There are wonderful places in California off the beaten track.
We have been to San Francisco and San Diego but some of our favorite places are the small places that we stumble on.
1. Calvaras: Get the lead out! Head to Angel’s Camp in Calavaras County to learn the relationship between Twain’s “Celebrated Jumping Frog” and lead. Mark Twain wrote “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” a tall tale of the life and happenings in the gold rush town of Angels Camp.
2. Catalina Island: Just 26 miles from LA, the Island is a step into the past. For an exciting, informative tour of Catalina board the Catalina Adventure Tour bus. On their Inside Adventure Tour learn about the island William Wrigley, Jr. of chewing gum fame purchased for $5 million in 1919 – sight unseen.
3. Ojai: Ojai is a small-town hideaway north of Los Angles between Santa Barbara and Ventura with eucalyptus trees, hiking/biking trails, unique shops, and small ranches. A ride on the inexpensive trolley is an excellent way to get acquainted with the area.
4. Oxnard: Discover “the land of endless summer.” Its crowning glory is the seven miles of beautiful beaches. Discover the nearby Channel Islands referred to as the American Galapagos. It is a top scuba diving area with naturalist led hikes plus camping and wildlife viewing.
5. The Gold Rush: On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshal was building a sawmill for his partner Captain John Sutter. He noticed a gold nugget and the rush for gold began and the lives of millions and the course of American history changed forever. Follow the Gold Rush along the National Park’s California Historic Trail.
6. Fort Bragg: Fort Bragg is an excellent base for exploring Mendocino County. Take the Skunk Train 40 miles through the scenic redwood forest between Fort Bragg on the coast and the town of Willits on US Highway 101, making it one of the world’s premier train rides.
7. Muir Woods: Only 12 miles from the San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is the old-growth coastal redwood forest of Muir Woods National Monument. “This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world,” declared conservationist John Muir.
8. Death Valley: Death Valley is the hottest place in the United States and the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. Visit Cathedral Canyon, Emigrant Pass, China Ranch, old mines, cave houses, Skull rock, Furnace Creek, a Borax Museum and the Amargosa Opera House.
9. Napa: California’s Napa Valley may be all about wine but there is plenty to do. Start the day at the crack of dawn with a balloon ride. At the northern part watch the Calistoga Geyser, a slightly smaller version of Old Faithful. The geyser spouts off every 45 minutes shooting boiling water 60 feet into the air. Nearby is the Petrified Forest. End the day with a Sunset Napa River trip in a quiet electric boat.
10. Half Moon Bay: Savvy surfers, seashell seekers, creators of castles in the sand, beach bums, nurturers of nature, and those looking for relaxing rejuvenation will find it in Half Moon Bay. Head north to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve to experience a spectacular stretch of coastline. Wander Pillar Point docks where the fishermen bring in the fresh catch of the day ranging from sardines to salmon.
Mexico resident Sandra Scott and her husband, John, enjoy traveling and sharing that experience with others. She also writes everyday for Examiner.com (rotating on editions … Syracuse Travel, National Destination and Culinary Travel).