I live in California, and I'm wondering if there is anyone who can help me to find some really cool stuff to do all around the state, that most people wouldn't know about. I want to find crazy people, remote locations, historical landmarks, anything you can throw at me. I'm putting this out here, hoping that it becomes a kind of challenge of sorts, to try and see who can come up with the best stuff to do in CA, that most people don't know about. So please rack your brains and let me know. -mike
There is nothing fun to do in California at all...
Okay, I'm joking! But as a non-Californian, not sure I can submit anything you don't already know. But, I'm always willing to try and put myself out there as a potential moron.
My first suggestion is Mount Diablo State Park in Contra Costa County, south of Oakland. Now, Mount Diablo, at 3,849 above sea level is not exactly Everest, and the fact that there is a road up to the top with a gift shop certainly loses it points. However, because you can drive up it, most people actually avoid the better experience, and that is HIKING up it. When I did it, back in 2002, I walked up from a parking spot around 2,000 feet above sea level, and saw about 4 other people on the way up, as the trails don't follow the roads. Pretty barren landscape, but really neat.
The view from the top was amazing. To the west was the Golden Gate Bridge and out into the Pacific, and to the east the central valley and far away the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The central valley is quite flat, and as Mount Diablo stands alone, the view is extensive. A plaque at the peak stated that one can see 35 of California's 58 counties, and from which it is possible to view the second greatest surface area seen from any peak in the world, exceeded only by Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.
And the best part is that most people at the "peak" stay in the paved parking lot, so you can walk 50 feet into the "wildernress" (i.e. unpaved dirt trail) and have a beautiful view to yourself.
That's pretty cool.
Second suggestion - if you have not checked out the Muir Woods National Park in Marin County, it is definately worth a look. In the parking lot you'll be thinking, "this blows, look at all these people," but if you walk 10 minutes and step off the wooden boardwalk area, you have a MASSIVE national park to yourself to hike. Very interesting nature to see, and the potential of BOBCAT attacks (though I was never mauled by a bobcat).
Third suggestion - I just finished a book by a Canadian Author called Natalie MacLean called "Red and White and Drunk All Over" about wine. She visited the Seghesio Winery in Sanoma County. In addition to being an opportunity to drink alcohol (which is always good), you can check out the train station of "Chianti, California," a train station dating back to the late 1800s (which, of course, is pretty old in California).
[ Edit: Edited on Oct 2, 2007, at 4:29 PM by GregW ]
Since you live in Fresno area, here's an easy one.
Visit Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay on the Central Coast. Simply stunning coastline views and the advantage of San Luis Obispo area nearby. This jewel of a place gets overlooked a lot.
These are obvious things no doubt but I'll throw them in anyway:
No. 1 - Yosemite. One of my favourite places in the world. I'm longing to go back. I was there in the autumn and it was just so beautiful.
No.2 - Wine country! Napa Valley and Sonoma. Dont bother doing a big wine tour. Just stay a few days up there, rent a car and set yourself a nice easy pace Great wine, great restaurants.
No. 3 - San Fransisco is just a great city. Full stop. Highlight for me was Alcatraz. Go at dusk.
For those who have never heard of Neptune's Palace and the Floating Castle and the A-8 anchorage in San Diego, here's an interesting link. (the part on Neptune's Palace and the demise of the Floating Castle, it's about 3/4ths of the way down the article.)
I think they occasionally still throw parties at the Neptune's Palace--but I don't live in San Diego, so I don't really know.
Other crazy California things/places:
Scotty's Castle--middle of Death Valley (north of the Furnace Creek Resort)
Hearst Castle--extremely well-known, but thought I'd throw it in.
Cannery Row (Monterey)--ditto, but check out the Monterey aquarium while there.
Fisherman's wharf in San Francisco--top tourist spot in the state, but still worth a mention--go to the Boudoin bakery when there--and get the "walkaway" crab cocktail also.
Trees of Mystery--north of Eureka in the northern part of the state
Winchester Mystery House--in San Jose, just across the street from the biggest/fanciest mall in the city
Mystery Spot (just a few miles NE of Santa Cruz). Ms. Winchester kept building on her house for over 40 years or so--and it shows--not to be missed--it's crazy to the extreme.
Garlic Festival in Gilroy (last weekend in July)--over 150,000 people attend each year. There are smaller festivals (Artichoke Festival in May in Castroville) and (Strawberry Festival in Watsonville--August) also.
Huntington Library & Gardens in San Marino
Beach Blanket Babylon--(I understand this is now in London also)
Dick's Last Resort--San Diego--home of the place to throw your napkins at everybody. I see it's now in six other cities across the US as well.
