Hall looming over the town, bedecked with smiling stone faces of the founding Franciscan friars. See chapter 12.
  • Julian: This old mining town in the Cuyamaca Mountains near San Diego is well known today for its wildflower fields, the fall apple harvest, and tasty flavored breads from Dudley's Bakery. There's plenty of pioneer history here, too, including a local-history museum, a circa 1888 schoolhouse, and mining demonstrations. A smattering of antique shops, plenty of barbecue, and an old- fashioned soda fountain operating since 1886 round out the experience. See chapter 16.

10 The Best California-Style Americana

  • Mel's Diner San Francisco; Tel: 415/921-3039: Kids from 6 to 60 love this quintessential 1950s diner straight out of American Graffiti. Though the fare has advanced to meet today's demands there's even a veggie burger on the menu, you can still stuff yourself with a big, juicy bacon cheeseburger, a side of "wet fries" they're smothered in gravy, and a milk shake. There's plenty of chrome, miniature jukeboxes at each table with good ol ' American hits on them, and photo memorabilia from the movie that inspired the place. Kids will love the crayons and meal-in-a-car. See chapter 4.
  • Phoenix Hotel San Francisco; Tel: 800/248-9466: Get out your red heart-shaped sunglasses and you'll be ready for the funky Phoenix. An intentionally tacky tropic oasis in the midst of one of the city's most colorful, and shady, neighborhoods, this 1950s-style retro-chic motel hosts all walks of life, from famous rockers to politicians and movie stars who come for the anonymity, the kidney-shaped pool, and reggae at the adjoining festive restaurant. See chapter 4.
  • Baseball in Arcata: On Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings between June and July, Arcata's semipro baseball team, the Humboldt Crabs, partakes in America's favorite pastime at Arcata Ballpark at 9th and F streets. For a $3.50 ticket, it's one of the best entertainment bargains on the North Coast. See chapter 7.
  • Samoa Cookhouse Samoa; Tel: 707/442-1659: When lumber was king in northern California, cookhouses were the hub of Eureka. Here the mill men and longshoremen came to chow down three hot meals before, during, and after their 12-hour workday. The Samoa is the last of the great cookhouses, and the food is still hearty, served up family style at long red-checkered tables; nobody leaves hungry. See chapter 7.
  • Ponderosa Ranch Lake Tahoe; Tel: 702/831-0691: Remember Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright from the popular 1960s television show Bonanza? Well, their digs are still kickin', folks, so mosey on over to Tahoe to visit the original 1959 Cartwright Ranch House and Western township, complete with blacksmith's shop and staged gun battles. There are also such activities as breakfast hayrides and pony rides. See chapter 8.
  • Dennis the Menace Playground: Just north of Monterey, at Camino El Estero and Del Monte Avenue, near Lake Estero, is an expansive, old-fashioned playground created by Pacific Grove resident and famous cartoonist Hank Ketcham. It has a pond, bridges to cross, tunnels to climb through, an authentic Southern Pacific engine car teeming with wanna-be conductors, and plenty of Dennis the Menace motifs. It's a must-see for families. See chapter 11.
  • The Madonna Inn San Luis Obispo; Tel: 800/543-9666: No, not that Madonna. This inn is named after Alex and Phyllis Madonna, who, though they have no ties to the pop star, share with her a wild and decidedly unique sense of style. The entire hotel is one giant over-the-top fantasy, done up in Pepto Bismol pink, Flintstone-style rock, and whatever else catches their whim. You've got to see this place for yourself. See chapter 12.
  • The Wheel Inn Restaurant Cabazon; Tel: 909/849-7012: What's different about this clean roadside diner and gas station on I-10 near Palm Springs? It's not the food basic truck stop chow, but rather the looming presence of a four-story brontosaurus and his Tyrannosaurus rex pal. They were built in the 1960s by a sketch artist and sculptor from Knott's Berry Farm with a grandiose dream of an entire dinosaur amusement park. You can climb up into the belly of the larger one, where you'll find a remarkably spacious gift shop selling dinosaur toys, books, and souvenirs. See chapter 15.
  • The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum Victorville; Tel: 619/243-4547: Housed in a replica Old West log fort, this tribute to the lives, films, family, and travels of the famous B-movie couple is best known for being the final resting place of Roy's faithful horse, Trigger, who is stuffed, mounted, and prominently displayed. Evoking both Las Vegas tackiness and the jam- packed attic of some wacky, well-traveled relative, the museum is one-of-a-kind, and well worth a 1- or 2-hour stop between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. See chapter 15.

