Saturday, February 18, 2017

My Favorite California Places

There been a post making the rounds on Facebook asking people to identify how many states in the U.S. they’ve visited. My tally is 33… so far… much of that thanks to Uncle Sam moving us around the country when my husband was in the Air Force.

Some of the states we only passed through with little chance to do more than form a fleeting impression. Other states we either lived in – or visited for a week or more – so formed lasting memories.

This is part of an occasional series of states I’ve visited and trips that earned a place in my heart.

Since I was born and raised in California, I’ll start there.

I’ve already talked about my love of the Santa Ynez Valley in a previous post that you can read about that here.

The Rose Parade in Pasadena
I grew up in Southern California so it was easy to pile us all in the car early on January 1 and drive to the parade route. We haul our folding chairs and blankets to a spot along the curb and watch the magnificent floats go by. Seeing them on the television is one thing – but in person, towering above you – that is something else. Mom would pack hot chocolate and donuts (I highly recommend you bring food, since it can be hard to find anything along the streets). I took my own children a few times and it’s an experience that transcends generations.

Mammoth Lakes
Once the children have grown into adulthood, it’s often more difficult to pull them away from their busy lives and spend some quality time together. My daughters and I rented a condo in Mammoth for a week one summer and did some quality bonding. The town was the perfect base for day hikes and is about an hour’s drive to the east entrance to Yosemite which meant we could squeeze in a day trip there as well. Luckily my girls are good sports and indulged their mom’s love of nature.

Driving up Highway 101 North of San Francisco
In my early 40’s I realized that I had never visited the Redwoods and decided to correct the situation. I talked one of my daughters into joining me for what I thought would be a camping trip. I discovered that many of the campgrounds along Highway 101 are designed for RVs and not tents so – do my daughter’s delight – we did end up spending most nights in a motel. The drive is both breathtaking and soothing. I just wanted to take big gulps of air as we drove through this incredible scenery. The trip is also a bit like taking a step back in time as you pass through a number of small towns – no freeway by-passes – so it felt very much like the road trips of my youth where you had to slow down and take a good look at the world and people around you.

Places you should add to your itinerary in San Francisco
Everyone visits Fisherman’s Wharf and China Town but I suggest you make the time for the Alcatraz tour. In a weak moment I agreed to take my daughters and one friend each to a New Kids on the Block concert in San Francisco – but, there’s always a but, right? – they had to agree to some educational activities during our stay. They grumbled but ended up fascinated by the experience. You can almost hear the ghosts of past inhabitants. On several other occasions I’ve moseyed on over to the other side of town and spent some quality time in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Relax, sip some tea, and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the space. Not too far away is the de Young Museum so you can make a day of it.

Yes, I love Disneyland and other tourist draws like San Diego and Santa Barbara and the wine country of Napa, but there’s more to this beautiful state.

What are some of your favorite spots?

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