26 Unique Things to do All Over California

Northern California Adventures

Things to do in Garberville, CA

Avenue of the Giants is a 31-mile drive through majestic coastal redwoods-some of the trees that are more than a thousand years old and hundreds of feet tall. The visitor center has maps detailing self-guided walks. On Hwy. 101 north, look for signs between Garberville and Myers Flat; call 707/946-2263.

Stinson Beach California
Stinson Beach

Things to do in Plumas County, CA

Take a self-guided driving tour of the Feather River Scenic Byway. The designated byway is a 130-mile route along Highway 70 that traverses Butte and Plumas counties. The route combines diverse natural beauty and terrain with manmade marvels of hydroelectric power, railroad, bridge, and tunnel construction. For maps and guides to attractions along the byway, contact the Plumas County Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 4120, Highway 70, Quincy, CA 95971; 530/283-6345 or 800/326-2247; Fax 530/283-5465.

Things to do in Redding Area, CA

Get into the Gold Rush spirit at Shasta State Historic Park. Gold Rush-era buildings, including the Litsch Museum and store, are open to the public, and bread is baked year-round in the park’s historic bakery. (Take I-5 north to Redding, then take Hwy. 299 six miles west to Shasta; call 530/243-8194.)

Things to do in Sacramento, CA

Take a self-guided walking tour in Old Sacramento State Historic Park to see its cobblestone streets and Gold Rush-era buildings. Maps for walking tours are available at the visitor center, open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 1101 2nd St.; call 916/442-7644.

Things to do in Chico, CA

Sierra Nevada Brewing offers tours and tastings Tuesday through Saturday. No reservations are necessary. (1075 East 20th Street; call 530/893-3520).


San Francisco CA
Downtown San Francisco, CA

Things to do in San Francisco, CA

The Exploratorium is an enormous warehouse filled with hands-on activities for all ages. Admission is free to children under age 5 and on the first Wednesday of each month. Open 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (3601 Lyon St. at Marina Blvd.; call 415/561-0360).

Visit the stunning San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on the first Tuesday of every month, and there’s no fee. Free admission for children under age 12, accompanied by an adult. Free gallery tours are offered four times daily; ask at the front desk. Contact the museum for hours of operation. (151 Third St.; call 415/357-4000).

Take a stroll through San Francisco’s Chinatown, where traditions, sights, and aromas are equally h3. Don’t miss the authentic markets on Stockton Street, and the historical artifacts on display at the Chinese Historical Society of America (965 Clay Street; 415/391-1188). For walking tour information, Chinese Culture Center, 750 Kearny St., 415/986-1822, or Chinese Chamber of Commerce, 730 Sacramento St., 2nd floor, 415/982-3000.

Things to do in Sonoma County Vineyards, CA

Most wineries offer free tastings of wine and local food products such as preserves and olive oil. The California Welcome Center, Rohnert Park’s Wine Center has maps of wineries (5000 Roberts Lake Rd., Rohnert Park; call 707/586-8100). (From San Francisco, take Hwy. 101 north following the signs).

Things to do in Sonora, CA

The Gold Rush is alive at Columbia State Historic Park. Learn about gold-mining techniques, watch blacksmiths at work, or visit an old saloon. The park is open daily (north of Sonora, off Hwy. 49 on Parrot’s Ferry Rd.; call 209/532-0150).

Things to do in Weaverville, CA

Chinese immigrants came to Weaverville in the 19th century to help build the railroads. Enjoy spending some time in the Weaverville National Historic District, which includes the state’s oldest operating drug store and the Jake Jackson Memorial Museum (508 Main St., call 530/623-5211). (From I-5, take Hwy. 299 west.)

Things to do in Yreka, CA

More than 75 restored 19th-century homes can be found in the historic town of Yreka. Take a self-guided walking tour or enjoy the Gold Rush-era architecture by car. Pick up a free map at the Yreka Chamber of Commerce (117 Miner St.; call 530/842-1649).

Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA

Central California Adventures

Things to do in Bishop Area, CA

Visit the oldest living things on the earth in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Some trees are more than 4,600 years old in the Schulman Grove of the Inyo National Forest. Free camping is available on a first-come-first-served basis, but no water is available. The park is open from around Memorial Day to early November, depending on weather and road conditions, so be sure to call ahead. (From Los Angeles, take Hwy. 395 to Big Pine; look for signs and turn east on Hwy. 168; call the White Mountain Ranger Station, 760/873-2500.)

Things to do in Pacific Grove, CA

The sight of thousands of fluttering bright orange monarch butterflies inhabiting a single tree is one you won’t soon forget. From October to March, see the butterflies in Pacific Grove’s Monarch Habitat, open dawn to dusk. (Look for signs on Ridge Road off Lighthouse Ave., 2 miles west of Monterey; call 888/PG-MONARCH). Learn more about these famous insects in the free Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (165 Forest Ave.; call 831/648-3116).

Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA

Things to do in Santa Barbara, CA

The sounds of the Santa Barbara Sunday Concerts series fill Alameda Park every fair-weather Sunday from June to August at 3 p.m. The music changes every week; it could be jazz, swing, or reggae. (call 805/897-1928.)

Things to do in Tecopa Hot Springs, CA

The all-natural Tecopa Hot Springs southeast of Death Valley National Monument is proof that desert oases do exist. Take a soothing, steamy dip here whenever you like except when the springs are closed, 7 a.m.-noon. (Drive 5 miles south of Shoshone on Hwy. 127, look for signs; call 760/852-4264).

Things to do in Ventura, CA

The excellent Albinger Archaeological Museum displays Mission-era, Chumash Indian, and Chinatown artifacts excavated in the area. The museum is open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., weekends 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (100 E. Main St.; call 805/648-5823). More things to do >>

Huntington Beach, CA
Huntington Beach, CA

Southern California Adventures

Things to do in Hollywood, CA

Take a stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and catch the 1,900-plus stars commemorating celebrities. Check out Mann’s Chinese Theater, where real-life stars once gathered for premieres.

If you’re in Hollywood hankering to see the stars, you can attend the taping of one of the television programs. Order tickets from Audiences Unlimited by calling 818/753-3470 or on-line at www.tvtickets.com.

Things to do in Huntington Beach, CA

Watch world-class surfers at Huntington Beach. Championship surfers can be viewed for free from Huntington Beach pier at the U.S. Open of Surfing in July. (Drive north of Newport Beach on Pacific Coast Hwy. [Hwy. 1]; call 714/969-3492.)

Los Angeles Family Vacations
Downtown Los Angeles, CA

Things to do in Los Angeles, CA

The California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles is great for kids. It has interactive displays on everything from healthy eating to economics there’s even an earthquake demonstration. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except major holidays (700 State Dr., in Exposition Park; call 323/SCIENCE).

The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park offers some of the best views in town, and its Hall of Science has interesting exhibits, including a 12-inch telescope you can scope out on starry nights. The observatory is open daily in summer, 12:30-10 p.m., and in winter, Tuesday through Friday, 2-10 p.m., and on weekends, 12:30-10 p.m. (Take I-5 and turn off at Los Feliz Blvd.; 2800 E. Observatory Rd.; call 323/664-1191.)

From March through July, during a full or new moon, you can take part in a Grunion Run along the Southern California coast. Grunions are fish that squiggle on the beach in an attempt to spawn, and (with a license) you can catch the fish in your hands. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium can tell you more about this unusual sport (3720 Stephen White Dr.; call 310/548-7562).

Things to do in Newport Beach, CA

Observe a huge variety of both local and migratory birds in the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve, which also is a great place for humans to jog, stroll, or rollerblade. The visitor center is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the park is always open. (From the Pacific Coast Hwy. [Hwy. 1], turn left on Jamboree Rd., then left on Back Bay Dr., and left again when it becomes a one-way street; call 949/640-6746.)

Things to do in Orange County, CA

This region is blessed with some of California’s best public beaches for swimming and sunbathing. (Look for “Coastal Access” signs as you drive along the Pacific Coast Highway [Hwy. 1].

Things to do in Ridgecrest, CA

Red Rock Canyon State Park offers free guided hikes on Sundays at 9 a.m. and campfire talks Saturday evenings. Subjects range from birds to desert geology (Hwy. 14 north to the park; programs are available mid-February through Memorial Day, and mid-October through Thanksgiving; call 661/942-0662).

San Diego, CA
Downtown San Diego, CA

Things to do in San Diego, CA

In Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, original 19th-century red-tile-roofed buildings conjure up images of San Diego’s Spanish colonial days. Twelve museums are open to the public daily 9 a.m to 5 p.m. Guided tours leave daily from the visitor center; check for times. Spanish-language tours offered Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. (From I- 5, immediately south of I-8, take the Old Town exit; 4002 Wallace St.; call 619/220-5422.)

Balboa Park, with 1,400 acres to explore, is at its best on Tuesdays, when one or more of its fascinating museums is free. (From I-5, take Park Blvd. north; 1549 El Prado; call for the latest schedule, 619/239-0512.)

Things to do in Santa Monica, CA

From July to September, listen to Twilight Dance Concerts on the Santa Monica Pier due west of Los Angeles. Concerts happen every Thursday evening from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Programs range from blues to 1950s music. (Take I-10 to the Pacific Ocean; for a schedule, call 310/458-8900.)

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