11 The Best Architectural Landmarks

  • The Civic Center San Francisco: The creation of designers John Bakewell, Jr., and Arthur Brown, Jr., it is perhaps the most beautiful beaux arts complex in America. See chapter 4.
  • The Painted Ladies San Francisco: The so-called "Painted Ladies" are the city's famous, ornately decorated Victorian homes. Check out the brilliant beauties around Alamo Square. Most of the extant 14,000 structures date from the second half of the 19th century. See chapter 4.
  • Winchester Mystery House San Jose: The heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, Sarah Winchester, created one of the major "Believe It or Not?" curiosities of California, a 160-room Victorian mansion. It's been called the "world's strangest monument to a woman's fear." When a fortune teller told her she wouldn't die if she'd con tinue to build onto her house, her mansion underwent construction day and night from 1884 to 1922. She did die eventually and the hammers were silenced. See chapter 5.
  • The Carson House Eureka: This splendidly ornate Victorian is one of the state's most photographed and flamboyant Queen Anne-style structures. It was built in 1885 by the Newsom brothers for William Carson, the local timber baron. Today it's the headquarters of a men's club. See chapter 7.
  • Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo Carmel-by-the-Sea: The second mission founded in California in 1770 by Father Junípero Serra who is buried there is perhaps the most beautiful. Its stone church and tower dome have been authentically restored, and a peaceful garden of California poppies adjoins the church. Sights include an early kitchen and the founding father's spartan sleeping quarters. See chapter 11.
  • The Getty Center Los Angeles: The imposing headquarters of the J. Paul Getty Trust were part of the L.A. landscape for 14 years of construction; now visitors can fully appreciate architect Richard Meier's grand, postmodern design. Employing giant slabs of travertine marble, sleek edges and bold angles, the sand-colored complex peers down upon the city from its Brentwood perch. See chapter 13.
  • Los Angeles's Central Library: The city rallied to save the downtown library when an arson fire nearly destroyed it in 1986; the triumphant result has returned much of its original splendor. Working in the early 1920s, architect Bertram G. Goodhue employed the Egyptian motifs and materia ls popularized by the recent discovery of King Tut's tomb, combined with the more modern use of concrete block. See chapter 13.
  • Tail o' the Pup Los Angeles: At first glance, you might not think twice about this hot-dog-shaped bit of kitsch on West Hollywood's San Vicente Boulevard, just across from the Beverly Center. But locals adored this closet-sized wiener dispensary so much that when it was threatened by the developer's bulldozer, they spoke out en masse to save it. One of the last remaining examples of 1950s representational architecture, the "little dog that could" also serves up a great Baseball Special. See chapter 13.
  • The Gamble House Pasadena: The Smithsonian Institution calls this Pasadena landmark, built in 1908, "one of the most important houses in the United States." Architects Charles and Henry Greene created a masterpiece of the Japanese-influenced Arts and Crafts movement. Tours are conducted of the spectacular interior, which was designed by the Greenes down to the last piece of teak furniture and coordinating Tiffany lamp and executed with impeccable craftsmanship. After you're done, stroll the immediate neighborhood to view several more Greene and Greene creations. See chapter 13.
  • Balboa Park San Diego: These Spanish/Mayan-style buildings were originally built as temporary structures for the Panama-California Exposition between 1915 and 1916. Although many have been rebuilt over the years, a few of the original buildings still remain and are worth seeking out. See chapter 16.
  • Hotel del Coronad o Coronado: The "Hotel Del" stands in all its ornate Victorian red-tiled glory on some of the loveliest beach in southern California. Built in 1888, it's one of the largest remaining wooden structures in the world. Even if you're not staying, stop by to take a detailed tour of the splendidly restored interiors, elegant grounds, and fascinating minimuseum of the hotel's spirited history. On your way to Coronado, you can't miss the Coronado Bay Bridge, an architectural landmark in its own right. Crossing the bridge by car or bus is an undeniable thrill because you can see Mexico, the San Diego skyline, Coronado, the naval station, and San Diego Bay. See chapter 16.