Renaissance festivals in both the north and south of the state (south from April to May and north from September to October)
Channel Islands National Park--the only national park in the country that you are forbidden to actually visit--you can tour around it by boat, however--and it's tourist center is in Ventura--30 miles away from the islands themselves
Catalina Island offshore from Long Beach--used to have its own casino--still there, but no longer a casino. It also has the Wrigley house (owner of the Wrigley gum company)
Giant sand dunes south of Pismo Beach (don't remember the name)
Big Basin State Park--first redwood park in the country (and first state park in the country west of the Appalachian mountains). Redwoods with hallowed out stumps big enough to set up a table and have a sit down dinner for 4. Some of the trees started sprouting prior to 100 BC.
Larsen Volcanic National Park--a dormant volcano that could still explode anytime
City of Hollister--best known for having an earthquake every three days on average (fortunately, they tend to be small ones).
La Brea Tar Pits--a giant tar pit in the middle of west LA held bones of mammoths and saber-tooth tigers and even one human that date back over 50,000 years. There is a museum on site that holds the bones and displays--and the tar pit is still there--fenced off to make sure people don't wander in and become the next victim
Colorado Blvd on December 31st/January 1st--over 1,000,000 party it up here on the new year--mostly teenagers, and young adults and sports fans who either party overnight or else show up the next morning to watch the Tournament of Roses parade
Chinese New Year parade--usually around early February--giant parade with the 40 foot dragon and bands and the rest that goes through Chinatown and down to Union Square in the heart of San Francisco
Shadowbrook Restaurant in Capitola--this giant redwood restaurant built on the side of a mountain in Capitola (northern California) is the basis for Disney's California Adventure restaurant at their theme park. The real one has a working outdoor gondola that takes people to/from the restaurant if they don't want to walk up or down through the forest, waterfalls, and herb gardens.
Ports O'Call Village (San Pedro)--every weekend this becomes a Mexican celebration village as the locals go down and pick from a variety of different fish to have grilled or steamed and then enjoy with their familes (and maybe a beer or two for the adults) accompanied by roving Mariachi bands.
Olvera Street (downtown LA)--where LA started, a short village of restaurants and small shops. Every year on the day of St. Francis, everyone brings down their various pets to have them blessed by the local priest. Talk about variety--birds, dogs, cats, horses, --even one year an elephant!
Laguna Beach art festivals--there are 3 that go on from late July to mid-August in this town. Also, the famous "Pageant of the Masters" is here--where people pose in life-size reproductions of famous paintings, sculptures, or photographs.
Concours d'Elegance--in Monterey each year they have a car show that highlights the elegant old cars, brand new fancy ones, and the absolute unique in cars. I think I have the name right, but could be wrong since I never attended.
Del Mar Race Track--in the summer, this becomes the place to go near San Diego--their slogan "where the surf meets the turf"
Black's Beach--also right next to San Diego. The best known nudist beach in the country. While not officially a nude beach, the authorities look the other way. (Note: the reason is because when they tried to outlaw nudity here, it did officially get passed, but the vote was 52% to 48%--meaning over 500,000 people voted to keep it nude--and if the vote were to be done again today, it would probably go the opposite direction--so the local politicians can see that its a political football--besides, it is so remote, how would you police it anyway?)
Well, that's a few that come to mind--I'll see if I can think of a few more later.
Oh, I left out some things:
Solvang--Dutch village north of Santa Barbara-- (and it has an ostrich farm just down the road aways--which was mentioned in the movie "Sideways")
Cambria--south of Hearst Castle--beautiful little town
Also, my comment on Ms. Winchester went with the Winchester Mystery House.
The Mystery Spot is a different place, and, while interesting, is much less impressive than the Winchester Mystery House.
Bristlecone Pine trees near Big Pine on the eastern side of the Sierras. They are the oldest living things in the world. Some of them are over 3000 years old.
Lava Beds Nat. Monument, on the Oregon border. Lava tubes (caves) to explore. Camping only, no motel, no store, just a visitor center.
Here's a few more things to do:
John Steinbeck Museum in Salinas
Harley Davidson Museum in Santa Cruz
Wineries to visit in Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains (both sides), Temecula, Paso Robles area,and (as featured in the movie "Sideways") Santa Ynez Valley north of Santa Barbara.
There are spas in Calistoga (Napa Valley), Sonoma (Sonoma Valley), La Costa near San Diego and tons of them all over the Palm Springs area.
