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California Attractions


The Children’s Discovery Museum is a wonderful, stimulating, interactive museum.  The museum’s mission statement is to inspire and promote intellectual curiosity and self expression through inventive and interactive exhibits and programs. Although, geared for those in elementary school the... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Chinatown, San Francisco

Chinatown: Just a few short blocks from Union Square you enter beneath the dragon arch (at the corner of Bush Street and Grant Avenue) into another world with street signs in Chinese characters, tiny grocery stores displaying Chinese vegetables and delicacies, apothecary shops selling unusual r... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

This museum is the first in Southern California to document the experience of the Chinese in America. It is housed within the oldest surviving Chinese building, called the Garnier.... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Heading north from Groveland on Hwy 49, detour through Chinese Camp, home to over 5,000 Chinese miners in the 1850s and now almost a ghost town sleeping under a profusion of delicate Chinese Trees of Heaven.... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Cliff House, San Francisco

Perched on the headlands just north of Ocean Beach the Cliff House is a splendid spot to enjoy a drink at the end of a days sightseeing. There’s magnificent ocean views (fog permitting) across Seal Rock and to the Marin Headlands. You may well see cargo vessels steaming towards the Golden... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Across the street, Clos Pegase (1060 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515) is a joy for those who love stunning architecture, sculpture, and fine wine. When owner Jan Isaac Shrem, a Paris-based businessman and art collector, turned 50, he decided to move to Napa Valley and take up viticulture. S... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Coit Tower, San Francisco

Coit Tower: Coit Tower, located at the top of Telegraph Hill, is a relic of old San Francisco and fun to visit—not only because of the great view, but because its story is so very “San Francisco.” The money to construct the watch tower, which resembles the nozzle of a fire hos... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Conservatiory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

A little further east of the Rose Garden and open year round is the beautifully renovated Conservatory of Flowers housing many tropical flowers including a gorgeous lily pond. The 12,000 square-foot Victorian greenhouse is the oldest existing glass and wood conservatory in the United States.... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco

Combining a modern structure into an old power station the Contemporary Jewish museum sits on an airy plaza opposite Yerba Buena Center and just round the corner from MOMA. I love the spaciousness of this museum, the great gift store, the cafe and the way the museum stays away from religious th... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

While in San Diego take the bridge or the ferry over to Coronado, an island-like bulb of land tipping a thin isthmus that stretches south almost to the Mexican border. Here you find not only a long stretch of beautiful beach, but also the Del Coronado Hotel, a Victorian fantasy of gingerbread t... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

San Diego Skyline

Taking a ferry to Coronado gives photo opportunities for magnificent shots of downtown San Diego and the arching Coronado Bay bridge. Ferries run from in front of the Convention Center and Broadway Pier on the waterfront.... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Coronado shopping

Orange Avenue is the main thoroughfare through Coranado. Beyond Spreckles Park and before you get to Hotel Del Coronado you’ll find for attractive stores lining this broad Avenue.... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Leaving San Diego, Hwy 8 takes you east and winds through shrub-filled canyons dotted with ever-expanding housing suburbs. About 30 minutes after you leave the city, watch for the sign for Hwy 79 where you turn north toward Julian. The road weaves through an Indian reservation and the scenery b... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Three miles beyond Volcano lies Daffodil Hill where over 25,000 daffodils provide a colorful spring display.... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Daou winery paso robles california (5)

Detour off Adelaida Road and a secluded driveway (appropriately named Hidden Mountain Road) weaves a path  and at the top of the hill delivers you to an expansive view of rolling landscape and what resembles an Italian villa cresting a hilltop. If your itinerary requires that you select just ... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

In a region with lots of small family operations, at Dark Star there truly are just the four immediate family members (husband, wife, son and daughter) who are responsible for producing what they describe as “ultra-premium hand-crafted red wines. Stop here and they will welcome you like famil... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Davies Symphony Hall

Davies Hall is home to the San Francisco Symphony which is touted as being one of the premier symphonys in the world. ... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park