12 The Best Museums

  • The Exploratorium San Francisco: The hands-on, interactive Exploratorium boasts 650 exhibits that help to show how things work. You'll use all your senses and stretch them to a new dimension. Every exhibit is designed to be useful. See chapter 4.
  • The Oakland Museum: This one might be dubbed the "Museum of California." The colorful people and history of the Golden State, and its sometimes overpowering art and culture, are all on exhibit here--everything from the region's first inhabitants to today's urban violence is depicted. See chapter 5.
  • California State Railroad Museum Sacramento: Old Sacramento's biggest attraction, the 100,000-square-foot museum was once the terminus of the transcontinental and Sacramento Valley railways. The largest museum of its type in the United States, it displays 21 locomotives and railroad cars, am ong other attractions. One sleeping car simulates travel, with all the swaying and flashing lights of lonely towns passed in the night. See chapter 10.
  • Petersen Automotive Museum Los Angeles: This museum is a natural for Los Angeles, a city whose personality is so entwined with the popularity of the car. Impeccably restored vintage autos are displayed in life-size dioramas accurate to the last period detail including an authentic 1930s-era service station. Upstairs galleries house movie-star and motion-picture vehicles, car-related artwork, and visiting exhibits. See chapter 13.
  • J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center Los Angeles: Since opening in 1997, the Getty has been deluged by visitors eager to see whether this ambitiously conceived 14 years and $1 billion in the making complex fulfills its promise as new cultural cornerstone of L.A. Besides boasting a superb, international-class art collection, the center is a striking--and starkly futuristic-- architectural landmark that also houses the research, educational, and conservation arms of the deep-pocketed Getty Trust. From its picturesque vantage point, the Getty offers panoramic city views and perhaps even a glimpse into the next millennium. See chapter 13.
  • Autry Museum of Western Heritage Los Angeles: This is a treat for both young and old. Relive California's historic cowboy past and see how the period has been depicted by Hollywood through the years, from Disney cartoon re-creations to founder Gene Autry's "singing cowboy" films to popular 1960s TV series. Highlights inclu de a life-size woolly mammoth and a glimmering vault of ornate frontier firearms. See chapter 13.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego: MCA is actually one museum with two locations: one in La Jolla, the other downtown. The museum is known internationally for its permanent collection, focusing primarily on work produced since 1950. The La Jolla location is also noted for the its Irving Gill-designed facade. See chapter 16.
  • The Museums of Balboa Park San Diego: Located in a relaxed, verdant setting, the museums here offer unique cultural experiences. Highlights include the Aerospace Historical Center, Museum of Man, Museum of Photographic Arts, Model Railroad Museum, Natural History Museum, and the Lily Pond and Botanical Building. Check in at the Hospitality Center for a map and "Passport to Balboa Park," a low-cost pass to a combination of the museums. See chapter 16.

13 The Best Views

  • Coit Tower San Francisco: The round 1933 tower atop Telegraph Hill opens onto a panoramic 360° view of the City by the Bay. In the distance, the Marin Headlands unfold. In a city known for its views and vantage points, Coit Tower is the scenic show-stopper. See chapter 4.
  • From the Top of Mt. Shasta: If you can make the climb, you'll be rewarded with a view of northern California that few have ever witnessed. The majesty of the rare sight turned fabled naturalist John Muir's "blood to wine." See chapter 8.
  • Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park: A sweeping 180° panorama of the High Sierra unfolds from 3,200 feet above the valley. Glacier Point looks out over Nevada and Vernal falls, the Merced River, and the snow-covered Sierra peaks of Yosemite's backcountry. See chapter 9.
  • The Coastline at Garrapata State Park: You'll see 4 miles of California coastline from Garrapata State Park, a 2,879-acre preserve in the Big Sur area. Rock-strewn beaches, towering cliffs, and redwood forests combine to form what may be the world's most dramatic coastal panorama. See chapter 11.
  • The Santa Barbara Mission: Gazing seaward from the church's majestic steps, you can take in a panoramic view of Santa Barbara's delightful Spanish-style red-tile roofs, plus the California coast and azure Pacific in all their splendor. It is a postcard-worthy vista throughout the day, from the pastel shades of dawn to the midday shimmer of the sea to the fiery brilliance of sunset. See chapter 12.
  • Griffith Observatory and Planetarium Los Angeles: For an outlook on urban Los Angeles without compare, head to this spot in the Hollywood Hills. Great ornate bronze doors lead into this 1935 classic Moderne edifice immortalized in Rebel Without a Cause. The view over the city from the hilltop balconies can, on a clear day, stretch to the Pacific. The lights of Hollywood below sparkle seductively at night, and the observatory's telescope can illuminate the myriad moons of Jupiter for you. See chapter 13.
  • Rim of the World Highway Lake Arrowhead: This aptly named road winds toward Lake Arrowhead along a mountain ridge above San Bernardino. The view of the vast, flat valle y floor beyond the evergreen fringe is breathtaking. At this altitude about 5,500 feet, where the air is crisp and clean, it's easy to imagine you're floating above the earth. See chapter 14.
  • The Colorado Desert: If you think the desert is barren and ugly, you'll quickly change your mind here. From the sweeping panorama atop Mt. San Jacinto accessible by the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the vast, other-worldly wind-turbine fields scattered throughout the valley, the visual splendor of this area mirrors the spirituality felt here by Native Americans and 20th-century spa-goers alike. From sunrise to sunset, natural light and shadow perform magic, transforming the shapes and colors of the arid hills. See chapter 15.
  • Cabrillo National Monument near San Diego: From this vantage point, on the tip of Point Loma, you're treated to a spectacular vista of the ocean, San Diego Bay, Los Coronados Islands, and the mountains that ring the city to the east. There's a wind-shielded whale-watching terrace, and kid-friendly tide pools at the base of the cliffs. See chapter 16.
  • Mt. Soledad San Diego: For a 360° view of La Jolla, Del Mar, downtown San Diego, inland San Diego, the Pacific Ocean, the mountains, and on a clear day, even Mexico, Mt. Soledad can't be beat. And it can't be missed, either: This La Jolla landmark is topped by a large, white cross. See chapter 16.