California Adventure (Anaheim)
Knott's Berry farm (Buena Park)--also features a chicken restaurant that served over 1.5 million chicken dinners last year
Great America (Santa Clara)
Boardwalk (Santa Cruz)
Marine World (Vallejo)
Sea World (San Diego)
San Diego Wild Animal Park (near Escondido)
Seven Flags Magic Mountain (Valencia)
Magic Mountain (east side of the sierras near June Mountain--largest ski resort in the US, I believe)
Heavenly (Lake Tahoe)
Squaw Valley (Lake Tahoe)
and at least 5-6 more
Highway 1 between Carmel and San Simeon--most beautiful long drive in the US--and featured on car commercials (in TV and print) for the past 50 years
17 mile drive--Pebble Beach area between Monterey and Carmel
Golden Gate (SF to Sausalito)
Oakland Bay Bridge (SF to Oakland)
Vincent Thomas Bridge (San Pedro)
Coronado Bay Bridge (San Diego to Coronado)
Julien (east of San Diego is known for their apple pies)
Ramona is known for their plays--and Santa Cruz has a great Shakesphere festival.
There is a place called Grgich Farms just east of Watsonville, where you can go and (depending upon the season) pick strawberries, boysenberries, ollalieberries (like blackberries) or apples.
Just south of San Francisco a ways in the small city of Pescadero (close to the coast) there is a goat farm called Harley Farms where you, for a fee, have your children play with the goats, get goat cheese samples, and even help with the milking sometimes.
Out near Fairfield is the jelly belly factory--voted the best factory tour in the US.
For education, there are 10 University of California branches--9 for undergraduates and graduate students (UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and UC Merced), and 1 just for graduate students (UC San Francisco). There are 23 California state university campuses, two of which (San Luis Obispo and Pomona) are polytechnic courses of study. There are many excellent private universities as well--some of the best known being Stanford, University of Southern California (USC), Santa Clara, University of San Diego, Pepperdine (Malibu), Chapman University, and the Claremont group of schools (Pomona College, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, Claremont McKenna, Scripps, Keck Graduate Institute and Claremont Graduate University) . There are also about 50 California community colleges across the state. All of these have many sporting, artistic, entertainment, and other cultural events (such as art shows, musicals, etc.)
That's it for now--until next time--enjoy
Let me mention three more things to do:
At the harbor at Santa Cruz, there is a 70-foot long boat called the Chardonney II that does afternoon and sunset cruises of Monterey Bay--it's great--and they usually give you pizza and wine on board.
From San Diego, San Pedro, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco, there are whale-watching cruises available and fishing cruise ships also.
From San Francisco--for the truly brave--there is a boat that you can take out to the Farallon Islands, 29 miles offshore. Once there, they will lower you into the water in a steel cage with your scuba gear where you can take pictures of all the Great White Sharks that hang out there. (The Farallon Islands are uninhabited except for a whole bunch of sea lions, which is another way of saying "dinner" for Great White Sharks. This is nutty in my view--but this adventure has been going on for about 5 years or so--which means there must be some people who are are brave--or crazy--enough to pay to do this.
[ Edit: Edited on Oct 8, 2007, at 11:12 PM by Calcruzer ]
A few more come to mind:
Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo--it has a whole bunch of weird theme rooms to stay in (one done like cavemen days, one done like the 60s with Elvis and rock and roll memorabilia, etc.). It also has a giant waterfall in the men's room For this reason, this restroom gets almost as many women visitors as men visitors because the women want to see the waterfall and even take pictures.
Elysian near Big Sur--a place where people go to meditate and do yoga and really get back to nature. They also offer a whole lot of classes in this location in the middle of the redwoods overlooking the beach to help you improve yourself and your outlook on life.
Edwards Air Force base (near Lancaster)--you can go here whenever they have Space Shuttle landings and watch the landings, which are done on a dry lake bed there in the desert.
In Mojave--just about 20 miles north of Lancaster--they have an aircraft "junkyard". Here they take all the old airplanes that don't fly too often and store them (middle of desert, so no problem with the "weather" ruining them). Then, when a movie or TV show needs a particular plane, they take one out of the "junkyard", fix it up well enough to fly on camera, and then make a movie about fighter pilots from the 40s or whatever.
Giant power windmills--these are common in lots of countries now--but I think they started in the pass just west of Palm Springs--where you can still see over 300 of them as you drive to Palm Springs from the Los Angeles area.
Speaking of unusual power sources--out near Barstow is a giant solar power plant--one of the few in the country--where there are over 700 giant mirrors and solar collectors taking in the desert sun and converting it to electric power for southern California.
[ Edit: Edited on Oct 13, 2007, at 9:17 AM by Calcruzer ]