Art lovers head for the  De Young Museum whose copper cover roof rises above the trees. It’s modern architecture is as impressive as its splendid collection of paintings by American artists and art of the native Americas, Africa, and the Pacific. An observation tower allows visitor... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Opposite V. Sattui you find Dean and Deluca, an upmarket store for purchasing kitchenware, wine, cheese, and all manner of picnic supplies.... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Disney Concert Hall: Over 16 years in the making, this is a magnificent building with futuristic stainless steel curves reflecting the bright southern California sun. Designed by California architect Frank Gehry and every bit as exciting as his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Portugal, the hall is... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Disneyland: The wonderland created by Walt Disney needs no introduction. What child from two to ninety-two has not heard of this Magic Kingdom, home to such lovable characters as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, and Snow White? The park is a fantasyland of fun, divided into various theme areas... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Continue west on Oak Knoll Avenue for the very short distance to Hwy 29, which you cross, turning right on Solano Avenue, a quiet country road that parallels busy Hwy 29. Solano Avenue ends on the outskirts of Yountville and ahead of you lies Domaine Chandon (1 California Drive, Yountville, CA ... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Highway 80 climbs over Donner Pass and by Donner Lake, both named in honor of the group of settlers led by George Donner who in 1846 became snowbound while trying to cross the Sierra Nevada in late fall. Harsh conditions and lack of food took many lives and resulted in the survivors resorting t... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Soon after crossing the bridge watch for the sign to your right for Newport Pier. (In case you get off track, the pier is at the foot of 20th Street.) Try to arrive mid-morning so that you can capture a glimpse of yesteryear when the Dory Fleet comes in to beach, just to the right of the pier. ... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Turn off 46W, traveling north on Vineyard Drive in order to visit Dover Canyon, an artisanal microwinery. The winery is named for the local canyon and the vineyard, Tre Noce, is Italian for the Three Walnuts and pays tribute to three walnut trees that remain from what once was the El Paso de ... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

There are many excellent spa facilities in Calistoga and two kinds to choose from: with “heavy” mud and without. Among other places, traditional mud tubs are available at Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs, 707-942-4102, www.drwilkinson.com, and Indian Springs, 707-942-4913, www.indianspringscal... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

After a visit to the lighthouse, look on your map for Drakes Bay, one of the many beaches along this rugged strip of coast, and named for the explorer seeking lands for Queen Elizabeth I of England. He is purported to have sailed into the bay on the Golden Hinde and christened it Nova Albion, m... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

If you are hungry, there is a café at Drakes Bay where you can have a bite to eat. Another interesting stop is at the Drakes Bay Oyster Farms on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard—a sign directs you to it on the left on the drive toward Point Reyes Lighthouse. Stop by to taste these delicious bival... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

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Located on scenic Dry Creek Road is an historic and wonderful general store that dates back to 1881. Open daily, The Dry Creek General Store  takes great pride in offering products made from local produce and also boasts a superb deli; breakfast menu, summer barbeque items and a fabulous old b... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

There are lines, mid-week and mid-afternoon, to eat at this James Beard Award winning restaurant. The food is not gourmet, it's just plain good. Famous for their artichoke soup and homemade olallieberry pie. You can even order and abolone sandwich! Founded in 1894 it’s a local lan... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

It is only a short drive north from Julian on Hwy 79 to Santa Ysabel where you turn right at the main intersection. At this junction you see Dudley’s Bakery, a rather nondescript-looking building that houses a great bakery: loyal customers drive all the way from San Diego just to buy one ... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Dutch Windmill, Golden Gate Park

The problem facing early developers of Golden Gate Park was how to get water to what was a barren landscape. Buying water was expensive so the Dutch Windmill was built in 1902 to pump water from beneath the sand dunes into the park. Thousands of trees and shrubs were planted and the proj... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Just below Emerald Bay a trail leads from the parking lot up a ¼-mile steep trail to a bridge above the cascading cataract of Eagle Falls, which offers fantastic views of Lake Tahoe.... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Just below Emerald Bay a trail leads from the parking lot up a ¼-mile steep trail to a bridge above the cascading cataract of Eagle Falls, which offers fantastic views of Lake Tahoe. A mile farther up the trail is Eagle Lake, in an isolated, picture-perfect setting.... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