14 The Best Moderately Priced Hotels

  • Hotel Bohème San Francisco; Tel: 415/433-9111: The rooms may be small and lack extra amenities, but there 's no better San Francisco experience than staying at the impeccably stylish Hotel Bohème, in the heart of North Beach. You need only to step outside your door to find some of the city's best cafes, restaurants, and nightlife. See chapter 4.
  • Deer Run Bed & Breakfast St. Helena; Tel: 800/843-3408: You may spend the day fighting the crowds at Napa's wineries, but stay here and you'll find respite in Deer Run's romantic rustic hideaway. The four accommodations are upscale-cabin-like and are surrounded by nothing but nature. See chapter 6.
  • St. Orres Gualala; Tel: 707/884-3303: Designed in a Russian style--complete with two Kremlinesque onion-domed towers--St. Orres offers secluded accommodations constructed from century-old timbers salvaged from a nearby mill. It's one of the most eye-catching inns on California's north coast. See chapter 7.
  • River Ranch Lodge Lake Tahoe; Tel: 800/535-9900: This rustic lodge situated alongside the Truckee River features private balconies that overlook the river, antique furnishings, and a fantastic outdoor patio complete with a small cafe and swimming hole. Better yet, Lake Tahoe is just a short drive away. Prices start as low as $39. See chapter 8.
  • The Jabberwock Monterey; Tel: 888/428-7253: This place, only 4 blocks from Cannery Row, was once a convent. Set in its own gardens with waterfalls, it was named after an episode from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. Each room is individually decorated; one even has a fireplace. See chapter 11.
  • C asa del Mar Inn at the Beach Santa Barbara; Tel: 800/433-3097: It may not have ocean views or a pool, but with newly furnished rooms, lovely landscaping, a caring staff, and the beach less than a block away, Casa del Mar is the best in its price range. See chapter 12.
  • Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel Los Angeles; Tel: 800/950-7667: This hotel, overlooking the Walk of Fame, is a legendary survivor from Hollywood's golden age. Centrally located for sightseeing, it offers terrific city views, one of the city's most elegant lobbies, and evening entertainment at the popular art-deco Cinegrill. The first Academy Awards ceremony was held here in 1929, and legends claim the hotel is haunted by the ghosts of Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift. See chapter 13.
  • Casa Malibu Malibu; Tel: 800/831-0858: This beachfront motel will fool you from the front. Its cheesy 1970s entrance, right on noisy Pacific Coast Highway, belies the quiet, restful charm found within. Situated around the courtyard garden are 21 rooms, many with private decks above the Malibu sands; one elegant suite was Lana Turner's favorite. Rooftops and balconies are festooned with bougainvillea vines, creating an effect reminiscent of a Mexican seaside village. There's easy beach access. See chapter 13.
  • Sommerset Suites Hotel San Diego; Tel: 800/962-9665: This terrific bargain is also a good choice for those who find traditional hotels too impersonal. The staff is friendly and helpful, and in the late afternoon they serve complimentary snacks, soda, beer, and wine in the cozy guest lounge. See chapter 16.
  • Ocean Park Inn San Diego; Tel: 800/231-7735: This three-story standout, located right on Pacific Beach's lively beach path, is visually appealing both inside and out. Behind the hotel's modern Spanish-Mediterranean facade is a sharply designed marble lobby that gives way to the less splendid, but completely comfortable, guest rooms. See chapter 16.

