Plan Your Visit to the Gold State -- California If you're tempted to "go west" for your vacation, and love the idea of long days full of sunshine, then the Gold State is the one for you. California has something for everyone and can cater for all manner of vacation dreams; young and old, budget and high-fliers, vibrant or serene, this state has it all! The first thing you need to do is decide what you'd like to do on your vacation, this will help you locate the right part of the state to begin your holiday. Do you want to center your vacation in one of the major cities of Los Angeles or San Francisco, and either have a one-center holiday where you explore only that city? Alternatively, do you want to use that city as your gateway and base for a vacation that allows you to explore the coastal areas such as Santa Barbara, or the desert areas of the Joshua Tree National Park? Are you hoping to sample some home-grown Californian wines in the Napa Valley? Is the Yosemite National Park somewhere you've always wanted to go? Are you interested in the anticipation of celebrity spotting? Are you hoping for a round or two of golf? Does the idea of taking a short trip into Mexico excite you? Are you taking children who are hoping to visit theme parks? All of these factors will help you identify which part of the Gold State is the right one for you. One things for sure, you'll be able to do all of those things and a lot more besides in this vibrant state! Once you know where you're going, identify what you'll need. How will you get there? If you intend to hire a car whilst you're there, is there adequate parking around the place you hope to stay? Would public transport be a better idea for most days with car hire on the days you want to go outside the city? Do you need to make reservations for any accommodation? How about attraction tickets? Do you need to book in advance for any special event at the Rose Bowl? What about any sporting activities you hope to do -- is equipment available locally to hire or do you need to take your own? There are endless opportunities for a vacation of a lifetime in California, and you'll be able to pack a number of them into your holiday as long as you plan the right destination, so take a good look at the map and carefully plan out a preliminary itinerary -- you can always change it when you get there, but at least you'll be off to a good start by being in the right part of this beautiful part of America. Discover Malibu, California Located west of Los Angeles on the coast of southern California, the name Malibu brings to mind beaches, bikinis, and beer -- and a few movie stars! Boasting an astounding 21 miles of coastline along the Pacific Ocean, it's one of the most popular beachside towns in America. One of the geographic highlights of this area is that most of the Malibu beaches facing south – offering a touch of paradise for those who love the sun! Despite it's reputation for being a star-magnet, Malibu tends to be a secluded town - many celebrities make their home, or weekend retreat, in Malibu, and the privacy of those stars is well protected with gated areas that only the lucky few with personal invitations can get through -- as long as you walk below the high tide line however, you can walk the beaches in front of many of the homes belonging to the rich and famous! Some of the beaches are private however, including some nudist beaches, but these beaches are in secluded locations. If you want to check out the Hollywood scene and perhaps rub shoulders with the rich and famous in an informal setting, you'll find that Malibu is a great the place to go -- you never know who you might bump into on the beach! Although Malibu isn't a place to find attractions and theme parks, it is a place where you can enjoy some of the finest coastal views that the world offers, and the area is not without a few highlights -- including the Malibu Pier which was damaged by storm, but has now been restored, and the Sierra Retreat with it's beautiful gardens. Because of the strict parking laws enforced in Malibu, it may be worth paying a little extra for an accommodation nearer the beach if you're just there for the sun and surf and leave the car hire for tourists who aren't so well-informed! With stunning ocean views, and endless sun-filled golden beaches, Malibu is the ultimate beach vacation -- and the possibility of bronzing up next to a celebrity just add to the fun of a relaxing vacation. Discover Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California Hollywood Boulevard is one of the most famous areas of Los Angeles, and one that is a must-see for movie lovers who want to visit their favorite actors star on the Walk of Fame. If this is your intention on visiting the area however, be prepared -- there's now a lot of stars on that boulevard, and finding the one your looking for could take some time. Unless you're interested in seeing who else is honored with a star, save some time and buy a guide map which will show you exactly where your idol's star is located! Once a part of the seedier side of LA, Hollywood Boulevard has had something of a face lift in recent years and there are now a number of interesting places worth taking a look at, as well as a modern mall which provides some relief from the California heat, as well as allowing a little retail therapy to help take your attention away from your tired feet having walked around the Boulevard! Movie lovers will have a great time at the Hollywood Museum on Highland Avenue -- here they'll find not only props and posters, but exhibits such as the Hannibal Lector's cell from the "Silence of the Lambs". If you prefer your exhibits to be a little more interactive and educational however, walk a little further on past the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and you'll find the Hollywood Entertainment Museum which has, amongst other things, a backlot tour. For those visitors who want to see the home of "Oscar", as well as the "Hollywood" sign, Hollywood & Highland is the place to be. Here you'll find the familiar building of the Kodak Theatre which is the current Academy Award venue, as well as an archway through which to admire the "Hollywood" sign in the distance. There are a number of smaller museums which offer a taste of Hollywood's past as well as the celebrities who made it famous so make sure that the first stop you make is at the Visitor's Information Center so that you don't miss anything on your walk down one of the world's most famous Boulevards. Celebrity Spotting in California There are several approaches to spotting your favorite celebrity in California, but one of the easiest is simply by walking out your front door. In Santa Monica, an 