A Trip to California
By: Christian Montoya
Seeing that we've lived in California our entire lives, it's easy for us to lose sight of what tourists are really looking to experience on their trip to California. By running a travel website on California, we have to do what comes unnatural and enter inside the minds of visitors that have never been here before. We have to ask ourselves: What would we see and do? How could we maximize our trip to visit the most sites in the least amount of time? If we were only able to visit California once in our lifetime, what should we see? We've come up with a few answers to these questions with plenty of travel tips that could be helpful.
Our first consideration is that California is a very large state at 840 miles (1,344 km) in length. That's longer than the entire country of Italy. Because of this, our recommendation is to start by visiting a specific region. Otherwise, you could spend the majority of your trip in California traveling from one destination to another. If you were planning a trip to California that could possibly be the only trip you ever take to California, we'd recommend going to San Francisco. Not only does San Francisco have a multitude of tourist draws such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, theme parks and world-class museums, but many of California's most interesting and beautiful places are only a short distance away.
Within one hour heading north of San Francisco is Napa Valley wine country. Some of the top wines of the world are produced in this region. Many wineries offer public wine tasting and the region is dotted with five-star resorts and Bed & Breakfasts. Towns like Napa, Sonoma, Kenwood, Rutherford and Yountville have been catering to the sophisticated traveler for many decades. Several resorts offer wine tasting shuttles to select wineries. Also within one hour of San Francisco heading north or south are California Coast Redwood parks. See some of the tallest and oldest living trees on Earth, some dating back to before our common era. There are literally dozens of Coast Redwood parks from Eureka in the north to Santa Cruz in the south. A trip to one of these parks is an awe-inspiring and humbling experience.
Within two hours heading east of San Francisco is California Gold Country. In early1848, gold was discovered in the American River and soon to follow was 'The Gold Rush'. By 1849, thousands of settlers migrated from the east for the easy riches and started towns like Auburn, Hangtown, Angels Camp, Jamestown and more. All of these former gold towns are situated off Highway 49 in the Sierra foothills and offer historic saloons, hotels, mines, caverns and more. Although most of the 49ers found more hardship than riches, much of their gold was used to build San Francisco into the booming metropolis it is today. Also within two hours of San Francisco but heading south is Monterey Bay. This former fishing village is today a major tourist attraction with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, 17-Mile Drive, seaside Bed & Breakfasts and breathtaking coastline. Immediately south of Monterey is the sleepy village of Carmel where visitors enjoy boutiques for shopping and wine tasting and dining at quaint restaurant cafes. Carmel is also home to Pebble Beach and nearly a half dozen world-class golf courses.
A little farther away, but definitely worth the trip, is Lake Tahoe at approximately 4 hours to the east on Interstate 80. Situated high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and being California's largest lake, Lake Tahoe is one of California's premier tourist destinations. This Alpine lake community offers visitors a multitude of activities including gambling, boating, fishing, camping, snow-skiing, hiking, mountain biking, parasailing, sightseeing and more. Nearly a dozen of California's best ski resorts surround the lake and several gambling casinos hug the Nevada state line offering visitors a chance to strike it rich. Another attraction located to the east of San Francisco, and a 'Must See' for anyone visiting California, is Yosemite National Park. Although Yosemite National Park is nearly 5 hours from San Francisco, many tour companies offer day trips from the city. If you only have a day to see Yosemite then that must do, but I highly recommend spending at least 3 days in the park if you want to really take in the majesty of California's most treasured jewel. Sites in Yosemite National Park include towering waterfalls, ominous granite megaliths, awe-inspiring viewpoints and Giant Sequoia groves. A plethora of activities are offered including camping, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, inner-tubing, rock climbing, sightseeing, snow-skiing and so much more.
Public transportation in San Francisco is better than anywhere else in the state. Three international airports are situated in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. The BART subway system links the San Francisco and Oakland airports with downtown San Francisco where many other transportation options from taxis to cable cars branch out to all the popular tourist regions. The best time to visit San Francisco is in the summer (May - Oct) when the chance of rain has diminished. Fog is common in the mornings but usually burns off by the afternoon. Traffic congestion is a big issue in San Francisco which makes parking a premium luxury. Many hotels do not offer parking and those that do usually charge a significant daily fee. Be sure to verify the parking situation and costs before booking. The hills within the city of San Francisco are notoriously steep and narrow, so choose a vehicle you'd be comfortable with if renting. If planning on visiting during winter with plans of venturing out to Tahoe and/or Yosemite, consider renting a vehicle with 4x4 to avoid having to use tire chains in snow. With the understanding that some visitors are also interested in Southern California attractions like Disneyland, Hollywood, Sea World and others, watch for our follow-up article highlighting vacation destinations in SoCal.
California Revealed is comprised of Californians who have spent a lifetime traveling and exploring California. We can give you local insight on popular destinations, but also let you know about the obscure, less traveled destinations that only locals of this state would know about. This is not the most extensive listing of California destinations but instead, an extensive listing of places and adventures that are sure to please you. Simply put, we want you to have a fantastic, unforgettable time in California. http://www.carevealed.com
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