If you want to delve deeper into mining, just a short drive (or long walk) away on the outskirts of town is the Eagle Mine, founded by pioneers from Georgia, many of them soldiers who came here after the Civil War. Tours are taken deep into the mine and a narration gives not only the history of... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Eberle Winery offers picnic baskets made to order with advance notice. Enjoy your picnic on their deck, sample award-winning wines, and take time to tour the Eberle caves.... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

The Chinese Theatre may not be the best-preserved theater in Hollywood, that honor goes to the nearby Disney El Capitan Theater whose 1926 interior is now in fine fettle and comes complete with a state of the art projection and sound system, www.elcapitantickets.com. ... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

El Pueblo de Los Angeles: With all the clamor and glamour of modern-day Los Angeles, it is easy to forget that this city was originally a pueblo founded in 1781 to grow food for the Spanish soldiers guarding this distant territory for their king. You catch a glimpse of the town’s history ... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

elephant seal rookery at Piedras Blancas (17)

We have long recommended the National State Park, Ano Nuevo, on the coast north of Santa Cruz, as an incredible place to view Elephant Seals (Mirounga angustirostris). However, to visit Ano Nuevo requires a reservation and depending on the location of the resident seals, as much as a mile hike ... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

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You will know by the sheer beauty of your surroundings when you are at Emerald Bay. The road sits hundreds of feet above a sparkling, blue-green bay and miles of Lake Tahoe stretch beyond its entrance. Center stage is a small wooded island crowned by a stone teahouse. A 1½-mile trail win... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Empire Cottage is where you will see how William Bourne, the wealthy mine owner, lived when on vacation or visiting his mine interests. The family spent holidays and summers at the cottage. ... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Grass Valley’s Empire Mine State Park is at the southern end of town. This hard-rock mine is the oldest and richest in California. From startup in 1850 to closure in 1956, an estimated 5,800,000 ounces of gold were extracted. Wander through the yard to see the historic buildings (excellent di... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

The Estrella Warbird Museum houses a collection of WWI and WWII military fighter planes.  Two men with a dream to restore and preserve the aircraft and vehicles for those who dedicated their lives to our country and aviation opened the non-profit museum over a quarter of a century ago.  Set o... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

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Referred to as “A Museum for the 21st Century,” the Exploratorium has long been a favorite of anyone with a curiosity for the sciences. The museum enjoys a new home on the Embarcadero at Pier 15 and benefits from the waterfront setting. Boasting 600 motion-filled exhibits, it also has a gla... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Both the Fallon and City Hotel have been restored (at vast expense) by the State of California to mirror the look of two of Columbia’s hotels in Gold Rush days. The City Hotel on Main Street has a less ornate Victorian decor, reflecting the Columbia of the 1860s.... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Tahoe City combines rustic, folksy shops, restaurants, and everyday stores with two quite interesting tourist attractions: Fanny Bridge and the Gatekeeper’s Cabin. Fanny Bridge is very close: just turn right at the supermarket, and there it is. You will see immediately the derivation of “Fa... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Stop at Ferndale’s Museum to learn more about her past as you tour Victorian rooms and see displays of old dairy and smithying equipment. (Shaw and 3rd Street, open Tuesday through Saturday 11 am to 4 pm and Sunday 1 to 4 pm, 707-786-4466.) ... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

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Ferrari Carano Winery is a beautiful wine estate modeled after an Italian Villa with lovely gardens and a beautiful setting in the Dry Creek Valley.  You can visit the gardens, one of two tasting rooms (fee for tasting) and gift shop without reservation.  The gardens are an attraction in thei... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Ferry Building

The onetime ferry building at the foot of Market Street has been transformed into a delightful emporium. There are shops selling cheese, gourmet mushrooms and the freshest of breads intermingled with tempting eateries (sit down and to-go), gourmet groceries and cookware stores. Take your food o... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

Filoli, Woodside, California

The name, Filoli, is an acronym from Mr. Bourn's (the owner who build Filoli) motto: “FIght for a just cause, LOve your fellow man, and LIve a good life.” You’ll know Bourn did the latter when you tour the ground floor rooms of this splendid home with its 17-foot-h... more

  • Karen Brown Recommended

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