8 square mile city, is packed with jogging paths, shops, farmers markets, and eateries, so it's common to see a celebrity out and about, exploring the shops and the beautiful beaches. In Los Angeles, it's Rodeo Drive that the celebrities hit the hardest - the shops are exclusive and the price tags high, which means it attracts the rich and famous. If finding celebrities partying down at the nightclub is more your style, then you'll want to check out some of the hottest nightclubs around, such as the Cabana Club where Britney Spears and Nicole Kidman have been spotted, to the Mood, where Christina Aguilera and Paris Hilton have been seen dancing the night away. A new "hot spot" can be decided upon as fast as it takes for someone to simply whisper the name out on the streets, so the current trendiest nightclub destinations can sometimes be tricky to stay on top of. If you're sure you want to check a place out, always try to call ahead to reserve a table when possible (which costs money on top of the cover charge) but with a table reservation, you're more likely to get in the door. And make sure to dress the part, or the bouncer may conveniently "lose" your reservation anyway. The fun of this approach is that you have a chance to show off your moves and dance right along your favorite celebrity, giving you a chance to mingle with them on a more personal level than you may have any another way. Dining out is also a popular way to spot celebrities, although of course this makes it a bit more difficult to really interact with them other than interrupting their dinner and making it obvious you're trying to get some face time with them. However, if you just want to observe them from a distance, restaurants are the way to go. Make sure to check out The Ivy or Fred 62, as they are two of the hottest restaurants around. Whatever approach you take, California has got plenty of hot spots to check out and have fun in, even if you don't end up seeing your favorite celebrity. Get a Taste for Romance in the Napa Valley, California The Napa Valley area of California is synonymous with good quality wines, but it's also a great place for a romantic vacation with a touch of class! It's also within easy driving distance of San Francisco. The vineyards in the Napa Valley are a wonderful place to explore, many of them open their doors to the public -- some owners even allow wine tasting (so check in advance what's available if this is something you'd like to take part in) evenings -- and give visitors an opportunity to see where and how the wine is nurtured and matured. Some vineyards also offer a restaurant service, accompanied by good wine of course, and because they aren't commercial restaurants, they usually only cater for small numbers making it a special romantic experience. You don't have to like wine to enjoy a romantic vacation in the Napa Valley. This part of California doesn't attract as many visitors as either the larger cities, or even the nearby Yosemite National Park, and the kind of visitors who do choose the Napa Valley are usually those who are looking for a little peace and quite on their holiday. Because of the tourist demographic, you are unlikely to encounter large groups with families and loud teens looking to party -- both of which could ruin a time when you want to spend quality time with your partner! That doesn't mean however that the Napa Valley is without its own form of excitement. There's more to this area than watching grapes grow, and wandering around musky wine cellars! The scenery of the Valley is one of it's major features, and the perfect way to celebrate a special occasion such as an anniversary would be to take a hot air balloon ride over the area. There are a number of different options available to you, but most of them start at the crack of dawn so be prepared for an early start to the day. Once the balloon rises, and the Napa Valley spreads out below you, the tiredness will soon be forgotten however! Make your reservation for the trip of your choice before you leave home, balloon trips are quite popular and especially in peak vacation times have their places booked out quickly! If you are in the process of planning a vacation for you and your partner, and want to go somewhere romantic, take a closer look at the Napa Valley. It could be just what you're looking for. Up Close and Personal with LA Tours and Tapings in California Los Angeles is hugely popular with tourists as well as wannabe celebrities and of course movie stars and it is possible to get closer to the rich and famous if you know where to look. It's even possible to become one of the audience members at a live taping of one of your favorite shows if you know where to look. Here's a sample of what you could experience on your California vacation (note some of these require a little bit of planning before you leave home!). 1. Catalina Adventure Tours When the glitz of the current movie scene gets too much, take a trip back in time to beautiful Catalina Island. Here you'll find a gentler pace to recharge your batteries whilst still keeping touch with Hollywood through the museums and exhibits that proclaim it's place in movie history. 2. NBC Studio Tour This tour lasts about 70 minutes but during that time you'll get to see what happens behind the scenes in a TV studio. If you're lucky enough to be there on the right day at the right time, you may even get to see a show being taped. 3. Warner Brother VIP Studio Tour This is a real gem for movie buffs as visitors are guided through back-lot streets, sound stages and even sets they'll recognize from various productions. 4. Audiences Unlimited Inc If you'd like to see a TV show being taped live, this is the place to contact. They'll be able to give you info on what's being taped when and where, and perhaps even supply you with tickets! 