15 The Best Places to Stay on a Shoestring

  • Fort Mason Youth Hostel San Francisco; Tel: 415/771-7277: If you don't mind going communal, you'll be hard-pressed to find cheaper accommoda- tions in San Francisco. Throw in the view, the location near the Marina and Ghirardelli Square, and the free parking, and you've got yourself a deal. See chapter 4.
  • Golden Bear Motel Berkeley; Tel: 800/525-6770: If you're not dying to set up camp at one of the cheap motels on busy University Avenue or entrench yourself in the chaos of UC Berkeley, the Golden Bear is far enough away to make you feel like you're exploring a neighborhood, but close enough to the campus that you can drive there in less than 10 minutes. Added bonuses: It's across from Alice Waters's of Chez Panisse fame Cafe Fanny and close to Fourth Street shopping. See chapter 5.
  • Napa Valley Railway Inn Yountville; Tel: 707/944-2000: This is one of our favorite, and most affordable, places to stay in the Wine Country. Guests get their own private caboose or railcar, each sumptuously appointed with comfy love seats, chairs, queen-size brass beds, an d full, tiled bathrooms. The coups de grace are the bay windows and skylights, which let in plenty of California sunshine surely the Pullman cars of yesteryear never had it this good. See chapter 6.
  • Bodega Harbor Inn Bodega Bay; Tel: 707/875-3594: Thank Poseidon for this low-priced accommodation, set on a small bluff overlooking Bodega Bay. There's no better way to enjoy the day than plopping yourself in one of the lawn chairs and watching the fishing boats bring in their daily catches. See chapter 7.
  • Bear Valley Inn Point Reyes; Tel: 415/663-1777: Ron and JoAnne Nowell's venerable two-story 1899 Victorian has survived everything from a major earthquake to a recent forest fire, which is lucky for you because you'll be hard-pressed to find a better B&B for the price in Point Reyes. It's loaded with charm, from the profusion of flowers and vines outside to the comfy chairs fronting a toasty-warm woodstove inside. See chapter 7.
  • Mt. Shasta Ranch B&B Mount Shasta; Tel: 530/926-3870: Built in 1923 as a private retreat and thoroughbred horse ranch for one of the country's most famous horse trainers and racing tycoons, this B&B offers one of the best deals anywhere. Rates start at $50 for a room most with mountain views and include a big country breakfast. See chapter 8.
  • Tamarack Lodge Lake Tahoe; Tel: 888/TAHOEBED: This is one of the oldest lodges on the North Shore--so old it was a favorite haunt of Clark Gable and Gary Cooper. It's now one of the best bets for the cost-conscious traveler. Hidden among a cadre of pines just east of Tahoe City, the Tamarack Lodge consists of a few old cabins, five "poker rooms," and a modern motel unit. The cabins can hold up to four guests, but the most popular rooms are definitely the hokey old poker rooms. See chapter 8.
  • The Miner's Inn Nevada City; Tel: 800/977-8884: Located about a mile from Nevada City's historic district, this cabinlike motel is cooled by the shade of a small tree-lined park. Considering all the standard amenities--TV, telephone, air-conditioning--and fantastic price, the cash-conscious traveler could hardly ask for more. See chapter 10.
  • Gunn House Hotel Sonora; Tel: 209/532-3421: Built in 1850 by Dr. Lewis C. Gunn, this was the first two-story adobe structure in Sonora, and is now one of the best low-priced hotels in the Gold Country. It's easy to catch the forty-niner spirit here, as the entire hotel and grounds are brimming with quality antiques and turn-of-the-century artifacts. But what really makes the Gunn House one of our favorites is the hotel's beautiful pool and patio, surrounded by lush vegetation and admirable stonework. See chapter 10.
  • Cypress Tree Inn Monterey; Tel: 831/372-7586: The rates here are the best in town--and what you get for your money is a clean, spacious, like-new room with a firm bed. Added bonuses include in-room fridges and a shared outdoor hot tub. See chapter 11.
  • The Wilkies Inn Pacific Grove; Tel: 800/253-5707: The caring owners who took this old motel and spruced it up with fashionable furnishings and an extra dose of TLC still offer the best deals in town, making the Wilkies our favorite cheap sleep in the area. See chapter 11.
  • Adobe Inn San Luis Obispo; Tel: 800/676-1588: The price of a motel combined with the hospitality of a B&B makes this inn a great option for the budget traveler. In addition to its cute and cozy rooms, El Adobe provides a substantial breakfast with good coffee and the owners are on hand to help you plan your activities while in town. See chapter 12.
  • The Clamdigger Pismo Beach; Tel: 805/773-2342: Take a walk back in time to when a luxury vacation was nothing more than a little shack on the ocean. Stock your fridge in the kitchen, bring a good book, and you'll have no reason to leave your cute little beachfront cabin--except maybe to pick up another bottle of sunscreen. See chapter 12.
  • Banana Bungalow Santa Barbara; Tel: 800/3-HOSTEL: Fact is, you can't really find cheap accommodations in Santa Barbara. Unless, of course, you bunk down with the Euro travelers at this bona fide youth hostel. See chapter 12.
  • Sea Shore Motel Santa Monica; Tel: 310/392-2787: It may not be on the beach, but this small, family-run motel is only 2 blocks away, and sits amidst stylish boutiques and cafes. Facilities are simple but adequate, cared for by conscientious management. See chapter 13.
  • Best Western Hollywood Motor Hotel Los Angeles; Tel: 323/464-5181: If you're longing to stay near all the Hollywood attractions--the Wax Mu seum, Walk of Fame, Chinese Theater, movie studios, and Universal City--you'll be ideally located at this Best Western just off the U.S. 101 Hollywood Freeway and within walking distance of the renowned Hollywood and Vine intersection. Rates start around $70 quite a bargain in Los Angeles. See chapter 13.
  • Best Western Anaheim Stardust Anaheim; Tel: 800/222-3639: Not willing to sacrifice all the comforts in your quest for an affordable Disneyland vacation? Then check out the Stardust, where the entire family can swim, sleep, enjoy a full breakfast, and shuttle to the park 3 blocks away for as little as $58 a night--even the largest suite is less than $100. See chapter 14.
  • Casa Cody Palm Springs; Tel: 760/320-9346: You'll feel more like a private guest than a paying customer at this cozy compound just a couple of blocks from Palm Springs's main drag. Once owned by "Wild" Bill Cody's niece, it was built in the 1920s around two swimming-pool courtyards with large lawns and shady fruit trees. Basic rooms, which come equipped with small kitchens, run $69 to $79, including breakfast and afternoon wine and cheese. See chapter 15.
  • The Cottage San Diego; Tel: 619/299-1564: This two-room cottage is a private hideaway tucked away in a secret garden. It comes complete with its own tiny kitchen and a working wood-burning stove. See chapter 16.
  • Hotel La Pensione San Diego; Tel: 800/232-4683: This three-story hotel has the sleek, modern feel of a European hostelry, but is situated in the heart of Little Italy's old-world charm. Close to San Diego's downtown, La Pensione offers consistently clean and reliable service--and plenty of great dining just downstairs. See chapter 16.

