Friends of mine are getting together this weekend and flying to California to do Sonoma. I’m so jealous I could spit! California is one of my favorite states! I can’t get away right now but I’m hoping to join them another time. So here’s wishing them a great weekend, a bit of info, as well as articles and photos (click on the link at the end) on this state filled with natural beauty and great people. ¡Salud!
The 31st State
To visit California is to travel the world. In California you can experience 16 different climates, 12 geographical regions with their own unique topography, behold the largest living things on land and in the sea, play golf in the desert one day, ski 8,000 foot mountains the next, and end a long weekend riding the waves on your surfboard. Where else can you do that on the U.S. mainland?
All this diversity makes California a magnet for adrenaline junkies as well as foodies who flock to both the state’s famous wine regions and its fabulous cities to taste the fruits of the vine alongside creations by top chefs. Oh, and did I mention the celebrity scene that’s not just relegated to Hollywood and Los Angeles?
The national and state parks in California are reason enough to visit. California has 8 national parks and another 18 sites designated by the park service as historic sites, monuments and recreation areas. Yosemite National Park is probably the most renown but to gaze at the largest living things on earth you need to venture to Sequoia National Park. There, the General Sherman Tree stands at 275 feet and the trunk’s diameter at the base is over 36 feet. Some redwoods are taller, but none can match the mass of the oldest sequoias. But located near the Pacific Ocean, Redwood National Park is also a must see.
California’s national parks are joined by the 278 parks in the state’s own system. They blanket the state from end to end with options for all manner of outdoor enthusiast. Deserts to beaches to mountains to lakes, it’s all covered. And activities range from active to passive. View seals and whale migrations at the coast and bears and mountain lions in remote forests and the higher elevations. Rent a bike, canoe, kayak or raft. Or grab your backpack and camping gear and tackle the trails and gaze at the stars over a roaring fire.
And you can’t forget the people watching. From San Francisco down the coast to San Diego, California’s residents are colorful, unique and most of all, diverse. With the largest minority population in the United States, you’ll find it easy to indulge every taste when it comes to cuisine and find a neighborhood that reminds you of home.
For the history buff, California has enough to see to fill many visits. Starting with Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, where Europeans landed for the first time in California, to numerous Spanish missions to San Francisco’s Presidio to old mining towns to the Donner site, location of the tragically doomed pioneers, you will never be at a loss to find worthy attractions to spend time exploring.
You can’t go wrong with a California vacation – it’s easy to get to from any major airport and there are usually great deals to be had most of the year.
Note: Before you go, take a look at the national park and state park sites for closures due to weather and possible budget cuts. Closures are unfortunate but safety is always the utmost concern. And unfortunately, current tight budgets require some closures throughout the parks.
Top photo: Giant sequoias in Muir Grove, Sequoia National Park. Credit: Stacey Dougherty