5. Check out Jay and the "Tonight Show" Team Get tickets to see Jay Leno and the "Tonight Show" live by writing to NBC and requesting tickets. You should give them a choice of dates when you're able to attend the show. If you don't book ahead, you may be able to get tickets at Universal Studios but this isn't guaranteed. If you are more into TV than movies, there's still much to do in Los Angeles - from TV celebrity spotting to live tapings -- perhaps even on the streets of the city so keep your eyes open, you never know what, or who, you'll bump into! California surfing -- where are the best places to catch wave? The Beach Boys made California synonymous with surfing on the world stage but it with the ocean and beautiful shores; it was already "the" place to surf! If you feel like some fun hitting the waves, you'll want to head to one of the following beaches in California; with the good weather and great waves, they're some of the most popular surfing areas in the world! Huntington Beach: Home to the Huntington Beach Surf Series, many pro surfers call this their home. Located in Orange County (the real OC!) this is probably one of the most popular places to surf in the world. They even have a church in the area just for surfers. Now that's bringing spiritual to the people! San Diego: Warm weather and great waves is what you'll find at San Diego. A large surfing community has sprung up in the San Diego area, and you'll find many locals are hitting the waves along with the tourists! Santa Cruz: You'll have nothing but fun at the beaches of Santa Cruz! For an avid surfer, Santa Cruz is a favorite area to find the best waves. A lot of surfers, especially those who are more experienced, have preferred conditions in which to surf and so a lot of the more popular beaches have webcams (surf cams) set up facing the waves so that a surfer can go to a website and check out the conditions before they head to the beach. There are also dedicated phone numbers you can call to find out the weather conditions, if you prefer to get your information that way. If you're looking to learn how to surf but don't know where to start, you'll find that there are many surfing schools all along the beaches of California. The varied selection makes it easy to find one that fits your level of experience and learning style, and your pocketbook. Alternatively you could always just head for the beach and hang out with the surfers to pick up tips! Knott's Berry Farm, California Knott's Berry Farm has a fun history: It was started by the Knotts family because their restaurant that served chicken, potatoes, and their famous boysenberry pie would always have a long wait line, and they wanted to keep their customers happy while waiting in line so developed things for them to do as they waited. As the family liked the history of the area (the Gold Rush) they decided to base their entertainments around that time period, and made their first activity panning for gold. The theme park has grown from that humble beginning to being in the top ten most popular theme parks in California -- given the competition that's no small accomplishment! It's only 10-15 minutes away from Disneyland, so many people who come down to have fun in the land of the mouse usually end up taking at least a day to explore Knott's Berry Farm also. Today there are 150+ rides at Knott's Berry, including "Ghostrider", the tallest and longest wooden roller coaster in the west. The other rides include "Xcelerator", "Timberline Twister", and "Log Ride". With its roots firmly planted in the "Old West" many of the attractions and rides are based on that theme. There are "shoot outs" in the streets, the rides are usually themed around logging, and there is also quite a bit of influence from the Spanish missions that were at one time prevalent in the area. Despite it's popularity as a tourist attraction, Knott's Berry Farm hasn't forgotten its original roots however; it still serves crispy chicken and that famous boysenberry pie, along with selling jars of jam and jellies in the stores on the property. Keeping to it's roots hasn't held back development in the park. It has grown tremendously since those early gold panning days -- so much so that there are now two theme parks; the original park now has a sister park across the street called Soak City - both are owned and operated by the same company. Not bad for a small berry-growing family who just wanted to entertain their customers! So if you're looking for a day of adventure, learning, fun, and great food, Knott's Berry Farm is just the ticket! Take a Romantic Vacation in California If you are looking to take a romantic vacation with your loved one this year, California should definitely make it to the top of your list. One of the things that makes California a great state is the variety in geography and cities, and it's this variety that also makes it a prime target for vacation. If you and your partner pampering on your romantic vacation in the Golden State, a great destination is Palm Springs. Between spa treatments and strolling around the golf course, there's something for everyone in Palm Springs. If you're looking for a quiet get-away retreat to spend time reconnecting with your spouse whilst soaking up a little California sunshine, this is a great choice as Palm Springs is located in the Mojave Desert and it rarely falls below freezing -- even in winter. If connecting with nature is more your idea of a romantic retreat, northern California may be just the ticket. Yosemite National Park has it all: Beautiful scenery, lavish hotels, and if you seek them out, special offers that give you the chance to enjoy it all without breaking the bank. Whether you want to be a hiker out in the daytime wilderness with your loved one, or whether you want to snuggle together at night next to a roaring fire, Yosemite may be just what you're looking for. If you're looking for a romantic winter break, northern California has great skiing to offer to both novice and expert alike. Of course, you can't forget the tourist destination, Disneyland. It may not sound romantic, but if that's the reason for your vacation, you'll find that you'll have relaxed quality time during the day as you wander around the park, then at night you can relive the memories of the day over a candle-lit meal at one of the restaurants in the area -- and what could be more romantic than watching a fireworks display with someone you love? So whether your idea of a romantic vacation is wanting to relax, hike, or sightsee together, you'll love what you find in California. Things to do with Kids in Los Angeles, California Taking your children on vacation often means planning ahead to make sure that you uncover all of the interesting places and activities that will be fun for them, as well as for the grown-ups. There are a number of great places in Los Angeles that are child friendly -- these are just a taste of what LA has to offer! La Brea Tar Pits- Imagine being back in the time of the dinosaurs. Well for a brief while you can walk the lives of the ancient animals as once they walked on the Earth. You'll take a walk along paved paths that overlook the La Brea Tar Pits. Animals such as the Saber Tooth Tiger, woolly mammoths and many others can be found in the pits. These animals have all been preserved because of the Ice Age and they are in the very spots they were found. Now you can see them as once they were. Inside you'll be able to actually watch as paleontologists dust off bone fragments of those they've found, or take a tour inside and look at the dinosaur