16 The Best Culinary Experiences

  • Dungeness Crab at Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco: Crabs, which are best consumed as soon as possible after being cooked, emerge right from boiling pots onto your plate. You crack the shells and pick the delectable meat out. Gastronomes treasure even the edible organs crab butter inside the carapace. See chapter 4.
  • A San Francisco Burrito: No matter where we go in California, we just can't find a burrito as luscious as those served throughout San Francisco. The tortilla-wrapped meal takes on a gourmet dimension here: flavored tortillas; fresh-grilled meats, fish, and vegetables; three types of beans; a symphony of salsas; guacamole, and sour cream all tidily tucked in the perfect to-go feast. Best of all? They're generally under five bucks. See chapter 4.
  • Hong Kong Flower Lounge San Francisco; Tel: 415/668-8998: For an unforgettable dim sum experience, skip the downtown tourist traps and head out to the avenues where real folks go to get their fill of these Chinese delicacies. See chapter 4.
  • An Affordable Decadent Meal in the Wine Country: Have yours at the incredible new Oakville Grocery Café Tel: 707/944-0111, where the locals go when they want to feast. See chapter 6.
  • A Sunset Horseback Ride Through Griffith Park to a Mexican Feast: Thi s culinary/equine excursion departs Friday evenings from Beachwood Stables in the Hollywood Hills just before dusk, winding up in Burbank at the modest but tasty--especially coming off the trail!--Viva Restaurant. Tie up your steed outside and saunter in for a steaming plate of enchiladas accompanied by an ice-cold cerveza beer, just like the real vaqueros cowboys. The cost is $35 per person, plus dinner. For information, call the Sunset Ranch at Tel: 323/464-9612. See chapter 13.
  • Grand Central Market Los Angeles; Tel: 213/624-2378: Fresh-produce stands, exotic-spice-and-condiment vendors, butchers and fishmongers, and prepared-food counters create a noisy, fragrant, vaguely comforting atmosphere in this L.A. mainstay. The gem of this airy, cavernous complex is the fresh-juice bar at the southwest corner. A market fixture for many years, it dispenses dozens of fresh varieties from an elaborate system of wall spigots just like an old-fashioned soda fountain, deftly blending unlikely but heavenly combinations. See chapter 13.
  • Sunday Champagne Brunch Aboard the Queen Mary Long Beach; Tel: 562/435-3511 or 562/499-1606: This elegant ocean liner was the largest, finest vessel when it was built in 1934, and the grandeur of those Atlantic crossing days remains. A sumptuous buffet-style feast, accompanied by harp soloist and ice sculpture, is presented in the richly wood-furnished first-class dining room. You'll be able to eat all you want for $22.95 $7.95 for kids, and then walk off your overindulgence on the spectacular teak decks and throug h the art-deco interiors. See chapter 14.
  • A Date with the Coachella Valley: Ninety-five percent of the world's dates are farmed here in the desert. While the groves of date palms make evocative scenery, it's their savory fruit that draws visitors to the National Date Festival in Indio each February. Amidst the Arabian Nights parade and dusty camel races, you can feast on an exotic array of plump Medjool, amber Deglet Noor, caramel-like Halawy, and buttery Empress. Throughout the rest of the year, date farms and markets throughout the valley sell dates from the season's harvest, as well as date milk shakes, sticky date coconut rolls, and more. See chapter 15 and the "California Calendar of Events" in chapter 2.
  • Baja-Style Fish Tacos San Diego: No one does it better than former surf-bum Ralph Rubio, whose eponymous taco stands have spread across the Southwest, even edging out hot dogs at San Diego's own sports stadium. Batter-dipped fish fillets folded in corn tortillas and garnished with shredded cabbage, salsa, and tangy crema sauce; Rubio's recipe is straight from the thatched-roof taco shacks of Mexican fishing villages. Betcha can't eat just one. See chapter 16.

17 The Best Dining Bargains

  • Pasta Pomodoro San Francisco; Tel: 415/399-0300: Join the young, festive crowd for what is perhaps one of the best dinner bargains in town. Pasta Pomodoro's simple, airy dining room offers plenty of atmosphere and counter seating looking onto North Beach action, while the menu offers fresh pasta dishes at cheap prices. See chap ter 4.
  • Manora's Thai Cuisine San Francisco; Tel: 415/861-6224: No one can resist the savory sauces topping every mouth-watering dish that comes out of Manora's kitchen. The food here is so good, it almost makes up for the wait and the noise level. See chapter 4.
  • Cha Cha Cha San Francisco; Tel: 415/386-5758: Go with a few friends, share sangria while you wait, and order from the tapas menu when you finally get seated at this eternally popular Haight Street haunt. Beware of overindulgence: The food is quite rich, and the pitchers of sangria may alter your judgment and break your budget. See chapter 4.
  • Zona Rosa San Francisco; Tel: 415/668-7717: It's difficult not to develop an addiction to Zona Rosa's fresh, delicious burritos. But, since they're less than $5, you can afford to eat as many as you want though you'll be lucky to polish off one of these big suckers. See chapter 4.
  • Cantinetta St. Helena; Tel: 707/963-8888: Adjacent to the famed, and expensive, Tra Vigne Restaurant is this rustic little cafe, offering a small selection of inexpensive sandwiches, pizzas, and lighter meals you've never had a better focaccia in your life. They can also pack your picnic basket for an impromptu lunch at your favorite winery. See chapter 6.
  • Lucas Wharf Deli Bodega Bay; Tel: 707/875-3562: This place doles out steaming pints of fresh, tangy crab cioppino for only $5. It's a fabulously messy affair, best devoured at the picnic tables next door. When crab season is over, the cioppino special is replaced by an equally awesome pile of fresh fish-and-chips easily big enough to feed two. See chapter 7.
  • The Fishwife at Asilomar Beach near Pacific Grove; Tel: 831/375-7107: This cozy little shack dating from the early 1800s serves wonderfully fresh fish complemented with hearty side dishes. Its out-of-the-way location and reasonable prices will make you feel like an insider. See chapter 11.
  • Caffè Napoli Carmel; Tel: 831/625-4033: Tourists may be eager to throw down big dollars for a dinner out in Carmel, but locals are definitely not. When they hit the town, the most popular spot is Caffè Napoli, a casual family restaurant with traditional Italian decor and reasonably priced, flavorful fare. See chapter 11.
  • Café Kevah Big Sur; Tel: 831/667-2344: All the grandeur of the Big Sur coastline will cost you extra if you're seeing it from your table at a restaurant in Big Sur. But Café Kevah offers the same million-dollar view and a variety of tasty international dishes at a fraction of the price. See chapter 11.
  • Farmers Market San Luis Obispo: Who would guess that San Luis Obispo residents are big on barbecue? Head to the Thursday-night Farmers Market and taste for yourself--there are plenty of other cheap options, as well. See chapter 12.
  • La Super-Rica Taqueria Santa Barbara; Tel: 805/963-4940: Even chefs and restaurateurs from San Francisco and beyond visit this hole-in-the-wall restaurant to get what many consider the best Mexican food this side of the border. See chapter 12.
  • Montecito Cafe Santa Barbara; Tel: 805/969-3392: Their prices may not be rock bottom, but if you'd like a special night out, for the money you can't do better than this cafe a few miles south of downtown Santa Barbara. The feeling is California bistro and the fare, California nouveaux. See chapter 12.
  • Grand Central Market Los Angeles; Tel: 213/624-2378: A splendid downtown fixture since 1917, this bustling market serves Latino families, enterprising restaurateurs, and home cooks in search of unusual ingredients and bargain fruits and vegetables. Prepared foods of every ethnicity are served up at counters throughout the market, from chile relleno burritos around $2 to a complete Thai plate for under $5. Visit the fresh-produce sellers for a natural dessert or to stock up for a picnic; we prefer the west end of the market with its fresh-juice bar, where a tropical smoothie with the works is only $2.95. See chapter 13.
  • The Original Pantry Cafe Los Angeles; Tel: 213/972-9279: Finicky eaters and snobbish gourmands, skip this listing. L.A. mayor Dick Riordan's round-the-clock downtown diner won't be winning any culinary awards, but still I've never driven past when there weren't a dozen or more folks lined up outside for a table. The reason? Hearty portions of simple American food at bygone-era prices, plus plenty of free munchies. See chapter 13.
  • Bread and Porridge Santa Monica; Tel: 310/453-4941: A steady stream of locals will always be found milling outside this neighborhood cafe, reading their newspapers and waiting for a vacant seat. Once inside, you, too, can sample the delicious breakfasts, fresh salads and sandwiches, and super-affordable entrees--almost all are under $10. Menu items range from Mexican omelets to Cajun crab cakes to traditional pasta dishes. You really can't go wrong here. See chapter 13.
  • Belisle's Restaurant Anaheim; Tel: 714/750-6560: After you've blown the family budget on Disneyland, haul your hungry brood a couple of miles to this unique diner, where they've been doling out "Texas-size" favorites like omelets and steaks since 1955. Portions are ridiculously enormous--desserts are so large they look like movie props picture a chocolate eclair the size of a fireplace log. See chapter 14.
  • The Vegetarian Zone San Diego; Tel: 619/298-7302: The city's only purely meatless restaurant attracts an equal number of carnivores for its fresh and savory menu, which features delicious ethnic favorites--like Greek spinach and feta pie or spicy Indian turnovers--that just happen to be vegetarian. It's a humble place, but always tops our list of must-eats in San Diego. See chapter 16.
  • Point Loma Seafoods San Diego; Tel: 619/223-1109: Pick up a fresh-seafood sandwich or salad here and enjoy a view that rivals the best restaurants in town. See chapter 16.
  • Sammy's California Woodfired Pizza San Diego; multiple locations: The gourmet-pizza craze rages on at this local favorite, where one salad and personal pizza are enormous enough to feed two--with left overs! Conveniently located and always crowded, Sammy's serves up creations like duck sausage, potato garlic, or Jamaican jerk shrimp atop their 10-inch rounds. See chapter 16.