bones they have on display. If your kids love dinosaurs, they're going to love this! Santa Monica Beach/Pier- The Santa Monica Pier never closes, so you can arrive at night or bright and early in the morning. The best part of the pier for adults is that it's free. Children will love the Playland Arcade which has over 200 different types of games, even teens will be happy here! The pier is also where they have the beautiful antique carousel, designed in 1916, that your child will beg to go on repeatedly! There are more than just rides and games on the pier however. There are restaurants, vendors, shops, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and the Pacific Park itself. Griffith Park -- Inside this park your children will be entertained by the Merry-Go-Round and the railroad. The Merry-Go-Round was actually built in 1926 but still runs smoothly today. Children aren't the only ones that'll enjoy this park however; even adults will have a great time exploring its horse paths, golf course, etc. The train station has many types of trains from throughout history and even two special trains for the kids to enjoy. The secret botanist in you will love all the different types of greenery at the park. Before leaving this park don't forget to visit the "Griffith Observatory," this is the place that'll let you view the entire city from atop its roof. You'll be amazed at just how beautiful everything looks, especially at night. Los Angeles is more than just a place for celebrity spotting, and expensive high profile theme parks, take a look around at the smaller parks, you'll be surprised at how entertaining your children will find them. Things to Do on Vacation in Santa Barbara, California Whether you're a new visitor to the area or have lived in Santa Barbara your entire life, there are many fun things for you do in this lovely part of California. The obvious activities are connected to the great outdoors and natural environment, from biking, to swimming or watching dolphins and whales swimming from the deck of one of the boats offering cruises around the waters just off the coastline. But there's a side of Santa Barbara that's away from the ocean, and it's full of interesting things to do on your vacation. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum which focuses on marine life is one such place. Alternatively, the Museum of Natural History is home to eleven different exhibit halls, containing many birds, mammals, insects and much more. Paleontology will be busy trying to discover what it is they've found, while you examine all of the marine life they've discovered. As you tour the building, don't be shocked when you turn a corner only to discover many varieties of reptiles! The museum's planetarium is a fascinating place to visit and even has introduction to astronomy shows for children. Animals are another big attraction at the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens where you'll be able to see over 700 animals from across the globe, not to mention walk amongst the beautiful gardens. Built in 1817, the Casa de La Guerra is still standing and a very interesting place for anyone with a passion for history, but if railways are more your thing, take a look at the Stow House & Railroad Museum. Wine aficionados however will be looking to travel a little bit further north of the main Santa Barbara area where they can find the local vineyards. Although Santa Barbara is well known for it's ocean views and lifestyle, there's more to the area than just sand, sun and water -- it's a place where you can spend some of your time enjoying the beach, and the other part of it checking out the other various activities the area has to offer. Discover the Highlights of Northern California When people think of California, they usually think of Los Angeles and movie stars, or alternatively, Palm Springs and golf courses. But there's a lot of fun to be had up north too. San Francisco is probably the most well-known city in northern California, and offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. From trolley cars to Ghirardelli chocolate and onto Pier 39, there's no limit to the amount of fun to be had in this cosmopolitan city. With shopping galore, sea lions down on the beach, restaurants enough to satisfy even the most varied of taste buds, and history that includes earthquakes and the infamous Alcatraz prison. If you're looking for a more peaceful trip to the area, Yosemite National Park offers something for the inner nature lover in all of us. Whether you want to enjoy the scenery from a hotel room window or camp out in a tent to enjoy nature up front and personal, you'll find what you're looking for at Yosemite. Even farther up north is the amazing Redwood National Park, with its gigantic trees and serene atmosphere. Here you'll gain not only a true appreciation for the beauty and diversity of this world, but will also find a new perspective on life! It's not really possible to mention northern Californian highlights without mentioning the Napa Valley area. For the wine aficionados of the world, Napa Valley is heaven on earth. There are wine tasting parties and open houses almost year-round -- just make sure to call ahead or check on the Internet to see what the latest information is. The Napa Valley also has some amazing landscapes to appreciate. For history buffs, the northern California is a gold mine of Spanish missions, gold rush exhibits, and railroad museums. If you're interested in how California evolved into to what it is today, you'll love exploring all of the museums and exhibits dedicated to this time period. Whatever you're looking for in a vacation, whether it's wild nights or wildlife, or high living or high summits, you're sure to find it in beautiful northern California. Discover Redwood National Park, California If exploring nature is your idea of a good vacation, then a trip to the Redwood National Park in northern California is a great choice for a holiday destination. This park is home to the world's tallest tree which is known as "Tall Tree", and is a beautiful natural exhibition of redwood trees. These trees can only be seen in California and China so your visit to Redwood National Park isn't just a chance to be in the great outdoors, but it's an opportunity to see these rare tall trees up close and personal. It's even possible to camp out in the park, but facilities are extremely limited so you might want to look further into what's available before deciding you're going pitch a tent for the night! There isn't an entrance fee to this national park, nor is there an entrance station from the highway, so make sure that you call into the Redwood Information Center in nearby Orick, or the headquarters in Crescent City before entering the park. The information center also shows a short introduction to the park so you know what you're looking at when you get there, and you can obtain a permit there to enter the gated Tall Trees Grove area inside the park -- only a limited number of car permits are allowed each day so if you want to take the opportunity to admire the tallest trees in the world, a short detour to the Information Center before you enter the park is a must! Be warned however, this trip takes about 4 hours to complete and some of it is on a slow-speed dirt road so make sure your vehicle's up to the challenge before setting off into the grove! Hiking the Redwood National Park is possible but again, you'll need a permit to be in the Tall Tree Grove area, and there are times of the year when hikers aren't allowed in this area because of the footbridges across the creek being inaccessible. Another way to enjoy this beautiful part of upstate California is on horseback with riding trails being offered locally. The Redwood National Park is one of America's natural gems and is extremely protected. It's also well worth the effort of experiencing these magnificent trees up close if you are lucky enough to be able to do so.
Venice Beach, California Do you love the atmosphere, food, and fun of being involved in a carnival? How about street vendors and artists? Do you love beaches, swimming, and waves? If the answer to these questions is "Yes", you may just find that Venice Beach is your own personal paradise. Venice Beach is like no other place on earth, with street vendors hawking their wares, beautiful waves crashing on the golden beaches, and artist's easels as far as the eye can see. Originally built at the very beginning of the 20th century, Venice Beach has gone through a lot of changes and growth in the last century. The founder and builder, Abbot Kinney, had imagined an American version of Venice, Italy, with large canals and boats to take the residents to their destinations. Few of the canals originally dug by Kinney remain, but those that do have been transformed into a beautiful, postcard perfect area. The beauty of the area has meant that many artists have moved to the Venice Beach area and made it their home. Aside from the paintings on easels there are also murals on almost every building, and even the lifeguard towers for the beach have been decorated! Everywhere you look you'll see evidence of an artistic community. Venice Beach is well-known for its free-spirited roots. The most famous person of the hippie era to make his home there was Jim Morrison of The Doors, but during that time period, almost everyone who lived in Venice was a part of the hippie movement. Gypsies are a large part of the scene at Venice, and so whether you're looking for your palm to be read or your fortune to be told, you'll find what you're looking for in Venice. It has a long, colorful history that is still be changed and added to today -- visit Venice and see history in the making for yourself! Where to Find Extreme Sporting Opportunities in California California is a land of extremes; from deserts to beaches to forests to rivers, it has it all. It's no wonder that extreme sporting has taken off in California - the geographical diversity offered make it easy to find just the thrill you were seeking, no matter where in the state you're visiting. As far as water sports goes, there are a wide variety of opportunities to raise your adrenalin level! The waves on the beach offer some crazy surfing opportunities, and then there's kayaking, snorkeling, deep-sea diving, and wind-surfing. If it can be done on water, it can be done in California. If staying on dry land whilst seeking a rush appeals to you, check out the rock climbing opportunities that are available. The popular huge boulders in Bishop offer a world-class challenge to climbers wanting to show their skills. If you're down in the south of California and want to try your hand at rock climbing, check out the Joshua Tree National Monument in the Mojave Desert. The heat is intense during the summer (over 100 degrees regularly) so either be prepared for an added natural element challenge, or plan your trip during winter time. Of course, there are those who consider the heat to be part of the extreme experience -- so it's up to each climber how extreme they want to be! If aerial is more your thing, you'll be happy to hear that California is home to countless skydiving companies. There are schools to teach you how to do it, and companies are willing to take anyone from the first timer to the most experienced jumper out on a run. The rush of purposefully jumping out of a plane is second to none, although your friends may question your sanity! If extreme sports is your thing, then you'll find that California is the ideal place to vacation! Info for Taking a Mexican Day Trip whilst in San Diego, California So going to California may sound like a great vacation place, but to add a bit of vitality and exotic excitement to your holiday, how about taking a short day trip across the border into Mexico? If you are in the San Diego, a detour into Tijuana, Mexico is easier than you might think -- you can even take the San Diego Trolley down to the border from where you can walk across. One of the most important things to remember is that this is legally leaving the US and so you MUST have your passport, or other forms of ID (including photographic) with you otherwise you're going to have problems getting back into the US! Although you can't use your driver's license in place of a passport, you can use this as photographic evidence along with other proof of nationality. Whilst you are in Mexico make sure that you keep your official papers in a safe place and never unattended. The US/Mexico border is open 24 hours a day, so there's no closing time, but if you are relying on the trolley bus to get you back to central San Diego, you need to find out the time the last trolley runs each night and ensure you cross the border at least an hour before that -- depending on how many tourists have spent the day in Mexico, and how many of them have paperwork problems on their return, it can take over 45mins to clear customs -- better still, aim to catch the one-before-last trolley so you have a fallback plan if something goes wrong at the border patrol! If you have a hire car for your California vacation, you won't be allowed to take this across the border so be prepared to park it on the American side of the border and then either walking or taking the shuttle bus across. If you have your own car, you have the option of taking your car into Mexico, or parking it on the US side of the border. If you