18 The Best Deals for Serious Shoppers

  • Aardvark's San Francisco; Tel: 415/621-3141: If you have a hot date but nothing to wear, stop by this new- and used-clothing store for everything from hair clips to leather jackets, suits, and ball gowns, all at absurdly low prices. See chapter 4.
  • Catharine Clark Gallery San Francisco; Tel: 415/399-1439: Thanks to Catherine Clark, art is no longer a purchase reserved for those who own million-dollar homes in which to exhibit it. This gallery boasts an excellent selection of contemporary artists, many from California, whose works are sold at reasonable prices. There's even an interest-free layaway plan for up to 1 year. See chapter 4.
  • Esprit Outlet San Francisco; Tel: 415/957-2550: Shoppers here pile their carts high with sweaters, shoes, bags, accessories, and children's clothes. The bargain bins are especially cheap, with many items priced from $5 to $10. See chapter 4.
  • Jeremys San Francisco; Tel: 415/882-4929: Between their own line of merchandise and the array of other designer clothing, shoes, and accessories, you can't help but leave here looking sharp. New shipments come in frequently and prices can be 75% less than those at department stores. See chapter 4.
  • Wine Club San Francisco Tel: 415/512-9086: Whether you've got $4 or $400 to spend, the Wine Club will direct you toward bargain bottles that are even cheaper than winery prices. See chapter 4.
  • The American Tin Cannery Factory Outlet Center Pacific Grove; Tel: 408/372-1442: Although it's common knowledge now that most "designer" labels produce a cheaper line to sell specifically at outlets, this mall with 45 shops is still a favorite for those who have had enough of neighboring Monterey Bay Aquarium. See chapter 11.
  • Downtown Los Angeles: During the week, skyscrapers and big business rule downtown Los Angeles, but the weekends illuminate the bustling trade south of the concrete jungle which actually goes on 7 days a week. Angelenos in the know flock to the Jewelry Mart for wholesale prices on gold, diamonds, watches, and more; the California Mart and Cooper Building for floor upon floor of brand-name clothes and accessories priced way below retail; and Maple Street for bargains on designer yardage. See chapter 13.
  • Ocean Front Walk Venice: Whether it's $8 designer-knockoff sunglasses, $5 ethnic-print fanny packs and $10 backpack purses, Mexican woven huarache sandals, or super-cheap sterling silver jewelry including rings for a lot more places than earlobes, the colorful vendors crammed together along the boardwalk are almost as interesting as the crazy quilt of humanity passing through. See chapter 13.
  • Barneys New York Outlet Cabazon; Tel: 909/849-1600: Even if you detest outlet malls, you can't argue with the classy atmosphere and great deals at Barneys, the most appealing tenant at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets. With a prime location just west of Palm Springs on the much-traveled artery I-10, Desert Hills has all the usual suspects, too: Coach, Eddie Bauer, Joan and David, Old Navy. But Barneys is the true gem, filled with deals on off-the-rack fashions from New York, Paris, and Italy for men and women. See chapter 15.
  • San Diego County Farmers Markets: The bountiful harvest of San Diego County is sold on various days at movable markets throughout the area. Finds include fresh local fruits, vegetables, and flowers, as well as specialty items such as raw apple cider in the fall, macadamia nuts, and rhubarb pies. See chapter 16.
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