take your car, note that you will need to allow for more time to clear customs and immigration at the US border on your return into America, than you would if you were on foot. Make sure you get a map with local information on it before entering Mexico. Find out which areas are "safe" and tourist friendly, the areas to avoid, and where you can go for help if you get into some kind of trouble. Most tourists to Mexico have a great time and return to the US unscathed and wanting to return another day, there are however, those who don't. As long as you stick to the tourist "rules" and take warnings issued by the US government seriously, you'll have a great time and be one of those people who long to return to Mexico another time. Golfing Vacations in California If theme parks and celebrity spotting isn't your thing, you can let the family go off and do their thing whilst you make use of the many golfing opportunities available in California. If you are a serious golfer however, perhaps you'd prefer to have a vacation where golfing is the main event rather than something you do to escape from the tourist crowds in the noisy attractions! California offers a wide variety of different types of backdrops for its golf enthusiasts, so make sure you check out what's available before making your reservation! For example, if you like the desert then you'll love Palm Springs where there are many golfing vacations available. The Classic Club offers up a beautiful view of the desert, and you'll have a great course to try your luck on. This 18 hole green has 7,305 yards to play in with 14 bridges and little lakes to work around. This is desert area however, and temperatures can soar during the day and drop at night so make sure you pack for both extremes! If desert isn't your idea of a fun golfing vacation location, about the beach? Imagine waking up and hitting some balls in front of the ocean as the sun is just starting to rise. Monterey Courses has various packages available, and their golf course is 18 holes over 7,009 yards. If you want to combine your love of golfing with a family vacation however, you could do worse than to base your location in Orange County which is close to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm and has a golf course where you can relax whilst the rest of the family enjoy the thrills and spills of the local attractions. Once you've decided on where you want to spend your vacation, check with the local clubs in that area as to whether they hire out equipment, or if you need to take your own. If you don't want to pack the equipment, this could be a final deciding factor in which of California's many beautiful golf courses you decide to play on. Things to Do on Vacation in San Diego, California If you are looking for something fun to do while your vacationing in San Diego, California, you'll be spoilt for choice. Besides the usual BIG attractions like Lego Land, Sea World, etc, there are many out of the ordinary activities that are just as much fun, and not quite as packed because they are not as well known. Put on those walking shoes because your first stop in San Diego should be Balboa Park. Why? Simply because this place has so much to do that it'll make your vacation in San Diego one you'll never forget. Imagine 15 museums, beautiful gardens everywhere and the added attraction of concerts. If you've children with you they'll enjoy the mini railroad and carousel within the park. On the northern side of the park you'll find the San Diego zoo. The zoo consists of 800 species of mammals such as the giant pandas to the hundreds of slithering snakes, but one of its greatest attractions is actually the Skyfari cable car! If you want to see more animals, you should also check out the San Diego Wild Animal Park which you tour around on a monorail that takes about 50 minutes to complete the loop which circles a preserve containing many types of wild animals such as zebras, rhinos and giraffes. One "must do" activity on your vacation should be to the San Diego maritime museum. It may look on the outside, but looks are deceiving as it has a lot of amazing exhibits inside. This museum itself is housed on a ship. If you like pirates, you'll love Pirates of the Pacific, inside this ship are all the wonders from William Dampier. Many other ships such as Berkeley, Californian, Pilot, B-39 Submarine, etc are on display. If you are in anyway interested in ships or love maritime history this is going to be a fun place for you. For something completely different, make sure you visit the La Jolla Underwater Park. This is an awesome natural marine environment complete with caves, sandstone cliffs, reefs, canyons and kelp forests. San Diego may not have the glitz and glitter of LA, but it has a character all of it's own, and one things for sure, you won't get bored there! Discover Yosemite National Park, California California had been a fully-fledged state for about a year before Yosemite was discovered. These days the park isn't quite so secluded but it's still home to some of the most stunning scenery to be found in the world. Although it can't boast the huge canyon panorama's of the Grand Canyon, or the fabulous powerful waterfalls famous at Niagara, Yosemite has something that's quite unique in that it has so many different natural environments within the one area -- from amazing mountain top views, to crystal streams, natural water features, glaciers and meadowlands, Yosemite has something different to show at almost each turn in the road. The first place you need to stop at is Yosemite Village. If you're planning on staying overnight in the park, this is also the area you'll probably be sleep as almost all overnight park guests prefer to stay within this 8 square mile area. The Village is where you'll find a good map to help you locate all the park highlights (invaluable if you don't have much time to spend in the park!), as well as tell you what's happening around the park that day. If you want to take advantage of any of the shuttle buses that operate between the Village and some of the park's highlights, this is also the place you need to be. If you want to get more in touch with nature, whilst not getting to far off the beaten track (and there's plenty of opportunity for that too!), then plan to explore the eastern side of the park where there are stricter restrictions on transportation with cars not being allowed into the area. Here you can ride the shuttle bus into the area and then enjoy some hiking or alternatively cycle in, without the sound of constant car engines interfering with the sounds of nature. Yosemite isn't just for summer, and although some of its finest views such as the meadow will be covered over, it's also a winter playground for those who love snow sports. If you plan on visiting the park during the winter months however, make sure you check what parts of the park are accessible and open, and what facilities you'll find there. You'll also find that the type of accommodation will be more limited during the winter months so book in advance around any main holiday periods. Even if you only have a day to spend at Yosemite National Park, you'll see things that will provide memories to last a lifetime, whether it's the Yosemite Falls (North America's highest falls), the huge redwood trees of Mariposa Grove or the alpine beauty of the Tuolumne Meadows. Discover Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, California Fisherman's Wharf is one of the major tourist areas of San Francisco, California and it's one of the major "must sees" in the city not only because of its links to maritime history but also because of the amount of things to do there. One of the most easily recognized buildings in Fisherman's Wharf is the Maritime Museum, known almost as much for its ship-shape building as it is for the exhibits that document San Francisco's maritime past. Anyone who is even a little bit interested in ships or their history will enjoy a wander around this museum. For a taste of a different kind of history, check out Ghirardelli's original premises that are also located in the Wharf area. Although the world class chocolate is no longer made here, you can see where the Ghirardelli story began and even purchase some chocolate there. Some of the major attractions in Fisherman's Wharf are to be found on the piers. In particular vibrant Pier 45 where amongst other things you can buy some freshly cooked seafood right on the pier, visit Ripley's Believe it or Not museum, and if you're up early enough, catch the fishermen taking their boats out into the ocean. Pier 49 may be a great place for the tourists, but it's still a working pier for the local fishermen. Pier 39 is another place you'll find fun and attractions such as the Riptide Arcade and the Turbo ride making it an especially good place to visit if you've got kids in your party. For a little less "excitement" but no less awesome, visit the Aquarium of the Bay and look at the beautiful sea life that surrounds you as you walk through the glass-roofed cave. Finish off your visit to Pier 39 with a ride on the beautiful two-tiered San Francisco carousel. No visit to Fisherman's Wharf would be complete without taking an ocean trip out into the bay, and so Pier 41 must be on your itinerary as this is the departure point for most of the boat trips in and around the bay -- including those to Alcatraz. San Francisco is full of amazing things to see and visit and Fisherman's Wharf is just one of them! Be sure to make some kind of itinerary before you leave home or you're sure to miss something out that you really wanted to see. Things to do with Kids in San Francisco, California Want to have a little bit of fun with your kids while in San Francisco, California this summer? That's not hard with so many wonderful attractions, all you need to do is figure out which ones are perfect for your child. Most children delight in seeing things that are just unbelievable or disgusting and they can find all sorts of "odd" items over at Ripley's Believe it Or Not Museum. Imagine their faces when they see a two headed cow or a cable car made entirely out of matchsticks. These are just a few of the weird things they have in this two floor museum, If the museum isn't to their liking maybe they'd like to walk over to the Golden Gate Park. Try burning off some of that energy they have by taking them to the children's playground. There are swings to swing on, a carousel to ride as well as many tubes to slither through. The adults may enjoy a picnic at one of the benches, followed by visiting the De Young Museum. Before you leave, make sure you all get a chance to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. This will be something they can tell all their friends once they get home. Older children, and boys in particular, should be fascinated by a trip Alcatraz – and even if the ex prison itself isn't of interest, they're sure to at least enjoy the boat trip to get there! If you don't think your kids will be scared, a visit to the Wax Museum down at the Fisherman's Wharf is a good way to spend some time. Your child will get to walk through the chamber of horrors, meet King Tut and all his glory and walk back through the history of sports and entertainment. Each figure looks so like the real thing it's freaky. Back in the outdoors Pier 39 is a great place to take kids, and in particular, a visit into the Aquarium of the Bay where they can not only admire the many varieties of sea life on display, but can walk through an arch where the fish swim overhead! Less gentle entertainment can be found at the Riptide Arcade and nearby Turbo Ride. San Francisco is a great place for adults to spend a vacation, but it's also a city that has something for everyone -- including the kids! A Peaceful Retreat on Catalina Island, California When life's stresses and strains get too much for you, head over to Catalina Island and you'll find a peaceful retreat that's bound to have you relaxed in no time. The island, is only approximately 22 physical miles from the mainland, but in terms of lifestyle and sheer population, it's a lifetime away. With only 2 ports on the island, one into the main town of Avalon, and the other into the more secluded side of the island at Two Harbors, and only two ways onto the island, via the water or helicopter, there's very little noise from vehicles. Relatively few cars exist on the island and most visitors either get around on foot or bicycle. Despite being such a small island, there are things to do here on the days when you feel like doing something a little more energetic than watching the sun move around, and when you first arrive on Catalina Island you should visit the local Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau which will give you all the information you need about what's on, where to find it, and of course ideas of where to stay and eat if you haven't already made reservations. In the peak months however, you should always at least reserve your room before venturing across to the island. Although you may be lucky to arrive and find a room free, it's not likely during high season because of the limited amount of accommodation available. Two of the most popular places to visit on Catalina Island are the Catalina Island Museum which charts the history of the island through it's various stages from the more recent history through the Hollywood era (the island was one of the first main Hollywood film sets) right back to the Native Americans. Just about 2 miles out of Avalon you'll find the Wrigley Botanical Gardens which will delight anyone who has an interest in flora and fauna. William Wrigley (as in the chewing gum empire) once owned the island and you could even stay in his mansion which is now converted into a bed and breakfast establishment. Catalina Island may not sound very exciting when compared with the attractions of Los Angeles and San Francisco, but for anyone needing to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, it's a perfect beach oasis. What to do in Disneyland, California Disneyland is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world, and for good reason. It is where Disney magic comes alive with the famous characters walking around that you can meet (everyone from Goofy to Cinderella -- and not forgetting Mickey!) and have their photos taken and collect autographs. For the little ones especially this is the best part of the park and the excitement is something they'll remember long after they've outgrown the animated movies and understand the reality behind the characters! Aside from the characters there are the rides. Space Mountain and Splash Mountain in particular are rides for which Disney is famous -- some rides have height restrictions so make sure your children qualify before standing in line. The park is divided up into various themed areas such as "Tomorrowland" and "Critter Country" and each area is full of attractions, rides and side shows. You could actually spend a day just wandering around and looking at everything, without ever going on a single ride -- unless you've got children with you! There are parades in the park, and a fireworks display can be found at almost any major event in the park, which adds to the fun because you don't have to stand in line for hours to watch it -- check the park's information area to find out what's happening on the day you're visiting and what time it begins. Disneyland has an assortment of places to eat around the park, plan your day so that you are in the right area at the right time for your meals. Some restaurants advise making reservations so check this out at the start of your day -- or even before you get there if possible -- to avoid disappointment. Accommodation near to, or even within, Disneyland is popular during school vacations, so you need to reserve the hotel you want to stay at as soon as you make the decision to visit the park. Once the high season gets into full swing, available hotel rooms become further away from the park and limited in choice. Disneyland is pure magic and whether you're 5 or 95, you'll find there's something to enjoy in this fabulous theme park! Once you've experienced it, you'll be sure to want to come back another time. Visiting the Joshua Tree National Park, California If you are visiting Los Angeles, or if you are planning a camping trip to California, then the Joshua Tree National Park is well worth a visit – especially if you love the outdoors and have a passion for outdoor activities. Located only 140 miles from LA, it's well within a day trip from the city and even in one day, you'll be able to take the opportunity to follow one of the shorter hiking trails within the park and take part in some activities (depending on how long you can stay in the park before having to start back for the city). The first thing you need to think about before entering the park however is that this is a desert area and as such you must have water with you. Also, once inside the park, there's no concession areas where you can buy supplies so you must take any food you'll require with you. This is a natural environment and as such, there are many park rules that you must abide by so a visit to the visitor's center is a must before you enter the park -- you'll also get a good idea of what's happening where in the park here as well as be able to pick up a map of the area. Note there are no RV hook-up areas within the park. Available in the park are camping facilities but places are limited and there's no "overflow" camping area so if you are hoping to camp in the park, make sure you reserve your space before leaving home. The added bonus of an overnight stay in the Joshua Tree National Park is the starlit sky -- astronomy followers will love this park for the opportunity it gives to study the night sky. There are also night-time ranger programs available on certain evenings so check what's happening in which campsite before you make your reservation. Whether you want to partake in bird watching activities, or something more educational such as the geology motor tour, or even a strenuous activity like rock climbing, there's something for everyone in the Joshua Tree National Park. Revealing the Real Orange County, California After "The O.C." hit the airwaves, people everywhere began to associate California with snobs and over-the-top riches, and even though the show has now ended, the obsession with Orange County hasn't abated. There's a good reason for this. Orange Country is an amazingly beautiful and diverse area, with Mediterranean-like weather year-round. Residents surf the waves on Christmas, something that people from northern states like Idaho or Wisconsin could only dream about. Many consider Orange County to be one of the most perfect places on earth because of the juxtaposition of temperate weather, beautiful scenery, high job growth, and of course its ideal proximity to Los Angeles and San Diego. Of course when all of these factors combine together into one area, you'll quickly find that another, not-so-perfect aspect comes into play: soaring housing prices and cost of living. As a place to vacation however, this only affects the average tourist in terms of the cost of accommodation and eating out as this may be higher than in an area where property owners/restaurateurs have less overheads to pay. The main problem isn't so much that holidaymakers are faced with higher prices, but rather that Orange County isn't a vibrant cosmopolitan city with many different cultures woven into its backdrop. Many tourist attractions, and even stores, are generic with little local color. This doesn't apply everywhere however, the world famous surfer's paradise of Huntington Beach can be found in this area, as can the unique Crystal Cathedral! For kids there's Disneyland, Ripley's Believe It or Not, and even a toy museum to keep them amused. You may not be able to relive the highlife from the TV show -- unless you are part of that scene, but you will have a great holiday because the natural beauty of Orange County can't fail to charm you.
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